New York Film Academy (NYFA) is passionate and dedicated to share the love for storytelling with everyone. In our dedicated efforts to give back to the community, New York Film Academy-Los Angeles has been running a filmmaking workshop in partnership with the British Academy of Film and Television Los Angeles (BAFTA-LA) for youth in need since 2012.
During a 9-week intensive film program focused on telling stories, students from Washington Prep High School learned the foundations of filmmaking and how to make their own short films, from A to Z. They got a chance to shoot their films on professional Hollywood sets at the Universal Studios backlot.
The program culminated with a graduation ceremony on May 11 at the NYFA Theater, attended by students, friends and family, BAFTA-LA members, and NYFA faculty.
Sharyn Ross, Head of BAFTA Outreach Program, told NYFA after the ceremony:
“Our Saturday graduation event was a huge success. The theater was filled with student filmmakers, and their families and guests. The films were terrific and were received with enthusiasm and lots of applause and laughter. The genres ranged from comedies to heartbreak romance, from campy horror to philosophical life lessons. After the screening, each filmmaker stepped up to the mic and shared their thoughts about their experience and how important this program is to them and the kids in their community. It was heartwarming and emotional.
“Each of you played an intricate part in making this year successful. As each filmmaker acknowledged, it was hard work and when the semester began, they didn’t know if it was possible. With each Saturday building on the last, and with the support and patience of all of you standing by them, they learned a huge life lesson—no matter how hard something is, keep putting one foot in front of the other, don’t give up, trust your gut and those you are collaborating with, and you can depend on the grownups in the room that they won’t let go—and most importantly, that their stories and lives matter.”
Students who attended the program also spoke about their experience over the past several weeks:
“The BAFTA/NYFA program was a great experience that helped me harness and share what I love.”
– Alony Shell
“Working in the BAFTA/NYFA program was fun because I went to Universal Studios and was able to direct my own movie!”
– Makyiaha Daniel
“The Outreach program was a wonderful opportunity that helped me experience the wonders of filmmaking.”
– Jermaine Plum
“The BAFTA program has had such a positive impact on me. I’ve learned so much from writing and directing to camera and editing—it’s a great program and I hope to do it again!”
– Dovely King
“This program benefitted me in so many ways.”
– Emag M.
“I’m very grateful to be a part of this program which helped me learn new skills.”
– David O.
New York Film Academy expresses its gratitude for the opportunity to work with so many young talented inspiring filmmakers and thanks Washington Prep High School Film teacher Darryl McCrane, Head of BAFTA Outreach Program Sharyn Ross, and to all the other dedicated BAFTA and NYFA staff members who made this program successful. Their hard work and dedication helped the participants to not only develop their craft as young storytellers through making their own films, but also supported students’ confidence and creativity.
NYFA looks forward to many more years of outreach partnership with the British Academy of Film and Television!
Filmmaking and Documentary students from New York Film Academy (NYFA) recently had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) in New York City. With over 100 titles, including world premieres of films by Jared Leto, Christoph Waltz, and Margot Robbie, the annual film bash rolled out the red carpet from April 24 through May 5 at venues all across Manhattan.
This year’s edition of Tribeca Film Festival was programmed from more than 9000 submissions and included not only fiction and nonfiction features, but also guest speaker Q&As, games, and virtual reality experiences.
As part of TFF’s annual Tribeca Talks, this year’s Director Series featured a stellar line-up, with conversations between groundbreaking filmmakers, actors, and industry professionals, including Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese and Academy Award-winning actor and TFF co-founder Robert De Niro. The legendary duo came together at the Beacon Theatre for an in-depth discussion on inspiration, music, childhood memories and behind-the-scenes moments. The two artists’ engaging conversation offered attendees an inside look into their celebrated careers and iconic film collaborations, from Mean Streets and Raging Bull to Goodfellas and Casino, to the upcoming The Irishman.
Another particularly standout Tribeca Talk was between Questlove and Boots Riley, two notable artists who posses a deep understanding of their craft and continue to take risks as storytellers, both within the world of music and beyond—whether through publishing, producing, or filmmaking. These two revolutionary hip-hop artists sat down for a deep, wide-ranging conversation that covered their inspirations and major career breakthroughs as they navigated their success while staying true to their art.
