NYFA MFA filmmaking alumnus Rafael Nani recently found a unique venue to share his student NYFA experience — Brazilian TV juggernaut Globo’s program “Planeta Globo.” The program aims to show how Brazilian nationals live outside of their homeland, highlighting success stories as well as the inevitable struggles in foreign cultures. “Planeta Globo” came to interview Nani in Los Angeles while the then-student was hard at work on the set of his NYFA thesis film, “Bloody Eyes”.
“Planeta Globo” spoke with Nani about his previous short film projects, including “Rose Garden,” which he filmed during his first year at the New York Film Academy. Nani, who recently completed NYFA’s MFA program at the Los Angeles campus, shared his perspective on some of the finer points of filmmaking and the complexities of directing a film.
In addition, “Planeta Globo” seized the chance to shine the spotlight on five other NYFA Los Angeles grads and students: acting for film alumnae Sabrina Percario and Carolina Inoue; filmmaking student Iylia M. Idris; film and media production student Ricardo Mata; and NYFA New York filmmaking alumna Flavia Vieira. These five were showing the true community spirit of NYFA while working with Nani on the set of “Bloody Eyes.”
Each discussed their different roles on set.
Percario, the project’s supervising producer, discussed the challenges and advantages of working on a multicultural set. Inoue, who is in charge of production design, spoke about the importance of getting right look down for the film. Idris is both first and second assistant camera person for the film, and she explained the different responsibilities for each role. Vieira is lending her expertise to the picture as the lead makeup artist, and discussed the ways good (or bad) make up can effect the look of a film. Finally, Mata, the resident sound technician, explained the differences and similarities between working on short and feature length films.
You can see the whole segment here, along with more interviews of the cast and crew.
On Monday, July 10, New York Film Academy Summer program acting for film and filmmaking students were invited to a Q & A with casting directing extraordinaire, Nancy Nayor after watching “Before I Fall,” which she has cast. Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.
Nayor who served for 14 years of head of Universal Feature casting before striking on her own, is best known for her work with directors such as: Steven Spielberg Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Oliver Stone, John Hughes & Sam Raimi’s among many others.
Her movies include the following: “Act of Valor,” “Ouija,” “Road Trip,” “The Whole Nine Yards,” “The Grudge,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “When a Stranger Calls,” “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” “Darkman,” “Casper,” and Wes Craven’s “Scream 4.”
Nayor gave the students a strong list of do’s and don’t within the casting room. One that surprised many students was: do not shake hands, especially during germ season. Casting directors can meet with over 40 people in a day. They cannot afford to get sick.
The biggest tip of the night was not to be too nervous and to not over-rehearse before going into an audition so the emotions can shine through. Prepare, yes, but Nayor shared that actors are not necessarily required to be off book, and should not be nervous about every flub. Directors are looking for multiple things, such as how well an actor works with a group or their ability to improvise. But most importantly, they want to know that an actor can be human on camera.
Laiter asked Nayor about the difference between casting for comedy and drama. Nayor mentioned several differences: “I think it’s different in the sense that there’s a comic timing. People who have it are born with it. You can develop it, but in the end, you’re either born with it or you’re not. In dramatic casting people have to really go for it. Actors really have to commit.”
Nayor also advised dramatic actors to stick to the script more so than comedic actors who may improvise. “When I worked on ‘21 and Over,’ people came into the audition room idolizing these two great writers from ‘The Hang Over.’ But the writers were so tired of their own words. They wanted the actors to improvise… ”
One student asked, “How do you get discovered?” Nayor responded, “There’s no way you can be undiscovered, technically, because there’s this thing called YouTube. I’m a big believer in self-tapes, whether that’s actors and writers coming together or you writing for yourself. You don’t have to wait for permission to be creative. That project can be a calling card for you.”
Laiter shared that some of the people who work with Spielberg, whether a composer or cinematographer, had said in NYFA Q&As that he had found them by watching movies on TV late at night, so you never know who is going to see it.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Nancy Nayor for taking the time to speak with our students. Naylor has done casting for 12 films scheduled for release in 2017 including “Delirium” and “Scorched Earth.”
On Thursday, June 13, New York Film Academy alumnus Todd Lien appeared on the NYFA Hour for a special Pride month interview. The Popcorn Talk Network was proud to host the filmmaker, who in the past year has worked as a composer, writer, director, and actor.
Lien’s latest project is a music video for Jeff Marx song “You Have More Friends Than You Know.” The song has been performed on Ryan Murphy’s Fox hit “Glee”and was created for the It Gets Better Organization.
