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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Alum Jason Shah Interviewed by ‘The Tribune’

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    Earlier this year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Jason Shah was interviewed in a Q&A with The Tribune, the daily English-language newspaper that has been circulated throughout India since 1881.

    Shah first attended NYFA’s Acting for Film program in September 2009 at our New York City campus, where he received a hands-on education from working, professional actors, writers, directors, and producers who are veterans of Hollywood, independent film, and television. In addition to acting, he has modeled and worked as a fitness coach.

    Jason Shah

    His credits include Indian productions such as Bigg Boss, Chandrashekhar Azaad, Inside Edge Season II, and the film Dev D. His latest role in the historical drama Jhansi Ki Rani, which co-stars Anuja Sathe, Aishwarya Raj Bhakuni, and Rajesh Shringarpure, gained Shah enough buzz for The Tribune to sit down with him for an interview.

    Shah spoke of his background—he is half English and half American—as well as his new role in Jhansi Ki Rani. The series, which premiered this year, is the story of the fierce warrior Manikarnika, who was later given the name of Rani Laxmibai, Queen of Jhansi. Shah credits his fluency in Hindi as a crucial skill for landing the part, as well as sharing a lot in common with his character, a foreigner in India.

    Acting isn’t Shah’s only passion. When asked by The Tribune where he saw himself in five years, Shah replied, “I feel after this I might want to go into direction and produce something myself. I have been working on it with a few friends, just waiting for the right time.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Acting for Film alum Jason Shah on his Tribune interview and his role on Jhansi Ki Rani!

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    April 24, 2019 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 410

  • Marie Senghore: From the New York Film Academy to the Red Carpet

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailMarie Senghore followed her dream of moving from Sweden to Los Angeles to invest in an acting career. To begin her journey, she enrolled at the New York Film Academy, which she applied for through Blueberry — and the rest is a real success story. Check out Marie’s story in her own words, below!

    (Please note: this interview has been translated from Swedish to English and reprinted with permission from Blueberry. To see the original, click here.)

    Blueberry: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what you’re up to right now?

    MS: I’m an actor, and I earned my associate degree in Acting for Film from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles in May 2017.

    Now, one year after graduation, I’m still living here in LA and working part-time at Disney, while recording movies.

    Blueberry: How did you become interested in acting? What was your first role?

    MS: I have always wanted to work as an actor. I think my first job was at like six years old, when I participated in a section of [Swedish TV show] Bolibompa. It went well so they called me back several more times. Then, I started taking theater lessons and chose theater as a focus in high school.

    However, I did not start working with movies again until autumn 2013, after I had moved back home after spending a year in Spain. I started recording commercials and short films and finally became a part of a feature film.

    Blueberry: What are some films we can see you in?

    MS: In Sweden I played Aliki in Aliki (2016, Tine Alavi) and Tessan in Alena (2015, Daniel di Grado). Later, in the United States, I have participated in a lot of movies, as Spaelade Main Girl in Shea Buttah (2018, Deja Gordon); Julia in 6:00pm (2017, Savvas Christou); and Leonora Kale in 1989 (2018, Furaha Bayibsa).

    Blueberry: How did you choose to study at the New York Film Academy?

    MS: I had searched around at a number of California schools that had film programs. I had previously encountered NYFA through one of Blueberry’s student fairs, so I already knew a little about them. In the fall of 2015 I went to school to have my audition and I felt safe with my choice to start there.

    Blueberry: How would you describe NYFA?

    MS: It is very intensive. You have three terms in one calendar year, so there is no summer vacation. You have a free week between the semesters and then you start again. It sounds very hard, but I think it’s good. You never lose focus and I personally felt that motivated me more.

    Blueberry: Is there a big difference between the industry in Los Angeles and Sweden?

    MS: Yes. This is the capital of all movies, so the industry here is much bigger. There are always lots of projects to work on. Sometimes it also feels like everyone in this city also works in the industry. There are not many I encounter that do not. But that’s what makes it fun. You can always find any project to jump on. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Sweden, but hopefully it will be the case in the future.

    Blueberry: How did a regular school day look like you at NYFA?

    MS: As I mentioned, the school is intensive. Some days you start 9 in the morning, other days not until 7 in the evening. Even though you do not have a lesson, you are also expected to have projects with your classmates. Then there are also many drop-in lessons and guest lectures that you can take. For example, for me it was stage combat. It was one of those lessons I had planned to take once a week, but as I developed, I worked on it almost every day. I really recommend taking as many courses as you can.

