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  • New York Film Academy Partners with the 2021 FOLCS – International Short Film Competition

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is excited to announce another year of partnership with the Forum on Life, Culture and Society (FOLCS) International Short Film Competition in a five-day virtual event, culminating in an Awards Night on April 8, 2021.

    FOLCS is a non-profit organization that houses culturally relevant conversation topics, providing a unique and enriching experience for audience goers that speaks to the moment with captivating conversations from special guests across multiple industries. NYFA has been a co-host on the FOLCS series of events for the last three years. 

    The annual FOLCS – International Short Film Competition (F-ISFC) is a special event that showcases short films that explore themes of justice, human rights, and the law by emerging filmmakers from all over the world. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the very first time, FOLCS, in partnership with NYFA, will be virtually hosting its annual short film competition, allowing viewers to screen all of the finalist entries over the course of five days starting April 5, 2021.  

    Finalist films for the FOLCS – International Short Film Competition

    This year’s official film selections include titles from Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Malaysia, and the United States, giving entrants the opportunity to have their films shown to a wide audience and films viewed by distinguished professionals including renowned filmmakers, actors, writers, and journalists. Previous F-ISFC judges from NYFA include Cinematography Chair Piero Basso, Screenwriting Chair Randall Dottin, Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift, and Filmmaking instructor Jonathan Whittaker.

    Actor William Fichtner

    All ISFC attendees will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite short, which will be counted towards the Audience Favorite Award which will be announced during Awards Night on April 8, 2021. The awards night is open to all F-ISFC ticketholders and will feature a discussion with the finalist filmmakers, NYFA’s own President Michael Young, and actor William Fichtner (Black Hawk Down, Prison Break, The Perfect Storm, The Dark Knight), who will present the award for The Best Short.

    HOW TO WATCH THE FILMS & VIRTUALLY ATTEND:

    The first 200 people to register for this year’s F-ISFC will receive tickets for the virtual film screenings free of charge, while all other registrants will be charged a $2 fee to unlock the official film selections. To view the F-ISFC slate of films selected for this year’s competition, click here. If you would like to register to attend one or all of the screenings for this year’s F-ISFC, click here to register. On April 5, 2021, you will receive an email with instructions on how to unlock and watch each film online. 

    New York Film Academy is a proud partner of this year’s FOLCS – International Short Film Competition and looks forward to being part of this special event celebrating aspiring independent filmmakers from around the globe. 

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  • NYFA Alum Boise Esquerra’s “Blackwater” Screens at 2021 Slamdance Film Festival

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    Known both as a festival “by filmmakers, for filmmakers” and for its Oscar-qualifying short film awards, the Slamdance Film Festival has long been a mecca for emerging independent directors. This year NYFA alum Boise Esquerra, a graduate of the Los Angeles campus’s MFA Filmmaking and MFA Screenwriting programs, will be right in the middle of the action when his episodic film Blackwater screens in the virtual festival February 12 – 25, 2021. 

    In the days leading up to the festival Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, caught up with Boise to talk about the personal experience that inspired his series and the importance of filmmakers from diverse backgrounds telling their own stories.

    NYFA alum Boise Esquerra

    Cricket Rumley (CR): Hi, Boise! Congratulations on getting into Slamdance! Tell us a little about yourself.

    Boise Esquerra (BE): I’d be happy to. I am a Native (Hopi) and Mexican American filmmaker enrolled in the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Parker, AZ. I am a recent graduate of the New York Film Academy (MFA Screenwriting) and hold a BA in Digital Filmmaking and Video Production and an additional MFA in Filmmaking from NYFA. I love storytelling, creating, and everything that entails filmmaking from start to finish. Currently, I reside here in lovely Burbank, CA, and am represented by Sandra Avila at Inclusion Management.

    CR: Tell us about your film. What is it about and where does it take place?   

    BE: Blackwater is an episodic pilot about Native American country music star Birdie Blackwater whose career is fizzling due to excessive drinking that began 10 years ago. Upon moving back to her home reservation, barely clinging onto what little dignity she has left, Birdie is arrested for a barrage of drunken charges and lashing out at tribal police officers during a late-night performance. The next day, tribal courts order Birdie to complete 180 days of wellness therapy and intense probation or face two years in prison. Birdie now finds herself contending each week with a group of offbeat individuals who each possess their own…“unique” mental limitations. The story takes place on a fictional Native American reservation call Red Rock. 

    CR: Sounds very powerful. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this story? 

    BE: The inspiration for Blackwater came about in September of 2018… a tough experience. I had started a new class (Transmedia) at the New York Film Academy in Burbank, CA. The ultimate goal of the class: develop, write, and shoot a web series pilot. During the first half of the six-month course, I was given the news that my older brother Brandon had developed cirrhosis of the liver to such a serious extent that he would need a liver transplant. My brother had gotten this condition from depression and extreme alcoholism after the death of our mother in 2015. The additional news I would receive from him is that he would be opting for hospice care and wanted to just go peacefully with family for the remainder of his time. That news, to say the least, was devastating. 