When Lien first heard the song he was reminded of a good friend who lost his battle to depression. His friend was openly gay and married, but his family didn’t support him. He took his life. Lien wanted to re-write the story even it was just fictional. “What would have happened if I had reached out?” Lien asked.
So, he announced his intentions to create a music video on Kickstarter. Marx caught wind of the campaign and donated the majority of the money to get the project made.
Lien then took the original score and arranged it for members of the NYFA – LA Glee Club. Each voice was recorded individually and then mixed together. Lien also acted in the video, asking a fellow NYFA graduate to direct the video.
The music video for “You Have More Friends Than You Know” can be viewed here. To watch Todd Lien’s entire interview on Popcorn Talk’s NYFA Hour click here.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Lien for sharing his powerful story and his incredible work.
Last week the New York Film Academy held its commencement and final film screening for the Summer 2016 Section A & B Filmmaking students. Students had the opportunity to work on eight films over the year, including a thesis film, which screened at the NYFA theater in Battery Park.
Following the reception, introductions were given by Senior Executive Vice President David Klein, Filmmaking Chair Claude Kerven, and Directing Instructors Brad Sample and Paul Warner.
“On behalf of all the staff and teachers at the New York Film Academy, we would like to offer our sincerest congratulations on your competition of this very difficult, very rewarding year. As instructors and administrators, we witness firsthand the effort you all collectively put in to create the astounding number of films required in this program,” said Kerven. “This isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that you are here today to screen these cuts of your thesis films is a testament to your hard work, your commitment, and your desire to excel in filmmaking.
Graduates of the program join a large international network of alumni who have gone on to much success in the industry.
The following films screened over a two day span at the Academy.
On Monday, May 8th New York Film Academy students from the Documentary, Game Design, and Filmmaking gathered to do a one-on-one meet and greet with composers from the Academy of Scoring Arts and the Los Angeles College of Music.
Students went round robin style as they interviewed with the twenty different composers. They described their projects, what they hoped the music would achieve, listened to samples, and spoke about the best way to connect and communicate with composers when working on a project.
Head of Documentary and organizer of the meet and greet, Barbara Multer-Wellin, was excited to have students explore original music for their projects. “A good score can change the way an audience feels about what their viewing,” she said. “A great score can make a picture. Cultivating these relationships early is vital for our students.”
One student, Juanita Alvarez described the experience as one her favorite opportunities at NYFA. “The only thing I can’t get at NYFA is a film score,” said Alvarez. “Originally, I had placed fair use music I found online over the film. But after meeting not one, but four great composers tonight and hearing what they could do for my project, I’ll be making room in my budget for an original score.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank the composers who took the time to speak with our students.
Inspired by films like “The Jungle Book,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Gravity,” and “Inception,” among others, Edgar Vega began his career working as a Lighting/Compositing artist on a feature animated film in Guadalajara, Mexico. From there, he wanted to further his knowledge and skill in the field of cinematography and decided to leave his hometown of Mexico to study at the 1-Year Cinematography Program at the New York Film Academy.
“After working on that feature film I needed to properly learn the origins of lighting for picture as well as how camera and light reinforces the narrative,” said Vega. “There was always an interest in narrative since I did my Bachelor’s in Animation & Digital Arts back in Guadalajara, but I never had a real approach to lighting until I worked in this film I’ve mentioned. The final look of it relied more on illustration rather than the use of cinematography tools, which is not bad, it was just the vision of the director at the time. I believe that in a film that uses 3D and CGI rendering tools that produce photorealistic images, cinematography would be the right tool for producing and achieving the desired result.”
Vega wanted to learn and experiment with merging both worlds like “Gravity” and the other films that inspired him. He says his favorite cinematographer is Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, not only because he’s from his country, but also because while filming “Gravity,” Lubezki and the VFX Supervisor Tim Webber developed technology to merge the hybrid CGI and live action into one image. “That was the challenge there,” said Vega. “They had to determine how lights would affect character’s faces, and then match it to composite the live action and animation perfectly.” The film ended up winning the Academy Award in both fields in 2015.
Since graduating from the Cinematography Program, Vega has had the opportunity to work as a Lighting/Compositing Artist on the Nick Jr. series called “Block Party.”
“Chris Papa, Scott Kennell, and their team were developing a new pre-school franchise that speaks about teamwork and unity,” Vega said about the series. “I was invited onto ‘Block Party’ to develop a possible final look, which earned an internally good response. As a result, a first episode was made. Thanks to the concepts learned at NYFA, I was able to assertively respond to the necessities of both Chris and Scott.”
He is now in postproduction on his thesis film, “Marcus,” which merges live action and CGI.
