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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Gonzalo Martin Stars in “Life is Strange 2”

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    gonzalo martinNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Gonzalo Martin might agree that “life is strange,” especially since he nabbed the lead role in Square Enix’s highly-anticipated video game, Life is Strange 2. Square Enix is the Japanese developer and publisher of wildly popular games Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest, among others. 

    The episodic graphic adventure video game, available on nearly all major platforms (including Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and macOS), is the sequel to the smash hit and critically-acclaimed Life is Strange, originally released in 2015. That title has sold over 3 million copies to date.

    The newest entry released its first episode in September 2018, with the last of five episodes set to come out in 2019. Life is Strange 2 was developed by Dontnod Entertainment (Vampyr, Twin Mirror) and has already been nominated for several gaming awards and won the Special Jury Prize at the 2018 Ping Awards.

    Life is Strange 2 tells the story of young brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, who are on the run from the police. The game is a third-person story adventure, with dialogue trees and gaming decisions
    affecting the story and future episodes.

    Gonzalo Martin stars as lead protagonist Sean Diaz, who the player controls throughout the game. Martin is an Acting for Film alum from the New York Film Academy, having attended the AFA program in 2015, and has previously been a part of the Academy’s admissions team. At NYFA’s acting school, Martin was given both practical experience and a hands-on education to develop his skills as an actor, with training from a faculty of experienced actors currently working in the industry.

    Previous acting roles of Martin include BuzzFeed Murder Mystery Stories, and the films I’ll Be Next Door for Christmas and When It Rings.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Gonzalo Martin on landing the lead role in Square Enix’s Life is Strange 2! 

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    November 28, 2018 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 310

  • Q&A with Star and Filmmakers of IFC’s “DriverX”

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    On Friday, November 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of IFC’s DriverX (2018), followed by a Q&A with director/writer and NYFA instructor, Henry Barrial; producer, Mark Stolaroff; and star, Patrick Fabian; featuring and moderated by NYFA Acting Dept. Associate Chair, Anne Moore. 

    DriverX ScreeningBarrial is a writer, director, and filmmaking/acting instructor at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. DriverX marks Barrial’s fifth feature. His previous credits include The House That Jack Built, Pig, and Some Body, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Stolaroff is a producer with 25+ years in the business, and is considered to be an expert in micro-budget filmmaking. He has produced all five of Barrial’s features.

    Fabian has been a working actor for over 25 years, with 115+ credits to his name. He currently stars as Howard Hamlin on AMC’s Emmy-nominated Better Call Saul. His other credits include  Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, The Newsroom, Criminal Minds, and Will & Grace, to name a few.  Film audiences may know him best as Reverend Cotton Marcus in The Last Exorcism, and he is also fondly remember as “Professor Lasky” in Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Fabian has also starred in NYFA alum Aymen Khoja’s Arabian Warrior, the first ever Saudi-American feature.

    Moderator Anne Moore opened up the Q&A by asking Barrial about the collaboration between Fabian and himself on the script, as Barrial wrote the part of Leonard Moore specifically for Fabian. “I had the outline of the script worked out before I brought it to Patrick, and from there we worked on the character development,” says Barrial. He added, “In terms of the actual writing of the script, that was all me.” DriverX Screening

    Barrial went on to discuss the importance of collaboration and community in this business, with Fabian chiming in by asking, “Who on this stage has been playing beach volleyball for the past 15 years together?” Barrial, Fabian, and Moore all raised their hands and it was revealed they have been friends and colleagues for a very long time.

    Barrial went on to talk about the personal nature of this project and his collaboration with producer Mark Stolaroff. “Most producers won’t tell you what their budget was, but I will!” exclaimed Stolaroff.  Immediately a Filmmaking student asked what the budget was, with Stolaroff answering, “We started with a budget of $100,000 which got us through production. From there we did a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds we needed for Post, so all in the budget is $140,000.”  

    Obviously the movie is a labor of love as many of the cast and crew have worked on Barrial/Stolaroff films before.

    When asked about how Fabian worked around his Better Call Saul shooting schedule, Fabian replied, “First off, I have to say how happy I am that I have a job that needs to be worked around. Henry and Mark were great about my schedule, but that’s what you do, you make it work.”