Students from the NYFA Filmmaking and Documentary departments were selected to attend a conversation with Alexander Skarsgård, Nat Wolff, and director Dan Krauss, directly following a screening of The Kill Team. The feature film tells the story of a young soldier during the invasion of Afghanistan who witnesses civilians murdered under the direction of a vicious sergeant, and who finds himself trapped in a violent and vengeful platoon.
This Tribeca Talk encouraged NYFA Filmmaking student Jianyu Li to rethink his idea of working on a war film feature without having a big budget, something he had been considering for quite some time.
Last but not least, the NYFA community was given the opportunity to attend a conversation with director Dee Rees and Queen Latifah as they discussed the Queen Collective, a new film initiative aimed at curating, mentoring, and uplifting female filmmakers. The first two documentary shorts of the Collective, Ballet After Dark and If There Is Light, premiered at this year’s TFF, and up-and-coming directors B. Monét and Haley Elizabeth Anderson joined the conversation as their shorts were spotlighted.
Queen Latifah offered all in attendance a lesson on how to nurture talent and creativity, remarking on the importance of having a consistent attitude to uplift. “At the end of the day, it’s about women feeling good about themselves from the inside out.”
In reflecting on her experience attending this year’s Festival, NYFA Filmmaking student Christelle Chalupa said, “The Tribeca Film Festival experience gave me a lot more courage to fight for what I want and tell good stories.”
Under the pledge of “Great Stories are Timeless,” the Tribeca Film Festival closed their doors until next year, leaving attendees and NYFA students with the dream of being on its stage someday with their own works.
On Thursday, April 25, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with prolific Christian Science Monitor film critic, Bloomberg News columnist, and reviewer for National Public Radio’s FilmWeek, Peter Rainer.
Rainer started off the Q&A by sharing how he came to love movies; he shared that he grew up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s and 60s and enjoyed trips to the movie theater from a very young age. Rainer explained that, as a teenager, he could not fully relate to some of the classic films he was watching because he had not yet experienced the deeper emotions explored in them, “…of course, when you see a lot of these films when you’re not even out of high school, it’s hard to look at a[n] ‘adult’ movie like L’Avventura or some of these great European classics … and really, you know, you can say they’re great but what kind of a life have you lived to appreciate a film like that? So even though I’m not a huge fan of seeing films over and over again, I do think that, for great movies, it certainly make sense—just like with great literature—to … see them as you mature because you just get more out of them—that’s the definition of a great film.”
A member of the audience later asked Rainer what he believes to be the purpose of film criticism. “It’s not the value judgement, per se, that you look for in a critic,” said Rainer. He added, “If somebody says to me, ‘I really love your reviews; I agree with everything you say,’ it’s nice to hear but it’s kind of like saying, ‘Thank you for validating my good taste,’” joked Rainer. Rainer said that he likes critics who challenge his views and force him to look at things in a different way.
Another audience member shared that they believe film to be a type of art and Rainer agreed, saying, “Because it’s such an accessible medium, because we go there and we eat popcorn and we see films and, you know, talk about [them] with our friends … that somehow, you know, you might think that that’s devalued it as an art form, but it [hasn’t].” Rainer spoke of his belief that a film’s artistic relevance transcends the film’s popularity and is truly about how well the story and the characters’ emotions are conveyed.
New York Film Academy would like to thank Peter Rainer for sharing his critic’s perspective on film and its place in society.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Shivin Sanjeev Grover and his brother, NYFA BFA student Sunny Grover, recently collaborated with Maroon 5 keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Jesse Carmichael on the two minute short film Thrive, which focuses on the struggle and obstacles still faced today by the LGBTQIA+ community.
The film was written and directed by Shivin and Sunny, two brothers from India, and is part of Carmichael’s 2 Minute Movies (2mm) project, which was created last year. Thrive is the first film to come from 2mm with a focus on LGBTQIA+ rights.
In an interview with Get Out Magazine, Carmichael says he is “hoping that things are moving in a more and more equanimous and loving, tolerant, and open direction in [India],” adding that Shivin and Sunny “reached out to me with an idea about doing some sort of film in the realm of trying to open people’s eyes to the violence that people in [the] LGBTQIA+ etc. experience.”
