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  • Student Spotlight: Rodrigo Zanforlin

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    Seven years ago, Rodrigo Zanforlin (May 2014 MFA Filmmaking) was the head of a successful digital marketing company in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Today, he’s the award-winning writer/director of Jimbo, his MFA thesis short which screened at over 30 festivals, including Beverly Hills Film Festival, Dead Center, New Filmmakers LA, and the Brooklyn Film Festival.

    How did he get here? It all started with a road trip.

    At 27, Rodrigo lived in his hometown of Sao Paolo, Brazil. On the surface, it seemed he had everything: a great job, a beautiful apartment, a wonderful fiancée. But he was miserable. “I felt stuck, and I was very stressed with all the responsibility of running a company with a lot of employees,” Rodrigo said. “I felt like I was hunting lions every day. One day I had a big epiphany. I needed to rethink my life.” He sold everything he had and went to California with nothing but himself and a suitcase. Rodrigo hit the road, camping, exploring, and meeting people. “I was so inspired by the people and the energy of California,” he said. He realized he wanted to stay.

    First, Rodrigo polished his English in San Diego, then he landed at his new home, the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. He chose NYFA over other area film schools because of its hands-on teaching approach and because filmmakers own the films they make. “Also, I’m a multi-cultural guy from a big city in Brazil,” Rodrigo said. “I liked the diversity of NYFA.”

    Like most road trips, Rodrigo’s journey into filmmaking was full of amazing discoveries and frustrating wrong turns. He started in the MFA Documentary department because “I was searching for truth,” Rodrigo said. However, it wasn’t long before documentary instructors suggested that he move to narrative filmmaking. “I was too interested in the aesthetic of my film and controlling the environment to be a documentarian.” He switched to the MFA Filmmaking program. The only problem was – he had to start Semester One all over again. However, that turned out be an amazing experience. “The first semester of NYFA’s filmmaking program was one of my favorites,” said Rodrigo. “That’s when you learn how to be a visual filmmaker.”

    After writing a dialogue-heavy film for a cinematographer friend that Rodrigo called “the worst film ever”, he started asking the question, “What kind of filmmaker am I?” Realizing that he was more interested in visuals than dialogue, he made a surrealistic year one film that did well at festivals. When it came time to write his thesis, however, he decided he wasn’t ready. He took a break to rethink his thesis idea, and “I decided to prepare myself to be a better director,” Rodrigo said. He started hanging out with actors to learn more about how they work and how they prepare themselves for a role.

    Working with actors was a major turning point for Rodrigo. It led to him writing the short script Jimbo, which became his thesis film. Ironically, he cast mostly non-actors in the roles because he felt they could more authentically portray the roles. Rodrigo cited senior directing instructor James Pasternak as a major influence in the thesis process, saying, “Jim really provoked me to explore the characters, to go deeper into the story and the dialogue.”

    Regarding the experience, Jim said, “Rodrigo had strong directorial vision of the movie he wanted to make. Like a good director, he was a good collaborator, open to ideas and willing to use them to make the best movie he could — and did.” Clearly, that is the case: Jimbo was an official selection of more than thirty festivals around the globe, landed a variety of awards, won the NYFA/RED competition last summer, and was picked up for representation by Shorts.TV in November.

    Today, Rodrigo is shooting and writing as much as he can. He recently directed a short film for Serbian/Swedish musician Alezzandra that premiered on Noisey and has been hailed as a “Lynchian fever dream through LA’s seedy underbelly.” His next big project: expanding Jimbo into a feature. He plans to start shooting in late 2018.

    And to think it all started with a road trip!

    Writer Crickett Rumley is the Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison at NYFA in Los Angeles. You can email her at festivalsla@nyfa.edu.

     

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    June 14, 2018 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 132

  • A Peek Behind The VFX of “Avengers: Infinity War” with New York Film Academy Alum Francesco Panzieri

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    Francesco Infinity War

    A shot from The Avengers: Infinity War

    Francesco Panzieri is no stranger to big hits, both in television and film. Panzieri’s name has been included in the credits for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Men, True Detective, Westworld, and many others.

    Still, the New York Film Academy alum’s most recent work on Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War may be the biggest film he has worked on to date. The superhero blockbuster raked in $630 million on its opening weekend, which is the biggest opening of all time.

