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  • “Documentary” Magazine’s Spring 2018 Issue Highlights New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking School

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Department is one of only eight film schools honored in the prestigious “Documentary” Magazine, the official publication of the International Documentary Association (IDA), in an article exploring the advantages of pursuing an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    In reading the article titled The MFA Considered: A Sampling of Programs that Tackle the Current Marketplace by Akiva Gottlieb, one of the ways that NYFA stands out among the other programs explored, is expressed in the sentence: “Within two weeks of the first class, students will be making films.” None of the other programs make this claim.

    NYFA also offers the unique opportunity for a bi-coastal MFA experience. Students can opt to spend their first year studying in New York City and the second year in Los Angeles, or may opt to spend both years in LA.

    As NYFA New York City Documentary Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift notes, NYFA’s degree and conservatory programs are guided by the principal that students “learn to make documentaries by making documentaries.”

    Los Angeles Chair of Documentary Sanora Bartels concurs, noting, “The most important element of making documentaries is story. Our students are not just hands-on with equipment, they’re researching, they’re out in the community, they’re finding that story.”

    Two years of intense research and production culminate in a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. NYFA also stands apart in offering an intensive Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory on both coasts. This allows students the alternative of finishing their studies in One-Year, should they opt to earn a certificate, and 36 transferrable hours, rather than the advanced degree.

     

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  • MFA Filmmaking Grad to Premiere ‘More Than Words’ at Cannes Short Film Corner

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    more than wordsThey say write what you know. That’s precisely what former New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking student Gabe Chavez set out to do with his semi-autobiographical thesis film, More Than Words. Chavez suffers from a heart disorder called Aortic Stenosis, a genetic disorder that constricts his aortic valve. If left unchecked, the disorder could become life threatening. Initially, Chavez refused to take the heart disorder seriously — he wouldn’t even visit his doctor. Eventually, his girlfriend (now fiancée) Caitlin gave him an ultimatum: if you don’t want to take care of yourself, do it for me. A crucial moment not only in Chavez’s film, but in his own life. In addition to Caitlin, other characters in his film were inspired by his extended and immediate family.

    Chavez’s team consisted of a number of NYFA students, including Kyle Pavlin (co writer/AD), Tripp Townsend (producer), Regina Bang (EP), Javier Del Olmo (EP), Laura Elisa Perez (DP), Badr Farha (production design), Mich Castro (1st AC, b camera op), and Yiting Lyu (2nd AC).

    “This film simply could not have been made if it wasn’t for [producer] Tripp Townsend,” said Chavez. “He has been like my brother; he grew up with me in New Mexico, produced my film, and is about to graduate from the producing program this May.”

    Townsend and Chavez are business partners, having teamed up to form production company Frozen Frame Productions, LLC.

    “Also, my actors were fundamental in telling this story—especially my leads, Samm and Cody.”

    Chavez put Samm and Cody through 6 weeks of rehearsals before filming began. While working on set, the three of them formed a very close bond of collaboration and trust that still exists today.

    Praised by NYFA Los Angeles Producing Chair Tony Schwartz, Chavez’s thesis film will begin the festival circuit with its premiere at the Cannes Short Film Corner.

    more than words set

    Chavez originally decided to enroll in the MFA Filmmaking program because of its hands-on approach and access to industry-standard equipment. The program put Chavez in a position where he could concentrate solely on filmmaking and directing.

    “My directing teachers Nick Sivakumaran and Adam Nimoy along with my writing mentor Andy Guerdat really helped me with my thesis,” said Chavez. “While Nick didn’t advise me in my thesis year, it was really his teaching and constant inspiration of my films and efforts that led me to my thesis film with the tools necessary to get the most from the scenes. Adam’s advanced directing class encouraged me to experiment (especially in rehearsals), and gave me the vocabulary to talk these actors through such difficult and personal material. When it comes to Andy, he provided me with such great screenwriting advice and knowledge (coupled with my undergrad screenwriting teacher Matt McDuffie — writer of the recent Ed Harris/Annette Bening vehicle Face of Love), that lead me to the final script I wrote with my cowriter Kyle Pavlin. This story really couldn’t have come off the page without Kyle’s contribution. He really is the most excellent writer.”

    gabe chavez

    Chavez hopes his film will inspire people to examine their own relationships, realizing the blessings they have in life. Beyond that hope, he intends to use this short as a springboard toward the feature film version.

    In addition to showcasing More Than Words at festivals around around the country, Chavez has been working in New York City on several TV shows and movies, including Gotham, Madam Secretary, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Broad City, The Americans, Elementary, and the upcoming films Urge (with Pierce Brosnan) and Freeheld (with Academy Award Winner Julianne Moore and Inception/Juno star Ellen Page). He is also key gripping a low budget feature film that is being produced by NYFA graduates Regina Bang and Javier Del Olmo (the same team who executive produced his film).

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    March 2, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4845

  • MFA Filmmaking Grad Wins Best Producing and Directing Awards

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    Spyros KLast month, New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking graduate Spyros Kopanitsas was awarded the Best Producing Award at The Madrid International Film Festival for his year one short film,  Level 2. Shortly after, he was awarded with the Best Director Award at the Downtown Film Festival in Los Angeles for his thesis film, (Z).

    Level 2 was his year one film during his two year MFA degree and only his second attempt at writing and directing a dialogue based short story. The film is set in a futuristic world where people are plugged into a networking platform video game called “The Place.” In this world, a humble boy asks out a rather high-status girl, but when he doesn’t have access to her level, he has to try and hack his way into the virtual bar they are supposed to meet at.

    His thesis film, (Z) is again set in the not so distant future where individual’s uncontrollable behaviors can be formatted by extreme and invasive measures by a German corporation, called (Z) Corp. In the film, we follow Nico, a raver junkie who wakes up one morning in his apartment only to realize it won’t be an ordinary one.

    Spyros came to us from Athens, Greece, and decided to go for his Master’s degree at NYFA Los Angeles after attending our 8-week filmmaking program in New York City. “I enjoyed the full hands-on practical approach to film and decided to do a two year MFA degree in the Los Angeles,” says Spyros. “The training at NYFA was very valuable in terms of producing and directing, especially in directing, which is the field that intrigues me the most.”

    He currently has a few projects in development, adding, “My goal as a filmmaker is to participate in productions that will entertain the eye and tickle the brain.”

    Level 2

    Behind the scenes of Level 2. Far left, former students Ioanna Sourmeli (make-up) and in the middle, Edrei Hutson (UPM).

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    September 17, 2014 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3799