On Tuesday, January 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of the pilot episode of Project Blue Book, a new original series from HISTORY (formerly The History Channel) that adapts the real-life US Air Force investigations of UFOs in the 1950s. The screening was followed by a Q&A with creator and former NYFA screenwriting and producing instructor, David O’Leary, moderated by NYFA Producing instructor, Ashley Bank.
O’Leary is a former development executive who has worked for Bellevue Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, Kopelson Entertainment, Rogue Pictures, Warner Bros., and Industry Entertainment. He is also a producer on two features set for release this year, Parallel for Bron Studios and Eli for Netflix. Additionally, O’Leary is adapting a sci-fi book series for A+E Studios.
Bank opened up the Q&A by asking about how O’Leary became a writer. He shared that he started his career as an intern at New Line Cinema and decided he was interested in development, so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with a friend at Village Roadshow Pictures. From there, O’Leary worked his way up from the mailroom to assistant jobs and became a development executive, himself, at the age of 28. He realized, however, that his true dream was to be a screenwriter. “I pivoted and I’m a big believer in pivoting,” said O’Leary.
O’Leary shared that even though he knew he was passionate about becoming a professional writer, that wasn’t enough. “Honestly, I had to get good at being a writer; I was not a very good writer when I made that choice.” He continued, “I think the way that you get better at being a writer is you have to keep writing, but you can’t keep writing in a vacuum; you have to keep showing your work to people and you have to keep getting feedback… you need people you trust to tell you ‘Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and here’s why.’”
O’Leary added that working as a screenwriting instructor at NYFA required him to be extra knowledgeable about professional screenwriting. “It really forced me to practice what I was preaching,” he said. O’Leary then shared that something that helped him stay positive while he worked toward becoming a successful professional screenwriter was “celebrating small victories” because trying to be successful in the entertainment industry is a long and arduous process and one needs to have stamina to make it all the way to their end goal.
O’Leary made it clear to the audience that hard work is important but sometimes luck also plays a role in success; with Project Blue Book, “It was sort of the right idea at the right time at a network that was looking to grow and move into scripted series.” The simplest way that O’Leary could sum up the show to pitch it to producers was “X-Files meets Mad Men,” which was a concept that had not really been explored before.
One of the members of the audience inquired about navigating a narrative based on real events. “Every week we look at a real-life case… so it has that kind of ‘based on true events’ cache,” said O’Leary. “[Lead character] Hynek was a real-life guy; we ended up recruiting both [of] his sons as consultants on the project… I really want the show to be entertaining, but I also want to educate people on this phenomenon.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank former instructor David O’Leary for sharing his experiences and advice for writers as well as details about the development and production of Project Blue Book.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Furaha Bayibsa has kept herself very busy since graduating the Fall 2015 1-year Filmmaking program—not just as a writer and director, but as a producer as well.
Bayibsa is very passionate about her craft after growing up with a love of film and television. She seeks out artists who share that passion, and strives to work with those who truly care about what they’re putting on the screen.
With that in mind, Bayibsa produced a feature film called Landfill, directed by MFA Filmmaking student Yesser Laham, as well as produced a few short films together with other NYFA alumni. In between producing projects, Bayibsa continues to write screenplays that she plans to either sell or direct herself.
New York Film Academy recently spoke with Furaha Bayibsa about some of her work, what drives her as a filmmaker, and her love for all things Shonda Rhimes:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Furaha Bayibsa (FB): I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, but originally from Congo. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with TV and movies. It’s kind of cliche because every filmmaker says that (haha) but really… It was cringe. Movies and TV was the only thing I was talking about. At work people told me to shut up. My friends got upset because every Friday night were occupied for “Shonda Rhimes TGIT.”
It wasn’t until my mom was like “Okay Furaha, it’s time to choose school because you can’t be home watching movies all the time,” and I was like “Okay, I’m going to film school in LA then.” It was an awkward silence at first, but then she said “okay” and four months later I got my acceptance letter.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your film 1989 and what inspired you to make it?
