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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Sabrina Percario

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    Sabrina Percario has been very busy since graduating from New York Film Academy’s MFA program in Acting for Film. She has worked in multiple positions in film productions and has produced and acted in numerous multi-award-winning films, with several more on the horizon.

    Sabrina Percario

    Sabrina Percario

    Her journey to becoming a prolific and decorated actress and producer had an unconventional start. Born in Brazil, Percario originally worked for nearly a decade in medicine before gradually becoming immersed more and more in the world of drama. Her deep passion for the art and craft of filmmaking matches both her talent and her incredible work ethic.

    The New York Film Academy recently spoke with Sabrina Percario about the many hats she wears in the film industry, as well as what keeps her motivated and moving forward:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Sabrina Percario (SP): I was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and I have dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship. In college, I majored in biomedicine and for almost 10 years I worked in the field of Chinese traditional medicine. 

    I used to lead a lot of workshops in this field in front of large audiences of around 200 people — yet I was very shy. I decided I needed to do something to improve my effectiveness as a speaker. So in 2009 I went to an acting school called the Celia Helena Acting School. I immediately fell in love with acting. Acting is very fulfilling to me because I was always fascinated with human behavior. When you study a character, you put yourself in the place of that person. When you step into another person’s shoes, you suddenly understand why someone would act in a particular way. You stop judging people and, in the process, you learn more about yourself.

    I.C.E. CREAM at LAIFFA wins Best Producer - Sabrina Percario

    I.C.E. CREAM at LAIFFA wins Best Producer

    From 2011 until 2014 I worked as a drama teacher for children ranging in age from six to sixteen. Working with kids was one of my most satisfying life experiences. I learned to be more flexible and open to changes, more willing to let others lead the narrative, and more honest with myself about my feelings. During that period in my life I worked two jobs: I was an acupuncturist as well as a drama teacher.

    In November of 2013, I decided to enroll in NYFA so I could study my craft and improve my knowledge about acting for film.

    From 2014 to 2016 I worked on NYFA’s MFA program in Acting for Film. My thesis film Julia won several awards, including Best Leading Actress at the United International Film Festival (UIFF). Julia is a tribute to my mother, who died four years ago. I used the film to talk about grief and express my gratitude to my mom. She taught me to pursue my dreams — and that’s exactly what I am doing.

    NYFA: Your IMDB page is filled with all sorts of roles — actress, producer, writer, composer, to name just a few — do you feel it is important to learn as many trades in the film industry as possible?

    SP: Yes, it is very important. Everyone should learn as much as they can about the business, especially in the beginning of your career, so you have a holistic view of how a film is made. 

    It was important for me to wear many different hats on set. Having done these jobs, I have so much respect for all the departments. I know how physical and challenging the grips and electrical (G&E) department can be, and how essential they are in contributing to the director of photography’s view. 

    As an actress, I’m much more consistent and self-aware about continuity. That happened only after I was a script supervisor and had to take note of how full the wine glass was or its exact position on the table for every take. I learned similar things as a production designer and when I worked in the wardrobe department. All of this knowledge is tremendously helpful to my performance when I’m in front of the camera.

    For a year I explored all the different jobs on film sets and I realized I had to choose which department I liked the most and wanted to work with. I decided to be an actress and producer.

    As a producer I’m able to produce my own projects and cast myself in them. This gives me a certain amount of control over my career as an actress. I can also create my own voice with stories I think will inspire people. Being a producer has enabled me to meet a lot of people in different departments in the industry. The breadth of my extended network has helped me enormously as a producer when I’m casting my crew.

    As an actress, I want to be in a feature film. To that end I’m writing a feature film (In Search Of) inspired by my life. I want to say to all my international friends that it doesn’t matter where you are located as long as you keep doing what you love. I’m writing in collaboration with other screenwriters, both here in Los Angeles and internationally.

    Sabrina Percario in "Tell"

    Sabrina Percario in “Tell”

    I recommend trying out different departments if you still don’t know what you want to be. Become familiar with the universe behind the camera and then choose a route. Once you decide where you fit in, people will begin to associate your name with that specific department.

