New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Avkash Mann released his debut single, Away, this July. It wasn’t long before it made the American Top 40 Charts on Spotify, along with artists like Ariana Grande and Beyonce Knowles. Mann is the son of prominent Punjabi singer-actor Harbhajan Mann, though he strives to gain credit and success through his own hard work and talent rather than any nepotism or celebrity advantage.
Away is a soulful modern pop/R&B track, written and composed by Mann in addition to being performed by him. Mann released it with a beautifully shot black-and-white music video as well. The track is in English, though Mann plans on writing and releasing Hindi tracks in addition to Punjabi songs he’s also previously written.
Mann told India New England News, “I always thought that if I write songs then I would want to write them for people who can relate to them. My music is inspired by what is going on around me. Not just my own life, but also my friends’ and close family’s lives.”
Mann also focuses his artistry on introspection and positive values, avoiding topics like violenceand alcohol in his work, whether it is more socially-focused or more romantically-inclined. “I don’t want to promote anything that would wanna make people do something that is detrimental to themselves or people around them,” he continued.
In the same article, in addition to expanding on why he doesn’t rely on his father’s fame to further his own career, Mann mentions that he has “some film stuff in the pipeline too” — projects that he’ll elaborate on in the near future.
In May 2017, Mann attended New York Film Academy’s 4-Week Acting for Film workshop. In the month-long course, acting students learn their craft with an emphasis on Stanislavsky’s System, scene study, and monologue work as starting points. In conjunction with their classes, students participate in courses aimed specifically at training the actor for the technical requirements of acting on a film set.
The New York Film Academy congratulates alum Avkash Mann on his successful hit song, and looks forward to both his future musical and film projects!
If you are interested in attending New York Film Academy, you can find more information on our programs here.
At the New York Film Academy, we are big believers in the idea that understanding all different aspects filmmaking offers a huge advantage for aspiring artists — an advantage that can pave the way to all kinds of creative successes. NYFA Cinematography Conservatory grad Sapra (2009) is living proof that being able to approach the entertainment industry from multiple angles is sure to come in handy. The dynamic artist is many things — rapper, actor, director, producer, cinematographer — and now he has just dropped his own music video, Love Trumps Drugs.
Sapra took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog to speak about his experience making his own music video, and what it’s like to forge a truly unique path as a multi hyphenate artist.
NYFA: First can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?
Sapra: I was born in New Delhi, India, and started playing instruments as a kid. I was auditioned for a theater show randomly when I was bunking a class and that got me a lead part in a big theater production. That started my acting career. I got a taste of what it feels like to be in front of 5,000 people at an early age and I got addicted to the fun of performing. I remember while all of my school friends were studying in seventh standard and I was touring with my high school all over India. So I got to skip the classes!
In college, I was a theater performer, emcee and an event manager. I had my own event management company called Beyond Exclamation. This was in my first year of college. After doing a lot of that, I wasn’t able to really reach out to millions of people, I was performing for thousands. So the yearning to learn film got me to NYFA. I started with studying film and cinematography, and then ventured into acting for film.
After graduating from NYFA, I directed and produced multiple music videos for other artists, and I also directed and acted in PSAs. NYFA gave me a kick start in Los Angeles
NYFA: Love Trumps Drugs is very polished, romantic, and high-energy music video. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the music and the story?
Sapra: I see the youth involved in all kinds of substance and I also see adults fancying the use of marijuana. I had a personal encounter where female friends of mine would use marijuana and become delusional and act weird. I also saw a lot of my talented friends leaving back for their country get involved in things they should have stayed out of.
What I found common in all of them was abuse of such drugs. I saw people who were more talented than me giving up because the drug made them weaker. So I thought of an interesting way to entertain youth and suggest my thoughts. I am not being judgmental about the usage of marijuana in my video, however, I am suggesting a fact.
NYFA: What surprised you most during the music video shoot?
