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  • NYFA Grad’s “The Dawn” to Screen at Kuwait Film Festival

    The DawnKuwaiti 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

    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!

    March 20, 2017 • Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1271

  • NYFA Grad’s “Like Father, Like Son” Wins Best Short at NYC Indie Film Awards

    Like Father, Like SonBorn in Manila, Philippines, Heinrik Caesar Matias flew to New York City in 2016 to study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. Matias says he is passionate in acting, and creating realistic and immersive stories with characters that the audience can connect to. His passion and determination led him to create the award-winning film, “Like Father, Like Son,” while attending NYFA.

    His film received “Best Short Film” nominations at film festivals all over the world, including Chandler International Film Festival (USA), Los Angeles CineFest (USA), Barcelona Planet Film Festival (Spain), MedFF (Italy), and Feel The Reel International Film Festival (UK). It won the Gold Award for Best Short Film at the NYC Indie Film Awards.

    “The experience I had, and the lessons I learned from the New York Film Academy were all applied in the making of this film,” said Matias. “It had to be or there was no way this film could have been made given the conditions we faced. I never had any experience in filmmaking prior to NYFA and, I will admit, it was very difficult. We didn’t have a big budget plus there were only four crew members, including me as the director, and three cast members. We all had to work twice as hard. It was very draining and it was a very challenging time for all of us, but we all felt like this was a story that needed to be told. I was lucky that I had a very professional crew and a talented cast that were all patient with me and the film during its production.”

    The short film is a psychological drama that explores the dark natures of depression and how it can even affect the people around the person who’s depressed. After 20 years, Charles, an unemployed alcoholic, finally reunites with his absentee father. The two of them soon realize that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

    “Many people fail to see the magnitude of depression and it is very often dismissed as ‘all in your head,’ but I believe that this is a real thing, and it is a serious matter that must be dealt with,” says Matias.
    heinrik caesar matias

    According to the Word Health Organization, as of 2016, depression is the most prevalent mental illness with 350 million cases worldwide and, if left untreated, can often lead to suicide.

    While Matias also continues to focus on his acting career, he’s currently working on two different projects — a short story that he hopes to film this year and his first feature film screenplay.

    February 17, 2017 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1785

  • NYFA Welcomes a Group of Enthusiastic Italian Students

    An exceptional group of Italian students recently graduated from the 4-Week Producing Program at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. The students, all from the Lazio Region of Italy—most whom reside in Rome—attended NYFA as a result of being awarded special fellowships from the Roma Lazio Film Commission’s Torno Subito (“Be Right Back”) program. The Torno Subito program was created to fund projects submitted by Italian university students or graduates, aged 18 to 35 years, with the interest in taking advanced training courses, and upon completion, return home to use their newfound skills in the workplace. Also involved in this educational initiative is AssForSeo, an Italian employment guidance organization.

    nyfa italian students

    In addition to the students enrolled in the Producing Department at NYFA New York’s campus were dozens of students in the Filmmaking, Documentary Filmmaking, Animation, Broadcast Journalism, Screenwriting, Digital Editing, and Acting for Film programs. Both the New York and Los Angeles campuses of NYFA hosted this wonderful group of talented young Italians.

    NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman declared, “It was a pleasure having this group in our 4-Week Intensive producing workshop. They were very engaged, enthusiastic, and curious – of course they were, they’re Italian!”

    nyfa italian students

    After graduating from the NYFA program, the students are headed back to Rome where they will work at various industry internships. Most positions are with prominent Italian film production companies, where they will assist in the creation of a wide variety of film projects. The NYFA LA Campus Director, Dan Mackler, was effusive in his praise for the visiting students and stated, “Integrating seamlessly with our large international student community—currently representing nearly 80 countries—the Torno Subito students brought wonderful energy to our school. We expect great film industry success stories to come from these special NYFA alums.”

    NYFA is proud to participate in this program and looks forward to future collaboration with a variety of international partners.