    Shortly after his funeral, I returned to my Transmedia class. The project I had been working on up to that point was scrapped. I wanted to write something I was familiar with. I had felt my brother in my heart moving me to lean into all that I had experienced with drug addiction and dependency. I also wanted to heal from losing him to alcoholism. Thus, I put forward a new proposal to my instructors, which was Blackwater

    CR: Boise, I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain your family must have experienced. It’s truly inspiring how you were able to transform your personal tragedy into a meaningful story, and so quickly. 

    What was it like to direct the film?

    BE: My favorite experience directing Blackwater was working with such a phenomenal cast and crew who brought their A-game to each and every scene both on and off-screen. I mean, this was a set from heaven, and pulling off a thirteen-page script in just one day with minimal time, a skeleton crew, and several different scenes went by like clockwork. Heck, we even had an hour to spare after the whole thing was over! Directing that day was one of the best experiences I ever had on set.

    Kyla Garcia as Birdie Blackwater (“Blackwater”)

    CR: You directed a thirteen-page script in one day? Wow! Dare I ask what was the most challenging thing about making the film? 

    BE: It’s crazy because you usually are anticipating challenges that may or may not arise on the day of production, and they did of course, but they were minor and quickly remedied. No. The challenges here were definitely in the final days leading up to production. You would think that getting a simple location (an empty room) for the group scene would be easy-peasy in LA, but when you’re working with a shoestring budget, a simple task all of a sudden becomes a near impossibility. And that was the case up until the last week of location scouting. We finally locked our location, which was an old American Legion post here in Burbank. It was great because they had everything we needed for each scene! 

    The other difficult part was not in pre-production or production, but actually editing. Here I am, dealing with footage of numerous great takes from each actor/actress and reviewing them over and over. Now, you have to realize, that when you’re dealing with high caliber talent as we had, each throwing you grade-A performances with each take, it is extremely hard to pick the right one! This was mainly the case with our main character, Birdie Blackwater, portrayed by Kyla Garcia. What she brought was gold, I tell ya…GOLD. So for her, sorting through the stuff she gave us and settling on certain clips was by itself a two-month process. Keep an eye on Kyla, SHE IS AMAZING!

    CR: It’s true – Kyla is downright riveting to watch. Besides the editing, what did you learn while making this film?  

    BE: To say I didn’t learn much would be a “shooting myself in the foot” moment and never being able to walk right again, hahaha. I learned a hell of a lot. But I’ll narrow it down to one thing above others, and that was giving my talent the freedom they needed to experiment with their characters and craft on set. There was a lot of ad-libbing, and the more I stepped back and let them have at it, the more they gave. Their performances were elevated, and aside from the few adjustments I gave every now and then, I just kept my mouth shut and steered the ship. I believe this is extremely important because, by the end of any script, these people are going to be the ones who embody this person you wrote, and ultimately bring them to life – and not only the talent, but the entire crew as well. 

    As a director, I realized that you can only hold onto the material for so long before giving it up. You must trust your talent and pass the baton you have and be the coach they need, guiding them from the sideline. Hopefully, if you put in the hard work needed in pre-production and cast the film right, the process will fully evolve on its own. You only need to sit back and enjoy the show at that point. 

    CR: Can you talk about the development process for this pilot and the class you developed it in? 

    BE: Given I had changed my proposal during the six-month Transmedia course, development for Blackwater was done in a three-month period, which is not much time. But…it came very easily to me. The vision for it was clear, so it was really a matter of honing in on what was already in my head. I knew I wanted to do something that was set in a Native American world, and I completely cast with Indigenous talent. This was something I have always wanted to do, I just felt I hadn’t honed in on my craft enough back then. But now it was different. I felt confident enough to give it a try. It was a matter of finding the right, tone, cast, and overall theme, which it turned out to have many. 

    CR: Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who really helped or inspired you?  

    BE: One of the coolest things about the Transmedia 1 & 2 courses at NYFA were instructors Jenni Powell and Chris Modoono. Not only were they extremely wise and easy to talk to, but their guidance was priceless as they were able to get me from concept to a finished pilot. I can’t stress enough about the creative freedom Jenni and Chris gave us in class. I really owe the experience and opportunity to them and to NYFA. 

    CR: That is so cool. You know every teacher’s dream is to inspire and elevate students at the level you just described. 

    Let’s talk about the amazing festival run you’re having with Blackwater.  

    BE: Blackwater has garnered twenty festival selections, five of those being the Austin Film Festival, Slamdance, Nashville Film Festival, Hollyshorts, and Cinequest Film and VR Festival. 

    CR: That is any filmmaker’s dream list! So what are you looking forward to with Slamdance? 

    BE: I hope to get as much positive attention as possible and of course find a potential buyer or investor for continued production. Native American content and storytelling are so important in this day and age — and extremely hard to find. Slamdance is one of those benchmark experiences you constantly take a step back and go “Wow, I did something really cool here” and realize you’re on the right path. I also hope to network virtually and meet many of the talented filmmakers at this year’s festival! 

    Poster for “Blackwater” pilot

    CR: You will definitely have some great opportunities there. Do you have any advice for recent graduates making their way into the professional world?  

