New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Jessica Wolfson produced and directed The Columnists for WSJ. Magazine, a video series of intimate conversations with renowned figures reflecting on various themes that have guided their careers.
The project has its roots in On Point, a coffee table book from WSJ. Magazine, a glossy news and lifestyle monthly magazine by the publishers of The Wall Street Journal. The book, released September of last year, included interviews from the publication’s renowned column The Columnists. The new series has six parts and a 20-minute short film, directed and produced by Wolfson.
This is the second project Wolfson has made for The Wall Street Journal. Her earlier project was Drawing the Future, a video tech series. Wolfson is a photographer and documentary filmmaker who has directed shorts including Night People, IowaMixtape, and Play a Round with Me, as well as films Radio Unnameable and Hot Grease. Additionally, she teaches for the Documentary Filmmaking department at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus.
Episodes of The Columnists are based on a particular theme, including Luck, Mistakes, and Willpower. Notable subjects speaking on these topics include author Fran Lebowitz, director Lee Daniels, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington and television star Rainn Wilson.
“What I really loved most about making this series was having conversations with the subjects about emotional and philosophical topics such as willpower, advice, envy—rather than the typical career questions they are normally asked,” Wolfson tells NYFA. “This made for a very interesting dialogue.”
Wolfson also worked with Associate Producer and graduate of NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking program Nancy Dionne. Dionne researched crew and shooting locations in Canada, Paris, London, and New York for the series. “It was the kind of call where you hang up and jump up and down smiling saying, ‘Yes!’” Dionne tells NYFA. She was also more than happy to work with Wolfson, who she met at NYFA.
“I don’t think I had ever been so excited to see her in action,” Dionne says of Wolfson. “What struck me first was how calm Jessica and her crew were, not that they were not feeling stress, but how they handled it and how they communicated with me and each other—just so professional and smart with no effort wasted.”
Currently, The Columnists is a limited series, but Wolfson is eager to shoot additional seasons in the future.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Jessica Wolfson and alum Nancy Dionne on The Columnists, and thanks them for taking the time to speak to NYFA about their experience!
UPDATE: The winners were announced last night, February 11. The list includes Free Solo, which won Best Documentary, and which was edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructor Bob Eisenhardt.
The full list of winners for this year’s BAFTA Film Awards are named below.
–February 12, 2019
Nominations for the 2019 BAFTA Film Awards were announced earlier today, as this year’s awards season continues towards its crescendo.
The BAFTA Awards are given out by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and celebrates cinematic achievements by both British artists and those around the world. The Academy was formed from the combination of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors, founded in 1953, and the British Film Academy, started in 1947. The first BAFTA Award went to silent film star and filmmaking legend Charlie Chaplin.
Many of this year’s BAFTA nominees should seem familiar, as they have already been recognized by various industry guilds as well as this year’s Golden Globes. Historical comedy The Favourite dominated the nominations with a total of 12 following star Olivia Colman’s win for Best Actress at the Globes.
Spike Lee picked up his first BAFTA nom for directing Best Film nominee BlackKklansman. Bradley Cooper broke BAFTA records by earning five nominations from five different disciplines for his film A Star is Born, which received seven total, including Best Film.
Two previous guest speakers of New York Film Academy (NYFA) also received BAFTA nominations. Adam Driver, who spoke with NYFA students at our New York campus last year, received a nod for Best Supporting Actor for his work in BlackKklansman. Glenn Close, who also spoke with NYFA students, picked up a Best Actress nomination for her starring role in The Wife. Close won earlier this week at the Golden Globe Awards for the same performance.
Three films that were worked on by New York Film Academy faculty and alumni also received BAFTA nominations. Avengers: Infinity War received a nod for Best Special Visual Effects. NYFA 3D Animation and VFX alum Francesco Panzieri worked on the visual effects team for the epic blockbuster.
Additionally, two of this year’s Best Documentary nominees feature work by faculty members of the NYFA Documentary school. RBG, the hit documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, was shot by director of photography and cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke. Free Solo, the critically-acclaimed film about Alex Honnold as he attempts to free climb El Capitan, was edited by instructor Bob Eisenhardt.
Here is a full list of this year’s BAFTA nominees. The WINNERS are listed in bold.
