New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen has had a productive 2018. His sitcom screenplay, The Library, recently made the 2nd Round at the 2018 Austin Film Festival. Additionally, it was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest.
Cohen hails from Decatur, Georgia and is currently based in Brooklyn. He has studied at various institutions across the globe, and has honed his comedy chops at Upright Citizen Brigade, among other theaters and playhouse troupes.
In addition to writing and performing, he currently teaches for the Filmmaking school at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus, where he has gained a reputation for being incredibly devoted to both his students and his fellow faculty members. He is also a great role model for the aspiring film school students he teaches, as he balances his position at NYFA with a working career in the film and comedy industry, much like most of the Academy’s experienced, industry-savvy faculty members.
It’s no surprise then that his script for The Library made it to the 2nd Round of the 2018 Austin Film Festival (AFF). The AFF was founded in 1994 and has a focus on screenwriters, and has had judges from Warner Bros., Pixar, ABC Studios, and Nickelodeon in past years.
Ben Cohen Hosting 2018 NYFA Emmy Party in NYC
Cohen’s script was also a finalist for the New York Screenplay Contest, a premiere global screenwriting contest that has introduced numerous talented and unique voices to the industry. Being named as a Finalist or Winner of the contest is a coveted, distinct honor.
Cohen has remained modest about his recent achievements, telling NYFA, “It’s nice to see my writing get some recognition, but it’s important for folks to know rejection isn’t the negative — it’s the norm.”
Expounding on this, he continued, “Much more of your creative life is spent being told that you’re not good enough, but you have to keep writing, and more importantly, keep sharing your writing. I’ve learned to appreciate the good days (like this one) and just keep going. It helps to care about other things. My students know I’m just as happy to talk sports or Bowie as I am to talk about writing.”
Additionally, Cohen was recently featured in a PBS Documentary produced by NYFA alum Ashton Brooks, and he plans to continue writing and pursuing gigs in the industry.
The New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking instructor Ben Cohen on his recent successes and looks forward to those still yet to come!
Jameelah 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.
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.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses on her film Atareek and her latest award win!
Claudio Casale is a busy filmmaker, but recently he found the time to speak with New York Film Academy (NYFA). It was here that he attended our 8-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2017, where he quickly added an arsenal of skills to his already impressive filmmaking prowess.
“Claudio was one of those students a teacher is so happy to have in the class,” tells his NYFA directing instructor, Thomas Barnes, continuing, “brilliant, passionate, original, and supportive of his colleagues.”
Claudio has been incredibly productive since finishing the Filmmaking workshop, working on all sorts of different projects—short films, feature films, narratives, documentaries. In the summer of 2018, he achieved a career highlight when his documentary My Tyson won the MigArti Best Documentary Award at the Venice International Film Festival.
Claudio spoke with NYFA about that film and win, as well as filmmaking in general, working in documentary, and what lies ahead for him:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Claudio Casale (CC): I was born and raised in Rome, Italy. I graduated in Business Management, and at 22 I took two years abroad, mainly in India and Southeast Asia, where I started filmmaking constantly. Many shorts later, NYFA was the first proper education I received on filmmaking. I was mostly self-taught and I joined the 8-week program to gain experience on set dynamics and directing actors.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your film My Tyson?
CC:My Tyson is a 15-minute short doc on Alaoma Tyson, an Italian teenager born in Italy from Nigerian parents. Today, at 18 years old, Tyson is the Italian boxing champion in the youth heavyweight category. Patience, his mother, sews traditional clothes for the Nigerian community in the Roman suburb they live in.
As Tyson trains for his next match, Patience tells him the story of their family, revealing ancient rituals, financial struggles, and a severe migration experience.
CC: Migration is an issue worldwide, from the US all the way to Australia. In Europe, Italy is the first port of arrival for the majority of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Maghreb. As many filmmakers of my generation, I felt the need to take a stand on this issue, by offering to the audience a perspective that might get lost in the news cycle. Observation and research was key, as I had to find the story – and therefore my inspiration – on the field: I spent five months with Alaoma Tyson and his family before shooting a single frame.
NYFA: How did you get your film involved with MigrArti?