    BE: I would say be consistent, persistent, and honest in your work and what it is exactly you want for your future. Filmmaking and its many crafts are a life long pursuit. Pursuing it should make you happy, grateful, and full of good spirit to have such a calling. If it doesn’t, maybe take a step back and re-evaluate. Focus on what you want, whether that is screenwriting, directing (or both), and constantly sharpen your craft and talents in that world every day in some shape or form. Look to each day as an opportunity to move towards that ultimate goal, and eventually one day…you’ll find yourself there. But don’t forget to have fun and relax along the way. Be happy. 

    CR: Those are very wise words. And speaking of wise words, let’s talk about these trying times we live in today. Do you want to share any thoughts about the importance of film in the lives of humans living right now? 

    BE: Well, if I do share anything, it’ll be about the importance of diverse inclusion in today’s film industry and breaking the current mold at hand. And I am speaking specifically to Native American inclusion. Native Americans are perhaps the most underrepresented culture in the film and television industry right now in terms of film and television content, screenwriters, directors, and leading talent. We as Native Americans have been fighting an extremely uphill battle in finding large, fair platforms or opportunities to tell “our own stories,” tell our own history, and voice our own point of view. Since the dawn of cinema, history has been flat-out brutal in our depiction, reducing us to “elk skin and feathers,” mascots, savages, and whatever else the multitude of history books will have you believe. We as a people, as a culture, need to be allowed to write and depict our own stories, our own views, and our own history. Blackwater is one such example out of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States. The time for diverse inclusion is now, and Hollywood needs to comply accordingly. 

    CR: The time is definitely now, and I’m so happy that you and your work are a solution to this lack of diversity in Hollywood.

    So how we can watch your film during Slamdance and see your Q&A? 

    BE: Slamdance is an online format this year, meaning anyone with a computer or smart TV can access it for only ten bucks. Yes… $10. We’re talking the crème of the crop here, people! Although the official schedule of events isn’t out yet, getting your pass now will ensure you do not miss a single screening. All films will be viewable throughout the festival from February 12th – 25th

    Blackwater will be screening in the “Episodes” block with many other awesome filmmakers and their films, and you will also be able to watch our Q&A as a bonus feature. Go to www.slamdance.com now for your ticket! 

    CR: Thanks for stopping by, Boise. Congratulations and best of luck!

    [NOTE: NYFA students can get their festival passes for $5 by using their NYFA email address].

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    February 11, 2021 • Diversity, Entertainment News, Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1326

  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Alum Eleonora Privitera Wins Silver Award at San Diego Italian Film Festival

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    Documentary Filmmaking alum Eleonora Privitera graduated from her 1-Year program in 2019 and has been continuing to prove she is a filmmaker that seeks to make the unknown stories of real people heard.

    Before attending NYFA, the Italian native had an extensive background in social anthropology and was involved in ethnographic research fieldwork focused on urban violence and humanitarian projects in South America and East Africa. In 2019, she released a subversive short about an LGBTQIA+ movement using art and political performances to fight homophobia in Queenz of The Night. Now the alum is back with her new documentary short, Rebirth, and this time it’s closer to home.

    Still from “Rebirth,” directed by Eleonora Privitera

    The emotionally-driven film, which follows Privitera’s own parent’s as her mother (Grazia) and father (Vincenzo) grapple with Vincenzo’s cancer. On one hand, the film portrays Vincenzo grappling with mortality, while Grazia strives to cope with the burden of caring for her husband while accepting the reality of the disease that is taking over someone she has loved for over 40 years. 

    “My response was to start to intimately film how his and my mother’s lives have changed while dealing with the disease,” shared Privitera. “Being far away from home, I knew that he and my mother didn’t really want me to know the burden that was currently happening in their lives, but I wanted to be part of the struggle and I couldn’t pretend there wasn’t one.”

    “Therefore, in this difficult time, on the hard road they were both on, all I could do was film them with empathy and love in order to artistically explore their interior worlds, fears, and hopes.” 

    The film screened at the San Diego Italian Film Festival and was the recipient of the Silver Award, acknowledging Privitera’s breathtaking film, which captures the tough reality of two people very close to the filmmaker.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking alum, Eleonora Privitera, on her well-deserved Silver Award win at the San Diego Italian Film Festival and looks forward to future documentary projects from the alum.

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    December 17, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1222

  • Film “Make America Safe” by NYFA Acting Instructor Blanche Baker Enjoys Festival Run

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    Our NYFA Acting faculty aren’t only professionals in front of the camera but are working professionals in the industry constantly experimenting and making their own work while simultaneously teaching NYFA students the fundamentals of their craft.

    Blanche Baker teaches in both the Acting and Musical Theatre departments at NYFA’s New York campus. With an extensive background on the stage and on screen, Baker made her television debut in the miniseries Holocaust, for which she won an Emmy Award. Her feature films include Sixteen Candles, The Handmaid’s Tale with Robert Duvall, Raw Deal with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Kevin Bacon HBO film Taking Chance. She was part of the Yale Repertory Theatre and Anna Sokolow’s dance troupe and her theatre roles include Steel Magnolias and Edward Albee’s Lolita with Donald Sutherland. 

