A much deserved congratulations goes out to former New York Film Academy student Manoj Annadurai, whose romantic comedy Get Happy won Best Comedy at the 2015 Manhattan Film Festival. The film stars Chris Riggi (Gossip Girl), Adam LaVorgna (7th Heaven), Jordan Lane Price (All My Children), Rebecca Blumhagen (Other Plans) and Lauren Sweetser (Winter’s Bone). Also on the team is producer Sania Jhankar, as well as NYFA alumna Molly Calliste—who was an associate producer. The film was shot entirely in New York and was completed in just under a year.
Get Happy is about a perpetually miserable man who finds happiness when he starts dating a manic pixie dream girl, to the befuddlement of his cynical best friend.
This marks the first feature film from the Indian-born director Manoj Annadurai. As an innovative entrepreneur in India, Annadurai began his career as a successful technology maven before shifting gears to his true passion, filmmaking.
“NYFA education is structured in such a way that says ‘Yes, you too can make a movie’,” said director Annaduarai. “The wonderful teachers who taught with so much passion, help you understand what it takes to make a great movie. That gave me the confidence to shoot Get Happy.”
Director Manoj Annadurai on set of “Get Happy”
In Get Happy, Annadurai explores the idea of happiness. He says, “We live in an age where information is bursting at the seams, we have more access to theories on how to be happy than ever before,” and this is the driving force of the film. He adds, “The theories of happiness are represented by the relationship of two best friends. And when you take these ideas to the extreme, comedy comes into play!”
“The film is a fun slice of life that is enjoyable, but also conveys a deeper message,” said producer Sania Jhankar.
Get Happy will be playing at Cinema Village in New York City starting January 15th, 2016.
We’re proud to announce that one of our former students, Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses will be screening her documentary short film Historic Jeddah at the International Film Festival Manhattan 2015 in New York City. Jameelah attended both the One Year Filmmaking Conservatory Program and the Eight-week Filmmaking Workshop at the New York Film Academy. Her documentary, Historic Jeddah is the one and only film coming from Saudi Arabia that is included in this year’s official selections. The film festival will run from October 22nd to the 25th. Jameelah’s film will be screened at the Producers Club (358 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036) on Saturday, October 24, 2015 from 5:50pm-8:10pm.
Jameelah’s selection has already garnered her some notable press, including features in the Saudi Gazette and Arab News—the two leading English newspapers in Saudi Arabia—as well as Malayalam News, a sister newspaper of Arab News.
Before her upcoming screening this Saturday, Jameelah was gracious enough to answer some questions about her documentary and her future in filmmaking.
Can you tell us what this documentary is about?
Historic Jeddah is a multi-part documentary short film that showcases some of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage such as the Dondurma, Rawashin, Rubat, and more. A multi-part documentary film that will surely give the audience a detailed insight of Saudi Arabia’s Historic Jeddah – A World Heritage Site. A film that will represent one of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural history.
What do you hope to achieve with this documentary?
Without a doubt, Saudi Arabia is the world’s most conservative country. It is also a country that doesn’t offer tourist visas. Therefore, only a handful of people know what it really feels like to be in Saudi Arabia and the things that it has to offer to the world aside from petroleum/gas and oil. With the help of this multi-part documentary film, people will get to see a different side of Saudi Arabia, and that is its cultural heritage. It will give the audience a new perspective of the whole country and its citizens, especially to those who have never been to the country.
I believe that this documentary film will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s tourism in the near future. This country has so much to offer but it is not widely known to the rest of the world.
Why did you choose Old Jeddah as your setting?
I was browsing through Facebook and I saw this group called Arabian Jewel. They are organizing a tour to Old Balad because there was an ongoing festival. It was held earlier this year on January 2015. I was intrigued by it. I discussed it with my mother and we ended up going on the tour. My mother was my inspiration when I made the film. In fact, she was the one who told me that I should film the tour and bring a spare camera with me. She told me that I could turn it into a film someday, which I actually ended up doing. This film is entirely shot using a camera-phone (Samsung Note 3 and iPhone 5s) and a digital compact/point and shoot camera (Nikon Coolpix).
What initially made you pursue a career in filmmaking? How did you start?
I have always loved watching movies and TV series since I was very young. As I grew older, I began to critique various films. Gradually, my interest in watching films evolved into something more in depth, and that is to study the art of filmmaking. Since I was in 5th grade of elementary school, I have dreamed of becoming a successful film director. Until the day I graduated from high school, my ambition did not change.
My greatest influence on wanting to pursue a degree in the motion picture of arts is the East Asian cinema, with great focus on South Korean and Japanese television series and music videos.
