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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students Win At Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival

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    The theater lights dimmed, the first frames of film flickered across the screen, and the orchestra played their opening bars. Orchestra? Yes, orchestra, for this wasn’t just any film screening. This was the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival, a celebration of the relationship between film and music, and that was the Helix Collective playing live as the films screened. 

    Held on July 21, 2018 at the Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theatre, the festival featured the works of Los Angeles area film students, including five New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmakers. Festival director Sarah May Robinson paired each of them with a composer from the Academy of Scoring Arts who scored the shorts. 

    On the night of the event, host Brian Ralston of the SCOREcast interviewed each director/composer team, asking them to discuss the experience of being matched with a total stranger and what it was like to work together. Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival 2018

    Next, conductor Phil Popham picked up his baton and led the orchestra in a thrilling accompaniment for the films. Audiences were entertained by the films of NYFA directors Victoria Gagieva (Niara), Vicken Joulfayan (Liminal), Oliver Weinmann (The Pill), Nicolas Varela (Aphrodite), and Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou (Arrow and Oil). 

    But the excitement didn’t stop at the last “The End” because the audience was asked to vote for the Best Film and the Best Score. The tension was palpable as audience members texted in their choices. The winners for Best Film were Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou with Arrow and Oil, and their composer George Oldziey took Best Score. After their win, Zhang exclaimed, “I’m thrilled and excited! Now I have great expectations about launching into more film festivals!” 

    Zhou was also full of thanks, remarking, “I want to thank my parents. They supported me to come to the USA to study Filmmaking! Secondly, I want to thank my school. NYFA taught me so much knowledge about filmmaking and gave us this chance to represent the school in this festival. Especially, I want to thank my teachers Nick Sivakumaran, the Kohnen brothers — Matt Kohnen and Sean Kohnen — Carl Bartels, Sanora Bartels, Steve Morris. They are the best teachers, ever, ever!”

    Their prize was a free studio recording of the orchestra playing their composed score.

    All the filmmakers were winners, though, as each received a studio recording of their score for a nominal fee plus a free sound mix from Greenhouse Post.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates all the filmmakers and wishes them continued success in their film festival runs!

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    August 8, 2018 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 305

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Premiere Films at LA Shorts Fest

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    What do New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni Assem Yedgey, Dina Naji, and Zixian (Season) Ouyang have in common?  They all have thesis films premiering at the Los Angeles International Shorts Film Festival (LA Shorts Fest) July 25 – August 2!

    We sat down with the filmmakers right before the festival and asked them to tell us about their experiences.  

    Escala by Assem Yedgey

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.

    Assem Yedgey: Escala is about a young girl who must win a music competition in order to ease the financial burden on her single father, but her instructor’s obsession with her turns this dream into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. The film takes place in Los Angeles. 

    NYFA: What is the most important thing you learned in making this film? Good or bad?

    AY: I learned that there is nothing that cannot be achieved and that you should always follow your heart. I decided that I wanted to have a 100% female crew to create opportunities for women. Throughout my pre-production almost everyone I know was telling me that it was a bad idea and that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, that I was severely limiting my choices in terms of crew.

    All I can say is that I have never before worked in a better environment. I am very grateful that I had an amazing producer by my side – Yulia Safonova. She supported me immensely, and when I was about to give up on my idea of having an all-female crew, she would say, “We can do this.” And we did it. Our crew were united and all of us wanted the best for Escala. I learnt that the most important thing is to listen what people are suggesting, but not always follow, instead to rather feel what is the best for the film. 

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at LA Shorts Fest?

    AY: I haven’t premiered my movie anywhere. LA Shorts Fest will be the official premiere, so this is an exciting new experience for me. I am thrilled to watch it with an audience and observe them and explore their reactions. This is my first festival and it is one of the most prestigious festivals; it is like a dream came true. I’m so grateful that I will be able to share my story with so many people and hopefully they will get something out of it. 

