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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Alum Pedro Álvarez Gales Works on Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’

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    Netflix has become an essential service now more than ever while most of the world stays indoors, and seemingly everyone watching Netflix is watching its latest original docuseries, Tiger King, co-edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking alum Pedro Álvarez Gales.

    Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a true crime docuseries that explores a convicted criminal and flamboyant zoo owner and the larger world of big cat owners and enthusiasts that he inhabits. Over the course of seven episodes, co-directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin tell the story of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” who plotted the murder of Carole Baskin of Florida’s Big Cat Rescue.

    The show has resonated with television viewers stuck at home due to self-isolation and quarantine, and in just its first three days of release Tiger King became one of the top 10 shows watched on the popular streaming service.

    Documentaries typically involve a great deal more editing than narrative productions when factoring in all the raw footage that needs to be culled into a cohesive story. New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking alum Pedro Álvarez Gales was a perfect choice by the production to serve as co-editor. The talented young editor and director has worked on productions including Black Market with Michael K. Williams, King of the Road, Weediquette, and last year’s buzzworthy documentary FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.

    Gales, who is originally from Caracas, Venezuela, first received his training at the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking school at our New York Campus in 2013. “Almost everything I do today I learned in NYFA,” Gales told us in an interview last year. “I had never touched any editing software until I went there. It was through NYFA I got my first job in New York too (Vice and Viceland) where I stayed for three years and went from being an assistant editor to junior editor.”

    tiger king pedro alvarez gales

    NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Pedro Álvarez Gales

    He adds, “The Documentary program can be a really intense one with long hours and days, but if you apply yourself and choose to absorb everything that’s coming your way you’ll leave that building a documentary filmmaker.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Pedro Álvarez Gales on the success of Tiger King and encourages everyone at home to check out the docuseries on Netflix!

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    March 25, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 706

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Gary Bencheghib Joins Greta Thunberg at Davos World Economic Forum

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking alum Gary Bencheghib was invited to speak at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos in January to discuss his work and the impact of climate change.

    Bencheghib joined thousands of business leaders, economists, journalists, international political figures, and more from all over the globe to discuss key issues of global concern, including the devastating effects of climate change.

    Notable activist on the topic, Greta Thunberg, was selected to speak on the issue, along with Bencheghib, who addressed climate change head on and was able to point back to his upcoming documentary, Plastic River, as well as his entire body of work—past and present—as a case study to the destructive, man-made effects to the environment.

    Back in 2009, Bencheghib, along with his brother Sam, founded Make A Change World, an organization to raise awareness for environmental pollution and sustainable waste management. Since it was founded, the platform has distributed multiple micro-docs and other projects addressing climate issues, including Bencheghib’s miniseries and NYFA thesis film, The Reclamation.

     

    Gary Bencheghib

    NYFA Alum Gary Bencheghib Speaks at Davos World Economic Forum

    “NYFA completely changed my life in giving me the best formation imaginable on the entire filmmaking spectrum—from shooting to editing and producing,” Bencheghib said about his time at the Academy.

    Among the other notable projects the Bencheghib brothers have created since Gary graduated in 2014, includes documenting themselves paddle-boarding along two of New York City’s most polluted waterways and convincing Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to clean up the country’s contaminated Citarum River.

    At Davos, Bencheghib also spoke about his latest initiative from him and his brother called Sungai Watch, a platform that maps out the details of rivers in real time, allowing people to test floating trash booms for rivers and smaller trash blocks for streams throughout Bali’s waterways. “Imagine watching the cleanup of the world’s most polluted river in real time,” says Gary. This new initiative, along with the additional conversations sparked by Bencheghib and others at Davos will, hopefully, allow attendees and others throughout the world to address the innovative and urgent solutions needed to combat man-made environmental damage.

    New York Film Academy is proud to see NYFA alumni like Gary Bencheghib bring their stories to political and business leaders around the world and is excited to see the important role documentary filmmaking is taking in global conversations about the vital issues of our time.

