NYFA Cinematography alum-turned-rapper, Sapra, recently released his latest track “Haiwan.” Sapra, along with fellow NYFA grads Justin Knodel, Mohit Soni, and Pierre Mendoza, have been making the most of their time in quarantine by producing the music video for “Haiwan.”
Originally from New Delhi, India, and currently based in Los Angeles, Sapra is known for fusing Bollywood rhythms with contemporary Hip-Hop sounds with lyrics that address social issues like body positivity, drug abuse, human rights, and more universal themes like love. The rapper’s latest track “Haiwan” (Translated to “Devil” in Hindi) is now available on major streaming platforms, with the video also available on video platforms like YouTube.
The video for the newly released track centers around COVID-19 and the response from countries throughout the world, specifically the U.S. and China. The sound is ferocious with Sapra’s rapping vocals and lyrics focus on themes of unity and love in the face of the global pandemic. A Cinematography alum from NYFA, Sapra’s video pays special attention to the imagery with eye-catching visuals for the viewer to experience the essence of human diversity and how our common humanity is the unifying factor in these unprecedented times.
“In India millions of people were on the street, unemployed, sick, walking over 200 miles to get back to their hometowns,” shared Sapra when asked about what inspired him for the track. “Justin Knodel, also an NYFA graduate, rang me up and said ‘why are you not doing something, let’s shoot something together.’ I then called my music partner Sharad Tripathi and he wrote the lyrics immediately. I collaborated with my neighbor, Apiwe Bubu, and my mentor, Ara Torosyan, who are music producers and we had a song in 8 hours.”
He continued, “My friend Mohit Soni(Also a NYFA alum) helped Justin shoot this project. It was a small crew due to COVID-19 and they both nailed it despite those limitations,” revealed Sapra. “Mohit created some amazing lighting schemes and also helped me co-produce this video. I personally went 9 times to the location to get shots and the location was a 4-hour drive back and forth from Burbank.”
Behind the scenes of the “Haiwan” shoot (Photo courtesy of Sapra)
With the location for the shoot being filmed in the desert, Sapra reveals it was chosen to show the “emptiness, barrenness, and roughness” that surrounds the lyrics and purpose of the song itself. “The land showed how people are feeling out of place and we played off the idea that there is little life left. The diversity of the characters in the music video helped to bring a global element to the song making the message of the song much more universal and relatable.”
The rapper hopes that the song helps listeners feel the need to stand up for justice. “We must do something to act in a just and kind manner to this global pandemic,” he encourages. “We must have compassion for our neighbor, have a dialogue with people who are suffering, do something about climate change and subside the greed, anger, and foolishness within this world.”
The energetic and socially-conscious artist has more up his sleeve and has also recently released singles “Coco” and “High on Love,” for which the alum also has also released music videos.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Francesca Mazzoleni’s documentary feature length film, Puntasacra wins the ‘Sesterce d’or la Mobilière’ (Best Feature Film) at the 2020 Visions du Réel competition, held virtually from April 17 to May 2.
‘Puntasacra’ (Directed by Francesca Mazzoleni, courtesy of True Colours)
Mazzoleni atteneded the 4-Week Music Video Workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in 2017. In addition to Puntasacra, Mazzoleni has directed feature film Succede and short films 1989, L’etoile de Mer, Lo so che mi senti, Nowhere, and Il Premio.
Puntasacra, her latest feature, is a documentary that tells the story of the inhabitants of Idroscalo di Ostia, a coastal outer district of Rome and the last portion of habitable land at the mouth of the Tiber, Punta Sacra. With half of the community’s houses destroyed by a fire in 2010, the documentary navigates the daily lives of the coast village’s inhabitants and naturally portrays the conversations between neighbors surrounding communism, familial secrets, and community altercations.
The film was one of 14 feature-length documentaries that were selected for main competition in the prestigious Swiss festival, Visions du Réel, in Nyon (this year online). After winning the Sesterce d’or la Mobilière with a cash prize of CHF 20,000 (£16,657), top Italian sales distributor, True Colours, acquired sales rights for the film.
