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  • 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: 1216

  • New York Film Academy’s South Beach Campus Announces Winners for NYFA South Beach Made at Home Festival

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    With many festivals being cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Film Academy South Beach instructor Eduardo “Eddy” Santa-Maria decided to engage South Beach students to create their own films from home and have a place to have them shares and voted on for NYFA’s first-ever Made at Home Festival, presented by NYFA South Beach. The Festival’s winners included MFA Acting for Film student Yulia Korotkova (Student Choice Award), and One Year Filmmaking Conservatory student McKenzie Mortensen (Staff & Faculty Choice Award).

    “I constantly see students stop each other in the halls and ask ‘hey how’s that film going,’ and I’ve seen those same students leave that conversation inspired and ready to make a film of their own. That infectious creativity seemed to have died down as we move to remote learning,” shared Santa-Maria. “So, in order to get that vibe back, the itch to create, I figured the Festival would give them a challenge where their creativity would be put to the test and, hopefully, inject that sense of creativity that NYFA is famous for.”

    Students who participated in the Film Festival were given one month to develop, write, shoot, and edit a 5-minute film completely shot from their own home. With the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down many areas all over the country, students were encouraged to use what they had at home, from camera equipment (mobile phones, DSLR) to casting their film with only themselves or who they lived with. 

    McKenzie Mortensen, who won the Staff & Faculty Choice Award for her short film Quarantined, was inspired to make her film due to her own personal experiences of being alone during the pandemic. The Burley, Idaho native’s short film is a horror-comedy about a girl who becomes so bored and lonely that she makes friends with an evil villain, who crawls out of her television. In addition to the full film below, Mortensen has also shared her Quarantined storyboard available here.

    “I hope the audience was able to relate to my short emotionally since my film subject was very current,” says Mortensen. “I also hope they were able to let out a laugh, chuckle or giggle.” Mortensen will graduate from the One Year Filmmaking Conservatory from NYFA’s South Beach campus in September and plans to pursue a career in film editing. In addition to her short film Quarantined and Doritos Super Bowl competition entry, Mortensen also created a short stop motion film, which can be viewed here.

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    Utah vibes ❤️ #2019

    A post shared by McKenzie Mortensen (@mckenz_mort) on

    Winner of the Student Choice Award, Yulia Korotkova, was inspired to create her short film Waters after playing around with different shots and angles taken on her cellphone. After attempting to create a shot of someone being pulled out from under the bed, she was inspired to create a thriller about soul-collecting water that could be condensed for the Festival’s parameters. “The original script was a ten minute film and we [Korotkova and her husband] feel proud of having created this film only using an iPhone without any professional equipment,” she explains.

    Behind the scenes for ‘Waters’ (Directed by Yulia Korotkova)

    Korotkova, who was born in Russia and grew up in Venezuela, moved to Miami 11 years ago and is currently studying acting at NYFA South Beach. Waters, she explains, is her first-ever film. “I was hoping to entertain and, at the same time, show how there is no need for expensive equipment and large expensive production in order to tell a story.”

    NYFA South Beach student Yulia Korotkova

    While the film is not yet posted publicly, Korotkova has released a teaser trailer and encourages readers to check out some of the behind the scenes information for her film.

    Santa-Maria shares he hopes students can realize they don’t need huge sets, expensive cameras, or a large crew to tell a heartfelt story. “As cheesy as it sounds, I wanted our students to realize that no matter where they are in life, no one can take away their ability to tell captivating stories.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA South Beach students McKenzie Mortensen and Yulia Korotkova for winning the top prizes for the South Beach Made at Home Festival and encourages everyone to watch each student’s available footage to get their own creative inspiration. 

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  • African Filmmakers and NYFA Alumni Present Feature Film, ‘Air Conditioner,’ in New We Are One Film Festival

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    When Angolan filmmakers Fradique (a.k.a. Mario Bastos) and Hugo Salvaterra, a NYFA Fulbright student, met in high school, little did they know it would be the beginning of a friendship and collaboration that would continue into adulthood, where they would both be studying at the New York Film Academy, and take them to the prestigious We Are One: A Global Film Festival.  Created by the Tribeca Film Festival as a fundraiser for organizations addressing the world’s COVID-19 crisis, We Are One includes selections from top festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Rotterdam.

    Air Conditioner, Fradique’s first fictional feature as writer and director, will premiere on YouTube on Saturday, June 6, 2020, at 11:45 am Eastern. It will then become available on demand for seven days afterwards. Attending the premiere is free, but donations are welcome. 

    Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, caught up with Fradique and Hugo right before the festival and asked them about their experiences. 

    Fradique on set of ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)


    Rumley:
    Congratulations on this amazing success. Fradique, could you tell us more about Air Conditioner and how it came to be?

    Fradique: This is actually a project that I had started writing a couple of years ago while I was developing what was supposed to be my first fiction film, The Kingdom of Casuarinas. Air Conditioner was kind of a side project that eventually ended up becoming my first fiction film, which for me was a big lesson on how in our line of work these things take many years. Sometimes the next one is not the one you thought it would be. The film was written by me and the director of photography, Ery Claver, who is a very talented filmmaker and someone that sees cinema as I do.

    Air Conditioner is a magic neo-realistic journey through downtown Luanda, Angola, where we follow Matacedo, a security guard of an old building, while he tries to retrieve his boss’s AC in a city where all the AC’s are falling. This is a film about loss, how we live together as society, and a critique of social classes in a city that is past-present-future. My biggest inspiration for this film was my own life experience growing up and living in many different buildings in downtown Luanda and also the idea that these invisible workers that are the heart and soul of our city should be main characters on the stories we watch on the big screen.

    Rumley: What was the most challenging thing about making the film?  What did you learn in the process? 

    Fradique: The film was produced and shot with a very small crew, almost guerrilla-style, so letting go and accepting what surroundings are offering you was my biggest challenge and lesson. Usually in all my projects, I try to be as meticulous as I can regarding the script, storyboard, and shooting plan, but with this film we wanted to work not only with non-actors, but also with the real location where the story takes place, the building. In the end, the film resulted from creative acts derived from a deep structure. It privileges character and location over traditional narrative. The improvisation in this project was not simply a free flow of expression, but a rigorous and disciplined act of playing from a given structure at its core. I believe that this mixture was essential to bring some raw and poetic experiences to the screen while pushing at the same time stronger performances from the cast. 

    Film poster for ‘Air Conditioner’

     

    Rumley: The film premiered at Rotterdam, which is an amazing place to launch. What was that experience like?

    Fradique: Yes, the film had its World Premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the section of ‘Bright Future Main Program’ in 2020. For me, it was an honor to have the first festival screening at IFFR. It was my second time over there and I love and stand for everything that the festival believes. A lot of filmmakers that inspire me have been at IFFR; it’s a great home for the global south cinema. The feedback after the screenings exceeded my expectations, which were very low because I was very tired after a year of working on the film. We had five screenings and they were all sold out before the festival even started. The audience in Rotterdam are very generous and authentic cinephiles.  We had great reviews at The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, and other local newspapers. The original soundtrack, which was composed by Aline Frazão for the film, was one of the elements that reviewers and the audiences mention a lot. She did an incredible job, and I believe the music in the film brought to the surface the soul of the main character, Matacedo, as well the city of Luanda.  

    Rumley: Fradique and Hugo, what are you each looking forward to with the film’s screening at We Are One

    Fradique: How this festival was put together still amazes me. We Are One offers a global audience easy access to great films and conversations about filmmaking. It’s free, yet it’s also open to donations to fight against Covid-19. For me as a filmmaker in the current crisis that was an important criterion to join this initiative because it has bigger concerns than defending a particular festival or film. It shows how important it is to work and act collectively. We are all still learning and trying to figure out what the future of independent cinema and festivals will be, but it’s important to try new formats and be open. I hope at the festival Air Conditioner reaches audiences that probably were not going to watch this film or simply give someone who is at home a small pleasant journey to Luanda, Angola.

    Hugo: Personally, I’m mostly proud of the company’s achievement, amazed at the scale and sheer diversity of the festival. After attending many festivals like Tribeca, LA and NY film festivals or even the Venice Biennale, this feels like the most diverse and representative curatorship I’ve seen thus far. It truly represents cinema and independent cinema as a planetary global experience. It also gives me added hope that the usually non-English, non-western filmmaking voices can also be heard on a global scale for a more democratic and inclusive future for all independent filmmakers.

    Filming ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)

    Rumley: Let’s backtrack for a minute to the beginnings of your collaboration. How did you meet and start working together? Was it attending NYFA, or back at home? 

