Vampire bats, West African flying squirrels, pangolins and tigers — oh my!
During their field trip to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, New York Film Academy (NYFA) students from this summer’s environmental biology course saw a myriad of species firsthand that most people will never be lucky enough to encounter.
Mammal Collections Manager Dr. Jim Dines gave a behind-the-scenes tour for the students and generously introduced them to the world of natural history collections and explained the importance of museum specimens to scientific endeavors.
The specimens presented have been collected and preserved over the past century for use in ongoing and future biodiversity research. Students also learned about specimen preparation and the usage of specimens for animation and filmmaking.
The environmental biology course is part of NYFA’s Liberal Arts and Sciences department, where the creative artists pursuing their degrees at NYFA can build a foundation in courses ranging from Arts & Humanities to History of Art, Theatre & Media to the Social and Natural Sciences.
The New York Film Academy thanks Dr. Jim Dines and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for giving NYFA students an invaluable insight into this amazing resource and the chance to see and feel such remarkable animals!
After graduating, Novak worked as an admissions specialist at NYFA’s New York campus, helping fellow aspiring artists from Brazil enroll at the Academy. She’s acted in commercials, short films, and most recently, the feature film River Runs Red.
River Runs Red is a thriller/drama written and directed by Wes Miller and starring Taye Diggs, John Cusack, George Lopez, Luke Hemsworth, and RJ Mitte. Miller previously directed Prayer Never Fails and Atone, and is completing production of Hell on the Border, starring Ron Perlman and Frank Grillo.
New York Film Academy recently spoke with Mey Novak about River Runs Red, her passion for acting, and what she learned at NYFA that she still applies to her work to this day:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us what drew you to acting? What brought you to the New York Film Academy?
Mey Novak (MN): Acting has always been inside me. I was in all the school plays, performing for my family during Christmastime, I always watched movies… it was kind of my happy place growing up. I always knew I wanted to be an actress. I remember being around seven years old watching movies and saying I wanted to do that one day.
When I got my theatre degree in Brazil I knew it was time to go to the US to study my craft further, and I saw that the New York Film Academy was auditioning in Brazil and that it was my time.
NYFA: Is there anything about your Brazilian background that you apply to acting in the United States?
MN: Yes, I was very versatile because of my Brazilian background. We are a very culturally rich country, so I realized I could play all sorts of foreign roles the industry requires all the time. My first commercial in the US I played a Russian girl. I hadn’t even thought about it before, then I noticed there was a whole thing for foreign accents and types in the US.
NYFA: Can you tell us about River Runs Red?
MN:River Runs Red tells the story of an African American judge whose son is murdered by the police. It’s a very strong and currently relevant plot—it’s necessary because it talks about the racism that still exists nowadays in the US, in Brazil, and the whole world.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on River Runs Red,or your work in general?
MN: So many things!! NYFA was a stepping stone in my career!
First, I have learned with the best teachers—I’ve found mentors for life that even after school was over I had supporting me. I’ve also learned how to be a professional—it was more than just going to class, learn a method, and go home—I learned about the real world of acting and the industry. And I had the chance to practice while I was in school. This is very important. I was in touch with the filmmaking students, I was auditioning, shooting with them, also with the photography students, etc.
So when my first big job arrived, I was ready. It was very important. For my acting specifically, I’ve learned my favorite method, the “Meisner technique” at NYFA, it’s necessary to me on set.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
MN: I’m currently in Brazil shooting a show in Portuguese called Os 3 Irmaos (The 3 Brothers). It’s my first time acting in Portuguese after such a long time working in the US. After this I have plans to work in Europe for a while.
NYFA: What’s your dream role?
MN: I love action movies, I’m obsessed with them!!! I practice martial arts and have studied Stage Combat since my NYFA days, and my dream is definitely a strong female role in an action movie with amazing choreography, like in John Wick.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
MN: I’d say enjoy your time there and listen to every single thing your teacher has to say—they really know about the industry. Be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, it really pays off!
NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?
MN: I want to say to all the aspiring actors to follow their dreams! Sounds cliché but there will be doubts, there will be moments you just want to give up, but you just need that one person to believe in you and that one “Yes” that changes everything. Be grateful and embrace every step of the journey!
The New York Film Academy thanks actress and NYFA alum Mey Novak for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of luck as her career continues to grow!
