New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Francesca Mazzoleni’s documentary feature length film, Puntasacra wins the ‘Sesterce d’or la Mobilière’ (Best Feature Film) at the 2020 Visions du Réel competition, held virtually from April 17 to May 2.
‘Puntasacra’ (Directed by Francesca Mazzoleni, courtesy of True Colours)
Mazzoleni atteneded the 4-Week Music Video Workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in 2017. In addition to Puntasacra, Mazzoleni has directed feature film Succede and short films 1989, L’etoile de Mer, Lo so che mi senti, Nowhere, and Il Premio.
Puntasacra, her latest feature, is a documentary that tells the story of the inhabitants of Idroscalo di Ostia, a coastal outer district of Rome and the last portion of habitable land at the mouth of the Tiber, Punta Sacra. With half of the community’s houses destroyed by a fire in 2010, the documentary navigates the daily lives of the coast village’s inhabitants and naturally portrays the conversations between neighbors surrounding communism, familial secrets, and community altercations.
The film was one of 14 feature-length documentaries that were selected for main competition in the prestigious Swiss festival, Visions du Réel, in Nyon (this year online). After winning the Sesterce d’or la Mobilière with a cash prize of CHF 20,000 (£16,657), top Italian sales distributor, True Colours, acquired sales rights for the film.
Mazzoleni, who could not be there in person to accept her award since the ceremony was held online, made her own award from the items in her home and thanked her ten-person team, with whom she “shared a very complicated and wonderful adventure”. She also thanked the community of Idroscalo di Ostia who gave her the confidence to make her film. She closed her Instagram acceptance speech by telling her followers, “our journey begins today, be patient, the cinemas will reopen.”
Francesca Mazzoleni behind the scenes of her film ‘Succede’
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Francesca Mazzoleni on the success of her latest documentary film and her recent win at Visions du Réel, and encourages everyone to check out Puntasacra when it becomes available in theaters or online.
Case in point: Most of you already know that the film Parasite was the surprise big winner at this year’s Academy Awards. Well it just so happens that independent film/entertainment reporter and NYFA alum Federica Polidoro did an EXCLUSIVE interview with the South Korean director behind this brilliant film, Bong Joon-ho.
Joelle Gargulio was a member of the very first NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduating class. From there, she started an entry level job at NBC Interactive, then worked her way up to a reporting/producing role on the Weekend Today show.
Here she is hosting the #PopStart segment on a recent Saturday morning (Note the cross-platform distribution).Television isn’t just television anymore!
Speaking of cross-platform distribution…Gillian Kemmerer was already an accomplished print journalist when she enrolled at NYFA, but wanted to become a multimedia journalist (MMJ). These days, she is covering sports and business, with a special emphasis on international hockey. She just passed an important milestone on Twitter and now has over 35,000 followers.
Gillian Kemmerer being filmed for a hockey segment.
Over the years, we have had a number of talented Brazilian students in the Broadcast Journalism department. Daniella Gemignani was already working for Brazilian media powerhouse Globo when she came to NYFA to study Broadcast Journalism, but she wanted to deepen and expand her skill-set. Recently, she celebrated her fifth anniversary with Globo.
Another Broadcast Journalism alum, who took a short-term workshop at NYFA, Daniel Fideli, recently recounted his final graduation project for the workshop back in 2014. “NYFA was such an intense experience,” he remembers, “I tend to say that those two months were more useful for me than my four years at university.”
Meanwhile, we also have an update from the Broadcast Journalism department’s “ambassador to the red carpet,” NYFA alum Bryanna Reynolds:
Finally, this July, Evgenia Vlasova and myself are teaching a 3-Week Journalism workshop in Moscow. Are you Russian? An early career journalist? A university student starting your senior year in September? (Or do you know someone like that?) Full scholarships are available, covering tuition, housing and transportation. Find more information at: http://nyfajss.com.
The Fourth Kingdom, a documentary directed by Adán Aliaga and Alex Lora and coproduced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing alum Federico Guarascio has been storming the festival circuit since its premiere earlier this year.