Best Film BlacKkKlansman The Favourite Green Book Roma A Star Is Born
Outstanding British Film Beast Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite McQueen Stan & Ollie You Were Never Really Here
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer Apostasy — Daniel Kokotajlo Beast — Michael Pearce, Lauren Dark A Cambodian Spring — Chris Kelly Pili — Leanne Welham, Sophie Harman Ray & Liz — Richard Billingham, Jacqui Davies
Film Not in the English Language Capernaum Cold War Dogman Roma Shoplifters
Documentary Free Solo McQueen RBG They Shall Not Grow Old Three Identical Strangers
Animated Film Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
Director BlacKkKlansman — Spike Lee Cold War — Paweł Pawlikowski The Favourite — Yorgos Lanthimos Roma — Alfonso Cuarón A Star Is Born — Bradley Cooper
Original Screenplay Cold War The Favourite Green Book Roma Vice
Adapted Screenplay BlacKkKlansman Can You Ever Forgive Me? First Man If Beale Street Could Talk A Star Is Born
LeadingActress Glenn Close — The Wife Lady Gaga — A Star Is Born Melissa McCarthy — Can You Ever Forgive Me? Olivia Colman — The Favourite Viola Davis — Widows
Leading Actor Bradley Cooper — A Star Is Born Christian Bale — Vice Rami Malek — Bohemian Rhapsody Steve Coogan — Stan & Ollie Viggo Mortensen — Green Book
Supporting Actress Amy Adams — Vice Claire Foy — First Man Emma Stone — The Favourite Margot Robbie — Mary Queen of Scots Rachel Weisz — The Favourite
Supporting Actor Adam Driver — BlacKkKlansman Mahershala Ali — Green Book Richard E. Grant — Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell — Vice Timothée Chalamet — Beautiful Boy
Original Music BlacKkKlansman If Beale Street Could Talk Isle of Dogs Mary Poppins Returns A Star Is Born
Cinematography Bohemian Rhapsody Cold War The Favourite First Man Roma
Editing Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite First Man Roma Vice
Production Design Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald The Favourite First Man Mary Poppins Returns Roma
Costume Design The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite Mary Poppins Returns Mary Queen of Scots
Makeup & Hair Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite Mary Queen of Scots Stan & Ollie Vice
Sound Bohemian Rhapsody First Man Mission: Impossible — Fallout A Quiet Place A Star Is Born
Special Visual Effects Avengers: Infinity War Black Panther Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald First Man Ready Player One
British Short Animation I’m OK Marfa Roughhouse
British Short Film 73 Cows Bachelor, 38 The Blue Door The Field Wale
EE Rising Star Award Barry Keoghan Cynthia Erivo Jessie Buckley Lakeith Stanfield Letitia Wright
Producer and director Irene Méndez has been incredibly busy since graduating from New York Film Academy’s producing school, working on multiple films that have made several festivals and garnered a great deal of press and attention from the industry.
Méndez originally hails from Madrid, Spain. In 2016, she enrolled in the 1-year Producing conservatory at New York Film Academy (NYFA). While studying at NYFA’s New York city campus, acquiring strong project management skills as well as a hands-on filmmaking education from experienced industry professionals, Méndez completed production on several films in multiple roles.
This included her own film Tinnitus, which she wrote, directed, and produced, as well as several NYFA thesis films—From Me to Me, directed by Moe Myat May Zarchi; Lighter and Cigarettes, directed by Rafael Cintra; and Almost, directed by Mahair Kahn. These projects, as well as other films Méndez produced, have accrued numerous awards and Official Selections from film festivals around the world.
Almost (2017), which Méndez worked on as 2nd Assistant Director and Script Supervisor, was an Official Selection in the New York Indian Film Festival. From Me to Me (2018), which she co-produced, won Best Woman Filmmaker at the Barcelona Planet Film Festival and was an Official Selection in Myanmar’s Wathann Film Festival.
Lighter and Cigarettes (2017) was produced by Méndez and was a Semiinalist at Los Angeles CineFest and an Official Selection for both the Los Angeles SR Film Festival and Hope Film Awards. Additionally, it was part of the Short Film Corner at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival.
Tinnitus (2017) was a Finalist or Semifinalist at multiple fests, as well as an Official Selection of New York Film Screenings, Women’s Only Entertainment Film Festival, Bridgwater and Taunton College Film Festival, Hope Film Awards, Barcelona Planet Film Festival, and the Los Angeles SR Film Festival.
