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  • The Power of Music: Being Part of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Glee Club

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Glee Club is an extracurricular club that not only affords NYFA students another way to express themselves artistically, but brings them together and bonds them through a joint love of music and song.Glee Club Summer 2018

    Sunny Amara, a member of the Glee Club for six semesters and its current choreographer, calls being in the club “a new, exciting, thrilling experience every time. There’s nothing I love more than taking the stage and performing my heart out. The Glee Club has been a perfect place for that. It’s just so much fun.”

    Amara also echoes the sentiment shared by many in the Glee Club, that “the basis of Glee Club is a love of music, a love of singing and a love of performing that we get to share with audiences. And to me, that’s tops.”

    Amara adds, “Watching my choreography come to life with these beautiful, singing souls is an experience unparalleled by any. We work hard in rehearsals getting the music and dances to their best, then we get to pour our hearts out on that stage. There’s nothing better than that to me.”

    These sentiments aren’t just felt by Amara, but by many of the members of the NYFA Glee Club. Lara Heine is studying for her BFA in Acting at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus and is also a member of the club. After a performance at the end of last summer, Heine put her thoughts into words, writing the following piece, entitled “The Power of Music”:

    Music and Dance is like therapy for many people. It eases your soul and spreads happiness.

    At least that is how I always felt. As acting students, we are constantly on the go and expected to give our all. On very rare occasions we get something rewarded.

    That is why I chose to sign up for the Glee Club. To give and receive in return. 

    This semester was filled with a lot of talented and driven people and putting on a performance with them was an honor for me. Melissa Sullivan, our teacher, created an amazing lineup of thoughtful chosen group and solo pieces.

    Glee Club Summer 2018Most of us didn’t know each other when we met for our first rehearsal. Over the span of a few short weeks, we rehearsed some of the most challenging musical theatre pieces. We ended up growing, as a group and as people.

    Musical theatre is not always easy. The pressure to be a triple threat is high. When we were doubting ourselves, Melissa would listen and help us to see the positive and move past it.

    On the night of the performance our nerves were blank. During the final rehearsal, everyone was anxious and worried about different pieces and organizational things. The decorations kept falling of the walls and some of the choreography looked funky. Funnily enough, I was never worried if we were going to be able to pull it off. I just knew I was surrounded by so much talent and creativity that whatever happened, we would be fine. 

    And that was the case. Despite some doubts and worries, we went on stage and performed the hell out of it. As they say: “The show must go on.”

    The audience was blown away. They loved every single one of us. I could tell. The choreography was suddenly remembered by everyone, and the harmonies of all the group pieces were completely pitch-free. We all loved every second of it. We gave our heart and received so much love by the audience. All the hard work paid off. It was an awesome result after one semester of a lot of rehearsing. 

    Thank you to everyone who made this performance so amazing. And a special shoutout to Melissa, who has been our sunshine throughout the whole time.

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    November 12, 2018 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights, Student Life • Views: 749

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students Respond to AMPAS Careers in Film Summit

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    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), home of the Oscars, hosted a delegation of New York Film Academy (NYFA) students on Saturday, October 6, 2018, when they attended the 4th Annual Careers in Film Summit. With panelists such as the producer of Crazy Rich Asians, the music editor of A Quiet Place, and the production manager of Black-ish, students got insight into the wide range of careers available to them in the film industry. NYFA caught up with several members of the delegation and asked what they thought of the event: 

    Career Summit Blog

    “This was my first time going to the Oscars’ headquarters, and it was an amazing experience. The panels were very inspiring and all the professionals who spoke shared their experiences about how they got to be where they are today, which was very motivational for me as a person looking to build my name and career in the film industry. Also, it was great to see Brazil being represented by Renato dos Anjos, who is the Head of Animation at Disney Animation.”
    –Gabriela Ono, Fall 17 MFA Producing

    “It was an inspirational experience, not only because we learned from very different departments, but also because these are people that have years of experience in the film industry and have noticed the change in the industry. The person that inspired me the most was Rachel Morrison, not only because she was on stage with her newborn baby, but also because she’s always that woman that is always leading a crew of men, which talks about equality, opportunities and, of course, female power.”
    –Inés de los Santos, Fall 2017 MFA Screenwriting

    Rachel Morrison - Career Summit Blog

    Oscar-nominated Rachel Morrison (Black Panther, Mudbound)

