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  • Q&A With New York Film Academy Alum and The Equalizer 2 Actor Kazy Tauginas

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    Kazy Tauginas is an artist who wears many hats. He’s an actor, having appeared in television shows such as Sneaky Pete, Blindspot, Person of Interest, Turn, Blue Bloods, and Law & Order: SVU, and blockbuster films including John Wick and The Equalizer 2. He’s also a producer and writer, having worked on an award-winning and very personal short film, Standing Eight.

    Tauginas grew up outside of Chicago, and was a restauranteur and Golden Gloves boxer. In 2009, he decided to follow his lifelong passion in writing and acting, and attended the 1-Year Acting for Film Conservatory at the New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. He has been performing steadily since graduating, which isn’t just a testament to his talents. Taguinas is also extremely committed to his art, putting everything he has into every role. “No matter what the project,” he says, “I want to always be the best me I can be.”

    Tauginas can currently be seen in theaters with Denzel Washington in the follow-up to The Equalizer, directed by Antoine Fuqua. He recently spoke with the New York Film Academy about his time on set, his award-winning film Standing Eight, and the continuing experiences that make him the storyteller he is today:

    Kazy Tauginas

    Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Kazy Tauginas (KT): I grew up just outside of Chicago. Attended the University of Delaware for undergrad. After college, I ended up running a 24-hour diner for 4+ years. When my lease was up, and of no fault of my own, I was forced to walk away from the restaurant business. This event brought me to a fork in the road career-wise. I decided to follow my heart and go after my true dream, which was acting and writing. That life-changing decision led me to NYFA, where I graduated from the Acting for Film Conservatory program in August 2009.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspires you most about this craft, and what stories are you most passionate about telling?

    KT: I’ve always had an affinity for film since I was a child. I can probably trace back most of my notable childhood events to the films that coincided with them that particular year.  I was also an only child, so I had to keep myself entertained. I would create epic adventures for my G.I. Joes. I would run around the backyard pretending I was Indiana Jones. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized I actually enjoyed performing.

    Standing Eight

    Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com

    What appeals most to me about acting is the ability to step into the shoes of others. Being able to experience different human emotions and walk away (mostly unscathed). I love creating characters. I love being able to surprise people. When I was younger, I always enjoyed a good action movie. But I feel now, as I’ve matured, I prefer films with strong performances — the genre doesn’t matter. If the performances in the films are rooted in truth, I’m entertained. At the end of the day, I just want to be truthful on screen and take people on an emotional ride.

    NYFA: You’ve recently produced a short film called Standing Eight. Can you talk about this project, and what it took for you to make this film?

    KT: Standing Eight is an award-winning dramatic short film about a professional boxer who is forced to retire and contend with his life outside of the ring after being diagnosed with systemic lupus. It’s a story about a man who is trying to face the fact that he’s been beaten by a disease. The conflict only escalates when his former would-be opponent begins trolling him.

    This project was a labor of love. Through and through. My inspiration came from my mother, who has been fighting Systemic Lupus Nephritis since before I was born. Lupus affects millions of people around the globe, yet so few people even know what the disease actually does to the body. (It’s an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s own immune system attacks healthy organs and tissues.) Louis Peduto, Brian Kazmarck, and I made a hard commitment to work with each other in a Producer, Director, Writer/Actor capacity. I wrote the first draft of the film at the end of 2014. From that point, we went through multiple drafts of the screenplay, two successful Kickstarter campaigns (one for actual production, one for post-production). Principal, post, festival submissions, and finally an incredibly successful indie festival run. The film was an Official Selection at 28 festivals worldwide. We were nominated for 22 various awards. In the end, we took home 11 different festival awards and 4 Honorable Mentions. I think the film is accomplishing what I originally set out to do, which was raise lupus awareness.  Just recently I was contacted by the Lupus Foundation of America, and we’re going to be working together to promote the release of Standing Eight on Amazon.

     

    NYFA: That’s incredible, congratulations. You’re currently co-starring in the Denzel Washington film The Equalizer 2. What was the casting process like for that?

    KT: My manager put together a push. Betty Mae Casting agreed to give me an opportunity, which I was and am eternally grateful for. We sent over a self-tape that same night. A week later I was on a plane to Boston. No callback. Straight off tape. I was told they did visit my website. (So, actors: have a website with all your materials readily available. You never know who’s looking.)

    NYFA: Any fun stories or lessons learned while on set for The Equalizer 2?

    KT: To be honest, the entire shoot was a blast. I was in Boston for almost three months. Shooting the climax was physically challenging, but WORTH EVERY SECOND. I worked incredibly hard with the stunt team to make sure I looked the part. I put in hours of training with the rifle. Huge shoutout to Jeff Dashnaw and Mick Gould. Jeff was the stunt coordinator and put together an incredible team. I’m sure Mick got sick of all my questions at some point, but I’m a perfectionist. I was hellbent on not being the weakest link.