    February 7, 2017 • Community Highlights, Producing • Views: 1752

  • NYFA Brings Digital Storytelling to Liberation Diploma High School

    The Digital Storytelling Program was created to provide filmmaking access to a community that would not have had it otherwise. Over the course of eight weeks, New York Film Academy staff taught filmmaking to high schoolers from Liberation Diploma Plus High School in Coney Island. Each student wrote and directed his or her own short film, which will culminate in a screening this upcoming January 2017.

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    The project aims to create a fun and artistic opportunity for both students and teachers, and more importantly, gives students the opportunity to share their stories and voices through the medium of filmmaking.

    “I believe change begins when those unaffected become just as outraged as the affected,” said Director of Youth Programs, Kenzie Ross. “With programs like this, young people can begin to believe in their voice, their creative mind and their empathy for others through storytelling. Human stories are why we love film so much and why we connect to timeless lessons time and time again. All humans and their stories need to be heard, not just the educated or elite. Art has no boundaries.”

    “I loved the editing classes the most. That was good fun and I probably learned the most in that class,” said one of the high school students, Jamie.

    “I liked the actual shooting of our films and being behind the camera,” added another student, Jay. “If [NYFA] does these classes again we would want to come.”

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    Sadly, at a lot of schools the first thing to go due to budget cuts is the arts program, when in fact it’s so important to allow for creative thinking. “Our focus is not to simply help facilitate the next generation of filmmakers and encourage self expression, but also enable students to develop interpersonal skills they can apply to any aspect of life, through team work, leadership, problem solving, etc,” said NYFA’s Rabia Mirza.

    It’s been an amazing experience working with the wonderful group filmmakers from Liberation Diploma. We look forward to screening their wonderful short films this upcoming January 2017!

    December 30, 2016 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 1922

  • NYFA Grad’s Debut Feature “El Camino” Now Available on Amazon and DVD

    “Being able to attend the program on the historic Universal Studios backlot was a dream come true,” said New York Film Academy Los Angeles 1-Year Filmmaking alumnus Sean Bauer. “I was very young at the time and had no idea of the long journey ahead. I learned a lot of skill sets in that year program, but the biggest takeaway was learning about the power of editing, frame by frame. NYFA taught me to be a great editor and, for the many years after, I was a freelance editor in LA on a wide range of projects.
    sean bauer

    After relocating back to San Diego, Bauer decided to buckle down and get serious about creating his feature film debut. “Screenwriting and directing have always been just as important to me and when Elizabeth Ann Guevara approached me about adapting her true story novel (“Separated by Dreams”) it seemed like the perfect fit,” said Bauer. From there, Guevara and Bauer formed an LLC., and sold a small group of investors on their story. In 2011, they shot the film on a small budget with a group of hardworking cast and crew. Because of the lack of funds, post production on the film was delayed for several years.

    “With my strong editing background, I was able to reshape the film (that we originally set out to make) into a much more compelling piece of cinema. I wore so many hats on this project: writer, director, editor, camera op, stunt double, colorist, the list goes on. There were so many times that we could have permanently shelved this project but pure passion (and my drive to be the best filmmaker I can be) is what got me through the uphill battles.”

    EL CAMINO – OFFICIAL TRAILER from Sean Bauer Films on Vimeo.
    The film, “El Camino” is a character drama about a recovering meth addict whose path to redemption is derailed by a drug fueled past that comes back to haunt him. The existential film that weaves between the past and present, focusing on this inner struggle between these two versions of this character, where the protagonist is also his own antagonist. “It’s an experimentally crafted indie feature with a strong vintage vibe to it, that was inspired by true events and that we made on a micro budget with lots of passion by a dedicated cast and crew,” Bauer said. “It’s a project that I’ve spent the better part of a decade getting made, a movie that taught me how to be a much more creative and tactile filmmaker. I’m incredibly proud of it.