    “I thoroughly enjoyed the Careers in Film Summit! Each panel shared some of their work and experience, which is always inspiring. I learned that there are countless paths to go down in this industry, which is encouraging! I think the point of the summit is: there’s something for everyone to do in filmmaking, and it is ultimately a collaborative effort!”
    –Harrison Misfeldt, Spring 2016 BFA Film 1B

    “I’m so happy and honored to have been part of NYFA’s Academic Delegation. I loved hearing the panelists’ insights, and I so very much enjoyed being amongst my peers.”
    –Nestor Sierra, Fall 2017 BFA Acting for Film

    “Being at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences event, hearing from the speakers — each with years of experience in the movie business — really got my blood pumping to be in this industry. Getting to hear how these professionals worked their way to their positions was both informative and inspirational. Can’t wait for the next one.”
    –Miskar Chomse, Summer 17 MFA Acting

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    November 9, 2018 • Community Highlights, Student Life • Views: 757

  • Q&A With Comedian and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Aubree Sweeney

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    On Monday, October 22, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum Aubree Sweeney returned to campus to perform a stand-up comedy set followed by a Q&A with NYFA screenwriting instructor, Eric Conner.Aubree Sweeney

    Sweeney earned a master’s degree in screenwriting at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. After graduated NYFA’s screenwriting school, she studied with the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational comedy theater and training center in Hollywood; from there, she transitioned to stand-up comedy and now she is a nationally touring comedian. Sweeney continues to build her theatre resume and has been part of several television commercials.

    Conner opened up the Q&A by asking Sweeney’s advice for aspiring comedians. “If stand-up is something you wanna do, just go hit as many open mics as you can,” Sweeney said, “and just keep getting onstage until you feel comfortable.” Sweeney shared that her background as a dancer and a baton-twirler for football games at the University of Arizona helped her with confidence.

    Conner then inquired about Sweeney’s writing process. “Write it, rewrite it, rewrite it again, again, again, don’t look at it for a couple weeks — maybe a semester,” explained Sweeney.

    Aubree SweeneyShe continued, “Write it again, polish it, then you’ve got that confidence because you know this material; you know that it is written to the best of your ability, and then you’re going onstage, and then you’re gonna figure out what that little extra thing [is] that makes it better… I think that most of my confidence in doing stand-up comedy onstage comes from the work not onstage.”

    Sweeney also gave advice about how to deal with the anxiety of being new to performing stand-up, “I would recommend when you first start doing stand-up comedy, at the front, say ‘I’m new.’ I said it was my first show for probably the first 25 shows.”

    Sweeney shared some of the best ways to get gigs as a comedian: promote yourself as much as possible, be resourceful, be open to performing at unconventional venues like business expos and county fairs, and adapt your comedy content for different crowds.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Aubree Sweeney for her performance and for providing insider insight for aspiring comedians at NYFA.

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    November 7, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 650

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Mira Hamour

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    The award-winning documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities first found life as an MFA graduation project for New York Film Academy MFA Documentary alum Mira Hamour. It quickly took a life on its own, and thanks to the passion and incredibly demanding—both physically and emotionally—work put in by Hamour, the film has gone on to win eleven awards (and counting)  since its completion in July 2018.

    These honors include:Mira Hamour

    -London Independent Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -South Film And Arts Academy Festival (Best Documentary Short Film)
    -Best Shorts Competition (Award of Merit)
    -Cinema World Fest Awards (Best in Show, Best Documentary Short)
    -International Independent Film Awards (Platinum Award)
    -Los Angeles Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -Independent Shorts Awards (Gold Award for Best Documentary Short)
    -Top Shorts (Best Documentary Award)
    -Docs Without Borders Film Festival (WINNER: Revolution and Reform- Exceptional Merit)
    -Global Shorts (WINNER: Special Mention)

    Additionally, Syria’s Tent Cities has been selected to screen at the Studio City International Film Festival in Los Angeles, an official selection at Short to the Point festival, selected at the Short Long World Festival, been selected as a Semi-Finalist at the Directors Cut Int’l Film Festival, and chosen in the Top Shorts Semi-Finalist Top 40 films. Hamour will be attending the screening on November 14.