After graduating, Méndez also produced Obini Bata (2018) which was directed by Damian Calvo. The short documentary profiles the first women to perform with Batá drums in Cuba, drums traditionally forbidden for women. The film has won the Audience Award for Best Short Film Documentary at the Edmonton International Film Festival and has been an Official Selection at Lady Filmmakers, Women in Film and Television Atlanta, The Pan African Film Festival, and The Chicago Feminist Film Festival.
Méndez is also in postproduction for Agua Desgasta Roca, a documentary short about a rock climber diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The film has already won the Premios Solidarios from Fundacion Merk.
Currently, she is working on two additional documentaries, Los García, and Costus. Los García, a feature film, was featured as part of the Focus CoPro pitching event at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also one of five winners at the La Incubadora competition, and was featured at Abycine.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Producing alum Irene Méndez on the multiple successes of her films to date, and looks forward to following her career as it develops!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a quick look at some recent achievements of the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alumni, faculty, and students:
Victoria Bergqvist (Fall 2017 1-Year) crewed as a production coordinator on the documentary Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire, which is competing at Sundance this year (she did this just prior to coming to NYFA). Now based in Los Angeles after graduating from NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary program, she currently works for George Media creating branded content as a director. Here’s what she had to say about her experience at NYFA and how it serves her in the professional world:
“I can honestly say that the 1-year documentary program at NYFA in Los Angeles gave me very well-rounded skills. Although it was an intense program, I learned how to do literally pretty much everything myself. Meaning: writing, producing, directing, filming, editing, and sound mixing. And also how to make completed films during a short amount of time.
“It turned out that this was exactly what George Media in Venice was looking for. The official job title of the position is ‘Young Director,’ but we are expected to do almost all the things mentioned above ourselves, except we get to work with a DP. The job entails making 12 short videos [in] six months, so having learned to make films under time pressure was incredibly helpful. Also, since the documentary program at NYFA is so hands-on and we make six films [in] one year, it gave me the confidence to keep doing what I had already done at school multiple times in the professional world.”
Producer Julia Cheng (’18) launched production of two feature documentaries in Beijing: The Invisible Shore, a feature doc directed by Qi Zhao, who produced both Last Train Home, The Chinese Mayor, and The City Dream, directed by Weijun Chen who previously directed Please Vote for Me.
Guy Yang (Fall 2016 MFA) Right after graduating with his MFA in Documentary Filmmaking, Guy Yang was hired by Radio Free Asia, based in Washington D.C. as a broadcaster. The station has also asked him to develop three documentary series that focus on social issues in Eastern Asia. He will work with a team, researching and producing episodes and also filming, editing, mixing and, delivering packages to the station. Yang says, given his experience at NYFA of working on multiple projects quickly, he will continue to produce and direct his own documentary projects as well.
Ashley Harris (Fall 2015 MFA) is served in the U.S. Navy as a Second Class Petty Officer. She came to NYFA in Fall 2015 and graduated with an MFA in Documentary in September 2017. In November of that same year, she interviewed with and was hired by Participant Media as Assistant to the Senior Vice President, Documentary Film and TV. She said that she loves the work and continues to grow with the company.
Paul Gallasch’s (‘11) new feature documentary, Love in the Time of Antidepressant, produced with grants from both Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation, premiered to great enthusiasm at the 2018 Adelaide Film Festival. Paul was also a 2018 Points West Fellow at the 2018 Camden Film Festival.
Dikeos Foudeas (Spring 2015 1-Year) was hired for A/V production at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska for the University of Alaska Anchorage. Kay (as we affectionately refer to him) has said “I strongly believe my employment was influenced by the training I received at NYFA.” He also continues to work freelance as a videographer in Anchorage, Alaska.
Dade Shields (Fall 2014 1-Year) is a native to Southern California and was always interested in outdoor cinematography. In 2018, Shields produced and shot several branded content mini documentaries for TravisMathew (a sportswear clothing line) as part of their Life on Tour series. Shields continues to shoot sports-themed documentary footage and recently partnered with professional skimboarder Blair Conklin to create YouTube channel Skid Kids, which quickly amassed over 2,000 subscribers.