    Bauer has always gravitated toward films about underdogs and stories of redemption. “‘Rocky (‘76)’ definitely came to mind when I was brainstorming how I’d handle the source material. Craig Brewer’s ‘Hustle & Flow’ came out around the time I had started the writing process and that was influential in ways. Re-reading the book and breaking it all down, it was clear to me, at the time, that I had to take a different approach. I had to make it my own, so it spoke to my sensibilities. So I focused the entire film on the first quarter of the book, cherry picked elements from that section and added in some much needed conflict that would make it cinematically compelling. Taking the character of Miguel, a character written from the point of view of a hazy dream and grounding him in the real world as flesh and blood, it allowed the novel and the film to speak on their own terms while at the same time being tied together, thematically. It really is a one-of-a-kind adaptation.

    el camino

    Bauer is now in the process of writing a few different screenplays, including a follow up to “El Camino.” Bauer says it’s a theoretical film that will explore the concept of alternate realities, told in a similar fashion to how “El Camino” shifts between past and present.

    “It’s also a film rooted around the creation of music and a film that will showcase the rarest of vinyl record collecting, which is a personal hobby of mine,” Bauer added. “It will share some thematic similarities to ‘El Camino,’ but where ‘El Camino’ has this run ’n gun documentary aesthetic to it, this follow up film will flow in a smoother direction.”

    “El Camino” is now available on VOD through Amazon Prime as well as on DVD. Go to ElCaminoMovie.com for more info.

    December 14, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1856

  • NYFA LA Welcomes Special Guest Eric Goldberg, Disney Animator: “Moana”

    On Wednesday, Nov. 16, legendary Disney animator Eric Goldberg brought an exclusive preview of Disney’s latest project, “Moana” to New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. The chair of animation, Mark Sawicki, moderated the event.

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    Goldberg’s career is extensive. He’s worked on classic animated television shows such as “Looney Tunes” and “The Simpsons.” His work at Disney includes supervising the dance sequences in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” and serving as supervising animator for the Genie in “Aladdin.” His specialty is 2D animation. For “Moana,” he oversaw the animation of Mini Maui, the mobile tattoo of Dwayne Johnson’s larger-than-life Maui.

    The theater was filled with animation and game design students both eager to hear from someone with over 25 years in the business and excited to catch a sneak peak of “Moana.” Goldberg did not disappoint in either area, treating students to over an hour of behind-the-scenes footage — including messages from the cast and crew, works in progress, and clips from the film.

    Many students wanted to know how 2D animators could survive in a 3D animation world. Goldberg assured students that the fundamentals wouldn’t be disappearing from animation anytime soon. “I always encourage people to look at the principals,” he stated, “They’ve held together for 100 years.” Mock up, character design, and landscaping are still all animation jobs that are originally drawn by hand.  “It’s about creating characters people can identify with. It’s a blend of both sensibilities: theatric and artistic.”

    Walt Disney Animation Studios' artist Jin Kim showcases the look of the title character in the upcoming adventure "Moana." Says director Ron Clements, “Moana is a vibrant, tenacious 16-year-old growing up on an island where voyaging is forbidden. But Moana has been drawn to the ocean since she can remember and is desperate to find out what’s beyond the confines of her island.” Directed by Clements and John Musker and featuring the voice of Native Hawaiian newcomer Auli'i Cravalho in the title role, "Moana" opens nationwide on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

    ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

    For those hopefuls trying to get into Disney, Goldberg had some additional advice. “Disney is always looking for talent.” He suggests going to the Disney website and looking at the portfolio requirements. He also suggests a tactic that he called “observe and caricature” to up one’s game. “How can you identify a friend in a crowd from behind and 20 yards away?” Goldberg asked.  “It’s their walk. You know how they carry their weight. How they walk when they’re sad or mad.” Goldberg suggests practicing nailing those walks and gestures in order to improve basic skills.

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    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Goldberg for sharing his wealth of knowledge with humor and humility. NYFA would also like to thank Tova Laiter for bringing this presentation to the school.

    “Moana” will be in theaters near you on Nov. 23, 2016.