    NYFA: Anything else you would like us to know?

    AY: I want to say that without collaboration and the hard work of my cast and crew, Escala wouldn’t have been made. A huge thank you to everybody involved.

    Escala screens Saturday, July 28, at 9:55 pm at the Noho Laemmle Playhouse.

    assem

    Hind’s Case by Dina Naji

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.

    Dina Naji: My film Hind’s Case was inspired by true events. I wanted to shine a light on one case in particular that happened in 2015 in a woman’s housing shelter in Saudi Arabia. The story follows Hind (20), who at a young age witnessed her father kill and bury her mother, then went on to suffer years of abuse at his hands. When Hind escapes from her abusive home, she gets sent to live in a housing shelter. While there, Hind makes the first friends she’s ever had, and enjoys the freedom away from her father. However, when the manager of the housing shelter informs Hind that her father has requested to take her home, Hind decides to take matters into her own hands and gets sent to the solitary confinement room in order to join her mother in heaven, as she can’t stand the thought of living with her father again.

    NYFA: What is the most important thing you learned in making this film? Good or bad?

    DN: The process of making Hind’s Case with a fantastic cast and crew was amazing. As a director, I learned that if you want to make a film, you should have a cast and crew that are passionate about the story you want to tell and want to bring a story alive. 

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at LA Shorts Fest?

    DN: I am very thrilled to have my film screen for the first time in LA Shorts Fest, and it is a huge opportunity to show my film to many people who are coming from different backgrounds and cultures. It’s a dream come true. 

    NYFA: Anything else you would like us to know?

    DN: I would like to thank all the crew, cast, and my teachers, especially Scott Hartmann and Tamera Daugherty-Martin, for all the support. And I want to thank the New York Film Academy for this opportunity. 

    Hind’s Case screens Friday, July 27, at 5:30 pm at the Noho Laemmle Playhouse.HInd's Case

     

    Love in Canton by Zixian (Season) Ouyang

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.

    Season Ouyang: The movie is about an old woman accepting her husband’s death on her way to his funeral in Canton.

    NYFA: What is the most important thing you learned in making this film? Good or bad?

    SO: I think I improved my directing skills, and it gave me more good ideas about how to direct a good musical film.

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at LA Shorts Fest?

    SO: I am looking forward to more audiences seeing and enjoying my movie in this screening. I want people to know me! 

    NYFA: Anything else you would like us to know?

    SO: I want you guys to know my dream is to make Cantonese film be great again in the world! 

    Love in Canton is an official selection of the festival’s New Wave Chinese Filmmakers opening night program. It screens Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at 4 pm downtown at Regal LA Live.Love in Canton

    Congratulations to Assem, Dina, and Season! For more information on the LA Shorts Fest, and to purchase tickets, please visit http://lashortsfest.com/

     

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    July 25, 2018 • Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 279

  • Five New York Film Academy Los Angeles Students Selected as Finalists in LA Live Score Film Festival

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    Whether a director is choosing a song to play in an onscreen location or adding a composed score to the soundtrack to punctuate an emotion, music is a key element for a successful film.

    This May, the Film Festival Department of the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles selected five student and alumni filmmakers to participate in the 2018 Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival. For this unique event, each filmmaker was matched with a professional composer from The Academy of Scoring Arts who then wrote their score. Several filmmakers also worked with post-production sound professor Huch Platt to enhance their sound design. This Saturday, July 21, 2018, the films will be screened for the first time before a live audience while the orchestra Helix Collective plays the new music.

    We caught up with the filmmakers as they looked forward to the event and asked them about their experiences.

    Nicolas Varela

    Film: Aphrodite

    Composer: Drum & Lace

    Logline: A frustrated career in singing drives Aphrodite to pay with her own flesh and identity for an uncertain opportunity in the industry.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Working with Sofia has been such an amazing experience. I think the directors of the festival made a really good match by putting us together. She really understands my visuals and knows how to translate that in music. We are really communicative with each other, and we are always working for feedback. Beyond the festival, Sofia and I are creating an artistic relationship of mutual support and networking. 