As you might imagine, I have written a whole lot of updates since I became Chair of the Broadcast Journalism department at New York Film Academy (NYFA). But, remarkably, this is the first time I can talk about one of our grads writing a book…
Elizabeth Rose was a member of my first graduating class. After leaving NYFA, she worked for a time with a cruise ship company. She shot/edited/produced a daily news program aboard one of the company’s vessels.
But Liz had another goal in mind, something that would take her far away from the tropics. She was determined to climb the Seven Summits — the tallest mountain of each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest. Without a doubt, she is the only NYFA grad to accomplish this feat. And in doing so, she raised funds for wonderful causes such as Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada).
I suggested to Liz that she take along a video camera. But given it was a choice between 10 pounds/4.5 kilos of camera or 10 pounds/4.5 kilos of food, the camera was left behind. Now Liz has put her adventures down in writing, in a book called Written in the Snow: My Journey To The Seven Summits. It is an incredible tale.
Congratulations Liz, from all of us at the New York Film Academy! We’re proud to have played a part the development of your storytelling skills…
On Wednesday, February 13, as part of celebrating Black History Month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the NYFA African Black American Film Society hosted a screening of two episodes of Netflix’s Dear White People, followed by a Q&A with writer and producer Chuck Hayward.
One of the episodes was directed by Academy award nominee Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), which was a real treat for the filmmaking students. It was moderated by NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, and co-moderated by NYFA directing student, Nicole “Soul” Creary.
Hayward landed his first staff writing gig on the NBC series Bent. His feature film script, Potluck, won the WGA’s 2012 Feature Access Project. He then sold an untitled baseball project to Nickelodeon, after which he wrote for the Nick at Nite sitcom Wendell & Vinnie. In 2014, Hayward became a staff writer on the new NBC series One Big Happy, followed by Fox series Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life.
In 2016, he had two movies produced—Fat Camp and Step Sisters—and sold the Untitled UrbanPitch Perfect Project to The Firm and PepsiCo. Hayward is currently a writer and co-producer on the Netflix series, Dear White People, and a producer on Marvel’s upcoming untitled Scarlet Witch and Vision series.
Many students in the audience were curious about how Hayward started his career as a writer. “For me, personally, it was the contacts I already had,” said Hayward. “It was reaching out to all of them saying, ‘Can we meet for an informal meeting? Here’s what I’m interested in doing… can you introduce me to anybody else who might be able to help me in that?’… And then it’s just all about following up…You don’t want them to forget about you, although not bug them too often… A lot of times, offering to work for people for free on a project is a good way to show, like, ‘Hey… I’m not looking for anything from you financially; I’m just kind of looking for you to help me get my foot in the door and I’m looking for a chance to show what I’m capable of.”
Other students wanted to know about Hayward’s writing process. “I’m a big pre-writer so I’ll sit down, I’ll write my character sketches, I’ll write my outline; I’ll do as much as possible before I open up Final Draft because I don’t want to look at a blank page and freak out,” Hayward said. “It’s also knowing if your idea is better suited to television or film.”
One of the students asked how Hayward and the other writers on Dear White People navigate the complexity of the topics discussed on the show. He replied, “Most of the blowback that we’ve gotten about Dear White People happened before the show came out because people were like, ‘Dear White People? How dare you … address us as a group!’ And we were like, ‘Oh that happens to us all the time, oddly, so it’s not that big of a deal’ … But I think once people started to see the show and see what it was about and see that we weren’t just ‘coming for’ white people and taking out … aggression on them; we weren’t blaming them for stuff; it was just like, ‘Hey, here’s some of the shit you do that bothers us; like, maybe don’t do that anymore; it’s super easy!’ And we also take as many stabs at, you know, black folks and the things that we do that are problematic or that are not beneficial to us all as a group.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank writer and producer Chuck Hayward for sharing his entertainment industry and writing advice with our students!
On Monday, February 11, the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series welcomed producer Mollye Asher to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) for a “Conversation with” and Q&A session following a screening of Chloé Zhou’s The Rider. Also participating in the session was sound recordist on the film, Mike Wolf Snyder.
This is the second Chloé Zhou film produced by Mollye Asher. The Rider was shot over five weeks, with non-actors playing roles very much based on themselves. Writer-director Zhou spent close to two years researching the story and developing the film before the shoot. The story follows a young rodeo star recovering from a serious head injury suffered when thrown by a horse in the midst of the rodeo.
