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  • NYFA Alum Boise Esquerra’s “Blackwater” Screens at 2021 Slamdance Film Festival

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    Known both as a festival “by filmmakers, for filmmakers” and for its Oscar-qualifying short film awards, the Slamdance Film Festival has long been a mecca for emerging independent directors. This year NYFA alum Boise Esquerra, a graduate of the Los Angeles campus’s MFA Filmmaking and MFA Screenwriting programs, will be right in the middle of the action when his episodic film Blackwater screens in the virtual festival February 12 – 25, 2021. 

    In the days leading up to the festival Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, caught up with Boise to talk about the personal experience that inspired his series and the importance of filmmakers from diverse backgrounds telling their own stories.

    NYFA alum Boise Esquerra

    Cricket Rumley (CR): Hi, Boise! Congratulations on getting into Slamdance! Tell us a little about yourself.

    Boise Esquerra (BE): I’d be happy to. I am a Native (Hopi) and Mexican American filmmaker enrolled in the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Parker, AZ. I am a recent graduate of the New York Film Academy (MFA Screenwriting) and hold a BA in Digital Filmmaking and Video Production and an additional MFA in Filmmaking from NYFA. I love storytelling, creating, and everything that entails filmmaking from start to finish. Currently, I reside here in lovely Burbank, CA, and am represented by Sandra Avila at Inclusion Management.

    CR: Tell us about your film. What is it about and where does it take place?   

    BE: Blackwater is an episodic pilot about Native American country music star Birdie Blackwater whose career is fizzling due to excessive drinking that began 10 years ago. Upon moving back to her home reservation, barely clinging onto what little dignity she has left, Birdie is arrested for a barrage of drunken charges and lashing out at tribal police officers during a late-night performance. The next day, tribal courts order Birdie to complete 180 days of wellness therapy and intense probation or face two years in prison. Birdie now finds herself contending each week with a group of offbeat individuals who each possess their own…“unique” mental limitations. The story takes place on a fictional Native American reservation call Red Rock. 

    CR: Sounds very powerful. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this story? 

    BE: The inspiration for Blackwater came about in September of 2018… a tough experience. I had started a new class (Transmedia) at the New York Film Academy in Burbank, CA. The ultimate goal of the class: develop, write, and shoot a web series pilot. During the first half of the six-month course, I was given the news that my older brother Brandon had developed cirrhosis of the liver to such a serious extent that he would need a liver transplant. My brother had gotten this condition from depression and extreme alcoholism after the death of our mother in 2015. The additional news I would receive from him is that he would be opting for hospice care and wanted to just go peacefully with family for the remainder of his time. That news, to say the least, was devastating. 

    Shortly after his funeral, I returned to my Transmedia class. The project I had been working on up to that point was scrapped. I wanted to write something I was familiar with. I had felt my brother in my heart moving me to lean into all that I had experienced with drug addiction and dependency. I also wanted to heal from losing him to alcoholism. Thus, I put forward a new proposal to my instructors, which was Blackwater

    CR: Boise, I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain your family must have experienced. It’s truly inspiring how you were able to transform your personal tragedy into a meaningful story, and so quickly. 

    What was it like to direct the film?

    BE: My favorite experience directing Blackwater was working with such a phenomenal cast and crew who brought their A-game to each and every scene both on and off-screen. I mean, this was a set from heaven, and pulling off a thirteen-page script in just one day with minimal time, a skeleton crew, and several different scenes went by like clockwork. Heck, we even had an hour to spare after the whole thing was over! Directing that day was one of the best experiences I ever had on set.

    Kyla Garcia as Birdie Blackwater (“Blackwater”)

    CR: You directed a thirteen-page script in one day? Wow! Dare I ask what was the most challenging thing about making the film? 

    BE: It’s crazy because you usually are anticipating challenges that may or may not arise on the day of production, and they did of course, but they were minor and quickly remedied. No. The challenges here were definitely in the final days leading up to production. You would think that getting a simple location (an empty room) for the group scene would be easy-peasy in LA, but when you’re working with a shoestring budget, a simple task all of a sudden becomes a near impossibility. And that was the case up until the last week of location scouting. We finally locked our location, which was an old American Legion post here in Burbank. It was great because they had everything we needed for each scene! 

