MFA Filmmaking Program
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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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  • Director & New York Film Academy Grad Aymen Khoja’s Feature Debut is First American-Saudi Film Collaboration

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    The Arabian Warrior is not only the very first American-Saudi film production, but has also celebrated its premiere in Saudi Arabia at a historic moment, just as the Kingdom celebrates the opening of its movie theaters for the fist time in 35 years. The film follows Anmar, a young Saudi man who dreams of becoming a professional football player. It’s a deeply human story about navigating the tension between following one’s dreams, honoring one’s family and traditions, and finding one’s own way in a complicated world.

    After an incredibly successful red carpet premiere covered by major news networks in Dubai, the film is screening across the Middle East with Grand Entertainment — and soon the world, with a distribution deal with MultiVisionnaire Pictures, and an upcoming digital release on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

    In the midst of his busy opening month, director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Aymen Khoja found the time to sit down with the NYFA Blog via email to talk about the film, the Dubai screening, and what’s next.

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

    AK: Passion and ambition. My active soul pulled my body from all the challenges I faced to the city of angels to study what I’ve dreamed of: becoming a filmmaker!

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most?

    AK: Filmmaking is the best way to get into people hearts! People would listen when they see things through films more than if you talk to them face to face. Plus, I love inspiring people with what I believe is right. Also, I love putting a smile on people’s faces!  

    NYFA: Can you tell us what brought The Arabian Warrior project to life? How did the film come about for you?

    AK: Young people always fight to achieve their goals against their parents, society, or any challenges could stand in front of them. I wanted to explain the pressure young people face when it comes to making their choices about what they want to be in the future.

    NYFA: The Arabian Warrior tells a story that highlights some tensions between a young man with a dream to pursue a non-traditional career, and his parents’ concerns for his future. What resonated with you about this story?

    AK: I’ve seen this situation around me with friends, family. To me the most important question is, how can the son reach his goals but at the same time respect his parents?  

     

    The Arabian Warrior poster via IMDB

    NYFA: Congratulations on screening The Arabian Warrior in Dubai! How did this event come about? Can you tell us a bit about the process of organizing the screening and how it feels leading up to the screening?

    AK: Thank you! It feels wonderful.

    I’d love to thank Dubai for welcoming my first of all time film premier! It was a super exciting process from very the beginning, when we signed Grand Entertainment to distribute our film in the Arab region.

    Big thanks to Isaac, who really worked everything out! It just can’t get better!

    Our film played in 48 theaters all over the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Fantastic success. I thank God, and everyone who helped me with this achievement.   

    NYFA: Did anything surprise you during filming, or where there any hurdles you overcame? Any words of wisdom for our students from your production experience?

    AK: A lot of surprises and many challenges, from losing locations, working with actors, staying within the budget, getting creative shots to save the day, etc.

    Advice I can give: be collaborative. Listen. Build a fantastic positive team. Move on. Don’t get stuck with one challenge; fix it and move on.

    Director Aymen Khoja via IMDB

    NYFA: What’s next for The Arabian Warrior?

    AK: It will be released on digital platforms in the U.S. and Canada: Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. We’ve signed with an international distributor worldwide, MultiVisionnaire. The film already has been released on TV, in some part of Asia and Africa.

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

    AK: I’m developing three projects at the same time. I prefer not to speak about them now, but all what I can say is, they will see light soon inshallah!  

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    AK: NYFA is one of the main reasons for me to be at this place. I can’t thank NYFA enough. Instructors, environment, departments, classmates, everyone were super helpful. They gave me all the knowledge I needed for this wonderful journey in creating my first feature  film! I’m still in touch with all my instructors, we became like a family! Thank you, family of NYFA, from my heart.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Aymen for his interview, and congratulate him and Mohammad on the great success of The Arabian Warrior

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  • Winning in Casablanca

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    Jaouad Bouddehbine winning Best Fiction at the Casablanca International Student Film Festival

    One year filmmaking graduate, Jaouad Bouddehbine, won Best Fiction at The Casablanca International Student Film Festival and was selected at Angelus Student Film Festival with his film, Stricken, which was his thesis film at New York Film Academy. The Moroccan native believes there is a wealth of untapped material which can shared through the medium of cinema. “Great stories can be told and shared worldwide. I would love to tell the world some of those stories.”
    Currently, Jaouad is looking to shoot his next film in which he tends to cross genres. In fact, he has set the bar high with his hopes to revolutionize Moroccan cinema. But, first, he plans to continue his film education through NYFA’s MFA Filmmaking program. “NYFA was a great experience, especially in terms of writing, shooting, and editing short films in the United States.”

    Click here, if you’re interested in learning filmmaking at New York Film Academy like Jaouad!

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