A good amount of the time Zhou spent researching the story was an investment in gaining the trust of the non-actor cast. The film was made mostly by a six-to-eight person crew, who also needed to gain the trust of the cast. Snyder, the sound recordist, does not like to use wireless, lavaliere microphones that can be hidden underneath an actor’s shirt. He uses a boom microphone for every shot. However, he says, he was very sensitive to not wanting to come off as intrusive towards the actors.
The Rider premiered at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was acquired for North American distribution by Sony Classics. At Cannes, Zhou also won the C.I.C.A.E. Award.
The film has won numerous other awards, including Best Feature from the National Society of Film Critics Award, Best Picture at the Athens International Film Festival, and Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. It was also named one of the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Independent Films of 2018, and received multiple nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature and Best Director.
The team recently wrapped production on a 50-day shoot on a “below the radar” project to be announced very soon.
The New York Film Academy thanks producer Mollye Asher and sound recordist Mike Wolf Snyder for sitting down with students as part of the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series!
UPDATE: The winners were announced last night, February 11. The list includes Free Solo, which won Best Documentary, and which was edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructor Bob Eisenhardt.
The full list of winners for this year’s BAFTA Film Awards are named below.
–February 12, 2019
Nominations for the 2019 BAFTA Film Awards were announced earlier today, as this year’s awards season continues towards its crescendo.
The BAFTA Awards are given out by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and celebrates cinematic achievements by both British artists and those around the world. The Academy was formed from the combination of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors, founded in 1953, and the British Film Academy, started in 1947. The first BAFTA Award went to silent film star and filmmaking legend Charlie Chaplin.
Many of this year’s BAFTA nominees should seem familiar, as they have already been recognized by various industry guilds as well as this year’s Golden Globes. Historical comedy The Favourite dominated the nominations with a total of 12 following star Olivia Colman’s win for Best Actress at the Globes.
Spike Lee picked up his first BAFTA nom for directing Best Film nominee BlackKklansman. Bradley Cooper broke BAFTA records by earning five nominations from five different disciplines for his film A Star is Born, which received seven total, including Best Film.
Two previous guest speakers of New York Film Academy (NYFA) also received BAFTA nominations. Adam Driver, who spoke with NYFA students at our New York campus last year, received a nod for Best Supporting Actor for his work in BlackKklansman. Glenn Close, who also spoke with NYFA students, picked up a Best Actress nomination for her starring role in The Wife. Close won earlier this week at the Golden Globe Awards for the same performance.
Three films that were worked on by New York Film Academy faculty and alumni also received BAFTA nominations. Avengers: Infinity War received a nod for Best Special Visual Effects. NYFA 3D Animation and VFX alum Francesco Panzieri worked on the visual effects team for the epic blockbuster.
Additionally, two of this year’s Best Documentary nominees feature work by faculty members of the NYFA Documentary school. RBG, the hit documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, was shot by director of photography and cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke. Free Solo, the critically-acclaimed film about Alex Honnold as he attempts to free climb El Capitan, was edited by instructor Bob Eisenhardt.
Here is a full list of this year’s BAFTA nominees. The WINNERS are listed in bold.
