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.”
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.
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!
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.)
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 the 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!
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.
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
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 Producer
2017 Fall MFA Producing
Second Unit Director
2017 Fall MFA Filmmaking
1st & 2nd Assistant Director
2018 Fall BFA Filmmaking
2015 Fall MFA Filmmaking
Post Production Coordinator
2016 Fall MFA Filmmaking
2016 Spring MFA Filmmaking
2015 Spring MFA Acting for Film
2018 Summer MFA Acting for Film
2016 Fall BFA Acting for Film
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:
2015 Spring MA Film and Media
Screenwriter & Assistant Director
2016 Spring MFA Filmmaking
2013 Fall MFA Cinematography
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!
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.
Miller 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.”
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.
New York Film Academy congratulates MFA in Filmmaking student Bruklyn Miller on her award and looks forward to the completion of Celestial and its screening at next year’s CinemaSlam Competition!
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!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Pablo C. Vergara has shot and is in the process of finishing the feature film metal horror, Necromurder. Vergara hails from Mexico City and works as a cinematographer, actor, and filmmaker, among other roles.
He enrolled at the 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. In Los Angeles, he has worked on several projects, including Adverse, starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Thomas Ian Nicholas.
New York Film Academy recently spoke with Vergara about his film and how the NYFA community can support it, as well as about his passions and his ambitious plans for the future of his career and his artistic output:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Pablo C. Vergara (PCV): Hi! My name is Pablo C. Vergara. I was born in Mexico City. I am a musician and a filmmaker and have travelled the world for most my adult life and lived everywhere! This quest for adventure led me to discover the New York Film Academy when in 2016, I was invited to join them in NYC after applying for their consideration. Best decision I’ve made in my entire life!
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on filmmaking?
PCV: This is a rather personal question but to narrow it down, I became a father and was struggling in a failing music career where basically I was stuck and being ripped off left and right and was going nowhere. So I decided to make a drastic decision, and that was to change careers and move into film, another of my main passions! I shot many, many music videos and some music documentaries while being a pro musician, so it was just underlying for me. Film it is!
NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Necromurder?
PCV: This film is going to be HOT real soon, because a new movie called Lords of Chaos has been released and it’s creating quite an impact. This movie is basically what I based my story upon. Some real crimes committed by some young crazy musicians back in the 90s. I used the same story and added some fiction and biographical elements into it.
I wrote, directed, and acted as the lead, so it was quite a challenging thing for me. And yes, I am very, very tired, but also very satisfied with the end result!
People can support the film in three ways: first, by buying into our Perks (which will be very rewarding at the end, as we are giving generous perks). Secondly, by sharing on their social media and with their email contacts, family and friends. And lastly, by working with us! This one’s the special one. If you’re in NYFA and want to be part of this project, we will be casting for actors and doing interviews for crew around the fall of this year (subject to change).
So just keep in touch, and eventually you’ll hear news about it and you just have to email me your headshot and resume and we’ll go from there! Just keep in mind it’s a heavy metal horror movie! Yes, we have zombies, too, and a scene in Limbo. In conclusion, you could support by doing all of those things, too, which wow, would definitely make you our heroes… for real!
NYFA: What inspired you to make Necromurder?
PCV: Coming from the Metal music background myself and being a musician professionally for 15 years, I got as far as getting a record deal, getting management and offers for full European tours. Two of my favorite movies are The Crow and The Doors, so basically I wanted to pay tribute to these films by making a very music-oriented movie along with strong visuals and cool dialogue and character design.
Of course, a horror too, which is my favorite genre and I’ve written four other horror screenplays. Basically, being part of the Metal world and a musician I knew about the story that I mentioned before—The Lords of Chaos—and I wanted to make a film about it. It had been documented and in countless articles and books so I thought, why not make a film about it?
But that happened right when Jonas Akerlund got the rights to do the story of the book, so I had to recreate a new story, but still based on those real events. Kind of a fictional biopic of some sorts! Plus, we shot in NYC throughout all four seasons so it’s visually striking!
NYFA: What are your plans for Necromurder after it’s completed?