    DriverX ScreeningFabian went on to talk about his longevity in the business, and the importance of being prepared: “You need to show up, be ready, and be early. And take care of yourselves when you don’t get the part. Go hiking, drink juice, do whatever you need to get you through the tough times, because if you stay focused and committed, things will go your way.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks Patrick Fabian, Mark Stolaroff, and Henry Barrial for sharing their insights about making an independent film on a micro budget with a challenging schedule.

    DriverX opens November 30th in theaters and on demand.

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    November 21, 2018 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 519

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Soccer Program Takes Home Two Trophies

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    The men’s soccer program at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus took home two Third Place trophies, now having a total of eight since the program’s establishment in 2014. The program is part of NYFA-LA’s Athletic Department, headed by Director, Elise Cregg.Men's Soccer 2018

    The men’s soccer head coach, Roy Lev-Ari, says both teams have flourished into groups of young men, working individually and collectively towards their academic and athletic goals. “It’s been a pleasure seeing the development of both teams,” declared Lev-Ari, “they’ve really dedicated themselves to each other and the team, keeping each other accountable and relying on one another.” 

    The efforts of the men’s soccer teams have cultivated the program into one of discipline, dedication, and resilience. Coach Lev-Ari works consistently with his players to help strengthen their mental stamina and develop the ability to succeed under high pressure, in addition to teaching them how to effectively communicate and build respect for one another. 

    Men's Soccer 2018“We had a rough start at the beginning, but a few weeks into the season our leaders stepped up willingly and helped unite the group,” added Lev-Ari. “Our Captain Diego Vicenti (MFA Filmmaking Fall 2016) leads the squad with undeniable talent and heart, and another alum, Alessio Mongardi (BFA Acting January 2015), sets the standard in effort and dedication for the new players. Our all-star goalkeeper Michael Sumner (January 2014 MFA Screenwriting) and the tremendously talented Nurmat Sakebaev (Summer 2015 BFA Filmmaking) make invaluable contributions to the team on a weekly basis.” 

    Diego Vicenti, Captain, reflected on the season: “It’s been a lot of fun competing with these guys and growing as a team; for some of us, this team has become another family outside of NYFA and away from home.” He continued, “I’m proud of all the boys! It took a lot of hard work but it’s all worth it.” 

    Men's Soccer 2018

    Coach Roy Lev-Ari is beyond excited and already working towards next season. “The boys are hungry for the championship title. I believe all the work we’ve put forth these past few seasons will come together and give us major success.” 

    The men’s soccer team continues to compete in the Universal Soccer League on Sunday and Monday nights. 

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    November 20, 2018 • Community Highlights, Sports • Views: 435

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and GreenLight Women Q&A with the Filmmakers of “Stuntwomen”

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    Stuntwomen Q&AOn Saturday, November 10, New York Film Academy and GreenLight Women hosted a screening of the documentary, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, followed by a Q&A with director, April Wright; producers, Michael Gruskoff and Marion Rosenberg; and stuntwoman, Amy Johnston; with the event moderated by Rosenberg. Afterward, students were able to meet the panelists and discuss the film at a reception in the lobby.

    April Wright is a director, writer, and producer known for the films, My BFF (2015), The Graveyard Shift (2010), and Layover (2009). Michael Gruskoff is a producer known for the films, Prelude to a Kiss (1992), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Marion Rosenberg is a producer known for the films, Revolutionary Road (2008), Hollow Man (2000), and The Deer Hunter (1978). Amy Johnston is a stuntwoman known for the films, Deadpool (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).

    Rosenberg opened up the Q&A by inquiring about how all of the panelists came to be involved in the film. Wright shared that she had already worked on an archive-heavy documentary, so she felt like she could take on the challenge of bringing the book, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, by Mollie Gregory to life. 

    Wright asked herself, “How can we bring this into the present [and] not just make it a history [documentary] but really, you know, what are stuntwomen doing today? And bring it up to the present and have some action in the movie so that it wouldn’t be all ‘talking heads.’”Stuntwomen Q&A

    Wright added that the timing of the documentary and its subject matter felt especially relevant as there have been movements in Hollywood recently to push for more inclusion of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community in various roles behind the scenes. “We felt like this group of stuntwomen represented the bigger picture,” Wright said, “It was just sort of this microcosm of what was happening in the whole industry [and] all the things that [women have] been fighting for for all these years.”