    Blueberry: Where did you stay during your program, and how did you do to find accommodation?

    MS: NYFA has a department that helps students find accommodation. I got help from them and found an apartment with two other girls from school. I lived there during my school time. I lived with two girls from China. It was wonderful to live with people from a completely different culture but who have the same passion. I still have contact with them both.

    Blueberry: What do you do in your spare time?

    MS: Watch a movie! I’m a film student so that’s a lot of it. I usually swim, practice, read, or have BBQs with friends. I also like art, so sometimes I go to explore new installations. I work at Disney, so it’s fun to go to Disneyland sometimes too.

    Blueberry: What do you have to see and do when visiting LA?

    MS: Going to the beach, I suppose? Even though I have not gone there so often myself, it is nice to live near the sea. But LA has a little bit of everything. There are beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, and metropolitan areas. It’s just about finding what you like.

    Blueberry: What is your best memory so far from your stay?

    MS: I cannot find one memory, I’ve had too many! I was celebrating Midsummer with my Swedish friends. I celebrated July 4th at Huntington Beach. I spent the summer with my friends by the pool. I got to work on so many amazing projects. I graduated. I got a job at Disney. One of the films I had the lead in will be featured at an American film festival. So many wonderful things have happened that I don’t really remember everything.

    Blueberry: What has been the biggest surprise during your stay in LA?

    MS: I thought I would move here and just focus on acting. It did not even take a year and then I got an interest in being behind the camera. I had to test myself on cinematography and script writing, and it has led me to write my first short film. It’s great that NYFA gave me the chance to explore more parts of the film creation experience.

    Blueberry: Was there anything that was not as you had imagined?

    MS: I did not have so many expectations. I thought that in an Acting for Film program, it’s wouldn’t be much more than movies, but I also got a great deal of theater training so that’s just a big plus.

    Blueberry: Do you have any tips for others who are interested in studying abroad?

    MS: Go! I know that it may feel like there is so much in the way and there are so many criteria that you have to tick off, but it’s worth it. During my time here I have met so many international students. Even though many of them have gone home and followed another career, none of them have regretted their time. I know for myself that, although I would do the same, I would not have changed anything.

    Blueberry: What are your plans for the future? Where do we see you next?

    MS: My goals for the future are to keep up with what I do. I want to continue recording movies. This summer I will record a short film that I have written. It will be interesting to bring a character to life that comes directly from my own imagination. Then for the rest of the year, we’ll see. Maybe I go home to Sweden again or move to South Korea or stay here in the United States. As I said, there is so much I want to do and I do not want to get stuck in a specific country. If my passion gives me the chance to work in another country, I will definitely follow it! Next, you will see me in Deja Gordon’s movie Shea Buttah and then in my own movie Remember.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • 2018 Acting for Film Alumni Industry Showcase a Success at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn Wednesday, April 25, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles proudly presented their annual Alumni Industry Showcase at NYFA Theater. This showcase represented the very best from the AFA, BFA, and MFA Acting for Film program students who graduated from January 2017 – January 2018, and is attended by industry professionals.

    Photo by New York Film Academy.

    The evening was filled with short live scenes and an original short film, written by the alumni company and directed by NYFA Associate Chair of Acting for Film Christopher Cass.

    “Our goal is to showcase our students to be competitive with all the top schools in the country,” explained the director of the showcase and Associate Chair of Acting Anne Moore. “What sets NYFA apart is our focused Acting for Film training and international diversity.”

    “This is my favorite showcase of the year,” said casting director Billy DeMota.

    Overall the showcase was very successful, with top industry managers, agents, and casting directors in attendance from companies and agencies that included Evergreen Management, A.M.W. Talent Agency, Castboy Casting, Bella Agency, and Torque Entertainment.

    The alumni in attendance were equally enthusiastic and happy with the event.

    Spring 17 AFA grad Emily Morrison shared, “I’m very grateful to have been selected to partake in this year’s alumni showcase. It was a wonderful opportunity and allowed me to network with some great other alumni. Excited to see where everyone’s journey takes them.”

