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

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    Marie 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.

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

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    On 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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  • New York Film Academy’s Peter Allen Stone Leads Introductory Acting Workshop for Veterans

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    There are many actors that have served in the military prior to discovering their talents on a film set or theatres’ stage. Gene Hackman, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and even Mr. T are just a small sampling of those who wore the uniform before hitting it big in Hollywood.

    Veterans aspiring to the screen were invited from across the tri-state area for a very special introductory workshop to Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy last weekend.

    Under the energetic tutelage of NYFA Acting for Film Chair Peter Allen Stone, attendees found the acting exercises to be engaging and enjoyable as they worked through dialogue designed to help students better understand acting in front of the camera.

    Dozens of service members, many of whom are producers, writers, and directors in their own respect, were excited to offer their first lines in front of a rolling camera.

    “Acting is fun!” radiated Peter Allen Stone at the conclusion of the class. “Thank you all for your work today — it’s really great when there is a lot of energy and people are passionate about learning these techniques.”

    After the class, New York Film Academy’s Division of Veteran Services’ staff was on hand to offer assistance about Department of Veteran Affairs-related benefits.

    A participant checks his mark and waits for “Action!” as Chair of NYFA Acting for Film Program Peter Stone sets the scene.

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) has been privileged to enroll more than 1,500 veteran students and military dependents at our campuses in New York City, NY, Los Angeles, CA, and South Beach, FL., since 2009. The Los Angeles and South Beach campuses also participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows eligible veterans and dependents in many cases the opportunity to go to school tuition and fee free. The honorable Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient and on-air military strategist for NBC/MSNBC, is the Chair of the NYFA Veterans Advancement Program.

    Join us on Facebook or go to www.NYFA.edu/veterans for more information.

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  • 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!

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

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    If 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!

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    February 27, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1634

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

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    Since 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. 

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  • “Mindhunter” Screening with Guest Speaker Happy Anderson at New York Film Academy

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    David Fincher’s critically-acclaimed Netflix series “Mindhunter” has been described by Slant Magazine as “addictive and resonant,” and features the work of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructors.

    In the wake of David Berkowitz (aka “Son of Sam”), Charles Manson and others, a new team within the FBI was formed to psychologically analyze the minds of killers. “Mindhunters” focuses on the early days of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) as its members struggle to understand the minds of serial killers, a term which had not yet been coined. The series stars New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Master Class lecturer Jonathan Groff, while veteran actor and NYFA instructor Happy Anderson is featured in two episodes of Season 1 in the chilling role of imprisoned killer Jerry Brudos.

    Jonathan Groff and Happy Anderson in a still from “Mindhunters,” via IMDB.

    This week, Anderson will return to NYFA’s New York City campus as a special guest in the New York Film Academy’s Guest Speaker Series, to share insights with students and discuss his career — which has included roles on acclaimed shows such “The Knick,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “The Deuce.” He will also be featured in “Bright” alongside Will Smith, which will be released December 22nd, 2017. Episode 7 of “Mindhunter,” in which Anderson guest stars, will be screened for students prior to a Q&A. NYFA Chair of Acting in New York City Peter Stone will be moderating the Q&A.

    “Mindhunter” has recently been renewed by Netflix for a second season which was announced in a tweet by the show’s official account:

    Watch the trailer for season one below:

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  • 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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  • NYFA Alumnus Dr. Mukesh Hariawala’s Journey from Heart Surgeon to Bollywood Actor

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    While many adults around the world return to school to change careers, you don’t often hear about heart surgeons who decide to leave medicine to pursue acting — and then go on to find success in one of the world’s largest film industries. Yet that is exactly what happened in the curious case of New York Film Academy acting for film alumnus, Dr. Mukesh Hariawala, whose recent slew of Bollywood roles and unique backstory has caused a bit of a stir in Sify News, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and Yahoo News.

    If you’re a fellow career-changer or are simply looking for acting inspiration stories, Dr. Hariawala recently took the time to catch up with us via an email interview to share about his incredible journey from Harvard-educated surgeon to busy Bollywood actor in Mumbai, India.

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

    MH : In 2014, I became eligible for taking a sabbatical from my 25-year cardiac surgical work in India, the U.K. and the U.S. I wanted to do something unrelated to medicine. Since I had a modelling background from undergrad college days and recollect enjoying it, I chose to try my hand at becoming an actor in mainstream cinema. I interviewed at NYFA in the summer of 2014 and, much to my surprise and delight, got accepted. I took up boarding and lodging at a negotiated rate at nearby Hotel Marriott and moved to New York. I continued to return home to Boston over the weekends.

    NYFA: What inspired you to change careers, from a renowned heart surgeon to Bollywood actor?

    MH: Although I have become a reasonably busy actor in Bollywood, I have not completely disconnected myself from the clinical world of cardiac surgery. I continue to maintain my hospital affiliation and privileges in Mumbai. The single most inspiring thought was the challenge of not to be afraid of failure, and to prove to myself that I was capable of succeeding in another profession too, apart from medicine.