    Rosenberg asked Johnston what the film meant to her as a stuntwoman. “One of the questions I always get asked is ‘how do you become a stuntwoman and why are you a stuntwoman?’” said Johnston. “This is so important to share vital information about how we do things and why we do things.” She added that the film taught her about the history of stuntwomen in the earlier days of the film industry, “I learned how much these women paved the way for us.”

    Though strides have been made for the stuntwoman community in terms of job opportunities and safety, Wright and Johnston look forward to even more progress being made in the future.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank April Wright, Michael Gruskoff, Marion Rosenberg, and Amy Johnston for sharing their riveting documentary and positive message about inclusion in Hollywood.

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    November 19, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 669

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Q&A with Cast & Crew of “Killer Under the Bed”

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    Killer Under the BedOn Friday, October 26, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Lifetime’s Killer Under the Bed (2018), followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Jeff Hare; producer, Ken Sanders; director of photography, Brad Rushing; and stars, Brec Bassinger and Madison Lawlor. The event was moderated by NYFA instructor, David Newman.

    Hare is a writer, director, and filmmaking instructor at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, and has been working as a director of thrillers for the Lifetime channel for the last few years (A Lover Betrayed, Psycho In-Law, Nanny Killer).

    Sanders is a prolific producer for the Lifetime channel who has accumulated over 60 movie credits in the last 30 years (Accused at 17, Double Daddy, Stalked by My Doctor).

    Rushing’s career as a director of photography began with some small features in the 1990s then expanded into the music industry with music videos for Eminem, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Blink-182 and more. Rushing then moved back to film and television, and ultimately made his way to the Lifetime channel where he now works as a DP on many of its thrillers.

    Bassinger is an actress known for her roles in ABC’s The Goldbergs and Nickelodeon’s Bella and the Bulldogs and School of Rock. Lawlor is an actress known for her roles on TNT’s Franklin and Bash, Netlfix’s Dear White People, and the film, Daddy Issues (2018). The film also stars Kristy Swanson, eponymous star of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Moderator David Newman opened up the Q&A by asking about the inspiration for the film. Producer Ken Sanders explained that he was approached by the film’s writer about producing a movie about a voodoo doll; Sanders knew that there would have to be more meat to the story to get executive producers interested, so he began thinking about the topic. 

    Sanders then remembered a TV movie from his childhood that “terrified a generation” called Trilogy of Terror; in this film, the protagonist struggles to escape from an evil doll she purchases at an antique shop. Sanders decided to combine the voodoo concept and the evil doll concept into one, and, in a sense, remake Trilogy of Terror for a modern audience. It was important to him, though, that this film appeal to “multiple markets” and not just a “hardcore horror audience.”

    Newman went on to ask the panel about how they handled their tight shooting schedule — the Killer Under the Bed production team only had 14 days to shoot a feature-length film, which is less than half the time that most features take to shoot. DP Brad Rushing advised, “Be prepared… Meticulously know what you’re doing… [Have] contingency plans… and good communication with the producer and the director.” Killer Under the Bed

    Rushing added that he and director Jeff Hare had worked together before, and were largely on the same page aesthetically when it came to the look of the film.

    Newman inquired about how the team made the voodoo doll come to life onscreen. “Most of the doll’s motion was actual[ly] mechanical,” said director Jeff Hare, “it’s trying to keep that aesthetic of that 70s stuff [that] scared us… we tried to keep as many effects as we could practical and we also stole the whole Jaws thing of trying to keep it hidden for as long as we possibly could.”

    “I think oftentimes what you don’t see is a lot more frightening,” added Brad Rushing, “because the audience fills it in with their own imagination and personalizes it as their own boogeyman.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks Jeff Hare, Ken Sanders, Brad Rushing, Brec Bassinger, and Madison Lawlor for sharing their insights about making an independent thriller on a tight budget and in a short timeframe!

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    November 14, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 545

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Student Sungho Chun Screens Film at Cinema Italian Style

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    This Thursday evening, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Student Sungho Chun will screen his film, Departure, at Cinema Italian Style as part of the festival’s short film competition. 

    Chun hails from Korea, and moved to the United States after serving in the South Korean military. He is currently studying for his BFA in Filmmaking at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. The program entails a total immersion in the craft of filmmaking, including classes in directing, screenwriting, cinematography, editing, and producing. Students write, direct, shoot, and edit their own films in both film and digital formats, so it is no surprise that Chun has already put together an award-nominated movie.

