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  • iTunes, Amazon & Sydney Screen Far From Here by New York Film Academy Grad James Pillion

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    Making your first feature film is a challenge. Making your first feature film in a foreign country is an even bigger challenge. Yet rising Aussie director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking MFA graduate James Pillion did just that with his feature debut, Far From Here. Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, the film screened this Feb. 5 in Sydney shortly before its digital release on iTunes and Amazon.

    Pillion’s successful debut is even more impressive when you hear the backstory. Overcoming many obstacles, including losing his visa and being refused entry to the U.S., Pillion and his writing partner/leading man Jonathan Ahmadi were able to convert a formidable crisis into a poignant work of art. The result is a lush coming-of-age story that follows a young couple navigating pressures that may sound familiar for many NYFA students — holding onto love, living in a foreign country, sacrifice, following a dream, and facing the tough decisions that define your life.

    “The more you surrender your ego and open your eyes and ears to everything around you, the stronger your chances are of ending up with a film greater than the sum of its parts,” the director wrote in Australia’s FilmLink.

    Pillion took some time during the busy week leading up to his film’s Sydney premier and digital distribution to share an exclusive peek into his process with the NYFA Blog:

    FAR FROM HERE TRAILER from Jim Pillion on Vimeo.

    NYFA: What program did you take at NYFA and when did you finish?

    JP: I graduated with honours from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus in 2013 after completing the two-year accelerated Masters in Filmmaking (MFA).

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Far From Here?

    JP: Far From Here follows a young couple, Grant and Sofia, struggling to keep their marriage afloat in a foreign country. When a family crisis pulls them apart, the physical and emotional distance forces the couple to take a hard honest look at their choices and to confront a decision that could alter their future forever.

    The script was conceived in the wake of a life-changing event. I’d lost my visa to the U.S. and had been forced apart from the love of my life in the process. The script was an attempt to examine my newfound circumstances and was written in a very fast four month window over Skype with my writing partner, Jonathan Ahmadi. Jonathan would also go on to play the lead role in the film.

    NYFA: What are your future plans for Far From Here and beyond?

    JP: Far From Here was shot on location in Bucharest and received a very generous distribution deal, with the film screening in 40 cinemas across Romania — an amazing feat for a $100,000 budget!

    To celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of the film on iTunes and Amazon this year, we’re holding the Australian premiere at the Ritz Cinema in Sydney this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. 

    I’m also in pre-production on my new feature Fire Island — a psychological drama — which is due to shoot in Australia towards the end of this year.

    NYFA: What if anything have you learned from your NYFA experience that has helped you with your professional career?

    JP: My time at NYFA was invaluable. It taught me the value of failure and gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment in a way that I’d never had the confidence to do. Embracing failure is such an important part of my creative mantra — it helps me to continually sharpen my voice as a storyteller.  

    Congratulations to James Pillion and the Far From Here team! Check out more of the behind-the-scenes story of Far From Here in Pillion’s four-part series on FilmLink.

    Far From Here
    is available from the following sources:
    iTunes Australia
    iTunes USA
    Amazon USA

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  • New York Film Academy Acting Alum Adrian Voo Talks Teen Comedy “Little Bitches”

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    Not many of us wish that we could go back to high school, but for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Conservatory alumnus Adrian Voo, revisiting teen angst never looked better. This month, the world will see him co-star in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s “Little Bitches,” a raucous, R-rated teen comedy that will release digitally Jan. 23 on iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Xfinity, Verizon Fios, Microsoft Store, Play Station and Google Play.  

    Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Voo was bitten by the acting bug when he was a business major at San Francisco State University. Following his dream led him to NYFA Los Angeles campus for an intensive year of conservatory training before going on to snag mainstream attention in the Jason Biggs comedy “Amateur Night.” “Little Bitches” follows three former-best-friends-turned-frenemies who must find a way to make peace in their senior year of high school in what Sony Pictures describes as a “crazy, twisted, coming-of-age female-empowerment comedy.”

    The NYFA Blog had a chance to catch up with Voo to hear more about “Little Bitches,” what he loves about comedy, and what’s next.

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

    AV: My love for film has spanned my lifetime but I had never really given acting much thought until my final year of business school. I was auditioning for plays and became fascinated with the craft. After receiving my BS, I decided to explore acting and searched for an intensive film school, and that’s when I found NYFA!