    The other difficult part was not in pre-production or production, but actually editing. Here I am, dealing with footage of numerous great takes from each actor/actress and reviewing them over and over. Now, you have to realize, that when you’re dealing with high caliber talent as we had, each throwing you grade-A performances with each take, it is extremely hard to pick the right one! This was mainly the case with our main character, Birdie Blackwater, portrayed by Kyla Garcia. What she brought was gold, I tell ya…GOLD. So for her, sorting through the stuff she gave us and settling on certain clips was by itself a two-month process. Keep an eye on Kyla, SHE IS AMAZING!

    CR: It’s true – Kyla is downright riveting to watch. Besides the editing, what did you learn while making this film?  

    BE: To say I didn’t learn much would be a “shooting myself in the foot” moment and never being able to walk right again, hahaha. I learned a hell of a lot. But I’ll narrow it down to one thing above others, and that was giving my talent the freedom they needed to experiment with their characters and craft on set. There was a lot of ad-libbing, and the more I stepped back and let them have at it, the more they gave. Their performances were elevated, and aside from the few adjustments I gave every now and then, I just kept my mouth shut and steered the ship. I believe this is extremely important because, by the end of any script, these people are going to be the ones who embody this person you wrote, and ultimately bring them to life – and not only the talent, but the entire crew as well. 

    As a director, I realized that you can only hold onto the material for so long before giving it up. You must trust your talent and pass the baton you have and be the coach they need, guiding them from the sideline. Hopefully, if you put in the hard work needed in pre-production and cast the film right, the process will fully evolve on its own. You only need to sit back and enjoy the show at that point. 

    CR: Can you talk about the development process for this pilot and the class you developed it in? 

    BE: Given I had changed my proposal during the six-month Transmedia course, development for Blackwater was done in a three-month period, which is not much time. But…it came very easily to me. The vision for it was clear, so it was really a matter of honing in on what was already in my head. I knew I wanted to do something that was set in a Native American world, and I completely cast with Indigenous talent. This was something I have always wanted to do, I just felt I hadn’t honed in on my craft enough back then. But now it was different. I felt confident enough to give it a try. It was a matter of finding the right, tone, cast, and overall theme, which it turned out to have many. 

    CR: Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who really helped or inspired you?  

    BE: One of the coolest things about the Transmedia 1 & 2 courses at NYFA were instructors Jenni Powell and Chris Modoono. Not only were they extremely wise and easy to talk to, but their guidance was priceless as they were able to get me from concept to a finished pilot. I can’t stress enough about the creative freedom Jenni and Chris gave us in class. I really owe the experience and opportunity to them and to NYFA. 

    CR: That is so cool. You know every teacher’s dream is to inspire and elevate students at the level you just described. 

    Let’s talk about the amazing festival run you’re having with Blackwater.  

    BE: Blackwater has garnered twenty festival selections, five of those being the Austin Film Festival, Slamdance, Nashville Film Festival, Hollyshorts, and Cinequest Film and VR Festival. 

    CR: That is any filmmaker’s dream list! So what are you looking forward to with Slamdance? 

    BE: I hope to get as much positive attention as possible and of course find a potential buyer or investor for continued production. Native American content and storytelling are so important in this day and age — and extremely hard to find. Slamdance is one of those benchmark experiences you constantly take a step back and go “Wow, I did something really cool here” and realize you’re on the right path. I also hope to network virtually and meet many of the talented filmmakers at this year’s festival! 

    Poster for “Blackwater” pilot

    CR: You will definitely have some great opportunities there. Do you have any advice for recent graduates making their way into the professional world?  

    BE: I would say be consistent, persistent, and honest in your work and what it is exactly you want for your future. Filmmaking and its many crafts are a life long pursuit. Pursuing it should make you happy, grateful, and full of good spirit to have such a calling. If it doesn’t, maybe take a step back and re-evaluate. Focus on what you want, whether that is screenwriting, directing (or both), and constantly sharpen your craft and talents in that world every day in some shape or form. Look to each day as an opportunity to move towards that ultimate goal, and eventually one day…you’ll find yourself there. But don’t forget to have fun and relax along the way. Be happy. 