    Film poster for “Make America Safe”

    In addition to writing and directing the award-winning short film Streetwrite, Baker wrote and directed her latest film Make America Safe, with award-winning cinematography Piero Basso, serving as the director of photography. The film has been garnering accolades and making its rounds on the festival circuit, recently appearing in the Global Impact Festival in Washington, D.C.

    Make America Safe is a musical short film about the 2nd Amendment and asks the question, “what if in the next few years citizens were required to carry weapons in order to ensure the safety of the public?” Using the premise of a news commentary show, the film takes a sardonic look at this possible future and examines the kind of scenarios that could arise in this world. With music composed by Andy Peterson, it sheds light on the rationales that could lead to such a future. 

    The film features a talented cast of Musical Theatre students working alongside NYFA’s professional faculty of artists as part of their Musical Theatre curriculum, which requires students to perform in original movie musicals, combining both musical theatre for the stage and for film.

    Official Selection: 
    Global Nonviolent Film Festival
    South Film and Arts Festival
    Film for Peace
    New York Short Film Festival
    Sanctuary International Film Festival

    Accolades:
    A Show For Change – Creativity Award
    Awareness Festival – Merit Award for Awareness
    X World Short Film Festival – Best International Short and Best Original Music
    Cinefest – Best Musical
    Blow Up Arthouse – Finalist

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    November 17, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Film Festivals, Musical Theatre • Views: 651

  • 2020 Nordic International Film Festival Founded by NYFA Alumni Has Covid Safe Drive-In

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    Now in its 6th year, the Nordic International Film Festival (NIFF) founded by New York Film Academy alumni Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton required some creative problem solving to pull of this year’s festival amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. The solution came in the form of a hybrid in-person and online experience where festival goers could attend drive-in screenings at The Brooklyn Army Terminal in New York City as well as view films online.

    NIFF has always fostered lofty goals, aiming to nurture a mutual connection between the Nordic region and the international film community while also placing gender-equality and environmental sustainability at the center of their mission. The 2020 festival donated 50% of all online ticket sales to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

    The 2020 edition of the Nordic International Film Festival was held at the The Brooklyn Army Terminal Drive-In in NYC.

    Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton spoke about the unique challenges of this year’s festival. “We are extremely pleased to be able to pull off a safe event this year both online and with a drive-in cinema, thanks to the help from A24 and Rooftop Films. It’s been a challenging year for many and we are so impressed that so many incredible filmmakers have submitted and showcased that art and films are more important now than ever.”

    New York Film Academy renewed its partenrship with NIFF for the second year in a row awarding a four week scholarship to one of NYFA’s online programs to this year’s Aurora Borealis winner. NYFA President Michael Young expressed his congratulations to NYFA alumni Johan Matton and Linnea Larsdotter. “I’d like to congratulate our alumni Johan and Linnea on putting together another wonderful festival and working so hard to make it safe and accessible to everyone,”

    “Index” by Nicolas Kolovos garnered the director the Aurora Borealis award at this year’s festival.NIFF’s Aurora Borealis category is dedicated to up-and-coming filmmakers and Nicolas Kolovos who wrote and directed Index was selected as this yer’s winner. The short film is filmed in a single shot and tells of a family preparing to flee to Europe by boat when their young son’s finger gets stuck in the trailer of the truck transporting them. As time for the boat’s departure nears, the family has a terrifying decision to make.

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA alumni Johan Matton and Linnea Larsdotter on this year’s successful edition of NIFF as well as Aurora Borealis winner Nicolas Kolovos.

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    October 30, 2020 • Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 670

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum Alessandro Marcon Debuts Short Film “Anemone” at Italy’s Prestigious Trieste Science + Fiction Festival

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    Italian native Alessandro Marcon grew up in the small town of Conegliano, just one hour away from Venice, and had big dreams of becoming a film director. After attending Graphic Design school at ISSM San Marco, Marcon got his start in filmmaking, creating comedy sketches with his schoolmates. “I was in a boarding school (because I lived far away) where we were not allowed to go out. This way we had plenty of time to kill, so we thought ‘why not making some movies?’”

    NYFA alum Alessandro Marcon

    After Graphic Design school ended, Marcon decided to make his dreams come true and become a filmmaker, enrolling at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus in Burbank in a 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory program.

    “Since then, it’s been a roller coaster ride,” revealed Marcon. “The experience made me see the world from a different perspective. Suddenly, a ton of challenges hit me all at once, making me change and mature into who I am today.” 

    Film poster for “Anemone”

    Marcon has gone on to work on films and music videos, with his latest project being a short film he directed, wrote, produced, edited, and shares a co-cinematographer credit on called Anemone. The 16-minute sci-fi short film was shot on the white peaks of the Dolomites, located in the Eastern Alps. “We worked during winter in places with over 10 feet of snow. It was cold and very difficult to shoot in these conditions,” revealed Marcon. “Some of us literally had blood coming out of our hands or suffered in the below-zero temperatures.”

