Last week, my long time friend and former colleague Grace Wong (currently of ABC News) contacted me about the New York Press Club Foundation’s Annual Conference on Journalism, asking if any New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism students would like to attend.
Well it didn’t take long to find out that a number of students did indeed want to go. So, under the leadership of faculty member Evgenia Vlasova, early on Saturday, October 13 they made their way to the NYC conference site.
Besides getting to meet practicing national and New York area journalists, they had an opportunity to chat with the guest speakers as well. That included Jill Colvin, who is White House correspondent for the Associated Press. You can only imagine the stories she had to tell, given that she started covering Donald Trump when he was just one of many candidates seeking to be the Republican nominee for President.
That’s Jill, third from the right, with Genia and some of the NYFA students:
Students also met Kathryn Dill, who is an editor at CNBC Digital, where she oversees coverage of careers, the workforce, and women in business, for what is primarily a millennial audience.
That’s Kathryn in the middle:
These days, some journalists work in the so-called “gig economy” not out of necessity, but by choice. Creating content for a wide range of outlets sometimes offers more income security than being tied to a single platform. (Just ask newspaper reporters…)
Lisa Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with credits from The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Rolling Stone, and other publications and websites. She has reported from several counties, including Haiti from 2010-2014. She is on the left in the picture below:
This is why it is so important to study in New York. There are opportunities here you just can’t find anywhere else…
Everyone knows how much I enjoy writing about New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism graduates. But usually I only “talk” with them via email and Facebook. Recently, however, two of them were actually able to stop by!
Ibtisam (“Tisam”) Karaasian had already graduated from the Broadcast Journalism 1-year Conservatory Program when I arrived at NYFA in September 2013. But she was still “here” as a TA. Much of what I initially learned about the “student’s perspective” of the program I first heard from Tisam. Later she returned home to Germany, and has worked on a number of different things including a long-term project for the United Nations. And she shared all of this with the current students… and instructor Evgenia Vlasova.
As all current and former NYFA Broadcast Journalism students know, we have a “skills-based” curriculum. And while those skills are essential to the practice of conventional journalism, they can be used in a wide range of media genres and forms.
I say that because last week I saw someone else who I first met when I arrived at NYFA, Ljubica (“Lubi”) Popovic. She was part of the very first class I taught at NYFA, the 12-week Evening workshop. Currently she is working at the production unit of the City University of New York (CUNY), but that’s just the start. For Fashion Week New York she was a casting director assistant and worked on all the runway preparations for Tadashi Shoji and Bosideng. That meant working with top models, and A-List Hollywood celebrities like Jeremy Renner and Anne Hathaway.
Next up she is producing a Comedy Special for Sasha Srbulj, which will be filmed in mid-November at the BRIC theatre in Brooklyn.
So, did I ever tell you how I studied French for four years… three years in high school, one year in college? Probably not, since almost everything I learned was long ago forgotten. But I am glad to know that NYFA grad Delphine Darmency is still contributing to francophone culture. She recently posted a nice multimedia piece about the Women’s March in New York for French media giant TV5Monde.
Fabulous work, Delphine…
Finally, the two great “secrets” behind incredible human interest stories aren’t secrets at all. Everybody knows them… little kids and animals, neither of whom will do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it.
NYFA alum Livia Fernanda creates online video content at Somar Meteorologia in Brazil. Last week she posted a gem of a story about little kids, climate, and TV weathercasting. I don’t even understand what the children are saying — my Portuguese language skills being worse than my French — but it is still cute. Take a look for yourself… (BTW, that’s the green screen effect that every 1-year NYFA Broadcast Journalism student learns about.)
Last week was the first week for the new class of students attending the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism school. On their third day of classes they were introduced to nonlinear video editing software. Yes, it was time to meet Avid Media Composer 8. And the first reactions were… positive. The credit goes to our fabulous Editing instructor Christine Schottanes, and equally stellar TA (and NYFA grad) Catherine Kobayashi, for making complicated software understandable.
The class has students from Zambia, New York City, Ukraine, Connecticut, England, China, Louisiana, Spain, and Brazil.
When I posted this on Facebook, I heard from NYFA grad Laura Isern. She was chosen from among more than a thousand applicants for a prestigious journalism training program run by Brazilian media giant Globo.
She wrote: “I’m using Avid in my internship a lot. Classes were really helpful.”