    CR: Those are very wise words. And speaking of wise words, let’s talk about these trying times we live in today. Do you want to share any thoughts about the importance of film in the lives of humans living right now? 

    BE: Well, if I do share anything, it’ll be about the importance of diverse inclusion in today’s film industry and breaking the current mold at hand. And I am speaking specifically to Native American inclusion. Native Americans are perhaps the most underrepresented culture in the film and television industry right now in terms of film and television content, screenwriters, directors, and leading talent. We as Native Americans have been fighting an extremely uphill battle in finding large, fair platforms or opportunities to tell “our own stories,” tell our own history, and voice our own point of view. Since the dawn of cinema, history has been flat-out brutal in our depiction, reducing us to “elk skin and feathers,” mascots, savages, and whatever else the multitude of history books will have you believe. We as a people, as a culture, need to be allowed to write and depict our own stories, our own views, and our own history. Blackwater is one such example out of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States. The time for diverse inclusion is now, and Hollywood needs to comply accordingly. 

    CR: The time is definitely now, and I’m so happy that you and your work are a solution to this lack of diversity in Hollywood.

    So how we can watch your film during Slamdance and see your Q&A? 

    BE: Slamdance is an online format this year, meaning anyone with a computer or smart TV can access it for only ten bucks. Yes… $10. We’re talking the crème of the crop here, people! Although the official schedule of events isn’t out yet, getting your pass now will ensure you do not miss a single screening. All films will be viewable throughout the festival from February 12th – 25th

    Blackwater will be screening in the “Episodes” block with many other awesome filmmakers and their films, and you will also be able to watch our Q&A as a bonus feature. Go to www.slamdance.com now for your ticket! 

    CR: Thanks for stopping by, Boise. Congratulations and best of luck!

    [NOTE: NYFA students can get their festival passes for $5 by using their NYFA email address].

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    February 11, 2021 • Diversity, Entertainment News, Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1129

  • New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking Student Phyllis Tam Named a Finalist in 47th Annual Student Academy Awards

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    New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) own Phyllis Tam, who recently graduated with her MFA in Filmmaking from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, has been named a finalist in the 47th Annual Student Academy Awards for her narrative short film Fragile Moon.

    Still from Student Academy Award finalist film ‘Fragile Moon’ (Photo Courtesy of Phyllis Tam)

    Tam’s short film will compete in the Narrative (Domestic Schools) category in the Student Academy Awards.

    “I could not be more excited that Fragile Moon made it to the semifinals for the Student Academy Awards,” shares NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, Crickett Rumley. “Phyllis worked so diligently to perfect every single detail of her film — down to the placement of subtitles — that it’s no wonder her dedication paid off. It is such a timely story about the impact that immigrating to the U.S and pursuing the American dream has on families. The themes of memory, loss, and the healing power of art resonate long after the film is over.”

    Still from ‘Fragile Moon’ (Photo Courtesy of Phyllis Tam)

    “We are proud to see Phyllis Tam’s creativity and hard work pay off with her film Fragile Moon as she continues to advance in this prestigious competition for student filmmakers worldwide,” says NYFA President Michael Young. “Like Phyllis’ honorary achievement with the Student Academy Awards, we are excited to see NYFA students go on to achieve their dreams with their outstanding work.”

    Finalists for the Student Academy Awards were announced on August 13, 2020, with the ceremony confirmed for Thursday, October 15, 2020.

    The winners of the Student Academy Awards will be eligible to compete for the 2020 Oscars in the following categories: Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, or Documentary Short Subject category. Previous Student Academy Award winners have gone on to win 11 Oscars, and receive 63 Oscar nominations, among them include: Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, Trey Parker, and Robert Zemeckis.