    NYFA: Is there something you haven’t done on a film yet that you’d like to try?

    SP: I would love to direct a film one day, but right now I want to have more experience producing one.

    NYFA: You’ve won a litany of awards for your work already. Your projects Tell, I.C.E. CREAM and Breaking are the latest to gain recognition. Can you talk a little about these projects and your roles in them?

    SP: My recent projects that I produced are still in the film festival circuit. My latest films are Breaking and I.C.E. CREAM. Breaking is a fable — it’s the inspiring story of a porcelain doll who overcomes her fears and breaks out of her snow globe. Our purpose was to bring awareness about those who have suffered from sexual harassment. So far, we have won three festivals, two finalists, seven semi-finalists, and seven official selections.

    I.C.E. CREAM is another project I had the honor of producing. This film portrays the life of an immigrant family in this new Trump era. Our purpose was to bring awareness about the collateral lives affected by the immigration policies in place. So far, we have won nine awards. 

    My overall purpose in my films is to touch people’s hearts, inspire them, and spread a good, positive message through the characters I play and the films I produce.

    Tell is a film in which I played the lead actress. Its logline reads: Expecting a visit from his ex, a once-famous alcoholic writer decides to play a game of shoot the apple, until the truth of tragedy unveils the outcome of his intentions. For that film I won three awards as best leading actress.

    "Breaking" produced by Sabrina Percario. Actress/ writer/Executive Producer: Alessandra Hajaj - Sabrina Percario

    “Breaking” produced by Sabrina Percario. Actress/ writer/Executive Producer: Alessandra Hajaj

    NYFA: Which of your many projects was the easiest for you to work on and why? Which was the most difficult?

    SP: Breaking was an easy project to produce because it was shot entirely in one location and the crew and cast had an amazing professionalism and respect for each other. Everything went smoothly. Julia was very challenging for me because I was doing the film as a tribute to my Mom, who died four years ago. When I made the film I was still grieving, and it was very hard for me at that time to accept the loss. I was playing myself in the film, so I channeled all my pain and feelings through the character. It was therapeutic to write, produce, and act in that film, and it helped me to accept loss. It gave me the opportunity to express my love in a poetic way.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on?

    SP: I’m currently working on Mojave Shadows, in which I play the lead. Its logline reads: A woman named Susan hikes in the middle of the Mojave Desert while coming to terms with guilt about the death of her son. One night she is attacked by a rattlesnake, and in the harrowing process, finds herself. 

    I’m also producing another project called El Fred. Its logline reads: A not-so-imaginary childhood friend returns as an unusual vigilante to protect a struggling single mother and her bullied son. And in December I’ll produce my first documentary, about self-healing and self-knowledge.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that has applied directly to your career?

    SP: I’m very grateful to NYFA. Thanks to a very hands-on program, I was able to learn how a film works from script to final editing. I also learned that producing a film is a group effort, and each department is essential in creating a coherent film. There are no small roles. I learned that it’s very important to respect your co-workers.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    SP: Be professional. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a class assignment or a student project, you will graduate with your friends and they will be in the film industry with you. Instead of just making a connection, work on building relationships. Be responsible and reliable. Most importantly, ask yourself every day why you’re doing what you are doing. Remember what it’s all about: this is your passion. It’s important to have a goal, a purpose. Pursue your dreams. Don’t let anyone say no to you. Believe in yourself and trust your instinct.

    I just want to say that I’m very grateful for NYFA. In less than a year I was already working in the film industry. That would not have been possible without the kindness and expertise of the wonderful and talented people at NYFA.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Sabrina Percario for her generous time and looks forward to following her continuing success! 

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    October 16, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Acting, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 396

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Update – October 12, 2018

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    Last week, we featured the new class of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism students learning the fine points of video editing. This week, it is camera class. Graduates will recognize Classroom #505, where many of our students first learned how to shoot with a Canon C300 camera. And as the pictures show, at first it was a lot of fun.

    Broadcast Journalism Update


    But out in the field, shooting your first story (30-second Voiceover) is always challenging. However, things seemed to work out pretty well in the end. (How many of you shot on Stone Street for that project?) I don’t remember the “lion” ever being interviewed before. And with a reflector to even out the light!