    Fall 17 MFA alum Vincson Green II agreed. “My experience at NYFA has been remarkable from the standpoint of being able to learn and understand movies and the techniques utilized in cinematic storytelling in order to create a compelling film,” he said. “Because of NYFA, I now watch films from a more educated perspective and can engage with them on a deeper intellectual level. Also, the acting program has opened up so many doors and gateways to new techniques and ways of approaching the craft that I had no prior knowledge of before attending the school.”
    Spring 17 MFA grad Zandi Zim said, “I loved learning about my craft alongside the professionals who could give us so many perspectives on their experience, past and present. It felt like we were all growing together and they were always pushing me to step up my game.”
    Fall 17 BFA Graduate Buffy Milner summed it all up: “I had a great experience doing the showcase and I’m so grateful to Anne for the opportunity. I had a lot of fun working on a great scene and putting on a show with a group of really talented actors.”
    New York Film Academy would like to thank all who participated and wishes our alumni the very best.

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  • Face 2 Face by New York Film Academy’s Matt Toronto Now on Netflix

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Instructor Matt Toronto has just signed a two-year deal with Netflix to stream his film Face 2 Face.

    Together with his brother Aaron, Toronto wrote Face 2 Face about growing up in the age of social media. The film screened at the Manhattan Film Festival and had its premiere at the Edmonton International Film Festival, where it won the jury award for innovation.

    The movie follows two teenagers, Teel and Madison, who rekindle a childhood friendship online. Soon, they begin sharing their lives over the internet as a means of coping with the typical problems of adolescent life even though they are at opposite ends of the popularity spectrum. Madison in an A-list party girl, and she takes pity on Teel, the social outcast, vowing to help him win friends on social media.

    As their relationship deepens, Madison falls for Teel. She forces him to confess the hidden cause of the bullying he faces. His admission sets off a sequence of events that ultimately motivates Madison to expose her own secret. This digital coming-of-age story examines some of the most pressing and difficult social issues facing teenagers today.

    The story was inspired by a vacation Toronto took with his family years ago. While directing a play at the University of Utah, Toronto would FaceTime his wife and kids every night before bed.

    “At one point, the thought struck me,” Toronto said, “If we were talking about something interesting, this could be a movie.” That was when he decided to write a movie that takes place completely over video chat.

    As a professor working with young people, Toronto saw the effects social media had on his students. “I was working with young people all of the time. I could see how they interact with technology,” he said. “Teenagers seemed like natural choices for the heroes of the film.”

    As he dove further into the script, he decided to reach out to his brother, a counselor who has treated many people struggling with the same issues that Madison and Teel face in the script. “Aaron was able to bring a real authenticity to the characters and their development,” Toronto said. “But one of the most important inspirations came from a close cousin of ours who suffered in much the same way that Madison does in the film. We made this film in her honor.”

    Face2Face | New York Film Academy

    Some of the issues that the film focuses on include bullying, sexual identity, suicide, and sexual abuse. Raising awareness was a vital part of the filmmaker’s goals, but Toronto described a realistic and honest portrayal of friendship as the true heart of the film: “The film is about the power that friendship has to help us change, to help us become better people, and to help others as well. I hope the movie will inspire people to be friends. We can all be better friends to anyone who needs one. That’s the kind of thing that changes lives.”

    Toronto credited his time with the New York Film Academy to opening his worldview. The diversity of the school’s student body, in particular, had a profound effect on him. “I learn every time I teach,” he said. “That diversity has brought new insights and perspectives that I might never have found. Each student expands my point of view on the world and on the craft.”

    As an Acting for Film instructor stepping behind the camera, Toronto was able to bring a lot of the lessons from his classroom to the set. “My experience as an actor and an acting teacher are both essential to my work as a director. Actors are the humans that give life to the characters in a script. My background allows me to participate in that process with skill and compassion. I see my actors as designers.”

    To any actors looking to make their debut behind the camera, Toronto offered this advice: “Learn the craft of directing.”

    Matt Toronto | New York Film Academy

    NYFA Acting for Film Instructor Matt Toronto

    As intense as it is to learn the craft of acting, it’s equally important to focus on the details of directing. Toronto warned that it takes years to master directing, but there’s no better time to start than now. “The best actor/directors are the ones that respect both crafts, and put in the effort to grow as artists and storytellers throughout the entire process and on every project.”

    Toronto is working on several new projects. He’s keeping it a family affair, working with his wife to develop three television pilots and a feature, and working on two features with his brother, Aaron Toronto. Though it’s thrilling to see his film as he scrolls through Netflix, Toronto says that hasn’t been the most rewarding part.