    Fradique: I met Hugo while I was still in high school here in Angola. Afterwards we went to study abroad. He went to Europe, and I went to the US in 2004 where I did NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program and also a BFA at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Once I got back to Angola in 2010, I started a production company called Geração 80, with Jorge Cohen and Tchiloia Lara. Hugo was one of the first artists to come on board at Geração 80. Our production company will celebrate 10 years this year. 

    Hugo: I met Fradique in the cocoon of our high school here in Luanda, Angola, in our youth. If my memory doesn’t fail me, I think I formed a kinship with him when I was still in university in Lisbon making music on the side. He showed some interest in shooting a video for a small EP I had made in my bedroom, something I never expected, and it meant a lot at the time. Our connection really took off when I joined Geração 80. I did my first job for the company while I was living in London in the end of 2011 then joined in early 2012, way before NYFA. I was still an aspiring filmmaker, writing film reviews and working mostly with photography. A memorable day is when I first made it into his bedroom, shortly after arriving from London. Large sections of his DVD film collection mirrored mine. That’s when I realized that more than a friend, I had found a brother through our shared passion for film.

    Rumley: Hugo, what was your position on ‘Air Conditioner?’ 

    Hugo: I was fresh from returning to Angola post-NYFA and figuring out how to promote my film “1999” here in Luanda. In an independent production company, a lot of sacrifices have to be made in order to make things happen. So I was focused on the commercial end of the company making sure that my colleagues could enjoy the freedom and necessary focus to produce and shoot the film.

    On set of ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)

    Rumley: Your production company sounds really interesting. Can you describe it, how you work, what you do, how you started it? 

    Fradique: We will celebrate a decade next month. We started only with three people, and today we are a group of eighteen professionals working in the audiovisual industry in Angola. At the beginning the goal was to just make cinema, but soon we realized that we had to do other work to survive. In Angola there’s no film funds or initiatives, so being able to put together a production company that does not only cinema, but commercial and corporate work gave us the resources to be able to build a great team and acquire top equipment to make us more independent. Over the last ten years, we produced one feature fiction film, four feature-length documentaries, six short films and worked on a couple of international co-productions. When it comes to producing our films, we work very much like a collective. Everyone works on each other’s projects, and we only finish a film when it reaches an audience. We don’t make films to be put into drawers, we believe independent/author cinema should meet bigger audiences as well. We are tired of seeing our film theaters only with Hollywood films. We want not only more Angolan cinema in our theaters, but also African cinema. 

    Hugo: For me the real beauty of being part of this collective is also that, all of us, despite our differences, are committed to the power of movies, storytelling and all its magical elements. Our aim is to make movies, not products, which is increasingly more difficult in a time where everything is commodified either through likes or commerce. Making movies for us is not a job, it’s a way of living. We are in essence not in the movie business, but in the business of making movies. It’s our passion and desire to make films that informs the process and the how and that to me is special.

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

    Fradique: NYFA gave me the foundation of what it means to be an independent filmmaker. Learning how to work collectively on other classmates’ projects and at the same time experience different positions on the set was fundamental for me to be able not only to fully understand the craft and the importance of every person on set, but also l to later on have the resources to open up a production company in my home country. On top of all that, I did my one year program almost entirely on film. We only did one main digital project with a MINI DV, no REDs at the time. Everything else was in 16mm, and each gave me more confidence as a director in the beginning of my career.

    Hugo: I was already in my early 30s when I made it into NYFA, so I almost missed the window to becoming a filmmaker. I’m very grateful for the two years spent there, particularly in New York, where I was able to find the confidence and tools not only to learn what filmmaking is, but also find my artistic voice. Los Angeles was different but essential in learning a more formal, business-oriented way of producing films. There, I focused more on how to write a feature within a more conventional three-act structure and developed technically on set, playing with the vocabulary of film in a way that made me a much stronger filmmaker.

    Filming ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)

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

    Fradique: I have great memories of teachers like Tassos Rigopoulos and Claude Kerven. Together with my fellow classmates, they represent the best first lessons I had about filmmaking. 

    Hugo: Brad Sample’s capacity to analyze, deconstruct and mentor, Ben Cohen’s humor, intellect and love of film history, Rae Shaw’s production acumen stand out. Sanora Bartels, Greg Marcks, and Robert Taylor for teaching me the science of script writing. There are others I’m sure, but those stand out.

