LGBTQIA+
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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Li Cheng’s ‘José’ Gets National Release After Winning Queer Lion Award at Venice Film Festival

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    It’s becoming more and more common for New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni to win major festival prizes, so it wasn’t any surprise when news broke out that Filmmaking grad Li Cheng won the 2018 Queer Lion Award at the 75th Venice Film Festival, one of the world’s most prominent cinema competitions; his film José is now the first Central American film to do so. Following the prestigious award as well as premieres in 50 countries and 100 festival cities worldwide, José now has a national USA theatre release, starting in a dozen major markets, with Cheng personally be presenting the film and speaking with audiences during each of the first three days for both the New York and Los Angeles screenings.

    Li Cheng Jose

    NYFA alum LI Cheng on set of Jośe, Courtesy of YQstudio LLC

    In 2008, Cheng attended the 4-Week Filmmaking workshop at our New York campus. “My NYFA experience was wonderful,” Cheng tells NYFA, “and key to getting started right: hands-on, quickly, low-cost/high-value, with passionate film professionals, and meeting and working together with creative, energetic, inspiring faculty, staff, and student-cohorts from day one. I couldn’t have asked for more, or a better kickstart to my career in film.”

    Cheng used that kickstart to his full advantage. His feature film José is a nuanced look at the challenges and joys of gay life in Central America. The Spanish-language, English-subtitled film follows star José (Enrique Salanic), who lives at home with his mother (Ana Cecilia Mota), who makes ends meet by selling sandwiches at bus stops and who is not ready to let go of her youngest child. But when he meets Luis (Manolo Herrera), José is pushed to break down his own boundaries and take a leap of faith with this new relationship. 

    José was written and produced by Cheng, along with George F. Roberson, and was shot in Guatemala with a non-industry artist and academic crew, making it the first major LGBTQIA+ film to come from the nation. Outsider Pictures is the film’s North American distributor and world sales, while international festival sales are handled by Rediance (of Paris and Beijing).

    Li Cheng Jose

    The powerful film has resonated with audiences. Winning the Queer Lion is an incredible achievement; the Queer Lion Award is the trophy awarded, starting in 2007, to the “Best Movie with LGBT Themes & Queer Culture” among those presented during the Venice International Film Festival. Previous winners include Tom Ford’s A Single Man and Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. José has also won Best Film at the Boston LGBT Film Festival and was cited for its “confident visual sense…a sensitive portrait [with a] depth of feeling” by The Hollywood Reporter.

    The film will screen at the Quad Cinema in New York City from Friday, January 31 – Sunday, February 2. Tickets are available here. Other screenings for José, including at the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles on February 7, can be found here. Q&A sessions between the audiences and Cheng will follow screenings each of the first three days for both the New York and Los Angeles releases.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Li Cheng on winning the Venice Film Festival’s Queer Lion award and looks forward to following his career as a filmmaker!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Damon J. Barnes Screens ‘Straight to Hell’

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    Straight to Hell, a period comedy written and directed by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes and produced by NYFA Filmmaking alum Furaha Bayibsa, screened last month in North Hollywood. Barnes attended the 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus in 2016; Bayibsa attended one year earlier. 

    Damon J. Barnes Straight to Hell
    The short film is a comedy about Christian gay conversation camps, and deals with very serious LGBTQIA+ issues in a humorous yet thoughtful way. Straight to Hell stars Bendan J. Shannon, Justin Selig, Noah Der, Gracie Lacey, and Collin Lapinsky.

    Straight to Hell began as Barnes’s thesis film while at NYFA. “One of the key driving forces for the film’s style, from choices in the script to choices in music, came from cinema from the 80s—more specifically, from the world of John Hughes,” says Barnes in an artist’s statement for the film. “The way Hughes’ storytelling captures the suburban teenage American experience in a fable-like, classicist body of work that stays true to the tradition of Hollywood romance and adventure was influential on the approach to make the story a comedy rather than a rough-edged, literal presentation—not to say those stories are not needed.” 

    Finding the right tone was important for Barnes. “At the heart of this film is a storyline that is tragic and unjust,” he continues in his statement on the film. “Comedy was used as the vehicle to tell that story. As absurd as conversion therapy is, is how absurd the comedy in the film was designed to be.”

    Damon J. Barnes

    NYFA Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes

    Damon plans to donate all the proceeds the film earns that week to nonprofit organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight hate and bigotry in our society.

    The film screened at the Laemmel NOHO Theater in North Hollywood from September 20 – 26.