    “About a week after it was released,” Toronto began, “I got a message from a viewer through the film’s website. In it, she shared that she was a teenager struggling with depression. She had been planning to commit suicide, but after watching Face 2 Face, she decided she wanted to live. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Knowing that our film had helped someone in such a profound way is worth more to me than all of the artistic accomplishments in my entire life. That’s what art is all about.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Toronto on all of his hard work. Face 2 Face is now available on Netflix in the U.S.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • New York Film Academy Alum DonnaLee Roberts in Production for Stroomop in South Africa

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    DonnaLee Roberts via IMDB

    New York Film Academy Acting for Film grad DonnaLee Roberts is a model for on-screen performers seeking to build their own career, their way.

    The prolific, award-winning South African performer-turned-writer/producer is now shooting feature-length adventure film Stroomop, in which she not only stars but also serves as co-writer and co-producer.

    Stroomop is the directorial debut of Roberts’ frequent collaborator and fellow South African A-lister Ivan Botha, who shared the screen with Roberts in South African blockbusters Vir Altyd and Pad na jou Hart, which the team also co-wrote and co-produced.

    Screen Africa reports that Stroomop is slated for a nationwide release on South Africa’s Women’s Day, Aug. 9, 2018, through the distributor Ster-Kinekor Entertainment.

    Roberts, who holds South Africa’s prestigious Huisgenoot Tempo Award for both Best Actress and Best Feature Film, told Screen Africa that she did some serious water training in preparation for Stroomop, which follows five women on a whitewater rafting misadventure on the Orange River.

    “My character finds herself in a situation where she must take the lead in rough waters,” Roberts said, “So it was crucial for me to be fully prepared for the challenges of filming on the river.”

    At a moment when the eyes of the world are on Hollywood’s gender imbalance, it’s especially exciting to see Roberts leading the way both on screen and behind-the-scenes as a content creator. Roberts summed up her strong work ethic and inspiring outlook well in a previous interview with the NYFA Blog:

    “In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”

    Bravo, DonnaLee!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • New York Film Academy Grad Ayane Stars in Walking With My Grandma

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    Photo courtesy of Ayane

    If you haven’t heard Ayane’s name yet, you soon will: the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film graduate will soon be a household name in the third largest movie market in the world: Japan.

    This year, Ayane stars as Natsumi in Walking with My Grandma, a film poised for international success as it releases in over 10 countries. The touching film follows Natsumi as she prepares for her upcoming wedding by helping to rehabilitate her injured grandma, Kiyo (Mitsuko Kusabue), in the hope that they can walk down the aisle together during the ceremony.

    After its international release in April 2018, Walking with My Grandma will also be available for travelers to view in-flight on their way to many international destinations.
    Helming the project is renowned Japanese director Tetsuo Shinohara, whose 39 directing credits include Heaven’s Bookstore and Inochi. Shinohara is nominated this year for Japan’s Director of the Year award.
    Walking with My Grandma is the latest credit in an already impressive resume for the NYFA alum, who has appeared in eight films as well as eight plays and TV shows. Ayane graduated from NYFA New York City’s Acting for Film Conservatory in 2013. In addition to her starring turn in Walking with my Grandma, Ayane will star alongside Reiko Takashima in upcoming Japanese feature film Omiokuri, which opens in March 2018. 

    ? 敵は常に己の中にあり。 #対話

    A post shared by 文音 Ayane official Instagram (@ayanestagram_official) on

    With box office earnings topped only by China and the U.S., Japan’s film industry generated an astounding box office take of $2 billion in 2017, and it’s exciting to see Ayane poised as a major player for 2018. Congratulations, Ayane!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • Rocking Den of Thieves with Acting Conservatory Alum Ron J. Rock

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailIf you have the winter doldrums this March, we’ve found the solution: watch action-packed Den of Thieves, the latest adventure from director Christian Gudegast, with a star-studded cast including heavy hitters like Gerard Butler, 50 Cent — and NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory grad Ron J. Rock.

    Rock has been busy since graduating NYFA in 2010. He is the founder of his own production company, Rocktober Productions, and along with making his feature film debut in a major action flick with A-list stars, Rock is also executive-producing upcoming Broadway musical Lucifer.

    We had a chance to hear some of the story behind Rock’s meteoric rise. Check out his interview with the NYFA Blog, below:

    Ron J. Rock via IMDB

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy? Why did you choose the Acting for Film Conservatory program?

    RJR: I’ve been a theatre actor since the third grade in New Jersey, and after high school I wanted to study acting in New York. It’s an amazing city and the people I’ve met in my NYFA program have helped me sharpen my acting skills and create my own content.