PCV: I haven’t got that far yet, but definitely move it to the festival circuit a bit to see where that takes us and definitely make it a franchise! If you invest in us and this becomes a hit, I can guarantee you we’ll have Necromurder II, III, IV and maybe a Space 3D version too! Why not?!
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
PCV: When I am through with Necromurder (and it might take a while) I will definitely want to shoot my other screenplays, real cool sci-fi and serial killer stories that I wrote. Those movies would look so cool if ever made. My plan I guess is just to consolidate as a serious filmmaker and keep bringing good quality films and stories into the world!
I would love to act more, too. I love acting, but it’s hard when you are on both sides of the camera, so I would welcome acting gigs more! If anyone needs an actor, hey, I’m here!!!
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work?
PCV: I learned a lot, especially by having to multitask the way I did. I would definitely never do it that same way ever again. But that being said, it was like a “baptism by fire” and it was purely coincidental since my lead actor dropped out 12 hours prior to rolling cameras and I had to step up and take the role! A friend, trying to calm my nerves, said to me, “Just do it! You wrote it, you know the story better than anyone, and you’re a real musician! Just do it, dude!”
And so I did, but it was very hard. I know how I would want to do things differently when a new project arises. That, and having a solid screenplay! Luckily as part of acing the course, I had to have a screenplay approved and it got reviewed by three professionals and drafted to it’s eighth or ninth version!
So yes, this story kicks serious ass and it’s real solid! I also learned a lot about all that it entails to produce a film. NYFA has been pivotal in my film career and the pinnacle of it as well!
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
PCV: Enjoy it! As hard as it gets and as tired as you may get, don’t quit! Trust me, you will regret it in the end, and I’ve seen it happen. If you stay, you will cherish those memories for the rest of your life because we’re fortunate to be part of such a great film institution—the best!
NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?
PCV: Just to remind people that even if your budget is tight to buy perks, sharing our link is another way of also helping the project. When big movie studios check us out (and they will!), they’ll want to see numbers! This is test-proven, too… So we need all the “Likes” you can give us!
On December 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA student Shi Tanxuan showcased his short film, Lip Reader: Game of Detective at the 15th Guangzhou College Student Film Festival, one of China’s most prestigious student film festivals. It came away as one of the festival’s biggest winners.
Lip Reader: Game of Detective is a comedic detective story, written to be part of a cinematic, “special detective universe” — a rare and ambitious trait for a student film. Lip Reader tells the story of Lin, a college student with a severe hearing impairment, who has a fantastic talent for reading lips. Lin, who works as an “intelligence analyst” for a paparazzi company, must track down a missing $20 million diamond necklace two days before a popular Chinese actress is to wear it at the Academy Awards.
Lip Reader stood out from more than 500 short films at the 15th Guangzhou College Student Film Festival. The event is one of two college student film festivals approved by China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Popular with students across the country and beyond, it plays an important role in promoting Chinese movies.
By the end of the festival, it had won the Gold Award in the “Original Motion Picture and Animation Film Competition (Drama) competition. Additionally, it picked up the “Huayi Brothers Media Group Star-making Entertainment Special Award” at the award ceremony.
Shi Tanxuan started the MFA in Filmmaking program at New York Film Academy in Summer 2017 at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. In addition to writing and directing Lip Reader, he also put together a cast and crew of several other Chinese students and alumni from NYFA, including:
General Executive Producer 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 MFA Fall 2015 Filmmaking
Post Production Coordinator Zhenghao Yang 2016 Fall MFA Filmmaking
Cast: Klay Li 2016 Spring MFA Filmmaking
2015 Spring MFA Acting for Film
2018 Summer MFA Acting
BFA Fall 16 Acting 1C
BFA Acting 2017
The New York Film Academy congratulates the above students and alumni on their hard work and wishes Shi Tanxuan the best of luck as he expands the story and universe of Lip Reader: Game of Detective!
The tradition of hosting a welcome dinner for the incoming cohort of New York Film Academy Foreign Fulbright Grantees continued at the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts in Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) last week.