    Departure stars Dylan Nuttall and Lara Bayer and tells the story of a man preparing to take his own life when a woman comes along and changes his fate. Chun says the film is inspired by Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. Describing Departure to Cinema Italian Style, Chun says “In my film, The Man also rejects the truth of the world.” Expounding on this, Chun told New York Film Academy, “The reason I picked that film is that I like the way it expresses a young generation’s belief.”Sungho Chun Departure

    This connection to Bertolucci’s The Dreamers is what qualifies Chun’s film for Cinema Italian Style, a festival presented by Luce Cinecittà and The American Cinematheque that showcases the best Italian films of the year. This year is the fest’s 14th edition, and is supporting this year’s Italian entry to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Dogman. Their student film competition highlights short films under 5 minutes in length that are inspired by or pay homage to classic Italian cinema.

    Last year, NYFA alum Sebastiano Caccetta attended Cinema Italian Style, promoting cinema and music for one of the festival’s sponsors, the Italian Trade Agency. “Today my ability to work with Cinema Italian Style, it’s because of NYFA,” he told the Academy. “I’m working promoting Italian cinema for the government thanks to NYFA. I’m so grateful.”

    Chun filmed Departure using crew and equipment came from NYFA, as well as his actors. He tells NYFA,  “I was so proud to work with them. Despite high temperatures for an outdoor shoot, nobody complained or frowned through the process. I’m especially thankful to my DP, Theresa, who held up the RED camera for the entire day because of our one-take method. No matter how heavy it got, she encouraged me to try again and again to get the film exactly how I wanted it. Only with the support of my team could I make it this far.”

    Sungho Chun’s film, Departure, will screen at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on the evening of Thursday, November 15. The New York Film Academy encourages anyone who can to attend Cinema Italian Style and see the film, and support Chun as his filmmaking career begins to take off. For more information and to RSVP, please visit HERE.

    NYFA congratulates Chun on his well-earned success and wishes him the best of luck at this year’s Cinema Italian Style!

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    November 13, 2018 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 640

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students Respond to AMPAS Careers in Film Summit

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    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), home of the Oscars, hosted a delegation of New York Film Academy (NYFA) students on Saturday, October 6, 2018, when they attended the 4th Annual Careers in Film Summit. With panelists such as the producer of Crazy Rich Asians, the music editor of A Quiet Place, and the production manager of Black-ish, students got insight into the wide range of careers available to them in the film industry. NYFA caught up with several members of the delegation and asked what they thought of the event: 

    Career Summit Blog

    “This was my first time going to the Oscars’ headquarters, and it was an amazing experience. The panels were very inspiring and all the professionals who spoke shared their experiences about how they got to be where they are today, which was very motivational for me as a person looking to build my name and career in the film industry. Also, it was great to see Brazil being represented by Renato dos Anjos, who is the Head of Animation at Disney Animation.”
    –Gabriela Ono, Fall 17 MFA Producing

    “It was an inspirational experience, not only because we learned from very different departments, but also because these are people that have years of experience in the film industry and have noticed the change in the industry. The person that inspired me the most was Rachel Morrison, not only because she was on stage with her newborn baby, but also because she’s always that woman that is always leading a crew of men, which talks about equality, opportunities and, of course, female power.”
    –Inés de los Santos, Fall 2017 MFA Screenwriting

    Rachel Morrison - Career Summit Blog

    Oscar-nominated Rachel Morrison (Black Panther, Mudbound)

    “I thoroughly enjoyed the Careers in Film Summit! Each panel shared some of their work and experience, which is always inspiring. I learned that there are countless paths to go down in this industry, which is encouraging! I think the point of the summit is: there’s something for everyone to do in filmmaking, and it is ultimately a collaborative effort!”
    –Harrison Misfeldt, Spring 2016 BFA Film 1B

    “I’m so happy and honored to have been part of NYFA’s Academic Delegation. I loved hearing the panelists’ insights, and I so very much enjoyed being amongst my peers.”
    –Nestor Sierra, Fall 2017 BFA Acting for Film

    “Being at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences event, hearing from the speakers — each with years of experience in the movie business — really got my blood pumping to be in this industry. Getting to hear how these professionals worked their way to their positions was both informative and inspirational. Can’t wait for the next one.”
    –Miskar Chomse, Summer 17 MFA Acting

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    November 9, 2018 • Community Highlights, Student Life • Views: 519

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Mira Hamour

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    The award-winning documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities first found life as an MFA graduation project for New York Film Academy MFA Documentary alum Mira Hamour. It quickly took a life on its own, and thanks to the passion and incredibly demanding—both physically and emotionally—work put in by Hamour, the film has gone on to win eleven awards (and counting)  since its completion in July 2018.