    I chose the program because it wasn’t just on-camera training: It was all the skills I need to know as an actor, taught in one program.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspires you most?

    RJR: I love acting because you can start to understand circumstances and perspectives through different characters. It’s important to live life and be able to relate to others. Relationships become more real.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    RJR: My favorite moments were definitely getting together with fellow students to film any idea we had. It’s a collective program of artists who are working toward the same goal, so it was a lot easier to find people to work with.

    NYFA: Can you tell us how your role in Den of Thieves came about?

    RJR: I was filming a short film in Atlanta, and I came across a producer who knew who I was, and he asked me to stay and read for the character “Junior.” I was hired on the spot.

    NYFA: Shooting Den of Thieves with 50 Cent and Gerard Butler must have had some interesting moments. What surprised you most about the shoot? Any stories you’d like to share?

    RJR: What was surprising was how organized the entire production was. The energy on set was fun and kept everyone going. It was an entire community of hundreds of people making this movie amazing.  

    NYFA: For our students, what is your advice for transitioning from film school to working on a professional film set?

    RJR: Every little detail you learn in class matters when you’re on set and in front of the camera. Taking classes is very important. There is a reason why these [successful] actors are who they are. They train on their craft endlessly.

    NYFA: You’re producing a new musical, Lucifer. What drew you to this project? What is it like working behind the scenes as a theatre producer?

    RJR: I came across this project after I produced a short film of my own. It was intriguing because it is the story of the Bible through the devil’s eyes. It simplifies what the Bible is about for anyone to watch.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in terms of the work you are doing now?

    RJR: YES! The 2-year program helped me stay focused on my career, and it has paid off.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    RJR: I’d like to create a TV series about issues millennials face — love, careers, and unspoken battles we all face in this generation.

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?

    RJR: I would also like to say thank you for having me at NYFA and sticking by my side during the successes.

    Thank you Ron J. Rock for sharing your story with the NYFA Blog! Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    February 27, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1403

  • From the Olympics to “Vikings” with New York Film Academy Acting Alum Ragga Ragnars

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars has quite the resume: the two-time-Olympic-swimmer-turned-actress recently snagged a role on the hit show “Vikings.” NYFA had the chance to sit down and catch up with her via email in between her busy schedule filming in Ireland and Iceland, to discuss her transition from athlete to actress.
    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    RR: I have been a swimmer all my life and for about 15 years I was a professional swimmer. I swam at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and after sitting out the 2012 Olympics to have my son, I decided that it was time to pursue my other passion, acting.

    I have always loved California and, as a teenager, I swam in Mission Viejo, where I also attended high school for a while. I also swam in Ventura for a while in my 20s and always loved coming to California. It had always been like a second home to me. So when I was looking at acting schools, NYFA kept popping up.

    I had looked into NYFA a few times before and decided I would start with an 8-Week Acting for Film program to see if I liked it. I had my son and my family with me and needed to make sure it was the right choice before committing to a longer course. I, of course, loved the 8-week program and enrolled in a one-year program right away.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us?

    RR: I made so many great friends while attending NYFA and got to know so many amazing teachers and instructors. There are so many moments that stand out for me and it’s hard to choose just one to mention. I do remember some great Q&A sessions with people from the industry that really taught me a lot. I also loved working on the backlot and getting to experience that aspect of the courses.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to shift gears in life to pursue your acting career?

    RR: Acting has always been a passion I have had. While I was swimming, acting was always in the back of my head. I don’t think it’s something I decided. I just always knew I would be an actress. Since I can remember, I knew that it was something I had to do.

    NYFA: You came back for the 1-Year Acting for Film program after finishing a short-term program with us — what made you decide to go to our conservatory?

    RR: I had such an amazing time in the 8-week program that I knew I wanted to keep going. I wanted to see how it would work out having a family and a young son with me so far away from the rest of my family. It was easier than I expected and my son loved the California sunshine, so it was a no-brainer. I also knew I had more to learn from the great teachers and instructors at NYFA.

    NYFA: Many of our students can relate to your experience of coming to learn the arts in a foreign country. What was it like for you as an international student, coming to study at NYFA Los Angeles? Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

    RR: Because California has always been like a second home to me, I almost felt like I was not an international student and more of a local. I knew LA pretty well and while at NYFA I got to know the city better.

    The only thing that I can remember being a difficult aspect of being an international student was to make sure that all of the paperwork was correct and that I had everything in order. With great help from NYFA it wasn’t too hard, but with getting a Visa, applying for an OPT and all of that, it was definitely a challenge. It was all worth it and I am so happy I decided to give it a try.