Vega also was the DP on NYFA Filmmaking alumna Cheyenne Pasquer’s film, “Worth It?,” which screened at the London Monthly Film Festival December 2016, Miami Independent Film Festival December 2016, The Lovecraft January 2017, and the California Women’s Film Festival February 2017, where it was nominated for Best Director.
“At the beginning we both had a lot of questions about the complexity of the film, since the script was extensive for the amount of days I could afford to shoot,” said Pasquer about her collaboration with Vega. “Most of the shoot was overnight, so I think the adaptation was a crucial skill that me and Edgar developed during the shoot of ‘Worth it?’ We were both in a difficult scenario not only because the film was physically demanding, but also because we successfully worked out with our crew and actors. As a DP he delivered beautiful shots that matched with the requirement of the story, both aesthetically and narrative wise.”
“Worth It?” will be screening at this year’s Cannes Short Film Corner in May.
Having grown up in the UK, Jencks recalls his time as a student, hitting up three movies a day at the local theater. His fascination with films took a step further when he worked on a commercial shoot in Portgual with his friends. “I enjoyed the camaraderie of it all,” he said. Ultimately, Jencks relished the multitude of challenges and coming up with different solutions.
It was at that point that Jencks wanted to create his own projects under the tutelage of industry professionals in Los Angeles, where his father happened to live and teach at a local university.
“I chose NYFA because they give you a camera and let you go on with it,” he said. “It’s an environment where I can make a lot of mistakes and then work them out with industry professionals.”
While at NYFA, Jencks quickly found his clique who he bonded with and shot a series of short films that helped build his reel and filmmaking experience. After graduating from NYFA, he got a job at the production company, Muse. “I was the first person at work and the last person to leave, but as long as I kept a smile on my face, they’d keep giving me more and more responsibility,” said Jencks about his time with Muse.
From there he took a job as a 3rd AD on a feature film that was filming in Utah. The film, “Blind Dating,” which starred Chris Pine, introduced Jencks to a fairly large budget production.
He then went on to produce “Lying” which premiered at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes, though things didn’t go quite as he’d hoped. “I was booed by the crowd. I believe the film may have been too pretentious, even for the French,” he quipped. Nevertheless, Jencks pressed on in his career, starting his own production company, Electric Shadow Company.
Jencks has now been working in the film industry for over 10 years as a producer, writer and director. His short film, “Go Away, Please!” (2009) won the Shooting People prize at London Short Film Festival. His debut feature, “The Fold,” starred Catherine McCormack and got its cinematic release in 2013.
Interestingly enough, back in 2002, while staying at producer Roger Corman’s home, Jencks noticed Stephen Fry’s novel, “The Hippopotamus,” resting alongside his guest bed. “I laughed and laughed,” said Jencks. “I responded very well to the protagonist and antagonist. I thought this story would do well if we were able to take the essence of it and provide a traditional narrative structure.”
Years later he acquired the rights to the novel and directed the film under his production company.
When it comes to directing his actors, Jencks talks about using the script as the blueprint to abide by, and how he interprets it is a really interesting journey. His job is to ensure each and every talented actor is on the same page. “You have to tie everything together. That’s the job of the director,” he adds.
Aside from his directing credits, Jencks has executive producer credits on “Swallows and Amazons” (Andrew Scott, Rafe Spall and Kelly Macdonald); “The Trust” (Nic Cage and Elijah Wood), “Terminal” (Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers) and “The Crow” remake.
As for his role as executive producer, Jencks says he trusts his directors and tries not to get involved with the creative.
NYFA Dean of the College Sonny Calderon with John Jencks
Outside of the entertainment business, Jencks is a family man and a keen advocate of human rights. He’s closely involved with Reprieve and Just for Kids Law.
He is the proud custodian of the internationally renowned “Garden of Cosmic Speculation” designed and created by his father, architect and landform artist Charles Jencks and late mother Maggie Keswick Jencksat, at their family home near Dumfries. His parents are also the founders of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, which now have 17 units at major NHS cancer hospitals throughout the UK and overseas.
For those with an affinity for wine, Jencks is also passionate about natural wine and is a part owner of Aubert and Mascoli Ltd, which supplies organic and biodynamic wine to some of the UK’s best restaurants and various discerning private clients.
With credits including Australian features “Australia Day,” “Flammable Children” and “Boar,” Tiernan believes NYFA has him well prepared for working in the real world of film and television. “Understanding on-set lingo is essential. I’m happy that was well covered at NYFA,” says Joe.
Tiernan’s brush with legendary Australian actor Geoffrey Rush during the filming of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” at Village Roadshow Studios is one of his fondest memories of student life at NYFA Gold Coast.