    November 18, 2016 • Guest Speakers • Views: 1913

  • A Talk with NYFA Alumna Bayan Yerimbet

    YerimbetNYFA alumna, Bayan Yerimbet is a well-known producer in Kazakhstan, as well as a businesswoman, wife and mother of two. She has a very creative family. She has worked on two feature projects with her husband, Askar Bissembin, who is a filmmaker and producer. Her sister, Bota Yerimbet, is a screenwriter and director; and her brother, a 19-year-old student who studies marketing, Darmukhamed Yerimbet, was recently invited to make a teaser music video for a film that will soon be released. Bayan Yerimbet found a moment to tell us about her creative family, and how she manages her time for both family and work.

    Bayan, you started out working in the banking sector. What made you decide to work in the film industry? 

    Oh, it’s a very interesting story. I have a law degree. I worked in a law field, and my last job was in the bank. I felt I had reached the highest position at bank that I could at that time, and I thought that I wanted something in my life to change. I realized that I liked both law and film. So I started my research, and then found that these two spheres are crossed in producing. I found it interesting, and we started to look for a film school to study at. We wanted to know how to create a movie, and that’s how it started.

    Your film “The Wedding for Three Persons” was very successful in Kazakhstan. What are you working on currently?

    It was my first film. The second one is “Nauryz.KZ,” and it’s in the post-production phase. It will be released in March because it is dedicated to the national holiday, Nauryz – which means Kazakh New Year. I can say that it is the story about love, spring and the awakening of nature! My husband is the director and I am a producer on this film.

    Is it easy for you to share the set with your husband?

    I realized that it is very difficult. We knew that we would work together on our first project, because we both liked the thesis film that I was developing when I was a NYFA student. But this second film was an order from investors; they found us and paid for it. Our friends sponsored our first film; you know the rule of the three F’s- only Friends, Family or Fools will sponsor your first project. It was more difficult to work with our second film. Even with my husband, we had more responsibility. There were different situations, but we made it. I can say that if you have strong relationships, you can do anything. It is hard, but possible; we passed this exam (laughs).

    Yerimbet and husband

    Can you tell us the secret of how you have time for everything? You have two children, work in the film industry with your husband, and run your production studio.

    I honestly don’t know. I have to do it. Of course it is difficult. You have to be in constant movement because, with children, everyone needs you both at home and at work. There is no secret. You must do everything and be an active person.

    From the time my daughter was three years old, she has been involved in the film industry. We took her to the US where she spent a lot of time on set and played in the movies. But, most of all, my daughter likes to write. She wrote some stories. We’re planning to publish them one day, following her desire to become an author. And maybe she will find it interesting to write screenplays when she’s older and will become a screenwriter, like her parents.

    You studied in the Producing program at NYFA, and your husband studied in the Filmmaking program. Please tell us about your favorite teachers, and what has changed in your life after graduating from NYFA?

    We were looking for a film school in Los Angeles, because this city is the heart of the film industry. We knew the New York Film Academy representative in our native city in Kazakhstan. It was easy for us to discuss our enrollment and to learn more about the school. We were surprised, but everything was arranged in the best way and we received the state grant for the school. We realized that NYFA was what we needed.

    I cannot say that some teachers are better than others; they are all good. I liked Raf Green, he taught us writing for TV. I liked his way of explaining materials. I would also like to speak, separately, about the Director, Dan Mackler. He is great. He helped me with my thesis film when I had some location problems. Dan solved this problem over night. It sounds strange, but there are no limits in America. Students may ask teachers for help, and NYFA instructors are always ready to give you time.

    Everything changed after graduation. My rhythm and lifestyle were changed. Previously, I had a job with a strict schedule, but now I live with the creative process day and night. The film industry doesn’t adhere to strict rules and regulations. It’s not the routine work I had before. Now, I have more creativity. Everything is more interesting. We have more friends and more interests. Everything has become better in our lives. We became more confident and we use this knowledge.

    Yerimbet nyfa

    What are your plans for the future?

    We will shoot films not only in Kazakhstan, but also in other countries. My husband shot four projects here; I want to expand our territory. The world is large; there are a lot of sets. I want to make a feature film in another country, maybe in Russia, the US, Canada and so on. I would like to have more experience. We need to go and try to do more.

