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  • NYFA Alum Priya Darshini Nominated at 2021 Grammy Awards For Best New Age Album

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    Music’s biggest night of the year will include NYFA Acting and Filmmaking alum Priya Darshini, who is nominated for Best New Age Album at the 63rd Annual Grammys for her debut album Periphery.

    Darshini studied 4-Week Acting for Film and 8-Week Filmmaking at NYFA’s New York campus. After her studies, she appeared in The Letters and went to Bollywood. She then decided to pursue her first love of music and began focusing on her recording career.

    Album cover for Priya Darshini’s “Periphery”

    “I craved to create original music,” she told the Indian Express. American musician Roy Wilfred Wooten even chose her for his famed Black Mozart Ensemble, which combined jazz with classical music, hip hop, and bluegrass. She also became the Artistic Director of Brooklyn Raga Massive and co-led Women’s Raga Massive. Darshini has been featured by Elle India and was recently named by Tatler Magazine Malaysia as one of “Six Asian Women Around The World Changing the Face of Music.”

    Her debut album Periphery is an East-West crossover that blends Darshini’s Indian classical training with influences of American folk and pop. The album was recorded in an abandoned church in Brooklyn, New York over 12 days. Darshini also worked with collaborators Nicholas Prout (Recording Engineer), Max ZT, Dave Eggar, Chuck Palmer, and Will Calhoun. 

    New York Film Academy is proud to see Priya Darshini be recognized for her outstanding achievement by The Recording Academy and wishes her the bust of luck. The 63rd Annual Grammys will be televised on Sunday, March 14 on CBS (8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT). 

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  • NYFA Acting Alum Dan Gregory Discusses Success and Upcoming Projects

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    New Jersey native Dan Gregory has kept busy since attending an Acting for Film workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) back in 2010. He has won numerous awards for his acting and directing. NYFA caught up with Dan to discuss his career and future endeavors.

    He has collected a number of impressive credits and collaborations in a relatively short amount of time. “I’ve co-starred in Cabin Of Errors, a romantic comedy feature streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It was shot in New Hampshire. I worked with a talented group of artists from the acclaimed film company, Narrow Bridge Films. I’ve worked with Emmy Winner Obba Babatunde on a short film Speculo. I recently worked on a feature called The Elevator starring Oscar Nominated actor Eric Roberts and Directed by the gifted Jack Andrew Cook. I co-produced and starred in Karmen. It’s a short thriller that has won various awards at Film Festivals both domestically and internationally. I worked alongside brilliant women on that project including Loarina Gonzalez, Alexandra Faye Sadeghian, and my girlfriend (Award-Winning Latina Director) Jayleen S Perez.”

    “Cabin of Errors” starring NYFA acting alum Dan Gregory

    Dan hasn’t shied away from eclectic and challenging roles. “My favorite project to work on was Yellow Scare. I got to play dual comedic roles as father and son. A drunken pilot Shamus, and a simple-minded leader of a motorcycle gang named Tony. That performance won me a prestigious Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film Award at the 2018 Golden Door International Film Festival. The film should be hitting Amazon Prime soon. It’s currently available on Blu-ray.”

    His love for acting dates back to his childhood where he would often act out characters in real-life situations. “I loved playing characters since I’m a kid. In preschool, I jumped between being Donatello (a Ninja Turtle) and Egon (a Ghostbuster) in class. As you can imagine this was concerning to many people, but it’s starting to pay off!”

    NYFA Alum Dan Gregory and director Jayleen S Perez.

    Dan’s dedication to the craft eventually led him to the New York Film Academy. “NYFA was recommended to me by PJ Leonard, a film producer from Jersey City. I loved my time there. I took a 12-week acting course in 2010. My acting teacher, director, and comedian, Jessica Rotondi was a strong influence on me. I learned the importance of technique as well as being coachable and friendly while working on a project. I’ve taken those networking skills very far.”