    These honors include:Mira Hamour

    -London Independent Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -South Film And Arts Academy Festival (Best Documentary Short Film)
    -Best Shorts Competition (Award of Merit)
    -Cinema World Fest Awards (Best in Show, Best Documentary Short)
    -International Independent Film Awards (Platinum Award)
    -Los Angeles Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -Independent Shorts Awards (Gold Award for Best Documentary Short)
    -Top Shorts (Best Documentary Award)
    -Docs Without Borders Film Festival (WINNER: Revolution and Reform- Exceptional Merit)
    -Global Shorts (WINNER: Special Mention)

    Additionally, Syria’s Tent Cities has been selected to screen at the Studio City International Film Festival in Los Angeles, an official selection at Short to the Point festival, selected at the Short Long World Festival, been selected as a Semi-Finalist at the Directors Cut Int’l Film Festival, and chosen in the Top Shorts Semi-Finalist Top 40 films. Hamour will be attending the screening on November 14.

     

    The documentary short isn’t just a film—it’s a call to action by Hamour, telling vitally important stories from one of this century’s greatest humanitarian crises and educating its viewers on how they can help in their own small way. Not just a powerful work of filmmaking, Syria’s Tent Cities is an extrapolation of Mira Hamour herself—a passionate plea for empathy and understanding from an artist whose heart matches her mastery of the documentary craft. 

    Amid a festival circuit for Syria’s Tent Cities as well as pre-production and production of several other projects, Hamour found time to chat with New York Film Academy about her film, what drives her work, and her time at NYFA:

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

    Mira Hamour (MH): I identify as Syrian-Canadian. Growing up, I’ve lived in the Middle East and Canada and most recently spent three years in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, and New Jersey).

    When I was in high school, I love watching documentaries. I loved hearing real stories, about real people and learning about all of these world problems that not many people really seemed to know about. I felt like a lot of the social issues that interested me stemmed from the misinterpretation and incorrect practice of religions, and I explored lots of world religions throughout my bachelor’s degree to see if I could find the root cause of these problems and misinterpretations. I wanted to prove that when interpreted and practiced correctly, every major belief system preached love, acceptance, and unity at its core. I focused on taboo and challenging issues and throughout my Undergraduate schooling; I extensively researched a variety of controversial topics, including feminism and homosexuality in Islam, Jewish masculinities and gender identity and, exploring ISIS and radicalization’s global impact.

    Realizing the incredible power of film to bring people together, inform audiences, and encourage them to make a change for the better, I knew that I wanted to study Documentary Filmmaking to learn how to effectively shed light on social issues and present my audiences with viable solutions for positive social change. 

    In July of 2014, I enrolled in a 4-week filmmaking summer course at NYFA while still working on my undergrad, to sort of test the waters and see if this was really for me. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I get to meet incredible people who are still very close friends to this day, it kickstarted my career in filmmaking and confirmed my love for it. As soon as I was done with my undergraduate degree, I enrolled full time at NYFA for my MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My debut film, Syria’s Tent Cities, was shot in Jordan, Lebanon, and Canada. It started out as an MFA graduation project, but I worked on it long after graduation and have now developed it into the 30-minute award-winning documentary short that it is today.

    Identifying as both Syrian and Canadian, watching the refugee crisis continually worsen has been especially difficult for me. I felt helpless, and knew that many others also wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. Almost eight years into the crisis, I noticed that the Syrian refugees were now being viewed as one, singular mass statistic. I spent many summers in Syria growing up and have amazing memories there; I wanted to remind the world that these refugees are individuals: they’re parents, they’re children, they’re teachers, they’re families, they’re friends. In many ways, they’re not very different from us, they’ve just been forced into a very unfortunate situation and had their world turned upside down.