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes on his film and encourages everyone to check out Straight to Hell when they can!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Photography Student Joseph Ford Photographs Jeff Bezos, Blac Chyna, and More

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    Joseph Ford, current BFA Photography student at New York Film Academy (NYFA), recently captured photo coverage of the Amazon float at the 2019 SF Gay Pride parade, including Amazon founder and richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos.

    Ford is a military veteran who originally hails from San Jose, California. After ten years of military service, Ford moved to Los Angeles to pursue his passion for fashion photography, enrolling in the BFA program at the Photo Arts Conservatory at New York Film Academy (PAC At NYFA). 

    Joseph Ford VoyageLA

    He’s since started a beauty and fashion photography company, Gifted Mindset Photography, and has had success shooting numerous models in beautifully composed, striking images.

    His talents have not gone unnoticed, and Ford has been tapped to shoot influencers like Blac Chyna and Brittany Renner, among others. He was tapped to cover the Amazon float at the 2019 SF Gay Pride parade, photographing the richest man in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

    “I think what sets me apart from other photographers is the experience models get when they work with me,” Ford told VoyageLA in a recent interview. “I still approach each shoot with the excitement and passion I did when I first started. And that’s actually easy for me because the excitement and passion is still there.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates BFA Photography student Joseph Ford on his success and looks forward to seeing his future work as he continues his studies!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Tushar Tyagi Films ‘Saving Chintu’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Tushar Tyagi has shot Saving Chintu, a film exploring LGBTQIA+ themes in India, starring Life of Pi actor Adil Hussain.

    Tushar Tyagi Saving ChintuTyagi originally hails from India and attended the 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s New York campus in 2013. He is currently based in Hollywood and has won multiple awards and nominations for his work, including at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards and the Canada International Film Festival. His previous film was the 2017 short Kaashi.

    “I thank New York Film Academy for the constant support, from where it all started,” Tyagi tells NYFA. “I’m thankful for the valuable time I spent there, developing much-needed skills required for an independent filmmaker. It’s been an absolute pleasure learning my craft at most hands-on practice academy in the world.”

    Saving Chintu was directed by Tyagi, who co-wrote the film with Sanyam Kumar and Corey Wright. The cast includes Edward Sonnenblick, Sachin Bhatt, Dipannita Sharma, Priyanka Setia, and Adil Hussain (Life of Pi, Hotel Salvation, What Will People Say.) The short was produced by Ritika Jayaswal and Tyagi.

    The film is already receiving buzz for its thoughtful exploration of LGBTQIA+ themes in the Indian and Indian American community. The story focuses on the lives of an Indian American gay couple who visit India to adopt a child suffering from HIV, examining social issues including the LGBTQIA+ communities of India, HIV/AIDS, and the child adoption system. 

    In 2018, homosexuality was decriminalized in the country by the Supreme Court of India, making it more relevant than ever for these themes to be explored by artists and filmmakers like Tyagi. 

    “I feel making this film is so important for me,” says Tyagi. “It’s like my calling, to start the conversation in my small capacity and to start a wave of change in the evolving circumstances around the globe and in the world of present Asia. It’s high time to create awareness and start a conversation on a bigger level through the medium of film and art for social issues like these.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Tushar Tyagi on Saving Chintu and wishes him success as he continues to explore complex and socially important issues through his work.

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    September 16, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2096

  • Off-Broadway Show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Instructor James Lecesne Available on Audible

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    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, the Off-Broadway show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor, is now available to listen to on Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform.

    Both written and performed by Lecesne, the story unravels around Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who goes missing from a small town on the Jersey Shore. Leonard becomes an unexpected inspiration to the townsfolk, who begin to question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. Sound design for the production was done by Christian Frederickson, with original music by Duncan Sheik.

    The New York Times says that The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey will “leave you beaming with joy … a superlative solo show … Mr. Lecesne is a writer of wit and keen observational skills, who here unfolds a dark tale that shimmers with the needling suspense you associate with the best police procedurals.”

    Much of Lecesne’s work focuses on LGBTQIA+ themes, including his screenplay for the Academy-Award winning short, Trevor. That film directly led to his founding of The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Lecesne also wrote for Further Tales if the City, Will and Grace, and Vicious, starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.

    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by NYFA Documentary Filmmaking instructor James Lecesne can be found on Audible here. New York Film Academy encourages the NYFA community to check it out today!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Movie Musical ‘Kaya: Taste of Paradise’ to Screen in Montreal

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    Kaya: Taste of ParadiseKaya: Taste of Paradise, the movie musical directed by Paul Warner for the Professional Conservatory at New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA), will be screening as part of Never Apart’s LGBT Film Series later this month in Montreal, Quebec.