Fulbright Grantees with Dan Mackler, NYFA’s LA Campus Director, Amy Ellenberger, Miguel Cruz, NYFA´s Director of Fulbright Initiatives and Marcus Louis Fien
NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler, and NYFA Director of Fulbright Initiatives Miguel Cruz hosted the six Fulbright students who are on campus for the 2018/2019 Academic Year.They include four grantees in the MFA Filmmaking Program, one grantee in MFA Documentary Filmmaking, and one grantee in the 1-Year Acting for Film Program. Represented countries are Spain (3), Paraguay, Peru, and Bahrain. NYFA is pleased to recognize a Fulbright finalist from Estonia as part of the group as well.
In recent years, NYFA has welcomed nearly 60 Fulbrighters to our campuses in Los Angeles and New York City. NYFA Fulbrighters have hailed from more than 30 countries.
Dr. José Siles, President of the Fulbright Alumni Association of Los Angeles, joined the celebration, as did Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment, and NYFA Admissions Specialist Marcus Fien. Dr. Siles invited the Fulbrighters for a tour of NASA Space facilities where he is engaged in research.
Fulbright grantee Maya Riquelme, with Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment
NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler enthusiastically stated, “For me, meeting the extraordinarily talented Fulbright students that come to study at NYFA-LA is one of the highlights of the start of every academic year.”
Mackler continued, “In these global creators of visual and performing storytelling, I am provided hope for a future that will be both exciting and impactful. They connect us with a greater humanity.”
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government through the U.S. Department of State.The Program operates in more than 140 countries and offers opportunities for students and young professionals, as well as for post-doctoral teachers and researchers to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching.
The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,900 are to U.S. students, 4,000 to foreign students, 1,200 to U.S. scholars, and 900 to visiting scholars. In addition, several hundred teachers and professionals receive awards.
NYFA is proud to be the school of choice for so many inspired and creative minds and to participate in numerous Fulbright initiatives, including producing two TEDxFULBRIGHT events and conducting documentary filmmaking workshops at the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program Conferences.
On August 13, 2018, the New York Film Academy’s Department of Veteran Services, was honored to host an advanced screening of the next chapter in the Louis Zamperini story, Unbroken: Path to Redemption. The film is the sequel to the 2014 film, Unbroken, directed by Academy Award Winner®, Angelina Jolie, and hits theaters later this year. Following the screening, producers Matthew Baer and Luke Zamperini, son of Louis Zamperini, treated the audience to a Q&A moderated by Navy veteran and New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Acting Alumnus, Ron Ringo.
The event was part of the NYFA DVS series of events that includes guest speakers, film screenings, master classes, workshops, and employment trainings — all which promote industry engagement for NYFA’s veteran-students and the wider veteran communities in Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami (South Beach).
Photo Caption: (left to right) Ron Ringo, Matthew Baer, and Luke Zamperini discuss their experience in creating Unbroken: Path to Redemption.
Baer and Zamperini shared their experiences creating the film, as well as stories about Louis Zamperini himself. With having only 20 days to shoot the entire film, Baer addressed the challenges that he faced along with sharing a lot of valuable information for aspiring filmmakers. Zamperini shared stories of his father and explained how powerful it is seeing his father’s inspirational story depicted on the big screen for everyone to experience. Being on set and seeing his family members being portrayed by actors was incredibly surreal to him.
BFA Producing student and US Navy veteran Jonathan Garza commented, “Louis Zamperini’s inspirational and powerful story should be seen by everyone. He is a true American Hero.” He added, “I also enjoyed hearing from Matthew and his insight from years of producing. He mentioned that he still runs into the same problems producing studio films that he did when he was in film school, but on a larger scale.”
Luke Zamperini is the President and CEO of the Louis Zamperini Youth Ministries Foundation.Matthew Baer’s other producing credits include The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington, City by the Sea with Robert De Niro and James Franco, and the first chapter in the Louis Zamperini story, Unbroken — among many other successful films.
The New York Film Academy thanks Matthew Baer and Luke Zamperini for their generosity and willingness to share their stories and to help students pursuing careers in the film industry.