    NYFA: You’ve competed in the Olympics as a swimmer, and now you are working as an actor on “Vikings.” As a career-changer, what would you say was the most challenging and the most surprising part of going from one intense career to another?

    RR: The most surprising thing is how similar my life is, from when I was a competitive swimmer. Working on a big production is hard work, I want to stay in good shape and get ready for a day of work similar to when I was competing. I work out, warm up before big scenes, meditate and take care of what I eat in the same way I did when I was preparing for the World Championships or competing at the Olympics. There is so much time spent in preparing for scenes, learning dialogue and text, working on a character and getting ready. I am happy that I have years of experience as a swimmer in being focused, determined and knowing that nothing comes for free.

    It takes hard work for a long time to achieve goals and you have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience working on “Vikings” — are there any surprises or challenges you’ve encountered in working internationally in Ireland and Iceland?

    RR: Ireland and Iceland are quite similar places. I feel like Irish people have a lot in common with the Icelandic — very welcoming and have a bit of a small town vibe to them, just like in Iceland. It has been difficult to be away from my son who attends school in Iceland, but I travel back and forth quite a bit and he comes to Ireland every time we can manage that. I have loved the process so far and I am looking forward to continuing working internationally and broadening my horizon even more in this field.

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for our current students in transitioning from our conservatory training to the real world?

    RR: My advice is to set goals with everything you do and want to do in life and enjoy the process, the good and the bad.

    Rejection from one place is not the end of the road.

    Also, there is not one way to achieve success in this business. I signed with an agent before I even finished NYFA, I had a few agents who wanted to sign me and I thought that was the only way to get ahead. Then when I realized that the partnership was not working, I decided to do it on my own and that proved to be the right way for me at the time.

    But I learned from every failed audition and self tape, from every production I worked on while on my OPT, and I always kept up a positive attitude towards my goals.

    NYFA: Would you say your time studying at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing today?

    RR: Absolutely. I learned so much while attending NYFA. So many things were new to me as an actor before I attended NYFA. I feel like I got a very extensive overview of techniques and tools to choose from while working. Not everything that I learned works for me and some things I learned I have kept on learning after NYFA. I keep in touch with some of my teachers in NYFA and I feel like all of them took a real interest in teaching us and even as a former student, being able to send a quick line to a former teacher and still getting help with something is amazing.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ragga for taking the time to share a part of her journey with our community.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • “The Truth” About New York Film Academy Acting Alum Fahad Olayan

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailSince he was just a teenager, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumnus Fahad Olayan has had a solid plan for his life. Through hard work and determination, he has already achieved a lot of his dreams.

    He began his acting career in his native country of Saudi Arabia with the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash” in 2013, before going on to book several more television shows. He found success in America when he was offered a role on National Geographic Channel’s “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” where he played King Hussain in the episode “Proof of God” in 2017. Olayan’s latest project, “The Truth,” has been raking up awards. And now, he’s taken the time to catch up with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to discuss the role festivals play in the success of a film and what it was like to find most of his crew here at NYFA.

    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with acting?

    Olayan: I started when I was 13 years old. I attended school for theater. I was the supporting character in many different roles. In 2007 I began applying for jobs at production companies as an actor. I remember one of the directors was impressed by my audition. From that audition, I managed to book more than 10 TV series. In 2011, I considered moving my career to LA to pursue my dream. I studied English for two years and then went to NYFA to study acting and filmmaking. Once I graduated I immediately planned on making a movie.

    NYFA:  What was your first performance?

    Olayan: In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a production for a big channel in Dubai. It’s called MBC. It is the biggest channel in the Middle East.

    NYFA:  How did you end up at NYFA?

    Olayan: I wanted to learn how to perfect my acting skills and learn more about editing, writing, and filmmaking. It was great because it also gave me the opportunity to learn from professional people, who have been in the industry for a long time.

    NYFA: What was your favorite part of the education experience? Did you have a favorite class? Which one?

    Olayan: I got to collaborate with many new artists who are excited about making it in the industry. Each one had a fresh perspective on the craft. I also enjoyed the classes that were offered. My favorites were stunt training and sitcom. I also had the privilege of learning from Michael Zelniker. He is a mentor to me. He is an exceptionally talented individual and advisor at NYFA.

    NYFA: Why is an intensive program vital to your development as an actor?