And speaking (again) of Catherine Kobayashi, the two of us were part of a Virtual Open House last Wednesday. It was great to get questions from people everywhere, including some folks for whom it was the middle of the night. (Now that’s dedication…) If you were one of the participants, thanks for spending time with us. And if you have any additional questions, we’d be happy to answer them…
So the Broadcast Journalism camera classes Celina Liv Danielsen took as a student at NYFA came in handy last week. That’s her in the picture below, shooting (and producing) a story at the United Nations for Denmark TV 2.
And here is some of what she wrote to me…
“…my new job title is journalist and producer for our US correspondent who is based in Washington DC. Together we are going to cover all US news for the people of Denmark. My job is to find all stories that we are going to produce for our newscast. I’m calling and finding all the sources, writing the manuscripts and articles, I’m the photographer when we are covering events where we are not making stories for our newscast but only covering it live. If my boss is on vacation or is doing other things then I’m reporting live to Danish national television. So I’m pretty busy and have a lot on my plate but it is so much fun. Since I got here I have only been in my apartment four times.
The first week was very hectic. I reported live from John McCain’s memorial in DC, then the Danish photographer and I flew to Boston to meet my boss (the US correspondent) to do a story there, then on to Toronto Film Festival and then San Francisco to cover the world’s first try to send out a machine in the ocean that can pick up all the plastic. Three days later we were in North Carolina covering the hurricane and this week was all about the UN. Next up is the midterm elections where we move out in “Trump land” to do many stories and then on election night a lot of live reporting.
I’m living in another city and get to travel all over America – it is so perfect. And I work with a very famous journalist from Denmark over here so people back home are starting to know my name in a bigger scale then before. Feel very lucky and blessed. But it took a lot of hard work ”
Viviane Faver was a member of my very first class of 1-year Broadcast Journalism students in Fall 2013, after I had arrived at NYFA just a little more than a year earlier. Well I am still in New York, and so is Viviane. Last week she was doing what we in the business call a “cross-platform” story. It will appear in a Brazilian newspaper, a magazine, and on a website. Here is how she summed up the experience on Facebook:
“I just had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of @Climategroup, Helen Clarkson. ‘As countries step up to drive down emissions it’s important not to leave others behind. We need to ensure a fair and just transition to a clean economy that benefits us all.’”
That’s Viviane on the right, in the picture below…
Thanks to LinkedIn, each morning I get to see the latest edition of GeekWire, hosted by NYFA grad Starla Sampaco. (Not “Sanpan,” as the autocorrect on my email keeps changing it to.) Last week she was reporting on how the cofounders of Instagram were leaving the company. But with all the talk about “fake news,” I have some questions, Starla… That’s a whole lot of blue sky behind you. I thought it rained in Washington State every day…
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary school alum Ilaria Polsonetti’s film has been nominated for multiple awards at the 39th Annual News & Documentary Emmys. Made for VICE News Tonight on HBO, “Libya: Intercepting Migrants” is nominated for Outstanding Editor News and for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story. Winners are announced on the first of October in New York City.
Polsonetti graduated from NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary program in 2011. She is also a graduate of the 3-Month Screenwriting program, which she finished in 2013. Over the course of her career, the editor has melded her knowledge gleaned at NYFA with her M.S. in Sociology (London School of Economics). After graduating, she worked for Market Road Films, Singer Street Films, and as a freelance editor.
A screenshot from “Dirty Oil”
Since 2015, Polsonetti has worked for VICE in Brooklyn. With the expansive and ever-growing global media brand, she has had the chance to work on urgent and political topics such as Libya’s migrant crisis and Venezuela’s anti-government protests. VICE’s increasingly diverse and critically-acclaimed documentary series’ have been an ideal place for the multicultural filmmaker to hone her skills. In 2017 alone, Polsonetti worked on “German Hotelier turns Hotel into a Migrant Center,” “Dirty Oil,” and “The Politics of Terror” in addition to the aforementioned Libya piece. Along with her work for VICE, Polsonetti has worked on “The Notorious Mr. Bout” and “First to Fall.” She was also recently editor on VICE’s Raised in the System” starring Michael K. Williams (aka Omar on “The Wire”).