Mazzoleni, who could not be there in person to accept her award since the ceremony was held online, made her own award from the items in her home and thanked her ten-person team, with whom she “shared a very complicated and wonderful adventure”. She also thanked the community of Idroscalo di Ostia who gave her the confidence to make her film. She closed her Instagram acceptance speech by telling her followers, “our journey begins today, be patient, the cinemas will reopen.”
Francesca Mazzoleni behind the scenes of her film ‘Succede’
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Francesca Mazzoleni on the success of her latest documentary film and her recent win at Visions du Réel, and encourages everyone to check out Puntasacra when it becomes available in theaters or online.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmaking alumni Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange were given the opportunity to collaborate with Josh Homme’s super group, the Desert Sessions, to create two diverse and unique music videos for two of the tracks off the Desert Sessions’ latest album, Vols. 11 & 12.
The Desert Sessions is a musical supergroup formed by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who has been hosting his “Desert Sessions” retreats since 1997. Each session involves a different group of well-known musicians mixed with unknown talent, who come together in the desert to simply play music and experiment with new techniques and melodies.
Official photo courtesy of the Desert Sessions musical collective
“It is a really creative project that Jonathan Samukange and I have had the pleasure to be involved in,” says Italian filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro. “Matador records and Josh Homme reached out to NYFA looking for filmmakers to shoot music videos for their latest album Vols. 11 & 12. We had a great first meeting with Josh [Homme], where he explained the nature of the sessions.” After pitching their ideas for their videos, Fabbro and Samukange were selected by Homme and given a production budget to create two videos for the Desert Sessions.
Still from “If You Run” (Directed by Gabriele Fabbro)
Fabbro’s video, “If You Run,” follows a young woman who witnesses something terrifying in the woods and tries to escape. The director’s inspiration for the video was taken from deadly attacks on European journalists. “I used to read a lot of news about murders,” says Fabbro. “I remember one [story] in particular that happened in a cornfield. That article came to mind while hearing ‘If You Run’.”
Filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro
“I wanted to play with tension,” says Fabbro. “I wanted a video that would keep the audience at the edge of their seat.” To portray this, Fabbro made sure that every aspect of the video embodied a sense of fear and unease for the viewer “Every tool in the video, from the shakiness of the handheld shots to the distorted sound of the radio, serves to exaggerate this fear.”
The second video created for Desert Sessions was for the song “Move Together,” directed by NYFA Filmmaking alum Jonathan Samukange, who is also known as “Director O.” His video, filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe, is a reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve. The video enlisted residents of an entire village and utilized the region’s stunning natural landscape to create “a time capsule” and hallucinatory trip through time.
“Move Together” (Directed by Jonathan Samukange)
Before being involved with the project, Samukange says he wasn’t planning on staying in the U.S because his vision is to “change the face of cinema in Africa and bring new opportunities.” When he initially pitched his vision for the video, he knew it could only be filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe. “It was a huge risk, but I believed in my heart that the people in Africa have a lot to offer and that’s what I was bringing to the table.”
Filmmaker and NYFA alum Jonathan Samukange
When asked about his vision for the video, Samukange stated, “the theme of love and working together [in the lyrics] as well as the conflict that comes with such connections took me back to the time of Adam and Eve.” He explained that their love “created conflict in their lives and they still stayed together through thick and thin.” He wanted his audience to also feel the attraction of opposites and conflict by combining two opposite elements for the video. “I immediately fell in love with the idea of fusing rock and Afro House dance moves. In my opinion, when cultures clash, new relationships and ideas form.”
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate both Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange on the release of their videos for Desert Sessions and looks forward to seeing what both alums will come out with next. NYFA also encourages everyone to check out Desert Sessions Volumes 11 & 12, out now, on Matador Records.
The music video for “Don’t Call Me Angel,” the tie-in single to the latest Charlie’s Angels film performed by Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey, and directed by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hannah Lux Davis releases tomorrow, September 13.
The song, released by Republic Records, is the first single off the Charlie’s Angels officialsoundtrack album and serves as the film’s main theme. The latest entry of the popular franchise about three crime-fighting women stars Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska, and was written and directed by Elizabeth Banks.