    Broadcast Journalism Update

    Broadcast Journalism Update

    The big news last week was New York Film Academy grad Sergei Ivonin winning a Primetime News & Documentary Emmy Award. (That is the highest honor in American television.) Sergei was a member of one of the first NYFA Broadcast Journalism classes, and after graduation he went to work at NBC News. For many years he was an MMJ (multimedia journalist) for the magazine show Dateline NBC. That meant lots of travel. He also played an important role in NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. In fact, his Russian language skills made him irreplaceable.That meant he didn’t get very much sleep, as stories had to be generated around the clock for various NBC programs.   

    Sergei is now a producer on the Today show, working on the 9am hour with Megyn Kelly. But it was as a field producer on the Dateline NBC team that he won his Emmy, for a segment in which former U.S. President Barack Obama was interviewed.

    Congratulations, Sergei!sergei ivonin

    Also last week, 2011 Broadcast Journalism graduate Alana Blaylock was profiled in Forbes magazine. Alana used the skills she gained at NYFA as the basis for her development as an innovative content creator. She also has some insightful things to say about the arc of her career, as well as the creative process. Underlying it all is a belief in hard work, adapting to the demands of a project while retaining your integrity, and the enduring value of curiosity and an open mind…

    Alana Blaylock

    Finally, Summer Workshop graduate Varvara Makarevich is still working in Russian language television… Only here in the United States! She is working with Voice of America (VOA), which is a U.S. government-funded broadcast service that distributes journalistically balanced programing in a variety of languages around the world. I know it sounds like a contradiction — a government agency providing unbiased programming — but it’s true. A long-time friend and former colleague in Tokyo is now head of the VOA White House bureau. I think he has one of the toughest jobs in the world. (But that’s just my opinion…)

    Great work, Varvara!

    You can find more information on classes offered at the New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism School here.

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    October 12, 2018 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 866

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Update: October 2, 2018

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    Last week was the first week for the new class of students attending the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism school. On their third day of classes they were introduced to nonlinear video editing software. Yes, it was time to meet Avid Media Composer 8. And the first reactions were… positive. The credit goes to our fabulous Editing instructor Christine Schottanes, and equally stellar TA (and NYFA grad) Catherine Kobayashi, for making complicated software understandable.

    Broadcast Journalism Update

    The class has students from Zambia, New York City, Ukraine, Connecticut, England, China, Louisiana, Spain, and Brazil.

    Broadcast Journalism Update

    When I posted this on Facebook, I heard from NYFA grad Laura Isern. She was chosen from among more than a thousand applicants for a prestigious journalism training program run by Brazilian media giant Globo.

    She wrote: “I’m using Avid in my internship a lot. Classes were really helpful.”

    And speaking (again) of Catherine Kobayashi, the two of us were part of a Virtual Open House last Wednesday. It was great to get questions from people everywhere, including some folks for whom it was the middle of the night. (Now that’s dedication…) If you were one of the participants, thanks for spending time with us. And if you have any additional questions, we’d be happy to answer them…
    Broadcast Journalism Update

    So the Broadcast Journalism camera classes Celina Liv Danielsen took as a student at NYFA came in handy last week. That’s her in the picture below, shooting (and producing) a story at the United Nations for Denmark TV 2.

    Broadcast Journalism Update
    And here is some of what she wrote to me…

    “…my new job title is journalist and producer for our US correspondent who is based in Washington DC. Together we are going to cover all US news for the people of Denmark. My job is to find all stories that we are going to produce for our newscast. I’m calling and finding all the sources, writing the manuscripts and articles, I’m the photographer when we are covering events where we are not making stories for our newscast but only covering it live. If my boss is on vacation or is doing other things then I’m reporting live to Danish national television. So I’m pretty busy and have a lot on my plate but it is so much fun. Since I got here I have only been in my apartment four times.  

