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  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles Hosts Expert Film Festival Panel

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    Last month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison Crickett Rumley brought an expert panel to the NYFA Los Angeles campus for an in-depth discussion on the process of getting a film into festivals.

    In her opening remarks, Rumley shared that while many NYFA students are interested in applying to film festivals, she found that not many had actually attended one. The panel of experts was formed to help demystify what can be an intimidating world for newcomers, and help answer their questions. “We need to start talking about film festivals,” Rumley said. “Los Angeles has a lot of festivals, so we have no excuse to not be attending and submitting.”

    Sharing their insights and experiences with NYFA students were industry experts including producer and NYFA Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree, Senior Cinematography Instructor Matt Kohnen, Emmy Award nominee  Alexandra Chando, NYFA Senior Directing Instructor James Rowe, and NYFA alumnus Raphael Bittencourt. Each panelist has premiered a film at major festivals including Sundance, LA Shorts Film Fest, Shanghai Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival.

    Kickstarting the discussion, Crickett asked the panel, “Why should you attend a film festival, even if you don’t have a film?”

    Rowe began by sharing his reasons for attending the Toronto Film Festival as a non-participant. “I went as a scholar delegate for NYFA to kind of scout things out and see what the landscape is right now for short films in particular.”

    Chando, who represents the Mammoth Film Festival’s Women in Film Initiative and is perhaps best known for her work in “As the World Turns,” pointed out the need for diversity and representation in film festivals across the board. Attendees, filmmakers, and festival organizers all play a role in supporting diversity in the film industry. “Recently, within the last year, I have seriously begun working on the other side of the camera,” she explained. “Especially now, there has been a big push for diversity and, of course, women being behind the camera.“

    Encouraging diversity in film festival representation is a part of the reason why Chando was invited to be a part of the Women in Film initiative of the Mammoth Film Festival, which was founded by a NYFA alumna. 

    Rumley spoke about her experiences with Telluride, a renowned festival she began attending even before she had started making movies. She described the education as invaluable. “I was learning so much as a writer just by watching a ton of films,” she shared, “And I was able to watch them in a festival setting. I could figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be by exploring all of these international and independent domestic films.”

    New York Film Academy panelist Alexandra Chando.

    With thousands of film festivals worldwide, these dynamic events can serve as an essential launchpad for up-and-coming filmmakers. Genre film festivals provide an especially great environment for new cinema voices to be discovered.

    “The major festival will take everything; drama, narrative, documentary,” said Kohnen, “But then, there’s this whole other subset of festivals that are just genre.”

    Choosing to submit to a genre festival can help a film find a more specific audience and make valuable connections with likeminded people in the industry. Knowing his way around the festival circuit helped spark the chain-reaction of success that Kohnen enjoyed with his 2007 film “Wasting Away,” also known as “Aaah! Zombies!” The film won the audience award for Best Film at ScreamFest, and after that its sister festivals began seeking opportunities to screen the film, too.

    New York Film Academy panelist and Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree.

    For his part, Bittencourt said he used his time at film festivals as an opportunity to observe how different audiences connected with his film as well as to forge connections within the industry.

    “It gives me a sense of where I’m going,” he said. “It was part of my strategy to use two different kinds of film festivals to get more attention on my film. … It’s a huge chance to defend your film and get to know other filmmakers. You can also meet the organizers of the festival.” 

    Bittencourt encouraged students that even if they may not have been chosen to screen their film in a particular festival, they can still try to shake hands with those in charge. “[Festival organizers] tend to be really sympathetic to you if they know who you are,” he said.

    Ogletree agreed. She explained to students that film festivals provide opportunities not only for submitting work, but also for gaining direct access to creators from all walks of life. From her time behind the scenes in film festivals, she shared, “We were open to having discussions with students, with other executives, with producers and directors. At the time, folks would just bring their iPads up to speakers after the Q&A and show us their film. That was a way of getting their films out there without even being in the festival.”

    With these networking opportunities in mind, Ogletree went on to highlight the marketing opportunities students should prepare for when attending a festival. “There are certain things you need,” she said. “You need a business card. You need both a press kit and an electronic press kit. You need to have the bios of your key crew members. You need to have conversations, and that’s not something I see happening a lot anymore.”