    My favorite moment was definitely when I ad-libbed a bunch of lines and Antoine Fuqua absolutely loved it. He jumped out of the van, grabbed my shirt, and said “That’s what I’m talking about!!!” Having a director of that caliber — especially one who I’ve been a fan of for so many years — to give such positive feedback was overwhelming. It was one of those moments in life that just reaffirms that I’m on the right path.

    Kazy Tauginas and Denzel Washington

    Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com

    NYFA: How were your experiences different between Standing Eight and The Equalizer 2?

    KT: On Equalizer, my only function was to act. So it was relatively simple. Everything was laid out for me and all I had to do was bring my A-game. When you’re an actor, I tend to think of myself as one color on the canvas. When you’re a filmmaker, you’re a painter. On Equalizer I was paint. On Standing Eight, I was more of a painter. Standing Eight was a challenge because I had to wear so many different hats. Luckily, by the time we went to principal photography we had ironed out most of the producing and writing kinks, and I was able to concentrate on my performance. So my experience on Standing Eight was more complex. But to be honest, they were both incredibly rewarding, just on different levels.

    NYFA: Was there anything your experiences on Standing Eight and The Equalizer 2 had in common?

    KT: Absolutely. My commitment. Whenever I put my name on anything, I put my heart and soul into it. As an actor, Equalizer was the opportunity of a lifetime and I treated it as such. I felt exactly the same on Standing Eight. I wanted my painting to be perfect. No matter what the project, I want to always be the best me I can be.

    Kazy Tauginas

    Photo Credit: Sony

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on either Standing Eight or The Equalizer 2?

    KT: What didn’t I use? Everything you learn in acting school becomes applicable at different points in your career.

    NYFA: You’re currently working on the film Invisible Love, produced by NYFA Chair of Broadcast Journalism and Emmy Award-winning Bill Einreinhofer. What was the casting process for Invisible Love?

    KT: [Former NYFA Chair of Acting for Film] Peter Allen Stone and I are connected on social media and he’s been following my journey since I left school. My understanding is that Bill mentioned something to him about the project he was producing and needing talent. Peter threw my name out there. It just worked out splendidly. I auditioned for them. Apparently, I did well, so the offer came in. I love the character they want me to play. I’m really looking forward to working on it.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    KT: I’m currently working on a huge film for a streaming service with an incredibly talented cast. Unfortunately, that’s all I’m allowed to say. Invisible Love is supposed to go into production in the winter. As far as producing, I’m working on putting together a feature film with very similar elements as Standing Eight. It’s my dream to put lupus into mainstream dialogue so we can actually make finding a cure a reality.

    Kazy Tauginas

    Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    KT: I have very fond memories of my experiences at NYFA. So I took full advantage of the program while I was there. I think I ended up doing about 50 student films by the time I graduated. I went to every Q&A — got to meet Melissa Leo and Christopher Plummer. I made lifelong friends with some of my classmates and teachers. I really did have wonderful teachers. Lea Brandenburg engrained in my brain that when you’re on camera, you keep it simple. I remember by breakthrough in learning how to cry in Peter Allen Stone’s voice and movement class. Dressing in drag as my activity in Meisner class. I did that because James Price said that “manly men” like me would never do something like drag. Challenge accepted, sir. Bela Grushka was always so encouraging of my work. 

    Our thesis film, which was directed by Victor Verhaeghe, was something my entire class was so proud of. We worked incredibly hard and made phone calls during our lunch break and sent out postcards to every single agent and manager in NYC to invite them to our screening. I really learned so much from that program. I feel like by the time I graduated, I was a different person.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    KT: Take advantage of everything NYFA has to offer. Go to workshops. Screenings. Talks with industry people. Meet filmmaking students. Meet writing students. Go to class prepared. Study. Shoot. Act. Apply everything you learn while you’re still in school. Find the other people who are as hungry as you are. Let your inhibitions go. LEARN. Be humble. You have to be a sponge to learn. Focus on the task at hand. Become the best you that you can be. 

    In 2009, I fully committed to being a creative. If I can do it, you can do it.

     

    The New York Film Academy thanks Kazy Tauginas for his generous time and thoughtful responses, and congratulates him on his current success. We look forward to seeing what the future brings for Kazy!

    If you are interested in learning Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy, you can find more information on our programs here.