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I learned how important music is. Film is born when music and motion picture meet each other. My film is more powerful than before just because the music is able to highlight emotions and thoughts in an underneath level. Music is not explicit, music works through sensations. 

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    I hope the orchestra can make justice of Sofia’s work and that the people in the audience can just enjoy this very unique experience of watching a movie with an orchestra playing live. 

    What was it like working on your sound design?

    Huch is such an amazing professional and teacher. I never had classes with him, but when we worked together he was teaching me a lot in the process. Sound design is really underrated among amateur filmmakers. After working with Huch, I realized the big difference a good sound design makes to your film. Sound design is atmosphere, it’s mood, it’s subtle but very important. 

     

    Lanyue Zhang

    Film: Arrow and Oil

    Composer: George Oldziey

    Logline: Around 1010 A.D. during the Northern Song Dynasty, Chen YaoZi, a civil officer from the imperial court with superb archery skills starts questioning the relationship between his archery and his work after he meets an old oil seller.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    We did a spotting session at our first meeting, and I gave George some references. He did two versions of music, then my co-director (Majik Jingwei Zhou) and I gave him some notes. He changed some parts, and although we had some different ideas, we accepted each other idea in the end.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    We learned how to communicate with our composer. To make sure our composer can get our story, we let him watch our film and talk about his first idea, then we explained our story and the metaphor in our film. I learned communication is very important in this process. On the other hand, because this is a festival event, we didn’t hire him as our composer. Our collaboration is not like the normal process between director and composer, so we gave George more freedom to do the music.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    We are looking forward to bringing our crew to the festival, and also we are looking forward to the live performances.

     

    Vicken Joulfayan

    Film: Liminal

    Composer: Shaun Chasin

    Logline: Nadim tries to escape his own reality but soon realizes that he is being forced to confront it more than ever.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    I was not sure in the beginning how the composer would approach my movie after explaining the mood and what genre of music is needed. Then he sent me a first rough and it was way too different from what I wanted. We spoke about it in more detail, and I gave him a deeper explanation of each part. He blew my mind with the updated version.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I learned to wait and let the composer do his thing, and start tweaking from there, because I did not expect the music to be what it is now, and I love it. That was mainly the composer’s personal touch on the film after understanding the beats of the story.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    Actually watching the movie and seeing the live orchestra play the music in front of us is the most exciting part for me!

    Victoria Gagieva

    Film: Niara

    Composer: Steph Kowal

    Logline: A lonely child soldier trapped in the horror of an African militant group experiences a simple act of humanity from a person she is about to condemn to death.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Working with Steph has been great! We met once in person to watch the film together and discuss/dissect it to find a strategy and approach for the music. We were talking about characters, their situations and intentions and also discussing examples of best practices from different films. It was so productive that the first try was exactly what “Niara” needed music-wise.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    The whole experience taught me to be prepared thoroughly for such conversations. I had characters’ back stories ready for Steph, I could explain and reason about the story, ideas and intentions. I was also very open to what she as a professional was bringing to the table, and overall, our collaboration turned out to be perfect.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    This will be my first festival experience, so I’m excited about it and open to it. 

    What was it like working on your sound design?

    This was my first time working with a professional sound mixer, and that was extremely interesting and useful. Besides working on the film, Huch explained lots of nuances and practices for future projects. How you organize the tracks for the sound mixer, deliver elements. He was very impressed with my work on the sound design and basically he went off of it. He didn’t have to do any sound design. He just had to mix it and level everything up, distinguish dialogue from the background, things like that. We did two sessions of a couple of hours each.