     

    The documentary short isn’t just a film—it’s a call to action by Hamour, telling vitally important stories from one of this century’s greatest humanitarian crises and educating its viewers on how they can help in their own small way. Not just a powerful work of filmmaking, Syria’s Tent Cities is an extrapolation of Mira Hamour herself—a passionate plea for empathy and understanding from an artist whose heart matches her mastery of the documentary craft. 

    Amid a festival circuit for Syria’s Tent Cities as well as pre-production and production of several other projects, Hamour found time to chat with New York Film Academy about her film, what drives her work, and her time at NYFA:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Mira Hamour (MH): I identify as Syrian-Canadian. Growing up, I’ve lived in the Middle East and Canada and most recently spent three years in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, and New Jersey).

    When I was in high school, I love watching documentaries. I loved hearing real stories, about real people and learning about all of these world problems that not many people really seemed to know about. I felt like a lot of the social issues that interested me stemmed from the misinterpretation and incorrect practice of religions, and I explored lots of world religions throughout my bachelor’s degree to see if I could find the root cause of these problems and misinterpretations. I wanted to prove that when interpreted and practiced correctly, every major belief system preached love, acceptance, and unity at its core. I focused on taboo and challenging issues and throughout my Undergraduate schooling; I extensively researched a variety of controversial topics, including feminism and homosexuality in Islam, Jewish masculinities and gender identity and, exploring ISIS and radicalization’s global impact.

    Realizing the incredible power of film to bring people together, inform audiences, and encourage them to make a change for the better, I knew that I wanted to study Documentary Filmmaking to learn how to effectively shed light on social issues and present my audiences with viable solutions for positive social change. 

    In July of 2014, I enrolled in a 4-week filmmaking summer course at NYFA while still working on my undergrad, to sort of test the waters and see if this was really for me. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I get to meet incredible people who are still very close friends to this day, it kickstarted my career in filmmaking and confirmed my love for it. As soon as I was done with my undergraduate degree, I enrolled full time at NYFA for my MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My debut film, Syria’s Tent Cities, was shot in Jordan, Lebanon, and Canada. It started out as an MFA graduation project, but I worked on it long after graduation and have now developed it into the 30-minute award-winning documentary short that it is today.

    Identifying as both Syrian and Canadian, watching the refugee crisis continually worsen has been especially difficult for me. I felt helpless, and knew that many others also wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. Almost eight years into the crisis, I noticed that the Syrian refugees were now being viewed as one, singular mass statistic. I spent many summers in Syria growing up and have amazing memories there; I wanted to remind the world that these refugees are individuals: they’re parents, they’re children, they’re teachers, they’re families, they’re friends. In many ways, they’re not very different from us, they’ve just been forced into a very unfortunate situation and had their world turned upside down.

    My film is unique in that it explores the Syrian Refugee Crisis from both a local and global perspective by examining the lives of Syrian refugees in Middle Eastern refugee camps while also answering the question of what happens next, once they’re resettled in North America. While planning the film and working on months of pre-production from Los Angeles, one prominent issue kept coming up: there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian children around the world growing up without any access to education. In the long run, this could have very dire consequences and prevent them from becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of their society. The lack of education takes away from what’s left of their childhood and doesn’t give them a sense of importance or purpose. I knew that I not only had to focus on education while making the film, but also present the audience with feasible solutions to help fix this problem. 

    Throughout the film, the refugees work to improve their situation through the efforts of the two individuals I chose to tell this story through: Nowell Sukkar, founder of Nowell’s Mission working in Jordan and Lebanon, and Mazen El-Baba, founder of H.appi Camp working from Ontario, Canada. Both of them have dedicated their lives to making education and inclusiveness a right for all Syrian children. 

    I also worked with Human Rights Watch in Jordan and Lebanon to better explain the situation to the audience; instead of blaming the refugees’ parents automatically, the HRW researchers break down the many reasons why all these barriers exist and how we can combat them.

    Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent CitiesNYFA: What inspired you to make Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: The Syria we see on the news today is painfully different from the one I knew growing up; it’s hard to come to terms with just how bad things have gotten in a relatively short amount of time. As with many other global crises, after a while people begin to grow tired of it because, even if they want to help, they don’t know how to. It seems too complicated, too difficult, and they feel helpless. And that’s why I wanted my film to focus on the specific issue of education and how the lack of it is killing refugees’ childhood, their ability to dream, aspire, and achieve.