Carmichael first rose to fame as a founding member of rock/pop group Maroon 5, one of the most popular and successful rock bands of all time. Maroon 5 played the Halftime Show at the most recent Super Bowl and have such hits as “Girls Like You,” “Sugar,” “Moves Like Jagger,” and “This Love.”
“Through this process, we had the honor of being mentored by Jesse Carmichael who implored us to explore the subtlety and elegance that can be achieved through visuals and music,” says Shivin. “This experience goes beyond words and went on to make this process all the more special.”
Thrive is a visually evocative and emotionally powerful film, that gets a lot across in its short two-minute running time. “We set out to create a visual letter that juxtaposes the love shared within the community with the violence and hate inflicted by those who have not yet had the chance to share this acceptance with us,” adds Shivin.
The film has been critically well received and was featured in at least two national magazines to date, as well as a laudatory review from renowned film critic Alan Ng and a recommendation from the BAFTA- and Oscar-qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival.
In addition to the two brothers, much of Thrive’s film crew also came from New York Film Academy. This includes current NYFA BFA students Rob Hughes (key grip) and Jessica Coro (art director), and NYFA alumni Nupur Mehrotra (producer), Alex Cvetkov (cinematographer), Brandon Lattman (gaffer), Hala Abou Chakra (assistant director), and Maria Quintana (set photographer). In addition to co-writing and co-directing, Sunny also served as the film’s production designer.
The New York Film Academy congratulates the NYFA students and alumni on their hard work and the success of Thrive, and wishes the best of luck to co-directors Shivin Sanjeev and Sunny Grover as they continue to make films they are passionate about!
On Friday, April 12, New York Film Academy hosted a filmmaking workshop for students participating in “Looking Ahead,” a program under the umbrella of The Actors Fund which provides education planning, counseling services, leadership, community service and social opportunities for professional young actors. “Our program’s all about giving students the opportunity to learn about the industry in a hands-on environment—beyond acting—to see what happens behind the scenes and broaden their perspectives,” shared “Looking Ahead” youth services specialist, Vy Nguyen.
NYFA’s collaboration with The Actors Fund and “Looking Ahead” is part of our community outreach program, which strives to give young adults who are not typically given opportunities to express their voices and realize their dreams the chance to do so.
The workshop, led by NYFA Filmmaking instructor Bart Mastronardi, provided a full overview of all the technical elements of shooting a scene, from lighting to camera operation to sound to set decoration and continuity. The students were enthusiastic learners and were complimented multiple times for their respectfulness and adaptability. Mastronardi was very impressed by the group; he informed them that their focus and politeness would take them far in the entertainment industry.
Harry White, age 13, acted as a director during the workshop; he got to call “Action!” and “Cut!” as well as help out the lighting team. “I had a lot of fun today,” he said, “I learned a lot about how the camera works and the calls and what all the stuff means.”
Justin Claiborne, age 12, had one of the most technically complex jobs onset: camera operator. When asked about his experience with “Looking Ahead,” he said, “I thought it was amazing; I always wanted to be one of the [camera operators]; it was really cool to have that experience.”
KylieRae Condon, age 14 and one of the most inquisitive students in the group, performed another technically complex role—focus puller; it was Condon’s job to make sure that the actors were always in focus during shooting. “I had a lot of fun,” she said, “and I thought it was very informative and hands-on.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates the bright group of young students on their successful completion of our filmmaking workshop and thanks The Actors Fund and “Looking Ahead” for all their assistance in the collaboration.
Several students attending New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Florence, Italy came together to shoot a stunning new video about the experience of learning film and acting in the breathtakingly beautiful city.
All of the Fall 2018 Florence students were invited to participate in the shooting of a new video and photo shoot for NYFA’s Florence programs. By working as crew members, and acting in the piece, the students were getting first-hand experience doing the very things they came to Florence to learn.
The students went through auditions and casting, as well as interviews, to mimic the process it takes to score coveted roles in a highly competitive industry. While some of the students were assigned smaller roles than they may have tried out for, it was nonetheless a lesson in humility and acceptance that is needed to continue a career in the visual arts.
The leading actors cast in the video were students David Puskas (1-semester Acting for Film) and Faranak Moradi (1-semester Filmmaking). Additionally, Filmmaking students Joren Pelsma, Pietro Barba, Scott Carlson worked as camera assistants and second unit director of photography. Several other NYFA Florence students participated in the shoot as supporting actors, extras, make up artists, and other roles.