FB: My older sister is a politician in Sweden for the Social Democratic party, a party running Sweden as we speak. The party basically stands for equality and giving back to the less fortunate. She’s my biggest role model, and I’ve always wanted to be like her. Do something meaningful, so my entire life hasn’t just been movies. It’s been movies, demonstrations, manifestations, voting parties, lectures, and a lot of political engagement.
Discovering Shonda Rhimes, I realized I could use a film as a tool to speak about really intense stuff, and not make it too much of a lecture. So I decided to make a film about rape, and make it as a ten-minute real-time moment in a couple’s life where they are discussing the topic casually, like couples do all the time (or in Sweden at least).
I remembered a guy telling me this story of how he was sexually harassed by another man one night, and he never told anyone because he was embarrassed, but it really affected him. It pissed me off, because—hello—this happens all the time, so why should he feel embarrassed? So in the film I have the couple watching a news broadcast about a rape victim who killed their attacker, and then got convicted. After the broadcast we’ll find out that the man is enraged, and his fiancee doesn’t understand why. So they go back and forth until… you need to watch the movie, haha.
FB: One of my closest friends, Luis Quijano—we met in film school. He pitched the idea to me 18 months ago. He’s obsessed with horror movies, and he’s from Mexico, so he wanted to make it in Spanish. When he was younger, he worked as a missionary in Mexico, and he grew up hearing a lot of folk tales about monsters in the woods.
The “Huay Chivo” is a Mayan beast—half-human and half beast with really creepy eyes. He can turn himself into a goat, a disguise he uses to eat livestock (at least that’s what I understood from it). Luis really wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so together with our friend and cinematographer Andrii Lantukh, we literally went in with our hearts and souls and we made the legend come to life.
I produced it together with Luis and it was the realest experience I’ve ever had as a filmmaker. I knew it would be. Luis is amazing at what he does, Andrii too. We’re turning it into a feature film as well. So much fun.
NYFA: How do you decide which films to produce? What draws you to them?
FB: In the beginning, I’d get a text saying “Hey Furaha, I have a friend who needs help… are you free?” And that’s literally how it’s been. Just me being nice, saying “yes” to almost everyone. Then I guess the word got out that “Hello everyone, Furaha produces movies and she can raise money too!” And I realized that okay maybe I should find a strategy because I’m only one woman.
I’ve tried to produce several short films at the same time, and line produce them too with directors I didn’t connect with. So I had to step back one day and think, “Okay Furaha, why are you here? Because you love storytelling right, not producing.” So now I ask for three things before even agreeing to a meeting. “Script, crew list so far, and budget.” Script to see if I need to help them develop it a little more, budget meaning what they want for the film, and how much money they have on their own so far.
Then I read the script, break it down in my head, check the budget, google search the crew. I take my notes, then I meet with them. Even if the material is flat I meet with them because sometimes they have no idea what they’re talking about but they’re just so adorable in person and I kinda love them instantly.
So I decide to work with them anyways and help them with literally everything – hold their hand through every step until they don’t need me anymore. Because what draws me in is the director’s passion. The story is more important to me than the script, so I always ask them “tell me about the story” and if I can sense that they love filmmaking as much as me in that meeting, and I can laugh with them (super important), then let’s go. The process sounds strict, but the ones I’ve worked with have appreciated my straightforwardness and work ethic, so there must be something I’m doing right (right?)
NYFA: You have produced, written, and directed—do you have a particular preference for one of these roles?
FB: Writing and directing goes hand-in-hand for me, and they are my favorites. But producing is so much fun when I work with directors who know the craft, as well as respect the craft. So I don’t know really.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
FB: Right now? Like, right this second? Right this second I’m only working on one project. I’ve written two feature films that I’ll direct, or sell, or do something with in the future. But now I’m writing a Swedish feature film called Silver Wedding; I want it to be the first feature I direct. The goal is to shoot it in Sweden together with my two favorite filmmaking friends from LA when the time has come.
