New York Film Academy AFA Filmmaking student Ozlem Altingoz’s most recent horror film, “Daughter of the Lake,” has received numerous awards at film festivals all around the world, including Best Horror Film and Best Film at Fastidious LA, Best Short Film at the Los Angeles Horror Competiton, and Best Original Story Award at the Los Angeles Film Awards, among others.
Buzz of the film has spread across her hometown of Istanbul, Turkey, where she was highlighted in “Vatan,” a popular Turkish daily newspaper.
“Daughter of the Lake” is about a group of friends who take a trip through the country, hoping to have a nice getaway for the weekend. However, their trip takes a dangerous turn when their tire mysteriously pops on an old stretch of road through the woods. From there, they stumble upon an older man’s home, who just so happens to be holding a deadly secret upstairs.
With some experience in acting and TV in Turkey, Ozlem Altingoz came to NYFA Los Angeles to pursue her professional aspirations of becoming a director and producer.
“NYFA has helped me a lot,” said Altingoz. “The NYFA instructors are really helpful. I’ve always wanted to shoot a horror film, and I was able to achieve my dream here. If you believe in yourself you can make your film great — trust me you can make amazing films.”
Altingoz is now working on her next film, which she says will also be horror film (with a lot of blood).
“I’m so excited to shoot my thesis,” she said. “I believe it is goıg to be another great film, and I’m already searching for locations, actors, and more.”
NYFA’s Ragga Thordarson continues to garner international recognition, this time in her native country of Iceland. Interviewed by Morgunblaðið, one Iceland’s leading papers, Ragga spoke of her success in the film and television industry as a producer, director, and consultant.
The article went on to discuss her role within the New York Film Academy and the importance of the inclusive, diverse environment NYFA fosters.
You can find the original article here. An English version can be found below.
“The World of Film is International”
Ragnhildur Magnúsdóttir Thordarson, or Ragga, as she is called, lives in Los Angeles where she works at the prestigious New York Film Academy. Ragga has produced and participated in a number of creative and film projects both overseas and here at home in Iceland and was among other things, a consultant to the team behind “The Simpsons” on the Simpsons’ Iceland episode.
“This started when I graduated with a Master’s degree in Producing For Film and Television from New York Film Academy in March 2012. I left Iceland in 2010 and graduated two years later,” says Ragga, who has done well in recent years in Los Angeles, California, USA, as a Producer. The projects include short films that have been featured at various film festivals.
In 2012, Filmbreak named Ragga Best Producer for one such project. Her short sketch video was named Carlos & Brandi 2 and was a follow-up to the first Carlos and Brandi, based on short episodes of the Icelandic-American couple created by Ragga. She also wrote and directed the documentary From Oakland to Iceland. Ragnhildur now works as Director of Admissions at New York Film Academy, Los Angeles, which oversees students’ applications worldwide.
Consultant for Icelandic Simpsons
“Before I graduated, I worked as a radio and television host (in Iceland) and as a filmmaker. So I have been producing across platforms for a considerable amount of time,” says Ragga
“After graduating, I started working as a Producer in LA in various projects. Among other things, I worked for Reebok and was a consultant on “The Simpsons” Iceland episode. I produced and wrote content that was featured on “Funny or Die.” In fact, I was working on various types of projects. Then I started working in events for New York Film Academy. “
Industry professionals with impressive resumes
Ragga then began managing Q and A´s and various events at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. “We had guests coming to Warner Brothers for screenings and Q and A’s. There were people from all different jobs in entertainment and film; screenwriters and actors, for example, such as Linda Woolverton, Josh Brolin and Jonah Hill. Then there were filmmakers, even animation experts and others, some household names and others less known to the public, but industry professionals who have great bodies of work and extensive credits, sometimes behind the scenes. These people come to share their creative and industry experiences with students. This was a great job.” Ragga is raised in the United States, but is Icelandic and has spent considerable time living in Iceland as well. She and her husband have lived in Los Angeles in recent years.
The environment is international
Ragga managed events at NYFA until she was eight months pregnant with her first child. “I had my daughter Stella three years ago, and was what in Iceland would be considered a ‘last minute mom’” says Ragga, and laughs.