Sapra: The steady cam guy did not show up, so I had to find someone on the day of. I was the producer on this so it was a challenge juggling multiple things and keeping everyone happy.
What also surprised me was the amount of money and time one has to spend to make each frame look good. Also one has to be spontaneous for last-minute story changes.
NYFA: Were there any challenges in creating this music video, and how did you overcome them?
Sapra: Budget was a challenge. What we wanted was not cheap. Our financier backed out two days before the shoot, so I had to take out a loan. The rest was easy as I had a great team.
NYFA: What advice would you share with our NYFA students who want to produce their own music and music video?
Sapra: Los Angeles is a producer’s paradise — you can make anything happen here! You can work with the best of the best people and teams if you hang tight. The best part is that it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. What matters is whether you are ready to put in the work.
My agent, Jon of JS Represents, says Los Angeles is a one-way move. Once you are here, get financially stable first. Make this your home and keep on your career, and you will find yourself where you want to be. The industry will cast you when they are ready for you in their time. So hang tight and don’t give yourself a time limit.
NYFA: What is next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Sapra: I am looking for distribution for my next music video Coco, which is my favorite of all. I filmed it in Mammoth. I have produced the video and it’s directed by my decade-old friend AB Chandra.
I have two more videos in pre-production and a series I am casting for — and guess what? All this with no financial support from anyone!
NYFA taught me in the beginning: DIY (do it yourself). I have the best mentors and team in the world. I am the lead actor/rapper and producer in all the productions.
NYFA: Would you say your time at the New York Film Academy was at all useful for the work you are doing now?
Sapra: Yes, NYFA taught me a lot. They supported me after completion of my course. They had great follow up. Dan Mackler, Michael Pessah, and Kirill guided me throughout my stay at NYFA.
NYFA gave me a jump start and gave an overall understanding of Hollywood and filmmaking in general. Doing multiple projects and finding ways to make them happen without any resources is a part of the great training one can get from NYFA. You can be the best writer, actor, or director, but if you don’t consistently produce your content you may not be seen for years in the industry. That’s what NYFA taught me.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Sapra on his exciting music video launch. Check out Love Trumps Marijuana, Coco, and more from Sapra, coming soon!
Madeline Howlett and Georgia Allison, recent graduates of the Acting for Film program at the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus, scored themselves lead features as mermaidesque muses in the newly released “Young Man’s Dream” music video for Australian rock group Byron Short and the Sunset Junkies.
Of her New York Film Academy student experience, Madeline says, “NYFA being on the backlot of the Village Roadshow Studios has a professional agenda from the very beginning. Our lecturers were also very respected and gave us professional advice on how to present yourself in a professional manner when big things are happening around you.”
Crediting her lecturers for ensuring she learnt in a supportive and inspiring environment, Madeline believes “having teachers who were also brutally honest has made me respect them even more and has helped me learn tremendously as an actress; their support and encouragement has had a huge benefit for me out in the industry.”
Currently working on a collaborative project with another NYFA graduate, Madeline’s major goal for 2017 is to gain agency representation, stating, “I have never been more excited for my future. This year is my year to grow immensely.”
Former New York Film Academy 4-Week Filmmaking Workshop graduate, Yico Tseng, is a Chinese singer-songwriter who was a finalist on the popular singing competition show, Happy Girls, which has been dubbed the Chinese version of American Idol.
Today, in alignment with “Chinese Internet Valentine’s Day,” she released her debut music video, “Can I Kiss You,” which she produced at the New York Film Academy.
The video is about two girls from different countries who fall in love with each other, knowing they can never be together.
From a singer-songwriter to a music video director, the multi-talented Yico says she decided to pursue music video production because it incorporates two of her main passions in life: music and film.
“My experience at the New York Film Academy was great— it was very creative and practical,” said Yico. “I could access terrific teachers and meet wonderful people. And it was very helpful for my career.“
Have a look at her brand new video below, and Happy Chinese Internet Valentine’s Day!