CC: MigrArti is a yearly call made by the Minister of Culture in Italy (MiBAC). The production working with me on My Tyson had to submit a detailed dossier for our project. MigrArti can be very competitive, and I was honoured that our project was among the selected ones. Watching our short doc premiere during the 75th Venice International Film Festival was really emotional, and I feel grateful that the Jury awarded My Tyson as MigrArti Best Documentary.
NYFA: What are your plans for My Tyson after Venice?
CC: We are sending out My Tyson to festivals, as that’s a great way to receive professional feedback and connect with fellow filmmakers. I would be delighted to personally attend international festivals as well, so to see by myself how different audiences relate to the story.
On the other hand, in Italy we are planning screenings solely for migrants, thanks to the cooperation of NGOs such as ARCI Solidarietà Onlus. Bringing cinema to places where it usually hasn’t belonged, like migration centres and public schools, is a duty as well as a chance to test the impact our little film may have on people we can’t reach with a traditional theatrical run.
Then, at the end of the festival distribution, at least in Italy we are working to have a selected theatrical distribution, likely paired with a feature documentary.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
CC: In September, I was in Sicily to direct a narrative short film in 35mm, Inshallah, about to enter post-production. Also, I have a feature documentary in creative and financial development, in which I will invest most of my time this year. It’s a project I am very attached to and I can’t wait to get myself on set to shoot it.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on My Tyson, or your work in general?
CC: Among the lessons I received at NYFA, two came particularly handy in this project. First, as director you have got to leave the camera to the operator! As many native-digital filmmakers, I also grew very attached to the camera body (I was my own operator on my first shorts). It wasn’t necessarily easy to delegate that, as it is an act of trust toward the operator, especially on a documentary where things happen out of script and must be captured instinctively.
But at NYFA, I learned to do just that: trusting the crew I work with and delegating everything that may distract me from the scene. In some projects I would still be my own operator of course, but thanks to NYFA I could recognize that My Tyson wasn’t one of those cases.
Second: directing actors! I find the method taught at NYFA to be extremely effective. Honestly, that module alone was worth the whole course for me. With time, I changed it a little to adapt it to documentaries, where you don’t direct actors but subjects, so the relationship is more subtle and the non-actors’ spontaneity is the first priority and must always be protected. I believe that directing actors and non-actors is what ultimately makes a director great, and that’s something hard to learn without seeing some experts at work, either by joining a school or by being on set as 1st or 2nd AD.
NYFA: Do you prefer working in narrative or documentary filmmaking?
CC: When I started shooting, I had only narrative filmmaking in mind, and frankly I still look forward to direct a feature narrative one day. Documentary happened by chance, yet for the moment I found my little niche here.
As for today, I certainly prefer working on documentary filmmaking for a variety of reasons: first, it’s cheaper, so development and pre-production are generally quicker compared with narrative. Second, you can easily practice rhythm and pace with a running time of 52 minutes or longer, a key area of learning for any aspiring director. Last but not least, documentary today is wide open to visual experimentation, an ideal condition for me.
NYFA: What differences or similarities do you find between narrative and documentary filmmaking?
CC: Comparing short films only, in my opinion the key advantage of documentary filmmaking is the level of experimentation it allows. I honestly find narrative short films too rigid sometime, as nowadays the pressure to deliver the highest possible production value risks to overpass the focus aspiring directors should be putting into the storytelling.
After all, short films are the only tool we have to discover who we really are as visual storytellers. The similarities between narrative and documentary filmmaking are more than one could tend to believe: year after year, more documentaries are shot with a real cinematic language in mind. And I believe that’s one of the reason behind today’s boom of documentaries: many narrative storytellers are getting into documentary, shaping it with their own tools.
On the other hand, generally speaking, narrative filmmaking may allow for a wider freedom of expression, especially if you get to write and direct your own script. In conclusion, I would suggest students to be open to both forms, as for different reasons they are equally important in the early stage of a filmmaker’s career.
NYFA: What other advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
CC: If you are a total newbie on filmmaking, be ready to run and absorb everything you’re told. Raise your hand and ask your classmates for help, as at the end of the day, it’s all about the teamwork.
While If you have some filmmaking experience already, as I did, be ready to put everything you know aside. Don’t let your previous knowledge block you from learning further. Be open and receptive, and you will take something new and essential with you every day.
NYFA: Anything we missed you’d like to speak on?