    The first week was very hectic. I reported live from John McCain’s memorial in DC, then the Danish photographer and I flew to Boston to meet my boss (the US correspondent) to do a story there, then on to Toronto Film Festival and then San Francisco to cover the world’s first try to send out a machine in the ocean that can pick up all the plastic. Three days later we were in North Carolina covering the hurricane and this week was all about the UN. Next up is the midterm elections where we move out in “Trump land” to do many stories and then on election night a lot of live reporting. 

    I’m living in another city and get to travel all over America – it is so perfect. And I work with a very famous journalist from Denmark over here so people back home are starting to know my name in a bigger scale then before. Feel very lucky and blessed. But it took a lot of hard work

    WOW!

    Viviane Faver was a member of my very first class of 1-year Broadcast Journalism students in Fall 2013, after I had arrived at NYFA just a little more than a year earlier. Well I am still in New York, and so is Viviane. Last week she was doing what we in the business call a “cross-platform” story. It will appear in a Brazilian newspaper, a magazine, and on a website. Here is how she summed up the experience on Facebook:

    “I just had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of @Climategroup, Helen Clarkson. ‘As countries step up to drive down emissions it’s important not to leave others behind. We need to ensure a fair and just transition to a clean economy that benefits us all.’”

    That’s Viviane on the right, in the picture below…
    Broadcast Journalism Update

    Thanks to LinkedIn, each morning I get to see the latest edition of GeekWire, hosted by NYFA grad Starla Sampaco. (Not “Sanpan,” as the autocorrect on my email keeps changing it to.) Last week she was reporting on how the cofounders of Instagram were leaving the company. But with all the talk about “fake news,” I have some questions, Starla… That’s a whole lot of blue sky behind you. I thought it rained in Washington State every day…

    Broadcast Journalism Update

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    October 2, 2018 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 915

  • Q&A With New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Horacio Martinez

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    Horacio Martinez graduated from New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Cinematography program last year, but the hard-working lover of film finds education everywhere he goes. That includes everything he learns whole on set, where his work ethic and passion for cinema has made him a valuable asset to any film crew.

    Martinez really spoke with NYFA about his time at the Academy’s Los Angeles campus and his work on a feature film starring Ed Asner as 2nd AC. In addition to all the technical skills he’s picked up along the way, Martinez stresses that human relationships between the crew and between fellow students and instructors are just as important when forging your career in film.Horacio Martinez

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What was the journey that lead you to the New York Film Academy? 

    Horacio Martinez (HM): Movies have been a part of my life ever since I was kid. I’ve always related episodes or experiences in my life with films. In my teenage years, I developed a curiosity about photography. At the same time, I worked as a composer for short films and various behind-the-scenes for photographers and videographers. After I moved to the USA from Venezuela, I explored my passion for photography, doing a lot of Urbex (Urban Exploration). It was a wonderful experience and I got to know every corner of the city. 

    I felt I needed something beyond urban and landscape photography. After doing some research, I decided to pursue my original dream of trying to find a place in the industry of visual storytelling. I found NYFA as my home as a professional, and also as a human being. Cinematography really changed my perception of life, my surroundings, the way I see and analyze problems to opportunities, and everyday life. 

    NYFA: Why did you choose NYFA’s 1-Year Cinematography program?

    HM: Cinematography, in my opinion, is the perfect marriage between technology and art. It is a very passionate career. We have to be chameleons and adaptable. We have to get into people’s minds (in most cases, the director’s) and meticulously dissect their thoughts and ideas, and then translate them into reality with the use of wonderful, amazing tools. Technology can help us in solving problems and achieving a unique look for each film. 

    I looked at the instructors, all the subjects and the approaches to cinematography, and found that the 1-Year Cinematography program was a great match. I needed to formalize my education, and open my eyes professionally about the craft itself. Since I’m in my 30s, I am hungry to go out and explore the world of filmmaking and find the right path to success. 

    NYFA: What were your favorite moments at NYFA?

    HM: Getting to know all of my classmates and people from other departments that share the same passion as me about storytelling. Forging relationships and earning people’s respect one day at a time.

    I loved all of my classes, so it is very hard for me to choose one specific favorite instructor or class. They were all shaping my life as a cinematographer and making me a different person since the day I started. All the classes are of equal importance. All the instructors are very passionate professionals that really care about teaching not only their knowledge, but also personal experiences that really helped me to have a better understanding about the craft of cinematography, and the protocol and relationships in the industry. 