Then there’s another feature film I’m line producing for a friend of mine. A romantic comedy, but it’s standing still right now because our investor is still waiting on the final draft. So that’s gonna be fun too. But it’s the filmmaking industry, so you never know, maybe Shonda Rhimes will call me tomorrow wanting to add me to HTGAWM writer’s room, who knows really?
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your filmmaking?
FB: Nothing… Just kidding! Too much to tell you about right now. But there were some things that I remember from my education that I will always keep with me. The class Film Art and the class Critical Film mainly. We had to read all the history from the beginning of cinema until the present.
I was one of those students who actually read all the chapters, took notes, watched all films, prepared study questions, etc. No I’m not embarrassed, yes my classmates thought I was extra. But now I know so much of the little things people don’t talk about anymore. Those books tell us how past filmmakers thought and experimented with cinema, struggles they faced and how they overcame it. How much they hustled and thought outside the box to achieve their goals.
I was also one of the fortunate ones to have Gil McDonald as my screenwriting teacher, and he taught me everything I know about writing. The most important part was that we should show and not tell, and most importantly not to write what the character is thinking or feeling, but instead only write their actions. That’s been my life savior really.
My directing instructors (Joe Burke, Nick Sivakumaran, and David Armstrong) all taught me everything else I know about filmmaking. All of these classes have really taught me that we’re all artists painting on a blank canvas, so we should just let our imagination run free. They taught me that cinema is the place where the impossible is done, where there’s no limitations, we just have to put in the work. Maybe that’s why I am the way I am today, because I never let anything stop my creativity. My instructors taught me that. Now I’m teaching you that. You’re welcome!
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
FB: First things first, read the answer to my previous question and if you’re at the LA Campus, find these instructors and befriend them. They’ll change your life I promise. Secondly, and please take this to heart: we’re all different, so don’t compare yourself to another artist. It’s easier said than done I know, but I promise you everyone is going through their own struggles and just because someone might seem to be better than you or have it better than you, please don’t put yourself down because you really have no idea what they had to go through to get there.
So what if there’s someone in your class you think is a better writer than you? Go and read more scripts of films you like to learn more about the craft of screenwriting and become as good as them. So someone in class directed a great film and you’re jealous? Go and talk to that person. Ask them about the stuff you admired in the film, how they thought of it, the process. Go online and read trivia from directors from movies you like. Break down movies you like to understand them better.
Anyone can watch three movies a day, but you need to put in the behind-the-scenes work to actually grow. And don’t rush please, because we all grow at our own speed, okay? Also, be nice. Not just to your classmates, instructors too. They’re people just like you with feelings. Just trust me on this one—always be nice.
NYFA: Anything else you’d like to speak on?
FB: First day of class, ask for the club brochures and join a club! If there’s no club you like at NYFA, create one yourself. No, it’s not as time consuming as you think, or as lame. NYFA has the resources to make your stay at school more than amazing with their student led clubs, and as a founder and former president to one of NYFA’s coolest and I want to say all-time best (?) clubs, I know what I’m talking about. Join a club! I’d recommend the African Black American (ABA) Film Society at the LA Campus if you’re there. I’ve heard some great things about them.
The New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Furaha Bayibsa for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of luck as her career moves forward!
The BAFTA New York / New York Film Academy (NYFA) / DeWitt Clinton High School Digital Storytelling Program recently held its first graduation ceremony, screening the students’ newly completed short films. Over the course of eight weeks, ten eager and enthusiastic students made their way each Saturday from the Bronx to the NYFA’s Battery Park campus to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking.
Classes in screenwriting, directing, cinematography, and editing educated the students in telling stories in a medium for which they all have a great passion. Members of the BAFTA Outreach Committee as well as faculty and administrators from both schools joined with the students’ family and friends in the celebration. Aside from newly acquired filmmaking skills, students gained from the experience a boost in confidence, self-awareness, and expression. The program continues the partnership between New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) that has previously brought filmmaking workshops to young aspiring artists.