Davis originally hails from Bellevue, Washington, and attended the 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus in 2004. Since then, she has directed music videos for such high-profile musicians as Whitney Houston, Lil Wayne, Halsey, and Drake. She has frequently collaborated with Ariana Grande, and directed the hit videos “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings.”
For her work, Davis has been nominated for multiple MTV Video Music Awards, and has won twice—in 2013 she won Best Hip-Hop Video for “Love Me” by Lil Wayne, and in 2014 she won Artist to Watch for “Miss Movin’ On” by Fifth Harmony.
“Davis has a uniquely colorful style that can be seen in her videos for Hilary Duff’s ‘Sparks’ and David Guetta’s ‘Hey Mama’ featuring Nicki Minaj,” writes Lucy Binetti in a profile on Davis for Substream Magazine.
In the article for Substream, Davis talks about her commitment to following her own instincts and style, as well as her passion for filmmaking. “I really do think this is the only thing I’m meant to be doing,” says Davis.
New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Hannah Lux Davis on her successful career as a music video director, and encourages everyone to check out her latest project, “Don’t Call Me Angel” by Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum and Partizan director Aisultan Seitov has been nominated for MTV’s VMA for Video of the Year Award for 21 Savage’s music video “a lot” featuring J. Cole. The tone and visuals of the video were influenced by The Godfather Part II and last year’s Oscar-nominated film Cold War. Seitov previously directed the music video for “Red Room,” the first single from Offset’s much-hyped solo album, which gained a lot of buzz for its striking visuals and powerful emotive tone.
The following video contains explicit content.
Born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Seitov first came to New York Film Academy as a high school student in our Advanced Filmmaking Camp for Teens, a year later attending the 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory at our New York campus before enrolling in the BFA program in Los Angeles. Along the way, Seitov gained a substantial social media following as an influencer with insight about music and international film. As Shoot Online explains, “This nomination further solidifies Seitov’s reputation as a leader among the new crowd of creators who integrate cutting-edge creativity and digital savvy with youthful authenticity.”
Hosted by comedian and actor Sebastian Maniscalco, the 36th annual MTV VMAs will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the first VMA ceremony to be held in the Garden State. Often called the “Super Bowl for youth”, the VMA ceremony draws millions of youth each year, and awards the coveted “Moon Person” statues to winners chosen by viewers who voted on their favorite videos in each category on MTV.com.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Aisultan Seitov on his nomination for Video of the Year and looks forward to tuning in tonight for this year’s MTV VMAs at 8:00pm ET.
Nominees for the 2019 MTV VMAs include:
Video of the Year
21 Savage ft. J. Cole – “a lot” – Epic Records
Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records
Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records
Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” – Republic Records
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – WINNER
Artist of the Year
Cardi B – Atlantic Records
Billie Eilish – Darkroom/Interscope Records Ariana Grande – Republic Records – WINNER
Halsey – Astralwerks/Capitol Records
Jonas Brothers – Republic Records
Shawn Mendes – Island Records
Song of the Year
Drake – “In My Feelings” – Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records
Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records
Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” – Republic Records
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – “Shallow” – Interscope Records Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records – WINNER
Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records
Best New Artist
Ava Max – Atlantic Records Billie Eilish – Darkroom/Interscope Records – WINNER
H.E.R. – MBK/RCA Records
Lil Nas X – Columbia Records
Lizzo – Atlantic Records
Rosalia – Columbia Records
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – “Shallow” – Interscope Records Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – WINNER
Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – “ME!” – Republic Records
Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – “I Don’t Care” – Atlantic Records
BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records
Push Artist of the Year
Bazzi – Atlantic Records
CNCO – RCA Records Billie Eilish – Darkroom/Interscope Records – WINNER
H.E.R. – MBK/RCA Records
Lauv – LAUV/AWAL
Lizzo – Atlantic Records
5 Seconds of Summer – “Easier” – Interscope Records
Cardi B & Bruno Mars – “Please Me” – Atlantic Records
Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records
Ariana Grande – “”hank u, next” – Republic Records Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” – Republic Records – WINNER
Khalid – “Talk” – Right Hand Music Group/RCA Records
Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records
Best Hip Hop 2 Chainz ft. Ariana Grande – “Rule the World” – 2 Chainz Ps/Def Jam
21 Savage ft. J. Cole – “a lot” – Epic Records Cardi B – “Money” – Atlantic Records – WINNER
DJ Khaled ft. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend – “Higher” – We The Best/Epic Records
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records
Travis Scott ft. Drake – “SICKO MODE” – Epic Records/Grand Hustle/Cactus Jack
Anderson .Paak ft. Smokey Robinson – “Make It Better” – Aftermath Ent/12 Tone Music
Childish Gambino – “Feels Like Summer” – RCA Records
H.E.R. ft. Bryson Tiller – “Could’ve Been” – MBK/RCA Records
Alicia Keys – “Raise A Man” – RCA Records
Ella Mai – “Trip” – 10 Summers/Interscope Records Normani ft. 6lack – “Waves” – Keep Cool/RCA Records – WINNER
BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records – WINNER
BLACKPINK – “Kill This Love” – YG Entertainment/Interscope Records
Monsta X ft. French Montana – “Who Do You Love” – Epic Records
TOMORROW X TOGETHER – “Cat & Dog” – Republic Records
NCT 127 – “Regular” – SM Entertainment
EXO – “Tempo” – SM Entertainment
Anuel AA, Karol G – “Secreto” – Universal Music Latino
Bad Bunny ft. Drake – “MIA” – OVO Sound/Warner Bros. Records
Benny Blanco, Tainy, Selena Gomez, J Balvin – “I Can’t Get Enough” – NEON16/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope Records
Daddy Yankee ft. Snow – “Con Calma” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment
Maluma – “Mala Mía” – Sony Music US Latin Rosalia & J Balvin ft. El Guincho – “Con Altura” – Columbia Records – WINNER
Best Art Direction
BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records – Art Direction by JinSil Park, BoNa Kim (MU:E) Ariana Grande – “7 Rings” – Republic Records – Art Direction by John Richoux – WINNER
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records – Art Direction by Itaru Dela Vegas
Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – Art Direction by Tatiana Van Sauter
Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – Art Direction by Brittany Porter
Kanye West and Lil’ Pump ft. Adele Givens – “I Love It” – Warner Records & Def Jam Music Group – Art Direction by Tino Schaedler
The 1975 – “Love It If We Made It” – Dirty Hit/Interscope Records
Fall Out Boy – “Bishops Knife Trick” – Island Records
Imagine Dragons – “Natural” – KIDinaKORNER/Interscope Records
Lenny Kravitz – “Low” – BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd. Panic! At The Disco – “High Hopes” – Elektra Music Group – WINNER
twenty one pilots – “My Blood” – Elektra Music Group
The Chainsmokers ft. Bebe Rexha – “Call You Mine” – Disruptor/Columbia Records – WINNER
Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato – “Solo” – Big Beat/Atlantic Records
DJ Snake ft. Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B – “Taki Taki” – DJ Snake Music Productions Ltd/Geffen
David Guetta, Bebe Rexha & J Balvin – “Say My Name” – Big Beat/Atlantic Records
Marshmello & Bastille – “Happier” – Capitol Records
Silk City & Dua Lipa – “Electricity” – Columbia Records
Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Directed by Dave Meyers
FKA twigs – “Cellophane” – Young Turks – Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang
Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records – Directed by Hannah Lux Davis Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records – Directed by Calmatic – WINNER
LSD ft. Labrinth, Sia, Diplo – “No New Friends” – Columbia Records – Directed by Dano Cerny
Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – Directed by Drew Kirsch & Taylor Swift
Video for Good
Halsey – “Nightmare” – Astralwerks/Capitol Records
The Killers – “Land of the Free” – Island
Jamie N Commons, Skylar Grey ft. Gallant – “Runaway Train” – Interscope Records
John Legend – “Preach” – Columbia Records