Following his graduation from New York Film Academy’s One-Year Acting for Film Conservatory, Mickael Zieben began his acting and music producing career in Paris, France, even starting his own record label Live it Soul Records.
Most recently, Zieben produced a new song and visual entitled Love You Like This, which is a brand new single from Ambition The Kid, a rising star from Pennsylvania.
Zieben says he decided to pursue music video production because it incorporates my two of his main passions in life: music and visuals. Have a look at his work below:
“I would definitely say that my NYFA education was useful in terms of producing video content in general,” said Zieben. “Since my time at NYFA, my vision of the film industry and artistic acknowledgement have improved in many ways. Consequently, my self confidence truly got boosted, making me aspire for music video producing.”
Zieben aims to gain even more credibility in the music industry by working with many more talented artists.
At this time, Zieben is working on a beautiful acoustic wedding record entitled I Do.
“In everyday life, I like to face new intellectual challenges—to outdo myself,” added Zieben. That literally is a way to grow as a person.”
Rock ‘n’ roll is still alive and well, especially for New York Film Academy graduate Trip Loon. His most recent rock video for Hammered Satin, called “Foxy Dude,” has been acclaimed in publications like Rolling Stone and Yahoo, as it is considered one of the Top 20 Most Awesome Music Videos of 2014, along with artists like Ok Go, Basement Jaxx, Arcade Fire and Iggy Azalea. This week, we had a chance to talk to Trip about his video and his career as a budding filmmaker.
How did you begin working with Hammered Satin? Was this an original idea of yours that you had to pitch or something you developed with the band?
I’m actively involved in the rock ‘n’ roll scene. I have a rock ‘n’ roll nightlife blog called The Dead Notes where I report about the best new bands in the rock ‘n’ roll underground with a focus on bands who have influences from the rock ‘n’ roll of the 70’s. I came to meet Hammered Satin for the first time when they played The Bowery Electric back in 2010. Then when I moved to LA in 2011, I got in touch with them and did a story about them for my blog. Over the years they became my strongest allies in my activism to promote this kind of rock ‘n’ roll. It was through them that I was hyped as a videographer, blogger and a music entrepreneur/promoter; and all the other bands in LA and all over America were interested in getting in touch with me to be featured in the media I was producing.
The idea was something I developed with the band. I wanted the video to have a lot of “zingers” (shock value/funny moments) but I was very conservative with my budget that I can only do a few. Noah, the singer of the band, really fought for a lot more zingers and pretty expensive ones too. At first my impulse was to manage his expectations and tell him I can’t. But I’m glad I didn’t because those extra zingers got me Top 20 Most Awesome Videos of 2014 in Rolling Stone.
In your own words, what is the “Foxy Dude” video about?
Initially, I asked the band which song they wanted to select and what they wanted to campaign about themselves. We both agreed that at this stage of the band’s career it’s important to campaign the band’s brand as opposed to the single itself. Once the public knows who Hammered Satin are as artists then we can move on to worrying about campaigning actual singles. After some discussion, we thought “Foxy Dude” was the most strategic song that showcases that.
Hammered Satin is huge on 70’s glam rock and what 70’s glam rock stood for. They want to show the world that they are glamorous, chic, fun, party spirited, cultured, classy and larger than life. The video focused a lot on accomplishing all of those elements. We built a plot of the singer being auctioned off to women and finding love with his guitar player dressed in drag; and then they eventually start a family and have a baby (their bass player). I encourage the audience not to think too much about a “hidden theme.” This is a music video for entertainment and for evoking a sense of wanting to be cultured, high class, chic and fun. And if you saw the video and it got you excited on being that way—and it got you excited on Hammered Satin—then I did my job.
Was your NYFA education useful in terms of being able to direct a video like this?
Yes, absolutely. And not just for this video but for my craft as a filmmaker in general. I feel I should give huge shout outs to Paul Warner, John Loughlin, Claude Kerven, Jack Paglen, Stephen Miele, Mary Samuelson and Robert Dinozzi.