The film documents a redemption center in Brooklyn founded by a Spanish ex-missionary where cans and plastic bottles are exchanged for cash—a “Fourth Kingdom” of plastics, and a hub for immigrants and underdogs who desperately believe in the American Dream.
Since its premiere last February at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Short Film, The Fourth Kingdom has been selected in 20 film festivals—eight of them Oscars-qualifying—and has won two of them, including the Brooklyn Film Festival, which allows the short film to be considered for the Academy Awards.
It has additionally screened at the Rooftop Summer Series, the Americas Film Festivals, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, DOC NYC, and opened at the United Kingdom’s prestigious Sheffield Doc Fest.
Federico Guarascio originally hails from Italy and first came to New York Film Academy through the Torno Subito program, a joint public/private sector work study initiative that supports new talent development in the Italian film and television industry and is based in Italy’s Lazio region. New York Film Academy provides the “study” element of the program, with students enrolling in short-term workshops across various NYFA disciplines. Once their program is completed, graduates return to pre-arranged film and television internships in Italy.
Alex Lora & Federico Guarascio
Guarascio first attended the 4-Week Producing workshop at NYFA’s New York campus, and was so impressed that he subsequently returned to enroll in the 1-Year Conservatory in Producing. Upon graduation, Federico has remained in New York City to work on a variety of film projects, including The Fourth Kingdom.
“[NYFA] proved to be essential during my journey with this doc,” says Guarascio, “and it would not have been possible for me to get this far without the skills I learned in your classes and, for that, I am immensely grateful.”
Guarascio’s talent as a producer was evident early on. “As a student, Federico showed all the hallmarks of a fiercely independent producer,” recalls NYFA-NY Chair of Producing Neal Weisman. “He consistently demonstrated a great passion for the process and a curiosity which inevitably led to to interesting projects. It is no surprise that Federico has moved on to find success with films moving onto the festival circuit. We are very proud.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Producing alum Federico Guarascio on the success of The Fourth Kingdom and encourages everyone to check out the film’s trailer, available on Vimeo.
For New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Alfonso Perugini, 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year.
Since graduating the 2-Year Filmmaking conservatory in 2015, Perugini has worked on several Italian film productions, including some with well known Italian actors like Giacomo Rizzo, Pietro De Silva, Yuliya Mayarchuck, and singer Cheryl Porter, among many others.
Perugini also acted in the webseries Garganta, directed by Modestino Di Nenna; the first episodes are now online. Thanks to a respected cast well known from the Italian theatre and television scenes, including Francesco Paolantoni and Antonio Fiorillo, the comedy already has a dedicated following. The immediate success of Garganta has convinced producers Danilo Battista and Rossella De Falco to set up a second season.
Perugini has also recently released the pilot episode of Hotblade, filmed earlier this year and produced by 16NONI Produzioni Visive and directed by Luigi Borriello. Hotblade is a highly innovative and experimental product for Italy, combining the crime genre with action, humor, erotic, and Asian genre cinema. Perugini is also an associate producer of this ambitious project, and stars in the series alongside model Anna Montella, who plays the role of the heroine Hotblade. Perugini plans to release an English translation of the series as well, anticipating an American audience.
Uno zio tutto mio, a comedy and Perugini’s fourth feature film as a director, was also announced in a press conference in the Town Hall of Grassano, in the province of Matera, in southern Italy. The film is produced by Pio Volpe for PFOX Produzioni, executive produced by Nancy Mastia, and written by Brando Improta. The film recently shot sequences in Naples, Sorrento, and Matera.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) congratulates Filmmaking alum Alfonso Perugini on a banner year filled with exciting projects and looks forward to the completion and release of Uno zio tutto mio!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA in Filmmaking student Alice Nicolini received some great news recently when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her an Academy Gold Internship in Production Design.
Nicolini hails from Italy and is an alum of several NYFA camps, having attended the 4-week Screenwriting camp for teens, the 6-week Filmmaking camp for teens, and the 4-week Advanced Filmmaking camp for teens between 2014 and 2016. She is currently studying for her BFA in Filmmaking at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus. In the fall of 2017, Nicolini served as one of NYFA’s red carpet representatives at the Cinema Italian Style opening night gala.