    During a visit to my home city of Toronto in August of 2016, I spoke with newly resettled Syrians who noticed a world of difference in their children who had just attended the first ever H.appi camp, a free summer camp experience exclusively for newcomer refugee children. H.appi aimed to help these children integrate into Canadian society, improve their linguistic skills and aid them in overcoming the trauma that they had experienced before arriving to Canada. When I actually made the film a year later, I realized that whether they’re living illegally in neighbouring countries or permanently resettled in Canada, many of the refugees were united in one thing: their goal to achieve a better life through a good education and the mental health resources many of them needed to overcome the trauma of war.

    NYFA: What was your experience filming Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: Personally, working on Syria’s Tent Cities was especially challenging. For starters, I had under two months to travel to two continents, three countries, and four cities to shoot all of my footage. One of the things about being a low-budget student and having to operate as what was often a one- or two-person crew is that you learn to wear many, many hats on the job. As with most of my other projects, I was in charge of directing, producing, shooting, recording sound, and editing Syria’s Tent Cities. 

    As someone who’s doing the job of five people on location at refugee camps in the Middle East, I needed to be able to handle my emotions, even when faced with a seven-year-old girl whose leg has been amputated during the war staring longingly from her wheelchair as her twin sister and other siblings run around their one-bedroom apartment. Even when a two-year-old little boy being raised by a single father is so deprived of the love of a mother he lost while the family were fleeing the country that he curls up in your lap while you’re shooting an interview with his father and clings to you, refusing to let go when you have to leave later. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    I had to keep my composure on location; if I was an emotional wreck, the film wouldn’t get made and no one would hear their story. There were many, many tears when I got home. But I’d have to get up the next day and do it all again, pretending that my heart wasn’t breaking every time I met another child who just didn’t understand why they had to lose family members and run from what was once a safe and happy home. What kept me going was that I knew I was helping, I was telling their stories and encouraging the world to change their lives. In making this film, I truly feel like I grew so much as a person and a filmmaker.

    NYFA: What are your plans for Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My main goal was that I didn’t want my audience to leave the theatre feeling sad and helpless. I wanted to give them tools and solutions to make a difference. In the film we see Nowell and Mazen; they’re not millionaires, they’re not people who have absolutely nothing else going on in their personal lives. Mazen is a full-time medical student and Nowell is a mother of two who has to tend to her own family’s wellbeing. 

    Yet they still make the time to help, they’re dedicated. And although I don’t expect every person who watches the film to start a non-profit like theirs, they show us the small ways in which we can all help truly make a difference in these children’s lives. Simple things and contributions that actually end up having a noticeable and positive impact in the long run. 

    It was incredibly inspiring to work with them and I really hope that, when they watch the film, the audience is inspired in the same way I was. I set up a page on my website where people who watch the film can learn more about Mazen’s and Nowell’s work and make a simple contribution that will truly end up making a world of difference. 

    Additionally, after working with Human Rights Watch through making this film and seeing all of the incredibly valuable research they do on the ground, I partnered with them and created a page specifically dedicated to this cause! All donations that come through the page from the link on my website will be designated to Human Rights Watch’s Refugees Division, specifically for their work on Syrian Refugees.

    I’m especially proud of Syria’s Tent Cities. As someone who identifies as both Syrian and Canadian, this story really hit close to home. It’s something I wanted to do for so long that every (increasingly difficult) challenge that I was faced with while making this film was a blessing I was grateful for, because it meant that I was finally actually making the film and telling the story of Syrian refugees. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    As proud as I am of how well the film’s been doing and as honoured as I am to be able to tell this incredible story, the awards are especially meaningful because they confirm that people recognize the importance of the film’s message and that they’re moved to give it an audience and help. This is just the start, but I know that I’ve succeeded in beginning to raise more awareness, which is what I set out to do when I first made the film.

    I plan to continue showing the film to as many audiences as I possibly can; this is a crucial problem and small contributions can make a very large difference in the life of a refugee child.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MH: While working in the field of Documentary Filmmaking, I’ve created films that focused on issues that I felt needed to be heard and further explored. I wanted my films to not only educate the audience on the issue at hand, but to also show them clear ways in which they can help and make a difference or learn about an issue that was once foreign to them and become more accepting, compassionate individuals.