Rachael Pelzer (Fall 2014 1-Year) is originally from the Midwest and began working as a logger for Herzog & Co right out of graduating NYFA’s Documentary program. She’s been at Herzog for four years and is now their Post Production Coordinator. Her credits include: 1968: The Year that Changed America and The History of Comedy—both series aired on CNN. Rachael continues to credit NYFA for training her in production and this past year revived her 1-year film to develop it into a feature documentary with the help of fellow alum, William Nestlehutt. The two continue production on Rachael’s Hip Hop Ohana.
Marie Vanderrusten (’16) signed on as editor of Ma Ville, Notre Idéal (My City, Our Ideal), airing daily on France 3. The series focuses on young people inventing new apps and industries to take on problems including climate change, overpopulation, poverty, overconsumption, and pollution.
Executive producer Yusaku Kanagawa (’15) hired Mariko Ide (’16) as a story consultant on his Creators Program platform at Yahoo Japan.
Peabody Award-winning production companyTransform Films staffed Nancy Dionne (‘18) as Associate Producer. Her semester one film, All I See Is the Future, will also premiere this month at Winter Film Awards International Film Festival, screening on Feb 19 and Feb 20.
In a unique trifecta, NYFA Docs grads became chief filmmakers for three of the foremost arts institutions, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Alex Guns (‘10), Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater (JR Cronheim (’12), and New York City Ballet (LauraSnow ’11).
Santiago Machado (’18) began a gig with the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI) for the television section of the News and Content Branch, News and Media Division.
Francesca Pagani (’11) shot, produced, and/or associate produced several new VICE pieces including: Fighting in Drag with LGBTQ Wrestlers,Inside the FBI’s Hunt for “Black Political Extremists, Fighting the Use of Electric Shocks on People with Disabilities, and Inside the Gambling Scandal That Rocked The NBA. Her photos were also featured on the front cover of Politiken as part of a profile of gun violence survivor Jaqueline and her family who arrived in Tijuana with 3,200 others from the migrant “caravan.”
Colorist, Susi Dollnig (’12) has been invited to present a seminar at this year’s Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival).
David Diaz won the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship, for If They Build It, What Will Come, which he premiered at Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival.
Hannah Currie was awarded Best Director at Under Wire Film Festival, for We Are All Here which is now also an Official Selection for both DOCfeed 2019 Film Festival and Glasgow Short Film Festival.
Krisztina Danka’s Final Film, Violet and the Wildman, will make its North American premiere February 16 at the Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival after winning the Golden Fox Award for the Best Educational Film in Kolkata, India.
Edwige Pezzulli Stępniewska and Maria Giulia Mancuso Prizzitano‘s final film project for NYFA, Embodiment, is now an official selection of Corvallis Queer Film Festival, the Prisma Independent Film Awards and Ivelisecinefestival.
Academy Award nominations were recently announced for Free Solo, edited by Bob Eisenhardt and RBG, whosedirector of photography is instructor Claudia Raschke.
Director/instructor, Maxine Trump, premiered her new film, To Kid or Not to Kid at DOC NYC, published The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmapfor Focal Press, delivered a pilot for an ITVS series, and started production on The Tongass Legacy in Alaska.
Editor/instructor, João Queiroga, also Chair of Post-Production, directed Our Skin, which screened at IDFA, Hot Docs, BFI, and DocLisboa, and was nominated for the Iris Prize and received the Lili Award. He produced the feature film I Can Only Be Mary Lane premiering at Doc’n Roll Film Festival in the UK, and is in production on both Digging For Life and Behind the Sun.
Producer/instructor Tracie Holder’s film Grit, directed by Academy Award-winner Cynthia Wade, premiered at Hot Docs and will air on PBS/POV later this year. A film she is currently producing, The Quiet Zone, received Sundance, NYS Council for the Arts, and IFP/HBO funding, while A Place of Absence, the other film she’s producing, was awarded a prestigious grant Tribeca Gucci grant.
Producer/instructor Dorottya Mathe finished post-production of Impossible Monsters a psychological thriller starring Santino Fontana that will be premiering at Cinequest on March 9, line produced the recreation segment of the documentary A Cops and Robbers Story that will be released in 2020, finished and produced The Independents, a modern folk ’n roll comedy that will soon be screened across the US after a successful festival run, and began production of The Tongass Legacy directed by fellow instructor, Maxine Trump.
Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift taught a special workshop facilitating some of the kids from Newtown, CT in making micro-docs as well as a different micro-docs workshop for over 400 Fulbrightersat their annual conference.