Everyone involved showed a deep level of commitment toward their craft and a passion for learning as much as possible. The shoot started at dawn—the Magic Hour—so the students were up very early and ready to work. To mimic a professional set, the students all sat and ate breakfast together before the first shot.
Students weren’t just involved in the production of the video, but the post-production as well. They were given the opportunity to watch an early cut of the video and give their feedback and notes for the next re-edit.
Projects such as this newest video are not uncommon at NYFA Florence, and students often have a chance to work on projects outside of their own that are deeply tied to the Renaissance city. Thanks to a well-established relationship between NYFA and the municipal government of Florence, NYFA students and staff are often invited to shoot professional videos in collaboration with the city of Florence itself, including its orchestral Strings City event. This, in turn, also gives the students professional credits to add to their resumes before they’ve even finished the program!
You can find more information on the programs offered at NYFA Florence HERE.
On Saturday, March 30, the New York Film Academy hosted the graduation of the Duke Youth Media Camp class of 2019. The Media Camp—which kicked off its collaboration with NYFA on January 26 at our Los Angeles campus—is sponsored by the Duke Media Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Bill Duke in 2010.
Bill Duke, a filmmaking instructor at NYFA, is a veteran director and actor, known for high-profile roles in several television series and films, including American Gigolo, Black Lightning, Mandy, Predator, and X-Men: The Last Stand. He’ll also set to appear in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh film, High Flying Bird. At the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, Duke was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his film, A Rage in Harlem.
The partnership between the Duke Media Foundation and New York Film Academy began in 2016, and their joint-effort Duke Youth Media Camp seeks to train and empower teens through hands-on instruction and by teaching students the tools and skills needed in a constantly evolving media environment. The Duke Media Foundation and NYFA aim to help inner-city youth become more competitive with those who’ve typically had greater access to the education and equipment needed in a television, film, and digital media landscape.
The 2019 graduation ceremony was the largest ever with 16 graduates instead of the usual 12. When Duke Media instructor Lee Davis spoke to the students and their proud parents, he shared that this was the most talented group of students he had ever seen in the program.
Michael Sandoval, a NYFA instructor involved in the program, added, “It was a pleasure to work with this group of students,” and said that the only time the students were ever told to quiet down was when they were laughing too loudly because they were having such a good time.
Echoing Davis and Sandoval, Media Camp co-founder Carl Gilliard said, “I am so full today.” He continued, “Build a name that commands something [but] don’t forget to give back.”
Paul Caruso from Lost Kids of Los Angeles Inc., one of the sponsors of the program, gave some advice to the graduates: “Make sure the world is a better place tomorrow than it was today … pay it forward.” After some words of wisdom, Caruso surprised the graduates with brand new Dell laptops—a gift from DHL, one of LKLA’s partners. Caruso shared that he wanted to make sure the students had the tools to help them be as successful as possible in the internet age.
The students were then asked to speak about what they learned from the camp; many spoke about how much they enjoyed trying out every aspect of filmmaking and about the friends they made. One student, Lexi Sherwood, spoke to one of the deeper aspects of the program: “If we don’t tell our stories, who will?”
At the end of the ceremony, Bill Duke spoke to the students, saying, “I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. You’re part of our family forever.” Following one of the themes of the afternoon, he added, “Don’t forget those that didn’t have the same opportunities that you did.”
The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate this year’s Duke Youth Media Camp graduates and thanks the Duke Media Foundation for creating this wonderful opportunity for these aspiring storytellers.
On March 21, Students from Sun Valley High School were able to attend a filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) that allowed them to produce short films at the highest level over the course of a single day.
NYFA’s hands-on approach gave the students a chance to learn college- and professional-industry level practices on the Universal Studios Backlot, where students of NYFA’s conservatories, workshops, and degree programs also have the opportunity to shoot their films. Over the course of the day, the Sun Valley students were able to shoot, direct, and edit their very own short films.
The students were broken up into teams and worked closely with NYFA instructor Steve Morris to make their films. The students had a great time and were able to enjoy a professional atmosphere created by the NYFA team that will prepare them should they ever enter the industry. The goal of the workshop especially is to inspire them to be creative and believe in themselves as creatives.