    As for upcoming projects, Dan has two great projects in the works, Buzzkill Palm Beach and Cult of Blood. “I’m excited about these new films. Two very different parts but I pride myself as a versatile character actor, so I’m up for the challenge. In Buzzkill Palm Beach I play the second lead Jeff, a cool kind of dude alongside leading man & Director, Joe Vrola. It’s a sequel to The award-winning horror film Buzzkill New Jersey. We should start filming in November. It will be partially filmed on the Jersey Shore and mostly shot in West Palm Beach, Florida.  As for Cult of Blood, I’ll be playing a wild character named T-Rav, for the brilliant Director Robbie Lopez. That horror film shoots in Kansas City, Missouri in the Spring of 2021. It can be best described as Green Room meets From Dusk Till Dawn. It should be a wild ride.”

    I can say that I recently shot a gruesome horror short called Air B&D that will make its way to the film festival circuit soon. It’s a Jayleen S Perez film starring upcoming talent Molly Ester Wilson. The amazing Joey Mosca is a producer as well. I’ve worked with him on about 20 independent films so far. He can do it all on a film set. Also, I’m starring in a new Lance H Reja project called Not Alone with a gifted young Actress, Kristin Hutchins. Most notably, I will play a small role as Officer Barone in a psychological thriller called Mixxer. It’s currently in development starring Thomas O’Brian, Paul Mormando, and the amazing Tara Reid. I’m very excited about that. She is one of my favorite actresses.”

    In closing, Dan offered this advice to NYFA students and aspiring actors. “My best advice to NYFA students is to fully immerse yourself and have fun. I did well there because I wanted to be in class. I took several trains from Bayonne, NJ to Manhattan three times a week to be there. I tried to be the first person there and the last one to leave. I made a lot of friends in school. I had the time of my life. Our class became so friendly that we would often go out to party after. So, do the best work you can do at NYFA and make a lot of connections!”

    To keep up with all his latest projects visit Dan’s website. New York Film Academy wishes Dan Gregory continued success and can’t wait to see his upcoming projects.

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    November 3, 2020 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1416

  • NYFA Acting Alum Sèdo Tossou Featured in “Dream Life” and Kaminski’s “Upgrade Reality”

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    New York Film Academy alum Sèdo Tossou has kept busy since graduating from the 1-Year Acting for Film program in Los Angeles. He recently completed a nine-episode stint on FYI’s Dream Life where entrepreneur Serena DC moves to Los Angeles to host her new celebrity talk show, Hollywood Disclosure, as well as launch the world’s first online dating school.

    Sèdo spoke about his character who works at the online dating school, The Love Academy. “The academy is a personal development school where guests like Deepak Chopra and Caitlyn Jenner come and talk about their love life and their different experiences as a way to inspire people. I play the web designer of the academy who was supposed to have technicians working for me but I end up having to do everything by myself which creates tension and conflicts. The goal is to make sure that the grand opening of The Love Academy is a success.”

    NYFA Acting for Film alum Sèdo Tossou appeared in 9 episodes of FYI’s “Dream Life.”

    “I had a great time working on the show,” recalled the NYFA alum. “The craziest thing is that shooting for the first season started only one week after graduating from NYFA. That was insane! I didn’t fully realize what was happening. I think I still don’t realize, actually,” he laughed.   

    The NYFA acting for film alum was born in Benin and raised in France had an artistic and active upbringing that ultimately led him to pursue a career in acting. “I’ve done a lot of artistic activities since was a kid. I have a classical music degree in piano, I’ve done martial arts (Viet vo Dao), guitar, singing, dancing (hip hop/dancehall) and a lot of sports too: soccer, tennis, track and field, tennis table, and badminton. I was always admiring American actors who can do everything.”

    His love for acting eventually led him to the New York Film Academy. “I visited the (Los Angeles) campus in the summer of 2018 and loved it right away. Such a beautiful campus! Knowing that I could go to Warner Bros Studios, the Universal Backlot, and especially, collaborate with other filmmakers and photographers is the main reason why I chose NYFA.”

