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  • NYFA South Beach Instructor Daniel Abrusci Wins Gold Promax Award

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    New York Film Academy is excited to share that Filmmaking instructor Daniel Abrusci has won a Gold Promax Award for outstanding achievement in sound design and mixing on the Cbeebies segment Christmas Lights for BBC Latin America. 

    The Promax Awards are the world’s premier celebration of outstanding achievement in entertainment marketing and design, honoring teams of creatives harnessing passionate fandom to drive audiences, create value, and build the biggest brands in entertainment.

    The one-minute animation Abrusci worked on in his home studio was extremely heavy in sound design. “When working with animation, sound design plays a huge role because there’s no audio to start with,” he explained. “I edited three different pieces of music into a one-minute spot in order for the music to be dynamic and help boost holiday emotions.”

    The South Beach instructor had to recreate the ambiance needed for the TV spot to feel a bit more realistic, adding in stylistic sound elements to elevate the story visually. “There’s plenty of creativity involved due to the fact that a lot of these actions might sound different in real life,” shared Abrusci. “Once we have all the different sound design, voiceover, and music elements, mixing is all about making things stand out and giving everything character and space in the frequency spectrum.” Essentially, sound mixing in itself plays an important role in fully forming a character, space, or idea.

    NYFA instructor Daniel Abrusci

    Abrusci urges anyone who is looking to hone their craft to “keep practicing” as it’s practice, trial, and error that allow you to master your skills. “The more time you put into something, the better you’ll become at it. Stay passionate and make it happen!”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Daniel Abrusci on his outstanding achievement and looks forward to what’s next from the talented South Beach faculty member. 

    To view the Christmas Lights spot, view the video below. 

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    February 25, 2021 • Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, South Beach • Views: 1167

  • NYFA Alum Uzair Merchant Works on CW’s “Superman & Lois”

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    Uzair Merchant has worked on some of the biggest franchises in the world. From Skyfall and Star Trek: Beyond to Fast & Furious 7 and Deadpool 2, Merchant has had an impressive roster of work, including his own personal projects, with his latest work displayed in the highly-anticipated CW series Superman & Lois.

    Poster for “Superman & Lois” (CW)

    Taking the lead from its own universe of Superman (Supergirl, Smallville, and Superman: The Animated Series), The CW is back with Superman & Lois, a spin-off series of Supergirl that follows Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) reprising their respective roles.

    Not much is known about how the series will play out, but it will feature Superman and Lois’ kids Jonathan and Jordan as they return to Smallville and are reacquainted with Lana Lang and her family.

    NYFA alum Uzair Merchant

    Filmmaking alum Uzair Merchant worked as the Assistant Art Director on the series, bringing the show to life through means of concept art, graphics, set design, props, builds, and construction. “Working on Superman & Lois has been pretty awesome I must say,” shared Merchant. “It’s lovely to dive into the Warner Bros. and DC Universe.”

    The show, which is still finishing up filming the first season, faced the added challenge of filming during the COVID-19 pandemic and had to adapt to and implement new COVID-safe protocols. “The crew [on Superman & Lois] is great and that’s something I always look for in a production. We’ve had COVID-19 procedures, which is what makes this production special being able to do all of this in the restrictions, but that’s been the challenge.”

    In addition to his work on Superman & Lois, the NYFA alum has done everything from commercials, corporate films, features, TV shows, music videos, and more.

    “The ability to build worlds and tell stories that can directly affect and influence people, cultures or voices was something that’s always fascinated me about filmmaking,” shared Merchant.

    “Coming to New York Film Academy to study film was a dream,” he revealed when asked about his time at NYFA. “I also wanted to experience studying traditional film, not just digital. Future students should come with an open mind and heart to dive into an unknown world, it’s important to immerse yourself into places out of your comfort zone. That’s why it’s film school. Experiment, explore and be honest with your art.”

    What’s next for the alum? Merchant has also worked on the upcoming film The Misfits, starring Pierce Brosnan, Tim Roth, and Jamie Chung. The alum has also been developing an entire universe over the last decade called Kreativ Universe from his company the Kri8.labs. Part of that cinematic universe will include Merchant’s script Black Rose that won multiple screenwriting awards and is currently in pre-production. Merchant is also producing a music track for the film called “Star Dust.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Uzair Merchant for his outstanding work on Superman & Lois and looks forward to hearing more about the Filmmaking alum’s upcoming personal projects. Superman & Lois will premiere tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on The CW.