And finally, Dunya’s Day, associate produced by NYFA Documentary student, Aya Hamdan, won Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction this January.
The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking department is happy to announce the winter season of Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center, featuring ten documentaries playing from February 5 to March 26.
The season opens with UNITED SKATES (Feb 5), winner of the Tribeca Audience Award, about roller skating in black communities across the United States. Two films will appear as sneak previews fresh off their Sundance premieres: Alex Gibney’s THE INVENTOR: OUT FOR BLOOD IN SILICON VALLEY (Mar 14), and THE BRINK (Mar 26, closing night of the winter season) about the former Trump strategist Steve Bannon spreading his nationalist ideas in Europe. Each screening features the filmmakers or other special guests in person. New York Film Academy students receive a discount at the door.
Called “a vital outpost for award-winning documentaries” by The New York Times, the beloved docs series Stranger Than Fiction is being retitled to share a name with the popular podcast Pure Nonfiction, now in its fourth year. Both were created by Thom Powers, renowned Documentary Programmer of the Toronto International Film Festival and Artistic Director of DOC NYC, and Raphaela Neihausen, Academy Award-nominated producer and NYFA graduate. “Pure Nonfiction as a screening series at IFC Center shares the same mission as the podcast to illuminate the art of documentary making, so it makes sense for them to share the same name,” says Powers.
Andrea Swift, Chair of NYFA’s Documentary Department, says, “It is an honor for the NYFA Documentary Department to continue our sponsorship of Pure Nonfiction in its new incarnation. The series has been a crucial pillar of the documentary community for fourteen years. It provides our students with the unique opportunity to see great films curated by a legend like Thom Powers, and to hear from their creators via the insightful discussions he always elicits. Going out after to rub elbows and continue the conversation, students also get a chance to begin to know their new community.”
Pure Nonfiction‘s winter season also includes a sneak preview of the new series THE CASE AGAINST ADNAN SYED (Feb 26) based on the case made famous by the Serial podcast. Director Amy Berg will present its first episode prior to its debut on HBO. Other sneak previews include IT’S A HARD TRUTH, AIN’T IT (Feb 12) about prisoners learning to make films; and ONE NATION UNDER STRESS (Mar 19) with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which looks to uncover why American life expectancy is falling.
Classic revivals are a key part of the screening series. The season includes a double bill (Feb 19) with D.A. Pennebaker’s ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY (1970) about a studio recording of the Stephen Sondheim musical; joined with a new parody of the film from the series DOCUMENTARY NOW! titled ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: CO-OP. (In a happy coincidence, DOCUMENTARY NOW! features NYFA grad, Bill Hader along with Fred Armisen.) Pennebaker will present the films with other colleagues who were part of the original.
Other classics include the 20th anniversary of Doug Block’s HOME PAGE (Feb 21) about the emergence of a confessional culture on the internet; THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (Mar 5) that will memorialize director Bill Siegel who passed away last December; and THAT RHYTHM…THOSE BLUES (Mar 12) in a new restoration of the 1988 film that explored rhythm and blues music in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Pure Nonfiction winter season takes place at the IFC Center every Tuesday night at 7:30 pm for eight weeks, plus special Thursday screenings on Feb 21 and Mar 14. Each event includes a discussion with the filmmakers, followed by a gathering at a nearby bar. Season passes are now on sale for $99 for ten films, though NYFA students are offered a discount. The full season schedule appears below. For more information, visit here.
Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center: Winter 2019 Season
7:30pm Tuesdays at IFC Center, Feb 5 – Mar 26
Each show features a Q&A with the director or other special guests:
Feb 5: Opening Night – UNITED SKATES (2018, Q&A w/ dir. Tina Brown & subject Reggie)
Feb 12: IT’S A HARD TRUTH, AIN’T IT (2018, Q&A w/ dir. Madeleine Sackler)
Feb 19: Double bill: ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY (1970, Q&A w/ dir. D.A. Pennebaker & others) and DOCUMENTARY NOW! presents ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM CO-OP (2019)
Feb 21: Thursday special – HOME PAGE – 20th anniv. (1999, Q&A w/ dir. Doug Block & others)
Feb 26: THE CASE AGAINST ADNAN SYED – episode one (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Amy Berg)
Mar 5: THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (2014, Q&A in memory of dir. Bill Siegel w/ his colleagues)
Mar 12: THAT RHYTHM…THOSE BLUES – newly restored (1988, Q&A w/ dir. George T. Nierenberg)
Mar 14: Thursday Special – THE INVENTOR: OUT FOR BLOOD IN SILICON VALLEY (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Alex Gibney)
Mar 19: ONE NATION UNDER STRESS (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Marc Levin)
Mar 26: Closing Night – THE BRINK (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Alison Klayman)
Tickets for Pure Nonfiction screenings are $17 for the general public and $14 for IFC Center members and NYFA students. A Season Pass covers admission to all ten evenings and provides free popcorn at all screenings. It is available for $99 ($80 for IFC members and NYFA students).