    The digital effects compositor sat down with us to discuss Avengers, his upcoming projects, and how his time at NYFA helped prepare him for career.

    NYFA: How did your experience on Infinity War compare to the other Marvel films you’ve worked on?
    Francesco Panzieri: On my first Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, I was actually working in-house within Marvel Studios, where I was tasked with 2D live-action visual effects. As such, my work scope was compositing actors from green screen onto photographed backgrounds, monitor insert, wire removal, plate re-timing, re-positioning, scale-up and split-screen.

    On Thor: Ragnarok and eventually Avengers: Infinity War, the team at Digital Domain had to deal with some intricate compositing of CG characters onto live-action plates. I came aboard late in the game on Thor, yet I was still lucky to get some cool looking shots, including the composite of a blue-screen take of Chris Hemsworth over a fully-CG environment in the Sakaar chase sequence, where Thor smashes the engine of a spaceship barehanded.

    On Avengers, stakes got higher. Almost every one of our shots in the sequence featured Thanos versus an Avenger; I was very lucky to get him in each of my five shots and by getting to work on one of the trailer shots released to the public two months before the movie came out. Captain America and Thor were the other two characters in my shots, so I also focused on locking down their hands onto Thanos’ gauntlet and head, to make sure that the audience would really perceive that rock solid hold as the Avengers attempt to save half the universe.

    DD had developed a technique to color-grade Thanos in a photo-realistic yet nonhuman way while adding some splash of purple on selected areas of his face and body. We also made a great use of the subsurface scattering render-layer to fine-tune his color and deep ID’s for his stubble and hair. Thanos was fully rendered in VRay with many proprietary skin shaders that DD has been continually refining for years; all the compositing was done in Nuke.

    NYFA: Was it harder to deal with mo-cap and completely CG characters like Thanos, Groot, and Rocket, or easier to incorporate VFX in their scenes?
    Francesco: The photo-realism that Digital Domain was trying to achieve on this feature definitely pushed the CG characters to be the most-challenging part. The team really cared about giving them a perfect fitting in the scene under every point of view. We made sure that black levels matched accurately to the live-action plate and brainstormed every possible interactive light from the environment onto the characters and vice versa.

    Ultimately, during every session of dailies, the supervisors kept asking, “How can we make the shot look spectacular?” or ‘What is this shot missing from looking memorable?” For Thanos, we had some great rigging work done to enhance all the muscle tension from Josh Brolin’s performance onto his digital character to help perceive the struggle during the fight scenes, as well as the weight he is bringing in the game to fight the Avengers.

    All of the Thanos work you see in the movie, with the exception of the sequence on Titan, belongs to the tireless work of the artists at Digital Domain.

    NYFA: How much direction, or conversely, freedom, are you given by the directors when crafting VFX?
    Francesco: It can vary. As previously mentioned, with Marvel, if you’re tasked with something that has already been done in their previous movies, you can rest assured that they will ask you to stay on that same beaten path. Of course, your work might exceed their expectations in terms of presentation and integration, but they really care about keeping the continuity with their previous movies as the MCU is a big shared playground.

    On another note, if you’re being asked to introduce something new to the visual story, you can really push the limit of your creativity and submit different versions for their review, as long as you also keep in mind what your VFX supervisor asks you to do and that your work must look coherent with the storytelling.

    Infinity War Francesco

    A shot from The Avengers: Infinity War

    NYFA: Was it easier creating VFX taking place in NYC and the real world or easier creating them in the totally made-up space fantasy worlds?
    Francesco: It is always easier to work with a photographed plate as a reference for compositing anything over it. Trying to create a fully CG environment without any real photographic reference can really make things unfriendly, unless you know precisely what you’re aiming at and what you want it to look like. The flexibility that comes with it can very well be a double-edged weapon if you’re on a tight deadline, however it also gives you plenty of creative freedom to fully express the storytelling.

    NYFA: How did NYFA prepare you for this particular job?
    Francesco: NYFA trained me to work very hard and for long hours. I was able to grasp a solid knowledge of 2D and 3D during my time there, thanks to a very organic and inclusive approach to the art of filmmaking and storytelling. I was able to develop technical and artistic skills that could help me find a job once I graduated, and I had a fantastic time during my studies.