Were you able to build a solid portfolio of work to showcase your talents?
Right now, I have two feature screenplays and three TV shows developed enough that they’re already getting referrals around producers and agencies. I’ve directed three shorts and a number of music videos, TV commercial specs, and a full music web series of seven episodes (30 minutes each) that will be streamed on a major website.
Are you currently working on another project?
Yes, I’m working on a feature length rock ‘n’ roll documentary and more seasons of my music show, Goose Chase, which I have ambitions to eventually sell to broadcast as opposed to just the web. I’m also writing and developing more feature screenplays.
What is your overall goal as a filmmaker?
My goal is to be a youth culture director that portrays the youth culture with realism. I feel that a lot of content creators now portray the youth culture by pandering to parental control pressures, and a lot of producers want to distribute movies to conservative foreign markets in non-European territories—that there’s a very contrived “wholesome” quality in these movies that panders to the cultural sensitivities of those markets. And that doesn’t just go for youth culture movies, it goes to all movies in general.
My favorite era of movies is The American New Wave era in the late 60’s and 70’s. It was the height of the counter culture and it was the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. The music and movies from that era are what got me enamored with American culture. And it seems that magic is completely missing nowadays. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll maniac. I live it and breathe it. Most of my movies are autobiographical and, if they’re powerful enough, maybe life will imitate art. And maybe some kind of impact is going to happen to the culture because of it as well. Who knows?
Popular Australian musical duo Bombs Away’s most recent music video, “Everybody Stand Up,” featuring Luciana, was directed by New York Film Academy Australia Gold Coast alumni and a current student. The video has been gaining buzz with over 100,000 views on Youtube in just about a month.
on set of “Everybody Stand Up”
Produced by Joel Thomas from Voyageur Productions, “Everybody Stand Up” was directed by Gold Coast alumnus Damian Lang, who says he and his crew thought the Bombs Away guys were a pleasure to work with. In addition to Lang, the crew consisted of current student, Harrison Scholes, as well as alumni Matt Robinson, Melissa King and Shawn Chapman.
“My experience from NYFA was critical to my performance,” says Lang. “It has also helped me present myself professionally as a director and a business.”
Lang is currently working on two music videos and just finished wrapping his short film, The First Step. His hope is to eventually direct his first feature film.
For now, enjoy this music video from Lang and his NYFA crew.
New York Film Academy students gathered in a theater at Warner Bros. Studios this past week for a special screening of Whiplash followed by a Q&A with this year’s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons. Jonathan Kimble (“J. K.” Simmons) is known for his roles as Dr. Emil Skoda on the NBC series Law & Order (and other Law & Order franchise series), neo-Nazi Vernon Schillinger on the HBO prison drama series Oz, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope on the TNT series The Closer, J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and the voices of Cave Johnson in the 2011 puzzle game Portal 2 and Tenzin in The Legend of Korra. Simmons’s performance as music instructor Terence Fletcher in Whiplash (2014) received universal acclaim and earned him more than 30 accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the discussion.
To anyone who’s seen Whiplash, the memory of J.K. Simmons’ role as Fletcher, the music conservatory instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a promising young drummer’s potential, is burned into their memory. Soon after the credits finished rolling, and the man who had just captured the students’ attention so intensely on screen appeared in the flesh and took the stage, the whole theater immediately erupted into cheers and applause during a standing ovation. It was interesting to see how much of a contrast the terrifyingly sadistic Fletcher was to the real man behind the role. J.K. was upbeat, jovial, and having the students laughing in stitches with his endless stream of quips. He was as appreciative to be there as the student’s were to see him and even though the line of students waiting to ask questions stretched to the back of the theater and nearly out the door, J.K. stayed until every last question was answered.