    NYFA: Shortly after graduating, you had the opportunity to work on an independent feature film as the 2nd Assistant Camera (2nd AC). Can you tell us about that?

    HM: That was an amazing opportunity and I am really thankful for it. When I was at NYFA, one of my main priorities was to create strong relationships not only between my classmates and fellow students, but also between me and the instructors. In this case, Anthony B. Richmond ASC, BSC called me on a Saturday afternoon, asking me if I could join his son Gaston on a low budget feature film starring Ed Asner. I immediately said yes. At first, I couldn’t believe that I got a personal phone call from Tony himself asking me if I could work with his son.

    Everything turned out amazing, and I really learned a lot about all the duties of a 2nd AC in the real world. Of course, what I learned at NYFA was a huge influence on my workflow. 

    NYFA: As the 2nd AC and media manager, what were your responsibilities on the film? 

    HM: My first priority was to be invisible. That’s a thought that I always had with me while working on set. Invisible to the point that I had to make the 1st AC’s — Gaston Richmond’s — job easy. I had to keep the department afloat. Everything has a domino effect. If one tiny little thing breaks, falls, or is not charged, then the department could be delayed big time, so anticipation was key. 

    I also needed to keep the camera in order, keep all the batteries charged, keep track of all the rolls that we shot and what day they were shot. When things flow smoothly, it’s thanks to order, organization, and protocol. 

    I also had to change lenses in extreme situations, and change camera magazines. I had to run blocks and blocks down the street during a massive heatwave in order to back up the files to three hard drives at the same time, while keeping in constant communication with the Sound Mixer to also get the sound files and back them up in the proper way.

    Gaston was a great mentor, and I really learned a lot from him. He gave me great support, and helped me keep things in balance with the thousands of details that people assume are going to be taken care of. It is true that no one is going to tell you how to do your job at first, but I saw that as an opportunity to show them who I really was and all that I knew. 

    NYFA: Were there any specific challenges for the camera department on this film? How did you handle those issues? 

    HM: There were a lot of challenges like I mentioned before, but being a 2nd AC is a challenge itself. You are the base of the camera department, the one that keeps everything running smoothly. If you take care of the details, people will trust that you will do your job.

    My first focus was to have a great relationship with my department. We are a team, and we all wanted to have things moving forward smoothly. My relationship on set with Gaston (1st AC), was really important since he and I were working so closely. As I said, he was very reliable, incredibly supportive on set, and a great guy with a great personality. With a good attitude and always keeping our cool, we solved any challenges that we had to overcome.

    It is also extremely important to have a good relationship with every single department on the project. You never know when someone will have to help you, and basically save your life. I also offered myself as help to other departments when needed.

    Life on set is not easy, it is basically creating art out of chaos. That’s why it is extremely important to have good relationships with everyone, have a great attitude, a good sense of humor. Be humble at all times, and ask for help when you need it. These factors will help you overcome all the challenges on set. 

    1st AC Gaston Richmond and 2nd AC Horacio MartinezNYFA: Did your classes at NYFA prepare you for working on a professional set? 

    HM: Definitely. 100% of the material, cinematography practicums, and classes that I had at NYFA were of huge help, especially when it came to actually knowing my role. You have to respect the protocol of communication between members of your department, and with other departments as well.

    I never felt out of place, and I spoke the same language as the DP. This was especially helpful when we had to be very technical, with camera resolution, lenses, filters, white balance, etc. 

    NYFA: What advice would you give to current students about starting their careers? 

    HM: Never doubt yourself. Always be yourself. Be willing to learn, because one of the most exciting things about this career is learning about new technologies, developing skills to solve problems, and experimenting with different looks. This is not a 9-to-5 career, and every day is not the same. The challenge is how to adapt ourselves, and use our personality and creativity to leave our mark and identity in the visual story we are telling. 

    NYFA: What projects do you have coming up next? 