    My film is unique in that it explores the Syrian Refugee Crisis from both a local and global perspective by examining the lives of Syrian refugees in Middle Eastern refugee camps while also answering the question of what happens next, once they’re resettled in North America. While planning the film and working on months of pre-production from Los Angeles, one prominent issue kept coming up: there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian children around the world growing up without any access to education. In the long run, this could have very dire consequences and prevent them from becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of their society. The lack of education takes away from what’s left of their childhood and doesn’t give them a sense of importance or purpose. I knew that I not only had to focus on education while making the film, but also present the audience with feasible solutions to help fix this problem. 

    Throughout the film, the refugees work to improve their situation through the efforts of the two individuals I chose to tell this story through: Nowell Sukkar, founder of Nowell’s Mission working in Jordan and Lebanon, and Mazen El-Baba, founder of H.appi Camp working from Ontario, Canada. Both of them have dedicated their lives to making education and inclusiveness a right for all Syrian children. 

    I also worked with Human Rights Watch in Jordan and Lebanon to better explain the situation to the audience; instead of blaming the refugees’ parents automatically, the HRW researchers break down the many reasons why all these barriers exist and how we can combat them.

    Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent CitiesNYFA: What inspired you to make Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: The Syria we see on the news today is painfully different from the one I knew growing up; it’s hard to come to terms with just how bad things have gotten in a relatively short amount of time. As with many other global crises, after a while people begin to grow tired of it because, even if they want to help, they don’t know how to. It seems too complicated, too difficult, and they feel helpless. And that’s why I wanted my film to focus on the specific issue of education and how the lack of it is killing refugees’ childhood, their ability to dream, aspire, and achieve.

    During a visit to my home city of Toronto in August of 2016, I spoke with newly resettled Syrians who noticed a world of difference in their children who had just attended the first ever H.appi camp, a free summer camp experience exclusively for newcomer refugee children. H.appi aimed to help these children integrate into Canadian society, improve their linguistic skills and aid them in overcoming the trauma that they had experienced before arriving to Canada. When I actually made the film a year later, I realized that whether they’re living illegally in neighbouring countries or permanently resettled in Canada, many of the refugees were united in one thing: their goal to achieve a better life through a good education and the mental health resources many of them needed to overcome the trauma of war.

    NYFA: What was your experience filming Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: Personally, working on Syria’s Tent Cities was especially challenging. For starters, I had under two months to travel to two continents, three countries, and four cities to shoot all of my footage. One of the things about being a low-budget student and having to operate as what was often a one- or two-person crew is that you learn to wear many, many hats on the job. As with most of my other projects, I was in charge of directing, producing, shooting, recording sound, and editing Syria’s Tent Cities. 

    As someone who’s doing the job of five people on location at refugee camps in the Middle East, I needed to be able to handle my emotions, even when faced with a seven-year-old girl whose leg has been amputated during the war staring longingly from her wheelchair as her twin sister and other siblings run around their one-bedroom apartment. Even when a two-year-old little boy being raised by a single father is so deprived of the love of a mother he lost while the family were fleeing the country that he curls up in your lap while you’re shooting an interview with his father and clings to you, refusing to let go when you have to leave later. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    I had to keep my composure on location; if I was an emotional wreck, the film wouldn’t get made and no one would hear their story. There were many, many tears when I got home. But I’d have to get up the next day and do it all again, pretending that my heart wasn’t breaking every time I met another child who just didn’t understand why they had to lose family members and run from what was once a safe and happy home. What kept me going was that I knew I was helping, I was telling their stories and encouraging the world to change their lives. In making this film, I truly feel like I grew so much as a person and a filmmaker.

    NYFA: What are your plans for Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My main goal was that I didn’t want my audience to leave the theatre feeling sad and helpless. I wanted to give them tools and solutions to make a difference. In the film we see Nowell and Mazen; they’re not millionaires, they’re not people who have absolutely nothing else going on in their personal lives. Mazen is a full-time medical student and Nowell is a mother of two who has to tend to her own family’s wellbeing. 

    Yet they still make the time to help, they’re dedicated. And although I don’t expect every person who watches the film to start a non-profit like theirs, they show us the small ways in which we can all help truly make a difference in these children’s lives. Simple things and contributions that actually end up having a noticeable and positive impact in the long run. 

    It was incredibly inspiring to work with them and I really hope that, when they watch the film, the audience is inspired in the same way I was. I set up a page on my website where people who watch the film can learn more about Mazen’s and Nowell’s work and make a simple contribution that will truly end up making a world of difference. 