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    February 21, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 383

  • New York Film Academy Producing Alum Federico Guarascio Coproduces Festival Hit ‘The Fourth Kingdom’

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    The Fourth Kingdom, a documentary directed by Adán Aliaga and Alex Lora and coproduced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing alum Federico Guarascio has been storming the festival circuit since its premiere earlier this year.

    The film documents a redemption center in Brooklyn founded by a Spanish ex-missionary where cans and plastic bottles are exchanged for cash—a “Fourth Kingdom” of plastics, and a hub for immigrants and underdogs who desperately believe in the American Dream.

    Federico Guarascio

    Since its premiere last February at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Short Film, The Fourth Kingdom has been selected in 20 film festivals—eight of them Oscars-qualifying—and has won two of them, including the Brooklyn Film Festival, which allows the short film to be considered for the Academy Awards. 

    It has additionally screened at the Rooftop Summer Series, the Americas Film Festivals, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, DOC NYC, and opened at the United Kingdom’s prestigious Sheffield Doc Fest.

    Federico Guarascio originally hails from Italy and first came to New York Film Academy through the Torno Subito program, a joint public/private sector work study initiative that supports new talent development in the Italian film and television industry and is based in Italy’s Lazio region. New York Film Academy provides the “study” element of the program, with students enrolling in short-term workshops across various NYFA disciplines. Once their program is completed, graduates return to pre-arranged film and television internships in Italy.

    Alex Lora & Federico Guarascio

    Alex Lora & Federico Guarascio

    Guarascio first attended the 4-Week Producing workshop at NYFA’s New York campus, and was so impressed that he subsequently returned to enroll in the 1-Year Conservatory in Producing. Upon graduation, Federico has remained in New York City to work on a variety of film projects, including The Fourth Kingdom.

    “[NYFA] proved to be essential during my journey with this doc,” says Guarascio, “and it would not have been possible for me to get this far without the skills I learned in your classes and, for that, I am immensely grateful.”

    Guarascio’s talent as a producer was evident early on. “As a student, Federico showed all the hallmarks of a fiercely independent producer,” recalls NYFA-NY Chair of Producing Neal Weisman. “He consistently demonstrated a great passion for the process and a curiosity which inevitably led to to interesting projects. It is no surprise that Federico has moved on to find success with films moving onto the festival circuit. We are very proud.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Producing alum Federico Guarascio on the success of The Fourth Kingdom and encourages everyone to check out the film’s trailer, available on Vimeo. 

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    December 16, 2019 • Film Festivals, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1348

  • DOC NYC Screens Exclusive Lineup of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Department Shorts

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    DOC NYC, which runs from November 6 – 15, showcased the work of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking department in an exclusive lineup of NYFA short films on Thursday, November 7.

    DOC NYC is celebrating its tenth year, after bursting onto the scene in 2010 that the Village Voice called “selective but eclectic.” With a mission statement to guide audiences toward the work of various artists—filmmakers, photographers, and more—and to help documentarians make the most of emerging technologies and the networking opportunities one can only find in New York.

    DOC NYC 2019

    The festival spans ten days at theaters across Manhattan, with an impressive multitude of special guests. Past guests have included Hillary Clinton, Emma Watson, Jim Carrey, Thandie Newton, Susan Sarandon, Martin Scorsese, Itzhak Perlman, Michael Moore, Chris Rock, Michel Gondry, Errol Morris, Oliver Stone, Jonathan Franzen, and Al Sharpton, among others. DOC NYC is overseen by Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen and Artistic Director Thom Powers.

    NYFA has collaborated with DOC NYC in the past, with the fest screening the work of several distinguished students and alumni at the precipices of their careers. This year’s DOC NYC U: NYFA lineup was held on Thursday, November 7, at 1:00 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan’s West Village, running for 68 minutes.