    One of the films I’m working on now, PCOS, is about the often neglected and discredited Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder in women and how the many side effects it causes impact those affected by it, including facial hair in women. Some of the women in the film resort to elective weight loss surgery to reverse the symptoms of their PCOS, while others accept and try to change society’s harsh criticism of them. I actually have the condition myself and am one of the characters in the film (truly challenging as a simultaneous director!)

     

    I’m also about to release a short documentary film about two Syrian senior citizens who relocated to stay with their family abroad. And while they’re technically safe and living in a comfortable home, their whole lives have been uprooted extremely unexpectedly. At their age after retirement, they expected to live out the rest of their days in familiar Syria, and so they now spend much of their time reminiscing and missing those they lost to the war and during the move. Living in a state of constant uncertainty, major change, and having to adapt to a completely foreign country at their advanced age has made them question whether leaving Syria was worth it, and so the film is named Safe or Sorry.

    Apart from my own projects, I also currently freelance, primarily in Documentary Filmmaking. Most of my jobs are in pre-production and/or production. I love researching a great topic extensively, reaching out to people, booking and conducting interviews, being on location shooting vérité and seeing my subject’s world through the camera’s lens. 

    When people let you into their lives in that way, it’s a really great, fulfilling feeling — there’s a certain mutual trust and understanding there. The amazing people that documentary filmmaking brings into your life and the relationships you develop with the people you film are truly incredible and constantly remind me of why I got into this field and how fortunate I am to call this my job. For instance, making Syria’s Tent Cities was such a humbling and eye-opening experience; I saw firsthand the difference that dedication and love, even coming from a single individual, can make in the lives of those facing a global crisis.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Syria’s Tent Cities, or your work in general?

    MH: The biggest thing I learned is that loving something doesn’t make it easy — it just makes it worth fighting for and working towards. When I first started this journey, I had absolutely no idea how hard making documentaries would be! But because I love it, it has definitely been worth every challenge I’ve faced.

    As an emerging artist, you’re definitely going to have times where you doubt yourself and your abilities, sometimes even whether you were meant to be in this field at all. You’re going to have friends in ‘safe’ jobs, with a steady paycheque and very little risk involved. And sometimes it’s going to scare you. Being a documentary filmmaker is hard, it’s challenging, there’s a lot of discipline, work, and time management that goes into it. You have to be able to believe wholeheartedly in yourself and your project and the message that you’re trying to put out there. 

    I’ve been so fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents, family, friends, and teachers in my life who have definitely played a big role in getting me to this point today. But to make it in this field, you have to truly believe in your work and keep pushing to make the story you’re working on heard; working past every festival rejection you receive, every professional failure that comes up along the way, every person who discredits you and doesn’t believe in you, and every one of the many challenges you’re going to face. 

    I want to specifically thank Sanora Bartels, who was actually the Consulting Producer on Syria’s Tent Cities for being an amazing mentor, friend, support system, and just an overall wonderful human being. She’s gone above and beyond her role as Chair of the Documentary MFA Program to make sure that her students succeed and reach their full potential. Most importantly, she believed in us and our abilities even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Having teachers like that when you’re only just starting out in the field is truly invaluable. Sanora is just one of the many incredible teachers I’ve been lucky to work with at NYFA.

    NYFA: What lies ahead for you now?

    MH: In addition to filmmaking, I’m very passionate about travel and hope to be able to see the world through my work. I’ve been to 25 countries so far and it never ceases to amaze me how many similarities we all have on a basic human level, regardless of differing social and cultural norms. I will continue to travel and make films while I learn more about the world; Syria’s Tent Cities is just the beginning, I have so many other projects planned and some are already in pre- and post-production!

    The New York Film Academy thanks Mira Hamour for the time she took to speak with us, and congratulates her on the well-deserved success of her documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities.

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  • Ayelet Zurer Speaks With Tova Laiter at New York Film Academy

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    On October 30, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with actress Ayelet Zurer following a screening of a third season episode from Netflix’s acclaimed series Daredevil. The Q&A was moderated by Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series.Ayelet Zurer

    Zurer is an award-winning Israeli actress whose career began in Israeli television and crossed over to mainstream American movies and TV, most notably Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005); Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid (2008); Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons, with Tom Hanks (2009); Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013); Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert, alongside Ewan McGregor; Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Ben Hur, and many more.