Discussing the making of a movie about his life, Tiernan explains, “Well, I’m a sucker for a good rom-com and I think Domnhall Gleeson is a champ.” The title? “Redheads,” says Joe.
The opportunities keep on coming for Joe: “I’ve got two more Art Department gigs lined up on some local features this year though the grand plan is to get on a ‘Star Wars’ set, then I can die a happy man.”
On Monday, March 13th, MFA Honors students gathered in the Riverside Building on the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus to be recognized for their outstanding achievements. Los Angeles Director Dan Mackler and Dean of College Sonny Calderon were in attendance to speak to some of the outstanding students.
A dessert bar filled with doughnuts, cakes, and other sweets lined the walls. Students mingled around standing tables, discussing upcoming projects and doing a bit of networking. MFA student Carmen Nelson said she was delighted with the staff, stating, “It’s definitely different than my undergrad experience, and I’m so appreciative.”
Zandi Zima, a Filmmaking student said, “We found out that we’re doing well and there’s a whole evening to celebrate us!” Her frequent collaborator, NYFA student, Roberto Jadue cut in with, “We’re spoiled.” Jadue came around saying, “No, it’s nice to know that people care about you; that your hard work is being recognized.”
Calderon and Mackler spent the better part of the evening speaking directly with students about their expectations for upcoming assignments. When asked why he felt events such as these were important Calderon said, “I believe that what you get at NYFA as a student is more personal attention. I have seen that the people that succeed here are the ones who take advantage of these resources. Events like this help make sure that our wonderful students know they can come to us for help.”
In his speech to the students at the end of the night, Mackler said, “You guys represent us very well. I’ve given all of you my card. E-mail me. I want to hear from you guys. I’m always dealing with little fires that have to be put out. I want to hear from great students. I want you guys to take advantage of the resources we can give you now and after graduation. I’m happy to help in any way.”
The New York Film Academy applauds the hard work of the Honor Students enrolled in the Masters Program. We look forward to seeing their next great work.
Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei’s short film, “The Dawn,” was very well received at the ADASA Festival and is due to screen at the Kuwait Film Festival soon, and possibly play in local Kuwaiti movie theaters thereafter.
His film is about a young boy, Bader, who wants to go fishing with his father. The father, unfortunately, has to cancel the trip due to a work commitment, which leads Bader and his friends on an adventure to find out what it is that the father actually does.
Al-Qenaei had a chance to talk with us about his film and his experience as a filmmaker in Kuwait.
What brought you to NYFA, and what led you into filmmaking in the first place?
I’ve always had a passion for film and theatre. My childhood was spent on stage, and therefore the performing arts were always something I was fond of. After a while, I began writing plays as opposed to acting in them. I found a joy in that. Film was a new medium for me. It involved less dialogue and more to show. It was a challenge I was keen on exploring. NYFA was on the top of my list, and it being in NYC, a hub for creatives, made it all the better.
What is the current filmmaking scene like in Kuwait?
Kuwait has always been one of the strongest in the region when it comes to the arts. True, there was a period were things became idle and a lack of interest in the industry was prevalent. But now, the means in which a person is able to broadcast their work are a lot more accessible. Therefore, talent is being recognized and the scene is more inspiring now than ever.
Did you shoot this film during or after NYFA?
After my time at NYFA. I actually met with members of the Ministry of Youth Affairs of Kuwait whilst in NYC, at a conference for Kuwaiti students abroad. They asked me to submit a storyline for a short film that I had written, in the hopes that the Ministry may fund it. And they did, which was lovely.
Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to create this film?
Most definitely. I did an 8-week screenwriting course at NYFA. Before then, my comprehension of story structure and screenplays in general were terribly primitive. So much so that I had never been able to actually complete a screenplay before the course. The instructors and students also helped me with my biggest challenge whilst writing: making it more about showing the emotion than having the characters speak it.
Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei
Have you screened this film elsewhere, or will you be in the future?
This is the first official, public screening for the film. It is due to be screened at a few more soon, and then maybe into our local theaters here in Kuwait.
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
The most gratifying thing for me is when people watch films coming out of Kuwait and are proud that these are local productions. There’s definitely a stigma here, that all works of television or film are mainly social dramas that tend to highlight the negatives of society. We generally tend to sway away from the neutral let alone the uplifting. So I want this film to show that we have a diverse selection of work in the region, all representing different ideologies and mindsets. Representation is key.
Are you currently working on another project that you’d like to tell us about?
I am. It is in the very early stages at the moment, but it is definitely a project that will be a lot more challenging than a short film, but all the more gratifying and fulfilling. Watch this space. And thank you for your time!