A new Netflix original short documentary entitled “Heroin(e)” premieres today, Sept. 12, and a New York Film Academy instructor was instrumental in its production. Kristen Nutile, who teaches filmmaking and editing at NYFA, served as editor during the making of the film.
“Heroin(e)” focuses on three women in Huntington, West Virginia, attempting to reverse the devastating, years-long cycle of the opiate epidemic. The film was directed by Peabody-awarding winning documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon who is a native of West Virginia. Her unique, local viewpoint allowed for a more empathetic and passionate portrayal of the issue as opposed to the many outside news outlets that have attempted to cover the epidemic.
“When I was approached by Elaine, I was very moved by this particular problem and that is why I took on the project,” said the NYFA documentary instructor. The fact that three heroines played the lead roles in the harrowing story was also appealing to Nutile, who stated, “I loved how she was following three women trying to make a difference. I love that it was female-centric.”
The film focuses on Fire Chief Jan Rader, Cabell County drug court Judge Patricia Keller, and Necia Freeman of Brown Bag Ministry, all of whom have taken it upon themselves to attempt to slow the devastating effects of opioid use on West Virginia.
Nutile is an award-winning, New York-based veteran documentary editor and filmmaker. She has worked on “The Bullish Farmer,” “Deep Run,” “Unfinished Spaces” and edited a wide range of other films, documentary and otherwise. She founded Soft Spoken Films in 2001.
Check out the trailer for the film below and watch in its entirety on Netflix. You can also learn more on the website.
“Where Cultures Collide,” a web series produced and directed by NYFA’s MFA Documentary students in Los Angeles, is set to be published by PBS affiliate KCETLink starting August 1, 2017. The five-part series of 5-7 minute segments explores aspects of different cultures that have merged into the mainstream in Southern California and been transformed to a degree. The series spotlights cultural contributions from Latin America, Thailand, Polynesia, Armenia, and Saudi Arabia.
As part of their Community Film Project class, our MFA Documentary students had a unique opportunity to work with KCETLink in a professional producing relationship. The class, led by instructor Denise Hamilton, met with their “client” KCETLink to determine their interests. After the initial contact, they developed and presented concepts for them in a pitch meeting and were Greenlit to produce stories about unique “cultural clashes”. It was a professional pitch session that they passed with flying colors!
Students Ashley Harris, GuangLi Zhu, Yuan Li, Zhengyi Zhong, Sultan Aljurays, Camilla Borel-Rinkes, Mira Hamour, Carolina Sosa Andres and Kristen Lydsdottir served as directors, producers and crew members, responsible for the entire process from pre-production to post.
“It was a very difficult assignment” Denise acknowledges, “because they had to conduct extensive research and produce while simultaneously planning and prepping their thesis films.”
And, like any Client / Producer relationship, the group received notes for adaptations and changes throughout the process. Ultimately, the students obtained an invaluable lesson about creating work for someone else, and got a kick-start into the professional world of producing for a high-level client. KUDOS!
In an age where information is readily available through everyday technology, former New York Film Academy student Atif Ali Khan’s documentary “ED Vs IT: SOS” explores the role of education in an information driven age — how we have to dissect and deploy the online IT tools to create a giant technological leap forward to educate our next generation. The documentary investigates how, if we don’t make the amends, our lives will be controlled by robots.
Khan’s thought-provoking documentary, which is now available on Amazon Prime, has peaked our curiosity, leading us to an interview with the director to find out more about him and his film.
Congrats on your recent documentary, “ED Vs IT”! Let’s begin by telling us where you’re from, and what brought you to NYFA?
Originally from Pakistan, NYFA was my ticket to Hollywood. It is where you get firsthand exposure with industry professionals, who have not only “been there and done that,” but are also actively involved in various projects too. They also recommend you, if you have outstanding skills.
In fact, for me it became a mode of networking with the top notch professionals in Hollywood. NYFA surpassed my expectations of what I had envisioned. The faculty not only gives you the hands-on skills, but they teach you the creative process of storytelling. A giant leap in confidence. Shooting at Universal Studios backlot was a dream. From the Golden Age of Cinema to the Silversceen VOD age of today, I saw it all from the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars are held, to the actual locations where top-grossing movies are made. We embraced it all during our thesis film project.