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  • Akinola Davies Jr. Awarded Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance For Film “Lizard”

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Akinola Davies Jr. has won big at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize for his film Lizard.

    Sundance announcement of “Lizard” winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize

    The film was written by Davies and his brother Wale Davies, and was backed by BBC Film and producer Rachel Dargavel. Lizard follows an eight-year-old girl, Juwon, who has the ability to sense danger. After getting ejected from a Sunday school service, Juwon witnesses the underbelly in and around a Mega Church in Lagos, Nigeria. In addition to the Sundance win, the film was also nominated for an ALFS Award by the London Critics Circle Film Awards.

    Film poster for “Lizard”

    Davies has previously made short films Zazzau and Unity Is Strength. The UK-Nigerian filmmaker is known for his exploration of themes of community, race, spirituality, identity, and gender. Ultimately, through his work in film and music videos, Davies aims to navigate the collision of both colonial and imperial tradition, whilst advocating a return to indigenous narratives. His next slated project will be sci-fi film X Us.

    NYFA alum Akinola Davies Jr.

    “I’m overwhelmed and as much as I’d love to gloat, filmmaking is really crazy hard,” shared Davies on his Instagram after the winners were announced in a virtual ceremony. “Big love to all those who were part of the shorts program – it’s an honour to be amongst such brilliant films. I have to say this award is really for the whole cast and crew who worked so hard and committed their all to this little film pre and during a global pandemic. I’m so proud this was made in Lagos by the many hands that make up the beautiful people of Nigeria.”

    To view the full list of Sundance Film Festival winners, click here.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Akinola Davies Jr. on his important Grand Jury win at Sundance for his short film Lizard and looks forward to seeing the film’s impact and Davies’ upcoming projects.

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  • NYFA Alum Irene Mendez on Film Sustainability and a UN Campaign to Change The Film Production Landscape

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    Spanish producer Irene Mendez has always been interested in visual storytelling. With her degree in communications coupled with her education from NYFA’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, Mendez is seeking change in the production space, aiming to make all media projects more sustainable across the industry. 

    Coming to NYFA, Mendez knew it would give her a new perspective on film production. “I’ve always thought it is essential to know and understand how movies are made in different countries, and I saw in NYFA the opportunity to do so,” she shared. “NYFA has some of the best professionals teachers, including instructors who have won BAFTAs and have been in some of the most important film festivals.”

    NYFA alum Irene Mendez

    From her time at NYFA, Mendez has learned that preproduction is the most essential part of any project. “Work before you get to the set. Study every possibility that might happen once you are filming,” she emphasized. “Be ready for any inconvenience. It is so vital to plan what might happen and be prepared for any kind of problem. It is funny cause it’s actually the same advice I will give to anyone who wants to make a more sustainable film.”

    Mendez first got involved in sustainability in filmmaking after attending Madrid’s Another Way Film Festival in Madrid, which focused on sustainable progress in filmmaking. “I realized that we can do much more. There are many things we can change to create the same entertainment content in a much better way,” urged Mendez. “We can tell the same great stories without hurting the planet and its future. Even more, we can help to be part of the change.”

    Mendez is now involved with Fiction Changing the World, an organization that specializes in sustainable audiovisual productions, working both in reducing the negative impact of productions and creating fiction and entertainment formats that convey important info about sustainable development to the viewers. “There is a lot of things that we can do when we work on a project to reduce the negatives impacts and create good ones. Not only on how we do things but also in how we tell the stories and entertain.”

    This past year, Mendez worked with Fiction Changing the World on a UN campaign to show the world that a new way to make content is possible. “Being part of the UN campaign and seeing Paloma Andres and Rhoda N. Wainwright (Founders of Fiction Changing the World) speak beside people with innovative ideas and famous names as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), makes you understand that we are not alone. There is a lot of people trying to be part of the change. Thousands of unique ideas can help us all to do our bit.”

    Fiction Changing the World has also started their campaign The Dante Movement, which focuses on creating fictional media that will inspire sustainable action and change in the world among others to do their part. “Documentaries are a wonderful way to bring attention to different topics, but they have a couple of problems when it comes to reaching the general public,” shared Mendez when asked why the fictional format is a better medium for the campaign as opposed to documentary filmmaking. 

    Irene Mendez on set

    “They [documentaries] often focus on particular topics, which is fine, but it is more difficult to get millions of people interested in very a specific issue. Also, documentaries are not always the first choice of entertainment for the general public. On the other hand, fiction is a format that is consumed by everyone on the planet; it leaves no one out. It is a more global and entertaining way to send a message and to educate and raise awareness.”