As an added treat, the DeWitt Clinton students attended an exclusive pre-opening BAFTA screening of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. After a lively Q&A, the students spent a generous amount of time speaking with the film’s celebrated writer-producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Needless to say, the movie’s creators were mightily impressed when they learned that Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics and creator of Spider-Man, is amongst DeWitt Clinton High School’s illustrious alumni!
As they continue to find their voices, BAFTA New York, DeWitt Clinton High School, and New York Film Academy look forward to seeing more cinematic stories from the recent grads of their Digital Storytelling Program!
On January 17, Cal Tech quantum physicist Dr. Spiros Michalakis came to speak to New York Film Academy (NYFA) at our Los Angeles campus, and spoke with students about his role as science advisor on Hollywood film sets.
The talk was organized originally for students of the brand new (and very popular) “Science and the Movies” class offered at the Los Angeles campus for the BFA degree program—a course focused around analyzing how science is portrayed in film—though it drew many students from outside the course and program as well.
Science advisors are being used more and more in film production, as audiences are demanding less fantastical and more realistic and grounded foundations for science fiction plots.
Dr. Michalakis is known for his work on several Marvel Studios films, including Doctor Strange, the upcoming Captain Marvel,Ant Man and its more recent sequel Ant Man and the Wasp. He also worked on viral shorts that include celebrity scientists and actors alike, like Dr. Stephen Hawking, Paul Rudd, Keanu Reeves, and Zoe Saldana.
In short, he blew the minds of our students with his enthralling descriptions of the quantum realm—a key part of many recent science fiction films, including the aforementioned Ant Man movies—and how best to incorporate such challenging physics into a major Hollywood blockbuster. His take-home message to filmmakers: find a balance between entertainment and education, i.e., there is a brilliant but gentle way to incorporate science in your film that will entice curiosity while not ostracizing the spectator simply looking for entertainment.
The New York Film Academy thanks Hollywood science advisor and quantum physicist Dr. Spiros Michalakis for taking the time to talk science and film with our students!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Kane Senes’ first feature, Echoes of War, is a period Western featuring high-end production value and a name cast. Where does one go from there? In Kane’s case, he went back to his DIY film-school roots. Armed with a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign and only the outline of a script, writer/director Kane Senes and fellow NYFA alum and director of photography Anton DuPreez hit the road (literally) and made For Now.
According to its official website, For Now is a “look at twenty-somethings adrift in the limbo between adolescence and adulthood, grappling with the superficial connections that define their generation.” The film was “shot on the road over seven days on a shoestring budget and with entirely improvised performances.”
As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Senes and his fellow writers (Hannah Barlow and Katharine DuBois) were playing variation of themselves. And the tight schedule and budget meant they had no time for second takes or traditional coverage.
The result? A poignant coming of age/road movie akin to Diner, Noah Baumbach’s Kicking & Screaming, and the improvisatory works of John Cassavetes. Senes, DuPreez, Barlow, and DuBois had their official LA premiere of For Now at NYFA and talked about how they made their feature with little money and even less time.
After attending a Q&A with low-budget maestros The Duplass Brothers (The Puffy Chair, The MisEducation of Bindu), Barlow was inspired to create a film loosely centered on her relationship with her dancer Hannah Connor. An incredibly short four months and one Kickstarter campaign later, principal photography on the film was complete!
Though initially hesitant to perform as the somewhat unsympathetic character “KANE SENES,” co-director Kane Senes realized that he needed to throw all aspects of himself into the project. This included some personal moments from his relationship with girlfriend/co-director/co-star Hannah Barlow. The filmmakers soon discovered that the more personal they went with their story, the more relatable it became. However, DuBois (who is flat-out hysterical in the film) did stress that her character’s more “friendly” characteristics were pure fiction.