Her two-minute short, Alice’s Wonderland, helped her earn the prestigious Academy Gold Internship in Production Design. The Academy Gold Program is a multi-tiered educational and experiential initiative and internship enhancement program from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the famous Hollywood organization that annually awards the Oscars.
“I hope this experience will give more direction and structure to my efforts,” Nicolini tells NYFA, “and, as a result, make me more confident in my craft.”
Nicolini is currently focusing on her BFA studies and prepping hard for the internship. The industrious student has found the time and energy however to design a domestic clothing and accessories line in collaboration with a sustainability-focused company from Italy.
“I am very proud of this kid and of NYFA for supporting talented and young artists!” exclaims Diana Santi, Director of NYFA Florence.
New York Film Academy congratulates BFA student Alice Nicolini on earning the illustrious Academy Gold Internship in Production Design and looks forward to following her filmmaking endeavors.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Florence Alum Claudia Stecher is putting her acting chops to work on the hit Italian television series, Il silenzio dell’acqua.
Stecher first attended NYFA Florence as a teenager, enrolling in the 4-week Acting for Film camp for teens. Three years later, the Italian-born actress also attended the 2-day Screenwriting workshop at the same location.
Since her hands-on instruction at NYFA Florence, where she learned the basic skills needed for a career in Acting for Film, Stecher has accumulated several credits in films and television series, including Una pallottola nel cuore, Diabolik sono io, and La natura degli angeli.
Her latest role, as Eva, is one of her most high-profile to date. Il silenzio dell’acqua (The Silence of Water) is an acclaimed drama that is similar to the British crime hit Broadchurch. The show follows an investigation into the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl from a small village near Trieste, Italy. The cast includes Ambra Angiolini, Valentina D’agostino, and NYFA alum Giorgio Pasotti.
New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Florence alum Claudia Stecher on her latest television role and wishes her continued success as her acting career continues to grow in Italy and beyond!
It’s been a busy year for cinematographer Piero Basso, AIC—in addition to becoming the new Chair of Cinematography at New York Film Academy New York (NYFA-NY), Basso has recently seen the premieres of two feature films he worked on as director of photography and will soon be seeing the debut of a television series he shot.
Basso, who originally hails from Italy and was an instructor at NYFA for years before becoming Cinematography Chair, served as director of photography for the feature film Working Man. The film received a strong welcome at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, with Basso’s cinematography especially highlighted in a positive review from The Hollywood Reporter.
With a solid cast and great looking photography, the film is expected to have a strong run on the festival circuit and will hopefully reach a larger and larger audience.
Dafne, a feature film Basso shot in Italy last summer, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in the Panorama section and went on to win the prestigious FIPRESCI award for Best Feature Film of Panorama.
The film has an upcoming release in Italy and has been already sold in several countries around the world (France, Spain, and Japan, to name a few), and will also most likely have a very strong festival presence. The film has been very well received by critics, including a positive review covering the film’s award-winning premiere at Berlin.
In addition to the two features, Basso also shot a high-profile television series for one of Italy’s major networks, RAI. The series was shot over a year ago but its upcoming premiere will coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Aquila Earthquake, which is the fictional drama’s subject. Basso served as cinematographer for all 12 episodes of the high-quality series, which will be premiering later this Spring.
These projects haven’t distracted Basso from his new duties as Cinematography Chair, however. “Since I became the Chair of the Cinematography department last fall I have been crazy busy figuring out how to run the program and make sure the student experience is at its best as it was with my predecessor,” Basso tells NYFA. “But now it’s starting to feel like the time to work on expanding and promoting the program to make sure it will find even better and more students in the future.”
New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA-NY Chair of Cinematography Piero Basso on the premieres of his work and looks forward to seeing his further success in both cinema and with our students right here at NYFA!
Recently, on a rainy afternoon in Florence, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with students at New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) Florence location, located in a charming state-of-the-art facility on Via Torta, near the Basilica di Santa Croce.