    “For example, I would dare to say that the vast majority of Spaniards of my generation know that water rotates in a different direction in each hemisphere thanks to an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart travels to Australia,” Mendez said. “Fiction is a way to reach every home. We all get motivated watching the Avengers fighting together against Thanos. In our universe, we can all unite to fight our own common enemy.”

    Though The Dante Movement is focused on fictional stories to get the message across to viewers, Fiction Changing the World still allows for other formats to be used to reach different people, like documentaries. In addition to working with the organization, Mendez has also been working on the TV series Foundation for Apple TV+ here in Spain, but what Mendez expressed she is most proud of is producing the first certified Positive Carbon Footprint spot for Greenpeace

     

    “This proves that it is possible to create sustainable content. We had to think from the script in how to make it more environmentally friendly way,” shared Mendez. “I had several meetings with the screenwriters and the production company to explain to them what are the points that make a film create more or fewer carbon emissions and what makes more negative impacts. They quickly understood what was needed and realized that thinking in a sustainable way doesn’t have to compromise the project’s creativity.” 

    As a lover of making films and the environment, Mendez is an advocate for change in the industry, working to make sets reduce their negative impact on the environment from issues like not recycling properly and consuming more on set than necessary. “The reality is that there are many more things we aren’t doing right. The material we use to build a set, the fabric to sew amazing costumes, and the places we choose to use as scenarios are decisions we can make to reduce the negative impact of production,” she explained. “Our responsibility as filmmakers is not solely to entertain, but also to inform and inspire our audiences. We have the power to reach every single soul, and we should use it.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Irene Mendez for taking the time to share more about the sustainability movement that is taking place on sets all over the world. With the urgency to act, filmmakers like Irene can continue to make a difference and be agents for change across the industry. NYFA looks forward to seeing what’s next from the alum and to hear more updates on Mendez’s mission for film sustainability. 

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  • NYFA Alum Boise Esquerra’s “Blackwater” Screens at 2021 Slamdance Film Festival

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    Known both as a festival “by filmmakers, for filmmakers” and for its Oscar-qualifying short film awards, the Slamdance Film Festival has long been a mecca for emerging independent directors. This year NYFA alum Boise Esquerra, a graduate of the Los Angeles campus’s MFA Filmmaking and MFA Screenwriting programs, will be right in the middle of the action when his episodic film Blackwater screens in the virtual festival February 12 – 25, 2021. 

    In the days leading up to the festival Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, caught up with Boise to talk about the personal experience that inspired his series and the importance of filmmakers from diverse backgrounds telling their own stories.

    NYFA alum Boise Esquerra

    Cricket Rumley (CR): Hi, Boise! Congratulations on getting into Slamdance! Tell us a little about yourself.

    Boise Esquerra (BE): I’d be happy to. I am a Native (Hopi) and Mexican American filmmaker enrolled in the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Parker, AZ. I am a recent graduate of the New York Film Academy (MFA Screenwriting) and hold a BA in Digital Filmmaking and Video Production and an additional MFA in Filmmaking from NYFA. I love storytelling, creating, and everything that entails filmmaking from start to finish. Currently, I reside here in lovely Burbank, CA, and am represented by Sandra Avila at Inclusion Management.

    CR: Tell us about your film. What is it about and where does it take place?   

    BE: Blackwater is an episodic pilot about Native American country music star Birdie Blackwater whose career is fizzling due to excessive drinking that began 10 years ago. Upon moving back to her home reservation, barely clinging onto what little dignity she has left, Birdie is arrested for a barrage of drunken charges and lashing out at tribal police officers during a late-night performance. The next day, tribal courts order Birdie to complete 180 days of wellness therapy and intense probation or face two years in prison. Birdie now finds herself contending each week with a group of offbeat individuals who each possess their own…“unique” mental limitations. The story takes place on a fictional Native American reservation call Red Rock. 

    CR: Sounds very powerful. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this story? 

    BE: The inspiration for Blackwater came about in September of 2018… a tough experience. I had started a new class (Transmedia) at the New York Film Academy in Burbank, CA. The ultimate goal of the class: develop, write, and shoot a web series pilot. During the first half of the six-month course, I was given the news that my older brother Brandon had developed cirrhosis of the liver to such a serious extent that he would need a liver transplant. My brother had gotten this condition from depression and extreme alcoholism after the death of our mother in 2015. The additional news I would receive from him is that he would be opting for hospice care and wanted to just go peacefully with family for the remainder of his time. That news, to say the least, was devastating. 