In Spring 2018, a select group of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary students volunteered to create a video honoring the 65th Anniversary of Family Service Agency (FSA) in Burbank. FSA is a privately-funded mental health service provider that specializes in “treating the mental and emotional well-being of children, adults and families suffering silently through Counseling, Preventing, Educating and Advocating since 1953”.
The NYFA team, consisting of Drama del Rosario, Gustav Gibrand, and Asem Nurlanova, started production in April 2018 and were in active production throughout May and June. They participated in the annual 5K Carewalk (shooting and interviewing participants) and then interviewed Executive Director Laurie Bleick, Operational Director Christine Ramos, Clinical Director George Holbrook, and Director of School Based Counseling Services Ginny Goodwin.
Because FSA is privately funded by many community sponsors, the filmmakers were granted unique access to several local schools and locations key to the services provided by the organization. In July 2018, the students, along with NYFA alum, Eva Maria Bukovinsky, also interviewed Brian Miller, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cartoon Network to talk to him about his service on the Board of Directors for FSA.
Bukovinszky then got to work editing the project. The resulting film was screened at the October 5, 2018 gala celebrating FSA’s 65 years of service, and now serves to explain their services on the About page of their website.
After the team handed over the final project for FSA, another crew gathered together in September 2018 to begin working on the annual Community Film Project with NYFA instructor Denise Hamilton. The students chose to work with David and Margaret Youth and Family Services, a non-profit that “empowers children, youth, and families through culturally diverse services that foster emotional, educational, spiritual, and identity development.”
The crew pitched three ideas and allowed the organization to choose what suited their needs. They chose Drama del Rosario’s concept and this helped form the crew: Drama del Rosario, producer; Lucia Flores, director & editor; Faisal Aldakheel, director of photography and Asem Nurlanova, sound.
“When we pitched our idea, we wanted to have a good balance of technical information and very human characters,” says del Rosario. “David and Margaret wanted to target youth who might be interested in signing up for the program, so we didn’t want some boring brochure-turned-video. We wanted something that would make them say, ‘Hey, that looks fun! That looks useful!’”
Production, including on location B-roll and interviews in LaVerne, California, about 40 miles east of campus (in Los Angeles traffic this is tantamount to taking a “road trip”), took about a week. After that, production included further research, writing and gathering of archival footage.
The result was screened on January 26, 2019 in NYFA’s private screening room and the organization was thrilled!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary MFA Alum Sasha-Gay Lewis was honored when her MFA Thesis film was included on the program of the International Film Weekend, held annually in Würzburg, Germany.
Filmwochenende Würzburg was started in 1974 with just 12 films and 1,000 visitors. This year, the 45th edition of the International Film Weekend – Würzburg was the most visited with more than 10,000 film fans visiting the traditional festival. Held from January 24 – January 27, 2019, the festival screened 82 films over four venues.
The aim of the festival is to showcase international films that have not yet found their way to distributors. Added to this is the opportunity for cinephiles to meet the makers behind the productions and to discuss their films with them.
Lewis is a Jamaican documentary filmmaker, producer, editor and writer, as well as a trained journalist and award-winning writer/producer for radio. She has written, produced, and directed several short narratives and docs in Jamaica, California, and Belize. She enrolled in New York Film Academy’s MFA Documentary Filmmaking program in Fall 2014.
The Incursion, her documentary short, follows the residents of Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica as they seek justice after a government raid in 2010 that resulted in the death of over 150 residents.
In addition to Filmwochenende Würzburg, the film was named Honorable Mention at the 2017 DOC LA Film Festival, was an Official Selection at the 2017 Pembroke Taparelli Arts & Film Festival, won an Award of Recognition at the Impact DOCS Awards, and won Best Documentary Short at the LA Film and Script Film Festival.