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    July 31, 2018 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1166

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Community Outreach Partners with Actors for Autism

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    The New York Film Academy-Los Angeles recently partnered with Actors for Autism (AFA), providing “hands-on,” college-level filmmaking courses as an extension of the AFA filmmaking program where students write, shoot and edit their own films. Speaking about the collaboration, NYFA’s Chair of Community Outreach, Mason Richards, said “At NYFA we believe that diversity in the film industry goes beyond race and gender, it also includes ability among other things. And we are wholly mindful about training and creating opportunities for people on the spectrum along with other underrepresented groups. The students were amazing.”NYFA and Actors for Autism

    Actors for Autism is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement, education, and training of people on the autistic spectrum by providing new and innovative programs in the Arts, Film & Television, Animation, Visual Effects, and Video Game Industries. According to their mission statement, Actors for Autism believes that people on the autistic spectrum should live as integrated members of society. Inclusion should be a reality, not a dream. For the last 15 years, AFA has been a pioneer in developing new and innovative programs, providing media & technology training that assists their students in finding employment after they complete their education. There are a variety of companies that have partnered with AFA to provide their students internships and job opportunities. 

    The young AFA filmmakers shot scenes from their short films on NYFA-Los Angeles in-house sound stages in Burbank, and on the Universal Backlot. In addition, they also did ADR and post-production at NYFA with instructors Huch Platt and John Briscoe. Liz Fenning, Program Supervisor at Actors for Autism added, “To our students, it meant everything to them to make films with NYFA, and to have NYFA’s caring faculty and staff support them, as they got to live out their dreams working with high-quality equipment shooting on a studio lot. There is no measure for the joy it brought to them.​”

    ​Fenning continued, “Not only did we notice distinct changes in the students’ technical knowhow, but more importantly, we noticed that they were better able to trust their instincts and pursue their passions with greater confidence. Essentially, it allowed our students to take the leap from viewing themselves as students of film, to directors, screenwriters, and talent.”

    Once the students completed the semester-long filmmaking program, NYFA hosted a private screening for friends, families, and supporters of the young filmmakers at the NYFA theater. Actor and AFA supporter Jack Dylan Grazer, who recently starred as Eddie in the Stephen King adaptation It and will be appearing in the superhero film Shazam, showed his support by attending the screening, and was very impressed by the student films.

    NYFA and Actors for AutismAbout Grazer’s involvement, Fenning stated, “Jack Dylan Grazer has been an incredible supporter of our program. It meant the world to the students, that a young and accomplished cinema artist, would take his very limited time to show support and appreciation of their work. For him to be present at the ceremony at NYFA left them speechless — truly, to have a peer in the industry take the time to celebrate their work has made an indeliable mark on them.”

    Since receiving their Certificates of Completion from NYFA-Los Angeles, two of the student filmmakers so far have gained employment at local production companies, while others are interviewing and still looking for employment.

    ​“We cannot thank NYFA enough for this partnership. With this program, NYFA truly demonstrates what it means to be a leader in the Los Angeles film community. For our students, they have provided a life changing experience. We are beyond grateful for NYFA’s generosity, and are awed by its heart for this population of artists, so often overlooked by the film community at large.​”

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    July 26, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Community Highlights, Diversity, Outreach • Views: 394

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Premiere Films at LA Shorts Fest

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    What do New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni Assem Yedgey, Dina Naji, and Zixian (Season) Ouyang have in common?  They all have thesis films premiering at the Los Angeles International Shorts Film Festival (LA Shorts Fest) July 25 – August 2!

    We sat down with the filmmakers right before the festival and asked them to tell us about their experiences.  

    Escala by Assem Yedgey

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.

    Assem Yedgey: Escala is about a young girl who must win a music competition in order to ease the financial burden on her single father, but her instructor’s obsession with her turns this dream into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. The film takes place in Los Angeles. 

    NYFA: What is the most important thing you learned in making this film? Good or bad?

    AY: I learned that there is nothing that cannot be achieved and that you should always follow your heart. I decided that I wanted to have a 100% female crew to create opportunities for women. Throughout my pre-production almost everyone I know was telling me that it was a bad idea and that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, that I was severely limiting my choices in terms of crew.

    All I can say is that I have never before worked in a better environment. I am very grateful that I had an amazing producer by my side – Yulia Safonova. She supported me immensely, and when I was about to give up on my idea of having an all-female crew, she would say, “We can do this.” And we did it. Our crew were united and all of us wanted the best for Escala. I learnt that the most important thing is to listen what people are suggesting, but not always follow, instead to rather feel what is the best for the film. 

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at LA Shorts Fest?

    AY: I haven’t premiered my movie anywhere. LA Shorts Fest will be the official premiere, so this is an exciting new experience for me. I am thrilled to watch it with an audience and observe them and explore their reactions. This is my first festival and it is one of the most prestigious festivals; it is like a dream came true. I’m so grateful that I will be able to share my story with so many people and hopefully they will get something out of it. 

    NYFA: Anything else you would like us to know?

    AY: I want to say that without collaboration and the hard work of my cast and crew, Escala wouldn’t have been made. A huge thank you to everybody involved.

    Escala screens Saturday, July 28, at 9:55 pm at the Noho Laemmle Playhouse.

    assem

    Hind’s Case by Dina Naji

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.