    Kaya: Taste of Paradise is a movie musical set in 1979 and tells the story of a young South African immigrant, Kaya (Lethabo Mofomme), coming of age in New York City. Orphaned by the Soweto Uprisings of 1976, her brother, DeMarco (Okieriete Onaodowan of Broadway’s Hamilton and Great Comet), struggles to protect Kaya at all costs. While he rebuilds their lives in Harlem to provide a home for her, Kaya escapes to a disco in Brooklyn called Club Paradise in search of independence. She befriends Pato (Felipe Joglar), a gender-bending performance artist from Chile, and gradually becomes enchanted by the glamorous Cocoa (Stasi Berezovskaya), the headliner and owner of Paradise. The events unfold at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic.

    The movie musical was directed by filmmaker and NYFA instructor Paul Warner and written by Jerome A. Parker, with music and lyrics by Anna K Jacobs. “This film not only showcases exceptional music, storytelling, and direction, but it also celebrates a significant socio-political era in pursuit of civil rights,” says Sean Robinson, who edited and co-produced the film. “The gift of song should never be wasted and NYFA is providing an avenue for these students’ voices to be heard.”

    Kaya: Taste of Paradise

    Kaya will screen on August 15, at 7:00 p.m., followed by a Q&A with Warner, and hosted by Bradley Grill. The event, which coincides with Montreal’s Pride Week, is part of Never Apart’s month-long LGBT Film Series. Never Apart is a nonprofit based in Montreal, founded in 2015. The organization aims to bring about social change and spiritual awareness through gatherings, music, art exhibitions, panel discussions, workshops, and special events.

    New York Film Academy encourages everyone in the area to check out Kaya: Taste of Paradise on August 15! Details about the screening can be found here.

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    August 5, 2019 • Musical Theatre, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 1214

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Student Drama del Rosario Awarded BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary student Drama del Rosario received some major support for his important filmmaking endeavors when he received a Commissioning Grant from BAFTA-GSA.drama del rosario bafta

    del Rosario is currently studying for his MFA in Documentary at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus. “It’s been amazing to watch Drama del Rosario grow as a documentary filmmaker over the last two years,” says Sanora Bartels, NYFA-LA Chair of Documentary Filmmaking. “He brings tremendous heart to all of his projects and is fearless in his approach to sharing the truth of his personal story.”

    I’m Okay (And Neither Are You) is del Rosario’s thesis film and is currently in post-production. del Rosario’s grant application and documentary proposal was given final approval by an elite group of BAFTA members, including veteran writer and actor Stephen Fry, and succeeded despite a great deal of competition for the grant.

    “Drama is an amazing student and filmmaker,” says NYFA instructor Mary Beth Fielder. “All the work he’s produced while at NYFA has been exceptional, beginning with his very first film In This Family, a personal voice documentary which explores the repercussions of being ‘outed’ against his will by his seventh grade teacher.”

    The $8,000 grant was awarded to del Rosario by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), in partnership with Global Student Accommodation (GSA), for his documentary I’m Okay (And Neither Are You). The BAFTA-GSA Grant was launched in 2018 to provide young filmmakers with a platform to raise awareness and encourage change in how mental wellbeing is understood amongst their peers. This year marks the first time Netflix has sponsored the BAFTA Student Film Awards.

    drama del rosario bafta

    At the awards ceremony, del Rosario gave an impassioned, emotional speech, thanking New York Film Academy, his family, and his boyfriend, and more importantly speaking publicly of his own personal mental health issues. “I have been fortunate in my life to know how to use a camera and to have people around me who don’t judge me for being in front of the camera,” del Rosario told the audience in attendance. “So when things like this happen to you in your personal life, to some degree it’s your responsibility to share with other people.”

    The BAFTA-GSA grant will certainly help del Rosario finish his film and reach his goal of sharing his important story with others. “Drama literally puts himself and his personal stories in his films,” says Crickett Rumley, NYFA Director, Film Festivals. “Given the specificity of his observations, the powerful emotions he expresses, and the reactions he provokes in his audience, it’s no surprise to me that he’s been tapped for such a prestigious award.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary Filmmaking student Drama del Rosario on his BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant and looks forward to the completion of his thesis film, I’m Okay (And Neither Are You).

    drama del rosario bafta

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    July 18, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1165

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Celebrates Pride Month

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    The New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) campus had a lively Pride Month with six opportunities for engagement, including two socials, a trivia night, a film screening, a workshop, and a raffle. Many of the events were hosted by the LGBTQI+ club as well as Student Life.