They were shooting “Modern Family” and Sofia Vergara was right behind our shooting location on the European set. I recovered all the money I had invested at NYFA within two months of my graduation with a bunch of projects. It is that good. It is like an interneship at Paramount. The NYFA jacket is an easy pass to enter anywhere — be it press coverage or a movie set.
New York is the TV hub of the world and doing it at the LA Campus I got exposed to film fraternity of the highest cadre in the world. Needless to say, I received a host of discounts against my NYFA student ID from B&H to Amazon and from Best Buy to Apple. I got many projects just by “name-dropping” NYFA. It is the most respected name be it Tokyo, China, Italy, Abu Dhabi and from the East to the West Coast. Ten years from now, every film project in the world will have a NYFA alumni in one form or another.
Additionally, I became friends with Craig Fox, in New York, who is a leading stand up comedian and whom I later found is a teacher of Acting for Film at NYFA in New York. He introduced me to a range of actors, who are either studying at NYFA or are graduates. All are very active on Broadway (theater) and the improv scene in New York.
How did this documentary “ED Vs IT” come about? What drew you to this subject?
I saw online platforms emerging at a dynamic pace, from entertainment to mobile and from Amazon to banks.
The production design tips, given by my teacher Jack Daniels at NYFA, really came in handy. I did all of the production from shoot to special FX and editing. Finally, the film was made on a shoe string budget with no production compromises at all. You really don’t need a studio to back your project — if you learn the NYFA guerrilla filmmaking.
What do you hope to achieve with this documentary? What is your overall message?
It is a wake up call. Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence is steering forward at an alarming pace. Automation is taking over human capital way faster than ever anticipated. We need to overhaul the outdated education modules with a sense of urgency. We can’t stay complacent as self-driving cars and automated businesses are quickly replacing human resources. If we don’t take active measures there will be a resource apocalypse, which might lead to a ‘Terminator sort of situation’ where robots will be used as bodyguards and there will be no checks and measures in place for their legal litigation. People will fight amongst themselves, with machines to win their livelihood.
Do you think NYFA’s training was useful in terms of being able to create this documentary?
Absolutely, it is like assisting a movie with Stanley Kubrick. If you follow how they instruct and “walk you through” various technical nuances, you will develop a huge conceptual framework overnight. It is like a firsthand experience because they run you through all the litmus tests of past, present and future of filmmaking. I learned from NYFA how to stage a scene, how to convert my vision into telling my story with words and visuals. Like I said earlier, NYFA is a lifestyle; it is a fraternity where recommendations are made, where your teachers and former students all interact and integrate to create a future for you in media industry. With future of video so bright with Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and MSM (Mainstream Media), I think I did myself the best favor of my life to enroll at NYFA. Every penny that I invested has given my 1000% returns and I am just in the second year of since graduating.
My teacher Brendan Davis at the LA campus taught me that ‘film is a collaborative art’ and it really helped me to liaise with people whom I interviewed for the documentary. I was cultured about the artist protocols in terms of getting work done on time and drawing the best talent out of voice-over talents who narrated my project. Without NYFA I wouldn’t have been able to bring it all together.
I also now provide stock footage to famous Video Blocks that outsource for more than 15 leading TV channels including Discovery, MTV and History.
How did your relationship with Amazon Prime come about?
Documentary is the next big thing. After winning several Oscars, Oliver Stone recently made a documentary about Putin for Showtime. Every evening I see at least one documentary on Amazon or Netflix. While Netflix distribution is rather lengthy, I sent my demo to Amazon Studios and got an instant approval. Amazon Studios is an amazing platform where you can DIY everything from script to approval and release.
Studying at NYFA I got the membership for Without a Box. Not only did I learn how the film industry in VOD age works, but I also learned how to submit my film to festivals across the globe in a tapeless format. My student film (that I wrote, directed & produced at NYFA) went on and got selected in the pro categories across the globe and got top spots in London Intl. Film Festival and various others. Building on that experience and response, I have now submitted this documentary in many Oscar qualifying film festivals. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next level.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Yes, I am working on a psychological horror feature film, based in NY. I am using improv actors and special FX like Neon Demon to create a new wave feature project. The project named “Disowned” is starring Michael S. Benjamin and Heather Cole as the lead.