    Here is the 2019 DOC NYC U: NYFA lineup:

    Ghost Villages of the Himalayas | Director: Kuldeep Sah Gangola
    Despite encroaching leopards and relentless isolation, 89-year-old Ammaji refuses to leave her home.
    (USA, 16 MIN)

    My Dad Vernon | Director: Serena Smith
    Vernon teaches Serena creative life-hacks while she tries to understand why he lives in his car.
    (USA, 3 MIN, excerpt)

    Mamá | Director: Lucia Florez
    Chia joins her mother to research motherhood in the Andes, where they confront their own relationship.
    (USA, 6 MIN, excerpt)

    All I See Is the Future | Director: Nancy Dionne
    A former drug dealer becomes a successful optician—until a mistake threatens his dream.
    (USA, 14 MIN)

    A Word Away | Director: Mollie Moore
    For 18 years, selective mutism has kept Cosmo silent about escaping South Sudan—until now.
    (USA, 20 MIN)

    Get It | Director: Joe Cleary
    Reem hustles to parlay street-dancing fame into a rap career.
    (USA, 3 MIN, excerpt)

    B-city | Director: Carolina Gonzales
    Bhustak creates a makeshift hip-hop studio to help neighborhood kids escape violence in Bogotá.
    (USA, 3 MIN)

    Baladna | Director: Aya Hamdan
    A Syrian baker navigates economic instability and immigration status to bring his family to Bahrain.
    (USA, 3 MIN)

    Epiales | Director: Anna Panova
    Follow a photographer into the frightening universe of sleep paralysis.
    (USA, 3 MIN, excerpt)

    Unloved | Director: Nika Nikanava
    The story of three women coming to terms with having fathers who abandoned them.
    (USA, 11 MIN)

    The Rhythms | Director: Nika Nikanava
    In memoriam to a promising and well-loved filmmaker.
    (USA, 2 MIN)

    New York Film Academy congratulates the documentary filmmakers representing NYFA at this year’s DOC NYC and is elated to see their important work being appreciated!

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    November 7, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 694

  • New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Claudia Raschke & Alum Todd Leatherman Work on Nat Geo’s Activate

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    Activate: The Global Citizen Movement, a new six-part documentary series from National Geographic, features cinematography from New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking instructor Claudia Raschke; NYFA Documentary alum Todd Leatherman also served as assistant camera on three episodes. The series will air its finale on Thursday, October 10.

    Activate was developed by National Geographic and co-produced by Global Citizen and RadicalMedia LLC, and includes celebrity activists like Pharrell Williams, Common, Hugh Jackman, Uzo Aduba, Darren Criss, and Rachel Brosnahan. The series showcases the Global Citizen movement, which strives to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and focuses on a different poverty-related issue with each episode.

    Nat Geo Activate RaschkeClaudia Raschke teaches cinematography for the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking program at our New York campus. Her previous credits as director of photography include Mad Hot Ballroom, My Architect, and Small Wonders. Raschke recently shot the feature doc RBG, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, which became a box office hit and has won numerous major awards and nominations.

    Todd Leatherman attended the 1-Year Documentary Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s New York campus in January 2011. Since then, he’s worked in the camera department for numerous projects, including Obvious Child, The Freedom to Marry, and Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics.

    Nat Geo Activate LeathermanLeatherman worked as AC on three episodes of Nat Geo’s new series, Activate: The Global Citizen Movement, including its premiere, “Eradicating Extreme Poverty,” which was shot by Raschke. 

    The premiere episode, “Eradicating Extreme Poverty,” which was worked on by both Raschke and Leatherman, features Hugh Jackman, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Becky G as they join Global Citizen in campaigns to push world leaders into enacting policies that would end global extreme poverty.

    The second episode of the series, “Ending Cash Bail,” showcases Common and Usher as they support the fight for criminal justice reform; episode three, “Education Cannot Wait,” features actress Rachel Brosnahan as she mobilizes global citizens to fund education for displaced children.

    “Keeping Girls in School,” the fourth episode, focuses on the movement to break down barriers to girls’ education, and features Priyanka Chopra Jonas. “Ending Plastic Pollution” shows Darren Criss and Pharrell Williams calling for the flow of plastic into the oceans to cease, while the finale, “Clean Water”—which airs Thursday, October 10—features Uzo Aduba and the push for clean drinking water and proper sanitation for the world’s most vulnerable people.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Claudia Raschke and alum Todd Leatherman on their work for a vitally important series, and encourages everyone to check out Nat Geo’s Activate: The Global Citizen Movement.