Lil Dicky – “Earth” – Dirty Burd, Inc./Commission/BMG Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – WINNER
Best Visual Effects
Billie Eilish – “when the party’s over” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Visual Effects by Ryan Ross, Andres Jaramillo
FKA twigs – “Cellophane” – Young Turks – Visual Effects by Matt Chandler, Fabio Zaveti for Analog
Ariana Grande – “God Is a Woman” – Republic Records – Visual Effects by Fabrice Lagayette, FKristina Prilukova & Rebecca Rice for Mathematic
DJ Khaled ft. SZA – “Just Us” – We The Best/Epic Records – Visual Effects by Sergii Mashevskyi
LSD ft. Labrinth, Sia, Diplo – “No New Friends” – Columbia Records – Visual Effects by Ethan Chancer Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – “ME!” – Republic Records – Visual Effects by Loris Paillier & Lucas Salton for BUF VFX – WINNER
Anderson .Paak ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Tints” – Aftermath Ent/12 Tone Music – Editing by Elias Talbot
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Record – Editing by Calmatic Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Editing by Billie Eilish – WINNER
Ariana Grande – “7 Rings” – Republic Records – Editing by Hannah Lux Davis & Taylor Walsh
Solange – “Almeda” – Columbia Records – Editing by Solange Knowles, Vinnie Hobbs, Jonathon Proctor
Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – Editing by Jarrett Fijal
FKA twigs – “Cellophane” – Young Turks – Choreography by Kelly Yvonne Rosalia & J Balvin ft. El Guincho – “Con Altura” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Charm La’Donna – WINNER
LSD ft. Labrinth, Sia, Diplo – “No New Friends” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Ryan Heffington
Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – Choreography by Calvit Hodge, Sara Biv
Solange – “Almeda” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Maya Taylor, Solange Knowles
BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Rie Hata
Anderson .Paak ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Tints” – Aftermath Ent/12 Tone Music – Cinematography by Elias Talbot
Billie Eilish – “hostage” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Cinematography by Pau Castejon
Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records – Cinematography by Christopher Probst Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – Cinematography by Scott Cunningham – WINNER
Solange – “Almeda” – Columbia Records – Cinematography by Chayse Irvin, Ryan Marie Helfant, Justin Hamilton
Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – “ME!” – Republic Records – Cinematography by Starr Whitesides
5 Seconds of Summer
BLACKPINK BTS – WINNER
Why Don’t We
Best Power Anthem
Ariana Grande – “7 Rings”
DJ Khaled, ft. Cardi B & 21 Savage – “Wish Wish”
Halsey – “Nightmare”
Lizzo ft. Missy Elliott – “Tempo”
Maren Morris – “GIRL”
Miley Cyrus – “Mother’s Daughter”
Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down”
Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign – “Hot Girl Summer”
Song of the Summer
Ariana Grande & Social House – “boyfriend” – WINNER
Billie Eilish – “bad guy”
DaBaby – “Suge”
Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – “I Don’t Care”
Jonas Brothers – “Sucker”
Khalid – “Talk”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)”
Lil Tecca – “Ransom”
Lizzo – “Truth Hurts”
Miley Cyrus – “Mother’s Daughter”
Post Malone ft. Young Thug – “Goodbyes”
ROSALÍA & J Balvin ft. El Guincho – “Con Altura”
Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita”
Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down”
The Chainsmokers & Bebe Rexha – “Call You Mine”
Young Thug ft. J. Cole & Travis Scott – “The London”
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alexandre Kyriakidis grew up watching movies, and eventually, started making his own. Kyriakidis attended NYFA’s 8-week and 12-week workshops in 2001 before going on to shoot multiple short films as well as over 50 music videos across the globe.
Kyriakidis hails from France from Greek and American parents, and has lived both in Europe and California, watching movies from his grandmother’s vast film collection nearly as early as he can remember. Those movies both inspired and influenced his own projects, which he started making at a young age and continues to make today.
Filmmaking runs in the family — Kyriakidis’s aunt is producer, director, and Oscar-winning actress, Jodie Foster. While Kyriakidis says their artistic sensibilities differ greatly, Foster has still appeared in some of his favorite films.