I am a huge fan of Rush Hour movies starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Jackie Chan is one of my all-time favorite action stars alongside Jet Li. It has been one of my dreams to be able to work with them on a project. I have watched almost all of their films. I also love the Harry Potter movies.
Would you say your studies at NYFA were useful in terms of making Historic Jeddah?
Yes, of course! I still remember during my studies in the filmmaking conservatory program, we had documentary elective classes from our directing instructor, Tassos Rigopoulos. Although it was just an elective, I was always present in that class. I am glad that we had documentary elective classes in NYFA. I have learned so much in a short period of time.
At the New York Film Academy, we write, direct, edit, produce and shoot our own films. I was able to apply the skills I learned from NYFA in making Historic Jeddah because it is a film I shot, directed, edited and produced by myself. I have also applied those skills on my other projects here in Jeddah since almost all of it are a “one-woman show.”
Would you recommend NYFA to other students interested in pursuing the arts?
Absolutely! I have been promoting NYFA in my own way ever since it became my dream school back in 2008 (I was an incoming 2nd year high school student during that time) and even before NYFA had information sessions in Saudi Arabia. I can safely say that I was one of the first few people, if not the first, to ever inquire about filmmaking programs at NYFA, back in 2008. Also, I still wear my NYFA gear often (caps, t-shirts, bags, summer/winter jacket and hoodies). This is one of the ways I promote the school in Jeddah. In fact, recommending NYFA has already become a habit of mine after I graduated and became an alumni.
I highly recommend the New York Film Academy for anyone interested in pursuing the arts, especially for aspiring filmmakers and actors/actresses. I believe that NYFA was the best place for me to hone my skills in filmmaking and learn many more things that can contribute to my career someday. And based on my experience studying there, I can say it is worth it. Not only the instructors teach us how to operate different kinds of cameras (from film to digital), they also teach as the etiquette in working in the industry. Before I forget to mention, our instructors also taught us all the roles and functions of other crew positions, as well.
I believe that NYFA has excellent faculty members because they make sure their students do not fall behind classes. They are also very knowledgeable and experienced. In addition to that, the counselors and NYFA staff are very attentive to the needs of the students.
What is your goal as a filmmaker?
My goal is to become a prominent figure in the motion picture of arts. I hope to become a multi-award-winning, multi-lingual, and world-renowned filmmaker in the future. I wish to win an Oscar for Best Director and for my film to win as well. I would also like to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest director of my generation—if there’s such an award. I became a filmmaker at the age of 18 — the youngest of my class during the Eight-week filmmaking program at NYFA.
Given the chance, I would like to become a pioneer in educating young and aspiring filmmakers here without breaking the code of conduct of Saudi Arabia. At the moment, there are only a handful of filmmakers from Saudi Arabia, especially female filmmakers like me.
Are you currently working on anything else?
Yes, I am currently working on 3 documentary films. One of the films is about the Expats of Jeddah. This is actually a continuation of my semester film during my filmmaking conservatory studies at NYFA. For this film, I interviewed additional people of different nationalities. The film will be about their lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — from their first impressions, things they like/dislike about the country, culture differences, advices to incoming expats, etc.
We wish the best of luck to this very ambitious filmmaker, especially on her upcoming festival screening. For tickets to the screening of Historic Jeddah, please CLICK HERE.
New York Film Academy MFA student Yair Shvartz (Left) on the set of Bert’s Plan
New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking student Yair Shvartz is generating buzz in the film community with short comedy Bert’s Plan. Shvartz, originally from Israel, wrote, directed and produced Bert’s Plan, which received the CINE Golden Eagle Award. In addition, the film took home the Silver Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival, and the Van Gogh Award at the Amsterdam International Film Festival.
Bert’s Plan follows a struggling middle-aged writer attempting to get his book published. Downtrodden and plagued with rejection, Bert comes up with a plan that takes an unexpected and hilariously dark turn. Says Shvartz of the project:
“Bert’s Plan was not the easiest shoot. It was a big challenge but with a lot of hard work and our hearts put into it, it all came together! The crew did an amazing job. We had wonderful actors and I had my DP, Ezequiel Arribas (also a NYFA student), with whom I had previously worked on a few other shorts, who did an incredible job. I was lucky to have been surrounded by such a wonderful crew.”
Bert’s Plan screens this Saturday, July 30th at 4:45pm at Symphony Space in New York as part of the Manhattan Film Festival. Schvartz is currently in the fundraising stage for his next project, a feature film titled Worried Minds.