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking about Zurer’s early career; Zurer shared that she was artistic as a young girl and did not “fall in love with acting as a profession” until she studied acting in her hometown,Tel Aviv. She then relocated to New York City to study further and acted in numerous theatrical productions before being offered a large role on a television series in Israel, moving back home where she would work in the Israeli entertainment industry to great success and winning many awards.

    Ayelet ZurerWhile Zurer was working on a television show, In Treatment, that would later be adapted for HBO, she got a mysterious call to audition from an English casting agent who caught one of her random films. Zurer was apprehensive but then she was informed this audition was for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Zurer landed the role and this launched her career as an actress in American media. “Say yes to things!” Zurer advised the students in the audience.

    A couple years later, Zurer has the opportunity to act in the film, Angels and Demons; she was anxious about the magnitude of the film but when she sat down with Tom Hanks to run lines, “I don’t know what happened; it was really magical; I was not nervous…” 

    Laiter inquired about the lessons Zurer learned from working with Hanks. Zurer replied, “The tone is set on a film by its leader. Tom was relaxed, intelligent, and generous. When he had an idea, he didn’t pester the director with it but suggested it in the right time… you have to have patience… he really set the tone.”

    Laiter asked Zurer about the lessons she has learned as an actress. “One of the things I’ve learned is to be very present because… that’s the most important thing for an actor and for a person in life, period.” Between “action” and “cut,” “…in that moment I [am] able to eliminate everything out there; the sound of fear, the self-doubt…” continued Zurer, while illustrating to the students a technique she uses just before she goes on stage or set.Ayelet Zurer

    To a student’s question of how she prepares for a role, Zurer talked about first learning the lines until they are embedded, doing research, and focusing on the storytelling; she asks herself: “What’s the beginning? Where [am I] coming [from]? What do I wanna say? What [does the] story [want] to say? What’s my job in that story? What is my role; what kind of a device am I?”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ayelet Zurer for sharing her entertainment industry wisdom and acting expertise with our students!

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    November 2, 2018 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 797

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Q&A With Assaf Bernstein and Dana Lustig

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    On Tuesday, October 16th the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of Look Away with director, Assaf Bernstein, and producer and NYFA instructor, Dana Lustig, moderated by Director of the Los Angeles NYFA campus, Dan Mackler.Look Away Dana Lustig

    Bernstein is the critically-acclaimed director of Netflix’s massive hit series, Fauda (2015). He recently directed the pilot episode of Warrior, the Bruce Lee-inspired series created for Cinemax. Prior to that, Focus Features released an English-language remake of Bernstein’s film, The Debt (2007), which he co-wrote and directed. Look Away is Bernstein’s first U.S. feature.

    Lustig was the executive producer on Spider in the Web (2019), starring Ben Kingsley and Monica Bellucci, and the Israeli hit series, Very Important Man (2018). Prior to that, Lustig produced Jungle (2017), starring Daniel Radcliffe; The Frontier (2015); Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005), nominated for the Independent Spirit Award; and Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000), directed by Academy Award nominee, Michael Radford.

    Lustig also directed A Thousand Kisses Deep (2011), which was nominated for the British Independent Film Award; Wild Cherry (2009) with Rob Schneider; Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber (2005), starring Jennifer Love Hewitt; and Kill Me Later (2001), starring Selma Blair. Lustig is set to direct the remake of Israeli film, The Man in the Wall.

    Look Away Dana LustigAfter the screening, Dan Mackler opened up the conversation by asking Bernstein about the inspiration behind Look Away. Bernstein replied, “It started when I was 10 years old and… this film is kind of the sum of all my fears… I had this idea of my own reflection not quite reflecting me, and I think there’s something there — if you really look at yourself in the mirror, you always make a face, or, you know, you never actually just look at yourself, you always look away from what you see. I think the idea that your reflection is a stranger to you is something that has some truth in it… so that sort of fear that made me not look in my mirror in the bathroom… I remember as a kid I always thought would be the first film I would make.”

    Mackler inquired as to why — since the idea seemed to stem from an autobiographical perspective — Bernstein chose to make the protagonist a girl instead of a boy. “I think women are more repressed, traditionally, than men,” said Bernstein, “there’s more pressure on them to behave a certain way, to look a certain way… when a woman… becomes sexual, there’s something dramatic about it.” Look Away Dana Lustig

    Bernstein added that making the protagonist female also played into primordial parental fears about their teenage daughters being sexually active, fears of both their daughters’ agency and potential victimhood.