    Oliver Weinmann

    Film: The Pill

    Composer: Jonathan Keith

    Logline: A dark comedy about a woman who is trapped in a relationship, and the only way she is able to go on is by taking a pill.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Being able to work with Jonathan has been an incredible experience. We are both so passionate about the craft of filmmaking. Yet we view films so differently. I focus on the picture whereas Jonathan follows the film by the music and sounds. When I was able to rewatch the film I made with the soundtrack Jonathan created, it evoked emotions that I could not have created with imagery. 

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I have learned to take more of a backseat. As a director, it is easy to over-direct. After meeting Jonathan and talking to him about the vision of my film, I knew that I had to let go of the reigns and let him do what he is best at doing. 

    What are you looking forward to in the live screening?  

    I look forward to an evening filled with music, storytelling, and the people who put it all together. 

     

    We could not have put it better ourselves, and we wish the best of luck to all the filmmakers!

     

    The New York Film Academy community is invited to attend the LA Live Score Film Festival this Saturday, July 21, 2018, from 6-10 pm at Barnsdall Art Park. To purchase tickets, please follow this link and use promo code FilmScoresRock to receive a discount.

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  • New York Film Academy Students to Attend the Women’s International Film & Arts Festival

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    As International Women’s Day approaches, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) is excited to announce that we’re giving away a number of tickets to a lucky few NYFA students at the New York City campus to attend the Women’s International Film & Arts Festival (WIFF). Though this year is the first time the festival is held in New York City, WIFF is celebrating its 12th anniversary.

    Launched in Miami, WIFF is a leading international film festival and two-day conference. This year, it will screen more than 40 films made by or about women in addition to hosting panels, lectures, and conversations about the state of the industry.

    The New York Film Academy is hosting a raffle for students to enter for a chance attend the red carpet premiere of Culture of Fear on March 8. Set in a dystopian future, the film examines the abuse of power after the internet is banned from society. Golden Globe nominee Malcolm McDowell, Steven Bauer, and director Kayla Tabish will also attend the premiere.

    Culture of Fear film poster via IMDB

    Culture of Fear film poster via IMDB

    NYFA raffle winners will also get a chance to attend WIFF’s Women in Film and Entertainment Conference. Some panels will look into what happens as women navigate from film school to film set, while others will provide tips for how to build a successful pitch. The full agenda is available on the WIFF site. For students who’d like to attend, there are tickets available for purchase as well. You can learn more here.

    To continue the celebration of Women’s History Month even beyond International Women’s Day, NYFA is sharing daily #WomenOfNYFA tweets on social media. Every day throughout the month, a new graduate will be showcased via the @NYFA account. Tune in to learn more about our illustrious alumnae.

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    March 6, 2018 • Community Highlights, Film Festivals • Views: 812

  • Young Saudi Film Festival Unveils Lineup of Films at New York Film Academy

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    On Monday, the Young Saudi Film Festival, hosted by the New York Film Academy, announced the films it will showcase this season. The festival opens Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Harmony Gold Preview House in Los Angeles. The eight films — six from Saudi Arabia and two from Egypt — cover a wide range of genres, from comedy to drama, thriller to family film.

    “We had an impressive variety of films submitted from around the world, and we congratulate all the filmmakers,” said YSFF President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi (Spring 2016 BFA Acting). “It was very challenging for our selection committee to choose only eight films.”

    Dan Mackler, Director of NYFA Los Angeles, greets YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi.

    The committee consisted of NYFA Faculty Miraj Grbic (actor, Mission Impossible), producer Tony Schwartz, and James Coburn (production sound), among others, who did the first round of viewing. The second round of judging was led by YSFF Vice President and NYFA alum Abdulaziz Almutari (Fall 2015 MFA Cinematography) and Maan bin Abdulrahman (January 2013 BFA Filmmaking) of Prince of Arabia Entertainment.