    Dina Naji: My film Hind’s Case was inspired by true events. I wanted to shine a light on one case in particular that happened in 2015 in a woman’s housing shelter in Saudi Arabia. The story follows Hind (20), who at a young age witnessed her father kill and bury her mother, then went on to suffer years of abuse at his hands. When Hind escapes from her abusive home, she gets sent to live in a housing shelter. While there, Hind makes the first friends she’s ever had, and enjoys the freedom away from her father. However, when the manager of the housing shelter informs Hind that her father has requested to take her home, Hind decides to take matters into her own hands and gets sent to the solitary confinement room in order to join her mother in heaven, as she can’t stand the thought of living with her father again.

    NYFA: What is the most important thing you learned in making this film? Good or bad?

    DN: The process of making Hind’s Case with a fantastic cast and crew was amazing. As a director, I learned that if you want to make a film, you should have a cast and crew that are passionate about the story you want to tell and want to bring a story alive. 

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at LA Shorts Fest?

    DN: I am very thrilled to have my film screen for the first time in LA Shorts Fest, and it is a huge opportunity to show my film to many people who are coming from different backgrounds and cultures. It’s a dream come true. 

    NYFA: Anything else you would like us to know?

    DN: I would like to thank all the crew, cast, and my teachers, especially Scott Hartmann and Tamera Daugherty-Martin, for all the support. And I want to thank the New York Film Academy for this opportunity. 

    Hind’s Case screens Friday, July 27, at 5:30 pm at the Noho Laemmle Playhouse.HInd's Case

     

    Love in Canton by Zixian (Season) Ouyang

    NYFA: Tell us about your film.

    Season Ouyang: The movie is about an old woman accepting her husband’s death on her way to his funeral in Canton.

    NYFA: What is the most important thing you learned in making this film? Good or bad?

    SO: I think I improved my directing skills, and it gave me more good ideas about how to direct a good musical film.

    NYFA: What are you looking forward to at your screening at LA Shorts Fest?

    SO: I am looking forward to more audiences seeing and enjoying my movie in this screening. I want people to know me! 

    NYFA: Anything else you would like us to know?

    SO: I want you guys to know my dream is to make Cantonese film be great again in the world! 

    Love in Canton is an official selection of the festival’s New Wave Chinese Filmmakers opening night program. It screens Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at 4 pm downtown at Regal LA Live.Love in Canton

    Congratulations to Assem, Dina, and Season! For more information on the LA Shorts Fest, and to purchase tickets, please visit http://lashortsfest.com/

     

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    July 25, 2018 • Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 279

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum and Siblings Star Off-Broadway

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    This June, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni Jameelah Rose Lineses and Joseph Lineses starred together in Mindanao: The Legend of Tabunaway, Mamalu and Their Descendants at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. In addition to both being graduates of the New York Film Academy, Jameelah Rose and Joseph are sister and brother.

    Jameelah Rose Lineses and Joseph Lineses

    Joseph Lineses and Jameelah Rose Lineses

    Mindanao: The Legend ran from June 21 – June 24, with both evening and matinee shows. Based on the oral tradition legend of the brothers Tabunaway and Mamalu, Mindanao: The Legend highlights the culture of the indigenous peoples and sultanates of the Southern Philippines. Mindanao: The Legend was written and directed by Potri Ranka Manis, who also devised the show’s concept and choreography.

    The production supports Kinding Sindaw Melayu Heritage, a dance ensemble founded in 1992 and devoted to preserving and educating people about the rich, vibrant culture of the Philippines. In addition to the production and additional shows and benefits, Kinding Sindaw also offers workshops and classes in Filipino dances. Its Executive Director is Potri Ranka Manis.

    Jameelah Rose and Joseph Lineses have been members of Kinding Sindaw for over eight months. Jameelah first attended New York Film Academy in June 2011, taking the 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop. Two months later, she enrolled in the 1-Year Filmmaking program at the New York City campus, where she was given hands-on training with state-of-the-art film equipment, and taught the skills necessary for pre-production through post-production.

    Since graduating, Jameelah has made multiple films, including Historic Jeddah, Our Journey to Hijaz, and The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah. These films have been screened in many festivals, and Jameelah has accumulated several awards for her efforts, including the IFFM Film Festival Director Louie Award Honorable Mention. In addition to her work as a filmmaker, and as a dancer and actress for Kinding Sindaw, she is also part of the media and marketing team for the nonprofit organization.

    Jameelah Rose Lineses

    Jameelah Rose Lineses

    Her brother, Joseph Lineses, attended New York Film Academy’s 4-Week Photography program in New York City. Joseph was born in Quezon City in the Philippines, but like his sister Jameelah, he was raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Portraying Mindanao: The Legend was very important to him because of his deep interest in his ancestors and the culture of the Southern Philippines.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates both Jameelah Rose and Joseph Lineses on their successful run of Mindanao: The Legend of Tabunaway, Mamalu and Their Descendants, and looks forward to the continued works produced by Kinding Sindaw. 