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  • Off-Broadway Show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Instructor James Lecesne Available on Audible

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    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, the Off-Broadway show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor, is now available to listen to on Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform.

    Both written and performed by Lecesne, the story unravels around Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who goes missing from a small town on the Jersey Shore. Leonard becomes an unexpected inspiration to the townsfolk, who begin to question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. Sound design for the production was done by Christian Frederickson, with original music by Duncan Sheik.

    The New York Times says that The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey will “leave you beaming with joy … a superlative solo show … Mr. Lecesne is a writer of wit and keen observational skills, who here unfolds a dark tale that shimmers with the needling suspense you associate with the best police procedurals.”

    Much of Lecesne’s work focuses on LGBTQIA+ themes, including his screenplay for the Academy-Award winning short, Trevor. That film directly led to his founding of The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Lecesne also wrote for Further Tales if the City, Will and Grace, and Vicious, starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.

    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by NYFA Documentary Filmmaking instructor James Lecesne can be found on Audible here. New York Film Academy encourages the NYFA community to check it out today!

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  • Two New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Alumni Work on CNN’s ‘The Movies!’

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    Rachael Pelzer and William Nestlehutt, both alumni of New York Film Academy’s Documentary Filmmaking school, have worked on the buzzworthy new documentary miniseries from CNN, The Movies!

    The Movies! is a documentary miniseries that premiered on CNN on July 7. Produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s studio Playtone, the six-part series chronicles a bird’s-eye-view of American cinema, ranging from the Golden Age of Hollywood to present day.

    Rachel Pelzer worked on the series as a post production coordinator. Pelzer attended NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary Filmmaking conservatory at our Burbank-based campus in 2014. Since graduating, Pelzer has worked on hit TV docuseries including The Nineties, 1968: The Year That Changed America, HBO First Look, and The 2000s.

    William Nestlehutt was a classmate of Pelzer’s, also attending NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary Filmmaking conservatory at our Los Angeles campus in 2014. He’s worked on some of the same projects as Pelzer, including The 2000s and 1968, as well as Cola Wars and College Football 150.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) congratulates alumni Rachel Pelzer and William Nestlehutt on their work on CNN’s The Movies! and encourages film lovers everywhere to check out the docuseries!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Department Works With Ben’s Lighthouse

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    Last Spring, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift and NYFA Docs alum Braulio Jatar taught a micro-docs workshop to Newtown teenagers at Ben’s Lighthouse, a grassroots organization founded after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    Ben’s Lighthouse was founded to honor 6-year-old Benjamin Wheeler, one of the victims of the 2012 massacre. The organization is based in Newtown, Connecticut. Their motto—and mission—is “helping is healing,” and the organization uses local mentoring programs and national outreach service trips as part of their cause.

    Members of Ben’s Lighthouse were headed for a service trip to Louisiana. Andrea Swift, NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Chair, helped prepare them by teaching a workshop in micro-docs, which are typically very short, effective documentaries. Swift focused on story development, which is especially important in documentaries that have a very short window to captivate and engage an audience. 

    Once they returned from the trip, the members—led by group leader Sue Vogelman—came back to NYFA to edit their footage. NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Braulio Jatar worked with Swift and taught the members how to edit on digital software Adobe Premiere, as well as supervising their edit.

    Micro Doc: Newtown Workshop from New York Film Academy on Vimeo.

    Jatar graduated from both the Documentary Filmmaking 6-Week Workshop and 1-Year Conservatory at NYFA’s New York campus. Since graduating, Jatar has found success with his film, Where Chaos Reigns, co-directed with NYFA Docs alum Anaïs Michel. The film recently won the Golden Gate Award for Best Short Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival, qualifying Jatar for an Academy Award next year.

    The micro-doc was directed by Gigi Marino and Sam Henriques and is available on Vimeo.