New York Film Academy has been partnering with Sun Valley High School for several years. The four-year educational institution is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District and has a goal to “shape young minds to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges not only in film, but in life and give [their] students the ability to cognitively understand society and allow them the freedom to make choices for their own success.”
Some of the Sun Valley students spoke about their films and their experience making them:
Daniel: “One thing I like working on the backlot of Universal Studios is just seeing everything how it was back then and what it looks like now … Right now we’re working on a comedy film, where a guy is meeting up with his crush and he just has bad luck—he’s trying to get to her but he keeps having bad luck that stops him … They meet up and in the middle of the film she hits her face on a pole and that’s his bad luck happening to her. My favorite thing about working here is being able to have the experience and work with teens like me and just learn the everyday things and I just love it”.
John: “We’re working on a film about a kid—so basically he’s supposed to tie his shoe but he can never tie his shoe because there’s always something distracting him … He ends up seeing the guy who robs him for his shoe and gets his shoes back and that’s basically it. I’m not gonna lie—our shot was a little rough in the beginning because we had some complications, but we worked it out and discussed it and we’re just rolling with it. It’s going pretty good now and we’re almost close to finishing it. What I like most about being on the backlot is the new experience—it’s my first time being here. I’ve never seen a backlot like this before. I always wanted to work in the film industry; personally, I want to be a screenwriter, but I wouldn’t mind acting because it’s pretty cool out here.”
Fernanda: “I’m the director of the short film that we’re filming here on the Universal backlot and our film is basically about a girl that falls in love with this guy and they end up getting pregnant, but the guy doesn’t want the baby so he beats her and becomes really abusive and she has a miscarriage. My favorite thing about the universal backlot is we get to location scout … We don’t have time to procrastinate so everything’s really fast and fun. My favorite scene was the beating scenes because it was so intense and getting the shots and angles for that scene especially was so cool. I feel really confident with my accomplishments.”
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alexandre Kyriakidis grew up watching movies, and eventually, started making his own. Kyriakidis attended NYFA’s 8-week and 12-week workshops in 2001 before going on to shoot multiple short films as well as over 50 music videos across the globe.
Kyriakidis hails from France from Greek and American parents, and has lived both in Europe and California, watching movies from his grandmother’s vast film collection nearly as early as he can remember. Those movies both inspired and influenced his own projects, which he started making at a young age and continues to make today.
Filmmaking runs in the family — Kyriakidis’s aunt is producer, director, and Oscar-winning actress, Jodie Foster. While Kyriakidis says their artistic sensibilities differ greatly, Foster has still appeared in some of his favorite films.
The New York Film Academy spoke with Alexandre Kyriakidis earlier this year about his background, his work, and about the four movies that had a lasting impact on his filmmaking aesthetic:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Alexandre Kyriakidis (AK): I was born in France from a Greek father and an American mother, and have been living in Europe most of my life with some extended periods in the USA, in California mostly. I started making backyard films in high school until landing an internship at 14 years old for the French visual effects company DUBOI (they don’t exist anymore), who were doing Alien: Resurrection at the time.
What brought me to NYFA was that after graduating from high school I couldn’t find a film school that I liked; most of them would rely too much on theory and not enough on practice, and I also didn’t want to sit in classes for hours learning about the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder for example, when I had already seen these films and built my own film education since I was a kid.
But then I learned about New York Film Academy and it suited me perfectly; it was all about practice and hands on, where just after the first day you would already touch and use the most important tool in filmmaking — the camera. It was all about living, breathing, and dreaming films.
NYFA: What was your time at NYFA like?
AK: It was the best time in my life, because nothing around me was important, nothing else mattered but films, and I was surrounded by people just like me — people who loved films more than anything.
I also met some of the most amazing people in my life, other students with whom I shared the same passion, other students with whom I can talk about movies that weren’t just blockbusters, and students from all over the world who became friends and with whom I still communicate today.
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on directing?
AK: I always wanted to tell stories, to make movies, but I wanted to be the person who was in charge of the creative aspect — deciding what was going to be on the screen, basically put on the screen what is in my head — and that is why I wanted to become a director.
I have had many influences from when I was a kid, and even today I’m influenced by many great filmmakers. But when I was a kid, four movies had a big impact on me, and three were directed by the same person.