The New York Film Academy spoke with Alexandre Kyriakidis earlier this year about his background, his work, and about the four movies that had a lasting impact on his filmmaking aesthetic:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Alexandre Kyriakidis (AK): I was born in France from a Greek father and an American mother, and have been living in Europe most of my life with some extended periods in the USA, in California mostly. I started making backyard films in high school until landing an internship at 14 years old for the French visual effects company DUBOI (they don’t exist anymore), who were doing Alien: Resurrection at the time.
What brought me to NYFA was that after graduating from high school I couldn’t find a film school that I liked; most of them would rely too much on theory and not enough on practice, and I also didn’t want to sit in classes for hours learning about the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder for example, when I had already seen these films and built my own film education since I was a kid.
But then I learned about New York Film Academy and it suited me perfectly; it was all about practice and hands on, where just after the first day you would already touch and use the most important tool in filmmaking — the camera. It was all about living, breathing, and dreaming films.
NYFA: What was your time at NYFA like?
AK: It was the best time in my life, because nothing around me was important, nothing else mattered but films, and I was surrounded by people just like me — people who loved films more than anything.
I also met some of the most amazing people in my life, other students with whom I shared the same passion, other students with whom I can talk about movies that weren’t just blockbusters, and students from all over the world who became friends and with whom I still communicate today.
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on directing?
AK: I always wanted to tell stories, to make movies, but I wanted to be the person who was in charge of the creative aspect — deciding what was going to be on the screen, basically put on the screen what is in my head — and that is why I wanted to become a director.
I have had many influences from when I was a kid, and even today I’m influenced by many great filmmakers. But when I was a kid, four movies had a big impact on me, and three were directed by the same person.
First was Raiders of the Lost Ark by Steven Spielberg. I think I saw that film on VHS when I was four or five years old, and I remember seeing it in Greece at my godfather’s home. Looking back at it today, it’s a harmless film, but … leaves a big impact on you as a kid.
The other film was Robocop, that I saw on VHS at six, and when I first saw it, it felt like if I was watching something forbidden, something I wasn’t allowed to see … Then when I was eight, Total Recall was being replayed in Greece one night on a giant screen on the beach, and my dad and godfather took me to see it.
And then when I was ten, I was in Los Angeles one summer and my grandmother showed me Basic Instinct. So as you have guessed, Paul Verhoeven had a big impact on me.
After that my grandmother, who owned at the time a huge film collection, started to show me everything she owned, from the films of Werner Herzog, to the classic Italian films like Last Tango in Paris, as well as the films of Akira Kurosawa, the films of Stanley Kubrick, French films, German films, Soviet films — I basically saw everything, and I mean absolutely everything.
So my film education came from there, and it’s after seeing all these great works of art that I wanted to make films myself.
AK: I had always wanted to make music videos, but never really knew how to get into it. All I knew is that great directors like David Fincher, for example, started in music videos and still make some once in a while.
In my case, there is this guy I know in England who was starting his own music company after owning an event company for whom I shot videos in nightclubs, and he asked me to make a music video for a Romanian singer.
And I had never worked on a music video before, never learned how to make a music video, so really I didn’t know much, but I told him I would do it. A few weeks later we were shooting on the Mediterranean with a skeleton crew and a Canon 5D camera.
And after the success of that music video, a second music video was made for the same singer; again it was a success, eventually new artists were signed up, mostly metal and hard rock, so I ended up doing more music videos.
Eventually other music companies from all over Europe, even Russia, contacted me, and I made music videos for them. Some being hits, some doing well, others doing less well, and once in a while there is a controversial one that ends up in flaming internet debates.
Now even after making 50 music videos, I still feel that I’m learning more every day, and each one of these 50 are like making a new short film each time. A good thing about music videos is that they allow you to experiment, to test new tools or to try things you would never dare doing in a movie.
NYFA: What kind of music videos do you prefer working on? Is there a particular genre of music you feel lends itself better to the medium?
AK: I have done mostly rock, metal, and gothic music videos, but I have also done a lot of pop music videos in Eastern Europe, in Southern Europe, and in Russia. My first music video was a pop one.
My taste in music is rock with a preference for ’90s and ’80s rock. I have always been a rock fan, so I’m always enjoying making rock music videos.