CC: No questions about the Deli down in Battery Park? I must admit, sometimes I miss that sushi! 🙂
The New York Film Academy thanks Claudio Casale for his time and thoughtful answers, and looks forward to seeing what inspiring films he comes out with next. We sincerely hope he comes back to New York for a visit sometime and has some sushi from the Deli downstairs!
On Friday, October 26, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Lifetime’s Killer Under the Bed (2018), followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Jeff Hare; producer, Ken Sanders; director of photography, Brad Rushing; and stars, Brec Bassinger and Madison Lawlor. The event was moderated by NYFA instructor, David Newman.
Hare is a writer, director, and filmmaking instructor at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, and has been working as a director of thrillers for the Lifetime channel for the last few years (A Lover Betrayed, Psycho In-Law, Nanny Killer).
Sanders is a prolific producer for the Lifetime channel who has accumulated over 60 movie credits in the last 30 years (Accused at 17, Double Daddy, Stalked by My Doctor).
Rushing’s career as a director of photography began with some small features in the 1990s then expanded into the music industry with music videos for Eminem, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Blink-182 and more. Rushing then moved back to film and television, and ultimately made his way to the Lifetime channel where he now works as a DP on many of its thrillers.
Bassinger is an actress known for her roles in ABC’s The Goldbergs and Nickelodeon’s Bella and the Bulldogs and School of Rock. Lawlor is an actress known for her roles on TNT’s Franklin and Bash, Netlfix’s Dear White People, and the film, Daddy Issues (2018). The film also stars Kristy Swanson, eponymous star of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Moderator David Newman opened up the Q&A by asking about the inspiration for the film. Producer Ken Sanders explained that he was approached by the film’s writer about producing a movie about a voodoo doll; Sanders knew that there would have to be more meat to the story to get executive producers interested, so he began thinking about the topic.
Sanders then remembered a TV movie from his childhood that “terrified a generation” called Trilogy of Terror; in this film, the protagonist struggles to escape from an evil doll she purchases at an antique shop. Sanders decided to combine the voodoo concept and the evil doll concept into one, and, in a sense, remake Trilogy of Terror for a modern audience. It was important to him, though, that this film appeal to “multiple markets” and not just a “hardcore horror audience.”
Newman went on to ask the panel about how they handled their tight shooting schedule — the Killer Under the Bed production team only had 14 days to shoot a feature-length film, which is less than half the time that most features take to shoot. DP Brad Rushing advised, “Be prepared… Meticulously know what you’re doing… [Have] contingency plans… and good communication with the producer and the director.”
Rushing added that he and director Jeff Hare had worked together before, and were largely on the same page aesthetically when it came to the look of the film.
Newman inquired about how the team made the voodoo doll come to life onscreen. “Most of the doll’s motion was actual[ly] mechanical,” said director Jeff Hare, “it’s trying to keep that aesthetic of that 70s stuff [that] scared us… we tried to keep as many effects as we could practical and we also stole the whole Jaws thing of trying to keep it hidden for as long as we possibly could.”
“I think oftentimes what you don’t see is a lot more frightening,” added Brad Rushing, “because the audience fills it in with their own imagination and personalizes it as their own boogeyman.”
The New York Film Academy thanks Jeff Hare, Ken Sanders, Brad Rushing, Brec Bassinger, and Madison Lawlor for sharing their insights about making an independent thriller on a tight budget and in a short timeframe!
This Thursday evening, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Student Sungho Chun will screen his film, Departure, at Cinema Italian Style as part of the festival’s short film competition.
Chun hails from Korea, and moved to the United States after serving in the South Korean military. He is currently studying for his BFA in Filmmaking at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. The program entails a total immersion in the craft of filmmaking, including classes in directing, screenwriting, cinematography, editing, and producing. Students write, direct, shoot, and edit their own films in both film and digital formats, so it is no surprise that Chun has already put together an award-nominated movie.
Departure stars Dylan Nuttall and Lara Bayer and tells the story of a man preparing to take his own life when a woman comes along and changes his fate. Chun says the film is inspired by Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. Describing Departure to Cinema Italian Style, Chun says “In my film, The Man also rejects the truth of the world.” Expounding on this, Chun told New York Film Academy, “The reason I picked that film is that I like the way it expresses a young generation’s belief.”