    HM: Right now, my mission is to join projects that will help me develop my skills and become a better professional. I hope to join the camera union (Local 600) in the near future. I want to learn, I want to meet people, and create bridges and relationships.

    In the meantime, I am prepping a music video and a couple of short films with great directors, all of them out of NYFA. 

     

    The New York Film Academy thanks Horacio Martinez for speaking about his experiences and looks forward to the future successes his drive, passion, and hard work will undoubtedly bring him!

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    September 17, 2018 • Cinematography, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1108

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Writes Feature Film Un Regalo Esencial

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Elizabeth Soto-Lara can now add a feature film to her list of screenwriting credits after finishing production on the film Un Regalo Esencial (An Essential Gift). Not only is she the film’s screenwriter, but Soto-Lara also served on set as the First Assistant Director.

    Un Regalo Esencial was filmed in more than 30 locations in Costa Rica over the course of about ninety days. It was co-written and directed by Jose Mario Salas Boza. Both Boza and Soto-Lara graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Fall ’16 MA Film & Media program. 

    The film tells the story of a grandfather who relives the memories of his first romantic relationship to share life lessons with his grandchild about the consequences of jealousy and insecurity. It merges genres of romance, drama, comedy, and musical, and looks to make its audience ride a rollercoaster of emotions. Its setting ranges from the 1980s to the near future, all in a running time of about 90 minutes. 

    Un Regalo Esencial stars notable Costa Rican actors Viviana Calderon and Pablo Rodriguez, as well as featuring Mauricio Hoffman and Norval Calvo in supporting roles. It is currently in post-production and will be released in October 2018.

    Soto-Lara is a Mexican filmmaker who has been writing for television and film for more than four years. She has written and directed more than 10 short films within both Mexico and the US. Soto-Lara won the award for Best Short Film at the Mexico International Film Festival for her film Restored, which was originally her NYFA thesis film. Restored is also an Official Selection at the 2019 Los Angeles CineFest.

    Of her work on Un Regalo Esencial, Soto-Lara remarked, “It was an unforgettable experience to be able to be on set and see how the words I put on paper came to life. I feel very lucky and thankful to have had this opportunity to share a beautiful story, make friends from around the globe, and learn in the process.”

    She continued, “This experience will remain as an indelible mark in me for the rest of my life.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Elizabeth Soto-Lara’s on her well-earned success and encourages her and the rest of our students to continue writing and keep sharing their stories.

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    August 8, 2018 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2481

  • Writing Home Stars Comedian and New York Film Academy Grad Tony Kelly

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    Everyone wants to laugh, and for those talented and skilled enough to make an audience roll in the aisles in laughter, the world truly opens up. Such is the case for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Conservatory alum Tony Kelly, whose international comedy career has crossed continents and genres.

    Since graduating from NYFA in 2009, the Irish comedian has used his writing, performing and producing chops to carve a unique path, from BBC America’s Primeval to Canadian features Freedom and Victory, as well as recording his own solo comedy album PS I Hate You at home in Ireland.

    Up next, Kelly stars in Writing Home alongside Caoimhe O’Malley. The feature has won a warm review from Film Ireland and screens at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. Created by a truly international team of filmmakers from Ireland, Brazil, Lebanon, and Mexico, the film puts a hilarious spin on the familiar romantic comedy trope of “finding love where you least expect it. Home.” Kelly stars as Daniel Doran, a successful novelist whose self-centered life is interrupted when he reluctantly goes back to his small Irish village to help his estranged, ailing father, and has to face the bridges he burned on his way to the “top.”

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly.

    In the midst of a busy festival season, Kelly took some time to share his story with the NYFA Blog.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    TK: Sure. I always knew I wanted to be involved in storytelling and performing in some way, from an early age. I had planned to leave home at 17 to go to San Francisco to try and at least start a journey after I finished school here in Ireland, but my mother was too nervous to let me go, and asked me to try college out for a year until I was at least 18. And if it wasn’t for me I had her and my dad’s blessing to go and do whatever I wanted.

    So I tried college, I went to study Business at Waterford Institute of Technology. I quickly mentally checked out, it wasn’t for me at all. The only class I put anything into was a communications class and I enjoyed giving the speeches we were tasked with handing out.