    Ogletree suggests that when attending a festival with a family member or friend, students remember not to isolate themselves from what is going on. Instead, they should make sure to join outside conversations with members of the industry and to try and meet new people.

    To help get the conversation started at film festivals, Ogletree noted that it’s important to think early and often about where the film will show and how best to promote it once it has aired. Gimmicks also don’t hurt, according to Ogletree, who says that it’s important to find ways to make your film stand out from the crowd at a festival. Hats, pins, and t-shirts are always great and inexpensive options. Budgeting for these products and preparing for film festival conversations should be something students bear in mind even in the pre-production stage of their film.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Matt Kohnen, Alex Chando, Kim Ogletree, James Rowe, Raphael Bittencourt, and Crickett Rumley for participating int his in-depth discussion on film festivals.

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  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles Students Examine Ancient Treasures at the Getty Villa

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    This month, degree students in New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles’ Western Art History Class visited the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. They were interested in seeing how the ancient Greeks and Romans developed their depictions of humans and gods, and whether these early creators sought to mimic nature or to reflect individuals in their most ideal forms. There were a lot of surprises to be discovered in the museum.

    The Getty Villa was designed to recreate the experience of seeing art in an ancient Roman home. After looking at these art works for weeks on a screen, students were excited to see how the mass and volume of the figures affected them in person.

    Through the trip, students learned that ancient Greek art was actually very diverse. Students saw stylized early Greek burial sculptures from the Cycladic civilization, painted burial masks, numerous portraits, busts of Roman rulers and the upper class, and a special exhibition of Roman mosaics. Another highlight was the chance to get up close to a Romano-Egyptian mummy with an intact portrait from 120 CE.

    Said one participant, “[My favorite part of the trip] was seeing how there were rings with art in them. It was shocking and interesting to see the different representations of art, beyond the sculptures.”

    Each student was assigned to choose one sculpture and write a formal analysis, contextualizing the piece both historically and stylistically, which meant that students had to look at the art rather intentionally and up-close — an experience that was a little unnerving for some students.

    “It felt weird lingering to stare at the cloth on a lot of the sculptures,” said one. “How did they make it look so thin?”

    Another student was left in awe. “I’ve always been amazed by art, but every time I go to a museum, I have more and more respect and appreciation towards it.”

    Students come to NYFA from all over the world and their experiences in the classroom tend to reflect that. For several of the students in the group, this was their first time in an art museum of the Getty’s status, while one student had never seen sculpture of human bodies before.

    One student said of their experience, “There is nothing like seeing a sculpture or painting live in front of you. It was my first time being at a place where all sorts of art was right there for your eyes to see.”

    When the class discussed their experience afterward, it turned out they learned a lot. Some of the students were impressed with the accuracy of the recreation of Roman society. Comments like, “I was able to see the craftsmanship up close and now have more respect for the artists,” and “I used to just appreciate art, but now I think about who made it and why,” were common among the group of excited scholars. The day was an incredible success.

    The New York Film Academy is grateful to the Getty for continuing to curate such important art pieces for our students to experience. One student walked away stating, “I learned that art serves a bigger purpose in a society than it shows. It makes us think more critically.”

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    December 8, 2017 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights • Views: 897

  • Spotlight On: New York Film Academy Los Angeles Environmental Club

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    This academic year, a new club has joined the ranks at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles. The Environmental Club has already undertaken two incredibly important projects — a trip to the Burbank Recycling Center and planting trees with Tree People.

    Environmental Club member Kasey Weldon and advisor Michael Zelniker spoke with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith about their recent experience of giving back to their community in collaboration with Tree People. Check out what they had to say about this exciting episode from NYFA Los Angeles student life.

    NYFA: On your recent excursion with Tree People, what was the goal for the day?

    Zelniker: The goal was to work with Tree People, an organization that supports students and educators to take responsibility for urban environments. Trees are one of the great hopes we have to reverse the carbonization of our atmosphere. Trees take in carbon dioxide and return oxygen to the atmosphere. Planting trees is an important step in our efforts to reverse the effects of fossil fuels on our planet.