    NYFA is excited Francesco’s upcoming work following the tremendous success of Avengers: Infinity War. You can learn more about him and his credits on his website.

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    May 17, 2018 • 3D Animation, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 642

  • Mariano Di Vaio Visits New York Film Academy Los Angeles Production Workshop & Guest Speaker Series

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    It was just another Production Workshop Thursday on the Universal Studios backlot in Los Angeles. New York Film Academy (NYFA) student crews sprawled across the European set searching for places to shoot, directors framed their shots, actors rehearsed their lines.

    Then he walked onto the backlot: Mariano Di Vaio, Italian fashion star, Forbes magazine top influencer under 30, and NYFA Acting for Film alumnus. Heads turned as he arrived to shoot a production workshop commercial with Directing Instructor Nick Sivakumaran and Cinematography Instructor Matt Kohnen.

    “It’s a dream come true to be on the backlot,” said Mariano. “I always said to myself maybe one day I could shoot something in Hollywood. And doing this student project, I feel like I’m rewinding back nine years to my student days.”

    In 2009, Mariano enrolled in an Acting for Film course at the New York Film Academy in New York. When he returned to his hometown of Perugia, Italy, he started a blog about men’s fashion that blew up on the web, netting him over 10 million followers on social media and enabling him to start his own clothing and hair product lines.

    Then he was back on a NYFA set collaborating with faculty and staff on a shoot designed to teach students and alumni how to film a commercial. It featured several of his brands: Mariano Di Vaio Limited Edition Hair Products, NOHOW clothing, and MDV Eyewear.

    Written by Nick Sivakumaran, who also directed, the commercial starts with Mariano walking past several NYFA crews shooting a variety of scenes. He notices one crew in particular — they are struggling to shoot a romantic scene between a guy and girl. The director is obviously frustrated at the lack of chemistry between them. Enter Mariano! He gestures to the director, “un moment,” takes aside the actor, and gives him a quick makeover using his hair products and sunglasses. Suddenly, the actor looks great, the actress is in love, and the director is thrilled! Mariano leaves as everyone looks at him in amazement and wonders, “Who was that guy?” 

    The fake crew consisted entirely of NYFA Acting for Film students and alumni. Ezra Ramos (Fall ’17 BFA Acting for Film), who played the actor and was styled by Mariano for the commercial, reported that “Mariano just opened up his suitcase and said ‘what’s your size’?” Then he rifled through the suitcase to hook Ezra up with MDV Collection suede loafers and a tropical white NoHow shirt festooned with tiny palm trees, pineapples, and bananas.

    Gulshan Salamli (Spring ’17 BFA Acting for Film) played the role of the unimpressed actress, and she said the shoot with Mariano was a very different experience from the usual production workshop. “Mariano is the star, obviously, and it is interesting to work with him, to play a supporting role and observe how much input a star has on set. I realized it’s okay to be in the shadows, that I can express myself yet serve the project at the same time.”

    Fake crew member Mackenzie Leslie (Summer ‘16 One Year Acting for Film) said she learned a lot on set, pointing at a huge flag on a C-stand that was blocking the bright California sun. “This production workshop has way more equipment than I’ve seen before,” she said.  “I’ve never filmed with a dolly. I’ve seen shots that were made that way, but never been in one.”

    Meanwhile, actors Elizabeth Otaola (Summer ‘16 MFA Acting for Film) and Christopher Rybka (Fall ‘15 AFA Acting for Film) discussed Mariano’s career. “He’s not a traditional actor. He’s inspired me to explore other options and ways of having an acting career,” said Elizabeth, who played the director. “Everything is going to evolve. Television and film will change in the next 20 years.  Smart people should be paying attention to that and create their own content and know about marketing.”

    Christopher concurred, saying, “It’s very unique that Mariano has used Instagram as a marketing tool to get out there rather than going to auditions and hoping someone picks him up.”

    The following night, Mariano entertained a full house of students at the NYFA Theater with humorous and informative tales about his career in a Q&A moderated by Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison Crickett Rumley. He emphasized the importance of setting small, achievable goals in pursuit of big dreams, and of approaching every task, learning opportunity, and job with passion — an outlook he attributed to his instructors at NYFA back in 2009.