    Later, the Q&A opened up to questions from students in the audience; one student asked Bernstein and Lustig what they wish they knew when they first started out. “Don’t make [this] mistake,” said Lustig, “You make your movie, you put everything into it, you go to a film festival; everybody’s asking you, ‘So what’s your next project?’ and you’re like, ‘Um…’ and you don’t have it and you kind of miss the opportunity, miss the timing…The other thing that I encourage my students [to do]…is to keep doing.”

    Lustig then encouraged all students in the audience to make their films with whatever resources are available to them and to never stop learning.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Assaf Bernstein and Dana Lustig for sharing their creative processes and entertainment industry advice with students!

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    November 1, 2018 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 507

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Teaches Science and the Movies

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    This semester, the Liberal Arts and Sciences department of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has opened three new Science elective courses for our BFA students: Principles of the Physical Sciences, General Biology, and (everyone’s favorite) Science and the Movies.

    These new courses add to existing science electives Anatomy and Physiology, Geology, and Geography. Furthermore, this semester NYFA is introducing more amazing tools and resources to aid in the student’s learning process, including microscopes and other lab materials.NYFA Liberal Arts & Sciences

    This new additional hands-on-equipment stays true to NYFA’s “learn by doing” pedagogical approach that is applied to its degree and conservatory programs, including filmmaking, acting for film, cinematography, screenwriting, documentary, photography, animation, and musical theatre.

    For BFA students at the New York Film Academy, the liberal arts and sciences is an invaluable part of their curriculum, crucial to the the development of a creative artist. The department, chaired by NYFA’s Dean of General Education, Dr. Mary Samuelson, offers a broad array of classes in the Arts & Humanities, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, and History of Art, Theatre & Media.

    In science instructor Camille Boag’s General Biology class, students recently explored common backyard critters under the microscope, squealing at the intricate hairs on a spider’s leg and marveling at the delicate pattern of a butterfly’s wing. These students will never look at a flower the same way again after dissecting them in class, identifying their reproductive organs and reflecting on exactly why these small creatures look they way they do.

    Science instructor Fred Siegel had his students explore the laws of physics in his Physical Sciences course, investigating the principles of reflection and refraction, the relationships between lens shape, focal length and aperture, and measuring the variables which influence the motion of a pendulum. Students clearly had a blast, and were in agreement that learning via hands-on laboratory exercises is an invaluable experience.

    What better way to learn Science?!

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    October 24, 2018 • Liberal Arts and Sciences • Views: 263

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Cinematography Alum Jude Abadi Wins Best Student Cinematography Award

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    This summer, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Cinematography alum Jude Abadi added a very important accolade to her resume when she won the Best Student Cinematography Award at the European Cinematography Awards. The award was for her work as director of photography on the short film The End of the World.

    The European Cinematography Awards are a film competition for filmmakers worldwide. According to their mission statement, the ECA supports “new and student filmmakers, who are just beginning their careers with a supportive and enthusiastic audience for their creative efforts,” as well as gives filmmakers “access to film industry professionals who can offer guidance and other forms of career assistance.”

    Best Student Cinematography Award

    Of the award, Abadi told NYFA that she was “ecstatic.” Abadi enrolled in the MFA program at NYFA’s cinematography school in Fall 2016, an accelerated, conservatory-based graduate program designed to instruct gifted and hardworking prospective directors of photography in a hands-on, professional environment. The cinematography school is chaired by Tony Richmond, A.S.C., B.S.C., who has shot many well-known films including Sympathy for the Devil, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Legally Blonde.

    “Jude did a great job shooting this film, and putting it together,” said Mike Williamson, a NYFA instructor and one of Abadi’s thesis advisors, who worked with her as she shot the film. He continued, “It can be difficult to maintain a consistent look when you’re shooting a long scene in a practical location, but her work over several shooting days matches very nicely. Her team made a strong film, and this award is well-deserved.”

    The End of the World was filmed in Los Angeles and tells the story of a married couple taken hostage by a crazed stranger, and their attempts to defuse their captor and his inane ramblings. It was written by Nabil Chowdhary and directed by NYFA alum Joshua M.G. Thomas. The film co-stars Buffy Milner, another NYFA alum who has recently written, directed, and acted in the film Type.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Jude Abadi on her prestigious award and wishes her the best of luck as her career continues forward!