    Also, as you already know, my sister, Bota Yerimbet, graduated from the NYFA Filmmaking Program in 2012. And we have an idea to come up with a collaborative project in the near future.

    New York Film Academy thanks Bayan Yerimbet very much for her time. We wish her success in her creative career.

    November 14, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1963

  • NYFA Works with Korean Producers and Directors Educational Institute at Youtube LA

    On Tuesday, October 25th, the New York Film Academy helped bring cultures together by working alongside the Korean Producers and Directors Educational Institute (KPDE) at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles. The producers traveled to America to learn about the American style of development, streaming, and television audiences.

    youtube la

    The tour of YouTube Space included all the highlights. In the first studio, they visited there was a podium with a mock presidential seal at the far end of the room. This set was housed in one of the smaller studios, but the group had fun pretending to address the nation.

    The next studio they visited was the largest in the building. Studio one is decked out with a hanging light rig, sound absorbing floors, and a three hundred and sixty-degree catwalk. Sets that have been housed in this space include half an airplane and a two-story hotel.

    youtube la

    Other highlights of the trip include the gear room which holds a RED Dragon, a green screen room where Weezer shot a music video and the control room where live streams are produced.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank YouTube Space for hosting us and the Korean Producers and Director’s Educational Institute. If you’d like to learn more about YouTube Space LA and their various locations around the world click here.

    November 8, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1486

  • Roskino Talks Russian Cinema at NYFA LA

    On Friday, October 28, 2016, New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus hosted Roskino, a Russian-based organization that works alongside the government to promote an international image of Russian cinema. With the goal of Hollywood level production, combined with Russian storytelling, Roskino is the only company of its kind in Russia.

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    Roskino showcased two of Russia’s strongest films; a short film titled The Boy, and a historically based feature, The Duelist. The Duelist was shot entirely in St. Petersburg. Writer/ Director, Vlad Kozlov, and actor, Petr Fedorov, were in attendance to speak with students about their work.

    One student asked Fedorov what he looks for in a director. Federov replied, “They need to know what they want, and they shouldn’t be afraid of me.”

    A NYFA alumnus wanted to know how much of historic St. Petersburg was actually on screen. “We had some computer graphics, but most of what you’re seeing is real,” Fedorov explained. In the film, the streets are caked in layers of mud. Dirt was brought in by the truckload and watered down once it reached set. Horses were brought in and allowed to wander the set and make it to their home.

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    “It’s one thing when the actor is trying to imagine. It’s another thing when it’s all there,” Fedorov continued. “Actors should respect the work that happens before they get to set. You are responsible for every frame.”

    The conversation shifted to the hope for the future of Russian cinema. Kozlov said, “I hope, in the future, Russian films will be shown all over the world. It will happen soon and we will be the best.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Petr Fedorov, Vlad Kozlov, and all the hands at Roskino who made this event possible. The Duelist will be released in select theaters on December 2, 2016. If you’d like to learn more about the films of Russia you can follow Roskino here.

    November 4, 2016 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 2494

  • NYFA Australia GC Grad’s Music Video Featured on MTV

    Damian Lang is a graduate of the New York Film Academy Australia, Gold Coast. His digital dialogue, “Diamond In The Rough,” has just come off its festival run, screening at four festivals and winning Best Student Short at the Colorado International Film Festival. Damian’s music video production for Gold Coast based DJ duo “Bombs Away” is also currently featured on MTV.

    Damian Lang

    Damian says that NYFA helped prepare him for the real world of the industry through its hands-on approach. “As a filmmaking student, we were constantly creating and learning while performing multiple roles in a film-like environment,” he explains.

    Currently working as a Locations Production Assistant on the latest Marvel feature shooting at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast, Australia, Damian is also in post production for his latest music video produced for New Zealand rock-band “Mi-Sex,” as well as for his latest short-film entitled “The First Step.”

    damian lang

    His advice to aspiring filmmakers is that “no one gets a free ride, the choices you make will define you.”

    Check out Damian’s work on the latest music video for “Bombs Away” on MTV Australia’s website, by clicking here

    October 26, 2016 • Entertainment Australia, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1572