    Olayan: It is vital because so much goes into acting. You take classes that help you learn about voice, movement, script analysis, observation, and how everything connects to each other. As an actor you need to learn about the different elements that go into the craft of acting. It broadens your horizons and makes you appreciate the art.

    Fahad Olayan With Alejandro Gonzalez

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your project, “The Truth”?

    Olayan: “The Truth” is an important project for me. It really touches home. I thought long and hard about this project for a few months because it has a very important message for the world: It focuses on racial profiling.

    Once I was ready to work on the project I met Nicolas Jung, a unique and exceptionally talented person who helped with co-writing, was the assistant director, and was one of the main actors as well. I strongly believe that this film wouldn’t be what it is without him. His outstanding writing skills and authentic acting skills took this project to a whole new level. The other actor, Dave Belvederi, and the cinematographer, Joseph Hamilton, also contributed to the success of this project. It is important to be smart and to choose a good team to work with so that there is a good collaborative environment on set.

    Once the project was completed, I submitted it to many different film festivals around the world. However, the most important festival that took notice of my film was in Saudi Arabia, where it won the award for best film out of hundreds of other projects.

    The best part was that it was awarded and announced by the King of Saudi Arabia’s son, which was a huge privilege, and it went on national news.

    NYFA: How did you prepare for this role?

    Olayan: I poured myself into the character that I played. I made the circumstance real to me. There was a lot of stunt training involved and intense rehearsal to achieve my goal.

    NYFA: Any chance for a sequel?

    Olayan: Yes, there will be a second part, I will refrain from giving too much detail to leave everyone in suspense.

    NYFA: What did you learn from making this film?

    Olayan: I learned that making a movie is not just about the name or title, it is an art. A lot of passion, imagination, and commitment goes into it. The most important thing that I learned was how to communicate with the audience. Once you get that, there is a feeling of having reached a huge accomplishment.

    NYFA: What’s up next for you?

    Olayan: Nicolas and I have written and acted together in two short films. Our first film was “Losing Life,” which won over 10 awards across the globe. In addition to all that, we have currently written two feature films and will produce one in 2018. We are currently in the preproduction process with one of the scripts and the other is in rewrites. When I am not working on these projects I am finding other ways to get ahead in my career.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Fahad Olayan for speaking with us about his work. Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • New York Film Academy Acting Alumni Dr. Ariel Orama López Stars in Award-Winning “Cielos Negros”

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    Photo courtesy of Dr. Ariel Orama López.

    NYFA Acting for Film Dr. Ariel Orama López (AG Orloz) is already both an actor and a psychologist, but he added cover model to his impressive list of job titles recently when he was featured on the cover of Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Día newspaper, along with his fellow cast and crew of “Cielos Negros.” The surreal short film, which was produced and created in López’s native Puerto Rico, has screened and won festival prizes worldwide — from winning Best Foreign Short Film in Marbella, Spain to screening at the GeoFilm Festival in Padova, Italy.

    López is an associate producer of the film and also plays the lead character, Larry, a man whose life is transformed after the inexplicable disappearance and mysterious reappearance of his new love, Angel, at la Laguna del Condado. Directed by Alexis Aguirre, “Cielos Negros” was selected out of 6,000 submissions from 90 nations for the GeoFilm Festival in Italy and has received distinctions and laurels in several international festivals — including the Martinique International Film Festival, Puerto Rico Horror Film Fest and Puerto Rico Queer Film Fest. “Cielos Negros” was also a finalist at DirecTV Cinema Plus, winning third prize.

    “Cielos Negros” film poster via IMDB.

    The success of “Cielos Negros” has taken on special significance in the wake of hurricane Maria, coming as a clear reminder of the resilience and inspiration alive in the work of Puerto Rico’s artists. In the midst of this busy season of rebuilding in Puerto Rico, Ariel took the time to correspond with the NYFA Blog about his journey with “Cielos Negros” and beyond.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to NYFA?

    AOL: In terms of my background, I was blessed with the privilege of combining two fascinating professional roles. I am a Puerto Rican professional actor and media (clinical) psychologist. In terms of my artistic role, I have had the opportunity to work and collaborate in commercials, theatre, short films, indie films, documentaries, series, television programs, media writing, and voice-overs, combining to more than 200 projects in the arts.

    In 2010 I became a member of the Colegio de Actores de Puerto Rico as a collegiate professional actor. I am also a certified Executive Coach (specialized in Crëative Life Coaching) from TISOC, Barcelona, Spain and a licensed clinical psychologist with the Academia (Assistant Professor – University of Puerto Rico in Humacao).