Documentary Chair Andrea Swift says of Polsonetti’s work,”These nominations don’t surprise me in the least. Ilaria has always been an insightful and diligent editor who demonstrated a unique sensitivity to the human experience. She developed a strong sense of story that is equally evident in this piece.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Ilaria Polsonetti on her recent success and looks forward to seeing what she works on next! You can watch VICE on HBO’s documentary on migrants in the Mediterranean below:
Earlier this September, representatives from the Shanghai Theatre Academy visited New York Film Academy’s Battery Park campus in New York City. These representatives included Mr. Lou, General Secretary of Shanghai Theatre Academy, and Mr. Wei, Vice Dean of Film School of the Shanghai Theatre Academy, as well as scholars who are currently in New York.
The Shanghai Theatre Academy representatives sat down with senior administration and faculty from New York Film Academy (NYFA) to discuss cultural and education affairs between the US and China, as well as potential future partnerships. These senior administration and faculty members from the New York Film Academy included Mr. Jean Sherlock, CEO and owner of the Academy; Mr. Michael Young, President; Mr. David Klein, Senior Executive Vice President; and Dr. Joy Zhu, Executive Vice President (China Region).
Both parties have met several times in the past and have already established a strong partnership. The discussions that took place during this month’s meeting were focused mainly on the forefront issues and future plans for furthering educational partnerships between the US and China.
Mr. Lou took this opportunity to share his experiences and thoughts on how the Internet has completely reshaped the way entertainment and film are now studied. His perspectives were incredibly deep and well articulated, with Mr. Sherlock and Mr. Young both agreeing with many of his views and thoughts.
Discussions also continued on how to maintain and strengthen the cultural and education relations between the East and West as well as future opportunities for the two institutions to specifically work together. NYFA has prided itself on its focus for a cultural exchange of ideas between the school’s global campuses and the students and educators of China.
Late last year, President Michael Young toured China to strengthen the Academy’s cooperation with the country’s aspiring filmmakers, actors, and storytellers. And earlier this summer, a class of students from Shanghai Theatre Academy took a 1-week Photography course at NYFA, where they trained on state-of-the-art equipment with the school’s renowned professional faculty.
The New York Film Academy thanks the representatives from the Shanghai Theatre Academy for their visit and for a meaningful and intelligent discussion over several subjects!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Olya Schechter recently released her film, A Sniper’s War, to rave reviews. The harrowing documentary focuses on a Serbian sniper named Deki, whose anti-US views caused them to join pro-Russian rebels in the Ukrainian conflict.
The film’s official website summarizes the documentary as “[exploring] the ambiguous morality of war when social media becomes a communication platform for two rival snipers to schedule duels in hope to kill one another between the shadows of rival superpowers.” The filmmakers were given an unbelievable level of access to the conflict’s front lines and the military bases of those involved.
“A Sniper’s War”
The Hollywood Reporter called the film “powerful and disturbing” with “superb cinematography.” Despite positive reviews, however, the film has generated controversy online from those who have misinterpreted the film’s message as “pro-Russian propaganda.” Its rating on audience-driven sites such as IMDB has been torpedoed with 1-star ratings. As a positive review on Film Threat points out, “Schechter tried to keep politics out of it, telling the story of a man, not the story of a war.” She gives a comprehensive (and often tragic) background to her protagonist, who could otherwise be difficult for the average audience member to empathize with. “There is a fine line between a soldier and a killer,” Deki explains.
The pro-Russian, anti-United States sentiment of the protagonist makes for bold subject matter. The film was released by Journeyman Pictures and joins a lineup of daring, diverse pictures such as I Love My Muslim (concerning a 62-year old Muslim marrying a 33-year old Libyan freedom fighter), Pani: Women, Drugs and Kathmandu (about opioid addiction in Nepal), and Take Light (concerning Nigeria’s electricity crisis).
In July 2018, Schechter returned to NYFA’s Battery Park campus to screen her film for students and alumni in the Academy’s 1st Floor Theatre. Chair of NYFA’s Documentary school Andrea Swift joined the audience to support her former student.
The New York Film Academy congratulates alum Olya Schechter on a breathtaking work of filmmaking and looks forward to following her already impressive career. You can watch the trailer to A Sniper’s War below, or buy it on Amazon here.