While a traditional narrative film might have a 10-to-1 raw-footage-to-final-edit shooting ratio, the For Now team’s approach meant they only had a few hours of footage to use. As an editor, Senes spent an extended amount of time in post-production and one lone day of reshoots to shape the improvisatory tale into a more cinematic story. Completing the film then led the team to their next big hurdle: distribution. Barlow and Kane connected with fellow NYFA alum Claudia Pickering, whose micro-budget film Frisky received international distribution and is currently being adapted for television.
Pickering’s sales agent watched For Now and fully committed to finding the movie distribution. And now, For Now has transformed from a improvisatory, crowd-funded project to a feature available to buy or rent on iTunes, Amazon, and countless other video platforms.
The New York Film Academy congratulates the filmmakers for taking their passion project all the way to the finish line!
On Friday, December 14, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of A Country Christmas Story (2013) followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor Eric Bross, and writer and NYFA instructor Steven Peros, moderated by NYFA student, Bakyt Zhumadilova.
Bross is known for directing Affairs of State (2018), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and Peros is known for writing Footprints (2009), The Undying (2009) and The Cat’s Meow (2001).
Zhumadilova opened the Q&A by asking Peros about his inspiration for the screenplay. Peros said he started by researching the history of country music and its prevalence in the South, then adding layers of complexity to the story by making the protagonist both a child of divorce and biracial within that world.
Peros also wanted the film to be about the various characters’ relationships with music and the arts and added that the music teacher in the film was inspired by a teacher he had when he was a kid.
Zhumadilova inquired about what it was like for Peros to writeA Country Christmas Story star Dolly Parton’s lines knowing she was going to be playing herself in the film. “The funny thing about writing her was, I had written this thing… and suddenly I’m on set going, ‘I’m about to meet Dolly Parton!’ Is she gonna come up to me and say, ‘Well, first off, Steven, I don’t talk like that at all,’” joked Peros. “But she didn’t at all! She didn’t want to change anything… so I was somehow channeling my inner Dolly Parton.”
“I just thought he really captured her voice,” added Bross.
Peros shared that Parton suggested that she sing instead of just introducing the music contest at the end of the film. “She just kept giving us gifts.” said Bross.
Peros shared that one of the most notable moments of the shoot was when Parton sang in between takes to entertain extras in the audience. “She knew that all those extras who were there pretty much for free… were there for her,” he said. “She never left the stage… she sang ‘Tennessee Waltz’… and it was like a moment out of a movie; one by one, everything started to get silent.”
The discussion then moved onto producing a film like A Country Christmas Story on a tight shoot schedule and a tight budget. Bross advised filmmakers to keep the frame focused on the actors as much as possible when working with a small budget because sometimes it’s difficult to afford full, dressed sets. This way the story would still be the center of the film.
New York Film Academy would like to thank A Country Christmas Story filmmakers Eric Bross and Steven Peros for sharing their entertaining anecdotes from the shooting of the film, as well as their production advice for students.
A select group of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary and Filmmaking students were invited to attend The Price of Free, a feature-length documentary which screened on November 10, 2018 at the Studio City Film Festival. The film depicts Kailash Satyarthi, who left a career as an electrical engineer to start Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) in an effort to rescue children from slavery.
Along with Sanora Bartels, Chair of Documentary NYFA-LA, the selected NYFA students in attendance were from both BFA and MFA programs and included, from Documentary: Lucia Florez, Assemgul Sarsembayeva and Khalila Suprapto; and from Filmmaking: Jose Miguel Perez, Jenny Mochahari, Katherine Russell, and Aastha Verma.
All of the students felt it was an important event and looked forward to attending. Before the screening, Katherine Russell, Spring 2018 BFA Filmmaking student, told NYFA:
“I’ve always considered myself very socially conscious. I began my first undergraduate career as a political science and sociology double major at Penn State. Throughout my filmmaking career at NYFA and beyond I plan to inject these passions and what I’ve learned into my films. This film piques my interest for these exact reasons.”