    Impressed with the amount of NYFA involvement in creating this festival, Dean of Enrollment Services Tami Alexander said, “We are very proud that New York Film Academy alumni and students are leading the media and entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia. We support Rakan and Abdulaziz’s vision for the Young Saudi Film Festival and are happy to sponsor the Festival in Los Angeles. After the announcement that cinemas will be allowed in the Kingdom again, I could not be more thrilled. We look forward to strengthening relationships and are excited for new collaborations in Saudi Arabia.”

    In addition to the films, the festival will include a congratulatory video by Saudi Arabian actor Nasser Al Gassaby, a performance by the NYFA Improv Troupe (directed by Groundlings legends Suzanne Kent and George McGrath), and a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers moderated by host Maan B.

    VIP invitees include the Saudi Arabian Ambassador, the Saudi Consul, the US Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the UAE’s Minister of Education, along with top-level Saudi Arabian actors, producers, filmmakers, and media.

    The complete lineup of films includes:

    Bloodline written and directed by Saud Al-Moghirah, produced by Javier Olmo

    Coexistence by Musab Alamri

    Hero Complex written and directed by Mohamad AlYamani, produced by Mohamad AlYamani and Douglas Spain

    The Nostalgia written by Sarah Lotfy, directed and produced by Moataz Badran

    Piece of Wood by Yassin Koptan

    The Scapegoat written by Charlie H. Millen & Stephen Ranieri, directed by Talha B., produced by Maan B.

    Spirit of North by Mohammad Ali Almarhabi

    Under Concrete by Meshal Al Jaser

    The Young Saudi Film Festival will be at the Harmony Gold Preview House on Sunday, February 18. It starts with a reception at 4 pm, and the program begins at 5 pm. To attend, please RSVP at nyfa.edu/ysff.

     

     

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    February 14, 2018 • Community Highlights, Film Festivals, Filmmaking • Views: 1385

  • New York Film Academy Alum Receives International Film Festival Manhattan Award

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    Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses

    Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses knows first-hand how much hard work goes into making a film—which makes her Honorable Mention at 2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan all the more rewarding. In October, after screening her documentary “The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah,” Jameelah was the proud recipient of the IFFM’s Film Festival Director Louie Award Honorable Mention.

    This isn’t Jameelah’s first award, either. Her previous documentaries, “Historic Jeddah” and “Our Journey to Hijaz” have also garnered significant praise from multiple festivals in the last several years.

    2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan

    2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan

    A recurring theme in her work is the challenge women face while living in Saudi Arabia. The uphill battle women face, especially in filmmaking, has helped focus her vision and strengthen her voice.

    Jameelah first attended the New York Film Academy’s 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop in June 2011, before enrolling two months later in the 1-Year Filmmaking program at the New York City campus. There, Jameelah was given hands-on training with state-of-the-art film equipment and taught the skills necessary for pre-production through post-production.

    This intensive education prepared Jameelah for a career in filmmaking.“My instructors at NYFA ensured their students after graduation are already well-rounded and equipped to work in any film department,” stated Jameelah.

    Even after making several documentaries and garnering numerous honors, Jameelah still applies the training she received at NYFA. “I made sure that I took down notes for every class,” said Jameelah, adding, “I still have all my notes until now, and I review it at times when I need a refresher.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Jameelah on her Honorable Mention for “The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah,” and looks forward to the important stories she will tell in the future!

    Jameelah also recently celebrated the world premier of her short film “Reunion,” for which she is the associate producer, at the Anthology Film Archives. “Reunion” is an official selection for the NewFilmmakers New York  film festival.
    The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah

    The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah

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  • Harper’s Bazaar Profiles New York Film Academy Alum Khadijah Kudsi

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    Khadijah Kudsi

    Copyright © Harper’s Bazaar Arabia 2017

    With the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival coming to a close this December, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia profiled six pioneering female filmmakers from the Middle East, including New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Khadijah Kudsi. The in-depth piece about the six directors not only celebrates their hard work and achievements, but highlights the cultural shift taking place in the 21st Century Middle East, and subsequent progress women have made in playing a larger role in society—including the arts.