The big news at New York Film Academy (NYFA) last week was the graduation of the Spring 2018 1-year Broadcast Journalism students. That’s them below, with members of the NYFA faculty. Congratulations to Clyde (third from left), Sharath (fourth from left), Idris (fifth from left), Braddany (sixth from left) and Hartnell (eighth from left). (Graduates reading this can identify the other photogenic folks in the picture.)
Afterwards, it was pizza and goodbyes… A bittersweet ending to an eventful nine months.
Before they left, the Spring students had one final surprise. They got the opportunity to work with NYFA camera instructor Daniel Hernandez on a New York Fashion Week shoot. How’s that for a “going away” gift? This is why it is important to study in New York. Opportunities like this just don’t present themselves in Madison, Wisconsin. (I still love you, Madison! I spent two years there. But it’s just not NYC.)
And who should be at the same New York Fashion Week event? NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad, model, and multimedia journalist Amanda Salvato. She posted on Facebook:
“Look who I met in the middle of #NYFA craziness!!! The person who taught me how to use a camera, lights and audio. If I am confident in what I do backstage it is because of all of his patience…”
If you ever wondered what it looks like when a killer storm is about to descend on a community, NYFA grad Marta Dhanis can tell you. A field producer with Fox News Channel, she was dispatched to North Carolina last week to await the arrival of Hurricane Florence. The only way you can accurately report a story is to be on the ground. Hurricane, tornado, and earthquake stories are probably the closest thing to war reporting. Stay safe, Marta…
On a completely different note, GloboNews in Brazil recently sent former Broadcast Journalism student Daniella Gemignani to cover a story on a bicycle. Now, bike riding is not a skill Daniella learned at NYFA. (Well, maybe she rented a bike at the stand across West Street from the school.) Here is how she put it:
“Live on GloboNews for the first time…there were three cameras, five minutes of link and a mad prayer not to hit on the floor. What a delicious challenge! What a wonderful team and how lucky for me to only have wild and generous people around! Ah, and most importantly, it was to call an amazing program that brought a more than necessary subject: bicycles as part of the solution for urban mobility.”
Then there is Genevieve Beyleveld, a grad who uses the skills she learned at NYFA to document what she terms “an absolutely ridiculous life.” As someone else has observed, “she’s one of those people who have turned an incredible gift for gab into a masterful marketing tool…
Her blog reads like a TV sitcom.” In other words, she figured out how to monetize her thoughts (including a new podcast). Now that’s an accomplishment! As Genevieve herself writes:
“What started almost two years ago as a silly idea, turned out to be the biggest challenge of my career. From not earning a cent to finally being able to support myself, is the most surreal feeling.”
She is also South African Foreign Correspondent for See My Africa – a television series which aims to dispel myths about Africa to the rest of the world. Cheers, Genevieve!
Earlier this August, students from the Shanghai Theatre Academy attended a 1-week Photography workshop at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. The Shanghai Theatre Academy is a public university in China dedicated to dramatic art education and was founded in 1945. Its predecessor was Shanghai Municipal Experimental Theatre School, cofounded by the famous educator Gu Yuxiu.
The New York Film Academy (NYFA) photography school provides a unique experience not found elsewhere; with a passionate focus on the practical elements of photography, NYFA empowers students to master not only the essential basics taught by other good photography schools, but also the technical and business practices that will set them apart in their professional photography career.
NYFA’s photography school offers several programs and courses, including youth camps in the summer. The young students from Shanghai Theatre Academy visited for one week, and were able to practice hands-on with state-of-the-art-equipment.
After the completion of their course, the Chinese students wrote NYFA a very grateful and heartwarming thank you letter:
“Thank you, New York Film Academy!
This summer, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the camp organized by the New York Film Academy. The staff members from the Academy provided us with everything we needed to learn about filmmaking: knowledgeable teaching staff, filmmaking equipment, lively teaching environments, new filmmaking concepts, on-site practice, and much more! We have learned so much in so short a time. The skills we have learned and the practice we have observed will help us significantly in many ways moving forward!
We want to say, once again, that we truly appreciate this lifetime experience at New York Film Academy. Who knows? Someone from this camp group may become a filmmaker, all because of this first taste of filmmaking in the US, at the New York Film Academy! Thank you, the New York Film Academy!”
The New York Film Academy congratulates the students from Shanghai Theatre Academy and congratulates them on a job well done!
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:
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.
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’verecently 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 filmShazam, showed his support by attending the screening, and was very impressed by the student films.
About 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.”