First was Raiders of the Lost Ark by Steven Spielberg. I think I saw that film on VHS when I was four or five years old, and I remember seeing it in Greece at my godfather’s home. Looking back at it today, it’s a harmless film, but … leaves a big impact on you as a kid.
The other film was Robocop, that I saw on VHS at six, and when I first saw it, it felt like if I was watching something forbidden, something I wasn’t allowed to see … Then when I was eight, Total Recall was being replayed in Greece one night on a giant screen on the beach, and my dad and godfather took me to see it.
And then when I was ten, I was in Los Angeles one summer and my grandmother showed me Basic Instinct. So as you have guessed, Paul Verhoeven had a big impact on me.
After that my grandmother, who owned at the time a huge film collection, started to show me everything she owned, from the films of Werner Herzog, to the classic Italian films like Last Tango in Paris, as well as the films of Akira Kurosawa, the films of Stanley Kubrick, French films, German films, Soviet films — I basically saw everything, and I mean absolutely everything.
So my film education came from there, and it’s after seeing all these great works of art that I wanted to make films myself.
AK: I had always wanted to make music videos, but never really knew how to get into it. All I knew is that great directors like David Fincher, for example, started in music videos and still make some once in a while.
In my case, there is this guy I know in England who was starting his own music company after owning an event company for whom I shot videos in nightclubs, and he asked me to make a music video for a Romanian singer.
And I had never worked on a music video before, never learned how to make a music video, so really I didn’t know much, but I told him I would do it. A few weeks later we were shooting on the Mediterranean with a skeleton crew and a Canon 5D camera.
And after the success of that music video, a second music video was made for the same singer; again it was a success, eventually new artists were signed up, mostly metal and hard rock, so I ended up doing more music videos.
Eventually other music companies from all over Europe, even Russia, contacted me, and I made music videos for them. Some being hits, some doing well, others doing less well, and once in a while there is a controversial one that ends up in flaming internet debates.
Now even after making 50 music videos, I still feel that I’m learning more every day, and each one of these 50 are like making a new short film each time. A good thing about music videos is that they allow you to experiment, to test new tools or to try things you would never dare doing in a movie.
NYFA: What kind of music videos do you prefer working on? Is there a particular genre of music you feel lends itself better to the medium?
AK: I have done mostly rock, metal, and gothic music videos, but I have also done a lot of pop music videos in Eastern Europe, in Southern Europe, and in Russia. My first music video was a pop one.
My taste in music is rock with a preference for ’90s and ’80s rock. I have always been a rock fan, so I’m always enjoying making rock music videos.
But I still feel pop music videos are the ones that are the most fitted for music videos, because the songs are often so overproduced and have so much Auto-Tune in them that they are often recorded with a music video already planned.
Rock music is made for the stage, pop is made for the screen.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your short films? What are they about and what inspired you to make them?
AK: My first short film, Blues Stop was made right after NYFA, shot on Super 16mm. It’s a thriller about a Bible salesman who falls for a psychopathic, beautiful female serial killer who ends up framing him for murder. The film was never shown in its home country of France, but it was screened in festivals all over the world, including in Los Angeles.
My second short film, C22, made many years after my previous one, is a sexual thriller with a dose of action, a dose of horror — it’s about a kidnapping gone wrong. This film once again didn’t get shown in any festivals in France, but was shown in festivals all across the world, including North America.
And my third short film, Sfagi, is just a small-budget martial arts action movie about capturing a fugitive. Originally it was just going to be a demo reel for a group of martial artists and stuntmen, but I managed to convince them to make a short film.
You can check out Alexandre’s film below, though speaking with NYFA, he made it clear that since it was his first film straight out of school, he finds it very hard to share with anyone these days.
“I will always be proud of it,” he says, “on the other I have made so much progress since.”
But even in his first film, his talent is evident and shows the potential of his craft that would come later. Alexandre also made sure to give props to his experienced crew, many of who had just come offLove Actually and Neil Jordan’s The Good Thief. The director of photography of the film was focus puller on Star Wars: A New Hope.
NYFA: Besides Raiders and the films of Paul Verhoeven, what are some of your other favorite films or types of films?
AK: I don’t have a type of film, I like any film — science fiction, drama, horror, action, or comedy. I can enjoy just as much a classic heavy duty drama just like I can enjoy an old ’70s exploitation film.