    NYFA alum Khadijah Kudsi grew up in Saudi Arabia and was always artistic and interested in storytelling. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “I went to New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi in 2014. I only meant to go for four weeks, but that turned into eight, which led into a year and then into a whole career. I did a diploma in filmmaking and then I started working on short films and writing.”

    After graduating from the Academy, Kudsi quickly found work for a Chinese television channel. As her career has progressed, Kudsi likes to focus on stories from Abu Dhabi and the Middle East, including one film that’s premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and another currently in production focusing on Dana Al Ali—the first Emirati woman to climb Mt. Everest.

    Kudsi continued, “I think it’s important to have ties to this region and highlight positive stories coming out of it. But it’s not always easy—the funding is hard. As is finding the right producer and managing your time being a mother and a working woman.”

    Festivals in the Middle East have grown in importance as more and more voices from the region are making themselves heard. The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) first launched in 2004 with 76 films and 13,000 attendees. During its initial six-day run, acting legend Omar Sharif was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The festival has steadily grown since then, with over 60,000 admissions to its 2016 event. This year marked the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival and presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to Irrfan Khan and Sir Patrick Stewart.

    As the region modernizes and women are being given more and more freedom, their roles in society are becoming more prominent as well. For Middle Eastern women working in the arts, that uphill struggle feels all the more real, considering the industry has been historically unequal not just in the region but around the world. Kudsi told Harper’s Bazaar, “I have four children, whereas most of the crew you work with on set are single or have no kids. They don’t understand when you say you need to wrap by a certain time because I need to go see my kids.”

    The New York Film Academy strives to give filmmakers and artists of all kinds a voice, and prides itself on its diverse student body. By learning and working hands-on together, students find their differences are a strength—learning and sharing experiences not just from the school but from one another. If you’re interested in filmmaking or the visual arts, you can find more information about NYFA’s programs here.

    NYFA has committed itself to giving aspiring storytellers in the Middle East an education they can build their careers on. The New York Film Academy is thrilled to see Khadijah Kudsi recognized for her inspiring work and career, and looks forward to the stories she will tell in the years to come. “I love the rawness in the stories here,” professed Kudsi, “and we have so much to talk about.”

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  • New York Film Academy Alum & Associate Director of Recruitment Screens Powerful Documentary “I Heart Jenny”

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    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny” at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Theatre

    “I Heart Jenny,” a heart-wrenching and beautiful documentary by producer and director Blake Babbitt, had a special screening this December at the New York Film Academy’s recently opened New York City Theatre. The film follows Babbitt’s close friend Jenny Rie Vanderlinden as she struggled with and eventually succumbed to a rare form of ovarian cancer. More importantly, the documentary focuses on the powerful positive spirit Jenny embodied, inspiring her friends, family, and eventually total strangers with her optimism and zestful love of life.

    In a piece written about Jenny, the Huffington Post wrote, “Jenny doesn’t seem terrified of this thing that is so far beyond us, this thing that none of us can now see… Instead, she’s investing her unconquerable energy in living the spectacular life she’s always lived—skiing, canyoneering, rafting, traveling and raising four amazing children—with a bit more urgency.”

    “I Heart Jenny” started documenting Jenny’s journey over a year after her diagnosis, and followed her right up until her untimely end, a death she refused to allow to shadow her life. Babbitt was inspired to make the documentary after seeing the “I Heart Jenny” stickers their mutual friends began posting frequently as badges of support.

    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny”

    The initial idea of the documentary came to Babbitt during a pitch session that was part of his curriculum while attending the New York Film Academy’s Evening Producing workshop. From there, he started a years long journey, utilizing the skills, resources, and colleagues he met while at NYFA. “I had never made a film before,” said Babbitt, “but I was able to use the resources at NYFA to get my feet underneath me. At NYFA I was surrounded by people who really knew what they were doing. I felt supported by NYFA the entire way.”