“After becoming a mom, I went to work on new projects for New York Film Academy and because I knew the school so well, I ended up working in Admissions. My job then evolved into the position I am in now. I love this school, the departments within it work well together, and more than half of the students are international. This is a very global environment, and it’s great to be surrounded by people who are storytellers from all over the world. You hear Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and many more languages daily here. It reflects in my opinion the cinema world which is far more international than I think people generally realize. “Hollywood is such a multinational place and New York Film Academy’s student body reflects that. Then filmmakers (including NYFA’s) meet at various film festivals across the world, with their common love of and passion for film. “
“Where Cultures Collide,” a web series produced and directed by NYFA’s MFA Documentary students in Los Angeles, is set to be published by PBS affiliate KCETLink starting August 1, 2017. The five-part series of 5-7 minute segments explores aspects of different cultures that have merged into the mainstream in Southern California and been transformed to a degree. The series spotlights cultural contributions from Latin America, Thailand, Polynesia, Armenia, and Saudi Arabia.
As part of their Community Film Project class, our MFA Documentary students had a unique opportunity to work with KCETLink in a professional producing relationship. The class, led by instructor Denise Hamilton, met with their “client” KCETLink to determine their interests. After the initial contact, they developed and presented concepts for them in a pitch meeting and were Greenlit to produce stories about unique “cultural clashes”. It was a professional pitch session that they passed with flying colors!
Students Ashley Harris, GuangLi Zhu, Yuan Li, Zhengyi Zhong, Sultan Aljurays, Camilla Borel-Rinkes, Mira Hamour, Carolina Sosa Andres and Kristen Lydsdottir served as directors, producers and crew members, responsible for the entire process from pre-production to post.
“It was a very difficult assignment” Denise acknowledges, “because they had to conduct extensive research and produce while simultaneously planning and prepping their thesis films.”
And, like any Client / Producer relationship, the group received notes for adaptations and changes throughout the process. Ultimately, the students obtained an invaluable lesson about creating work for someone else, and got a kick-start into the professional world of producing for a high-level client. KUDOS!
On Saturday, July 1, teens and tweens participating in the New York Film Academy Summer Camp in Los Angeles took a break from the hard work of filmmaking to see a summer blockbuster classic. “Top Gun” was screening in the field at the Autry Museum.
Usually, the students are hard at work developing their film projects. Most days, they are learning the difference between camera lens sizes, rehearsing a new acting technique, experimenting with the latest 3D technology, revising a script or shooting on a professional backlot. On this night, however, their hard work was rewarded with a special screening.
This screening was unique because it was surrounded by some of the top food trucks in Los Angeles. For many of the students, this was the first time they had seen a movie under the stars. The combination of live music and multicultural food trucks made the night an event.
The head of Summer Camps, Ale Salinas said, “This is a unique and fun experience.
We’re doing this for the students to bond and watch fun movies in a Hollywood way.”
The New York Film Academy is proud of the great strides out Summer Camp students are making and hope their night off was a fun one.
Pierre Marais comes from a family of circus performing trapeze artists from Ringling Brothers’ Barnum and Bailey, who were undoubtedly influential towards his aspirations to perform in his own way.
“I still have very vivid memories of watching them perform and wanting to be up there with them,” said Marais.
It wasn’t long until Marais got his first break in the industry when he met Jean-Claude Van Damme at a training facility in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa.
“We met and struck a conversation; being from Belgium we immediately had a few things in common,” recalled Marais. “By the time I had gotten home, without my knowledge, Jean-Claude had called the producers of the movie, told them to fire the kid they cast as his son, and hire me instead.” Two days later, Marais was screen testing to play his son in “The Wake of Death,” which was about him being captured by the Triads and Van Damme coming for revenge.
After coming to the realization that he would need to move to the U.S. to further pursue his career as an actor and performer, Marais decided to take up the 2-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory at the New York Film Academy.
“Broadway is a billion dollar industry; my New York training had a musical theater focus and most of the connections I made at college were in the theater world,” said Marais. “Taking classes with the right choreographers and casting directors has directly led to more job offers than I can count. Loyalty is certainly not dead. So taking classes and improving is a part of life. My friends who have been on Broadway for decades still take classes for acting, singing and dancing regularly.”