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    October 22, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Cinematography, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 95

  • “Acts of Desperation” Provides New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Credit & Experience Opportunity

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    Acts of DesperationThe Industry Lab of New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) has announced the completion of the feature film, Acts of Desperation, starring veteran actors Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, The Rocketeer) and Jason Gedrick (Backdraft, Dexter.) 

    The quirky thriller was sponsored by the Academy, but involved members of NYFA community as well. Faculty members Richard Friedman (director), Leslie Bates (producer), Neil Casey (director of photography), and Toi Juan Shannon (editor) were the forces behind the film, which afforded opportunities to NYFA alumni.

    Acts of Desperation starts with a woman on a bridge, desperate and considering jumping. But the real action begins when we meet Alan Grillo, a cop on the edge, obsessed over the fact that his wife is having an affair. At the same time, he is tracking a shrewd bank robber who is falling in love with the desperate and obsessed woman whose life he saved on the bridge. As if that’s not enough, the bank robber is also being blackmailed by two unhinged street criminals who will stop at nothing to get their money. Time is running out for all of them as their worlds collide in this unpredictable and compelling thriller centering on six individuals and their treacherous “acts of desperation.”Acts of Desperation

    Shot exclusively in Los Angeles, Acts of Desperation is the first feature credit for over 20 NYFA Filmmaking alumni through Industry Lab, a program designed to facilitate such opportunities. The production companies Scars of the Mind Picture Company and UnicVisions plan to produce many more films through the NYFA Industry Lab, offering even more occasions for our alumni to receive both experience and feature credits to add to their resumes. 

    A special screening will be announced later this month.

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    October 19, 2018 • Filmmaking, Industry Lab • Views: 401

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Fulbright Foreign Student Welcome Dinner

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    The tradition of hosting a welcome dinner for the incoming cohort of New York Film Academy Foreign Fulbright Grantees continued at the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts in Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) last week.

    Fulbright Grantees with Dan Mackler, NYFA’s LA Campus Director, Amy Ellenberger, Miguel Cruz, NYFA´s Director of Fulbright Initiatives and Marcus Louis Fien

    Fulbright Grantees with Dan Mackler, NYFA’s LA Campus Director, Amy Ellenberger, Miguel Cruz, NYFA´s Director of Fulbright Initiatives and Marcus Louis Fien

    NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler, and NYFA Director of Fulbright Initiatives Miguel Cruz hosted the six Fulbright students who are on campus for the 2018/2019 Academic Year.  They include four grantees in the MFA Filmmaking Program, one grantee in MFA Documentary Filmmaking, and one grantee in the 1-Year Acting for Film Program. Represented countries are Spain (3), Paraguay, Peru, and Bahrain. NYFA is pleased to recognize a Fulbright finalist from Estonia as part of the group as well. 

    In recent years, NYFA has welcomed nearly 60 Fulbrighters to our campuses in Los Angeles and New York City. NYFA Fulbrighters have hailed from more than 30 countries. 

    Dr. José Siles, President of the Fulbright Alumni Association of Los Angeles, joined the celebration, as did Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment, and NYFA Admissions Specialist Marcus Fien. Dr. Siles invited the Fulbrighters for a tour of NASA Space facilities where he is engaged in research.

    Fulbright grantee Maya Riquelme, with Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment

    Fulbright grantee Maya Riquelme, with Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment

    NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler enthusiastically stated, “For me, meeting the extraordinarily talented Fulbright students that come to study at NYFA-LA is one of the highlights of the start of every academic year.”

    Mackler continued, “In these global creators of visual and performing storytelling, I am provided hope for a future that will be both exciting and impactful. They connect us with a greater humanity.”

    The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government through the U.S. Department of State.  The Program operates in more than 140 countries and offers opportunities for students and young professionals, as well as for post-doctoral teachers and researchers to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching.  

    The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,900 are to U.S. students, 4,000 to foreign students, 1,200 to U.S. scholars, and 900 to visiting scholars. In addition, several hundred teachers and professionals receive awards.

    NYFA is proud to be the school of choice for so many inspired and creative minds and to participate in numerous Fulbright initiatives, including producing two TEDxFULBRIGHT events and conducting documentary filmmaking workshops at the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program Conferences. 

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