    Shooting the film took two years, and was in post-production for another three—a long, laborious process that is not uncommon for documentaries, especially works of passion and as personal as “I Heart Jenny.” During this time, Babbitt not only applied the skills he learned at NYFA, but also used the connections made there to help his film see the light of day. In addition to being a distinguished alumnus, Babbitt is also currently the school’s Associate Director of Recruitment. With this notable position, he is able to guide incoming students as they look to grow as artists and filmmakers in their own right.

    Blake Babbitt

    Producer & Director Blake Babbitt

    As a result of the relationships formed at the New York Film Academy, Babbitt was able to recruit a strong, talented crew for “I Heart Jenny”—many alumni and staff from the school—including:

    Kathleen Harris – DP/Producer
    Brad Gallant – Lead Editor/Producer
    Zena Wood – Associate Producer
    Mike Diaz – Editor/Story Producer
    Chris Hayes – Editor
    Mike Walls – Camera Operator
    Shani Patel – Sound recordist/2nd Camera Operator
    Lexi Phillips – Colorist

    It was only fitting then that “I Heart Jenny” had its initial preview at the New York Film Academy. Babbitt continued, “It was an honor to be able to host my first screening in our stunning new screening room.”

    Andrea Swift, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Documentary Filmmaking, was in attendance, and was very impressed with Babbitt’s debut film. “It takes extraordinary passion, commitment, and talent to make a film like this.” She added, “This film can do real good in the world.”

    The specific cancer that took Jenny’s life was related to the BRCA gene, a sequence of DNA that has become more and more noted in recent years for its ominous relationship to many types of cancer. While making “I Heart Jenny,” Babbitt linked up with Jonathan and Mindy Gray, founders of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine. The Basser Center is the first of its kind to focus specifically on BRCA-related cancers, and Babbitt has tied his film to their worthy cause, helping to raise donations for further research (click here if you’d like to support the Basser Center as well.)

    While it’s been a long, winding road for Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” their journey is far from over. Babbitt’s goal is to get the documentary into the Telluride Film Festival, based in Colorado where Babbitt is from and where he first met Jenny. According to Babbitt, “If it gets in, she wants me to bring a cardboard cutout of her—LOL!”

    In addition to submitting the film to as many festivals as possible, Babbitt is also hoping to get distribution, hoping the more people who see the film, the more they will take home its poignant message and look to support the fight against BRCA-related cancers. Babbitt continued, “We’ve had so many supporters along the way, and anytime I felt dejected or lost in the process, I would just think about our supporters and Jenny. I knew I couldn’t let her or them down.”

    Supporters of the film can follow updates on Facebook as well as on Twitter. You can also follow Babbitt’s filmmaking exploits on Instagram.

    The New York Film Academy is proud of Blake Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” and wishes him the best of luck as he continues the legacy of Jenny Rie Vanderlinden and her powerful story.

    I Heart Jenny Promo- Extended Version from Blake Babbitt on Vimeo.

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  • New York Film Academy Alum Wins Big With “Dancing Wheels”

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    Credit: PRLog

    Lucia Barata wanted to support the Dancing Wheels Company & School, an organization dedicated to teaching and showcasing dancers both with and without disabilities. Lucia decided to put the filmmaking skills she had learned over the years toward this goal to bring more exposure to Dancing Wheels and help them find more support and sponsors. Her efforts are paying off as her documentary, “Dancing Wheels,” is quickly collecting both awards and acclaim, including Best Film at the International Student, Newcomer, and Woman Movie Awards (ISENMA) 2017.

    Since 1980, Dancing Wheels has dedicated itself to providing “a unifying expression of movement for all,” exhibiting dance as an essential illustration of the human spirit, including from people of all abilities. Since adding a school to its company in 1990, Dancing Wheels has become one of the foremost arts and disabilities organizations in the country.