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    July 17, 2018 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1241

  • Alum Ludovic Coutaud Brings Lunatic Clowns to the Drama Book Shop

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    New York City is a thrilling and challenging place to be an artist. For NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory alum Ludovic Coutaud, creating site-specific shows crafted to play off iconic performances spaces within the city has helped him forge a specific and entirely original path as a performer, producer, and creative director.

    Coming up this summer, Lunatic Clown And Cie, the international theatre company Coutaud founded and serves as artistic director, brings The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) to the iconic Drama Book Shop library. Here, he tells the NYFA Blog what it’s like to perform original clown shows in New York City, and why it’s important for artists to produce their own work.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    LC: I studied Acting for Film at NYFA in 2011, and had a blast learning from this very talented faculty. I had visited the campus two months prior as a New York tourist with my parents and loved the idea of studying acting in another language among other foreigners. That is something that makes New York Film Academy such a strong, diverse school. We were 12 students in my class and only three Americans were present. I remember liking to call my class the United Nations of NYFA.

    NYFA: Why acting and directing? What draws you to storytelling through performance?

    LC: I started directing in Marseille, France where I am from, with my first acting teacher directing the end-of-year kids’ shows. It was a true leap of understanding the craft even better, and I found myself being able to communicate my directions more specifically having known what it was like to receive notes. It also taught me the importance of collaboration.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    LC: I loved every class for several reasons. The one I discovered entirely and had the most fun with was maybe Maggie Reed’s TV Sitcom and Soap Opera class during the second semester. These formats are very uncommon where I am from (especially the laugh tracks in the background). I learned lots of new tricks and techniques that I still use to this day.

    NYFA: Tell us a bit about your company Lunatic Clown And Cie. What inspired you to start the company, and how do you juggle your multinational and genre-bending productions?

    LC: I have written, directed and produced a dozen of shows in New York City under my name and I have developed a new style through these selections of projects. I’m now six years into the process — but I’ve been called a “clown” all my life!

    For those who know, clowning is a word that resonates out of the ordinary for certain cultures. For example, here in America clowns are often associated with birthday parties and dark serial killer stories. Well, my company, style, and the values behind every show aren’t remotely close to that. I call my clowns “tall children,” or poetic souls. Many names could be found. The style is complex.

    When I first discuss it with the actors involved in my company, I share information with them — like a chart of what to do and not do, and how to find the goal to achieve. Each clown piece is one simple, heartfelt story. I want to always find all the possible nuances and converse about the topic with all my clowns one on one.

    After 7 years juggling between the arts and other wonderful jobs, I have luckily been able to maintain my main target to why I came to New York in the first place. That’s also why it was time for me to brand all of my style under a name that would be catchy, mysterious yet personable: Lunatic Clown And Cie.

    NYFA: As a producer and performer, what challenges do you face when creating your shows, and how do you overcome those challenges?

    LC: Producing a show is hard work, yes, but if you do believe thoroughly in the project, things seem to flow a bit more. Throughout the years, struggles have shifted. My hat of producer joins creative, executive (financing), and supervising roles. Where other projects would hire three people, I found myself loving to do these three positions. My style being different, I needed to have very strong collaborators by my side who would understand me 100 percent. From show to show, I have found that person to assist me along the way on one or two projects, co-direct or even invest in the shows — and most importantly, friends who believed in my work.

    To this day, gathering a group of passionate risk takers, willing to join a community of artists and be clowns, has been a challenge. From all these hats, I would say I added the one of “eager artist hunter” to amplify the panel of the performers who I had the chance to work with.

    NYFA: Your summer show The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) uses clowning to explore the theme of denial. What an interesting combo — what led you to this theme? Why this show, now?

    LC: The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) takes on the very important theme of denial indeed because it has been a subject of mine for a long time. My first short play Denial was a success, also at the Drama Book Shop, in 2016. It was a piece with words and lots of audience members came to find me afterwards and said, ”Did you write this? Thank you. I would love to see more about that theme from you in the future.”

    I remember thinking how interesting that was, so I did find the inspiration to write two new pieces: Look at Me, and now this one. This time, I decided to explore that major topic through physicality only. Again, you realize that clowning and performance art here is the same family for me.

    Timing is very interesting and the society we live in fascinates and aggravates me at the same time. I had a list of eight shows of mine waiting around and I picked this one because I got the Drama Book Shop. This the third time that I have contacted the Drama Book Shop team. Four pieces of mine have swept the stage of the Arthur Seelen Theatre already and this time I had decided to rock the library.

    That location is ideal for several reasons; it is an actor’s temple, it gathers stories waiting to be told, it is a pleasure to work with the staff and is a centered location for many involved. The show is not Rated R but for everyone. This piece is for all. I look forward to discussing this piece with the audience members.