    When asked what advice he had for students starting an Instagram account for the first time, Mariano replied,“I would start with videos if I had to start from scratch, because right now I think they are the key. The algorithm has changed, so it’s harder for people to just post photos.” More specifically, he “would definitely put up something about comedy because positivity, that’s what people like. Being happy is what people want to get from their phones.”

    Most importantly, Mariano encouraged students to do exactly what they had been doing when he walked onto the Universal backlot — collaborate with as many people as possible to increase social media following. “If all of you guys here start to do something together, even a small project, you already can reach how many? 10,000 people for sure.” Another reason to collaborate: “Sometimes when you talk and do something with other creative people, something better comes up, better than what you can do by yourself.”  

    Speaking of collaboration, the Mariano Di Vaio/NYFA Los Angeles commercial project will drop on social media sometime in May. Be on the lookout!

    NOTE: in addition to the students quoted above, the shoot also featured Paulina Hilla (Fall ’17 BFA Acting for Film) and Amber Satcher (Fall ‘16 MFA Acting for Film).  

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  • CBS Pilot Pandas in New York Stars Ashley Tisdale & New York Film Academy Grad Dhruv Singh

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    New York Film Academy MFA Screenwriting alum Dhruv Singh will star in upcoming CBS pilot Pandas in New York with Ashley Tisdale.

    Dhruv Singh via his website http://www.dhruvudaysingh.com.

    Directed by Big Bang Theory’s DGA Award-nominated Mark Cendrowski, Pandas in New York centers on an empathetic young doctor, Rishi, and his loving if slightly overbearing Indian family — all fellow doctors who run a family practice in Manhattan and just want what they think is best for Rishi.

    NYFA alum Dhruv Singh portrays the series lead, who returns from a year with Doctors Without Borders in Cambodia and decides to pursue his passion for social justice by practicing medicine at a free clinic — a choice which he is trying to hide from his family. Ashley Tisdale plays opposite Singh as the tough but fair-minded clinic director, Maya — and rumor has it that sparks will fly between the two characters.

    According to Deadline, the series will also feature Nisha Munshi, Hina Abdullah, Dan O’Brien, Bernard White and Gita Reddy.

    Along with his training in the MFA Screenwriting program at the NYFA Los Angeles campus, Mumbai native Dhruv Singh has honed his comedy chops at the legendary improv studio UCB. An alumni of the CBS Diversity Showcase 2015, Singh has 22 acting credits to his name, including Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Adam Ruins Everything. He has performed in the ABC Talent Showcase; at UCB Maude night and with Queen George on Harold Night; and with The Groundlings Sunday Company.

    Congratulations, Dhruv! The New York Film Academy looks forward to catching Pandas in New York on CBS.

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  • Students Fighting Fake News, a Visit From CNBC Correspondent Leslie Picker, Reporting the Austin Bombing, and More From New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism School

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    As everyone reading this email already knows, this is a challenging time to be a journalist, especially here in the United States. In fact, some have gone so far as to to term the current style of political discussion here as nothing short of “toxic” to democracy. Marketwatch posted a fascinating story last week on one of the unexpected results of the battle over “fake news”: Journalism schools in the United States have seen a noticeable increase in the number of students attending. This growth in enrollment seems to be driven by a sense of duty, as well as a belief that there are a growing number of career opportunities for those studying journalism.

    Journalism.co.uk is always a good read. Last week they posted an article on how 45 newspaper writers and editors in Slovakia, in response to their paper being taken over by a local oligarch, started their own “paper” … only this publication is primarily digital, but it still has a physical presence. And instead of outsourcing news coverage — as many sites do — they outsourced the business-side of the enterprise. That way they could devote their time to what they know best — journalism. Fascinating story…

    A big thank you to CNBC correspondent Leslie Picker, who was kind enough to take time out her busy schedule to meet with some of the NYFA Broadcast Journalism students. Her detailed description of her own personal career arc taught our students that the process is never easy, but is full of potential. She also told them “the story behind the story” of an award-winning investigation she reported for CNBC. She’s a great role model, and a fabulous communicator. Thanks, Leslie!

    CNBC Correspondent Leslie Picker visits the New York Film Academy.

    NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduate Nicole Cross admitted mixed feelings last Wednesday, when police in Austin, Texas, apprehended the suspect in a series of bombings. The suspect chose to blow himself up, rather than be captured. Nicole reports for KVUE in Austin, and has been following the story (along with her colleagues) from the start. And while the bombings now appear the be over, the story certainly isn’t…

    Former NYFA student Daniella Gemignani reported a complex story last week on how agriculture represents one-third of Brazil’s GDP. (I know that thanks to Google translate.) It’s the kind of story that isn’t easy to visualize. It also involves figuring out complicated economic, business and technological concepts. And then there are the cows … another great job, Daniella!

    Abiola Jinadu traveled a long way, from Nigeria to New York City, so she could study at NYFA. Smart, inquisitive, hardworking, and personable, she has a lot going for her. She writes, via LinkedIn:

    I create and produce content for a living. Folio Communications PLC was my first client this year and I produce content for their online platform – Miss Nigeria TV. 
    Congratulations, Abiola!
    The Broadcast Journalism Update will be on hiatus of the next two weeks. It is Spring Break at NYFA, and I am using it as an opportunity to travel to Vietnam for a feature film project I am consulting on. It is something of an irony that last week I was shoveling snow, and this week I will be looking for places to cool-off. It is the first U.S.-Vietnam-China co-production I have ever participated in, and it promises to be challenging. Any project involving three languages is, by definition, challenging…
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  • New York Film Academy Alum Made Head of Development at October Films

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    New York Film Academy alum Louis Mole has been promoted to Head of Development US at production company October Films, along with colleague Matt Dewar, who’s been made Head of Development UK.

    Mole enrolled in NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary Program, chaired by Andrea Swift, in September 2011 at our New York City campus. In the program, Mole learned to conceive, pitch, produce, direct, and edit various types of documentary shorts, as well as gain experience as cinematographer, sound recordist and assistant camera.

    Of his time at NYFA, Mole said in 2013: “You come out of the program with the fundamental expertise of every single aspect of making a film – which is so unique.”

    Mole put the education to good use, heading to Singapore after graduation and writing three episodes for the docuseries Asian Swindlers. He then joined October Films in 2014 within their London development team, and later came back to the Big Apple when he transferred to the New York office of October Films.

    October Films is an award-winning, fast-growing production company based in the US and UK that focuses on independent content from a variety of genres — including documentaries, dramas, and entertainment and reality programs.

    Some of their recent projects include Eight Days That Made Rome, Dangerous Borders, Annie: Out of the Ashes, Motorheads, and From Russia To Iran: Crossing The Wild Frontier. October Films also has series in production for the BBC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, the Science Channel, and Channel 4.

    Before his promotion to Head of Development, Mole worked on multiple projects for October Films, including Mygrations for the National Geographic Channel, Trailblazers for Discover Channel, and a seven-part series for Lifetime.

    Louis Mole has also paid it forward to newer students at the New York Film Academy, speaking with them as a guest lecturer, and offering his solid expertise.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Louis Mole on his well-earned success, and looks forward to seeing where his career heads next!

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    February 9, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 768

  • New York Film Academy Alum Writes For Military Blog We Are The Mighty

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    Orientation with Jack Jacobs

    NYFA Veteran Students with Col. Jack Jacobs (NYFA Chair of Veteran Advancement Program)

    Everybody knows by now that the Internet is filled with countless blogs, from globally famous media companies to ones covering even the tiniest of niches. But there’s at least one blog that’s doing great work serving an often overlooked yet large and vitally important demographic—the United States military community.

    The blog, We Are The Mighty, is for veterans, servicemen and women, and their families, and covers everything from military news to pop culture, with both thoughtfully penned articles and silly, amusing listicles. Overall, WATM’s mission statement is “Celebrating military service with stories that inspire,” but in doing so, it’s also provided a way for the community to congregate, communicate, and share their ideas and views through its site and social media.

    NYFA BFA Filmmaking and MFA Screenwriting Alum Tim Kirkpatrick

    Tim Kirkpatrick is one of the writers for We Are The Mighty, and has already built an impressive portfolio of articles. Kirkpatrick is a Navy veteran, having entered as a Hospital Corpsman in 2007. In the fall of 2010, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines.