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  • NYFA Alum Valéria Costa Works as Production Manager for Netflix’s ‘Sergio’ and ‘Street Food: Latin America’

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    When shooting abroad, a solid production team is essential for shooting projects in an area you may be unfamiliar with. New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum, Valéria Costa, makes it her job to ensure that foreign companies have everything they need, which is exactly what she recently did for the Netflix productions of Sergio and Street Food: Latin America.

    Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Costa came to NYFA after wanting to learn the practical side of filmmaking. “I also wanted to study abroad and improve my English,” she tells NYFA, “so I decided to apply to the MFA Filmmaking program at NYFA and kill two birds with one stone.”

    Valéria Costa (Left) on set

    Costa has since worked her way up through the ranks at production house Brazil Production Services, becoming a as a Production Manager. She has worked on multiple projects both in Brazil and in the United States including Netflix’s Hyperdrive and 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way. Costa also worked on the NYC unit for the Brazilian feature film Minha Vida em Marte and on the set of the shoot for the Get to Know Me music video with Brazil’s biggest popstar, Anitta.

    Costa’s recent projects as a production manager have been with big name titles  like the Netflix film Sergio, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, starring Ana de Armas and famous Brazilian actor Wagner Moura. “It was a great experience,” shares Costa. “We had several weeks of pre-production and the challenge to build a 100+ local Rio de Janeiro crew, and served as the main members of the crews (being bilingual) to communicate between the Brazilian crew and American crew that flew to Brazil for this shoot.”

    Film poster for ‘Sergio’

    As with any production, Sergio posed many challenges for Costa and the crew. Some of those challenges included finding the right person for a certain type of shoot and transforming a whole set to resemble an entirely different decade.

    “We had an underwater scene being filmed in the Rio de Janeiro that meant we needed to bring in the best underwater camera operator in Brazil to ensure we had the best footage possible,” reveals Costa. “We also needed to make sure all scene components were true to the time period, with many written as Sergio’s flashbacks from the 70’s; everything from street signs, cars, beach wear, people’s wardrobe, accessories, and more needed to be thought through.”

    Poster for ‘Street Food: Latin America’

    Another exciting project helmed by Costa and her team was Netflix docuseries Street Food: Latin America. Costa managed the Brazil Unit for the streaming series and  reveals it was a “fulfilling experience” but also challenging overall.

    “The city of Salvador [where the shoot was taking place] is not as developed as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, so, at some point during production, we had an issue with the equipment and we had to act very fast and put somebody on a plane to bring equipment from São Paulo for us ASAP so our schedule wasn’t affected. Everything worked out in the end and I’m very happy that people from all over the world get to know some of the best Brazilian and Latin American food.”

    Valéria Costa (Second from left) with the production crew behind the scenes of a shoot

    Costa’s job is certainly never quiet. Besides having the usual responsibilities of a Film Production Manager, she is also in charge with advising her clients on the local filming requirements of the country that they are looking to film in, while also seeking to align their expectations based on the limitations of that location.

    “There’s a Brazilian saying that I believe summarizes working in the film industry for me: ‘A rapadura é doce, mas não é mole não.’ That translates to something like, “The candy is sweet, but it’s not easy to bite. What we do is definitely not easy. You work long hours, deal with extremely tight deadlines and budget limitations, but I really love making movies and dealing with all the moving parts of a set and once you can see the final product I can guarantee that it’s worth it.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate MFA Filmmaking alum Valéria Costa on her recent successes for the two Netflix productions, and is excited to see what’s in store for Costa as she continues to manage productions in two different global hemispheres of the world.

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    August 6, 2020 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 913

  • Acclaimed Director, Writer, and Producer Phillip Noyce Joins New York Film Academy (NYFA) Faculty as Master Class Instructor

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    Phillip Noyce, the acclaimed and award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer of film and television, has joined the New York Film Academy (NYFA) faculty and this week taught his first master class to MFA Filmmaking students at our Los Angeles campus.

    Throughout his prolific career, Noyce has worked with such celebrated luminaries performers as Harrison Ford, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Michael Caine, Meryl Streep, Val Kilmer, James Earl Jones, Rutger Hauer, Kenneth Branagh, Angelina Jolie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Bridges, Willem Dafoe, Liev Schreiber, and Renée Zellweger.

