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!
Born 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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.”
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!
“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.
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.
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.