    Shortly after his funeral, I returned to my Transmedia class. The project I had been working on up to that point was scrapped. I wanted to write something I was familiar with. I had felt my brother in my heart moving me to lean into all that I had experienced with drug addiction and dependency. I also wanted to heal from losing him to alcoholism. Thus, I put forward a new proposal to my instructors, which was Blackwater

    CR: Boise, I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain your family must have experienced. It’s truly inspiring how you were able to transform your personal tragedy into a meaningful story, and so quickly. 

    What was it like to direct the film?

    BE: My favorite experience directing Blackwater was working with such a phenomenal cast and crew who brought their A-game to each and every scene both on and off-screen. I mean, this was a set from heaven, and pulling off a thirteen-page script in just one day with minimal time, a skeleton crew, and several different scenes went by like clockwork. Heck, we even had an hour to spare after the whole thing was over! Directing that day was one of the best experiences I ever had on set.

    Kyla Garcia as Birdie Blackwater (“Blackwater”)

    CR: You directed a thirteen-page script in one day? Wow! Dare I ask what was the most challenging thing about making the film? 

    BE: It’s crazy because you usually are anticipating challenges that may or may not arise on the day of production, and they did of course, but they were minor and quickly remedied. No. The challenges here were definitely in the final days leading up to production. You would think that getting a simple location (an empty room) for the group scene would be easy-peasy in LA, but when you’re working with a shoestring budget, a simple task all of a sudden becomes a near impossibility. And that was the case up until the last week of location scouting. We finally locked our location, which was an old American Legion post here in Burbank. It was great because they had everything we needed for each scene! 

    The other difficult part was not in pre-production or production, but actually editing. Here I am, dealing with footage of numerous great takes from each actor/actress and reviewing them over and over. Now, you have to realize, that when you’re dealing with high caliber talent as we had, each throwing you grade-A performances with each take, it is extremely hard to pick the right one! This was mainly the case with our main character, Birdie Blackwater, portrayed by Kyla Garcia. What she brought was gold, I tell ya…GOLD. So for her, sorting through the stuff she gave us and settling on certain clips was by itself a two-month process. Keep an eye on Kyla, SHE IS AMAZING!

    CR: It’s true – Kyla is downright riveting to watch. Besides the editing, what did you learn while making this film?  

    BE: To say I didn’t learn much would be a “shooting myself in the foot” moment and never being able to walk right again, hahaha. I learned a hell of a lot. But I’ll narrow it down to one thing above others, and that was giving my talent the freedom they needed to experiment with their characters and craft on set. There was a lot of ad-libbing, and the more I stepped back and let them have at it, the more they gave. Their performances were elevated, and aside from the few adjustments I gave every now and then, I just kept my mouth shut and steered the ship. I believe this is extremely important because, by the end of any script, these people are going to be the ones who embody this person you wrote, and ultimately bring them to life – and not only the talent, but the entire crew as well. 

    As a director, I realized that you can only hold onto the material for so long before giving it up. You must trust your talent and pass the baton you have and be the coach they need, guiding them from the sideline. Hopefully, if you put in the hard work needed in pre-production and cast the film right, the process will fully evolve on its own. You only need to sit back and enjoy the show at that point. 

    CR: Can you talk about the development process for this pilot and the class you developed it in? 

    BE: Given I had changed my proposal during the six-month Transmedia course, development for Blackwater was done in a three-month period, which is not much time. But…it came very easily to me. The vision for it was clear, so it was really a matter of honing in on what was already in my head. I knew I wanted to do something that was set in a Native American world, and I completely cast with Indigenous talent. This was something I have always wanted to do, I just felt I hadn’t honed in on my craft enough back then. But now it was different. I felt confident enough to give it a try. It was a matter of finding the right, tone, cast, and overall theme, which it turned out to have many. 

    CR: Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who really helped or inspired you?  

    BE: One of the coolest things about the Transmedia 1 & 2 courses at NYFA were instructors Jenni Powell and Chris Modoono. Not only were they extremely wise and easy to talk to, but their guidance was priceless as they were able to get me from concept to a finished pilot. I can’t stress enough about the creative freedom Jenni and Chris gave us in class. I really owe the experience and opportunity to them and to NYFA. 

    CR: That is so cool. You know every teacher’s dream is to inspire and elevate students at the level you just described. 

    Let’s talk about the amazing festival run you’re having with Blackwater.  

    BE: Blackwater has garnered twenty festival selections, five of those being the Austin Film Festival, Slamdance, Nashville Film Festival, Hollyshorts, and Cinequest Film and VR Festival. 