    Weldon: On our first trip out, we were watering the baby trees that were already planted and pulling/cutting invasive weeds that could harm the tree’s growth. On the second trip out, we planted new trees in Calabasas, which was a lot of hard work but so well worth it and rewarding.

    NYFA: Los Angeles has had really hot weather lately. How did you guys prepare for the manual labor, and how did everyone fare on the day?

    Zelniker: We drank plenty of water. Everyone wore pounds of sunscreen. We had to cover up with appropriate clothing. Everyone fared very well. No problems at all.

    Weldon: Everyone did really well. We stayed hydrated, wore our hats to protect ourselves from the sun, and the SoCal breeze is always nice.

    NYFA: What was the most surprising thing about the trip?

    Zelniker: I was surprised at just how profoundly satisfying it is to simply dig a hole in the soil and put a tree in the ground knowing that the tree you’ve planted, over the course of its life, will absorb tons of CO2 and produce tons of oxygen. It’s empowering.

    Weldon: The unity really surprised me. Everyone is there with a goal in mind and a desire and passion to give back and create a better tomorrow. There were no strangers. We are all a team.

    NYFA: You guys are a new organization at the school. Was this a bonding experience for the new members?

    Weldon: Of course. We are all friends already from school, but to be able to bond over something that has such meaning and truly seeing the difference we have made at the end of the day, it just roots our friendships even deeper. Some people I met for the first time, and it’s like I’ve known them forever.

    It’s an amazing feeling to be around people who strive for the same things, work toward it with you, and, at the end of the day, you share the successes together. It’s a truly special friendship with Earth and human beings coming together as one.

    Zelniker: We’ve been a NYFA club for more than six months now. Over that time we have held several events. All of the events have served to create stronger bonds between us as we come together in our shared commitment to do whatever we can to lighten our carbon footprint, while at the same time spreading the word on how important it is to conserve energy, water, and resources in general, to our individual communities at large.

    NYFA: What other trips are you guys planning in the future?

    Zelniker: We intend to do more tree planting, hiking, a beach clean up, and another trip to Burbank Recycling Center, as well as another bake sale fundraiser. We’re also talking about the “Adopt a Highway” program.

    The New York Film Academy is proud of the success of the Environmental Club for their incredible efforts to help protect and preserve the Earth.

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    December 7, 2017 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1281

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles Takes Time to Give Thanks and Give Back

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    The holiday season is a time for sharing, caring, being with family and friends, spreading good cheer, and giving back — and that’s exactly what happened during the Thanksgiving break at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles this season.

    This November, the New York Film Academy’s Office of Community Outreach hosted a delicious, traditional, family-style Thanksgiving dinner for over 50 NYFA students who happened to be on campus the night before Thanksgiving, and wanted to share a hearty meal with friends both new and old.

    The event was hosted in the rotunda in the Riverside Building decorated in warm fall colors, and open to the entire student population. Therefore, RSVP’s were essential. There was lots of love in the room, with students from all parts of the world able to fellowship and partake in the warm meal.  For some students, it was the first time sharing in the American tradition of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, fresh homemade pumpkin and apple pie with all the fixings.

    The dinner was also a thank you to students who participated with NYFA C.A.R.E.S. in a volunteer orientation at LA Family Housing (LAFH) to serve food to families in need over the holiday. LAFH helps people transition out of homelessness and poverty by providing a continuum of housing enriched with supportive services.

    Over the holidays, as well as throughout the year, LAFH accept donations to “adopt a family” by providing household goods and gift cards, as well as “meal sponsorship,” providing food to over 250 adults transitioning out of homelessness.

    “Through NYFA C.A.R.E.S. its our goal to not only think about our those less fortunate over the holidays, but throughout the year,”  says Mason Richards, NYFA Community Outreach Chair. “It’s our plan to have NYFA students continue to volunteer throughout the upcoming year. We’re slated to volunteer during the month of December and beyond. It’s always a good feeling to connect with others and really feel a part of a community.”