    NYFA: What’s next for you and The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards)?

    LC: The Lunatic Clown And Cie show Voyage will be next at the New York New Works Theatre Festival 2018 at Theatre Row in September.

    NYFA: Would you say that your time at NYFA was at all useful for preparing for the work you are doing now?

    LC: NYFA was indeed very helpful since I had the chance to work on several student films and learned from other departments and teachers. My curiosity and the proximity of campuses made me eager to keep learning and that hasn’t changed.

    Congratulations, Ludovic! If you’re in New York City, get your tickets for The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) here.

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  • Tony Winner Jeff Marx Visits New York Film Academy

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    Jeff Marx

    Avenue Q’s Jeff Marx

    Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jeff Marx visited the New York Film Academy at our New York City Theatre in late February, much to the delight of our Musical Theatre students.

    Marx is best known for Avenue Q, the innovative musical starring both human and puppet characters that instantly earned critical acclaim and won over audiences across the country. It went on to win three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It is currently running Off-Broadway and has toured the country and been produced in both the West End and Las Vegas.

    Before writing Avenue Q, Marx passed the New York State Bar exam, planning to be a lawyer. He met partner Robert Lopez shortly after at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, writing a spec Muppet film as a pre-cursor to their collaboration on Avenue Q. Since winning his Tony, Marx has gone on to write for the musical episode of NBC’s Scrubs, as well as songs for Bear in the Big Blue House and The Book of Pooh. He also co-wrote the theme song for Logo TV’s Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World.

    Speaking with the students of NYFA’s Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre, Marx highlighted his indirect path to Broadway stardom, mentioning that he didn’t even start writing until he was 28 years old. “The greatest thing that I can wish for you,” Marx told the audience of aspiring Broadway stars, “is hunger.” He also shared anecdotes about the making of Avenue Q.

    Jeff Marx visits NYFA

    Highlights from the @newyorkfilmacademy Instagram story featuring Jeff Marx’s visit to NYFA #PCMT

    In addition to inspiring students with his story, he also brought a special and well-received guest — puppet and star of Avenue Q, Nicky. Avenue Q’s cast of puppet characters included both rod puppets and live-hands, the latter of which are often operated simultaneously by two puppeteers. Nicky is a live-hands puppet, and students were delighted to see him in action on stage with Marx.

    Nicky wasn’t all Marx brought with him on his visit to NYFA. In addition to Nicky, he brought along his Tony Award, Broadway’s highest honor. Musical Theatre students were thrilled when Marx allowed them to hold it and pass it around — an inspiring moment for those learning at NYFA and hoping to win one of their own in the not-too-distant future.

    By the time the students had to say goodbye to Marx and Nicky, they had learned and laughed, and were extremely grateful for the generous time, energy, and inspiring words Marx brought with him to the New York Film Academy.

    Interested in joining the magical and puppet-filled world of musical theatre? Check out the programs of New York Film Academy’s Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre.

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    March 2, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Musical Theatre • Views: 2400

  • New York Film Academy Alum Made Head of Development at October Films

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    New York Film Academy alum Louis Mole has been promoted to Head of Development US at production company October Films, along with colleague Matt Dewar, who’s been made Head of Development UK.

    Mole enrolled in NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary Program, chaired by Andrea Swift, in September 2011 at our New York City campus. In the program, Mole learned to conceive, pitch, produce, direct, and edit various types of documentary shorts, as well as gain experience as cinematographer, sound recordist and assistant camera.

    Of his time at NYFA, Mole said in 2013: “You come out of the program with the fundamental expertise of every single aspect of making a film – which is so unique.”

    Mole put the education to good use, heading to Singapore after graduation and writing three episodes for the docuseries Asian Swindlers. He then joined October Films in 2014 within their London development team, and later came back to the Big Apple when he transferred to the New York office of October Films.

    October Films is an award-winning, fast-growing production company based in the US and UK that focuses on independent content from a variety of genres — including documentaries, dramas, and entertainment and reality programs.

    Some of their recent projects include Eight Days That Made Rome, Dangerous Borders, Annie: Out of the Ashes, Motorheads, and From Russia To Iran: Crossing The Wild Frontier. October Films also has series in production for the BBC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, the Science Channel, and Channel 4.

    Before his promotion to Head of Development, Mole worked on multiple projects for October Films, including Mygrations for the National Geographic Channel, Trailblazers for Discover Channel, and a seven-part series for Lifetime.

    Louis Mole has also paid it forward to newer students at the New York Film Academy, speaking with them as a guest lecturer, and offering his solid expertise.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Louis Mole on his well-earned success, and looks forward to seeing where his career heads next!

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    February 9, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 854

  • New York Film Academy Alum Receives International Film Festival Manhattan Award

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    Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses

    Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses knows first-hand how much hard work goes into making a film—which makes her Honorable Mention at 2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan all the more rewarding. In October, after screening her documentary “The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah,” Jameelah was the proud recipient of the IFFM’s Film Festival Director Louie Award Honorable Mention.