    CR: That is any filmmaker’s dream list! So what are you looking forward to with Slamdance? 

    BE: I hope to get as much positive attention as possible and of course find a potential buyer or investor for continued production. Native American content and storytelling are so important in this day and age — and extremely hard to find. Slamdance is one of those benchmark experiences you constantly take a step back and go “Wow, I did something really cool here” and realize you’re on the right path. I also hope to network virtually and meet many of the talented filmmakers at this year’s festival! 

    Poster for “Blackwater” pilot

    CR: You will definitely have some great opportunities there. Do you have any advice for recent graduates making their way into the professional world?  

    BE: I would say be consistent, persistent, and honest in your work and what it is exactly you want for your future. Filmmaking and its many crafts are a life long pursuit. Pursuing it should make you happy, grateful, and full of good spirit to have such a calling. If it doesn’t, maybe take a step back and re-evaluate. Focus on what you want, whether that is screenwriting, directing (or both), and constantly sharpen your craft and talents in that world every day in some shape or form. Look to each day as an opportunity to move towards that ultimate goal, and eventually one day…you’ll find yourself there. But don’t forget to have fun and relax along the way. Be happy. 

    CR: Those are very wise words. And speaking of wise words, let’s talk about these trying times we live in today. Do you want to share any thoughts about the importance of film in the lives of humans living right now? 

    BE: Well, if I do share anything, it’ll be about the importance of diverse inclusion in today’s film industry and breaking the current mold at hand. And I am speaking specifically to Native American inclusion. Native Americans are perhaps the most underrepresented culture in the film and television industry right now in terms of film and television content, screenwriters, directors, and leading talent. We as Native Americans have been fighting an extremely uphill battle in finding large, fair platforms or opportunities to tell “our own stories,” tell our own history, and voice our own point of view. Since the dawn of cinema, history has been flat-out brutal in our depiction, reducing us to “elk skin and feathers,” mascots, savages, and whatever else the multitude of history books will have you believe. We as a people, as a culture, need to be allowed to write and depict our own stories, our own views, and our own history. Blackwater is one such example out of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States. The time for diverse inclusion is now, and Hollywood needs to comply accordingly. 

    CR: The time is definitely now, and I’m so happy that you and your work are a solution to this lack of diversity in Hollywood.

    So how we can watch your film during Slamdance and see your Q&A? 

    BE: Slamdance is an online format this year, meaning anyone with a computer or smart TV can access it for only ten bucks. Yes… $10. We’re talking the crème of the crop here, people! Although the official schedule of events isn’t out yet, getting your pass now will ensure you do not miss a single screening. All films will be viewable throughout the festival from February 12th – 25th

    Blackwater will be screening in the “Episodes” block with many other awesome filmmakers and their films, and you will also be able to watch our Q&A as a bonus feature. Go to www.slamdance.com now for your ticket! 

    CR: Thanks for stopping by, Boise. Congratulations and best of luck!

    [NOTE: NYFA students can get their festival passes for $5 by using their NYFA email address].

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    February 11, 2021 • Diversity, Entertainment News, Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1499

  • An Unscripted Romance Between NYFA Alumni Camille Lindelien and Niels Lindelien

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    Camille Lindelien and her husband Niels Lindelien met during the Summer of 2005 at NYFA’s Los Angeles Summer Camp Program. Niels was studying Filmmaking and directing while Camille was in the Acting for Film program. 

    I spotted Niels on a balcony staring at Cahuenga Peak and felt like there was something that set him apart from the other students who were all trying hard to fit in with the L.A. ‘scene,’ shared Camille. “He was calm, casual, and in love with the mountains as much as I was.”  

    NYFA alumni Camille Lindelien and Niels Lindelien

    After multiple encounters and helping each other study for their classes at NYFA together, the two became inseparable after that, spending our time helping each other study for our NYFA classes. “We had our first kiss on Dockweiler beach, at the NYFA end of program bonfire.  When it came time to leave camp, we thought we would never see each other again because he lived in Costa Rica, and I lived in New Jersey. Our only hope was that we might be reunited in LA again because of the passion for our crafts.”

    Both Camille and Niels ended up talking on the phone every night for five hours and dating long-distance for 2.5 years. “He even helped me complete my Acting Senior thesis by coaching me across the miles in how to use Final Cut Pro, utilizing the skills we learned at NYFA!  By the time he joined me at Chapman University, we had only seen each other in person for 23 days.  We worked on film sets together in college, just like during our last week at NYFA, and then graduated and went on to work together on professional sets in LA.”