    Phillip Noyce

    Noyce began his first NYFA master class by showing behind-the-scenes footage from his award-winning film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, before going into the early beginnings of his filmmaking career. Noyce was born in New South Wales, Australia, and moved to Sydney at a young age. Before he was twenty years old, he started running the Filmmaker’s Cinema along with Jan Chapman, where for three years he screened the short films of directors who would go on to develop the Australian New Wave, such as Gillian Armstrong, Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford, Paul Cox, and George Miller.

    After working in television and directing a few feature productions, Noyce made his breakout film, Dead Calm, which launched the career of Nicole Kidman. Soon after that, he was living in Los Angeles directing major Hollywood studio films, including the Jack Ryan films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, starring Harrison Ford. 

    Since then Noyce has written, directed, and produced numerous commercially and critically successful films like The Saint, The Bone Collector, Salt, The Giver, The Quiet American, and Rabbit-Proof Fence, as well as various TV pilots, episodes, and miniseries like Vietnam, Tru Calling, Luck, Roots (2016), and the recent Netflix original What/If.

    Noyce has been recognized for his outstanding contributions as a filmmaker, earning multiple nominations and awards for his work. These include a National Board of Review award for Best Director, a London Critics Circle Film Award for Director of the Year, several awards from film festivals like the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Bangkok International Film Festival, and numerous awards from Australian institutions including Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards for Best Film, Best Director, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Phillip Noyce

    In his new role on New York Film Academy’s faculty, Noyce instructed MFA Filmmaking students on several aspects of the craft, using scenes from his films Dead Calm and Rabbit-Proof Fence to illustrate many of his talking points, using his decades of experience as a director, writer, and producer. He described how “having a hard back and soft front” was vital for directors–a strong vision and determination that cohabitates with a willingness to listen and accept new ideas.

    On directing the right screenplays, Noyce expressed that the most important thing for a good script is that you have to love it–to have an emotional connection to it and be passionate about the story. He proved his own point by relating to the class how he passed on a huge offer to direct the next Jack Ryan movie so that he could focus on the indie film Rabbit-Proof Fence.

    Additionally, Noyce covered everything from artistic voice and vision to the practicalities of directing stunts and action scenes, such as the famous truck sequence from the Angelina Jolie vehicle, Salt. The master class even included a trust exercise where students took turns guiding other students whose eyes were shut around the room without using dialogue, forcing them to connect and place trust in one another. 

    After covering several aspects of filmmaking in detail, the master class concluded with a lecture on television, including a video of a TV series pitch that a writer had recorded for Noyce. He contrasted it with a written pitch that he distributed to the class, who then discussed which pitches they preferred and why. Phillip finished the night by taking suggestions from students for other subjects they’d next like to learn more about, promising to focus on these and more in upcoming master classes he’ll be teaching at the Academy.

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    January 22, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 1504

  • New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking Alum Jaco Dukes Premieres ‘El Guardia’ at Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film

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    New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking Alum Jaco Dukes saw all of his hard work come to fruition last May when he premiered his film El Guardia at the Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film.

    Dukes originally hails from Chile and first attended NYFA in September 2011, enrolling in the MFA in Filmmaking program at our Los Angeles campus. “My first year at NYFA was one of the best years of my life,” says Dukes. “For the first time, I was able to think about filmmaking all day, every day of the week. It was paradise. My thesis film that I shot at NYFA opened the door for me to every project and work opportunity that came after. So I think that, if you have all the guidance, support and resources that NYFA can offer (like the amazing instructors; James, Ryan, Nick, Tim, Andrew, and many others), plus an obsession for film and filmmaking, then probably great things will come.”

    El Guardia Jaco Dukes

    The English-language poster for ‘El Guardia’

    Since graduating NYFA, he has written and directed the short films Silent and Mikey, as well worked several others as an editor and cinematographer. Dukes directed, wrote, and co-produced El Guardia, his first feature film. The script is based on the true story of the highly acclaimed businessman, life coach, and best-selling author Juan Rosado from Puerto Rico, and was inspired by Rosado’s empowering book Rags to Riches (El Guardia Que Compró Su Sueño).