The students had just returned — soaked and exhausted — from a long day filming the last scenes of their final projects. The “crews,” each comprised of four or five students, all used the city of Florence as the “film set” for their visual stories. They were in the homestretch, although they still had a few demanding days ahead, editing their films before presenting their work at the graduation screening and celebration of the conclusion of their semester abroad programs in Filmmaking and Acting for Film. These students came from 12 countries — the United States, Hungary, Ukraine, Iran, Netherlands, Romania, UK, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, and Mexico.
After unloading their camera gear, we sat down and spoke about the impressions of their time in Florence, and at NYFA, during the past 12 weeks. “Life-changing” was the most echoed description; all heads also nodded “yes” when one student said, “this study abroad opportunity has by far been the best experience of my life so far; during these months I have grown so much as a person and as a filmmaker. ”
One student fervently told me that, while he had had a passion for acting from a young age, before NYFA he had doubts about whether it was something he wanted to pursue instead of an economics degree; but now he wants nothing more than to be an actor.
All of the students’ reactions warmed me with joyfulness and “NYFA pride.” There was more under the surface because all of the sentiments were very familiar to me — each word and narrative brought back vivid and distinct memories…
It was 1976 when my feet stepped off a plane at the Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport in Rome and a new phase of my life began. Much of it stays with me to this very day, and now, encircled by this wonderful group of young “creatives,” more and more remembrances came rushing back to me.
I arrived at 18, never having previously left US soil, with just $300 dollars in my pocket and a full scholarship to study art in Florence that was graciously provided by publishing icon, Anna K. Meredith. At a later point I learned that Ms. Meredith, who at the time headed the family’s The Meredith Corporation — a massive publishing empire that produces dozens of the most popular magazines (including Sports Illustrated, Fortune and PEOPLE) — personally chose me as the first recipient of her generous study abroad grant.
My route to this study abroad experience was an extraordinary one; I was a freshman at the University of Denver and in the Spring of that year my favorite art instructor approached me — quite out of the blue — and handed me a formal document. “Read it!” she ardently and rather exuberantly stated. It was an acceptance letter from a US-accredited Art School in Florence. I was offered an acceptance and didn’t even know that I had applied! My professor, seeing my dismay, explained, “Jim, I applied on your behalf because I knew if you had this opportunity, it would change your art and your life in so many amazing ways.”
Now, I knew that in a week this delightful group of talented young people would be saying goodbye to the city of Florence, to the New York Film Academy staff and faculty, to their classmates and their friends, and that they would walk forward — as I did 40 years ago — into lives that will be forever changed for the better.
My teacher was certainly more accurate than she could ever have imagined. It is both the magic of Florence and the impact of the experience of studying abroad that simply cannot be explained well in words, because they reside in a spirit deep within the city — and at the same time — in one’s own heart.
Claudio Casale is a busy filmmaker, but recently he found the time to speak with New York Film Academy (NYFA). It was here that he attended our 8-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2017, where he quickly added an arsenal of skills to his already impressive filmmaking prowess.
“Claudio was one of those students a teacher is so happy to have in the class,” tells his NYFA directing instructor, Thomas Barnes, continuing, “brilliant, passionate, original, and supportive of his colleagues.”
Claudio has been incredibly productive since finishing the Filmmaking workshop, working on all sorts of different projects—short films, feature films, narratives, documentaries. In the summer of 2018, he achieved a career highlight when his documentary My Tyson won the MigArti Best Documentary Award at the Venice International Film Festival.
Claudio spoke with NYFA about that film and win, as well as filmmaking in general, working in documentary, and what lies ahead for him:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Claudio Casale (CC): I was born and raised in Rome, Italy. I graduated in Business Management, and at 22 I took two years abroad, mainly in India and Southeast Asia, where I started filmmaking constantly. Many shorts later, NYFA was the first proper education I received on filmmaking. I was mostly self-taught and I joined the 8-week program to gain experience on set dynamics and directing actors.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your film My Tyson?