    “Even though it seems like everything went to plan for us on paper, if there was any advice that we would give to current students it’s that life doesn’t go as planned, and fighting against the flow only causes pain. Niels needed to combine both his technical and creative brain, which led him to Steadicam and Cinematography and his current career success and fulfillment.,” shared Camille. “I pursued acting and reached so many of my goals, but after I was hit by an SUV while cycling, I spent my years of recovery re-learning to walk and creating a new business in content creation for brands. I’m happier now working for myself and taking on acting and modeling projects for clients that I choose and projects that support my greater aspirations of environmental stewardship, equality, and human kindness.”

    NYFA alum Niels Lindelien

    Niels is a Cinematographer and Camera Operator specializing in Steadicam, Trinity, underwater, and drone operating. He works on shows for Netflix, Hulu, HBO, as well as feature films, commercials and music videos, such as the 2020 VMA nominated The Weeknd video “Blinding Lights.”  He was recently nominated as Best Cinematographer at the 2020 Youtube Streamy Awards for his work on Lindsey Stirling’s music videos. 

    NYFA alum Camille Lindelien

    Camille is an actress and member of SAGAFTRA, whose career spans television, feature films commercials, and music videos. In 2016 Camille married Niels on the beach where he grew up in Costa Rica, and they went on a honeymoon around the world which helped launch their travel-centric production company Couple a Wanderers Creative. Camille is the Founder and Creative Director at Couple a Wanderers Creative, which focuses on creating content for travel and adventure brands as well as tourism boards. Their production company gives Camille and Niels the opportunity to travel and work together. Camille has created content and run campaigns for Jet Blue, United Airlines, Visit Big Bear, and Cambria Tourism Board, to name a few.  

    You can follow their adventures on Instagram and check out their recently launched brand page @CoupleaWanderersCreative or view their portfolio of brand photography and videography on their website.

    NYFA thanks alumni Camille Lindelien and Niels Lindelien for sharing their unique story about NYFA bringing them together and looks forward to see what these two creatives will get up to next in their careers.

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    February 11, 2021 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1111

  • Filmmaking Alum Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt Attached as Writer For Facebook Watch’s “Woman in The Book” Animated Horror Series

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    Screenwriter and Director Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt grew up in Spain with her musician parents and a grandfather, who directed TV and theater for many years. Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, Gonzalez Szigriszt explored the theater world, eventually finding her way to film and television. From packing her bags in 2011 to study at New York Film Academy to pursuing multiple projects years later, the NYFA alum has now bagged the writing gig for Facebook Watch’s animated horror series Woman in The Book.

    After graduating from NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program in Los Angeles, Gonzalez Szigriszt scored internships in the development departments of Bold Films (Drive, Whiplash, Nightcrawler) and Vendôme Pictures (Source Code, Larry Crowne, What Happened to Monday?). “It was after reading many scripts and writing coverage for the companies that I really fell in love with screenwriting,” gushed Gonzalez Szigriszt. “I wrote my first TV series and got the attention of a manager, which is how I got my first project optioned.”

    After developing more material over the course of a few years, Gonzalez Szigriszt got signed by one of the largest talent agencies in the world, Agency for the Performing Arts (APA). “My agent did a great job sending my scripts out and he got me some good general meetings with production companies,” she shares. “Now I am working on several projects with people that I have admired for so long.”

    She recently penned the first animated horror drama for Facebook Watch (from Crypt TV) called Woman in The Book. “This was an open writing assignment. So, I was going for the job as did many other writers and I was asked to come up with a take on the concept the company had developed and pitch it,” she recalls. “I ended up getting the gig! The show stars Diane Guerrero (DC’s Doom Patrol and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black). It is a LatinX show that uses both English and Spanish and follows three estranged siblings who reunite at an aging Mexican hacienda to discuss their inheritance, but they inadvertently unleash a book-bound horror that has plagued their family for generations. I can’t tell much more as the project has not come out yet. It is set to be released on Facebook Watch some time by the end of next year.”

    Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt

    The alum also has a science fiction TV series coming soon that was just bought by an unnamed big studio with Gonzalez Szigriszt, herself, attached as an executive producer alongside the creators and executive producers of Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. She also has an original sci-fi TV series in the pipeline with producer Lloyd Levin (Hellboy, Watchmen, Lara Croft series), and Gonzalez Szigriszt will also be co-directing a feature film she wrote called Turn. As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she is developing an epic sci-fi animated series with “one of the most amazing Executive Producers in the TV animation world” and is developing a couple of additional projects in Spain

    It’s safe to say that she is booked and busy. Reflecting on all the events leading up to this point in her life, Gonzalez Szigriszt reveals that NYFA is one of the reasons why she was quick to navigate the film business.