    NYFA: What was the greatest challenge for you in shifting careers?

    MH: It was the mental acclimatization to accept the new social status of being a student again at age 50+. I was fortunate to be warmly accommodated by my much younger classmate peers and teachers, who never reminded me of my age. They very much encouraged me about the potential I displayed in class.

    My wife and kids have been most supportive throughout the process. They used to visit NYFA campus during my student days to keep me motivated.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

    MH: The acting for film class shoot with classmate co-stars of my outdoor scenes in Union Square. It gave me a nostalgic feeling of being a star, particularly since we were filming surrounded by tourist onlookers from all over the world … wow.

    NYFA: Coming from your medical background, what surprised you the most about your acting training at New York Film Academy?

    MH: Unlike surgery, acting was relatively stress-free and enjoyable. I realized during the course that although we can pretend at times in real life, the camera doesn’t let you lie. The camera will almost always pick up a pretense and unmask you. If the actor is not in the portrayed character, it would spell disaster for the actor and damage the scene. Also, following filming, it takes time coming out of a character back to normal life, and this has been a major surprise working in this new profession.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little about the Bollywood film “102 Not Out,” and how you became attached to the project?

    MH: The film “102 Not Out” has superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor as the lead characters. I met the director, Umesh Shukla, while filming for another movie, “Exit,” in Ladakh. He liked my sincerity to the art of acting and promised me a role in a future project. I did get a call from him, one year later. Honestly, I was plain lucky and feel fortunate to share screen space with legends. Since learning acting is an ongoing process, I am getting the benefit of interactions with the best in the profession.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all helpful in preparing you for what you are accomplishing now?

    MH: An overwhelming 100 percent. Without my NYFA training I could not have mustered the necessary skills to comprehend the complete process of filmmaking. My performances, which again reflect NYFA training, are appreciated by directors and they tend to repeat cast me in their future projects.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to fellow career-changing NYFA students who, like you, wish to pursue an entertainment career after being out in the workforce for awhile in other industries?

    MH: Age should never be a barrier to crossover from an established career to an completely insecure new industry. Additionally, all previous other industry work experiences become an asset in one’s toolkit to play a fortitude of characters, particularly while filming an emotionally charged recall scene. However, training in a good program is paramount in pursuing an long-term acting career. If not, it would surmount to driving a car without wheels.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about other projects you have coming up?

    MH: I have few more films currently undergoing post-production and due for release in late 2017 and early 2018. These include “Exit,” “Genius,” “Chicken Curry Law,” and “Aksar 2.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Dr. Mukesh Hariawala for taking the time to share a bit of his story with our community.

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  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumnus Hayden Szeto Visits Los Angeles Campus as Guest Speaker

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    On Tuesday, August 15 New York Film Academy alumnus Hayden Szeto returned to the Los Angeles campus to share his latest hit “The Edge of Seventeen.” Q and A Series Director Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Szeto was the first actor cast in the film in what writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig thought would be the most challenging role to cast. But, after auditioning him, she knew Szeto was perfect for the part.

    It could not have come at a better time for Szeto. A Canadian citizen out of school, Szeto was running out of time to find work in the United States. He had just one week left on his visa. This, Szeto said, was a blessing and not a curse: He encouraged the other international students to view the time crunch as a gift. “You don’t want to go home. The weather in LA is great, but you’ve got to earn your stay,” Szeto said. Let the ticking clock be a fire that drives toward success.

    Szeto found NYFA on Google and knew immediately that this is where he wanted to go to school. He had studied theater at another school, but a lack of on-camera work drove him to come to NYFA. Being in Los Angeles with the opportunity to work on professional backlots just sweetened the deal. “This is one school that has everything you need,” Szeto said.

    Szeto encouraged students to take advantage of their time at the New York Film Academy. He stressed that skating by in school would not translate to a flourishing career in the real world. “You’ve got to find out what you’re good at here. Once you leave it’s your responsibility to build on that,” he told students. “Treat this space like a gym.”

    When it was time for the Q & A portion, one student asked, “What catches your eye when reading a script?”

    Szeto responded: “I have to be able to relate to the character. How can I give him dignity?” He said a lot of the decision comes down to talking with the director and writer. “You’re not just auditioning for them, they’re kind of auditioning for you too.”  As an example, Szeto comically described working with a director who gave vague descriptions on how to improve a scene in what would have been a big movie for him, but Szeto ultimately turned down the role.

    An Asian student asked, “Do you have plans to take on roles that deal with Asian American issues?”

    “Being an actor of color, people in your community will say you owe them something because of your skin color. No. If it’s about the Asian American experience and it’s well written than yes, I’ll do it. But  first, it has to be good.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Hayden Szeto for taking the time to revisit his old stomping grounds, and for passing along advice to the next generation of students. Szeto’s next film is “Truth or Dare,” alongside Tyler Posey and Lucy Hale.

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