This connection to Bertolucci’s The Dreamers is what qualifies Chun’s film for Cinema Italian Style, a festival presented by Luce Cinecittà and The American Cinematheque that showcases the best Italian films of the year. This year is the fest’s 14th edition, and is supporting this year’s Italian entry to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Dogman. Their student film competition highlights short films under 5 minutes in length that are inspired by or pay homage to classic Italian cinema.
Last year, NYFA alum Sebastiano Caccetta attended Cinema Italian Style, promoting cinema and music for one of the festival’s sponsors, the Italian Trade Agency. “Today my ability to work with Cinema Italian Style, it’s because of NYFA,” he told the Academy. “I’m working promoting Italian cinema for the government thanks to NYFA. I’m so grateful.”
Chun filmed Departure using crew and equipment came from NYFA, as well as his actors. He tells NYFA, “I was so proud to work with them. Despite high temperatures for an outdoor shoot, nobody complained or frowned through the process. I’m especially thankful to my DP, Theresa, who held up the RED camera for the entire day because of our one-take method. No matter how heavy it got, she encouraged me to try again and again to get the film exactly how I wanted it. Only with the support of my team could I make it this far.”
Sungho Chun’s film, Departure, will screen at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on the evening of Thursday, November 15. The New York Film Academy encourages anyone who can to attend Cinema Italian Style and see the film, and support Chun as his filmmaking career begins to take off. For more information and to RSVP, please visit HERE.
NYFA congratulates Chun on his well-earned success and wishes him the best of luck at this year’s Cinema Italian Style!
On Tuesday, October 16th the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of Look Away with director, Assaf Bernstein, and producer and NYFA instructor, Dana Lustig, moderated by Director of the Los Angeles NYFA campus, Dan Mackler.
Bernstein is the critically-acclaimed director of Netflix’s massive hit series, Fauda (2015). He recently directed the pilot episode of Warrior, the Bruce Lee-inspired series created for Cinemax. Prior to that, Focus Features released an English-language remake of Bernstein’s film, The Debt (2007), which he co-wrote and directed. Look Away is Bernstein’s first U.S. feature.
Lustig was the executive producer on Spider in the Web (2019), starring Ben Kingsley and Monica Bellucci, and the Israeli hit series, Very Important Man (2018). Prior to that, Lustig produced Jungle (2017), starring Daniel Radcliffe; The Frontier (2015); Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005), nominated for the Independent Spirit Award; and Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000), directed by Academy Award nominee, Michael Radford.
Lustig also directed A Thousand Kisses Deep (2011), which was nominated for the British Independent Film Award; Wild Cherry (2009) with Rob Schneider; Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber (2005), starring Jennifer Love Hewitt; and Kill Me Later (2001), starring Selma Blair. Lustig is set to direct the remake of Israeli film, The Man in the Wall.
After the screening, Dan Mackler opened up the conversation by asking Bernstein about the inspiration behind Look Away. Bernstein replied, “It started when I was 10 years old and… this film is kind of the sum of all my fears… I had this idea of my own reflection not quite reflecting me, and I think there’s something there — if you really look at yourself in the mirror, you always make a face, or, you know, you never actually just look at yourself, you always look away from what you see. I think the idea that your reflection is a stranger to you is something that has some truth in it… so that sort of fear that made me not look in my mirror in the bathroom… I remember as a kid I always thought would be the first film I would make.”
Mackler inquired as to why — since the idea seemed to stem from an autobiographical perspective — Bernstein chose to make the protagonist a girl instead of a boy. “I think women are more repressed, traditionally, than men,” said Bernstein, “there’s more pressure on them to behave a certain way, to look a certain way… when a woman… becomes sexual, there’s something dramatic about it.”
Bernstein added that making the protagonist female also played into primordial parental fears about their teenage daughters being sexually active, fears of both their daughters’ agency and potential victimhood.
Later, the Q&A opened up to questions from students in the audience; one student asked Bernstein and Lustig what they wish they knew when they first started out. “Don’t make [this] mistake,” said Lustig, “You make your movie, you put everything into it, you go to a film festival; everybody’s asking you, ‘So what’s your next project?’ and you’re like, ‘Um…’ and you don’t have it and you kind of miss the opportunity, miss the timing…The other thing that I encourage my students [to do]…is to keep doing.”
Lustig then encouraged all students in the audience to make their films with whatever resources are available to them and to never stop learning.
The New York Film Academy thanks Assaf Bernstein and Dana Lustig for sharing their creative processes and entertainment industry advice with students!