    This isn’t Jameelah’s first award, either. Her previous documentaries, “Historic Jeddah” and “Our Journey to Hijaz” have also garnered significant praise from multiple festivals in the last several years.

    2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan

    2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan

    A recurring theme in her work is the challenge women face while living in Saudi Arabia. The uphill battle women face, especially in filmmaking, has helped focus her vision and strengthen her voice.

    Jameelah first attended the New York Film Academy’s 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop in June 2011, before enrolling two months later in the 1-Year Filmmaking program at the New York City campus. There, Jameelah was given hands-on training with state-of-the-art film equipment and taught the skills necessary for pre-production through post-production.

    This intensive education prepared Jameelah for a career in filmmaking.“My instructors at NYFA ensured their students after graduation are already well-rounded and equipped to work in any film department,” stated Jameelah.

    Even after making several documentaries and garnering numerous honors, Jameelah still applies the training she received at NYFA. “I made sure that I took down notes for every class,” said Jameelah, adding, “I still have all my notes until now, and I review it at times when I need a refresher.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Jameelah on her Honorable Mention for “The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah,” and looks forward to the important stories she will tell in the future!

    Jameelah also recently celebrated the world premier of her short film “Reunion,” for which she is the associate producer, at the Anthology Film Archives. “Reunion” is an official selection for the NewFilmmakers New York  film festival.
    The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah

    The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah

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  • New York Film Academy Master Class With Lyle Kessler Wraps With Impressive Performances

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    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    This December, students from the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film 2-Year Conservatory performed scenes written and directed by renowned actor/playwright Lyle Kessler. The performances were the culmination of an 8-Week Master Class taught by Kessler, who has been an icon in the world of theatre for several decades.

    Kessler studied acting under industry legend Lee Strasberg and has been a longtime member of the famed Actor’s Studio. Kessler had the opportunity to play Strasberg in the 2001 biopic “James Dean.”

    Kessler is best known as a playwright though, with numerous works that have helped shape the modern era of American theatre. For Peter Allen Stone, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Acting for Film, Kessler was a vital part of his education. “I used to dig through his plays in my college library looking for monologues and scenes many years ago,” remarked Stone, “so it was something special for me to get to know him and come full circle.”

    Scene from "The Display Man"

    Scene from “The Display Man”

    The best known work written by Kessler is “Orphans,” which first debuted in 1983 at Chicago’s world-renowned Steppenwolf Theatre and was originally directed by Gary Sinise. It was later adapted into a feature film starring Matthew Modine and Albert Finney, and has been performed on Broadway as recently as 2013 with Alec Baldwin and Ben Foster.

    After running the playwriting division of the Actor’s Studio in Los Angeles for many years, Kessler is still active and working with the Actor’s Studio in New York City. The NYFA students attending Kessler’s Master Class were able to visit the Actor’s Studio as part of their course. Student Elizabeth Hopland reflected that “going to the Actor’s Studio was a highlight of my acting career so far, thanks to Lyle.”

    The NYFA students who were privileged to work with Kessler started in Fall 2016, and began their 2nd Year training in the summer of 2017. Each session of the 8-week Master Class focused on a specific aspect of the craft, like the inner anger of a particular character. The acting students worked on scenes from new works written by Kessler, who directed and worked closely with them throughout the course.

    Scene from "Prisoner"

    Scene from “Prisoner”

    The scenes were two-person dialogues, with the acting students performing multiple roles and plays. One of Kessler’s new works included “Prisoner,” about a privileged woman tied up during a burglary, who poked and prodded her captor while trying to learn more about him. Other new works included “The Display Man” and “The Great Divide,” the latter concerning two brothers dealing with a woman claiming to be pregnant with the older brother’s child.

    The final session of the Master Class included performances of the scenes for a small audience, including New York Film Academy president Michael Young. The final scenes of the evening were from another of Kessler’s new works—“Temptation”—about inappropriate sexual behavior between a psychiatrist and his patient, a story and theme that is especially relevant in today’s current Hollywood climate.

    Kessler Directing "Prisoner"

    Kessler Directing “Prisoner”

    One of the performers, student Agnes Hedwall Schmidt, remarked “What I liked most about working with Lyle was the way he made the work a collaboration. We give him our view of the text and the character, he gives his, and together we create a scene that is so much fun to act in, and allows me to keep growing and learning as an actor.” Schmidt added, “I had so much fun working with Lyle!”

    The appreciation was mutual—the performances ended with Kessler thanking the students for their strong, courageous work, and the students overwhelmingly thanking Kessler for his invaluable training and direction. Of the students, Kessler said he was “very impressed by the work and talent of the group of actors at NYFA who acted in my plays. They kept growing in their roles. A real commitment.”