In its 45-year history, this year is the first year Filmwochenende Würzburg have screened a film from Jamaica. Additionally, Lewis is the second black director to be invited to the festival; the first was filmmaker Spike Lee. The Incursion had a full house for both days of its screening. packed cinema on both days.
The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary alum Sasha-Gay Lewis on the success of The Incursion and looks forward to following her career and future accomplishments!
A select group of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary and Filmmaking students were invited to attend The Price of Free, a feature-length documentary which screened on November 10, 2018 at the Studio City Film Festival. The film depicts Kailash Satyarthi, who left a career as an electrical engineer to start Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) in an effort to rescue children from slavery.
Along with Sanora Bartels, Chair of Documentary NYFA-LA, the selected NYFA students in attendance were from both BFA and MFA programs and included, from Documentary: Lucia Florez, Assemgul Sarsembayeva and Khalila Suprapto; and from Filmmaking: Jose Miguel Perez, Jenny Mochahari, Katherine Russell, and Aastha Verma.
All of the students felt it was an important event and looked forward to attending. Before the screening, Katherine Russell, Spring 2018 BFA Filmmaking student, told NYFA:
“I’ve always considered myself very socially conscious. I began my first undergraduate career as a political science and sociology double major at Penn State. Throughout my filmmaking career at NYFA and beyond I plan to inject these passions and what I’ve learned into my films. This film piques my interest for these exact reasons.”
The film did not disappoint; Derek Doneen’s direction is deeply moving. The story opens in a raid on a factory to save several children from slave labor. The camera work and action immediately pulls the audience into the center of the conflict.
The audience is then taken back to the beginning of Satyarthi’s work, and the history of the struggle is conveyed through masterful animation and several interviews with key supporters of the cause. Some of the most compelling footage is “observational” — using hidden cameras — of the charity workers as they go undercover as “buyers of goods” in an attempt to expose the locations of illegal factories and their captive labor.
The work is not for the faint of heart. Throughout, the worthiness of the project is expressed in the experiences of the children who are freed from shackles and able to pursue education.
The screening was followed by a Q&A session with The Price of Free director, Derek Doneen, and its featured subject, Nobel Prize winner Kailash. Satyarthi was asked how he had the courage to begin and continue the work to free children from slavery, considering the dangers involved. In addition to the very real threat of reprisal from the criminals running the factories, there are police officers who are bribed and, at best, look the other way, and, at worst, savagely beat those who attempt to break the children free.
Satyarthi replied to the question with a smile and shared a lovely Indian folktale:
“One day a terrible fire broke out in the jungle – a huge section was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the jungle. As they came to the edge of a stream, they stopped to watch the fire and were feeling very discouraged and powerless.
“They all bemoaned the destruction of their homes, except the hummingbird. The hummingbird swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water in its beak and flew into the jungle to put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. Finally, the tiger grew concerned for the hummingbird’s safety: ‘It is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire. What do you think you’re doing!?’
“The hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, ‘I am doing what I can.'”
After the screening, the students enthusiastically shared their experience and thoughts about moving forward:
“After watching The Price of Free you will never be the same. You will carefully read the labels in supermarkets. You will evaluate your every purchase and think whether [you] really need another decorative box or a candle. Consumerism at its highest degree of barbarism is the focus of Derek Doneen’s film… Kailash Satyarthi has a mission: the battle for the right of every kid on this planet to have a childhood.”
—Asem Nurlanova, Fall 2017 MFA Documentary
“From the opening of the documentary to the last frame, there was not a minute where I felt unmoved or a disconnect by the reality of the harsh hitting stories. The director, Derek Doneen, did an exceptional job bringing the reality to life. As the credits rolled, I saw people right, left, and center tearing up, almost sobbing.
“Not a lot of people have the power to move the world forward with them, he surely is one of them. It was an honor and an inspiration to be in the same room and having a moving conversation with the humble man himself, Mr. Satyarthi. I highly recommend for everybody to watch The Price of Free and would like to thank Crickett Rumley and NYFA-LA for the opportunity.”