    Pride Month kicked off with a lunchtime social with doughnuts, a photo booth, and a music playlist with all LGBTQI+ artists curated by the LGBTQI+ club. Students, faculty, and staff all came together to meet each other and show their pride with custom photo booth props designed by LGBTQI+ club.

    LA Pride Month 2019
    LGBTQI+ Club president Hakam Kharraz shared, “Everyone was happy and proud. I wanted people to socialize with others that they don’t know, and for them to be able to celebrate themselves with others that don’t identify as LGBTQIA+, and I think that was successful. The event promoted acceptance and safety, and was networking for people which is good for this industry.” A closing social was also held so that community members in both buildings, Riverside and Barham, can participate in Pride Month.

    LGBTQI+ club also hosted a trivia night, where students competed for prizes donated by Hamburger Mary’s. The trivia questions ranged from LGBTQI+ history, to films and pop culture. “It was educational in a fun way. Everyone said they learned a lot, whether about Queer history or Queer representation in media, said a student.

    The learning continued at the Why It Matters: Gender & Sexuality workshop led by Director of Student Life Missy Dominguez and Chair of NYFA Photo Arts Conservatory Kean O’Brien. Students, staff, and faculty came together during lunch to learn about the difference between gender and sexuality, transgender and gender non-conforming inclusion, pronouns, and all-gender restrooms. “It was one of, if not the most, informative, insightful, and organized NYFA presentations I’ve been to,” expressed NYFA faculty Terah Jackson. Due to its success and popularity, another workshop will be held August 1st in Barham.

    Pride Month ended with a screening of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a film about a teen sent to gay conversion therapy. LGBTQI+ president Hakam Kharraz expressed, “It was very important to show a movie about such an important topic, because this topic is relevant all around the world.” After the film, students had a discussion both about the topic at hand, gay conversion therapy, and the technical filmmaking. “Cinematically it’s beautiful. The story is relevant,” expressed a student.

    LA Pride Month 2019

    At the end of the screening, the Pride Raffle winners were announced. New York Film Academy held a Pride Raffle at all campuses where $1 raffle tickets could be purchased for a chance to win a special edition NYFA Pride shirt and bag. Each dollar is matched by New York Film Academy and all proceeds donated to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network). As a result, the Los Angeles campus will be contributing a $254 donation to support LGBTQ youth and foster safe schools.

    If you did not get to participate in Pride Month, Kharraz has a message: “If I could reach people who didn’t come, I’d say NYFA itself is a safe environment for everyone and our LGBTQI+ club is very inclusive of people both who identify as LGBT and who do not. We are all friends. We don’t judge. We’re our own community within a community.” 

    “If you are not out, you can always anonymously send a message to the club at lgbtq.clubla@nyfa.edu or request a meeting with the president. There is also Jackie (Jackie.Rabinowitz@nyfa.edu) and Kathia (Kathia.Rabelo@nyfa.edu), the therapists on campus, who have an LGBTQ support group every week to create a safe space for students to talk.”

    LGBTQI+ Club can be reached at lgbtq.clubla@nyfa.edu. Staff and faculty interested in forming an LGBTQI+ faculty and staff affinity group can contact any member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programming committee, including Susan Ashe, Christine Daniels, Missy Dominguez, Art Helterbran Jr., Prarthana Mohan, Jenni Powell, and Barbara Weintraub.

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    July 11, 2019 • Student Life • Views: 1219

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Student Eleonora Privitera Films ‘Queenz of the Night’

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    Queenz of the Night is a subversive short film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Student Eleonora Privitera.

    Privitera hails from Italy and has a background in social anthropology. She has been involved in ethnographic research fieldworks concerning urban violence and humanitarian projects in South America and East Africa. 

    Privitera is now continuing her studies in the 1-year Documentary Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s New York City campus. Here, she is gaining hands-on instruction from professional and award-winning instructors in the documentary and filmmaking industry, learning the tools and skills she’ll need to use documentary filmmaking as another way to channel her efforts in combating social ills. By documenting the lives and stories of people she has come across in her work and studies, Privitera hopes the medium of nonfiction filmmaking can help her denounce social injustice, economic inequality, and environmental conflicts. 