CC:My Tyson is a 15-minute short doc on Alaoma Tyson, an Italian teenager born in Italy from Nigerian parents. Today, at 18 years old, Tyson is the Italian boxing champion in the youth heavyweight category. Patience, his mother, sews traditional clothes for the Nigerian community in the Roman suburb they live in.
As Tyson trains for his next match, Patience tells him the story of their family, revealing ancient rituals, financial struggles, and a severe migration experience.
CC: Migration is an issue worldwide, from the US all the way to Australia. In Europe, Italy is the first port of arrival for the majority of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Maghreb. As many filmmakers of my generation, I felt the need to take a stand on this issue, by offering to the audience a perspective that might get lost in the news cycle. Observation and research was key, as I had to find the story – and therefore my inspiration – on the field: I spent five months with Alaoma Tyson and his family before shooting a single frame.
NYFA: How did you get your film involved with MigrArti?
CC: MigrArti is a yearly call made by the Minister of Culture in Italy (MiBAC). The production working with me on My Tyson had to submit a detailed dossier for our project. MigrArti can be very competitive, and I was honoured that our project was among the selected ones. Watching our short doc premiere during the 75th Venice International Film Festival was really emotional, and I feel grateful that the Jury awarded My Tyson as MigrArti Best Documentary.
NYFA: What are your plans for My Tyson after Venice?
CC: We are sending out My Tyson to festivals, as that’s a great way to receive professional feedback and connect with fellow filmmakers. I would be delighted to personally attend international festivals as well, so to see by myself how different audiences relate to the story.
On the other hand, in Italy we are planning screenings solely for migrants, thanks to the cooperation of NGOs such as ARCI Solidarietà Onlus. Bringing cinema to places where it usually hasn’t belonged, like migration centres and public schools, is a duty as well as a chance to test the impact our little film may have on people we can’t reach with a traditional theatrical run.
Then, at the end of the festival distribution, at least in Italy we are working to have a selected theatrical distribution, likely paired with a feature documentary.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
CC: In September, I was in Sicily to direct a narrative short film in 35mm, Inshallah, about to enter post-production. Also, I have a feature documentary in creative and financial development, in which I will invest most of my time this year. It’s a project I am very attached to and I can’t wait to get myself on set to shoot it.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on My Tyson, or your work in general?
CC: Among the lessons I received at NYFA, two came particularly handy in this project. First, as director you have got to leave the camera to the operator! As many native-digital filmmakers, I also grew very attached to the camera body (I was my own operator on my first shorts). It wasn’t necessarily easy to delegate that, as it is an act of trust toward the operator, especially on a documentary where things happen out of script and must be captured instinctively.
But at NYFA, I learned to do just that: trusting the crew I work with and delegating everything that may distract me from the scene. In some projects I would still be my own operator of course, but thanks to NYFA I could recognize that My Tyson wasn’t one of those cases.
Second: directing actors! I find the method taught at NYFA to be extremely effective. Honestly, that module alone was worth the whole course for me. With time, I changed it a little to adapt it to documentaries, where you don’t direct actors but subjects, so the relationship is more subtle and the non-actors’ spontaneity is the first priority and must always be protected. I believe that directing actors and non-actors is what ultimately makes a director great, and that’s something hard to learn without seeing some experts at work, either by joining a school or by being on set as 1st or 2nd AD.
NYFA: Do you prefer working in narrative or documentary filmmaking?
CC: When I started shooting, I had only narrative filmmaking in mind, and frankly I still look forward to direct a feature narrative one day. Documentary happened by chance, yet for the moment I found my little niche here.
As for today, I certainly prefer working on documentary filmmaking for a variety of reasons: first, it’s cheaper, so development and pre-production are generally quicker compared with narrative. Second, you can easily practice rhythm and pace with a running time of 52 minutes or longer, a key area of learning for any aspiring director. Last but not least, documentary today is wide open to visual experimentation, an ideal condition for me.
NYFA: What differences or similarities do you find between narrative and documentary filmmaking?