    Another one of the reasons Sèdo chose NYFA was the practical experience and camera hours the program affords its students. “I was doing acting back in France and I knew that what you need as an actor is content to show. So having the possibility of getting footage that we shoot in school and also with other students in filmmaking was the best way for me to start a professional career as an actor. Finding an agent, submitting to casting directors, promoting yourself is all necessary if you want to work as an actor but if you don’t have any footage of your acting everything can get more complicated and difficult.” 

    He had this advice to offer current and future students, “Do not waste time! NYFA has so many resources and once you graduate you don’t want to have any regrets like,  ‘oh, I could have done this or I could have done that.’ Personally, I regret not having done my voice over reel. The studio was there and the teachers to help were there too but I procrastinated and (my studies) went by so fast. I still don’t have my voice over reel today.”

    For having only relatively recently entered the industry, Sèdo has already had the chance to work with a Hollywood legend. “I worked on Upgrade Reality, a film directed by two-time Academy Award-winner Janusz Kaminski who has been Steven Spielberg’s director of photography since 1993’s Schindler’s List. The film for which he won his first Oscar for best cinematography.” He’s also experienced working both French and American run sets. “I worked on multiple American projects when I was in France actually, like Jack Ryan on which I had a role in the first season. But the episode was shot in Paris and I noticed that the organization on US film sets was more streamlined than the French ones. It’s really about the pre-production, everything is so specific, all the shots are well planned, the crew knows exactly what they’re supposed to do, everyone is on time and I was impressed with that level of organization.” 

    Sèdo Tossou with Janusz Kaminski on the set of “Upgrade Reality”

    “I’m currently in Bénin, my home country,” said Sèdo of his current projects. “I just started my first company named ‘Sèdo N’Nogni’ which means ‘My name is Sèdo’ in Fongbe, the most spoken dialect in the country. My goal is for it to become the greatest art school and production company in Africa. At the moment, I’m focusing on organizing MasterClasses in acting, filmmaking, and business.”

    “This year, with the Black Lives Matter movement, I realized that it is not enough to post some hashtags and pictures about it (Black Lives Matter) on social media. We need to act. We need to uplift black voices and my goal is to make it happen in my country, Bénin. Every time I see a post of NYFA on social media, I see so many African people commenting  ‘This is my dream school. I’d love to study there one day.’ I know that it is not easy for an African person to move from their country and go to America to study arts. I want to help develop infrastructures in African countries so they can study there and realize their dreams of making movies.”

    In closing, Sèdo gave special thanks to the NYFA faculty. “Thank you NYFA for this wonderful year. A huge thanks to Miraj Grbic and Isabella Hoffman who were the best acting teachers I ever had. I hope one day I’ll be successful enough to become one of NYFA Guest Speakers.” 

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Sèdo Tossou for his time and look forward to seeing what’s next for the young actor. We encourage everyone to check out Dream Life on FYI tv or on streaming service Amazon Prime Video.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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    October 26, 2020 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2439

  • Alum Ludovic Coutaud Brings Lunatic Clowns to the Drama Book Shop

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    New York City is a thrilling and challenging place to be an artist. For NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory alum Ludovic Coutaud, creating site-specific shows crafted to play off iconic performances spaces within the city has helped him forge a specific and entirely original path as a performer, producer, and creative director.

    Coming up this summer, Lunatic Clown And Cie, the international theatre company Coutaud founded and serves as artistic director, brings The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) to the iconic Drama Book Shop library. Here, he tells the NYFA Blog what it’s like to perform original clown shows in New York City, and why it’s important for artists to produce their own work.

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

    LC: I studied Acting for Film at NYFA in 2011, and had a blast learning from this very talented faculty. I had visited the campus two months prior as a New York tourist with my parents and loved the idea of studying acting in another language among other foreigners. That is something that makes New York Film Academy such a strong, diverse school. We were 12 students in my class and only three Americans were present. I remember liking to call my class the United Nations of NYFA.

    NYFA: Why acting and directing? What draws you to storytelling through performance?

    LC: I started directing in Marseille, France where I am from, with my first acting teacher directing the end-of-year kids’ shows. It was a true leap of understanding the craft even better, and I found myself being able to communicate my directions more specifically having known what it was like to receive notes. It also taught me the importance of collaboration.