    After coming back stateside, Kirkpatrick enrolled at the New York Film Academy and earned his AFA degree in filmmaking from our Los Angeles campus. Honing his skills even further, Kirkpatrick followed his filmmaking education with NYFA’s 8-Week Screenwriting workshop.

    Putting those writing skills to good use, Kirkpatrick has written multiple blog pieces for We Are The Mighty, including “6 of the Funniest Comedic Military Sketches Ranked” and “5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Navy Medal of Honor.”

    One of his most recent pieces is about the New York Film Academy itself, highlighting the Academy’s relationship to the Military and veteran community. As Kirkpatrick mentions in his article, “At any given time, NYFA caters to over 200 veterans in the student body and the school takes pride in putting a camera in their hands on the first day of class,” while also adding that NYFA has enrolled over 1500 veterans and dependents of veterans in total.

    The Military and veteran community is an important part of the NYFA family. Kirkpatrick mentions in his article the Academy’s V.S.A., or Veteran Student Association, where vets from different branches of the armed forces come together over their shared love of film and the visual arts.

    Kirkpatrick also shouts out the venerable Colonel Jack Jacobs, who in addition to being a Medal of Honor recipient and on-air military strategist for NBC/MSNBC, is the Chair of the NYFA Veterans Advancement Program.

    The Military and the film industry are a more natural pairing than some may suspect. Kirkpatrick writes, “As in the Military, the film industry uses a precise chain of command for its operational purposes, so vets feel right at home on set — hierarchy and order (and yes, even paperwork) have been branded into their solid work ethic.”

    You can check out Tim Kirkpatrick and the other writers at We Are The Mighty here.

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    January 26, 2018 • Community Highlights, Veterans • Views: 1579

  • New York Film Academy Alum Receives International Film Festival Manhattan Award

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    Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses

    Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses knows first-hand how much hard work goes into making a film—which makes her Honorable Mention at 2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan all the more rewarding. In October, after screening her documentary “The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah,” Jameelah was the proud recipient of the IFFM’s Film Festival Director Louie Award Honorable Mention.

    This isn’t Jameelah’s first award, either. Her previous documentaries, “Historic Jeddah” and “Our Journey to Hijaz” have also garnered significant praise from multiple festivals in the last several years.

    2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan

    2017’s International Film Festival Manhattan

    A recurring theme in her work is the challenge women face while living in Saudi Arabia. The uphill battle women face, especially in filmmaking, has helped focus her vision and strengthen her voice.

    Jameelah first attended the New York Film Academy’s 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop in June 2011, before enrolling two months later in the 1-Year Filmmaking program at the New York City campus. There, Jameelah was given hands-on training with state-of-the-art film equipment and taught the skills necessary for pre-production through post-production.

    This intensive education prepared Jameelah for a career in filmmaking.“My instructors at NYFA ensured their students after graduation are already well-rounded and equipped to work in any film department,” stated Jameelah.

    Even after making several documentaries and garnering numerous honors, Jameelah still applies the training she received at NYFA. “I made sure that I took down notes for every class,” said Jameelah, adding, “I still have all my notes until now, and I review it at times when I need a refresher.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Jameelah on her Honorable Mention for “The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah,” and looks forward to the important stories she will tell in the future!

    Jameelah also recently celebrated the world premier of her short film “Reunion,” for which she is the associate producer, at the Anthology Film Archives. “Reunion” is an official selection for the NewFilmmakers New York  film festival.
    The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah

    The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah

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    January 18, 2018 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2793

  • Time’s Up and #MeToo Dominate the 2018 Golden Globes

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    Oprah

    Oprah Winfrey at the 75th Golden Globe Awards. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

    This year’s Golden Globe Awards was clearly different from years past, and not because it was the 75th anniversary ceremony. Nearly all women in attendance, and many of the men, wore all black in a sign of solidarity for the Time’s Up initiative — a response to the gender inequality and sexual harassment prevalent in both the film industry and society as a whole.

    A very public groundswell of support for the movement started after initial reports of sexual harassment came out against megaproducer Harvey Weinstein last year. Since then, more and more women and victims of sexual assault are coming forward and being heard after decades of an institutional culture that allowed sexual assault and discrimination to flourish. In addition to accusations against numerous prominent figures in the media, politics, and elsewhere, additional gender inequalities are also being placed front and center — including a sizable gender wage gap and the disproportionately small number of women represented both in Hollywood and political positions of power.