    “What NYFA offers, that most of the other film schools don’t, is a hands-on approach to filmmaking. The fast-paced environment (I remember shooting at least one short movie or scene a week), the easy access to equipment and facilities… It all helped classmates and me improve our skills by doing it, not just dreaming it. Having to meet so many deadlines, working fast but without sacrificing any quality…that strengthened the work ethic I apply to any of my projects today.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt for her new writing credit for Facebook Watch’s Woman in The Book and looks forward to the news and releases of her upcoming film and television projects.

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    January 29, 2021 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1491

  • NYFA Alum Rozette Rago Named an Honoree in 2020 Edition of Annual Photographers List

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    She has shot some of your favorite icons from Natalie Portman and Will Smith, to Steven Spielberg and Ryan Coogler, and capturing music icons U2, Metallica, Kanye West, and more. The NYFA Filmmaking alum, Rozette Rago, has had quite the career and she is only getting started, having recently nabbed a spot on the coveted list of “The 30.”

    The 30 is recognized throughout the professional photography industry as a “go-to” outlet to discover some of the best photographers in the world and serves as a platform to elevate emerging photographers growing their careers. Each year, The 30 are selected through a nomination and jurying process that includes the input of established photographers, photo editors, art directors, curators, and other industry leaders that are cultivated by Photo District News Magazine.

    Rago attended an 8-Week NYFA Filmmaking program in 2010 and has since gone on to shoot for The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, Vanity Fair, The FADER, HBO, A+E Networks, Rolling Stone, and many more. She has also been profiled by CNN and Masterpiece for her body of work and has been hailed by Culture Photo Editor at The Times as “one of those photographers who elevates the ordinary,”

    NYFA alum used for U2’s promotional materials (Photo by Rozette Rago)

    After arriving on the scene in Los Angeles, Rago shot for bands like U2, Interpol, and Metallica, which then allowed her to leverage her portfolio to get a job as a photo editor at Time Out Los Angeles. For the past three years, she’s been a photo editor at Wirecutter in addition to contributing to other publications and networking with other women in the industry. She’s a member of groups including Authority Collective, Women Photograph, and Diversify Photo.

    Steven Spielberg (Photo by Rozette Rag0)

    The Filipino-American photographer shared with The 30 that she is grateful for the path that she has taken and shares it has “landed me exactly where I want to be,” with a career that has captured stories, scenes from music, performers, and more.

    The cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” and Director Jonathan Chu by Rozette Rago

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Rozette Rago on her incredible journey and for the well-deserved recognition by her peers on being named in The Annual 30 Photographers List.

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  • NYFA Alumni Majid Al Ansari and Razanne Jammal Involved in Netflix Original Series “Paranormal”

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    Not one, but two alumni are involved in Netflix’s first series to accommodate deaf and blind viewers for Arabic Netflix. NYFA Filmmaking alum Majid Al Ansari directs three episodes of the new series, with actress and NYFA alum Razanne Jammal starring as lead character Maggie Mckillop.

    Film poster for ‘Paranormal’

    Ma Waraa al-Tabea (in Arabic) or “Paranormal” in English, premiered on November 5, 2020, and marks Egypt’s first original series in addition to being the first Arabic Netflix series to accommodate deaf and blind viewers.

    The series is based on Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s thrilling book series about doctor Refaat Ismail, a cynical doctor whose lifelong scientific convictions are suddenly called into question. The Egyptian author’s critically acclaimed novels in Arabic have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.

    NYFA alum Razanne Jammal in ‘Paranormal’

    Razanne Jammal attended NYFA’s 4-Week Acting for Film program in 2009 and has since built up a successful acting career, starring alongside Liam Neeson in A Walk Among the Tombstones and starring in Robert Guédiguian’s Don’t Tell Me The Boy Was Mad, which premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. She now plays Maggie Mckilop in Paranormal, Refaat’s university colleague who enters the paranormal world to protect those around her from danger.

    Majid Al Ansari at a panel for Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX

    Director Majid Al Ansari attended NYFA’s 2-Year Filmmaking Conservatory program and went on to have his debut feature film Zinzana (“Rattle The Cage”) have its world premiere at Fantastic Fest and its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. Zinzana was subsequently picked up and eventually sold to Netflix as the first Arab film acquisition after the streaming giant branched out to the Middle East. He has director credits for three episodes of the Netflix thriller Paranormal.