On October 27, 2018, the New York Film Academy – Hangzhou Culture Radio Television Group Cooperative Training Base was formally established.
David Klein, Senior Executive Vice President of the New York Film Academy (NYFA), and the Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and Editor-in-Chief Zheng Guilan jointly inaugurated the Cooperation Training Base. Mr. Klein travelled from NYFA’s New York City location for the event.
On June 16, the Group’s Film Project Team and New York Film Academy signed the “Memorandum of Strategic Cooperation”; on October 15, the Secretary of the Party Committee and President of the Group, Yu Xinping, met with the CEO of New York Film Academy, Jean Sherlock, and New York Film Academy Executive Vice President Zhu (Joy) Yuhua.
Together, the group discussed the joint establishment of a film and television training cooperation project as soon as possible, as well as a long-term training cooperation system.
The establishment of the cooperative training base will enhance the brand influence of Hangzhou Cultural Film Industry with an international vision and form a broader communication and practice platform for Chinese and American film and television talents.
This is in line with the growing influence and interdependence of Chinese cinema and culture on a worldwide audience. As Chinese co-productions with international and major movie studios increase in number and scope, the New York Film Academy has also looked to strengthen relations with the film and cultural institutions of China.
In addition to educating many aspiring filmmakers, actors, and visual artists from China as part of its international student body, NYFA has also held workshops in China as well, including in Shanghai and, as recently as this summer, in Beijing. Furthermore, the Academy has also hosted workshops for visiting Chinese students at its locations in Los Angeles and New York City.
The New York Film Academy looks forward to continued cooperation with the Hangzhou Cultural Film Industry and to the success of the New York Film Academy – Hangzhou Culture Radio Television Group Cooperative Training Base!
The Industry Lab of New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) has announced the completion of the feature film, Acts of Desperation, starring veteran actors Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, The Rocketeer) and Jason Gedrick (Backdraft, Dexter.)
The quirky thriller was sponsored by the Academy, but involved members of NYFA community as well. Faculty members Richard Friedman (director), Leslie Bates (producer), Neil Casey (director of photography), and Toi Juan Shannon (editor) were the forces behind the film, which afforded opportunities to NYFA alumni.
Acts of Desperation starts with a woman on a bridge, desperate and considering jumping. But the real action begins when we meet Alan Grillo, a cop on the edge, obsessed over the fact that his wife is having an affair. At the same time, he is tracking a shrewd bank robber who is falling in love with the desperate and obsessed woman whose life he saved on the bridge. As if that’s not enough, the bank robber is also being blackmailed by two unhinged street criminals who will stop at nothing to get their money. Time is running out for all of them as their worlds collide in this unpredictable and compelling thriller centering on six individuals and their treacherous “acts of desperation.”
Shot exclusively in Los Angeles, Acts of Desperation is the first feature credit for over 20 NYFA Filmmaking alumni through Industry Lab, a program designed to facilitate such opportunities. The production companies Scars of the Mind Picture Company and UnicVisions plan to produce many more films through the NYFA Industry Lab, offering even more occasions for our alumni to receive both experience and feature credits to add to their resumes.
A special screening will be announced later this month.
The tradition of hosting a welcome dinner for the incoming cohort of New York Film Academy Foreign Fulbright Grantees continued at the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts in Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) last week.
Fulbright Grantees with Dan Mackler, NYFA’s LA Campus Director, Amy Ellenberger, Miguel Cruz, NYFA´s Director of Fulbright Initiatives and Marcus Louis Fien
NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler, and NYFA Director of Fulbright Initiatives Miguel Cruz hosted the six Fulbright students who are on campus for the 2018/2019 Academic Year.They include four grantees in the MFA Filmmaking Program, one grantee in MFA Documentary Filmmaking, and one grantee in the 1-Year Acting for Film Program. Represented countries are Spain (3), Paraguay, Peru, and Bahrain. NYFA is pleased to recognize a Fulbright finalist from Estonia as part of the group as well.
In recent years, NYFA has welcomed nearly 60 Fulbrighters to our campuses in Los Angeles and New York City. NYFA Fulbrighters have hailed from more than 30 countries.
Dr. José Siles, President of the Fulbright Alumni Association of Los Angeles, joined the celebration, as did Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment, and NYFA Admissions Specialist Marcus Fien. Dr. Siles invited the Fulbrighters for a tour of NASA Space facilities where he is engaged in research.