The film did not disappoint; Derek Doneen’s direction is deeply moving. The story opens in a raid on a factory to save several children from slave labor. The camera work and action immediately pulls the audience into the center of the conflict.
The audience is then taken back to the beginning of Satyarthi’s work, and the history of the struggle is conveyed through masterful animation and several interviews with key supporters of the cause. Some of the most compelling footage is “observational” — using hidden cameras — of the charity workers as they go undercover as “buyers of goods” in an attempt to expose the locations of illegal factories and their captive labor.
The work is not for the faint of heart. Throughout, the worthiness of the project is expressed in the experiences of the children who are freed from shackles and able to pursue education.
The screening was followed by a Q&A session with The Price of Free director, Derek Doneen, and its featured subject, Nobel Prize winner Kailash. Satyarthi was asked how he had the courage to begin and continue the work to free children from slavery, considering the dangers involved. In addition to the very real threat of reprisal from the criminals running the factories, there are police officers who are bribed and, at best, look the other way, and, at worst, savagely beat those who attempt to break the children free.
Satyarthi replied to the question with a smile and shared a lovely Indian folktale:
“One day a terrible fire broke out in the jungle – a huge section was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the jungle. As they came to the edge of a stream, they stopped to watch the fire and were feeling very discouraged and powerless.
“They all bemoaned the destruction of their homes, except the hummingbird. The hummingbird swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water in its beak and flew into the jungle to put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. Finally, the tiger grew concerned for the hummingbird’s safety: ‘It is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire. What do you think you’re doing!?’
“The hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, ‘I am doing what I can.'”
After the screening, the students enthusiastically shared their experience and thoughts about moving forward:
“After watching The Price of Free you will never be the same. You will carefully read the labels in supermarkets. You will evaluate your every purchase and think whether [you] really need another decorative box or a candle. Consumerism at its highest degree of barbarism is the focus of Derek Doneen’s film… Kailash Satyarthi has a mission: the battle for the right of every kid on this planet to have a childhood.”
—Asem Nurlanova, Fall 2017 MFA Documentary
“From the opening of the documentary to the last frame, there was not a minute where I felt unmoved or a disconnect by the reality of the harsh hitting stories. The director, Derek Doneen, did an exceptional job bringing the reality to life. As the credits rolled, I saw people right, left, and center tearing up, almost sobbing.
“Not a lot of people have the power to move the world forward with them, he surely is one of them. It was an honor and an inspiration to be in the same room and having a moving conversation with the humble man himself, Mr. Satyarthi. I highly recommend for everybody to watch The Price of Free and would like to thank Crickett Rumley and NYFA-LA for the opportunity.”
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 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
2015 Spring MFA Acting for Film
2018 Summer MFA Acting
BFA Fall 16 Acting 1C
BFA Acting 2017
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!
On Tuesday, December 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with Creed II actor Dolph Lundgren and director Steven Caple Jr., moderated by NYFA screenwriting instructor and dedicated Rocky fan, Eric Conner.
Lundgren is best known for his role as Ivan Drago in RockyIV, which he reprised in the 2018 hit film Creed II. He also starred in Marvel’s The Punisher (1989) and The Expendables (2010), among many other films throughout the last three decades.
Caple Jr. was given the chance to direct Creed II, the latest entry of the extremely popular and successful Rocky film franchise, after directing just a handful of short films, some television episodes, and one independent feature. He follows Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed the first Creed film, starring Michael B. Jordan as the title boxer who trains under Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky.
Conner opened up the Q&A by asking Lundgren about reprising the role of Ivan Drago 30 years after originally playing him in Rocky IV. “I wasn’t too crazy about it originally when I heard,” said Lundgren. “I was afraid it was going to be just a one-dimensional bad guy… but it was when I met Steven and I read the script that I realized, ‘Oh this is a real movie.’”