    The story focuses on a frustrated security guard that starts a network marketing business as a second job with his mentor and veterinarian friend, which leads them into a life-changing journey that will affect the lives of everyone around them.

    The film made its grand debut at the Marché du Film in Cannes, France in May 2019. The distribution of the film is being managed by Adler & Associates Entertainment, who are submitting the film to festivals around the world as well as planning a theatrical premiere and distribution in cinemas in Puerto Rico, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles sometime in 2020.

    El Guardia Jaco Dukes

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum Jaco Dukes

    Dukes is currently working on his next screenplay, an indie film that he’s always wanted to make—he’s devoting all of his energy to producing it in 2020. Says Dukes, “[El Guardia] was the most challenging learning experience of my life as a film director, and thanks to all the obstacles, failures, and successes I had making this film, now I am a little more confident about directing my passion project, my own script, and kick ass with it.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Filmmaking alum Jaco Dukes on the Cannes Film Festival Marché du Film premiere of El Guardia and looks forward to seeing what he makes next! 

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    January 10, 2020 • Film Festivals, Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1552

  • New York FIlm Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Pablo C. Vergara Wins At International Film and Metal Festival

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    Necromurder, the film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Pablo C. Vergara, won the Award for Best International Fictional Film at 2019’s International Film and Metal Festival (FICIME.)

    necromurder
    The festival, which began this year in Colombia, aims to visualize and support the metal music and film industry not just in Colombia but around the world, generating a forum for artistic expression from a genre that has influenced a search for identity for many generations, and which has been influenced by many artistic sources.

    FICIME received over 500+ submissions from across the globe. Sixty-eight audiovisual projects were selected for the fest, in eight categories, including films from Syria, Croatia, Burkina Faso, Africa, Russia, and Scandinavia.

    Necromurder is a music-oriented movie with strong visuals and design—written, directed, and starring Vergara, who was inspired by films like The Crow and The Doors. The film, based on real events, revolves around two musicians fighting for the title of King of Evil, where their own demons and lifestyles will lead them down a spiral of destruction that culminates in murder. For more details on the film its sources, check out our interview with Vergara here.

    Vergara hails from Mexico City and works as a cinematographer, actor, and filmmaker, among other roles, and enrolled in New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking program in New York in Fall 2016, before moving to Hollywood to work on completing his MFA at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. 

    Vergara will be returning to NYFA on October 15, screening his film along with other NYFA filmmakers by invitation of Chair of Filmmaking Claude Kerven. The event will be held at NYFA’s New York campus at 7 p.m.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Pablo C. Vergara on his festival win and encourages everyone to check out the film when it screens at NYFA’s New York campus on October 15, 2019.

    necromurder pablo c. vergara

    UPDATE – OCTOBER 22, 2020:

    Vergara’s film Necromurder got a special poster to reveal in Times Square as part of NYC’s Shockfest. Vergara’s director showreel will be shown ahead of screenings throughout the festival, where Rob Zombie, himself, will be in attendance as the festival’s guest of honor.

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    September 20, 2019 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3079

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking Students Visit Buzzfeed

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    Students from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) 2018 Master of Fine Arts in Filmmaking program had the opportunity to tour Buzzfeed’s LA Lexland campus on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. The MFA Filmmaking students, who study at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, were joined by producer and on-camera talent Rie McClenny for their field trip.

    The visit included a chance to tour the studios, offices, prop room, and canteen, as well as the Buzzfeed Tasty Studio where McClenny whips up all manner of desserts for the Tasty Channel. The students enjoyed seeing the new media campus and learned a great deal about how the company operates.

    “Huge thanks to Rie and Buzzfeed for having the class!” says NYFA instructor Rebecca Louisell.

