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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Kendall Ciesemier Talks Activism, Social Causes

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    Chicago native, New York-based producer, writer, and social entrepreneur Kendall Ciesemier has been making waves with breaking news stories and interviews about social causes ever since she was 11 years old. At that young age, she formed Kids Caring 4 Kids to empower young people to help provide basic human needs to children living in sub-Saharan Africa. While she was at Georgetown University, Kendall co-founded OWN IT, a women’s leadership initiative to empower college-aged women to engage with women leaders. And at New York Film Academy (NYFA), Ciesemier completed the 6-week Documentary program in 2017.

    Ciesemier’s personal history of health issues inspired her humanitarian work. Expounding upon that, she says, “My own health struggles entirely formed the lens through which I look at the world.” In lieu of gifts and flowers during her recovery, she humbly requested well-wishers donate to the village of Musele, Zambia — the most highly affected area by the AIDS epidemic at the time. “I found my purpose in founding Kids Caring 4 Kids,” added Ciesemier. Since 2004, 8,000 individuals in five different African countries have been assisted via the construction of dormitories, orphan care centers, a clinic, classrooms, computer labs, bicycles, indoor plumbing, meals, and clean water.

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    LINK IN BIO: My interview with #MeToo founder @taranajaneen just dropped on @mic’s FB watch show: #MicDispatch. Go watch and learn and wow! Tarana really brings it. We discuss Kavanaugh, the one year anniversary of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the state of the #MeToo movement. . Here’s her message for survivors which I found so comforting: “I want us to lay our burdens down. This should be laid at the feet of the Senate. This should be laid at the feet of your local politicians. It should be laid at the feet of the school or institution or whoever that didn't protect you. It's not our burden to bear.” #survivors #believesurvivors #metoo #believewomen #metoomovement

    A post shared by Kendall Ciesemier (@kendallciesemier) on

    Now a producer at Mic, Ciesemier recently found herself helping out with an interview of rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the House in 2018 as the youngest woman in Congressional history. The Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed 29-year old recently stunned the country after defeating longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District. Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed alongside fellow DSA-supported Cynthia Nixon, who lost her bid to defeat incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo.

    At Mic, her topics range from criminal justice reform, racial justice, the #MeToo movement, and more. Her recent interview with Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, helped lead to Johnson’s clemency as is arguably the highlight of Ciesemier’s career.

    Speaking of the experience, Ciesemier said, “We actually drove down alongside her family, three hours from Memphis to Alabama. We were racing to get there in time to pick up Alice and watching her walk across the street and see her family across from the prison was pretty powerful.” She continued, “I think, as a journalist, you’re taught to just do your job — but you’re also a human being. I don’t think I processed all of that experience until a good four days after. This is a story I’ll never forget.”

    Ciesemier tweeted her emotional reaction to the release:

    Activists also showed their support of Alice Marie Johnson’s release, including Reese Witherspoon, who thanked Ciesemeier on Twitter for her efforts:

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kendall Ciesemier for her time and, more importantly, her community service, philanthropy, and activism. We wish her the best of luck with all her future endeavors.

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  • End of August Update from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism School

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    It is no secret that viewership of legacy media — like network TV — is down, while audiences for digital services — like Mic — are skyrocketing. The problem is that digital program producers are still searching for a way to actually make money. At the end of the day, a business has to be just that — a business.

    According to Digiday, Mic attracted a huge number of viewers with fast, short-form non-fiction videos. But they didn’t attract enough sponsorship dollars. So Mic is shifting to “long-form” (around 15 minutes) programs that incorporate both studio and field elements. (Their premiere series is called Mic Dispatch.) Sound familiar? It’s a case of “everything old is new again,” as I produced program segments like this for 20 years. Of course, the content here is a lot edgier. Now digital outlets are looking to license content produced by others (why not you?) and many of the deals they are making are for a full year.

    Mic publisher Cory Haik says a greater percentage of people are choosing to watch Mic Dispatch beyond the three-second view mark than for the type of short-form news-feed videos his platform used to crank out.

    People say that things slow down for the summer. But that doesn’t seem to be true for some NYFA Broadcast Journalism grads, or myself for that matter…

    The biggest news of the week is the graduation on Friday of the Summer 8-week workshop. An outstanding class, with people from everywhere. They are inventive, hardworking, collaborative, and talented. We will be hearing more from them…

    Broadcast Journalism August 2018

    Congratulations! 

    Friday evening saw NYFA alum Elizabeth Wilson hard at work at NBC Sports, where she works in the marketing department. And she got to spend Sunday there too! It’s a reminder that our profession isn’t a typical 9-5 job…

    Broadcast Journalism August 2018

    But, whatever the sacrifices, there are times in which we actually influence history. As regular readers of this Update know, Broadcast Journalism grad Antia Efraim works at Radio Globo in Brazil. The network is doing a series of interviews with presidential candidates, and Anita is right in the middle of it. And she’s not just behind the scenes, but on air as well. And in cyberspace too, as the program is digitally streamed. Which is how I know about it. (And yes, it isn’t summer in Brazil…)

    Broadcast Journalism August 2018

    Myself, I am back to Beijing next week. I’m the host of the international version of a CCTV cultural documentary series called Century Masters. Each program tells the story of a 20th century composer, performer, writer, or musician who transformed their field, and in doing so changed China. (This is my second season with the program, which means the first season must have been successful. They don’t bring you back if a series is a flop!) 

    While I am in Beijing, I will be making two presentations for NYFA. The first will be at the Beijing Film Academy, where NYFA has its China office. (NYFA is the only international school invited to locate on the BFA campus.) I will be speaking to potential students about NYFA, and its various programs. Including, of course, Broadcast Journalism.