Since graduating, Marais has continued to work steadily as a performer. He recently finished performing in the musical “Rock of Ages.”
This summer he will be in Niagara Falls as a lead singer for a show called “Dancing Queen,” and then after that he will be doing “West Side Story” and “Saturday Night Fever” at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut.
“Doing different shows presents new challenges and those are the things that keep me excited,” said Marais.
Though he continues to book show after show, Marais said he still has a strong desire to return to Broadway. Surely, it’s only a matter of time. His next stop will be portraying the role of Paul in the national tour of “A Chorus Line,” directed by Bayork Lee next year.
On Thursday, June 13, New York Film Academy alumnus Todd Lien appeared on the NYFA Hour for a special Pride month interview. The Popcorn Talk Network was proud to host the filmmaker, who in the past year has worked as a composer, writer, director, and actor.
Lien’s latest project is a music video for Jeff Marx song “You Have More Friends Than You Know.” The song has been performed on Ryan Murphy’s Fox hit “Glee”and was created for the It Gets Better Organization.
When Lien first heard the song he was reminded of a good friend who lost his battle to depression. His friend was openly gay and married, but his family didn’t support him. He took his life. Lien wanted to re-write the story even it was just fictional. “What would have happened if I had reached out?” Lien asked.
So, he announced his intentions to create a music video on Kickstarter. Marx caught wind of the campaign and donated the majority of the money to get the project made.
Lien then took the original score and arranged it for members of the NYFA – LA Glee Club. Each voice was recorded individually and then mixed together. Lien also acted in the video, asking a fellow NYFA graduate to direct the video.
The music video for “You Have More Friends Than You Know” can be viewed here. To watch Todd Lien’s entire interview on Popcorn Talk’s NYFA Hour click here.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Lien for sharing his powerful story and his incredible work.
In an age where information is readily available through everyday technology, former New York Film Academy student Atif Ali Khan’s documentary “ED Vs IT: SOS” explores the role of education in an information driven age — how we have to dissect and deploy the online IT tools to create a giant technological leap forward to educate our next generation. The documentary investigates how, if we don’t make the amends, our lives will be controlled by robots.
Khan’s thought-provoking documentary, which is now available on Amazon Prime, has peaked our curiosity, leading us to an interview with the director to find out more about him and his film.
Congrats on your recent documentary, “ED Vs IT”! Let’s begin by telling us where you’re from, and what brought you to NYFA?
Originally from Pakistan, NYFA was my ticket to Hollywood. It is where you get firsthand exposure with industry professionals, who have not only “been there and done that,” but are also actively involved in various projects too. They also recommend you, if you have outstanding skills.
In fact, for me it became a mode of networking with the top notch professionals in Hollywood. NYFA surpassed my expectations of what I had envisioned. The faculty not only gives you the hands-on skills, but they teach you the creative process of storytelling. A giant leap in confidence. Shooting at Universal Studios backlot was a dream. From the Golden Age of Cinema to the Silversceen VOD age of today, I saw it all from the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars are held, to the actual locations where top-grossing movies are made. We embraced it all during our thesis film project.
They were shooting “Modern Family” and Sofia Vergara was right behind our shooting location on the European set. I recovered all the money I had invested at NYFA within two months of my graduation with a bunch of projects. It is that good. It is like an interneship at Paramount. The NYFA jacket is an easy pass to enter anywhere — be it press coverage or a movie set.
New York is the TV hub of the world and doing it at the LA Campus I got exposed to film fraternity of the highest cadre in the world. Needless to say, I received a host of discounts against my NYFA student ID from B&H to Amazon and from Best Buy to Apple. I got many projects just by “name-dropping” NYFA. It is the most respected name be it Tokyo, China, Italy, Abu Dhabi and from the East to the West Coast. Ten years from now, every film project in the world will have a NYFA alumni in one form or another.
Additionally, I became friends with Craig Fox, in New York, who is a leading stand up comedian and whom I later found is a teacher of Acting for Film at NYFA in New York. He introduced me to a range of actors, who are either studying at NYFA or are graduates. All are very active on Broadway (theater) and the improv scene in New York.
How did this documentary “ED Vs IT” come about? What drew you to this subject?
I saw online platforms emerging at a dynamic pace, from entertainment to mobile and from Amazon to banks.