But I still feel pop music videos are the ones that are the most fitted for music videos, because the songs are often so overproduced and have so much Auto-Tune in them that they are often recorded with a music video already planned.
Rock music is made for the stage, pop is made for the screen.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your short films? What are they about and what inspired you to make them?
AK: My first short film, Blues Stop was made right after NYFA, shot on Super 16mm. It’s a thriller about a Bible salesman who falls for a psychopathic, beautiful female serial killer who ends up framing him for murder. The film was never shown in its home country of France, but it was screened in festivals all over the world, including in Los Angeles.
My second short film, C22, made many years after my previous one, is a sexual thriller with a dose of action, a dose of horror — it’s about a kidnapping gone wrong. This film once again didn’t get shown in any festivals in France, but was shown in festivals all across the world, including North America.
And my third short film, Sfagi, is just a small-budget martial arts action movie about capturing a fugitive. Originally it was just going to be a demo reel for a group of martial artists and stuntmen, but I managed to convince them to make a short film.
You can check out Alexandre’s film below, though speaking with NYFA, he made it clear that since it was his first film straight out of school, he finds it very hard to share with anyone these days.
“I will always be proud of it,” he says, “on the other I have made so much progress since.”
But even in his first film, his talent is evident and shows the potential of his craft that would come later. Alexandre also made sure to give props to his experienced crew, many of who had just come offLove Actually and Neil Jordan’s The Good Thief. The director of photography of the film was focus puller on Star Wars: A New Hope.
NYFA: Besides Raiders and the films of Paul Verhoeven, what are some of your other favorite films or types of films?
AK: I don’t have a type of film, I like any film — science fiction, drama, horror, action, or comedy. I can enjoy just as much a classic heavy duty drama just like I can enjoy an old ’70s exploitation film.
But my all time favorite film, the one that is all the way up there, would be Gone with the Wind and then I would say the following: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Blade Runner (the original one), Ran, Suspiria (the original one), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Léon: The Professional, Schindler’s List, and I can go on because I have actually done a list of my 200 favorite films of all time. But as you can see in just these titles, it’s very diversified.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you’ve applied directly to your filmmaking?
AK: I learned to think and not be impulsive. By that I mean back when I was at NYFA we still shot on film, meaning that each time we pressed the camera trigger it would mean money being lost — so if you failed your shot, or if an actor messed his lines, that is money lost that you will never see again… While today with digital we can shoot all day; sure it saves a lot of money, but you end up not thinking as much anymore before shooting. While I, because I learned on film, I tend to treat digital the same way I learned to treat film.
Also the fact that NYFA is very hands on, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty… how many times was a prop in the way and I would just go and move it myself, instead of having the 1st AD call the Prop Master so he would come and move it? How many times have I picked up the camera myself and taken the shot myself, and little details like that?
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
AK: I have been trying for years now raising enough money to make a feature film, it’s a vampire film — it’s at the same time a sexual thriller, a horror, and a romantic film. But it’s not easy.
I’m also trying to make another short film named Femme Fatale that is a tribute to the old “film noir” movies of the ’40s and ’50s. And I’m trying to finish a script named The Lobster Shift that is a mix between After Hours by Martin Scorsese, Into the Night by John Landis, and the Japanese anime Cat’s Eyes.
NYFA: How has your aunt, Jodie Foster, as either an actress or director, influenced your own work?
AK: Our works are the total opposite — she’s more cerebral than me while I’m more impulsive and react more by instinct. And you can notice it in her films, her films as a director are always very character-driven, while my works are more visually driven.
As an actress she happens to be in three of my all-time favorite 100 films — Taxi Driver of course, Silence of the Lambs obviously, and Bugsy Malone, a forgotten gem that happens to be Alan Parker’s first film.
It’s not an influence, but each one of my works — being a music video or a short film, even my scripts — she’s always the first person to see them (even sometimes before the actual producers or bands) or the first reader, especially when it comes to scripts; her advice and opinions are very precious, and help me to make them better.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
AK: Be ready to live films 24/7 … try not going out at nights and have fun learning about your passion, and you are all in good hands.
The New York Film Academy thanks alum Alexandre Kyriakidis for taking the time to answer our questions and looks forward to following his continued success as a filmmaker!
