Since graduating from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Cinematography program, alum Tian Liu (Fall 2015) has been keeping very busy. Liu has been steadily growing her career as a filmmaker and building her portfolio with credits as a photographer, producer, and cinematographer on several professional projects.
Liu was born in China, where she studied sports journalism. While teaching orphans math as a volunteer in Kenya, Liu felt inspired to photograph their experience. After those images were professionally published, Liu realized she wanted to become a filmmaker. “I realized that images have power,” Liu tells NYFA. “It can tell others a story, it also can help people and give people a better life. I love telling stories and I want to be a visual artist.”
Following her dream, Liu opened a photo studio and enrolled at New York Film Academy. At NYFA, Liu earned her MFA in Cinematography while studying under Chair of Cinematography Tony Richmond, ASC, BSC (Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Sandlot,Legally Blonde).
“Without NYFA,” Liu says, I would not have been able to become a female Chinese cinematographer and do the kind of work I find so fulfilling.”
The Piano, Liu’s thesis film completed at NYFA, has screened at over 35 film festivals, and has picked up an impressive 28 awards for Best Cinematography. Additionally, she has worked on over 40 film projects that used 16mm and 35mm film, and has shot several films as director of photography. Recently, Liu worked on a feature film in Louisiana, as well as a camera operator for Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dean Cundey, ASC (Jurassic Park, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) on the feature documentary Motionless. Liu has also worked in New York City for the United Nations and an esteemed advertisement firm.
Liu has also found success as a photographer publishing her work in high-profile magazines and newspapers, including China Daily. Over 40 images she’s shot have been featured in Vogue Italia.
In addition to her work behind the camera, Liu has been a strong voice for female cinematographers, and recently gave a talk at USC about working in the industry as a female, Chinese cinematographer. While the film industry works to course correct issues of gender inequality, women still make up a distressingly small proportion of working professional cinematographers.
New York Film Academy congratulates MFA in Cinematography alum Tian Liu on her continued success in the industry and thanks her sharing her experiences with the filmmaking community.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Daniela Rodriguez Martinez has kept busy since earning her MFA in Cinematography. With over seven years of experience based in Los Angeles, Martinez has worked on live television, music videos, interviews, documentaries, short films, feature films, and television series, and has picked up multiple awards and nominations along the way.
Martinez is originally from Bogota, Colombia and enrolled in NYFA’s MFA in Cinematography program in Fall 2016. While studying at our Los Angeles campus, Martinez was able to work hands-on with advanced professional filmmaking gear used by the industry under the tutelage of Tony Richmond, BSC, ASC—director of photography of films including The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Sandlot, Legally Blonde, and Don’t Look Now.
“My time at the New York Film Academy gave me the concepts, knowledge, and network to start working in the industry,” Martinez tells NYFA. “I am very grateful to have been able to study there.”
Martinez’s films have been shown both domestically and around the world, including Nigeria. She has had the opportunity to work with several high profile actors including Sharon Stone, Marta Kristen, and Simon Miller. Her awards climb into the double digits, including honors from the European Cinematography Awards, Berlin Flash Film Festival, Miami Independent Film Festival, and Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, among many others. Martinez most recently won Best Action Film at the 2019 Festigious International Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Martinez’s success is all the more notable considering the enormous gender gap in cinematography. Currently, only three percent of directors of photography in Hollywood are women. It wasn’t until last year that a woman was even nominated at the Academy Awards for Cinematography; this year, no women were recognized.
“I have found that as a woman I must prove to be two or three times more qualified than a man to be considered as a director of photography on a project,” Martinez says. “Nonetheless, so far it has been a quite an adventure and … I hope to remain a director of photography here in Los Angeles for many years and continue to grow in the industry and contributing to this change that is happening.”
Currently, Martinez is working on multiple projects, including a television series about vegan food, a web series, and several short films.