    In the end, Marcon and his team managed to pull off their short film and are premiering it on October 31, 2020, at the prestigious Trieste Science + Fiction Festival, known for being an important festival in Italy for genre films in particular. “We couldn’t be happier to be there telling what an incredible journey has been,” shared Marcon.

    Alessandro Marcon behind the scenes filming in the Dolomites

    As for what the filmmaker has learned while living out his dream of directing, Marcon shares that it’s all about communication. “I was already good at a lot of technical aspects of filmmaking (not everything, and I’ve still learned a lot), but not really good at talking with people,” revealed Marcon. “I was closed in myself and this translated also on the narratives of my stories. I’m still learning a lot in this field, but if I didn’t come here [to NYFA], all of this would not have happened.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum, Alessandro Marcon, on the premiere of his new film Anemone and looks forward to what is next from the NYFA alum. 

    Anemone will premiere in the U.S. on November 12, 2020, at the Arpa Film Festival

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    October 29, 2020 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1112

  • NYFA Alum Catalina Loret Screens Experimental Short ‘Flores Dentro’ in National Film Festival for Talented Youth

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    Hailing from Merida, a seaside town in the southeast of Mexico, New York Film Academy alum Catalina Loret (Fall 2015 BFA Filmmaking) “grew up on the beach, exploring the underwater world and fascinated with stories from the world underneath. I went to NYFA with the desire to learn how to tell these stories through a camera lens and have since explored different ways to tell stories through film.” Her latest short Flores Dentro is an official selection of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, for which the New York Film Academy is a Producing Partner. 

    Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, caught up with Catalina as the festival was beginning.

    Film poster for Catalina Loret’s film ‘Flores Dentro’

    Crickett Rumley (CR): Tell us about Flores Dentro. What was your inspiration?

    Catalina Loret (CL): Flores Dentro is a film that came out of meeting new collaborators and being inspired to create something personal. I made it two years after I graduated. I wanted to explore women’s relationships with one another using the repercussions of imposed beauty standards as a frame. Women have been instilled with the false narrative that there is not enough room for all of us to be whole without tearing each other down. The physical body fluctuates; our value does not. This film aims to expose the myth of physical beauty standards and to remind everyone that bodies are merely temporary cases and what truly matters lies within and transcends physical form.

    CR: What was your favorite thing about making this film?

    CL: I am very grateful for the connections that were created for this project, from script to camera to animation. Also, that so many women have connected with the film and that it’s a piece that touched on an aspect that can be personal to us.  

    CR: What was the most challenging thing about making the film?

    CL: Shooting in film. It had been a long time since I shot in the film, and sometimes you don’t expose it right, and you don’t learn that until the developed film comes back. But these “mistakes” made the film better as we had to work with the footage we had. It made for more creative and powerful cuts in the edit.  

    Still from ‘Flores Dentro’ 

    CR: What are you looking forward to in your screening with NFFTY? Are any of their master classes or programming that look interesting to you?

    CL: I’m looking forward to sharing this film with more people! It is my intention that this film can reach as many women as possible, and share a message of empowerment and allyship. And the panel I’m most looking forward to is After the Festival Circuit, about short film distribution, so that this film can be shared further.

    CR: Which festivals have you been in so far with Flores Dentro, and what was that experience like?

    CL: I have been to LALIFF (LA Latino International Film Festival) and Hola Mexico, and during these virtual times, it was interesting. Honestly, it’s very tiring being in front of the computer all day, but I was encouraged to attend thanks to the panelists themselves who gave great talks. There was proximity felt as we were all at home in this together, making the best out of these times.

    CR: How do you think your education at NYFA and the work you did here prepared you for a career in filmmaking?

    CL: I learned a very hands-on approach to filmmaking, making it work with what we had, crafting big ideas in simple ways. I was very fortunate to have great classmates who remain colleagues and to have further developed with them.

    Director Catalina Loret behind the scenes of ‘Flores Dentro’

    CR: Do you have any advice for recent graduates making their way into the professional world?

    CL: Make, Do, Create. Keep making projects, even simple ones, and nurture your creativity, and continue to do what you love even on a small scale. It’s easy to get caught up in working for other projects and it is very important to do so, as there is so much to learn from collaborations, but always remember to create your art.

    CR: These are trying times in the world today. Art matters more than ever. Do you want to share any words about the importance of film in the lives of people living right now?

    CL: Art has always been the outlet for trying times. When we are trying to make sense of the world and put words on the nameless, we turn to art to find that connection and understand our inner and outer worlds. In times of physical distance, it is important to make and share films that call for unity and community. These can be our most powerful tools for uncertain times.  

    The New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Catalina Loret for taking the time to talk with us about her film. From October 23 through November 1, 2020, Flores Dentro can be screened on demand as part of NFFTY’s Art in Motion short film program. This “pay what you can” program will be followed by a pre-recorded Q&A with Catalina and other filmmakers, and viewers can vote for the audience award.