    Rumley: What advice do you have for recent graduates making their way in to the professional world

    Fradique: As it became easier to have the resources to make films, also it seems more difficult with so many options to follow or trying to keep up with all the trends and gadgets. My advice would be don’t get stuck on the gear, to spend more time and make meaningful connections and partnerships with the people you work with. Watch a lot of films and think collectively, that’s the root of filmmaking. Surround yourself with people that are different from you but have the same passions, values towards art and don’t forget the best stories are found at home, wherever that might be.

    Hugo: Filmmaking is a mansion with many rooms and it’s very easy to get lost wandering in it, figure out what your strengths are and sink into what and who you are. By that I mean, what do you bring to a story, a set, a crew, a production company? What are you making films for? If you’re able to answer that, regardless of success or failure, you will find the nourishment you need to carry on. 

    Cast and Crew of ‘Air Conditioner’ including NYFA Alumni Fradique and Hugo Salvaterra (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)

    Rumley: These are trying times in the world today, and art matters more than ever.  Do you want to share any words about the importance of film in the lives of humans living right now?  The role of Angolan film in world cinema? 

    Fradique: The world we have today is the result of the same and single story being told for centuries. We need more diversity behind the cameras and in what see on the screen.  We need to remember that culture, art, is not mere entertainment or something to disconnect us from our daily life online.  Be aware not only of your country’s borders, but your social and society borders as well. Cinema is more than a mirror; it is art and memory with all the senses, feelings and its lapses. Let’s take care of our memories.

    Hugo: At its core, film is still the only art form that explores what it means to be human. It’s not the imitation of life, it is the imagination of everything life could be. In a time when the very existence of organized human life is at stake, we have to make sure, now more than ever, that the films we’re making get to the core of that exploration. There is a war raging that isn’t new, one that is fought between commerce and the full potential of film as an art form. It’s an age-old battle, where there will always be those who will try to define films as a monolith, by creating markets and monopolies where the overarching definition and structure of a film is the same and where its success is only measured by if it won anything in a festival or how much money it made vs. the whole history of the art form, where the writers, directors and producers made a film because they wanted to birth something that was urgent, as a way of life, as means of catharsis, beyond conventions of class or structure. Filmmakers have made the history, inside big studios or the smallest of spaces, with the biggest crews and the most skeletal ones, by understanding and studying film history and the art form.  Angola is a young country and is showing potential to create both types of films, both profit-driven ones and ones that channel and respect the history of film as an art form. We champion the latter.

    Rumley: Anything else that you would like to say to the NYFA community?

    Fradique: Be safe and be informed. If you have the chance, watch Air Conditioner at We Are One: A Global Film Festival starting June 6th.

    Hugo: Please watch Air Conditioner here: https://youtu.be/cfEWfx9RMLQ and donate if you can. Every dollar counts.  

    Rumley: Congratulations! We wish you the best with your We Are One screening and in all your endeavors. Keep making art; keep telling your stories. They matter.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Fradique and Hugo Salvaterra for taking the time to speak about their new film, Air Conditioner, and congratulates them on the premiere of their film at the We Are One Film Festival.

    UPDATE June 19, 2020: Fresh off their screening with the We Are One Global Film Festival, Fradique and members of his crew and production company, Geração 80, will join Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, for a discussion of their film Air Conditioner on June 25, 2020. To register, click here.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Alum Justin Kawika Young Premieres First Doc at Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF)

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) 6-Week Documentary alum Justin Kawika Young premiered his first documentary, My Hero’s Shadow, at the Hawaii International Film Festival. The work tells the story of Shane Stant, the man who famously attacked ice skater Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, through the eyes of his sister Maile, who had never known her brother to be anything other than kind. The documentary also screened at HIFF Hana Hou/ Waimea Film Festival in early 2019, with a mainland debut scheduled to be announced soon.


    “I think that it has the potential to bring some light into a dark story,” Young told Blasting News. “It’s easy to forget that these people are more than just this one event. I think it’s an interesting journey where Maile only knows Shane as a hero and is now learning about his past as a hitman, while the audience is traveling the other way. They only know him as this bad guy, and they’re seeing him as much more than that. So eventually Maile and the audience meet somewhere in the middle.”

    A native Hawaiian, Young is a successful musician and three-time Hawaiian Music Award winner, and is engaged to popular singer Colbie Caillat. His music has also appeared on a number of film and television soundtracks, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Parenthood, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Young attended NYFA’s 6-Week Documentary program in New York City in 2015, where his instructors noted both his technical skill and his ability to handle complex and challenging material.