The production design tips, given by my teacher Jack Daniels at NYFA, really came in handy. I did all of the production from shoot to special FX and editing. Finally, the film was made on a shoe string budget with no production compromises at all. You really don’t need a studio to back your project — if you learn the NYFA guerrilla filmmaking.
What do you hope to achieve with this documentary? What is your overall message?
It is a wake up call. Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence is steering forward at an alarming pace. Automation is taking over human capital way faster than ever anticipated. We need to overhaul the outdated education modules with a sense of urgency. We can’t stay complacent as self-driving cars and automated businesses are quickly replacing human resources. If we don’t take active measures there will be a resource apocalypse, which might lead to a ‘Terminator sort of situation’ where robots will be used as bodyguards and there will be no checks and measures in place for their legal litigation. People will fight amongst themselves, with machines to win their livelihood.
Do you think NYFA’s training was useful in terms of being able to create this documentary?
Absolutely, it is like assisting a movie with Stanley Kubrick. If you follow how they instruct and “walk you through” various technical nuances, you will develop a huge conceptual framework overnight. It is like a firsthand experience because they run you through all the litmus tests of past, present and future of filmmaking. I learned from NYFA how to stage a scene, how to convert my vision into telling my story with words and visuals. Like I said earlier, NYFA is a lifestyle; it is a fraternity where recommendations are made, where your teachers and former students all interact and integrate to create a future for you in media industry. With future of video so bright with Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and MSM (Mainstream Media), I think I did myself the best favor of my life to enroll at NYFA. Every penny that I invested has given my 1000% returns and I am just in the second year of since graduating.
My teacher Brendan Davis at the LA campus taught me that ‘film is a collaborative art’ and it really helped me to liaise with people whom I interviewed for the documentary. I was cultured about the artist protocols in terms of getting work done on time and drawing the best talent out of voice-over talents who narrated my project. Without NYFA I wouldn’t have been able to bring it all together.
I also now provide stock footage to famous Video Blocks that outsource for more than 15 leading TV channels including Discovery, MTV and History.
How did your relationship with Amazon Prime come about?
Documentary is the next big thing. After winning several Oscars, Oliver Stone recently made a documentary about Putin for Showtime. Every evening I see at least one documentary on Amazon or Netflix. While Netflix distribution is rather lengthy, I sent my demo to Amazon Studios and got an instant approval. Amazon Studios is an amazing platform where you can DIY everything from script to approval and release.
Studying at NYFA I got the membership for Without a Box. Not only did I learn how the film industry in VOD age works, but I also learned how to submit my film to festivals across the globe in a tapeless format. My student film (that I wrote, directed & produced at NYFA) went on and got selected in the pro categories across the globe and got top spots in London Intl. Film Festival and various others. Building on that experience and response, I have now submitted this documentary in many Oscar qualifying film festivals. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next level.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Yes, I am working on a psychological horror feature film, based in NY. I am using improv actors and special FX like Neon Demon to create a new wave feature project. The project named “Disowned” is starring Michael S. Benjamin and Heather Cole as the lead.
I am also covering IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Awards on July 16, 2017 at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey. IIFA is the equivalent to Oscar for Bollywood film industry. I also provided press coverage to their conference at Sheraton Times Square on June 1, 2017 — live streaming from Mumbai.
Lastly, as a follow up to the script I wrote for the documentary, I have been offered a writing deal to the book covering the same theme but a step forward in terms of its criticality. “Automation vs. Autocracy.”
New York Film Academy instructor Bill Duke, who has an extensive background in acting and filmmaking, returned to the directing chair in his upcoming legal drama, “Created Equal.” Duke is coming off of directing the documentary “Dark Girls,” which premiered on OWN in June 2013 and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
The script was written byNed Bowman,Michael Ricigliano Jr., andJoyce Renee Lewis. The film was produced byThada CatalonofT-Cat Films. The film will star Aaron Tveit as the lawyer opposite Edy Ganem (“Devious Maids”) as the female lead, along with Lou Diamond Phillips (“Longmire”) and Greg Alan Williams (“Greenleaf”).
In a world where gender equality remains a critical issue, this controversial film doesn’t set out to challenge the Catholic Church doctrine, but asks a very modern question: Should women be allowed into seminaries to study for the priesthood?