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    October 26, 2020 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 849

  • NYFA Partners with the National Film Festival for Talented Youth for 2020 Events

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    As the world’s largest and most influential film festival showcasing young talent from around the globe, the National Film Festival for Talented Youth in Seattle has long been a mecca for emerging directors.  This year, not only is the New York Film Academy jumping on board as a Producing Partner, but NYFA alumni Catalina Loret (Fall 2015 BFA Filmmaking) and Matthew Avery Berg (2011-2012 Tween Digital Programs) have films in the festival and will participate in Q&As.

    Film poster for Catalina Loret’s film ‘Flores Dentro’

    Responding to the current moment, Dan Hudson, NFFTY’s Executive Director, said, “We’re excited to announce that the entire lineup from our 14th edition will be available online for a global audience.” No matter where they are in the world this October 23 through November 1, 2020, members of the NYFA community can attend online workshops, panels, and masterclasses as well as watch the work of filmmakers under the age of twenty-five.

    On Friday, October 30, Andrea Swift, filmmaker and NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Chair, and Claudia Raschke, Academy Award-nominated cinematographer, and NYFA Documentary Cinematography professor will teach a free workshop on Smartphone Cinematography for Social Media Micro Docs at 6 pm ET/3 pm PT. Attendees will be introduced to the art of making cutting-edge Micro Docs for social media distribution, learn key smartphone cinematography techniques, and be able to ask questions.

    Still from ‘Flores Dentro’ by Catalina Loret

    Throughout the festival, Catalina Loret’s film Flores Dentro can be screened on-demand as part of the Art in Motion short film program. This “pay what you can” program will be followed by a pre-recorded Q&A with Catalina and other filmmakers, and viewers can vote for the audience award.

    On Sunday, November 1, 2020, at 1:00 pm ET/10:00 a.m. PT, Accomplice by Matthew Avery Berg will live stream in the Salient Simulations Watch Party, followed by a live Q&A with Matthew and other filmmakers.  Tickets can be purchased for the live Watch Party and Q&A, or his film can be viewed on-demand during the festival as a “pay what you can” event, where viewers can vote for the audience award.

    Film poster for ‘Accomplice’ by Matthew Avery Berg

    “I’ve long admired the National Film Festival for Talented Youth’s powerful programming and commitment to filmmakers new on the scene,” said Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals. “It’s an honor to be partnering with them this year, and I encourage everyone to swing by for the films, then stay for the panels and workshops.  There’s so much to be experienced and explored.”

    For more information on the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, please click here, and be sure to read our other blogs on Catalina Loret and Matthew Avery Berg to learn more about them and their films.

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    October 25, 2020 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 610

  • Q&A With NYFA MFA Filmmaking Student Fernanda Belmar on Her New Film ‘Undocumented’ and the Power of Empathy Through Storytelling

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    Every writer has heard the expression “write what you know,” and MFA Filmmaking student Fernanda Belmar took that advice to heart in developing her intermediate film Undocumented. Inspired by her mother’s experience coming to the United States alone to work in order to support her family home in Chile, Fernanda said, “I can’t even imagine how hard it was for her to be away from her only daughter and her mother in a country where she didn’t even know the language.”

    NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals Crickett Rumley sat down with Fernanda and asked her to talk more about the film ahead of its screening in the New Filmmakers LA In Focus: Latinx and Hispanic Cinema Event this weekend, September 25 and 26, 2020.

    Cricket Rumley (CR): This is such a personal story. Can you tell us more about it?

    Fernanda Belmar (FB): My mom came here to the U.S. with my grandmother and me when I was four years old. We stayed for a year and a half until my mom decided to send my grandma and me back to Chile since it was getting harder for her to support us all. So, she stayed by herself. At that time, she was allowed to stay here for six months then go to Chile for the other six out of the year. But when I was nine, she took the risk and stayed here longer than she was allowed, and ended up working here for four years straight. She made that decision because she wanted to give me a better future. It was extremely hard being away from her, and I can’t even imagine how hard it was for her to be away from her only daughter and her mother in a country where she didn’t even know the language.

    Because of that situation, my mom is not allowed to enter the country again. I don’t know if next year that situation will change, but what I do know is that if something ever happens to me here she wouldn’t have the chance to come here because more than a decade ago she broke the rules to give her family a better life.

    Film poster for ‘Undocumented’

    CR: And that’s where the idea for the film came from?

    FB: Undocumented is about a Latinx family with immigrant parents and two American (U.S. citizen) daughters. They live in California except for their oldest daughter, who is studying in New York. A phone call informs the Gómez family that their daughter has been in an accident, and that’s when as a family they have to put everything on the line. Because as undocumented parents they can’t just take a plane and go since the risks of being detained or even deported are higher.

    Still from Belmar’s film ‘Undocumented’

    CR: What was your favorite thing about directing this film?

    FB: My favorite thing about directing this film is the emotions I felt during the whole process. After I met Carolina (who played the mom), Michael (the dad), and Victoria (the daughter who lives at home), I knew it would be an incredible project because when we talked about what Undocumented means to me they just understood. They felt the deep struggle of this family. On set they were the Gómez family. I can’t even put into words how I felt when I saw them bringing these characters and this story into life.

    CR: What a remarkable experience! Tell us, was the most challenging thing about making Undocumented? What did you learn in the process? 