The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA alum Daniela Rodriguez Martinez on her numerous awards and festival appearances and looks forward to following her career in cinematography as it continues to progress!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) is proud to congratulate cinematographer & recent graduate Manuel Velasquez (Spring ’16 MFA Cinematography) on signing with Pipeline Entertainment, a New York-based agency representing both above- and below-the-line talent.
Velasquez joins a roster that includes many notable producers, writers, directors, and cinematographers who are working at the highest levels of the industry. Pipeline has staffed their clients on shows including Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, Kick-Ass 2, and Dexter, among others.
Velasquez was pleased to sign with a prestigious agency so quickly after graduating. He believes the company signed him both on the strength of his reel, built largely from the NYFA projects that he shot as a student, and due to his positive attitude. Additionally, he built a diverse resume with many short film credits during his time in the MFA Cinematography program, giving him the experience to prepare him for professional sets. Velasquez’s cinematography credits include fellow NYFA alum Christian Bulich’s 64 Koufax, among many others:
Asked about his advice for current students who are looking forward to starting their careers, Velasquez noted that “finding an agent leads you to a lot of new possibilities, but finding a balance between art and business is key.”
For Velasquez, those new possibilities include being offered his first feature film as a director of photography. He has signed on to photograph An Essential Gift, directed by fellow NYFA alum Jose Mario Salas (Fall ’16 MA Film & Media). The film will star noted Costa Rican actors Viviana Calderon and Pablo Rodriguez, as well as Mauricio Hoffman and Norval Calvo in supporting roles. The project is currently scheduled for a four-week shoot in San Jose, Costa Rica.
NYFA MFA Cinematography grad Manuel Velasquez
Asked about the film, Manuel had this to say:
“Prepping to shoot my first feature film in a country that I have never visited is more than exciting. I am very moved by the story and fascinated about the attention that our production is getting in Costa Rica. There are very high expectations for us, and I love the challenge.”
We are proud to congratulate Manuel Velasquez on signing with the Pipeline agency, and locking his first feature film. We look forward to seeing this film, and more of his excellent work in the future.
To view some of Manuel’s reel and some of his recent work, please visit his website.
American Cinematographer magazine, the official publication of the American Society of Cinematographers, recently spotlighted the meteoric rise of New York Film Academy MFA Cinematography grad Egor Povolotskiy in it’s Rising Stars of Cinematography piece.
In an issue that also features ASC giants like the creative minds behind The Last Jedi, American Cinematographer highlights how Povolotskiy’s pathway to success in Los Angeles was paved in large part through his NYFA connections.
First, Povolotskiy points to his NYFA instructor and mentor Mike Williamson, and later to fellow NYFA alum and line producer Mariietta Volynska, who hired the cinematographer for his first project post-graduation, based on his NYFA thesis.
Since then, Povolotskiy has padded out his already impressive resume with three wins at the Rochester International and Voya Film Festivals plus another four nominations for his short film We Are Enemies.
Nowwith eight features and almost 60 short films under his belt, we had a chance to hear from Povolotskiy about his experience working on the riveting thriller, Gold Dust, and his own journey behind the lens.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?
EP: My journey starts back in Russia. I was at university getting my first master’s in artificial intelligence. Somewhere in the middle of my education, I started taking pictures of my friends and becoming interested in photography in general. I realized that AI was not that interesting for me anymore, and I started growing more as a photographer. (I still finished my masters though!)
During university, I was working as a photojournalist as well as a wedding and family photographer, shooting for Marriott Hotels in Moscow. I was also an official photographer of Russian Association of Motorcyclists. Bikers and their bikes were involved in film productions, and for me it was always magic to see how films were done. So the next time I saw them on set, I called the president of this association and asked him if I could stop by and take some pictures just for myself. It was a shoot of a son of one of the most famous directors in Russia, with the biggest production company. I ended up being hired as bts [behind-the-scenes photographer] after my first day on set.