    Additionally, after working with Human Rights Watch through making this film and seeing all of the incredibly valuable research they do on the ground, I partnered with them and created a page specifically dedicated to this cause! All donations that come through the page from the link on my website will be designated to Human Rights Watch’s Refugees Division, specifically for their work on Syrian Refugees.

    I’m especially proud of Syria’s Tent Cities. As someone who identifies as both Syrian and Canadian, this story really hit close to home. It’s something I wanted to do for so long that every (increasingly difficult) challenge that I was faced with while making this film was a blessing I was grateful for, because it meant that I was finally actually making the film and telling the story of Syrian refugees. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    As proud as I am of how well the film’s been doing and as honoured as I am to be able to tell this incredible story, the awards are especially meaningful because they confirm that people recognize the importance of the film’s message and that they’re moved to give it an audience and help. This is just the start, but I know that I’ve succeeded in beginning to raise more awareness, which is what I set out to do when I first made the film.

    I plan to continue showing the film to as many audiences as I possibly can; this is a crucial problem and small contributions can make a very large difference in the life of a refugee child.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MH: While working in the field of Documentary Filmmaking, I’ve created films that focused on issues that I felt needed to be heard and further explored. I wanted my films to not only educate the audience on the issue at hand, but to also show them clear ways in which they can help and make a difference or learn about an issue that was once foreign to them and become more accepting, compassionate individuals.

    One of the films I’m working on now, PCOS, is about the often neglected and discredited Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder in women and how the many side effects it causes impact those affected by it, including facial hair in women. Some of the women in the film resort to elective weight loss surgery to reverse the symptoms of their PCOS, while others accept and try to change society’s harsh criticism of them. I actually have the condition myself and am one of the characters in the film (truly challenging as a simultaneous director!)

     

    I’m also about to release a short documentary film about two Syrian senior citizens who relocated to stay with their family abroad. And while they’re technically safe and living in a comfortable home, their whole lives have been uprooted extremely unexpectedly. At their age after retirement, they expected to live out the rest of their days in familiar Syria, and so they now spend much of their time reminiscing and missing those they lost to the war and during the move. Living in a state of constant uncertainty, major change, and having to adapt to a completely foreign country at their advanced age has made them question whether leaving Syria was worth it, and so the film is named Safe or Sorry.

    Apart from my own projects, I also currently freelance, primarily in Documentary Filmmaking. Most of my jobs are in pre-production and/or production. I love researching a great topic extensively, reaching out to people, booking and conducting interviews, being on location shooting vérité and seeing my subject’s world through the camera’s lens. 

    When people let you into their lives in that way, it’s a really great, fulfilling feeling — there’s a certain mutual trust and understanding there. The amazing people that documentary filmmaking brings into your life and the relationships you develop with the people you film are truly incredible and constantly remind me of why I got into this field and how fortunate I am to call this my job. For instance, making Syria’s Tent Cities was such a humbling and eye-opening experience; I saw firsthand the difference that dedication and love, even coming from a single individual, can make in the lives of those facing a global crisis.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Syria’s Tent Cities, or your work in general?

    MH: The biggest thing I learned is that loving something doesn’t make it easy — it just makes it worth fighting for and working towards. When I first started this journey, I had absolutely no idea how hard making documentaries would be! But because I love it, it has definitely been worth every challenge I’ve faced.

    As an emerging artist, you’re definitely going to have times where you doubt yourself and your abilities, sometimes even whether you were meant to be in this field at all. You’re going to have friends in ‘safe’ jobs, with a steady paycheque and very little risk involved. And sometimes it’s going to scare you. Being a documentary filmmaker is hard, it’s challenging, there’s a lot of discipline, work, and time management that goes into it. You have to be able to believe wholeheartedly in yourself and your project and the message that you’re trying to put out there. 

    I’ve been so fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents, family, friends, and teachers in my life who have definitely played a big role in getting me to this point today. But to make it in this field, you have to truly believe in your work and keep pushing to make the story you’re working on heard; working past every festival rejection you receive, every professional failure that comes up along the way, every person who discredits you and doesn’t believe in you, and every one of the many challenges you’re going to face. 