    Buzzfeed MFA

    From the left, front row: Rie McClenny (Buzzfeed), Rebecca Louisell (Instructor), Mahmoud Abul Burghul, Adilet Zhumabek, Kritika Chawla, Agnes Shinozaki, Veronica Badell, Haining “Carl” Gu, Shiran Wang. Back row: Ryan Mechling, Nick Sivakumaran (Instructor), Chin-Wei Chang, Lan-Chi Chien, Ether Tian Jin

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    September 17, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 1572

  • New Wave of Chinese Talent from New York Film Academy (NYFA) Win Big at Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival

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    On July 25, the LA Shorts International Film Festival held its final awards ceremony, where alumni from New York Film Academy (NYFA) swept the entire “Chinese New Wave” film category.

    Alumni Shi Tanxuan and Jin Lingxi were awarded “The Best Chinese New Wave Filmmaker” award and “Special Mention in the Chinese New Wave,” respectively. The films of both alumni beat out several highly competitive films from other prominent and respectable film and art universities. 

    Shi Tanxuan started the MFA in Filmmaking program at New York Film Academy in Summer 2017 at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. His film, Lip Reader: Game of Detective, which he wrote and directed, has a cast and crew of several other Chinese students and alumni from NYFA, including:

    General Executive ProducerLip Reader: Game of Detective - Shi Tanxuan
    Peipei Duan
    2017 Fall MFA Producing

    Second Unit Director
    Kaibo Xu
    2017 Fall MFA Filmmaking

    1st & 2nd Assistant Director
    Fei Chen
    Mengmeng
    2018 Fall BFA Filmmaking

    Post Supervisor
    Cherry Cao
    2015 Fall MFA Filmmaking

    Post Production Coordinator
    Zhenghao Yang
    2016 Fall MFA Filmmaking

    Cast:
    Klay Li
    2016 Spring MFA Filmmaking

    Demi Ke
    2015 Spring MFA Acting for Film

    Xinran Cao
    2018 Summer MFA Acting for Film

    Yiwen Sun
    2016 Fall BFA Acting for Film

    Jiani Yang
    2017 Fall BFA Acting for Film

    Shi’s previous work has earned several awards and accolades, including from the Beijing University Student Film Festival, the Guangzhou University Student Film Festival, and other domestic and international film festivals. 

    Jin won for his film, The Outlying Islands, which was also produced and shot by a group of NYFA alumni. Production took place at the gorgeous Shengsi Islands in Zhejiang province, China. The film perfectly showcased the specific vision and style of Jin, who recently graduated from New York Film Academy with a BFA degree in Filmmaking. The crew of The Outlying Islands included multiple NYFA alumni:

    Producer
    Zexia Wang
    2015 Spring MA Film and Media

    Screenwriter & Assistant Director
    Jingwei Zhou
    2016 Spring MFA Filmmaking

    Cinematographer
    Gaofei Zheng
    2013 Fall MFA Cinematography

    Colorist
    Egor Povolotskiy
    2013 Spring MFA Cinematography

    The film has received several awards and accolades at various film festivals, including the Singapore International Short Film Festival, Shanghai Pride Film Festival, and other domestic and international film festivals.

    The Los Angeles International Short Film Festival (LA Shorts) is one of the world’s largest international short film festivals. It was founded in 1997 and has been successfully held 23 times, with more than 300 films per year. LA Shorts is hailed as the largest international short film festival on the West Coast and not only has a high degree of recognition in the American film industry, but also is accredited by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. LA Shorts is an official qualifying event for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) short film awards.

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA alumni Shi Tanxuan and Jin Lingxi on their awards at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival!

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    August 15, 2019 • China, Film Festivals, Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 1366

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking Student Bruklyn Miller Wins Wolfson CinemaSlam Works in Progress Award

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) South Beach student Bruklyn Miller hasn’t completed her MFA in Filmmaking yet, but she’s already making waves in the festival circuit with her film, Celestial. The project was recently selected to receive the Wolfson CinemaSlam Works in Progress Award from the Miami Film Festival’s CinemaSlam section.

    Bruklyn MillerMiller is currently enrolled in the MFA in Filmmaking program at NYFA’s South Beach campus in Miami, Florida. As part of her studies, the young filmmaker will receive 2,000 hours of hands-on instruction and production experience on a variety of high-end digital and analog film cameras.