    One of my unforgettable moments of inspiration that motivated me to continue developing as an actor was my selection as a finalist of “Taller Telemundo: Actores,” in Miami, directed by the well-known actress nominated for an Oscar in the movie “Babel (2006): the distinguished Mexican actress and professor Adriana Barraza.

    After all this wonderful creative experience that include laurels from Spain, California, Puerto Rico and Orlando, I decided to move to Los Angeles in the Summer of 2011 for an intensive course, performing in 14 short films in California during my NYFA Los Angeles training in Acting for the Film.

    A still from “Cielos Negros” via IMDB.

    After NYFA, I had the privilege to work as the creative coach and consultant for the television program “Idol Kids Puerto Rico” (from the recognized English franchise Idol ©), and offered courses at the Colegio de Actores de Puerto Rico and other relevant forums about Psychology of Character. I currently work at UPRH as an Assistant Professor of Psychology.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    AOL: I have wonderful memories of every NYFA and Universal Studios corner in LA, magical contexts where we performed for most of our projects. I can remember all the experiences and knowledge acquired in the courses with the excellent professor Denis McCourt, who inspired me to continue developing both as an actor and in other roles — for example, as as a singer — in order to enrich my level of performance.

    I studied in the adult program at Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico: during this time, I won a prize as a composer in Miami and participated as a baritone in several choruses and concerts. Definitely, NYFA inspired me to reach new dreams and to believe in myself.

    NYFA: What initially drew you to “Cielos Negros”? What is the film about?

    AOL: “Cielos Negros” is an experimental LGBT short film based on a Puerto Rican story story by writer David Caleb. Larry, the main character, is “a insecure man who found the reason of his freedom after the disappearance of Angel (his new love) in an unexplained event at la Laguna del Condado in Puerto Rico.”

    The director is Alexis Aguirre, who invited me to participate initially as the lead actor and then as an associate producer. When I read the script, I connected immediately with the surrealism of the story and also with the sublime ending that distinguishes this creative masterpiece in contrast with other diversity films that still have predominant and subjective elements of heteronormativity: Here the love without gender wins, without tragedy. I must say that I am really surprised with all the laurels received and we are very excited to our new Official Selection on GeoFilm Italy, that include more than 6,000 participants from 90 countries around the World.

    A still from “Cielos Negros” via IMDB.

    NYFA: Have you been able to be present at any of the festivals where “Cielos Negros” has played?

    AOL: During the last year I was working hard on the publication of a book and had to observe all the success of “Cielos Negros” from the distance: considering that Italy is one of my world contexts of inspiration as an “Uomo Universale” apprentice, I am willing to be part of this wonderful presentation of our short film at GeoFilm in Italy. Definitely, we have reasons to celebrate and I hope to be part of it!

    NYFA: For our students, do you have any advice about transitioning from life as a student to working in the business as a professional?

    AOL: The best lesson I have learnt is that an actor who develops the capacity to transform literally for the director’s eyes and vision without any doubts, the one that has no fear to explore the diversity that coexists in all our dimensions — intellectual, spiritual and physical — is the actor that will succeed.

    And when I define success, I refer to the great responsibility of creating a vivid performance, and an artistic project, that can be appreciated in different countries — and in your own country — as something different, creative, universal and valuable, with its own individual life that is superior to each component (the actors, the producers, the director), and with a quality and fingerprint that transcends frontiers. When we have the privilege of touching other cultures virtually with our art and performance, and it is received with enthusiasm, we have received the best prize: the one that is superior to any economical benefit.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Can you share any upcoming projects, or what you’re working on now?

    AOL: I am one of the leading actors of the Puerto Rican film “Etreum” (Vicente Juarbe, Idalia Perez Garay), that is in postproduction. We are waiting for this creative newborn with great expectations for 2018.

    Also, I will be working on new creative projects that recently are touching my soul that combine music, writing, and acting. It will be an eternal adventure!

    One of my dreams is to be part of NYFA faculty and offer courses in Psychology of Character and Creative Coaching for Latin American Actors. Also, to develop new courses in Spanish related to acting.

    I love my heritage and I want to pay it forward to my beloved NYFA, hopefully soon. Thanks for believing on us, NYFA Alumni!

    ¡Un abrazote desde Puerto Rico!

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Dr. Ariel Orama López for sharing part of his story with our community.

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