    “Justin Young is an incredibly talented filmmaker,” said Kristen Nutile, Academy Award-nominated editor and documentary instructor at NYFA. “ His feature-length debut, My Hero’s Shadow, is a brave, unflinching and yet compassionate film that explores violence, family, identity and the ability to heal. I cannot wait to see more of his work.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Justin Kawika Young on his continued success, and looks forward to seeing his future projects!

     

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    February 24, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 1150

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Student Wins Big with ‘Lip Reader: Game of Detective’

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    On December 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA student Shi Tanxuan showcased his short film, Lip Reader: Game of Detective at the 15th Guangzhou College Student Film Festival, one of China’s most prestigious student film festivals. It came away as one of the festival’s biggest winners.

    Lip Reader: Game of Detective is a comedic detective story, written to be part of a cinematic, “special detective universe” — a rare and ambitious trait for a student film. Lip Reader tells the story of Lin, a college student with a severe hearing impairment, who has a fantastic talent for reading lips. Lin, who works as an “intelligence analyst” for a paparazzi company, must track down a missing $20 million diamond necklace two days before a popular Chinese actress is to wear it at the Academy Awards. 

    Lip Reader: Game of Detective - Shi Tanxuan

    Lip Reader stood out from more than 500 short films at the 15th Guangzhou College Student Film Festival. The event is one of two college student film festivals approved by China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Popular with students across the country and beyond, it plays an important role in promoting Chinese movies. 

    By the end of the festival, it had won the Gold Award in the “Original Motion Picture and Animation Film Competition (Drama) competition. Additionally, it picked up the “Huayi Brothers Media Group Star-making Entertainment Special Award” at the award ceremony.

    Shi Tanxuan started the MFA in Filmmaking program at New York Film Academy in Summer 2017 at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. In addition to writing and directing Lip Reader, he also put together a cast and crew of several other Chinese students and alumni from NYFA, including:

    General Executive Producer
    Peipei Duan
    2017 Fall MFA Producing

    Second Unit Director
    Kaibo Xu
    2017 Fall MFA Filmmaking

    1st & 2nd Assistant Director
    Fei Chen
    Mengmeng
    2018 Fall BFA Filmmaking

    Post Supervisor
    Cherry Cao
    MFA Fall 2015 Filmmaking

    Post Production Coordinator
    Zhenghao Yang
    2016 Fall MFA Filmmaking

    Cast:
    Klay Li
    2016 Spring MFA Filmmaking

    Demi Ke
    2015 Spring MFA Acting for Film

    Xinran Cao
    2018 Summer MFA Acting

    Yiwen Sun
    BFA Fall 16 Acting 1C

    Jiani Yang
    BFA Acting 2017

    Lip Reader: Game of Detective - Shi Tanxuan

    The New York Film Academy congratulates the above students and alumni on their hard work and wishes Shi Tanxuan the best of luck as he expands the story and universe of Lip Reader: Game of Detective!


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    December 27, 2018 • China, Film Festivals, Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1813

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses Wins Best Cinematography Award

    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailJameelah Rose del Prado Lineses has won several awards for her various film projects since attending New York Film Academy (NYFA), and last October, she added another. At the 8th Annual International Film Festival Manhattan, Lineses earned the Best Cinematography Award for her music video, Atareek.Jameelah Rose Lineses

    The 2018 International Film Festival Manhattan (IFFM 2018) opened on October 17 and ran until October 21, with its awards ceremony held on October 18 at the Philippine Consulate in New York City. Lineses screened Atareek at the Producers Club Theaters, just a few blocks from Times Square. Saudi Vice Consul of the Saudi Arabian Consulate, Mazin AlMouallimi, was in attendance at the event.

    Atareek is “a journey to the colorful streets of Old Balad” that explores “the beautiful history of the city’s rich culture and heritage.” It was the only film representing Saudi Arabia at this year’s festival, and was shot, directed, edited, and produced by Lineses, who was assisted by her mother throughout the shoot.  

    Lineses picked up a lot of the skills necessary for filmmaking, from pre-production through post-production, at the New York Film Academy, which she first attended in June 2011 when she enrolled in the 8-Week Filmmaking workshop. Two months after that, she deepened her studies and attended the 1-Year Filmmaking program at NYFA’s New York City campus.

    Atareek was filmed in 2017 entirely in Jeddah during the Atareek festival and is the third production Lineses has made that features Historic Jeddah. Her previous films, Historic Jeddah and Our Journey to Hijaz, have garnered significant praise from multiple festivals in the last several years. 