On Saturday, November 10, New York Film Academy and GreenLight Women hosted a screening of the documentary, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, followed by a Q&A with director, April Wright; producers, Michael Gruskoff and Marion Rosenberg; and stuntwoman, Amy Johnston; with the event moderated by Rosenberg. Afterward, students were able to meet the panelists and discuss the film at a reception in the lobby.
April Wright is a director, writer, and producer known for the films, My BFF (2015), The Graveyard Shift (2010), and Layover (2009). Michael Gruskoff is a producer known for the films, Prelude to a Kiss (1992), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Marion Rosenberg is a producer known for the films, Revolutionary Road (2008), Hollow Man (2000), and The Deer Hunter (1978). Amy Johnston is a stuntwoman known for the films, Deadpool (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).
Rosenberg opened up the Q&A by inquiring about how all of the panelists came to be involved in the film. Wright shared that she had already worked on an archive-heavy documentary, so she felt like she could take on the challenge of bringing the book, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, by Mollie Gregory to life.
Wright asked herself, “How can we bring this into the present [and] not just make it a history [documentary] but really, you know, what are stuntwomen doing today? And bring it up to the present and have some action in the movie so that it wouldn’t be all ‘talking heads.’”
Wright added that the timing of the documentary and its subject matter felt especially relevant as there have been movements in Hollywood recently to push for more inclusion of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community in various roles behind the scenes. “We felt like this group of stuntwomen represented the bigger picture,” Wright said, “It was just sort of this microcosm of what was happening in the whole industry [and] all the things that [women have] been fighting for for all these years.”
Rosenberg asked Johnston what the film meant to her as a stuntwoman. “One of the questions I always get asked is ‘how do you become a stuntwoman and why are you a stuntwoman?’” said Johnston. “This is so important to share vital information about how we do things and why we do things.” She added that the film taught her about the history of stuntwomen in the earlier days of the film industry, “I learned how much these women paved the way for us.”
Though strides have been made for the stuntwoman community in terms of job opportunities and safety, Wright and Johnston look forward to even more progress being made in the future.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank April Wright, Michael Gruskoff, Marion Rosenberg, and Amy Johnston for sharing their riveting documentary and positive message about inclusion in Hollywood.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alana Blaylock has had a productive career since finishing the 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in the summer of 2011. It’s no surprise then that many in the industry have taken notice of the Emmy Award winner, including Forbes Magazine, which recently published a profile on and interview with the up-and-coming producer.
Blaylock has amassed an inspiring roster of credits since finishing her workshop at NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school, which teaches aspiring reporters a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of the production process, including researching, writing, shooting, producing, and editing. This is important in the modern digital landscape as contemporary broadcast journalists are expected to be multimedia journalists, marrying their technical skills with their creative ones.
This is exactly what Blaylock has excelled at, and why she has already won an Emmy and why her career is taking off even as her path winds between both traditional roads and outside-the-box ones. Her credits include work on CNN, HBO, NBC News, National Geographic, and the ID Channel, including popular programs Deadline and United Shades of America. However, her work on newer streaming models like Amazon and YouTube is what has been generating a lot of buzz.
One of her latest projects is producing for Best Shot, a YouTube Originals docuseries executive produced by Lebron James and Maverick Carter for the NBA. The show follows the student basketball players of Newark Central High School as well as chronicling the life and career of their mentor, former NBA player and sports television personality Jay Williams.
In addition to working in both traditional and digital media, Blaylock curates a strong online presence on social media, further highlighting her smart instincts in an ever-changing media landscape.
“I love the visual storytelling that happens on Instagram,” Blaylock tells Forbes. “That’s the platform I probably use the most [in my personal life]. And I am inspired by movies, set design, museums, exhibits and artists.”
She continues, “I try to take in as much new culture as possible and then decide what I want to do with it or how it fits into my process as a creative.”
What lies ahead for Blaylock remains to be seen, but it’s clear whatever she does next will be insightful and successful due to the work she puts in and the philosophy that keeps her driven. When asked about keeping her own personal voice while working on other parties’ projects, Blaylock tells Forbes, “My brand evolves as I attain more world experience. I have to remain authentically Alana, and the projects that I take on are continuations of my career journey.
“I can adapt to the demands of a project and still be the best version of myself. I remain steadfast in my goals while producing every show, documentary or collaboration. As a result of working on many projects, there’s always new information and experiences. It keeps me well-rounded.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Alana Blaylock on her career and looks forward to her future successes sure to come!