CC: Comparing short films only, in my opinion the key advantage of documentary filmmaking is the level of experimentation it allows. I honestly find narrative short films too rigid sometime, as nowadays the pressure to deliver the highest possible production value risks to overpass the focus aspiring directors should be putting into the storytelling.
After all, short films are the only tool we have to discover who we really are as visual storytellers. The similarities between narrative and documentary filmmaking are more than one could tend to believe: year after year, more documentaries are shot with a real cinematic language in mind. And I believe that’s one of the reason behind today’s boom of documentaries: many narrative storytellers are getting into documentary, shaping it with their own tools.
On the other hand, generally speaking, narrative filmmaking may allow for a wider freedom of expression, especially if you get to write and direct your own script. In conclusion, I would suggest students to be open to both forms, as for different reasons they are equally important in the early stage of a filmmaker’s career.
NYFA: What other advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
CC: If you are a total newbie on filmmaking, be ready to run and absorb everything you’re told. Raise your hand and ask your classmates for help, as at the end of the day, it’s all about the teamwork.
While If you have some filmmaking experience already, as I did, be ready to put everything you know aside. Don’t let your previous knowledge block you from learning further. Be open and receptive, and you will take something new and essential with you every day.
NYFA: Anything we missed you’d like to speak on?
CC: No questions about the Deli down in Battery Park? I must admit, sometimes I miss that sushi! 🙂
The New York Film Academy thanks Claudio Casale for his time and thoughtful answers, and looks forward to seeing what inspiring films he comes out with next. We sincerely hope he comes back to New York for a visit sometime and has some sushi from the Deli downstairs!
Photography in Florence is magical; the light is soft and billowy, almost tangible. The 2,000 year-old Florentine streets are paved with cobblestones and the buildings display history in layers as you walk by, one fresco emerging behind another. Since everything is new to the eye in unfamiliar surroundings, all kinds of details and expressions jump out and call to be photographed.
Florence is covered in art from Renaissance paintings by Botticelli and Da Vinci, to the Duomo and other architectural gems. Nearly every church has fine art paintings and sculptures inside, frescoes by Giotto and Masaccio, and you can get so close you can smell them!
Photo: Matthew Angel Acevedo bo2m2_photography
Over spring break, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Photography David Mager and Associate Chair of Photography Naomi White traveled with 18 NYFA students and alumni for an incredible week of photography in the historic city of Florence, Italy. Students came from several different departments (Acting for Film, Filmmaking, and Photography), creating a diverse group of talented and creative people.
Classes were held in the mornings at the beautiful NYFA Florence campus in Piazza San Lorenzo, and were geared towards both beginning and advanced students. In the afternoons, we alternated between walking tours of the city and commercial shoots at local businesses. We also toured Tuscany together, visiting the hill towns of Siena and San Gimignano, both built for pedestrians with large city squares and ornate romanesque-gothic churches.
Walking tours focused on elements of exposure and how aperture affects communication, as well as embracing decisive moments through street photography and documentary portraits. We toured the church of San Lorenzo, with it’s collection of Renaissance paintings, including the recently restored Annunciation by Filippo Lippi (c. 1450); the Boboli gardens with their magnificent sculptures and shady dells; and wound our way along the Arno, crossing over several bridges including the famous Ponte Vecchio with it’s shiny jewelry shops and magnificent views of the river.
There were also 3 commercially-focused shoots, where advanced students worked with the ProFoto B1 lights to create elegant imagery for various businesses. The first was in a 600-year-old apothecary in Santa Maria Novella. Gothic vaulted ceilings and pink and white striped stone pillars define this enchanting space, which is now used as a fully working perfumery selling upscale bottles of expensive perfume.
The second business was an all-women-run ceramic shop. The owner, now in her 80s, still goes to work every day to paint beautiful ceramic pottery alongside her daughters.
The third business was a leather school where students are trained in creating leather goods typical of Florence such as bags, purses, belts and shoes.
We had a wonderful group of students who not only took great pictures, but who bonded and enjoyed each other’s company.
The NYFA Photography excursion to Florence offered a great week away from the familiar daily life and gave the students new skills and new perspectives. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Florence with NYFA, you should take it!