    I want to specifically thank Sanora Bartels, who was actually the Consulting Producer on Syria’s Tent Cities for being an amazing mentor, friend, support system, and just an overall wonderful human being. She’s gone above and beyond her role as Chair of the Documentary MFA Program to make sure that her students succeed and reach their full potential. Most importantly, she believed in us and our abilities even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Having teachers like that when you’re only just starting out in the field is truly invaluable. Sanora is just one of the many incredible teachers I’ve been lucky to work with at NYFA.

    NYFA: What lies ahead for you now?

    MH: In addition to filmmaking, I’m very passionate about travel and hope to be able to see the world through my work. I’ve been to 25 countries so far and it never ceases to amaze me how many similarities we all have on a basic human level, regardless of differing social and cultural norms. I will continue to travel and make films while I learn more about the world; Syria’s Tent Cities is just the beginning, I have so many other projects planned and some are already in pre- and post-production!

    The New York Film Academy thanks Mira Hamour for the time she took to speak with us, and congratulates her on the well-deserved success of her documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Cinematography Alum Jude Abadi Wins Best Student Cinematography Award

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    This summer, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Cinematography alum Jude Abadi added a very important accolade to her resume when she won the Best Student Cinematography Award at the European Cinematography Awards. The award was for her work as director of photography on the short film The End of the World.

    The European Cinematography Awards are a film competition for filmmakers worldwide. According to their mission statement, the ECA supports “new and student filmmakers, who are just beginning their careers with a supportive and enthusiastic audience for their creative efforts,” as well as gives filmmakers “access to film industry professionals who can offer guidance and other forms of career assistance.”

    Best Student Cinematography Award

    Of the award, Abadi told NYFA that she was “ecstatic.” Abadi enrolled in the MFA program at NYFA’s cinematography school in Fall 2016, an accelerated, conservatory-based graduate program designed to instruct gifted and hardworking prospective directors of photography in a hands-on, professional environment. The cinematography school is chaired by Tony Richmond, A.S.C., B.S.C., who has shot many well-known films including Sympathy for the Devil, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Legally Blonde.

    “Jude did a great job shooting this film, and putting it together,” said Mike Williamson, a NYFA instructor and one of Abadi’s thesis advisors, who worked with her as she shot the film. He continued, “It can be difficult to maintain a consistent look when you’re shooting a long scene in a practical location, but her work over several shooting days matches very nicely. Her team made a strong film, and this award is well-deserved.”

    The End of the World was filmed in Los Angeles and tells the story of a married couple taken hostage by a crazed stranger, and their attempts to defuse their captor and his inane ramblings. It was written by Nabil Chowdhary and directed by NYFA alum Joshua M.G. Thomas. The film co-stars Buffy Milner, another NYFA alum who has recently written, directed, and acted in the film Type.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Jude Abadi on her prestigious award and wishes her the best of luck as her career continues forward!

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    October 22, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Cinematography, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 92

  • “Acts of Desperation” Provides New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Credit & Experience Opportunity

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    Acts of DesperationThe Industry Lab of New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) has announced the completion of the feature film, Acts of Desperation, starring veteran actors Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, The Rocketeer) and Jason Gedrick (Backdraft, Dexter.) 

    The quirky thriller was sponsored by the Academy, but involved members of NYFA community as well. Faculty members Richard Friedman (director), Leslie Bates (producer), Neil Casey (director of photography), and Toi Juan Shannon (editor) were the forces behind the film, which afforded opportunities to NYFA alumni.

    Acts of Desperation starts with a woman on a bridge, desperate and considering jumping. But the real action begins when we meet Alan Grillo, a cop on the edge, obsessed over the fact that his wife is having an affair. At the same time, he is tracking a shrewd bank robber who is falling in love with the desperate and obsessed woman whose life he saved on the bridge. As if that’s not enough, the bank robber is also being blackmailed by two unhinged street criminals who will stop at nothing to get their money. Time is running out for all of them as their worlds collide in this unpredictable and compelling thriller centering on six individuals and their treacherous “acts of desperation.”Acts of Desperation

    Shot exclusively in Los Angeles, Acts of Desperation is the first feature credit for over 20 NYFA Filmmaking alumni through Industry Lab, a program designed to facilitate such opportunities. The production companies Scars of the Mind Picture Company and UnicVisions plan to produce many more films through the NYFA Industry Lab, offering even more occasions for our alumni to receive both experience and feature credits to add to their resumes. 

    A special screening will be announced later this month.

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    October 19, 2018 • Filmmaking, Industry Lab • Views: 115