I am also covering IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Awards on July 16, 2017 at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey. IIFA is the equivalent to Oscar for Bollywood film industry. I also provided press coverage to their conference at Sheraton Times Square on June 1, 2017 — live streaming from Mumbai.
Lastly, as a follow up to the script I wrote for the documentary, I have been offered a writing deal to the book covering the same theme but a step forward in terms of its criticality. “Automation vs. Autocracy.”
This past week the New York Film Academy sponsored a special event for members of the International Documentary Association (IDA) at the NYFA’s Los Angeles Campus. Entitled, VR 101 for Documentary, the workshop was moderated by VR Director and Cinematographer Celine Tricart and featured speakers from ground-breaking VR production company The Emblematic Group, and a VR camera demo from AbelCine, a leading provider of equipment and services to the production, broadcast and new media industries.
Virtual Reality has been threatening to conquer the gaming world for decades but new cellphone technology used with inexpensive VR viewers like the Google Cardboard have allowed for first widespread distribution of Virtual Reality projects, particularly documentaries. Platforms like the New York Times, OpDocs, Jaunt VR and Frontline VR, are releasing new material often called “immersive journalism.” The goal of NYFA’s VR Workshop was to allow IDA documentarians to “look under the hood” of VR to begin to understand what it takes to direct, produce and edit in this new medium.
In VR and all 360-degree formats virtually all the film grammar developed over one hundred years of “flatties” or 2-dimensional films do not apply. No cutting to a close-up or a wide shot, in fact not much cutting at all for fear of inducing motion sickness in the viewer. All the “tricks” filmmakers use to direct the attention of the viewer are not possible in a 360-degree universe where the viewer decides what to look at when, and to some extent for how long.
Using sound and light to direct the viewer’s attention, defining the difference between 360 video and VR, and creating a new cinematic language were key talking points for the speakers. Senior Producer of The Emblematic Group Cedric Gamelin and Marketing Manager Ivana Coleman expounded on the possibilities of storytelling in this new medium, showing the audience examples of the Emblematic Group’s work in both live action and animated VR documentary shorts. Nicholas Samero and Sean George of AbelCine demonstrated a number of different VR cameras, from the 2-camera Kodak 4K 360 to the 8 -camera Nokia Ozo, and the 24-camera Jaunt VR.
The afternoon was spent in a NYFA edit room where Tricart took participants through the post –production workflow for VR that includes downloading the media from all of the cameras, stitching the images from the various cameras together, editing scenes together, and outputting the edited media. Then each participant was able to view the VR scenes they had cut together.
Barbara Multer-Wellin, Chair of Documentary for the Los Angeles campus recommend checking out the Op-Docs Video Channel, Jaunt VR, and Frontline VR to begin exploring Virtual Reality Documentaries. Multer-Wellin has already begun to include elements of VR in her classes and hopes to expand the program soon.
When asked what she learned from the presentation Multer-Wellin said, “We (filmmakers) are used to having a lot of control. In VR, you’re giving the audience the control with the ability to make cuts themselves with their eyes. This is exciting but it is also kind of scary.” Celine Tricart said she loves VR because. “It’s like the very beginning cinema. All the rules have been thrown out the window and we’re making it up as we go along.”
The Berlin International Film Festival is underway, and we’re thrilled to see New York Film Academy Los Angeles Fulbright student Pedro Peira is Executive Producer of the documentary film “Soul,” which will be screening at the festival this Sunday, Feb. 12 and Monday, Feb. 13.
The Spanish documentary, from filmmakers José Antonio Blanco and Ángel Parra, focuses on Eneko Atxa, a three Michelin star chef who runs a restaurant complex near Bilbao in the Basque region. His exploration of the “soul” of cooking has him traveling to famous colleagues in Catalonia and Japan. Throughout the documentary, some of the most relevant personalities of international gastronomy such as Michael Ellis, manager of the Michelin guide, or Joël Robuchon, the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world, take us into the secrets and the vicissitudes of a profession based on effort, which is continually being reinvented and requires huge sacrifices.