    This will sound crazy, but my friend Matt introduced me to the The Office (The UK version, the U.S. hadn’t even been made at this time), and it mesmerized me. I thought, “This is what I need to be doing.” So I dropped out of college and got a job selling cars and started saving.

    Five years later I was 23 and had some changes happen in my life. I looked at my bank account and had been lucky enough to save some good money so I decided to take the leap. I applied [to the New York Film Academy], got in, made the choice to move from Waterford, Ireland to New York City, and I’ve never looked back.

    Best decision I’ve ever made.

    NYFA: What inspired your project I Am Jeff Shanagarry?

    TK: Hahaha. Jeff Shanagarry, now there’s a thing I haven’t spoken about in a long time. You know, it’s funny, this was my first foray into on-screen comedy, having been writing comedy short stories and stuff since I was a teenager, and in some ways I’m so far removed from Jeff Shanagarry that it’s insane. But one of my teachers from NYFA, Randy Dottin, still calls me Jeff Shanagarry!

    How it came about was we were tasked to write, direct, shoot, edit and just make a short film for class at New York Film Academy. I had a penchant for acting even back then so I had been in a couple of other student shorts and was obviously going to be in my own.

    Almost everyone was making your usual melodramatic film school shorts. I didn’t wanna do that. I knew that direction I wanted to head in with my career, and used it as a jumping off point. So I made I Am Jeff Shanagarry, this mockumentary about an Irish singer coming to play a show in NYC.

    Looking at it now I cringe, but that was the precursor to my web series The Hurler, which opened up so many doors for me, and Jeff Shanagarry itself got me my start as a stand-up comic. It was being passed around by some of the students, kind of like a cult hit at the school (everyone still used DVDs in 2009!), and one of the students was taking stand-up classes in NYC. He gave it to Stephen Rosenfield, the famous comedy teacher, and he called me for a meeting and asked me would I be interested in doing stand-up. Crazy.

    NYFA: As a comic doing stand-up, web content, film, and albums, do you have a favorite format? What is your advice to NYFA students interested in doing comedy?

    TK: I was asked this question only the other day in another interview. I do love scripted comedy. On camera. I think it allows the greatest opportunity to improvise and hone what you’re doing and make it the best, and obviously you get a couple of tries to make it the best it can be and give different options.

    BUT stand-up comedy is my first love. It’s raw, it strips you down and forces you to sink or swim on the spot.

    I don’t think I could pick a favourite, I love everything that I do.

    As far as advice, I’d just say, “Get out there and do it.” We live in the Instagram world where everybody wants to attach a label to themselves to sound successful and important, nobody wants to put in the work. But the work is what separates the truly successful from the wannabes.

    Get out there and do stand-up, take improv classes, take sketch classes, get a collective or a group of like-minded friends together, and create. It’s the only way to move forward. If you wait for people to hand things to you, you’ll never get anything done.

    Tony Kelly in a still from Primeval.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about working on Primeval? What surprised you the most?

    TK: Primeval was a lot of fun. It was the first major thing I was ever really a part of. I was just after moving home to Ireland for a while from New York. I was 25, sad, depressed about being back home, and this chance came along. It was a small part but on a big budget show and did a lot for me. There are people, fans of that show, that still follow my career to this day and I’m so grateful for that initial exposure.

    As far as what surprised me the most, probably the efficiency of the work that goes into such a big project. It was a lesson in professionalism, the hard work that it takes to work at that level and the growing up I needed to do at the time. It helped me a lot and gave me a drive to keep going.

    NYFA: With your BBC America show Primeval, your Canadian films Freedom and Victory, and your original album PS, I Hate You recorded back home in Ireland, you’re truly working on the international level. What have you found most challenging working internationally?

    TK: I’ve really loved having such an international career so far. Being able to work in different places with different people allows me to offer something different and gives me experience others wouldn’t have, I suppose. But, the most difficult thing was probably neglecting my home base. I could have spent the past 9 years or so just focusing on getting my name out there in Ireland but I chose to go off and work other places and learn different things. That isolates you a little, so I’ve probably sacrificed relationships and friendships with people for that. When you’re jumping from city to city and country to country it’s hard to stay close with people and friendships and relationships suffer through that. But, my career has always comes first for me, we only get one try at this life thing so we have to keep going.