    FB: While I was in pre-production on this film, I was also struggling with how to pay for my school tuition. I had to make the decision to take a semester break, and I wasn’t sure if I would make it back. I was hopeful, but I didn’t have anything secure at the time. And even though it was a devastating feeling, I was so excited about telling this story that I just kept going. We had a low budget, and just two days of shooting, so I had endless meetings with the heads of each department to make sure it would go smoothly and that our schedule will work. It was very hard, but what I learned was that as a director I need a crew that believes in the story as much as I do, because we can make everything happen.

    Still from Belmar’s film ‘Undocumented’

    CR: Which festivals have you been in so far? What has that experience  been like?

    FB: I’ve been in the First-Time Filmmaker Sessions, Life Screenings International Short Film Festival, Lift-Off Film Festival, and I also got selected in the South Texas International Film Festival. The experience has been great. I have had the chance to talk about my film with the audience at some of these festivals. Knowing that people that I don’t know get to see this story makes everything so much worth it.

    CR: I hear this from filmmakers all the time – that seeing your film, talking about your film with complete strangers, is so inspiring and invigorating. So what are you looking forward to with your screening with NFMLA? 

    FB: Wow! I am so excited about this festival. Last year NYFA invited me to this event, and I remember I was so in awe with the whole event, the films, the industry panels, the Q&A with the directors. I remember at some point during the event I told myself: “One day I’ll be part of this festival…” And now I’m actually going to be part of this! I just can’t believe it. I think what I’m most excited about is for the amount of people that are going to see Undocumented, and I wonder how they will react with this story. I’m excited about the entire festival and the opportunities they give us as filmmakers to engage with important people from the industry and the chance to talk about our films.

    CR: It’s going to be an amazing experience! Let’s back up a little. What were you doing before you came to NYFA? 

    FB: I got my undergraduate degree in Digital Audiovisual Communication in July 2018 in Chile. That’s where I found my passion in film after making multiple short films. In my last semester of school, I started my internship at MG Consulting, an important communication company in Chile. After three months as an intern, they hired me full time. While working with them I learned a lot about animation and graphic design. I got the opportunity to make videos for important clients like Sony Music Chile, MG motor, Reebok, and Mobike. 

    CR: Then you came to study at NYFA. What has that been like?

    FB: I’ve learned so many things here at NYFA, it’s insane! The amount of experience I have gotten so far has made me grow tremendously as a filmmaker and as a person as well. NYFA has given me plenty of tools and opportunities to make films and fail and learn and keep making films.

    What is good about NYFA is that everyone in the class has to make a project, so that means we don’t just get to direct, but also we get the chance to be part of the crew of someone else’s project. That’s how we get experience in our field, that’s how we know what we like about filmmaking and what we don’t. That experience is what shapes us to be great filmmakers.

    CR: Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who really helped or inspired you?

    FB: Shout-out to Kim Ogletree for making me like producing someway, somehow. Shout-out to Nick Sivakumaran who was my first directing instructor and taught me so much more than just directing. To Kevin Richey the best cinematography instructor I’ve had. To Gil McDonald for teaching me the wheel to structure my scripts — now I can’t live without it. To Graham Tallman, a fantastic directing instructor. And shout-out to Missy (Dominguez, LA’s Director of Student Life) for always supporting me.

    Fernanda Belmar (Right) behind the camera during a film shoot

    CR: Several NYFA students were part of your crew. What was it like to work with them?

    FB: The best about my crew was the diversity that was in it. This crew had NYFA students from all over the world: India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Italy, Ecuador, Peru, Puerto Rico, Yemen and so many more. Having on the same set people from so many different places and cultures made the set incredibly rich.

    CR: These are trying times in the world today. Art matters more than ever. Do you want to share your personal views about the importance of film in the lives of humans living right now? 

    FB: Films don’t just entertain us, they also help us understand the world, and they give us the opportunity to see much more than what we are used to from where we are from. Films have the power to open our minds, to make us feel and relate to something we didn’t know we could. Films and the arts in generals are so powerful, and I believe that the arts are what can make us humans be better. 

    CR: Beautifully said! Lastly, tell us when your film screening is and where we can get tickets. Is there anything else we should know about the screening? 

    FB: The film is for two days: Friday the 25th and Saturday the 26th. You can get the tickets here in this link. There are two kinds of passes: 

    • One that is for the whole festival with industry panels, Q&A’s with all the directors and the screening of all the films
    • Or you can get single tickets for specific programs. My film is in Program #3: Generational Echoes, Saturday 26th at 6:15 pm PT, with the live Q&A at 8 p.m. PT.

    Since it is a virtual screening, after you get your tickets you’ll receive an email to watch the respective films at any time you want between Friday and Saturday. 

    I can’t wait to see you all there!

    The New York Film Academy is a proud Academic Delegation Partner of New Filmmakers LA and will be taking a group of students to the festival this weekend to enjoy the panels, the discussions, the networking, and the films. Fernanda, we’ll see you there! 