Best Film BlacKkKlansman The Favourite Green Book Roma A Star Is Born
Outstanding British Film Beast Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite McQueen Stan & Ollie You Were Never Really Here
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer Apostasy — Daniel Kokotajlo Beast — Michael Pearce, Lauren Dark A Cambodian Spring — Chris Kelly Pili — Leanne Welham, Sophie Harman Ray & Liz — Richard Billingham, Jacqui Davies
Film Not in the English Language Capernaum Cold War Dogman Roma Shoplifters
Documentary Free Solo McQueen RBG They Shall Not Grow Old Three Identical Strangers
Animated Film Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
Director BlacKkKlansman — Spike Lee Cold War — Paweł Pawlikowski The Favourite — Yorgos Lanthimos Roma — Alfonso Cuarón A Star Is Born — Bradley Cooper
Original Screenplay Cold War The Favourite Green Book Roma Vice
Adapted Screenplay BlacKkKlansman Can You Ever Forgive Me? First Man If Beale Street Could Talk A Star Is Born
LeadingActress Glenn Close — The Wife Lady Gaga — A Star Is Born Melissa McCarthy — Can You Ever Forgive Me? Olivia Colman — The Favourite Viola Davis — Widows
Leading Actor Bradley Cooper — A Star Is Born Christian Bale — Vice Rami Malek — Bohemian Rhapsody Steve Coogan — Stan & Ollie Viggo Mortensen — Green Book
Supporting Actress Amy Adams — Vice Claire Foy — First Man Emma Stone — The Favourite Margot Robbie — Mary Queen of Scots Rachel Weisz — The Favourite
Supporting Actor Adam Driver — BlacKkKlansman Mahershala Ali — Green Book Richard E. Grant — Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell — Vice Timothée Chalamet — Beautiful Boy
Original Music BlacKkKlansman If Beale Street Could Talk Isle of Dogs Mary Poppins Returns A Star Is Born
Cinematography Bohemian Rhapsody Cold War The Favourite First Man Roma
Editing Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite First Man Roma Vice
Production Design Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald The Favourite First Man Mary Poppins Returns Roma
Costume Design The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite Mary Poppins Returns Mary Queen of Scots
Makeup & Hair Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite Mary Queen of Scots Stan & Ollie Vice
Sound Bohemian Rhapsody First Man Mission: Impossible — Fallout A Quiet Place A Star Is Born
Special Visual Effects Avengers: Infinity War Black Panther Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald First Man Ready Player One
British Short Animation I’m OK Marfa Roughhouse
British Short Film 73 Cows Bachelor, 38 The Blue Door The Field Wale
EE Rising Star Award Barry Keoghan Cynthia Erivo Jessie Buckley Lakeith Stanfield Letitia Wright
The BAFTA New York / New York Film Academy (NYFA) / DeWitt Clinton High School Digital Storytelling Program recently held its first graduation ceremony, screening the students’ newly completed short films. Over the course of eight weeks, ten eager and enthusiastic students made their way each Saturday from the Bronx to the NYFA’s Battery Park campus to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking.
Classes in screenwriting, directing, cinematography, and editing educated the students in telling stories in a medium for which they all have a great passion. Members of the BAFTA Outreach Committee as well as faculty and administrators from both schools joined with the students’ family and friends in the celebration. Aside from newly acquired filmmaking skills, students gained from the experience a boost in confidence, self-awareness, and expression. The program continues the partnership between New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) that has previously brought filmmaking workshops to young aspiring artists.
As an added treat, the DeWitt Clinton students attended an exclusive pre-opening BAFTA screening of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. After a lively Q&A, the students spent a generous amount of time speaking with the film’s celebrated writer-producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Needless to say, the movie’s creators were mightily impressed when they learned that Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics and creator of Spider-Man, is amongst DeWitt Clinton High School’s illustrious alumni!
As they continue to find their voices, BAFTA New York, DeWitt Clinton High School, and New York Film Academy look forward to seeing more cinematic stories from the recent grads of their Digital Storytelling Program!
One of the truisms in our field is that you never know where you will find yourself, and what you will be doing there. When planning my career, the idea that I would become a specialist in producing programs about China was never a consideration. Yet Shanghai 1937, the documentary that Evgenia Vlasova and I produced last year, has now been broadcast more than 154 times by public television stations across the United States. It’s been sold to broadcasters in France and Germany too…
Another example is digital journalist Gillian Kemmerer. She used the skills she learned at NYFA to build a new career. She was an on-air anchor/presenter and director of US programming for the financial news service Asset TV. She then received a fellowship to study Russian, in Russia. She has been reporting from Moscow for several months now. She says:
“I interviewed Olympic/Stanley Cup champion Alex Kovalev for Sport Express, and it made the front cover! We chatted for nearly two hours on everything from how video games almost stalled his career to a near-return to the ice last month at age 45. The piece has sparked responses from Darius Kasparaitis and many others. Check out the English language story here.”
Next stop on Gillian’s 2019 world tour is Shanghai. (That’s the Oriental Pearl Radio & Television Tower behind her in the picture below.) I recommended one of my favorite restaurants…
One of the nice things about learning digital broadcast journalism in New York is that the city is one of the media capitals of the world. In fact, you can be walking down the street and discover the six o’clock news being shot at one of the local TV stations. No secrets here… an associate producer hands the anchors some last minute copy, while the weather correspondent is in another part of the studio. He then materializes on the main set, just in time for a little back and forth with the anchors, who then lead into a story about saving money on gym memberships.