“What I’ve mainly learned from NYFA is to be able to tell stories,” said Peira. “Of course I’ve learned about image and sound, which are also important, but being able to include some kind of drama in a story stands out above the rest. As a matter of fact, during the final editing process of ‘Soul’ I would call the director while he was editing the film and, after watching the cuts together, he applied what I was discovering at NYFA. I think is has helped the film.”
“Even though I’ve just finished my first semester at NYFA, I’ve felt an evolution in my work,” added Peira. “When I arrived, my approach to documentary was an informational one. After screening my final project of the semester, I felt that I had started to be able to generate emotions. When people laugh or cry when watching your films, you know you have been doing something right.”
For tickets and more information on “Soul” and its screening at the Berlin Film Festival, CLICK HERE.
With a record number of Academy Award nominations, “La La Land” is certainly the talk-of-the-town. Recently, GQ provided a behind the scenes with “La La Land” star Ryan Gosling at a photo shoot at the Gellért Thermal Bath in Budapest.
Two New York Film Academy Documentary alumni had their hand in the video, as both Susi Dollnig and Nina Thomas work at the post-production company House of Trim, which provided the post-production for the video. Dollnig was the Colorist and Thomas was the Assistant Editor on this specific video.
House of Trim is a boutique post-production facility located in the heart of NYC. The team consists of a collective of talented editors, motion graphics artists and color graders who specialize in feature films, commercial campaigns, documentaries and branded content. Dollnig has been working at the company for about four years as a Colorist, and Thomas joined the company in October 2015 as an Assistant Editor, and recently started taking on editing jobs as well.
Both Dollnig and Thomas often does post-production work for GQ Magazine and for the Condé Nast group.
The historic Pony Express was only in operation delivering the mail for about 18 months, from April 1860 to October 1861, and was never routed through Arizona. Llike the original riders, the Hashknife Pony Express members are sworn in as official representatives of the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the mail along the route from Holbrook to Scottsdale, Arizona.
Over three days, each horse and rider takes multiple one-mile legs, passing the mail bag from rider to rider, often at full gallop.
NYFA students Claudio Duek, Steve Estrada, Eva Luna Marini and Alejandro Talens and NYFA LA Documentary Chair Barbara Multer-Wellin split into teams to capture the action along the route. The film was edited by NYFA alumna Michelle Flores and mixed by Instructor John Sisti of the NYFA LA Sound Department.
After four years as a middle school teacher, CJ Ferroni noticed his students would often have laser focus when watching a documentary on a subject he was teaching. His fascination with documentaries and the production process that goes into each project grew exponentially until the point where decided to pursue the field as a potential career. His passion led him to study at the Documentary Program at the New York Film Academy and he is now an alumnus of the program working as an Associate Producer at NBC.
As Associate Producer, Ferroni has worked on season 8 of the true crime doc-series, “Disappeared”; a 6 hour documentary pilot series called “Reasonable Doubt” about current wrongfully convicted people in the process of exoneration; and a 4 hour doc series called “SEAL Team 6,” chronicling the history of the now infamous SEAL team.
We caught up with the former school teacher to find out more about his career change and his current position at NBC!
Once you decided on pursuing documentary filmmaking, what made you chose the Documentary Program at NYFA?
I chose the documentary program at NYFA after spending four years as a middle school teacher. As a teacher, I often used documentaries to supplement lessons. Students had laser focus when watching a documentary on whatever subject we were learning about, and I found them to be great tools in the classroom. Prior to teaching, I was always amazed at how many names were in the credit reels of films and just how much man (and woman) power went into making a 90 minute piece of content. I was fascinated by the filmmaking process, specifically documentaries, but didn’t have any hands on experience. I had stories I wanted to tell and believed that the visual medium is the most effective form of story telling today, so I needed to put some tools in my tool box. That’s where NYFA came in. They stood out to me among various film schools around the country because of their intensive hands on curriculum, a faculty of real filmmakers, and a strong network of employed alumni.
How did the Associate Producer position at NBC come about?
This position came about like most do in my experience, good timing and word of mouth. Your reputation and the networks you create as you climb the production ladder are everything. This is a big city but nonfiction filmmaking is a small world. Work hard, show up early, be nice, and be fun to work with and you are already more hire-able than most people.
Was NYFA’s Doc program useful in terms of getting the job?