    To learn more about volunteer opportunities through NYFA C.A.R.E.S. contact: caresla@nyfa.edu.

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    November 27, 2017 • Community Highlights • Views: 1111

  • Dare to Be Remarkable: New York Film Academy Alumna Adriana Ledesma on Film, Family and Future

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    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    Latina filmmaker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Masters of Screen and Media graduate Adriana Ledesma is hard at work, applying her remarkable skill set as a writer, director, editor, cinematographer, producer, production manager — and more — to tell distinctive stories. In an industry focused on better promoting diversity and women in film while also creating opportunity for individuals with unique voices, this rising filmmaker is intent on creating engaging stories and touching audience’s hearts, and we are excited to watch her blaze a unique path.

    In the past few years NYFA alumnus Adriana Ledesma has premiered her work at numerous film festivals, including her films “Departure,” “Karma,” “A Choice,” and “Empathize.” In 2016, “Departure” won the Bronze Award for Short Film at the Fameus International Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Best Short Drama Jury Award at the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival and the Best Short Film Hollywood Cinefest award at the Hollywood Cinfast. Adriana’s passion, experience, and unending love of mankind lend a unique perspective to her films, helping to create an experience audiences won’t soon forget.

    Recently, the busy filmmaker took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog and share some of her thoughts with our international community.

    NYFA: Some of your films have been honored with multiple awards. How did that feel? 

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    AL: Of course it’s always a great satisfaction that someone external, in this case some real experts, value the work you do and that you put so much effort into accomplishing. I don’t do things to receive something in return, but I am very passionate and I believe you should put more than 100 percent on everything you do — or else, what’s the point in doing it at all? So it has been an honor for me.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the film industry since graduating from the New York Film Academy?

    AL: Well, it certainty hasn’t been an easy road. There have been many obstacles and many sacrifices involved, but when you set your mind towards what you truly want, there’s nothing that can stop you.

    What you need to do is take the risk, forget about all the complications you might find on the way, and step out of your comfort zone. Don’t limit yourself, and dare to be remarkable.  

    I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do what I love, to wake up and go to set every day. I feel blessed.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: You are from Mexico originally and left home to pursue your dream, which is something that many members of our international NYFA community can relate to. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and how your home and family have inspired your work?

    AL: I am a person who values family immensely and thank God I come from a family where love, affection and support are key. Even though I know they miss me as much as I miss them, the fact that they are always there for me, giving me advice and encouragement, pushes me to continue. …

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    … I have countless memories of my childhood, climbing trees, riding bikes with my neighbors, playing soccer, going to the park with my siblings and my parents, etc., but there is one that stands out from when I was around nine years old. I was with some cousins and friends at my cousin’s house, and all of our parents no longer knew what to do to entertain us anymore, so they came up with the idea of all of us creating a whole episode of a TV program. We were very young at that time but I remember, knowing nothing, we pulled together a very decent project with nothing but one camera. Some of us took care of crew-type activities, some of them were acting in it, we had production design involved and even visual effects with some blood. That moment, at that age, felt magical for me.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: Who are your influences? And how would you define your style as a filmmaker?

    AL: I am mostly inspired by Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg. The way they portray their stories, the approach they have when it comes to every single element involved, the importance they give to movement, acting, and framing while doing a film, is also how I love doing mine.

    For me, making a film is like putting a duet dance piece together: it’s all choreography. First you do the research — you gather all the elements you might use, then you explore styles and steps and you make your creativity shine.

    Once you have planned all the moves, you have to spend time rehearsing so it goes as well as possible. But when you’re actually shooting, you have to deal with unpredictability and uncertainty, because even when you’ve been working on it for a long time, the music might take you to different places.

    Then it becomes about timing. Each of the puzzle pieces have a detailed purpose, a precise time where they are needed, a specific meaning — so at the end, if everything flows as it was supposed to, the unified project gives you goose bumps.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Adriana for taking the time to share a part of her story with our community. Keep an eye out for many of her exciting new projects in development, including “Growing Up,” “Once in a Life time,” “Los Elegidos,” and “Until the End,” among others.

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