Conner agreed and brought up a scene from Creed II in which Drago and Rocky, longtime boxing rivals, are sitting at a table across from each other in a restaurant, just talking. “I really wanted to know who Drago was, you know, besides a ‘killing machine,’” said Caple Jr., “and it felt like a perfect opportunity to blend in that sort of, you know, two legends sitting down hashing [it] out after 30 years, yet also giving [Lundgren’s] character some dimension… so it’s more than just a revenge story.”
“Man, I was afraid to take on this project because I am a fan, you know; it was like who wants to make a sequel to something that was already dope?” joked Caple Jr. He added, “I made it for people who are honestly Rocky and Creed fans.”
Conner added that Caple Jr. was a good choice to directCreed II because he could make the Rocky franchise relevant to a new generation of viewers by connecting with Creed, the younger character of the film. Conner also shared the statistic that Creed II was the fourth movie directed by an African American director to earn over $100 million in the box office in 2018.
“There’s so much talent out there,” said Caple Jr. He shared that it was important for him to have a production team that included people of color because he wanted to provide as many opportunities as possible to progress and diversify the entertainment industry. “There’s a movement going on.” said Caple Jr.
The New York FIlm Academy would like to thank Dolph Lundgren and Stephen Caple Jr. for speaking with our students and sharing their entertainment industry knowledge and their experiences developing a story and franchise simultaneously.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum António Botelho hails from Lisbon, Portugal and has acted, produced, written, shot, and crewed on several projects both in his home country and aboard.
Botelho attended NYFA’s 2-year Filmmaking program in 2008 at our New York City campus, where he gained invaluable experience directing and shooting his own films as well as serving as an integral crewmember on other students’ films.
His education and professional experience culminated this year in the release of Ruth, the Portuguese feature film directed by Botelho. Ruth is set in the early 1960s and tells the story of Eusébio, an immigrant from Mozambique and football (soccer) superstar who finds himself in a heated sports rivalry amidst political turmoil during the country’s fascist regime.
The New York Film Academy spoke with Botelho about his film and career earlier this year:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you talk a bit about the process involved in getting Ruth subsidized by Portugal?
António Botelho (AB): In Portugal there are hardly any private companies (film or other) that finance their own movies. There isn’t a studio system. There are film companies who produce movies mostly by grants and state competitions with many categories (short films, first features, feature films, documentaries, documentaries short, animation, etc.).
It was through one of these state competitions that Ruth was subsidized. The film company in charge of the production had to present a budget and all sorts of documents boosting the film’s value and whatnot.
My part, in that competition entry, was to write a director’s view kind of document, with my own personal approach on how the movie would be made. It’s a matter of luck. It’s one in a billion.
NYFA: How do you approach the filmmaking process?
AB: I’m a very practical filmmaker. I consider myself a film buff first, then a filmmaker. Great movies are made every year, some of them share the same story, and so I know the movie that I’m making is probably not going to be a Citizen Kane… movies shouldn’t impose on themselves or their filmmakers.
I try to make a movie that makes sense. I put the script and the actors first, then I adapt to several circumstances… as all filmmakers do.
As [NYFA’s founder] Jerry Sherlock put it: “Story, story, story.”
NYFA: How did NYFA help prepare you to be on set for your feature film debut?
AB: NYFA helped me prepare in a sense that it taught me to having the most done — as a director — before entering the set. I prepare myself so that each day I know what I’m shooting, but also how it’s going to cut together. Having a big sense in all film areas, provided by the faculty, helps the filmmaking process and teaches you to respect your fellow colleagues. Filmmaking isn’t a solo thing.
Also, it taught me to act quickly in the face of adversity, because most times you’ll have to adapt.
NYFA: Will Ruth be available online or in other countries?
AB: Eventually it will be online in some of the screening platforms. What I can say for now is that there’s a possibility of it premiering in France in January 2019, and maybe also Germany.
The New York Film Academy thanks António Botelho for his time and thoughtful responses and wishes him the best of luck in his promising career!