But my all time favorite film, the one that is all the way up there, would be Gone with the Wind and then I would say the following: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Blade Runner (the original one), Ran, Suspiria (the original one), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Léon: The Professional, Schindler’s List, and I can go on because I have actually done a list of my 200 favorite films of all time. But as you can see in just these titles, it’s very diversified.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you’ve applied directly to your filmmaking?
AK: I learned to think and not be impulsive. By that I mean back when I was at NYFA we still shot on film, meaning that each time we pressed the camera trigger it would mean money being lost — so if you failed your shot, or if an actor messed his lines, that is money lost that you will never see again… While today with digital we can shoot all day; sure it saves a lot of money, but you end up not thinking as much anymore before shooting. While I, because I learned on film, I tend to treat digital the same way I learned to treat film.
Also the fact that NYFA is very hands on, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty… how many times was a prop in the way and I would just go and move it myself, instead of having the 1st AD call the Prop Master so he would come and move it? How many times have I picked up the camera myself and taken the shot myself, and little details like that?
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
AK: I have been trying for years now raising enough money to make a feature film, it’s a vampire film — it’s at the same time a sexual thriller, a horror, and a romantic film. But it’s not easy.
I’m also trying to make another short film named Femme Fatale that is a tribute to the old “film noir” movies of the ’40s and ’50s. And I’m trying to finish a script named The Lobster Shift that is a mix between After Hours by Martin Scorsese, Into the Night by John Landis, and the Japanese anime Cat’s Eyes.
NYFA: How has your aunt, Jodie Foster, as either an actress or director, influenced your own work?
AK: Our works are the total opposite — she’s more cerebral than me while I’m more impulsive and react more by instinct. And you can notice it in her films, her films as a director are always very character-driven, while my works are more visually driven.
As an actress she happens to be in three of my all-time favorite 100 films — Taxi Driver of course, Silence of the Lambs obviously, and Bugsy Malone, a forgotten gem that happens to be Alan Parker’s first film.
It’s not an influence, but each one of my works — being a music video or a short film, even my scripts — she’s always the first person to see them (even sometimes before the actual producers or bands) or the first reader, especially when it comes to scripts; her advice and opinions are very precious, and help me to make them better.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
AK: Be ready to live films 24/7 … try not going out at nights and have fun learning about your passion, and you are all in good hands.
The New York Film Academy thanks alum Alexandre Kyriakidis for taking the time to answer our questions and looks forward to following his continued success as a filmmaker!
On Friday, February 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of El Freeman, followed by a Q&A with NYFA alumni Elhas Rahim and Antonio Chavez, co-directors of the film. The event was moderated by their former instructor, James Rowe. Rahim, who also acted in the film, is from Kazakhstan and Chavez is from Mexico—their film, El Freeman, explores the immigrant experience in America.
Rowe opened up the Q&A by asking Rahim and Chavez how they personally related to the story in the film. Rahim discussed how there was a time when, in America, he lived in his car and had to navigate being homeless and an immigrant in Los Angeles. This really helped him relate to the film’s themes of desperation and feeling like an outsider.
Another experience that really shaped Rahim’s life—and ultimately the script for El Freeman—was when Rahim tried to save a young woman in Kazakhstan who was attempting to commit suicide by jumping into a river. Rahim almost drowned attempting to save her: “I felt like I [could] die,” he said. That experience pushed Rahim to do whatever necessary to get the script for El Freeman finished, as well as inspired the backstory for the romantic relationship in the film.
Rowe noted that in El Freeman Los Angeles is represented in a grittier, less glamorous fashion than it is in most Hollywood films. Chavez shared that the production team watched a number of films with an unrefined aesthetic to get inspiration: “You start caring more about the characters because you want to pull a bit away [from the fantasy of an idealistic Los Angeles].
One of the members of the audience asked Rahim about why he pushed for a lot of rehearsal before shooting the film. “I knew this film would be more on the acting side of [things],” he replied. Rahim wanted to work through the emotional moments of the script before arriving on set. The other benefit of this was that the actors were more likely to get good takes faster, which helped with an extremely limited shooting schedule.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA alumni Elhas Rahim and Antonio Chavez for sharing their experiences as immigrants in the American entertainment industry and their advice for our students and independent filmmakers.