J.K. talked about the incredibly fateful circumstances surrounding the Whiplash feature. Director Damien Chazelle wrote the part of the student drummer Andrew for Miles Teller not knowing at all the the actor had been a drummer since the age of 15. What’s more, when Damien first approached J.K. about playing the part of music instructor Fletcher, he assured him that there would be a music technical advisor on set and that they could use a body double for difficult orchestral scenes. As it turned out, however, Mr. Simmons studied music in college. “I thought I was going to be Leonard Bernstein when I grew up, but I took a few left turns…” J.K. jokingly said. “It was just all meant to be.”
Elaborating more on the making of the film that changed his life forever, Mr. Simmons explained that when he first met Damien Chazelle the director was only 26 years old. However, despite Damien’s lack of experience, the two immediately clicked as J.K. saw the genius within the young director. Within 10 minutes of working together on the Whiplash short film, Simmon’s and Chazella knew they would be working together on the feature version. Simmon’s also had a comfortable, creatively exciting relationship with actor Miles Teller on set. Even though the tension between them was high on screen, the two would joke around together between takes on set. This was also due to the relaxed environment Damien created on set which allowed for experimentation from the actors. An interesting fact about the young music students from the various college bands in the film was that, aside from a few, they were composed of real student musicians, not actors. And during the filming the bands were actually creating real music!
While reminiscing on the long road that took him to where he is now J.K. said, “When I look back it almost seems like I had a plan. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and doing what I really enjoy doing… When I was scrapping by and making ends meet, I didn’t have a wife and kids and any responsibilities… In my case, the level of success, acclaim, attention I’ve gotten more and more of in the last decade or so, if that had happened when I was 25 years old I would not have been prepared creatively, personally in any way.”
For many decades, Rolling Stone Magazine has been a leading force in music and entertainment culture. Its ability to catapult an artist’s career is quite remarkable. The same could be said for the music video and its ability to launch the careers of so many talented directors. In fact, a slew of today’s top film directors like David Fincher and Spike Jonze began their careers by making music videos. In the New York Film Academy’s Rolling Stone Music Video Workshop, we provide that very same training ground.
This week, our music video students had the privilege of visiting the world-famous headquarters of Rolling Stone Magazine in New York City. As part of the tour, students had an opportunity to gawk at the Hallway of Covers, which displays every Rolling Stone cover since its inception in 1967. As you can imagine, our music video students were in awe of the massive display. Our hope is that it was also inspiring for the young artists. You never know, perhaps their face could be on the cover someday.
The New York Film Academy has recently collaborated with R&B sensation, Banky W, on his latest music video for the upcoming single, “Unborn Child” featuring hip hop artist, Lynxxx.
Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Banky enrolled in NYFA’s Union Square campus to study an 8-week Filmmaking course where he was able to develop his skills to co-produce and co-direct his largest music video to date alongside Jonathan Whittaker, Chair of Short-Term Filmmaking Program at The New York Film Academy. With a NYFA crew comprised of former students, assistants, and faculty, “Unborn Child” was shot on the stellar Red Epic at Gary’s Loft in Midtown and just off Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx in only 2 days. The video stars Banky, Lynxxx, and 8-week Acting for Film student Aminat Ayinde.
Banky plays the role of an NYPD officer that finds out the unexpected news that his girlfriend, Ayinde, is now pregnant. As he departs for what he thinks will be just another day on the job, the mother of his unborn child will soon find out that Banky is injured in the line of duty and leaves Lynxxx, his fellow NYPD partner, to deliver an important letter of heartfelt words and lessons for his child to live by in this emotional song and video.
The video is currently in post-production at the New York Film Academy and is pending information on the premiere. One thing we know for sure is that we are extremely proud to have had Banky join us as a student and collaborator on this project. Working with Banky firsthand, Jonathan Whittaker says, “For someone of Banky’s stature to trust me with their vision is a tremendous honor. There is no higher sense of accomplishment than collaborating with students who are putting into practice what they have learned in my classroom.”