    In addition to Atareek, Lineses worked on two other films that were Official Selections at IFFM 2018. She was Associate Producer on Reunion as well as Assistant Director, Editor, cast member, and one of the producers of Mindanao. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses on her film Atareek and her latest award win!  

    UPDATE (June 21, 2019):

    New York Film Academy is proud to announce that Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses’s Atareek is now an Official Selection at the 15th Annual Houston Asian American and Pacific Islander Film Festival in Houston, Texas (HAAPIFEST), where it will compete in the music video category. HAAPIFEST runs from June 20 – June 28, 2019, and this is the first time the Houston Asian American and Pacific Islander Film Festival will have a music video category. Atareek will be screened on June 28, which is the closing ceremony and Arts Night of HAAPIFEST. You can find tickets here. The June 28 HAAPIFEST screening will be held at:

    Chinese Community Center
    9800 Town Park Dr.
    Houston, TX 77036

    Congrats again Jameelah!

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    November 30, 2018 • Cinematography, Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2530

  • New York Film Academy South Beach Students Attend 8th Annual Recent Cinema From Spain

    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailEarlier this November, students from New York Film Academy’s South Beach campus attended the opening night of the 8th Annual Recent Cinema From Spain film series in Miami, Florida.

    Recent Cinema From Spain is produced by EGEDA US and The Olympia Theater in collaboration with the ICAA and the Centro Cultural Español in Miami (CCEMiami), and has run for the past seven years. The aim of the festival is to celebrate Spanish culture, including everything from art to music to food, and of course, film.

    This year’s Recent Cinema From Spain showcased six films, including Carmen Y Lola, Petra, Everybody Knows, and the US premiere of The Realm, a political thriller by the producers of Secret in Their Eyes.

    The opening night was Thursday, November 8 and included a red carpet event at the Olympia Theater, a landmark institution built in 1926 that has been a frequent hub of activity for the South Florida arts community. It was attended by, among others, several Spanish film celebrities as well as EFE Agency and Hola TV.

    Recent Cinema from Spain

    Dir. Santiago Segura (Sin Rodeos)

    Roughly a dozen students from New York Film Academy (NYFA) attended. This included students from NYFA South Beach’s BFA Acting for Film program, BFA Filmmaking program, and MFA Filmmaking program. NYFA’s degree programs are offered to and designed for students who wish to integrate intensive professional training with a comprehensive liberal arts education, helping them to become fully prepared for their chosen career path in the performing and visual and entertainment arts. In addition to the students who attended, a crew of three were able to conduct interviews on the red carpet. This included Steven Fares as the interviewer, Florencia Portieri as camera operator, and Ramon Burki as still photographer.

    The NYFA South Beach students who attended Recent Cinema From Spain had a wonderful time, and were greatly appreciative of the exposure to the Spanish culture offered by the festival.Recent Cinema from Spain

    Maylen Dominguez, Campus Director and Chair of Filmmaking of NYFA South Beach, reinforced this point, saying, “The Recent Cinema From Spain Festival held in Miami was a fun and inspiring opportunity for our students to get to meet actors, see a different style of filmmaking, and watch their fellow peers on the red carpet doing press in a professional manner.”

    No doubt the NYFA students who attended were inspired to get back to their studies and work on their own films that may very well be screened at the next Recent Cinema From Spain fest!

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    November 15, 2018 • Community Highlights, Film Festivals, Filmmaking, South Beach, Student Life • Views: 1655

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Student and Faculty Work to Screen at DOC NYC 2018

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    For the fourth consecutive year, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary School has been selected to screen a slate of exceptional student documentaries as part of the prestigious DOC NYC film festival.

    Screens from DOC NYC 2018 films

    The largest documentary film festival in America, DOC NYC is also among the most consequential. One of the most respected programmers in the documentary world, Artistic Director, Thom Powers has a track record for programming Academy Award winners and nominees. Thanks to Executive Director (and Academy Award-nominated NYFA alum), Raphaela Neihausen, the festival has also become one of the most important annual gatherings of the worldwide documentary community.

    The festival will premiere four NYFA DOCS shorts, curated by the Documentary program. NYFA was invited by noted Shorts Programmer, Opal H. Bennett.

    Save the Date: November 9th at 11:45 a.m. 
    IFC Center
    323 6th Ave
    New York, NY 10014

    Tickets are just $12 and you can buy them here.