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly as Daniel Doran in Writing Home.

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

    TK: Absolutely. 100%. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for NYFA. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’ve done without NYFA. I mean, I studied Screenwriting, but during the course I also studied acting, directing, editing, all aspects of the business. And if people look at my resume, what I’ve done, I’ve done a little bit of everything. I haven’t pigeonholed myself and it allows me to create my own work when I need to, which was my initial plan upon going to NYFA.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

    TK: Yes, absolutely. It’s going to be a big year for me this year.

    Last year I had my first lead role in a feature film, Writing Home. That has it’s U.S. premiere at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. [There may be a New York City opening soon, stay tuned!]

    I’m also working on a feature film adaptation of my award-winning web series The Hurler.

    I’ve written a comedy radio series for WLR FM here in Ireland which we’re hoping to begin work on in March.

    I’ve also written a play called The Undocumented about two illegal immigrant Irishmen living in New York City, which myself and my collaborators have just gotten some funding for back home as well. So that will hopefully be up on its feet later this year and I would love to have it on in NYC as well.

    I just hosted the New York New Works theatre festival finals in New York City back in November, and I made some contacts during that so we will see what happens there! There’s a couple of other things I’m working towards as well so this year looks like it’ll be an exciting one.

    Congratulations to Tony Kelly and the Writing Home team!

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  • Dreaming of an Electric City

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    New York Film Academy MFA Film graduate Nick DeRuve is in pre-production on his first feature film, Electric City. As Nick describes it, “[It] is a gritty drama about a thirteen-year-old who attempts to keep his family intact when they receive an eviction notice. I spent my pre-teen years chasing my older brother and his friends around the city of Schenectady. They were teenagers, and I was trying my hardest to fit in with their crew. I experienced a lot of things kids that age don’t, such as violence, crime, and witnessing a lot of drug use.”

    “I would say around the age of thirteen is when I started having initial thoughts about making a film about two brothers stuck in an urban setting,” he explained. “When I was thirteen my family moved, not far from Schenectady, but to the suburbs, and that’s when I realized what I had experienced was different. Over the years I knew who the film would be about, but I still didn’t know what the film would be about, so I could never get the idea out on paper.”

    Nick was no novice when he began at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. “I had been a working gaffer in NYC for four years after completing my undergrad,” says Nick. “My passion was to direct, so I spent that time on set studying everything that was happening. I decided to go back for my MFA to continue after my goal of being an indie filmmaker, and experience filmmaking in LA. No matter what my experience was prior I wanted to absorb everything my teachers had to offer. I developed good relationships with my teachers, who have great knowledge and experience.”

    After graduation, Nick developed the feature length script for Electric City, and reached out to his former advisor, NYFA instructor Brendan Davis, for feedback. Brendan raved about the script, saying, “He nailed the tone, the arcs, and the characters, and kept it real while keeping hope. He’s done a really exceptional job on it and has the chance to make an exceptional film. To me this is a… studio quality drama with award-worthy writing. The roles in this piece are something that serious actors would fight to play. But the material speaks for itself.”

    Though they have secured some funding for the film, they have also started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Twenty-percent of the proceeds will go to support Small Can Be Big, an organization that supports victims of domestic abuse and families in need. “It’s a social issue that we have to stare in the face everyday,” says Nick. “Why not try to help people as much as we can, whenever we can, because at the end of the day, that’s the goal. Make a difference, make a change, even if it’s for just one kid who needs a reminder that even when times are hard, we can never give up on ourselves and our goals.”

    When asked about future plans, Nick said, “Right now my main focus is getting Electric City in the can, and screening at festivals by 2013. I’m not really thinking about any other projects. I have a wallet full of receipts, ticket stubs, and business cards that I use to jot notes down on. When the time comes to start developing a new story, I’ll have that as my resource. For now, all I got is this script, and a pocket full of dreams.”

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    May 14, 2012 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4737