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.
While those who identify as LGBTQ+ can often share a common bond remembering the moment they officially “came out,” the way in which he or she comes out is hardly ever a similar experience. After discovering this through a conversation with a friend, New York Film Academy MFA Photography alumnus Alejandro Ibarra decided that he would dedicate his class project to individuals’ “Coming Out Stories.” His series, in which Ibarra photographs his subjects and asks them to write about their “coming out” experience, has recently caught the attention of BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.
We recently had a moment to chat with the graduate about his inspirational “Coming Out Stories,” his time at NYFA, and what’s to come in his photography career.
Can you tell us where you’re from and what made you decide to attend NYFA’s MFA Photography Program?
I’m from San Diego, CA — although I’ve lived kind of all around the States — and was raised primarily in Mexico. I had been a commercial photographer for about five years, and my knowledge of the medium was strictly technical, so I decided to pursue an MFA because I wanted to broaden my understanding of photography, and to go beyond the technical so that it would enhance my work.
When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
I honestly don’t remember ever making that decision or anything; in a way, it sort of just happened. I began taking pictures, portraits specifically, after my brother passed away. This was before smartphones were the norm and everyone had countless pictures and selfies, and we realized we didn’t have a single decent picture of his to use for the funeral. We ended up cropping him out of a family photo that was taken with a tiny point-and-shoot and then blowing it up. It didn’t look great, and it didn’t do him justice, so I decided to begin shooting everyone in my life after that; not in case anyone died or anything, more-so because I think I realized back then the importance and the power of capturing at least part of someone’s essence in an image.
What inspired you to create “Coming Out Stories” as one of your NYFA projects?
The inspiration for the series came after a friend of mine told me about how he came out to his family. My own experience was very different from his, but I somehow really related to it. I realized that there’s an entire community who has experienced this key moment in various ways, and that it would be potentially appealing to other people who didn’t identify as LGBTQ+, because the themes are universal. At the same time, for a final in one of my classes in my first semester, we had to come up with a book project that we were actually going to have printed. The series then made sense to do as a book because of the narrative element of the handwritten text over the images.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of finding your subjects? Was there any pushback or did you find that most people were proud to participate?
At first, I photographed a couple of friends as a way of testing the concept. Once I finalized the aesthetic, I put them out on social media and invited people who wanted to participate. It was all word-of-mouth and social media up until BuzzFeed and other media outlets began publishing articles on the series. Now it’s mainly people messaging me through instagram. There have definitely been several people whom I approached who didn’t feel comfortable doing it, especially now that there’s a larger audience for it on social media.
A few people I had shot over a year ago actually didn’t give permission to appear in any articles because the amount of attention it would receive. The people who did give permission, however, have been as happy and grateful as I am, and it’s been so wonderful seeing their friends and family now saying how proud they are of them.
Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms on working on this project?
Oh, definitely. Having critiques when the series was in its early stages was super helpful in terms of figuring out how to get the right look, and how to make the text pop without it being hard to read, and all sorts of details and ideas that might’ve never occurred to me. Furthermore, I was able to pitch the project to BuzzFeed while attending the Palm Springs Photo Festival last month with the school, so the exposure she series has had never would have happened had I not been invited by the school.
Is all of your work this personal?
All of my work is personal, whether in film or still photography, so all of my projects deal with themes of equality and identity, specifically from the Latin-American and LGBTQ+ perspective. “Piece by Piece,” which was my thesis project, was about challenging the terms “non-traditional” and “traditional” families, and addressing the irrelevancy of sexual orientation as it pertains to what constitutes a family. It originated after a series of pro-traditional families (a.k.a. anti-gay rights) nation- wide marches that took place in Mexico last year. It’s currently showing at Bergamot Station in a group exhibition.
Do you have any other projects coming up that you’d like to share with us?
Other than focusing on my celebrity editorial work, my goal right now is to turn “Coming Out Stories” into a book. Furthermore, I want to keep telling stories of real people in real life situations, similar to this project.
The New York Film Academy invites you to submit your photographic artwork for consideration in our 2017 Photoville Exhibition. Now in its sixth year, Brooklyn’s waterfront photography exhibition provides photographers of all stripes to come together and interact with a diverse audience — a veritable cross-section of the world’s photographic community. This year’s Photoville will once again take place at the Brooklyn Bridge Park from September 13-24, 2017.
All NYFA students and alumni, from campuses worldwide, are invited to apply. There is no fee to submit work. Current faculty members are not eligible. If accepted, the New York Film Academy will handle the final printing and presentation of the accepted artwork, at no cost to the artist.
Please submit up to 5 jpegs, no larger than 2,500px on the long edge at 72 dpi of your best photographic images. Please also include a brief statement, in 500 words or less, explaining what the artwork is about. Final high resolution tiff image size should not be smaller than 16” x 20” at 240 dpi.
Submissions are open now. CLICK HERE for Submission information and forms.
The DEADLINE for submitting images is Midnight EST Monday, July 10th, 2017.
Notification of acceptance: Monday, July 17th, 2017.
The Los Angeles campus held an exciting showcase of the New York Film Academy’s top BFA and MFA graduating photography student’s work entitled Tracing Nuance. Held at the historic Bergamot Station in Santa Monica from May 27th to June 7th the exhibition highlighted the range of talent emerging from NYFA’s student body.
MFA graduate Alejandro Ibarra’s, “Piece by Piece,” challenges the terms “traditional” and “non-traditional” families and addresses the irrelevancy of sexual orientation as it pertains to what constitutes a family. His work explores the themes of equality, sexuality, family and identity.
This is Ibarra’s first gallery showcase. He said of the experience, “Exhibiting in a gallery is a new experience for me, and it’s mind-blowing to see how different the work feels as a proper object hanging on a wall; it becomes more real somehow and elevates the piece. Seeing people react to your work as they make their way through the gallery is slightly nerve-racking because you keep wondering what they’re thinking and if the message of the work is being conveyed.”
Though his nerves may have been on edge the experience has been eye-opening, “It’s also incredibly inspiring to be in a group exhibition because you can find relationships between your work and another artist’s work, while also noticing the uniqueness in the artist’s voices.”
MengMeng Lu, BFA Photography, is also showcasing for the first time. Her series of photographs explores visual dichotomy. She said of her work, “My project explores the connection between external appearance and internal sense of self… searching for a common ground among a diverse group of people. Each photograph proves that it is impossible to replicate perfectly. We are each our unique selves.”
MFA Silvia Catalina Quintero Torres was also moved by seeing her art hang at the Bergamot. “Having this piece shown in a gallery means more than I can put into words,” she said. “It shows me, and others, that work that makes a statement against the status quo is not only relevant but also interesting. It shows that the boundaries of the art world are still yet to be determined and that we all have a space in that world.”
Torres selection entitled, “Tras los Muros,” is a collaborative piece that explores the concepts of shared authorship, social commentary and a critique towards the prison institution; by allowing people who have been in prison to photograph their realities after being released.
There are many more outstanding artists being featured. The exhibit closes today (June 7) so don’t delay in getting to Santa Monica to see all of our talented graduates.