    NYFA’s Showcase features just the tip of the iceberg of remarkable NYC student work:

    Cricket Liu
    Cricket Liu (China, 18 min., Julia Cheng), an aging Cricket Fighting master uses his ancient art to earn all he can for the grandson he is barely allowed to know. Matt struggles daily to remember what happened even minutes ago in I Love You, Wally (USA, 19 min., Simona Kubasova Prakash). In Keliling Bali (Bali, 4 min., Gary Bencheghib, DP Aitor Mendilibar), Gary and Sam attempt to circumnavigate the plastics-filled ocean surrounding Bali. On a rocky Danish island, five-year-old Tobias sets out on a quest to find its famed mythological creatures in The Trolls & I (Denmark, 19 min., Charlotte Madvig Schmidt).

    EXPECTED TO ATTEND: Directors Julia Cheng (’18), Simona Kubasova Prakash (’18) and Charlotte Madvig Schmidt (’18); DPs Braulio Jatar (’18) and Aitor Mendilibar (’13) and Producer Sam Bencheghib

    Cricket Liu

    Cricket Liu

    Also taking place during the course of the week:

    To Kid or Not to Kid

    The World Premiere of NYFA Doc prof Maxine Trump’s To Kid or Not to Kid on Sunday, November 11, 2018, 2:15 PM at the IFC Center.

    EXPECTED TO ATTEND:  Director Maxine Trump, Producer/NYFA DOCS Master Class prof, Josh Granger and PA/Production Coordinator and NYFA DOCS graduate Marie Vanderusten (’16).

    Grit
    The NYC Premiere of the NYFA Doc prof Tracie Holder-produced Grit on Sunday, November 11, 2018, 5:15 PM at Cinepolis Chelsea and onThursday, November 15, 2018, 12:45 PM at the IFC Center

    EXPECTED TO ATTEND: Producer Tracie Holder; Director Cynthia Wade, Sasha Friedlander; Executive Producer Abigail Disney

    RBG

    RBG 

    And screening as part of Thom Powers’ Short List:

    RBG – shot by NYFA DOCS instructor, Cinematographer, Claudia Raschke

    Free Solo – edited by NYFA DOCS instructor, Editor, Bob Eisenhardt

    Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists edited by NYFA DOCS Master Class prof, Geof Bartz – World Premiere/Closing Night Film

    DOC NYC has also tapped several of NYFA DOCS’ venerated faculty for panels and special sessions throughout the week, which will be announced shortly.

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  • Q&A With 2018 Glendale International Film Festival Filmmakers

    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailLooking for something to watch this week?  Look no further than the Glendale Laemmle!  Several films by New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni are official selections of the Glendale International Film Festival coming up October 5-12, 2018.  

    NYFA spoke with filmmakers Buffy Milner, Gabriele Fabbro, Rudy Womack, Diego Vicentini, and Boise Esquerra right before the festival and asked them to tell us about their experiences:

    Type by Buffy Milner, Fall 2015 BFA Acting for Film
    Screens October 6, 2018, at 2pm

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Tell us about your film, Type.

    Buffy Milner (BM): Type is a coming of age story about the social struggles of a girl recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

    NYFA: How did your experience at the New York Film Academy prepare you to make it?

    BM: My classes at NYFA gave me the tools and knowledge that I needed to be able to write and produce my film and much of the pre-production elements, outside of the acting, that I was clueless about before I went to NYFA. The teachers that helped me the most were outside of class, during consultations: Christopher Cass, my thesis advisor, and Joe Basille.

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at Glendale International Film Festival?  

    BM: I have won nine awards for my film in festivals, but this is my first live event for Type. I am very excited about having the screening and getting to show my film to others.

    Type

    Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Gabriele Fabbro, BFA Filmmaking Fall 2015
    Screens October 7, 2018 at 10pm

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.  

    Gabriele Fabbro (GF): Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is a narrative music video based on one of the most famous songs by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The story revolves around a confused young man who has to reject his top-model girlfriend in order to follow his true love. With the music as the driving force of the story, the film aims to break the common conception of “soundtracks perceived as accompaniment to the visual”.

    NYFA: How did your experience at the New York Film Academy prepare you to make it?