Finally, our January short-term students arrived at New York Film Academy (NYFA) last week. Which means this week they are producing their first story. After classroom exercises with camera instructor Daniel Hernandez and TA Fabiola Torres — where they learned what all those numbers on the screen mean — they were off to meet one of downtown New York’s favorite celebrities, the Fearless Girl…
On January 17, Cal Tech quantum physicist Dr. Spiros Michalakis came to speak to New York Film Academy (NYFA) at our Los Angeles campus, and spoke with students about his role as science advisor on Hollywood film sets.
The talk was organized originally for students of the brand new (and very popular) “Science and the Movies” class offered at the Los Angeles campus for the BFA degree program—a course focused around analyzing how science is portrayed in film—though it drew many students from outside the course and program as well.
Science advisors are being used more and more in film production, as audiences are demanding less fantastical and more realistic and grounded foundations for science fiction plots.
Dr. Michalakis is known for his work on several Marvel Studios films, including Doctor Strange, the upcoming Captain Marvel,Ant Man and its more recent sequel Ant Man and the Wasp. He also worked on viral shorts that include celebrity scientists and actors alike, like Dr. Stephen Hawking, Paul Rudd, Keanu Reeves, and Zoe Saldana.
In short, he blew the minds of our students with his enthralling descriptions of the quantum realm—a key part of many recent science fiction films, including the aforementioned Ant Man movies—and how best to incorporate such challenging physics into a major Hollywood blockbuster. His take-home message to filmmakers: find a balance between entertainment and education, i.e., there is a brilliant but gentle way to incorporate science in your film that will entice curiosity while not ostracizing the spectator simply looking for entertainment.
The New York Film Academy thanks Hollywood science advisor and quantum physicist Dr. Spiros Michalakis for taking the time to talk science and film with our students!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Kane Senes’ first feature, Echoes of War, is a period Western featuring high-end production value and a name cast. Where does one go from there? In Kane’s case, he went back to his DIY film-school roots. Armed with a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign and only the outline of a script, writer/director Kane Senes and fellow NYFA alum and director of photography Anton DuPreez hit the road (literally) and made For Now.
According to its official website, For Now is a “look at twenty-somethings adrift in the limbo between adolescence and adulthood, grappling with the superficial connections that define their generation.” The film was “shot on the road over seven days on a shoestring budget and with entirely improvised performances.”
As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Senes and his fellow writers (Hannah Barlow and Katharine DuBois) were playing variation of themselves. And the tight schedule and budget meant they had no time for second takes or traditional coverage.
The result? A poignant coming of age/road movie akin to Diner, Noah Baumbach’s Kicking & Screaming, and the improvisatory works of John Cassavetes. Senes, DuPreez, Barlow, and DuBois had their official LA premiere of For Now at NYFA and talked about how they made their feature with little money and even less time.
After attending a Q&A with low-budget maestros The Duplass Brothers (The Puffy Chair, The MisEducation of Bindu), Barlow was inspired to create a film loosely centered on her relationship with her dancer Hannah Connor. An incredibly short four months and one Kickstarter campaign later, principal photography on the film was complete!
Though initially hesitant to perform as the somewhat unsympathetic character “KANE SENES,” co-director Kane Senes realized that he needed to throw all aspects of himself into the project. This included some personal moments from his relationship with girlfriend/co-director/co-star Hannah Barlow. The filmmakers soon discovered that the more personal they went with their story, the more relatable it became. However, DuBois (who is flat-out hysterical in the film) did stress that her character’s more “friendly” characteristics were pure fiction.
While a traditional narrative film might have a 10-to-1 raw-footage-to-final-edit shooting ratio, the For Now team’s approach meant they only had a few hours of footage to use. As an editor, Senes spent an extended amount of time in post-production and one lone day of reshoots to shape the improvisatory tale into a more cinematic story. Completing the film then led the team to their next big hurdle: distribution. Barlow and Kane connected with fellow NYFA alum Claudia Pickering, whose micro-budget film Frisky received international distribution and is currently being adapted for television.
Pickering’s sales agent watched For Now and fully committed to finding the movie distribution. And now, For Now has transformed from a improvisatory, crowd-funded project to a feature available to buy or rent on iTunes, Amazon, and countless other video platforms.
The New York Film Academy congratulates the filmmakers for taking their passion project all the way to the finish line!