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    July 18, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 950

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Student Drama del Rosario Awarded BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary student Drama del Rosario received some major support for his important filmmaking endeavors when he received a Commissioning Grant from BAFTA-GSA.drama del rosario bafta

    del Rosario is currently studying for his MFA in Documentary at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus. “It’s been amazing to watch Drama del Rosario grow as a documentary filmmaker over the last two years,” says Sanora Bartels, NYFA-LA Chair of Documentary Filmmaking. “He brings tremendous heart to all of his projects and is fearless in his approach to sharing the truth of his personal story.”

    I’m Okay (And Neither Are You) is del Rosario’s thesis film and is currently in post-production. del Rosario’s grant application and documentary proposal was given final approval by an elite group of BAFTA members, including veteran writer and actor Stephen Fry, and succeeded despite a great deal of competition for the grant.

    “Drama is an amazing student and filmmaker,” says NYFA instructor Mary Beth Fielder. “All the work he’s produced while at NYFA has been exceptional, beginning with his very first film In This Family, a personal voice documentary which explores the repercussions of being ‘outed’ against his will by his seventh grade teacher.”

    The $8,000 grant was awarded to del Rosario by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), in partnership with Global Student Accommodation (GSA), for his documentary I’m Okay (And Neither Are You). The BAFTA-GSA Grant was launched in 2018 to provide young filmmakers with a platform to raise awareness and encourage change in how mental wellbeing is understood amongst their peers. This year marks the first time Netflix has sponsored the BAFTA Student Film Awards.

    drama del rosario bafta

    At the awards ceremony, del Rosario gave an impassioned, emotional speech, thanking New York Film Academy, his family, and his boyfriend, and more importantly speaking publicly of his own personal mental health issues. “I have been fortunate in my life to know how to use a camera and to have people around me who don’t judge me for being in front of the camera,” del Rosario told the audience in attendance. “So when things like this happen to you in your personal life, to some degree it’s your responsibility to share with other people.”

    The BAFTA-GSA grant will certainly help del Rosario finish his film and reach his goal of sharing his important story with others. “Drama literally puts himself and his personal stories in his films,” says Crickett Rumley, NYFA Director, Film Festivals. “Given the specificity of his observations, the powerful emotions he expresses, and the reactions he provokes in his audience, it’s no surprise to me that he’s been tapped for such a prestigious award.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary Filmmaking student Drama del Rosario on his BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant and looks forward to the completion of his thesis film, I’m Okay (And Neither Are You).

    drama del rosario bafta

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    July 18, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 800

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Student Eleonora Privitera Films ‘Queenz of the Night’

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    Queenz of the Night is a subversive short film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Student Eleonora Privitera.

    Privitera hails from Italy and has a background in social anthropology. She has been involved in ethnographic research fieldworks concerning urban violence and humanitarian projects in South America and East Africa. 

    Privitera is now continuing her studies in the 1-year Documentary Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s New York City campus. Here, she is gaining hands-on instruction from professional and award-winning instructors in the documentary and filmmaking industry, learning the tools and skills she’ll need to use documentary filmmaking as another way to channel her efforts in combating social ills. By documenting the lives and stories of people she has come across in her work and studies, Privitera hopes the medium of nonfiction filmmaking can help her denounce social injustice, economic inequality, and environmental conflicts. 

    Queenz of the Night, one of her recent films, is a subversive short about an LGBTQIA+ movement that uses art and political performances to fight homophobia and the gun industry’s chain of death violence in New York City. The film shows all aspects of the movement, capturing both its strengths and weaknesses of their methods, while also supporting the actions of those who take the risk of making a stand and fighting publicly for equal rights and dignity of LGBTQIA+ Americans. Against a contemporary social backdrop where hate crimes are on the rise, Privitera’s film is more relative than ever.Eleonora Privitera Queens of the Night

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking student Eleonora Privitera on the important work of her film Queenz of the Night and looks forward to future projects based on her passion for social justice.

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    June 14, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1061