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    AV: One of my earliest childhood memories was being in absolute awe while on a tram tour at Universal Studios. So the first time we had an on-camera class on New York Street was a little “magical” for me.

    NYFA: Congratulations on your role in Sony Pictures’ “Little Bitches”! How did this project come about for you?

    AV: Thank you! Long story short, I was pitched to Scott Aversano (producer). I was so excited to hear that he was assembling a teen comedy, knowing his previous success with “That Awkward Moment” and “Orange County,” among many others. We had a good meeting and he brought me in to read for Nick Kreiss (writer/director).

    NYFA: You’ve had a great streak of working in some big comedies. For our students, what do you find the most challenging about intensive comedy work? How do you prepare?

    AV: I’ve found the most challenging part to be forgetting that it’s a comedy — and not trying to be funny! I think comedy works best when you trust the script (the writers) and find the dialogue rhythm. Once you have the rhythm, you can add improv for color.

    NYFA: You recently served as an executive producer of “Dear Dictator” with Michael Caine and Katie Holmes, as well as appearing in the film. Tell us about that process, and why you felt drawn to this story?

    AV: I had worked with the writer/director’s on “Amateur Night,” which was their true life story, so I was thrilled when they invited me to be a part of “Dear Dictator.” The script is so inspired (it was featured in the Black List in 2006). It’s a satire but, ultimately, a story about a non-conventional family. There’s some familiar film moments but it’s truly a film like no other…

    It was also a full circle moment to work with Michael Caine since I studied his “Acting in Film” book at NYFA!

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you’re doing now?

    AV: Very much so! When I first walked through the doors, I had a little stage experience and almost no formal training; I dreaded speaking with fellow actors whenever I was in productions because they used jargon that I had never heard of. NYFA instilled technique and discipline, and molded my process today. I’ve also become a strong proponent for hands-on training and found it to be an essential element.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    AV: Let’s just say, for now it’s “Little Bitches” and “Dear Dictator” in March! I hope you guys will enjoy the films as much as we had making them. Cheers to everyone at NYFA!

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Adrian Voo on his work in “Little Bitches,” and looks forward to seeing “Dear Dictator” soon!

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  • Producing Grads Team Up for “Lilin’s Brood”

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    Nothing like cuddling up with your loved one on Valentine’s Day with a psychological thriller, chiller/horror film. Come on, you know it sounds great. Now that you’re convinced, we have the perfect recommendation for you. Lilin’s Brood, created by New York Film Academy MFA Producing graduates Artii Smith and Phil Simon, has been picked up for distribution and is now available on iTunes, and will be released on Amazon next Friday, February 12th—just in time for Valentine’s Day.

    The movie is about a “New Media” news coverage team (W.H.I.S.T.L.E.) that is stranded near a beleaguered brothel in the middle of nowhere. The footage that is recovered will reveal what happens when they encounter a group of women with a terrifying secret.

    lilins brood

    “It’s personal in a sense that we both really love the horror/thriller genre and wanted to create a story that people like us would love to see,” said Smith. “Also, the characters we created were a loose combination of people we’ve known from our past experiences.”

    The NYFA grads shot the film on a small budget over an eleven day period.

    “Coming up with a strategy far in advance on how to tackle each phase of a project should be top priority,” says Smith. “We planned every single creative detail and business strategic move meticulously.”

    The filmmaking duo also suggests young filmmakers really believe in the story they are working on. It takes so much energy to create a feature, and you don’t want to be stuck doing a project you’re not passionate about.

    Before studying at NYFA’s Producing program, Smith was only interested in producing projects. He didn’t want to write and he wasn’t entirely sure about becoming a director either. But NYFA changed his attitude.

    “I think my joy for writing was discovered and ultimately nurtured at NYFA, and my love for directing really flourished as well. Working with writing professor David O’Leary, I believe, now that I look back, was an essential experience I needed in helping me develop and write engaging feature film scripts. Working with directing professor Nick Sivakumaran really helped me discover my love for directing.”

    Smith and Simon currently have a part two to Lilin’s Brood already written up and ready to shoot. They are also have several other projects in various stages of development—from treatment to full script—that vary in different genres such as Science Fiction, Drama, Comedy, Action and Historical Biopics.

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    February 5, 2016 • Filmmaking, Producing, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4978