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

    LC: I loved every class for several reasons. The one I discovered entirely and had the most fun with was maybe Maggie Reed’s TV Sitcom and Soap Opera class during the second semester. These formats are very uncommon where I am from (especially the laugh tracks in the background). I learned lots of new tricks and techniques that I still use to this day.

    NYFA: Tell us a bit about your company Lunatic Clown And Cie. What inspired you to start the company, and how do you juggle your multinational and genre-bending productions?

    LC: I have written, directed and produced a dozen of shows in New York City under my name and I have developed a new style through these selections of projects. I’m now six years into the process — but I’ve been called a “clown” all my life!

    For those who know, clowning is a word that resonates out of the ordinary for certain cultures. For example, here in America clowns are often associated with birthday parties and dark serial killer stories. Well, my company, style, and the values behind every show aren’t remotely close to that. I call my clowns “tall children,” or poetic souls. Many names could be found. The style is complex.

    When I first discuss it with the actors involved in my company, I share information with them — like a chart of what to do and not do, and how to find the goal to achieve. Each clown piece is one simple, heartfelt story. I want to always find all the possible nuances and converse about the topic with all my clowns one on one.

    After 7 years juggling between the arts and other wonderful jobs, I have luckily been able to maintain my main target to why I came to New York in the first place. That’s also why it was time for me to brand all of my style under a name that would be catchy, mysterious yet personable: Lunatic Clown And Cie.

    NYFA: As a producer and performer, what challenges do you face when creating your shows, and how do you overcome those challenges?

    LC: Producing a show is hard work, yes, but if you do believe thoroughly in the project, things seem to flow a bit more. Throughout the years, struggles have shifted. My hat of producer joins creative, executive (financing), and supervising roles. Where other projects would hire three people, I found myself loving to do these three positions. My style being different, I needed to have very strong collaborators by my side who would understand me 100 percent. From show to show, I have found that person to assist me along the way on one or two projects, co-direct or even invest in the shows — and most importantly, friends who believed in my work.

    To this day, gathering a group of passionate risk takers, willing to join a community of artists and be clowns, has been a challenge. From all these hats, I would say I added the one of “eager artist hunter” to amplify the panel of the performers who I had the chance to work with.

    NYFA: Your summer show The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) uses clowning to explore the theme of denial. What an interesting combo — what led you to this theme? Why this show, now?

    LC: The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) takes on the very important theme of denial indeed because it has been a subject of mine for a long time. My first short play Denial was a success, also at the Drama Book Shop, in 2016. It was a piece with words and lots of audience members came to find me afterwards and said, ”Did you write this? Thank you. I would love to see more about that theme from you in the future.”

    I remember thinking how interesting that was, so I did find the inspiration to write two new pieces: Look at Me, and now this one. This time, I decided to explore that major topic through physicality only. Again, you realize that clowning and performance art here is the same family for me.

    Timing is very interesting and the society we live in fascinates and aggravates me at the same time. I had a list of eight shows of mine waiting around and I picked this one because I got the Drama Book Shop. This the third time that I have contacted the Drama Book Shop team. Four pieces of mine have swept the stage of the Arthur Seelen Theatre already and this time I had decided to rock the library.

    That location is ideal for several reasons; it is an actor’s temple, it gathers stories waiting to be told, it is a pleasure to work with the staff and is a centered location for many involved. The show is not Rated R but for everyone. This piece is for all. I look forward to discussing this piece with the audience members.

    NYFA: What’s next for you and The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards)?

    LC: The Lunatic Clown And Cie show Voyage will be next at the New York New Works Theatre Festival 2018 at Theatre Row in September.

    NYFA: Would you say that your time at NYFA was at all useful for preparing for the work you are doing now?

    LC: NYFA was indeed very helpful since I had the chance to work on several student films and learned from other departments and teachers. My curiosity and the proximity of campuses made me eager to keep learning and that hasn’t changed.

    Congratulations, Ludovic! If you’re in New York City, get your tickets for The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) here.

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