NYFA’s Doc program was definitely useful in getting hired by NBC. If I look back at the path that I took from graduation to right now, everything stemmed from the bridges built at NYFA. Also, through classmates’ critiques and my successes and failures at NYFA, I have a foundation of experience and confidence in my abilities as a storyteller that I use every day.
Was NYFA useful in terms of what you’re currently working on at NBC?
NYFA gave me technical skills with editing software, cameras, lighting, and sound that directly apply to every job I’ve had since graduation, including my current job. Obviously, I don’t do all of those things at NBC, however, the knowledge of those areas helps me understand the needs of those departments, and helps me communicate, write, and plan shoots efficiently and accurately. Anyone who has been through the doc program at NYFA has also been taught the importance of having a good story. The ability to structure and portray a compelling story is everything in this line of work. The last thing I want to mention is planning. NYFA taught me how to plan my own shoot, figure out what gear I want to use, what crew I want to work with, and how to effectively write a call sheet. I had no idea how often I would be writing call sheets after graduation…
Which specific projects at NBC are you most proud to have worked on?
I think the project that I’m most proud to have worked on at NBC is a 90-minute documentary on Alexander Hamilton. It was a great experience in the field. We shot at different museums and historical houses around NYC with a crew of 75 people, and an additional 17 actors. I also had the chance to do some camera work and meet and interview some incredible authors, CEOs, politicians, and popular journalists. I had a big role in planning every aspect of those shoots and it was a lot of fun… plus, we didn’t break anything in the museums.
Is there a specific project that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
Currently, I’m working as an Associate Producer for season 5 of the doc-series “Deadline Crime” with Tamron Hall. We are investigating the unsolved murder of a 12-year-old boy, Garrett Phillips, that made national headlines from 2011-2016.
Jonathan P. Shaw with NYFA LA Chair of Documentary Barbara Multer-Wellin
On Wednesday, Jan. 6th, Jonathan P. Shaw presented his documentary “Finding Noah” for students at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus. NYFA LA Chair of Documentary Barbara Multer-Wellin hosted the evening.
Shaw has balanced a career between documentary and narrative. He is best known as an editor. His greatest hits include “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey”, “Blue Velvet,” “Twin Peaks,” and “Disneynature: Wings of Life.”
His latest project, “Finding Noah,” which he produced, wrote, and directed, is an intense documentary following a scientific exploration into the whereabouts of the fabled ark.
Shaw was raised Catholic and has been fascinated by the story of the ark for years. He traced the history throughout different religious texts and oral histories. Multer-Wellin wanted to know how Shaw towed the line between controversy, faith, and telling the story.
Before he left, Shaw had one final piece of advice for students, “I really feel blessed to do all the projects I do. It’s not like it’s not a struggle. Going freelance there’s a risk. But I’ve been able to maintain a marriage for 37 years and send two kids to college. My advice to you is just keep on going.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Shaw for taking the time to speak with our students. “Finding Noah” is now available for rent on Amazon Video.
On November 21, 2016, MFA documentary students from New York Film Academy Los Angeles had the opportunity to listen in on a conversation with legendary documentary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, sponsored by the International Documentary Association.
Hegedus and Pennebaker have captured moments of history — from Senator John F. Kennedy’s run for the Democratic nomination in “Primary” to James Carville’s dictum, “It’s the economy, stupid” during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in “The War Room” and the first dot.com mania in “Startup.com.” They’ve portrayed musicians from Bob Dylan to Janis Joplin, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, Branford Marsalis, Emmylou Harris and many more. Pennebaker was one of the pioneers of the Direct Cinema movement of the 1960s that rejected on camera interviews in favor of the so-called “fly on the wall” approach to documentary filmmaking. Together their films have influenced the realms of documentary, music video, and reality television.
The New York Film Academy students were treated to a riveting clip from the pair’s newest film, “Unlocking the Cage,” about animal rights attorney Steven Wise and his thirty-year fight to break down the legal walls that separate humans and animals. Wise is just the latest in a long series of subjects whose essential humanity shines through in their films.
“A documentary filmmaker is like a playwright,” Pennebaker told the audience. “He fills a stage with people no one has ever seen before and he has to make them unforgettable.”