    I will also be speaking at the China Film Group. It is the largest film distribution company in China, and a major player on the entertainment scene. Part of what I will be discussing is my soon-to-be-broadcast documentary Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began, which in part mirrors the story told in the Chinese feature film The Flowers of War. (I’ll have some big news for you about my doc in the next Broadcast Journalism Update.) Also on the agenda will be a discussion of post-production in New York. or “every dream has its budget.”

    Broadcast Journalism August 2018

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    September 4, 2018 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 751

  • NYFA DOCS got off to a great start in the 1st Quarter of 2018

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    We seem to be beating industry’s 50-50 in 2020 goal, and docsters are killin’ it across the board.  

    In January alone…

    An Academy Award nomination landed Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Kristen Nutile in Oscar’s limelight as Editor of the  Netflix original doc, Heroin(e).

    October Films promoted Louis Mole (’13) to Head of Development

    Sundance gave Documentary Cinematography Instructor Claudia Raschke some serious love, lauding her work as director of photography of the acclaimed, RBG, featuring her on the celebrated “Women Who Shoot panel. You’ll find Claudia-centric articles include American CinematographerFilmmakerIndiewire, etc.

    With a two-minute micro-doc, alum Gary Bencheghib (’14) moved the President of Indonesia to launch a massive cleanup of the most polluted river in the world. The initiative will employ 7,000 people for seven years, stopping millions of tons of plastics from reaching the ocean each year, and radically improving the lives of 20 million people along the river.

    And then came February…

    A Sniper’s War, the first feature doc from director Olga Schechter (‘14) premiered to rave reviews at two top festivals, Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

    “Powerful and disturbing.” – Hollywood Reporter

    Superb cinematography.” – Hollywood Reporter

    “Stunning.” – Counter Punch

    “The most chillingly frightening killer imaginable. – Film Threat

    A 9 out of 10.” – Film Threat

    Schechter scored these key reviews despite the lack of a release date, a publicist, or even a production company. A good, old-fashioned bidding war immediately broke out and it looks like Journeyman Pictures has won worldwide rights with a promise of theatrical release. A Sniper’s War has since gone on to win multiple festivals including Best Foreign Documentary at the Academy Award Qualifying, Arizona Film Festival. (With the new eligibility rules, the Arizona win almost certainly qualifies the film for the Oscar race. The Academy will confirm their new list of qualifying festivals later this spring, so we’ll know for sure then.)

    In other February news, Netflix premiered doc series First Team: Juventus, edited by Andrea “Fuma” Fumagalli (‘09), which “is produced with elegance and cinematic finesse,” and “ultimately reminds us of the simple beauty of the beautiful game.” – Sports Illustrated 

    Documentary Producing Instructor Dorottya Mathe also premiered her feature, The Independents, at SBFFThe Hollywood Reporter likes it too, especially, “the way in which it subverts all the clichés of the star-is-born story,” and pronounces it, “an extremely engaging film.” Graduate Erica Wong (’14) assisted Dorottya on the production, and fellow NYFA Instructor Piero Basso served as DP. Documentary Instructor Jessica Wolfson’s feature, Hot Grease followed its Discovery premiere with VOD roll out on Discovery Go.

    March didn’t miss a beat either…

    Wynona Barbera (’16) took a walk on the fiction side and produced El Cat which became an Official Selection of the hip, HBO Women in Comedy Festival.

    Furlough, the second 2018 fiction film from NYFA Documentary Instructor Dorottya Mathe (Production Supervisor) opened in theaters. The female-driven comedy starred Academy Award winners Melissa Leo, Whoopi Goldberg and Anna Paquin.

    Back in the doc world, Invisible Killers: Ebola Virus, associate produced by Laura Snow (’13) for The Documentary Group aired on Discovery and Science Channel. (And is now available on Discovery Go.)

    Francesca Pagani produced The Italian Mafia’s Young Foot Soldiers and associate produced Inside The Two-Decade Fight to Bring Down a Confederate Monument, both for VICE.

    Weighing in for the 6-Weekers, Kendall Ciesemier (6-Week ’17), now a Mic staff producer, has created a series of pivotal social media micro-docs around the Parkland students’ anti-gun violence campaign, including Should This Responsible Gun Owner Surrender his AR-15? and Parkland Teen vs. NRA Member.

    Director/Producer Tarryn Crossman (‘12) won another SAFTA Award, this time for the hard-hitting MTV Shuga episode In Real Life. Mentions include: Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Screen Africa.

    Mariko Ide (’16) edited her first piece for Google.

    Kristen Nutile edited Weed The People (directed by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein),  which premiered at SXSW — where Indiewire and Interview magazine both pronounced it a “must-see” film. And even People magazine gave it a write-up.

    The Stolen River, directed by Krisztina Danka (6-Week ’17), won Best Environmental Film at the Calcutta International Film Festival. That was after taking Best in Show at Cinema Verde International Environmental Film Festival, as well as awards at Independent Shorts Awards, Impact DOCS Award, LiFFT Filmotsav and others.

    Andrea “Fuma” Fumagalli (’08) premiered his first feature documentary, Amigos Del Tren, at San Diego Latino Film Festival.

    The Second quarter of 2018 is off to a great start as well. More on that shortly.

    One spoiler, though…

    Two documentaries nominated for Peabody Awards this year have NYFA Documentary School bloodlines: Heroin(e), edited by prof, Kristen Nutile and Newtown, Associate Produced/Associate Post Produced by Laura Snow (’13).

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