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 loam 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.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) student Pablo C. Vergara recently worked on the independent feature film Adverse, a drama/thriller written and directed by Brian A. Metcalf. The film is being produced by the actor and musician Thomas Ian Nicholas, who previously starred in Rookie of the Year and the American Pie films, and who stars in Adverse as well.
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.
Lou Diamond Phillips, Brian A. Metcalf, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Pablo C. Vergara
In July, Vergara had the opportunity to work as a production assistant on the set of Adverse, a role into which the always hard-working and committed filmmaker threw himself with gusto. While on set, he got to work closely with Nicholas and Metcalf, as well as stars Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Stand and Deliver) and Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito’s Way, Kindergarten Cop).
Describing his experience, Vergara said, “I had the chance to watch Thomas and Lou work together on a scene and that was truly inspiring. We exchanged knowledge between takes about their craft and life in Los Angeles in general — Lou was a really cool guy and with an amazing personality, cracking jokes and talking to the rest of the crew regularly.” He continued, “The shoot went well and after wrap up, everyone’s spirits were high.”
Pablo C. Vergara
A friendly, energetic personality, Vergara also spoke with Nicholas about a possible on-camera role. He got to spend a lot of time with the producer and actor, driving alongside him to and from locations in a U-Haul full of film equipment for the independent shoot. They discussed film and music and their own careers, as well as Nicholas’s previous Q&A with the New York Film Academy. In 2017, Nicholas and Metcalf screened their previous film The Lost Tree — starring Michael Madsen, Lacey Chabert, and Scott Grimes — for NYFA students, which preceded their guest panel.
Adverse’s locations included 4 Hearts Studios in Sylmar, CA, and a private home used for an entire day’s worth of shooting. Vergara got to see the newest RED 8K camera in action up close and personal. “Being a cinematographer myself, I was excited to see this fine piece of equipment operate, and the visuals it captured were fantastic!” he exclaimed.
Vergara added, “No doubt this film is going to turn out to be incredible and I was very fortunate to be able to be part of it for a few days. The entire team was very embracing and cordial, and it forged great friendships.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Pablo C. Vergara on his exciting experience, and looks forward to seeing him return to NYFA next Spring to complete his MFA thesis!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Elizabeth Soto-Lara can now add a feature film to her list of screenwriting credits after finishing production on the film Un Regalo Esencial (An Essential Gift). Not only is she the film’s screenwriter, but Soto-Lara also served on set as the First Assistant Director.
Un Regalo Esencial was filmed in more than 30 locations in Costa Rica over the course of about ninety days. It was co-written and directed by Jose Mario Salas Boza. Both Boza and Soto-Lara graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Fall ’16 MA Film & Media program.
The film tells the story of a grandfather who relives the memories of his first romantic relationship to share life lessons with his grandchild about the consequences of jealousy and insecurity. It merges genres of romance, drama, comedy, and musical, and looks to make its audience ride a rollercoaster of emotions. Its setting ranges from the 1980s to the near future, all in a running time of about 90 minutes.
Un Regalo Esencial stars notable Costa Rican actors Viviana Calderon and Pablo Rodriguez, as well as featuring Mauricio Hoffman and Norval Calvo in supporting roles. It is currently in post-production and will be released in October 2018.
Soto-Lara is a Mexican filmmaker who has been writing for television and film for more than four years. She has written and directed more than 10 short films within both Mexico and the US. Soto-Lara won the award for Best Short Film at the Mexico International Film Festival for her film Restored, which was originally her NYFA thesis film. Restored is also an Official Selection at the 2019 Los Angeles CineFest.
Of her work on Un Regalo Esencial, Soto-Lara remarked, “It was an unforgettable experience to be able to be on set and see how the words I put on paper came to life. I feel very lucky and thankful to have had this opportunity to share a beautiful story, make friends from around the globe, and learn in the process.”
She continued, “This experience will remain as an indelible mark in me for the rest of my life.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Elizabeth Soto-Lara’s on her well-earned success and encourages her and the rest of our students to continue writing and keep sharing their stories.
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’sFilmLink.
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:
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
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 followsAnmar, 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!
On Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, the New York Film Academy congratulated another graduating class as they crossed into the next stage of their professional careers. Three ceremonies were held throughout the day to accommodate the more than two hundred students who have now completed their education at NYFA.
Many students spent the previous day at Warner Brother’s Studios screening their final films on the backlot. The occasion is always an emotional one. Warner Brothers is a Hollywood institution that has been home to some of the greatest names and films in the entertainment industry.