After working for three years as bts and 2nd unit, the producer asked me one day if I wanted to DP a film. I refused, and told her that I would first get my education. … I had a sense of framing and lighting, but I didn’t know anything about being a DP at that time. Being a DP is not just framing and lighting. A DP is a storyteller, a head of a department, a set runner and problems solver — that’s became a definition of my job now.
When I was choosing a school I was really afraid to go overseas, but my wife supported me, saying that everything was going to be how I wanted. My parents also gave me big support. My DP friends recommended NYFA as a possible school — hands-on and not that expensive. I was choosing between London, Lodze (in Poland), and NYFA, and I choose NYFA in the end.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time as a NYFA student?
EP: As for favorite moments — I really don’t know, because it was great overall. … Every project I was shooting, I was trying to do better and bigger than my previous project. I still have warm feelings about NYFA and mention it where I can. I was also TA-ing sometimes between projects. By the time I graduated, a lot of people at NYFA knew me already. But I was still afraid of what would happen after school, how I was going to find a job. But right at two weeks after my graduation, I booked my first feature film as a DP!
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your experience shooting Gold Dust?
EP: That was a fun experience. I went to an interview and I usually talk first, but here I was kind of shocked that the director took the initiative. He ask me, “What’s wrong with you Russians, you shoot so differently?” I really didn’t know what to answer. Later when we became friends he told me that he hired me because of the way I told him that I like to shoot fast. David Wall — a true director, in my understanding of what that means: great powerful leader, a captain of a ship. …
We were actually blessed to have a desert with its very different looks — breathtaking sunsets, rain, heat — we got everything taped. We got a great “family” film by the end.
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your prep process before you start working on a film?
EP: I read the script as the “dumbest person,” meaning that everything should be clear for me. If I have any questions, there’s going to be a person [in the audience] who will ask the same question. Then, myself and the director talk about the story in general. … In most cases I’m able to tell what kind of film the director sees in his mind. I do a beat breakdown of a script, and we decide if the film needs to be stylized or not. Then I build visual arcs based on developing the character and style of the film. Usually I give a couple of options to the director, if he gives me freedom. I prefer collaboration over the projects were I have no creative influence — every film is a part of myself.
… I remember at NYFA we had some sort of test. If the director wanted a shot, but the producer was not giving him money, which side you will take? There are always two [out of three] things you have to choose: not expensive, good or fast. The secret is you can combine all three, actually!
Being a collaborator with understanding of storytelling is a great help for a director, if you’re fast. … You have to stay in the budget, and then the producer will always love you. Learning how to use visual tools (composition, lighting, movement, editing, color grading), how to be a leader, how to delegate to your crew and build a shooting process so the crew feel safe, comfortable, respectfully treated — it is huge work.
…Being a DP you’re learning not only about other people, but also about yourself.
Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler speaks to students
Haskell Wexler recently visited students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. The 91-year-old cinematographer was named as one of the ten most influential cinematographers by the International Cinematographers Guild. In the course of his career, he lensed such seminal films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat of the Night, American Graffiti, and The Thomas Crown Affair. He has been nominated for a total of 5 Oscars, and has won two.
Wexler watched clips of cinematography students’ films, and gave them valuable feedback. “It was an amazing experience to have him share his thoughts and experience with us,” said Diego Gilly, an MFA Cinematography student. “I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to share some of our work with him, and hear what he had to say.”
Actor Robert Forster leads a master class for actors
Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster, who starred in 1969’s Medium Cool, written and directed by Haskell Wexler, also recently paid a visit to New York Film Academy. In addition to his numerous television roles, Forster is known for his roles in Mulholland Drive, Me, Myself, & Irene, The Descendants, and his Oscar-nominated role in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.
Forster led a master class for acting students, telling stories from his life and career, answering questions, and giving advice. “The camera looks real deep into you,” he said. “It knows whether you’re lying or not. If you want your audience to admire you, you have to be someone they can admire. You have to have the qualities that make a person worth admiring. Then it’s easy to deliver that on screen.”