You’d be hard pressed to find a New Yorker who doesn’t experience their fair share of frustration with the MTA, the corporation that runs the city’s sprawling and crowded transit system of trains and buses. Especially these days, as commuters deal with train construction, delays, and an impending apocalypse, while fares continue to increase (the MTA announced just this week their plan for yet another fare hike of 4%).
And every New Yorker deals with it in their own way. Some of us mutter under our breaths, while others aren’t afraid to scream and yell at the top of their lungs. Some of us weep silently when we finally get home, while others pray to themselves that they’ll actually get home.
But what most of us haven’t done, is sing a song about it. With Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA, a new musical number performed by Broadway actress Kristy Cates, that’s no longer the case. And now that it has an accompanying music video produced by the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA), the song is easily available for everyone to share, relate with, and sing along to.
Kristy’s Lament is very much based on a true story. “I have the worst train luck,” Cates tells NYFA, continuing, “I’m always stuck underground with no explanation, waiting for a train that never shows up, or on the car with the person about to puke. And I often share these wild stories on social media.”
After one particularly nasty commute for Cates, where one bizarre thing followed another as she tried to make her way home from her Broadway show, she recounted the entire nightmare on Facebook. Her story quickly gained traction and gained a lot of attention on social media. Typically, the story would end there, but not for Cates.
After seeing her commute from hell, lyricist Chris Giordano was inspired to adapt the tale into song, writing lyrics for a number that step-by-step portrayed Cates’s disastrous trip. Soon, it was put to music by composer Ryan Edward Wise, and Kristy’s Lament was born. It wasn’t long after that that a music video was produced to accompany the track.
The video features Cates playing multiple roles — not just the tragic commuter narrating the song, but also a rude passenger carrying numerous bags, a stoner, and a homeless man, among others. It is mostly a stage production, filmed at NYFA’s 1st Floor Theatre, with gorgeous lighting direction and a minimal subway set. The video was also partially shot in an actual subway station, where the video opens and closes.
The video was produced by the PCMT at NYFA, where Kristy Cates also serves as Creative Director. The renowned musical theatre school prides itself on giving its students real world training that prepares them to achieve success in a competitive, empowering industry, creating an educational experience few other musical theatre schools can offer.
Aspiring performers develop their skills as triple threat performers by studying with faculty — like Kristy Cates — who have appeared in numerous Broadway and touring productions, top-rate regional theatre, opera, hit movie musicals, and television shows. NYFA’s musical theater alumni include llda Mason (On Your Feet), Pierre Marais (Aladdin), Christopher Viljoen (Les Misérables), and Kylan Ross (Straight Outta Oz).
Additionally, the PCMT at NYFA is able to use all of the resources shared by NYFA’s film school, cinematography school, and other departments. Using the Academy’s resources and state-of-the-art filmmaking equipment, its stage and its location in the heart of the New York City, and some of the Academy’s highly-talented staff — including director Jonathan Whittaker, editor Sean Robinson, Broadway veteran and choreographer Deidre Goodwin, and costume designer David Withrow — Kristy’s Lament was able to take advantage of high production values to really sell the humorous lyrics and support Cates’s powerful yet hysterical performance.
“One thing I love about working for NYFA,” Cates says, “is their willingness to explore new projects. As a result, our ability as a program to collaborate with up-and-coming composers and lyricists.” She adds, “It was wonderful to combine the expertise of our faculty, the passion of our alumni, the ingenuity of the composer and writer, and the generosity and support of the Film Academy.”
Cates is no stranger to high production values and show-stopping numbers. She is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and has starred in Wicked (Broadway, First National Tour, Chicago) as Elphaba, as well as playing Miss Bassett in Finding Neverland (Broadway), Grandma Josephine in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Broadway), and has had roles in a handful of off-Broadway shows and many regional productions. Additionally, she performs as a professional voiceover artist.
The Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy is proud to have Kristy Cates as an original and current member of its faculty, and was equally as proud to produce Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA with her. Next time you’re stressed and stuck on the subway, check it out and let yourself laugh a little — if the wifi is working down there, of course.
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.”