    Queenz of the Night, one of her recent films, is a subversive short about an LGBTQIA+ movement that uses art and political performances to fight homophobia and the gun industry’s chain of death violence in New York City. The film shows all aspects of the movement, capturing both its strengths and weaknesses of their methods, while also supporting the actions of those who take the risk of making a stand and fighting publicly for equal rights and dignity of LGBTQIA+ Americans. Against a contemporary social backdrop where hate crimes are on the rise, Privitera’s film is more relative than ever.Eleonora Privitera Queens of the Night

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking student Eleonora Privitera on the important work of her film Queenz of the Night and looks forward to future projects based on her passion for social justice.

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    June 14, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1428

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Celebrates LGBTQIA+ Community

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    Each year, LGBT Pride Month is celebrated throughout June, originally to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Pride Month has since expanded to honoring the LGBTQIA+ community in countless ways, including parades and raising awareness of current social issues facing the community and their loved ones.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is proud to celebrate LGBT Pride Month through a series of events across all of its domestic campuses, including film screenings, workshops, trivia nights, social get-togethers, and more.

    NYFA also looks to laud the LGBTQIA+ members of its community, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are making their community proud through the artistic crafts they’ve honed while studying or working at the Academy. Additionally, NYFA is celebrating projects made by the NYFA community that focuses on and raises awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues.

    Here are some updates from the NYFA LGBTQIA+ community:

    Drama del Rosario 

    MFA Documentary alum Drama del Rosario is originally from Manila, Philippines, and his BAFTA-shortlisted documentary In This Family focuses on complex themes surrounding culture, religion, commercialization, and LGBTQIA+ issues. In this Family is a 12-minute short that tells the story of one Filipino family’s reaction to finding out their son is gay. Recently, the film was an Official Selection of the Doc Edge Pride Festival, a prestigious fest that is Oscar-qualifying. The second portion of the fest will be held later this month in Wellington, New Zealand.

    LGBTQIA+ Community Drama del Rosario

    Shivin Sanjeev & Sunny Grover

    NYFA alum Shivin Sanjeev Grover and NYFA BFA student Sunny Grover recently collaborated with Maroon 5 keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Jesse Carmichael on the two minute short film Thrive, which focuses on the struggle and obstacles still faced today by the LGBTQIA+ community. The film was written and directed by Shivin and Sunny, two brothers from India, and is part of Carmichael’s 2 Minute Movies (2mm) project, which was created last year. Thrive is the first film to come from 2mm with a focus on LGBTQIA+ rights. 

    Ioanna Meli

    Life in Color, a short film starring NYFA MFA Acting for Film alum Ioanna Meli, was an Official Selection in the 2018 Cannes International Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers category. Directed by Bishal Dutta, Life in Color tells the story of an aging, closeted gay man with Alzheimer’s who struggles against his strong-willed daughter to hold on to the memory of the long lost love of his life. Along with the prestigious honor of screening at Cannes, the film has shown as part of the Silicon Beach Film Festival in Los Angeles.

    LGBTQIA+ Community Ioanna Meli

    Assaad Yacoub

    Assaad Yacoub graduated from NYFA’s 2-year Filmmaking Program in New York City before going on to complete both his BFA and MFA degrees in Filmmaking at Burbank-based NYFA-Los Angeles. He hit the ground running with his debut feature film, Cherry Pop, starring Bob the Drag Queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Tempest DuJour, Latrice Royale, and Lars Berge. Cherry Pop is a comedy musical that tells the story of both a nervous drag queen just starting out and a veteran finishing their career. Yacoub plans to adapt the film into a television pilot, and has also shot music videos for RuPaul’s Drag Race.

    Heather Mathews

    NYFA-LA Editing instructor Heather Mathews served as editor and producer on the documentary Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America, which premiered at the OutFest LGBT Film Festival in 2016. Forbidden focuses on Moises Serrano, an undocumented gay man whose parents fled Mexico for the United States when he was just a baby, and whose undocumented status prevented him from receiving financial aid for school despite being a top student. Moises has shared his story to dispel myths about the undocumented community and unite the immigration and LGBTQIA+ movements, seeing them both as a struggle for human rights.

    LGBTQIA+ Community Heather Mathews

    Lizzie Gottlieb

    The prestigious Excellence in Documentary Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA) was awarded to Romeo, Romeo, a documentary feature directed by NYFA Documentary faculty member Lizzie Gottlieb, who produced the film with Eden Wurmfeld and NYFA President Michael J. Young. NYFA Documentary alum Eliana Álvarez Martínez served as a camera operator. The film aired on PBS’s America Reframed and follows a married lesbian couple who navigate the complicated struggles of infertility. 

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