    Still from ‘Paranormal’

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Alumni Razanne Jammal and Majid Al Ansari for their involvement on Paranormal and encourages everyone to check out the new series if it is available in their country and looks forward to what’s next from the NYFA graduates.

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  • NYFA Acting for Film Alum George Carson on the Challenges and Rewards From Creating His First Feature Film ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

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    It can be tough and challenging to create any kind of film for the first time, but especially your first feature film. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum George Carson caught up with NYFA to discuss what it was like to create his first feature film GetMeLovedUp.com and gave realistic insight into the challenging, but rewarding, process of filmmaking.

    NYFA Acting for Film alum George Carson

    Carson retired from the UK Fire and Rescue service in early 2015. It was then that he decided to pursue a professional career in acting and filmmaking. After studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and pursuing other workshops, Carson realized he wanted to specifically tap into Acting for Film. “I was already aware of NYFA but at that time never dreamed I would go there. I was over the moon to be accepted a year before I was due to retire and  I couldn’t wait to get away from the Fire Service and live in NYC,” shared Carson.

    While at NYFA, Carson recalls bonding with many of his classmates and how they made the short film The Evanescence while at school together. “The whole NYFA experience was just fantastic,” shared Carson. “The instructors had a wealth of real-life experience, unlike some ‘Drama’ teachers who have never been outside a classroom. The facilities were great and the interaction of the Actors course working with the Filmmaking course meant we had a whole bunch of new friends and collaborators.”

    Film poster for ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

    Carson’s latest film and first feature, GetMeLovedUp.com, which he wrote, directed, produced, and acted in, has been submitted to various film festivals around the world and has already received several awards. The film follows lead characters Sharon and Kevin, who find themselves under pressure from friends and family to find a partner and sign up for an internet dating site. 

    “The inspiration was easy. I had been chatting to a friend in Glasgow one night and she told me about a particularly awful story that had happened to her on a date via an online dating agency,” explained Carson. “We then both shared funny stories about people we had met on these dates. I joked that I should write a film about it and a few months later the script was finished.”

    Carson shared that he had a vision for how he wanted to block the film (image below):

    But don’t let the blocking fool you. The wedding (Seen above) is not actually the lead couple. “For the film, I tried to make sure I avoided all the usual clichés,” shared Carson.

    On the challenges of making a feature film, Carson shared that it can be very different from making a short film. “The casting alone was a far bigger challenge than I imagined it would be. It took months and a considerable amount of time to cast the roles. It is an immense job,” he explained.

    George Carson blocking the scene for ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

    The NYFA alum funded the entire film himself, so the project was working on a microbudget to produce the film and ensure the cast and crew got paid. “It meant having to do all the work ourselves. Meticulous planning and preparation were required at every step otherwise money would be wasted.” 

    Also an actor in the film, Carson shared that understanding the skills needed in front of the camera is just as important for directors to understand as well as actors. “Giving direction is all about clear communication with everyone,” shared Carson. “I don’t think a director necessarily needs a deep understanding of the actor’s craft, but there does need to be an understanding of the skill and directors need to be able to communicate clearly what they would like the actor to do performance-wise. Every word in every line can be delivered in about a million different ways.”

    “For example, the line ‘I will really miss you.’ The director has to let the actor know what they are looking for here. Will the character really miss them or is the character glad they’re leaving?

     

    An actor can say, ‘I will really miss you’ to a character on-screen with great meaning but, at the same time, the director can let the audience know that they actually hate the other character. It is this quality that a director has to tap into.”

    As for what incoming NYFA students should tap into when coming to study at NYFA, Carson says it’s all about studying, working, and learning from yourself and by others the mistakes that are made along the way. “There are very few overnight success stories. Acting and Directing are skills that can be taught and learned. Do the work and don’t worry about failing. Just get on with it. I could talk to you and show you YouTube videos about how to drive a car. But you still need to take the keys and get into that car and drive for yourself to be able to learn how to actually do it.” 

    Behind the scenes of ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

    The NYFA alum is set to appear in a few upcoming films that have been halted due to the Coronavirus pandemic and shared that GetMeLovedUp.com is expected to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray soon. The film can currently be found on Reveel.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Filmmaking alum George Carson on his outstanding achievement of first feature film GetMeLovedUp.com and encourages everyone to check out the film when it becomes available and for upcoming projects from the Filmmaking alum.

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    October 27, 2020 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1261