    GF: Past mistakes definitely have been the key to success of this film. I was lucky to work with one of the most talented casts and crews at NYFA. The film would have been a total disaster if it wasn’t for my DP Brandon Lattman, my assistant director Kelvin Shum, and my lead actors Derek Andrew Ramsay and Ydalie Turk. I’m very thankful to my directing instructor Andres Rosende, who taught me how to simplify complex concepts.

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at Glendale International Film Festival?  

    GF: I’ve had two other projects shown at the Glendale Festival. One in 2016, and in 2017 my intermediate film won “Best Student Film”. I’ve worked for the festival throughout 2018. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend this year’s screening. I’ll be shooting a feature documentary in Italy during the festival period. I hope my cast and crew will attend and do some networking. I’m always nervous to watch one of my films on a theatre. I’ve been to over 40 festivals now and that fear still doesn’t leave me.

    Can't Take My Eyes Off You

    In This Gray Place by Rudy Womack, MFA Filmmaking; produced by Radhika Womack, 1-Year Producing

    Screens October 10, 2018, at 8pm

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.

    Rudy Womack (RW): In This Gray Place is a feature, a psychological thriller about Aaron, a petty criminal who is involved in a robbery gone wrong. Wounded and surrounded by police, he barricades himself in a rest stop bathroom.

    NYFA: How did your experience at the New York Film Academy prepare you to make it?

    RW: Just about everyone involved with the project I met at NYFA! The lead actor, Aleksander Ristic, was in the MFA Acting program alongside me in the filmmaking department. I also met the Director of Photography, Naeem Seirafi, at NYFA. He was in the Cinematography school.  And, of course, my wife Radhika Womack, who was in the Producing program at NYFA when we first met. All of my experience at NYFA taught me how to pre-plan every small detail. We were a very limited crew with limited resources, so planning was essential to the success of the film.

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at Glendale International Film Festival?

    RW: Glendale is a fantastic festival and we are very lucky to be a part of it. The caliber of the other films speaks volumes to the quality of the festival and the filmmakers involved. This is our 15th screening, so the nerves have finally gone away. After the first few screenings, I went back and fine-tuned the edit, so I’m very excited to share it with a couple of people who haven’t seen this version. And, of course, I can’t wait to show it to all my friends and colleagues who haven’t seen it yet

    In This Gray Place
    Simón
    by Diego Vicentini, Fall 16 MFA Filmmaking

    Screens Thursday, October 11th at 6:00pm at the Laemmle Glendale Theatre

    NYFA: Tell us about your film. 

    Diego Vicentini (DV): Simón tells the story of a young Venezuelan freedom fighter seeking political asylum in the United States after being persecuted by the Venezuelan government. Simón must then find a way to keep helping the cause from thousands of miles away.

    NYFA: How did your experience at the New York Film Academy prepare you to make it?

    DV: The screenwriting and directing classes were the ones that most helped propel the creation and execution of Simón. Gil McDonald from screenwriting read multiple drafts of the script, always helping guide the story to fulfill its potential, as well as urging us to write about something we were passionate about. Andres Rosende then helped to make sure the story was in good shape both in the writing and after, during post-production while I was editing.

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at Glendale International Film Festival?

    DV: I am looking forward to beginning the festival run of Simón, lucky to be able to have our first public screening in our own city of LA. I am also looking forward to spreading awareness about the dire situation that Venezuelans are going through right now through audiences watching the film.

    Simon

    Cowboy by Boise Esquerra, Fall 2015 MFA Filmmaking

    Screens Thursday, October 11, 2018, at 10pm

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.  

    Boise Esquerra (BE): Cowboy is a short drama produced and filmed in the surrounding Burbank area and the Santa Clarita valley. It’s about a bitter, lonely cowboy who is set at ease after crossing paths with a promiscuous female vagabond. 

    NYFA: How did your experience at the New York Film Academy prepare you to make it?

    BE: From the get go, NYFA provides a multitude of hands-on exercises and projects for you to delve right into, allowing for much learning, practice, and most importantly, learning from your mistakes. These lessons are invaluable because they allow you to progress in your craft, so long as you take each one seriously. In particular, towards my final semesters, instructors like Tony Schwartz, James Pasternak, and Greg Marks helped me to reel in everything I learned and apply it to a solid project. Cowboy was the end result.

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at Glendale International Film Festival?  

    BE: I am looking forward to the screening itself!

    Cowboy

    The New York Film Academy congratulates our filmmakers and wishes them the best of luck! For more information about screenings and tickets, click HERE.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    October 5, 2018 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2213