Families were able to gather for photos before the ceremony began. A NYFA backdrop had everyone looking red carpet ready. When it was time for parents to take their seats, students formed neat rows as they filed into the building.
This year’s commencement speakers ranged from a Hollywood star, a casting director who worked closely with Stephen Spielberg, and a producer/writer for several of the greatest television shows ever made. Each speaker had a copious amount of advice to give to the graduates. A common theme to all the speeches was that the students should learn from the speaker’s own mistakes so they could do even better in their own careers.
The first speaker to grace the stage was Valorie Massalas, casting director extraordinaire. Her credits include “Indiana Jones,” “Chaplin,” “Total Recall,” “Alive,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Gods and Monsters,” and “Back to the Future II” and III. She received an Emmy nomination for her work on “Annie.” She is a new inductee into the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Massalas spoke directly to the actors about how the industry has changed since she began her career. The most disturbing change to Massalas is the rise of the social media actor. These are Hollywood hopefuls who have never taken an acting class but have 20 thousand or more followers, and they are being cast in major motion pictures because the heads of studios believe they can put audience members into seats.
“I’m sharing that with you because it’s disturbing to me that you spend all your time training like you’ve done, with these beautiful people, honing your craft, but if you don’t have social media numbers you could lose a job to somebody who does,” Massalas said. “It’s important for you to be aware of that because it’s just part of our world today. It’s not going to go away, In fact, it’s going to get worse.”
It wasn’t all bad news. Certainly, some of the changes would be favorable for the next generation chosen to run Hollywood. Social media is also giving other creatives access to the tight-knit entertainment community. “When I was first starting out you didn’t have the kind of access that you have today with social media,” Massalas said.
“The most important thing you must always remember is that you are the president of your own company. You have to be prepared to run your business like the president of a company. If you’re not doing that, you’re failing your career because nobody is going to run your business better than you.” Massalas warned students.
The second commencement speaker to take the stage was actor Joshua Helman. Helman’s credits include some of the biggest action films of the last ten years including “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Jack Reacher.” He’s also been prolific in television starring in HBO’s “The Pacific,” the mini-series “Flesh and Bone,” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Wayward Pines.”
Throughout Helman’s hilarious speech, he blended solid life advice with anecdotes from his time getting started in the industry. He began with a bit of advice he had learned from a teacher. “When I was in acting school, a singing teacher told me that the most valuable things an entertainer has to offer the audience are vulnerability and generosity. And not only have I never forgotten that, but I found it to be true.” He concluded this thought saying, “Come back to vulnerability and generosity. It will never be wrong. Find the stuff that challenges you, the truth that scares you, and offer it up to the world with joy.”
Helman also wanted to prepare students for the reality of how long it can take to start a career. “You have to prove yourself and that can suck. It means working a day job, it means losing sleep, and it means facing long stretches of seemingly infinite time when you feel like you are going nowhere. That is par for the course. Each of you, if you’re not an insane person, is going to want to give up at some point…”
But, Helman amended, there’s a way to survive the hard years. “You can make peace with it if you never forget that you are doing it in order to do the job that you love and that (entertainment) is your real job.”
The final speaker of the night was Cherie Steinkellner. She is perhaps best known for producing the multi-award winning television show, “Cheers.” She also wrote for such groundbreaking shows as “The Jeffersons” and “Who’s the Boss?” Finally, she wrote for and produced the Disney animated series and feature film, “Teacher’s Pet” starring Nathan Lane.
Steinkellner takes issue with the adage, “Those who can’t-do, teach.” “I don’t believe that to be true,” she said. “I think those who can’t-do, learn. Which is to say, if you find yourself to be an irresistible force up against an immovable object, if you find that you can’t achieve something, instead of fighting the same darn thing, consider that the point isn’t to step over that obstacle. Maybe the point of the lesson is: What can I learn from this?”
With that thought in mind, Steinkellner also wanted to make sure students didn’t think that graduating meant their best days were behind them. She closed out her speech stating,
“When I was in school, in the seventies, people would say to me these are the best years of your life. I hated that. School is short and life is long. You will never forget the years that you have spent here at the New York Film Academy. I haven’t forgotten the years that I spent in college. Please, trust this elder. The good stuff is all ahead of you. Let’s see what you make. Let’s see what you do. Let’s see your ‘weird.’ Congratulations on your graduation and welcome my friends to the best years of your life.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Joshua Helman, Valorie Massalas, and Cherie Steinkellner for taking the time to speak with our students. We’d also like to congratulate all of our incredible students on their graduation. We hope to see you back here soon, telling the next generation your success story.