    By using the medium of film to showcase both the incredible dancing of the company’s members, as well as the passion and heart behind these beautiful physical movements, Lucia Barata was able to bring Dancing Wheels’s mission statement to a larger audience, including those outside the United States.

    The International Student, Newcomer, and Woman Movie Awards are held in Indonesia and were founded in 2015, collaborating with the Film Festivals Alliance. Creating a platform and opportunities for both Indonesian and International filmmakers, the festival accepts narrative and documentary submissions from film students, newcomers (non-student, professional, recreational, or amateur filmmakers) and female filmmakers from around the world.

    Out of a selection of 350 films, “Dancing Wheels,” was nominated for Best Film alongside three other films. Despite the competition, the documentary was an audience favorite and took home the big prize. The award ceremony was held in Bali and attended by an illustrious crowd, including Indonesian royals. Barata accepted the Best Film award from His Majesty the King of Bonea Selayar, H. Andi Mahyuddin.

    While ISENMA presented “Dancing Wheels” with its first Best Film award, the documentary has already picked up several other accolades, including the Diamond Award in Short Documentary and Platinum Award for Editor of the Year at the Directors Awards, the Medal of the Year and Platinum Award for Director of the Year from the Filmmakers of the Year Film Festival, and the Royal High Achievement Award from Royal World Prize & Records.

    “This film is the one I’m very proud of,” remarked Barata, adding, “there are no boundaries to dance.” Barata was born in Brazil and already had an impressive education in art and architecture before enrolling at the New York Film Academy in 2012. Taking the 1-Year Filmmaking program in New York City, Barata learned the skills necessary to telling a story—fictional or nonfictional—through a visual medium.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates alumna Lucia Barata on “Dancing Wheels” and its awards, and looks forward to seeing what further accolades her career will bring!

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    November 30, 2017 • Documentary Filmmaking, Film Festivals • Views: 1177

  • New York Film Academy Alum’s “Newton” Selected as India’s Entry for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award

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    Amit V Masurkar’s “Newton”

    “Newton,” a feature-length film by NYFA alumnus Amit V Masurkar, is now in the running for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — just one in a long line of successes the Indian dark comedy-drama and its writer & director have already seen.

    Co-written and directed by Amit, “Newton” stars Rajkummar Rao as Newton Kumar, a rookie government clerk who seeks to uphold democracy and conduct fair elections in Chhattisgarh’s conflict-ridden jungles. The film has received positive reviews, including from India’s Huffington Post, which called it “a touching, personal and very human film.”

    Amit first premiered “Newton” at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the CICAE Art Cinema Award. Since then, Amit has presented his film at nearly 50 festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it screened in the International Narrative Competition, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival, where it won the coveted Jury Prize.

    An Academy Award would be the crowning achievement to go with these accolades, and the journey to attaining one is a long and tough road. Films that are produced outside of the United States and are delivered in a predominantly non-English language are eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Unlike other Oscars, the Foreign Language Film Award is unique in that the golden statue is presented not to the filmmakers, but to the nation that produced it—adding an air of patriotic pride to the category.

    Each country must then select just one film per year to represent it at the Academy Awards, creating a lot of competition between movies of all genres, especially in a nation as populated and cinema-oriented as India. “Newton” was selected from a shortlist of 26 films to represent India at this year’s Oscars, and the final nominations from five different countries will be announced along with the other Academy Award noms early next year. The 90th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 4, 2018.

    Amit V Masurkar honed his screenwriting skills at New York Film Academy’s New York campus, taking the 8-Week Screenwriting workshop in 2009. After writing for numerous sketch and comedy shows, Amit’s directorial feature-length debut “Sulemani Keeda” became a surprise indie hit. “Newton” is only his second feature film, and Amit has proven to be one of India’s most exciting voices in filmmaking.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Amit V Masurkar on such a fantastic achievement, and looks forward to seeing what further accomplishments he and “Newton” will achieve!

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