“Created Equal” is based on a novel written by Roger A. Brown —who is also serving as executive producer on the film. Duke’s filmsheds light on a delicate issue, women becoming priests — Alejandra Batista (Edy Ganem) is a devoted Catholic who feels the calling to become a priest. Because the Catholic Church law forbids women from entering the seminary, Allie files suit against the Archdiocese of New Orleans for sex discrimination without justifiable cause with the help of a young and successful attorney, Tommy Reilly (Aaron Tveit). As Allie’s case starts to make headlines both she and Tommy face serious backlash from the people in their lives. As the trial unfolds an extremist concocts a plot to stop the heresy against the church by attacking Alejandra and threatening to kill her if she doesn’t back off.
The film will premiere at the American Black Film Festival.
Growing up in Manchester, UK, Mica “Ione” Townsend began developing her singing chops at three-years old in her church choir. From there, she progressed through classical vocal training and performances to sharing her gift with renowned professionals around the world.
At just 14, Ione became a session singer and backing vocalist, displaying an outstanding vocal talent that earned her the opportunity of performing with the likes of Gorrilaz, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) and Heather Small.
In 2007, Ione moved to London to further her career and was soon invited to join a European and American Tour as backing vocalist to singer Adam Green. The success of the tour proved a catalyst for her career and Ione moved to the U.S. to fulfill her dream of studying at the Musical Theatre School at the New York Film Academy.
“I think to train at NYFA, in New York, where musical theatre was born, has been extremely useful,” said Ione. “The focus was always on the acting and the story, and singing and dancing were an extension of that. I was also taught, at NYFA, not to limit myself; it was always inspiring that the teachers were on Broadway, taught, then would do other projects. I don’t have to choose between all the things I love.”
After finishing NYFA and moving back to the UK, Ione toured as a soloist in the ”Hacienda Classics,” an experience which involved re-working dance classics with a 70 piece orchestra. She is now a lead in the West End musical ”Thriller Live,” which celebrates the music of Michael Jackson. The highly successful stage production has become the 15th longest running musical in the West End.
As an artist who certainly doesn’t want to limit herself, Ione has continued to write her own songs, which gave her the impetus to showcase them as a singer in her own right.
“The music industry is great,” says Ione. “Anybody can ‘release’ music, but in the same breath that means so many more people have music out there, so I would say the promotion of music as an artist, the staying on top of it, is most difficult for me.”
In 2013, Ione released her debut EP “Fighting Fear,” which gave a nod to her musical theatre background in the haunting ballad “My Love.”
Her first single “Back in the Day,” released in 2014, is an eclectic mix of soul and pop music with electronic sounds and is a blend of everything she loves in music. The song was heavily supported by BBC INTRODUCING and was aired by Tom Robinson Mixtape on BBC Radio 6. It was also chosen by songwriter Mark Hadfield, who has written for NEYO and Iggy Azalea, to be played on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1.
“Growing up around powerful and knowledgeable women gave me the landscape to share these life experiences in my work,” says Ione.
Ione is also curently recording new material which is set to be released Spring 2017.
On Friday, June 2, the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus was home to a Ramadan Celebration hosted by the Arab Club. Students gathered in the Riverside Building to learn about the cultural tradition, partake in an authentic meal, and play board games.
Hot coffee and dates were placed on top of carpets that covered every inch of available space. Beautifully colored glass lanterns illuminated the faces of students and faculty as the lobby began to fill. One student could be overheard saying, “This feels like home.”
Chair of NYFA CARES, Mason Richards gave a brief speech before the festivities welcoming the students. “It’s event like these the make NYFA great. We strive for this level of inclusivity everyday. It’s important that we continue to strive to educate one another about our individual colors. This is a perfect first step.”
President of the Arab Club, Anmar Bajaba, also gave a brief speech highlighting the joys of the season. “Something magical happens when you’re starving. You remember there are people all over the world who don’t have food. Fasting makes you feel closer to those suffering and encourages you to help those in need.”
Members of the Arab Club will also be passing out snacks and treats to the student body at the end of Ramadan to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr. The New York Film Academy would like to thank all those who participated and made this event so special.