Fulbright grantee Maya Riquelme, with Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment
NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler enthusiastically stated, “For me, meeting the extraordinarily talented Fulbright students that come to study at NYFA-LA is one of the highlights of the start of every academic year.”
Mackler continued, “In these global creators of visual and performing storytelling, I am provided hope for a future that will be both exciting and impactful. They connect us with a greater humanity.”
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government through the U.S. Department of State.The Program operates in more than 140 countries and offers opportunities for students and young professionals, as well as for post-doctoral teachers and researchers to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching.
The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,900 are to U.S. students, 4,000 to foreign students, 1,200 to U.S. scholars, and 900 to visiting scholars. In addition, several hundred teachers and professionals receive awards.
NYFA is proud to be the school of choice for so many inspired and creative minds and to participate in numerous Fulbright initiatives, including producing two TEDxFULBRIGHT events and conducting documentary filmmaking workshops at the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program Conferences.
The New York Film Academy (NYFA) encourages everyone to check out the new psychological thriller Look Away, which releases this October 12, 2018 on VOD and in theaters nationwide. In a Hollywood culture currently dominated by epic franchise films and sequels, Look Away is an independent film crafted by passionate filmmakers and actors looking to tell an exciting, new story without the luxury of a $200 million budget. The film was directed by Assaf Bernstein — known for the hit Netflix series Fauda — and produced by prolific filmmaker and celebrated New York Film Academy (NYFA) lecturer Dana Lustig.
Look Away is a thriller-horror about an alienated teenager who switches places with her evil mirror image. It stars Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, Star Trek: Discovery, The Death of Stalin), and India Eisley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager). Eisley is starring next in the television miniseries I Am the Night with Chris Pine (StarTrek, Wonder Woman), produced and directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster, Wonder Woman).
Lustig was born in Israel and has directed five feature films and produced over twenty independent features, working with many high-profile actors, actresses, and filmmakers. Embodying the modern female filmmaker archetype that is finally getting the recognition it deserves in Hollywood, Lustig balances her career in the industry with her occasional lectures at New York Film Academy and other institutions, as well as with being a full-time mother.
“Filmmaking is a 24-hours-a-day job, it never stops,” Lustig tells NYFA, continuing, “You might find your next story at the dinner table or dreaming at night. It is a lifestyle.”
As for the types of narratives she pursues, Lustig says that she looks for stories that are “diverse, creative, and moving. Even if it’s a period film, it needs to be current and relevant to today.”
The true survival story Jungle, starring Harry Potter lead Daniel Radcliffe, was produced by Lustig and released earlier this year. The film shot both in Colombia and Australia’s Gold Coast, where NYFA has another location with access to the Village Roadshow backlot.
Lustig directed the dark love story A Thousand Kisses Deep starring Dougary Scott (Mission: Impossible 2) and Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block, Broadchurch). Whittaker herself has been making headlines this week as she debuted as the Thirteenth Doctor — and first female Doctor — in the long-running smash British series Doctor Who. A Thousand Kisses Deep was nominated for a British Independent Film Award.
In addition to A Thousand Kisses Deep, Lustig also directed the comedy Wild Cherry starring Rob Schneider, Kill Me Later starring Selma Blair, Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Wedding Bell Blues starring John Corbett. Additionally, Lustig was a partner at Berman Lustig Productions for ten years, along with producer Ram Bergman (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.) BLP produced the hit Rian Johnson indie Brick as well as Dancing at the Blue Iguana, directed by Oscar nominee Michael Radford. Lustig tells NYFA that she feels the urge to always keep moving and looking forward to the next project, saying “We can never really be satisfied as storytellers.” She is currently executive producing Spider in the Web with Ben Kingsley and Monica Bellucci and has just wrapped filming the second season of Israeli hit series Very Important Man. She is scheduled next to direct the remake of the Israeli film The Man in the Wall.
And still Lustig finds time in between projects to speak with film school students at NYFA. One piece of advice she gives to aspiring filmmakers that comes from her roles both as a director and as a producer is to “Find the next great story to tell — one that is financially viable in the current market, both commercially and artistically.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates producer, filmmaker, and lecturer Dana Lustig on her long list of successes and looks forward to the many still to come! Look Away releases nationwide this October 12.