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  • Film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Conservatory Student Kai Kaldro Selected for NewFilmmakers NY Festival

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    Native New Yorker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory student Kai Kaldro has always immersed himself in multiple film genres for inspiration, including noir and neo-noir, which influenced his latest film and NewFilmmakers NY Festival pick, Sinner’s Lullaby.

    Kai Kaldro was born to two musicians in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and is the youngest of four children. He grew up with a fascination for making movies and, in addition to filmmaking, is a passionate freelance editor, specializing in reels, promo clips, trailers, and music videos. Kaldro’s creative style for his projects place a heavy emphasis on mysterious atmospheres, special FX, high contrast photography, action, and rock music. 

    ‘Sinner’s Lullaby’ official selection for NewFilmmakers NY Festival

    Kaldro’s latest film, Sinner’s Lullaby, was recently selected to be part of the NewFilmmakers NY Festival, which was the first film circuit Kaldro says he has ever applied for. “It was admittedly nerve-racking awaiting a response. The mentality I had about entering Sinner’s Lullaby into festivals was that I just hoped it’d make it into at least one, so now I feel like a pressure has been lifted, and I’m more at ease awaiting to hear back from the others,” he shares.

    “I think that’s a feeling that is prevalent in many avenues of the film business, whether it’s actors waiting in great suspense to hear back from auditions, filmmakers checking their email to hear back about their script from producers, or waiting to read reviews from critics. So, my process felt very much educational in terms of getting me ready for the future in the industry, and I’m grateful for that experience.”

    Kaldro’s short film, Sinner’s Lullaby, is a black & white, romantic neo-noir short film produced on a budget of $200. The mobster film centers around a young private detective from Brooklyn named Charlotte Meridian and her lounge singer girlfriend Barbara Ann Bergman, as they discover the true nature of their romance when confronted with a menacing face from the past.

    NYFA filmmaking student Kai Kaldro

    The film’s pre-production took eight weeks, principal photography was shot over the course of three days. and post-production took close to a month to cut. “I wanted Sinner’s Lullaby to look and feel very stylized and over-the-top in it’s presentation and atmosphere. I think as academic and cerebral as many make noir out to be, for how it explores the amoral side of the human psyche, there’s an inherent element of fun mysterious camp to it all, and I really wanted to embrace that.,” reveals Kaldro.”  

    While there is a mystery that unravels throughout the first act, Sinner’s Lullaby is, first and foremost, a love story. “It’s about how the ones who we love the most are the ones who, deep down, we actually know the least.” Kaldro, who is working on a feature-length script for Sinner’s Lullaby, hopes to bring the full length feature to life some day as a more realized concept. 

    His biggest inspirations for his film were Jacques Tourneur’s Out of The Past (1947) and Bound (1996) by The Wachowskis. “I’m a big fan of classic black & white and technicolor films, and the idea of a same-sex couple, but in a black & white period-esque setting, with very benign, playful, and old-fashioned sort of dialogue/acting akin to Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Becall, Ginger Rogers, or Fred Astaire has always interested me.”

    Miranda Rizzolo as Charlotte Meridian in ‘Sinner’s Lullaby’ (Photo courtesy of Kai Kaldro)

    “The original Motion Picture Production Code had restrictions in place to present the couples on screen in classic films as almost fairy-tale like, and I think there’s a very charming innocence to a lot of those on screen duos that I really adore, but The MPPC also prevented homosexuality from appearing on film,” tells Kaldro. “I’ve always felt, historically, gay and lesbian characters were robbed of having that kind of treatment and on screen chemistry, so that’s what we set out to achieve with my characters in this film (Charlotte and Barbara).”

    Miranda Rizzolo (Charlotte) and Elvira Levin (Barbara), a NYFA alum, really understood the classical, romantic dynamic. While filming, they really knocked me dead with their performances and chemistry on screen together and both actresses were fantastic to work with.”

    While Kaldro continues his studies at NYFA, he reveals he has an upcoming sci-fi short on the horizon called Dissolved Girl, which follows a young, misunderstood computer hacker and an undercover robot cop during a time of heated cultural tension between humans and machines in a futuristic NYC. “The cast, crew, script, and locations have been secured, we’re just waiting on things to substantiate here in the city from COVID-19, so that we can return to work safely.”

    Elvira Levin as Barbara Ann Bergman in ‘Sinner’s Lullaby’ (Photo courtesy of Kai Kaldro)

    Kaldro encourages students and filmmakers alike to “stick to their guns and make the films they’re most interested in seeing” and shares, “you can always see the uncompromising spirit within a lot of student/low budget films, when those involved are making the kind of content they hold a lot of reverence for, whether it’s the story, the aesthetic, or both.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Filmmaking student Kai Kaldro on his outstanding achievement of having Sinner’s Lullaby selected for the NewFilmmakers NY Festival and looks forward to following Kaldro’s filmmaking career.

    UPDATE 8/17/20: Kaldro’s film was selected as a semi-finalist in the Rainbow Cinema Awards LGBT Film Festival.

    UPDATE 8/25/20: Kaldro’s film was selected for the Venice Shorts Film Festival,

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    July 7, 2020 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1855