    The Acting for Film students couldn’t ask for a better compliment from an artist of Kessler’s stature. The New York Film Academy thanks Lyle Kessler for giving our students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study and learn from one of the theatre world’s greats.

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    December 22, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 2387

  • New York Film Academy Alum & Associate Director of Recruitment Screens Powerful Documentary “I Heart Jenny”

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    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny” at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Theatre

    “I Heart Jenny,” a heart-wrenching and beautiful documentary by producer and director Blake Babbitt, had a special screening this December at the New York Film Academy’s recently opened New York City Theatre. The film follows Babbitt’s close friend Jenny Rie Vanderlinden as she struggled with and eventually succumbed to a rare form of ovarian cancer. More importantly, the documentary focuses on the powerful positive spirit Jenny embodied, inspiring her friends, family, and eventually total strangers with her optimism and zestful love of life.

    In a piece written about Jenny, the Huffington Post wrote, “Jenny doesn’t seem terrified of this thing that is so far beyond us, this thing that none of us can now see… Instead, she’s investing her unconquerable energy in living the spectacular life she’s always lived—skiing, canyoneering, rafting, traveling and raising four amazing children—with a bit more urgency.”

    “I Heart Jenny” started documenting Jenny’s journey over a year after her diagnosis, and followed her right up until her untimely end, a death she refused to allow to shadow her life. Babbitt was inspired to make the documentary after seeing the “I Heart Jenny” stickers their mutual friends began posting frequently as badges of support.

    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny”

    The initial idea of the documentary came to Babbitt during a pitch session that was part of his curriculum while attending the New York Film Academy’s Evening Producing workshop. From there, he started a years long journey, utilizing the skills, resources, and colleagues he met while at NYFA. “I had never made a film before,” said Babbitt, “but I was able to use the resources at NYFA to get my feet underneath me. At NYFA I was surrounded by people who really knew what they were doing. I felt supported by NYFA the entire way.”

    Shooting the film took two years, and was in post-production for another three—a long, laborious process that is not uncommon for documentaries, especially works of passion and as personal as “I Heart Jenny.” During this time, Babbitt not only applied the skills he learned at NYFA, but also used the connections made there to help his film see the light of day. In addition to being a distinguished alumnus, Babbitt is also currently the school’s Associate Director of Recruitment. With this notable position, he is able to guide incoming students as they look to grow as artists and filmmakers in their own right.

    Blake Babbitt

    Producer & Director Blake Babbitt

    As a result of the relationships formed at the New York Film Academy, Babbitt was able to recruit a strong, talented crew for “I Heart Jenny”—many alumni and staff from the school—including:

    Kathleen Harris – DP/Producer
    Brad Gallant – Lead Editor/Producer
    Zena Wood – Associate Producer
    Mike Diaz – Editor/Story Producer
    Chris Hayes – Editor
    Mike Walls – Camera Operator
    Shani Patel – Sound recordist/2nd Camera Operator
    Lexi Phillips – Colorist

    It was only fitting then that “I Heart Jenny” had its initial preview at the New York Film Academy. Babbitt continued, “It was an honor to be able to host my first screening in our stunning new screening room.”

    Andrea Swift, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Documentary Filmmaking, was in attendance, and was very impressed with Babbitt’s debut film. “It takes extraordinary passion, commitment, and talent to make a film like this.” She added, “This film can do real good in the world.”

    The specific cancer that took Jenny’s life was related to the BRCA gene, a sequence of DNA that has become more and more noted in recent years for its ominous relationship to many types of cancer. While making “I Heart Jenny,” Babbitt linked up with Jonathan and Mindy Gray, founders of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine. The Basser Center is the first of its kind to focus specifically on BRCA-related cancers, and Babbitt has tied his film to their worthy cause, helping to raise donations for further research (click here if you’d like to support the Basser Center as well.)

    While it’s been a long, winding road for Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” their journey is far from over. Babbitt’s goal is to get the documentary into the Telluride Film Festival, based in Colorado where Babbitt is from and where he first met Jenny. According to Babbitt, “If it gets in, she wants me to bring a cardboard cutout of her—LOL!”

    In addition to submitting the film to as many festivals as possible, Babbitt is also hoping to get distribution, hoping the more people who see the film, the more they will take home its poignant message and look to support the fight against BRCA-related cancers. Babbitt continued, “We’ve had so many supporters along the way, and anytime I felt dejected or lost in the process, I would just think about our supporters and Jenny. I knew I couldn’t let her or them down.”

    Supporters of the film can follow updates on Facebook as well as on Twitter. You can also follow Babbitt’s filmmaking exploits on Instagram.

    The New York Film Academy is proud of Blake Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” and wishes him the best of luck as he continues the legacy of Jenny Rie Vanderlinden and her powerful story.

    I Heart Jenny Promo- Extended Version from Blake Babbitt on Vimeo.

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