    Celestial is Miller’s intermediate film. The social thriller focuses on Nola Dubois, an intentionally standoffish girl gifted with the ability of touch sensitivity. As she begins to unravel mysterious secrets about her parents’ church, Dubois finds herself haunted by tragic and disturbing events. 

    “As a filmmaker, you are often put in positions of struggling to make it closer to your dreams,” says Miller. “Celestial is the reason I applied to New York Film Academy. Working with the cast and crew for Celestial allows this to feel real. Everyone is so committed to creating something that goes beyond a typical horror film. We want to create something that haunts our audience even when it isn’t making them jump; something that is hushed and character driven—the real terror goes beyond the central purpose and more so with the byproduct of a ruthlessly specific agenda and the effects it has on our main character.”Bruklyn Miller Celestial

    The film was selected to receive a $2500 Wolfson CinemaSlam Works in Progress Award. As part of the grant, the film will be enrolled at no cost in next year’s Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation CinemaSlam Competition. The prestigious section of Miami Film Festival’s CinemaSlam aims to support Miami-area student filmmakers and help them navigate the film festival circuit, as well as encouraging students to use archival materials in film and video production, specifically material housed at the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Media Center.

    UPDATE (3.30.20)

    Bruklyn Miller nabbed the top prize at the Wolfson CinemaSlam Production Grant Competition during the Miami Film Festival in March 2020.

    When asked about incorporating the archival footage in her film for the competition, Miller remarked, “I knew how I wanted to use the archival footage the moment the opportunity was presented to us, however, I never planned on highlighting it as much as I did in the finished product.”

    Miller, who is in her second year at New York Film Academy’s South Beach campus working toward her MFA in Filmmaking, says that Celestial is the reason she applied to New York Film Academy in the first place. “I found myself with, what I believed at the time, was a good script, but no idea on how to bring it to life,” she says. “New York Film Academy and CinemaSlam helped me do exactly that.” Celestial, Miller’s narrative short film, follows the uneasiness that stems from the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community.

    Bruklyn Miller with her top prize at the Wolfson CinemaSlam Competition during Miami Film Festival (March 2020)

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA in Filmmaking student Bruklyn Miller on big win at the Wolfson CinemaSlam Production Grant Competition.

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    July 2, 2019 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2096

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking Alum Kevin Nwankwor Films ‘Muna’

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    After finishing the film Tempting Fate, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Kevin Nwankwor didn’t take a break—he immediately got to work on his next film, Muna. Earlier this month, the trailer for Muna was released.

    Muna is an action-drama directed by Nwankwor and written by Nwankwor, Joe Leone, and Liam Parry based on a story by award-winning author Unoma Nwankwor. The film was executive produced by Emmanuel Ojeah and Unoma Nwankwor. 

    Shot in both the US and Nigeria, Muna tells the story of an assassin who falls in love while getting tangled in the global sex trafficking crisis. The cast includes Adam Huss, Robert Miano, Massi Furlan, Mayling Ng, and stars Adesua Etomi-Wellington, wife of musician and NYFA alum Banky Wellington. 

    “Human trafficking has become a great menace in our world today—the most troublesome part is the impact it has on the victims, turning them into something they would never have dreamt of becoming,” says Nwankwor. “Listening to the stories of these victims and knowing about those who go missing is heartbreaking. This is what motivated me to make Muna.” 

    After earning his MFA in Filmmaking from Burbank-based NYFA-Los Angeles, Nwankwor became CEO of family-owned production company KevStel, based in Atlanta, Georgia with an office in Abuja, Nigeria. KevStel produced both Tempting Fate and the upcoming Muna.

    “I came into NYFA with a goal and a desire to succeed,” adds Nwankwor. “I hear people say there’s no need for film school, but after the drilling and hands-on training while acquiring my Master’s degree in Filmmaking from New York Film Academy, I was able to make my first feature, Tempting Fate, which received some nominations and awards even while I was still a NYFA student. And now in the new feature film Muna, you will see the traces of a Master’s touch.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Filmmaking alum Kevin Nwankwor on his latest film Muna and looks forward to its release! 

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    June 13, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3111