    Tarana Burke and Michelle Williams

    Tarana Burke and Michelle Williams

    After #MeToo made clear just how many women are affected by these injustices, Time’s Up was started to take specific actions to work towards finally reversing this trend. Along with the call for women to wear black on the Golden Globes red carpet, Time’s Up is advocating for laws that will punish businesses tolerating harassment, working to balance gender parity in the industry, and starting a legal defense fund to support lower-income women seeking justice for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

    The Red Carpet at this year's Golden Globes

    The Red Carpet at this year’s Golden Globes
    (Getty)

    Wearing black wasn’t a fashion statement. It quickly became apparent to everyone watching the televised Golden Globes on Jan. 7 that the conversation and tone of the night would be dominated by a cause too important to be sidelined, even in the height of Hollywood’s yearly awards season. Several individual moments stuck out from the night that revealed just how deeply both gender inequality and the urgency to correct it run in the entertainment industry’s most powerful circles. Some of these moments include:

    • Talk show host and this year’s emcee Seth Meyers delivered a straightforward opening monologue in support of Time’s Up and the women of Hollywood, while also acknowledging that as a straight white man, his voice wasn’t the most important in the room.
    • While live during an E! Network red carpet interview, “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing pointed out that E! was also guilty of a significant wage gap between men and women.
    • When presenting the Best Director award, Natalie Portman made sure to add in the short but poignant adjective “all-male” before listing this year’s nominees. This is especially noteworthy considering Greta Gerwig — who wasn’t nominated — directed the evening’s Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) award winner, “Lady Bird.” (Gerwig was nominated for Best Screenplay, however, and the film picked up two acting nominations and a Best Actress win for Saoirse Ronan.)

     

    Natalie Portman and Ron Howard

    Natalie Portman and Ron Howard

    • Many women invited social activists as their guests to the ceremony, including #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, eschewing the typical tradition of bringing a significant other or relative — which has sparked its own controversy:
    • In addition to wearing black, many of the attendees and presenters displayed Time’s Up pins in support of the movement.
    • The HBO drama “Big Little Lies” dominated the television categories with a cast of mostly women playing complex female characters with nuanced storylines — something that shouldn’t be all that rare, but sadly is.
    • Entertainment icon and living legend Oprah Winfrey was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Award — the Globes’ version of a Lifetime Achievement Award — becoming the first woman of color to receive the honor. Winfrey’s acceptance speech roused the room and was a powerful moment in a night of powerful moments, sparking a flurry of trending hashtags and fan speculation about a 2020 presidential run. Winfrey was clearly aware of her platform and influence and focused many of her words on speaking truth to power, the vital importance of a free press, and the significant role diverse role models play for children growing up in a world dominated by faces that do not resemble their own. As an example, she used her own personal experience seeing Sidney Poitier win the Academy Award for “Lillies of the Field.”

     

    These are just some specific instances of a much broader mood and drive dominating the culture right now. As an institution that prepares students for careers in Hollywood and the entertainment industry, the New York Film Academy is especially receptive to Time’s Up and the #MeToo movement. Many of the Golden Globes viewers — and even some nominees, like Issa Rae — were students, alumni, and faculty members.

    In 2013, the New York Film Academy researched gender inequality in the film industry and presented its data with an infographic that plainly showed just how serious the problem is. In the intervening years since that infographic was first published, gender inequality has not improved in the film industry. In 2017, Forbes released their annual list of highest-paid actors and actresses. The top 14 were all men, with Emma Stone ranked as the highest-paid actress at #15. A 2016 study found that women — roughly half the population — comprised only 28.7% of all speaking roles in films. Additionally, only 18% of films represented a balanced cast (half the speaking characters being female).

    The New York Film Academy prides itself on its diverse body of students, encouraging artists from any number of backgrounds to collaborate and bring together their distinct, personal visions in order to create even stronger, more meaningful stories. Indeed, in 2017 more than half of NYFA’s students were women — a hopeful sign of the industry’s future.

    It goes without saying that there is still a lot of work to be done, and a lot of changes that need to be made to both the entertainment industry and the contemporary culture it inhabits. As Oprah Winfrey said in her acceptance speech, telling stories and speaking truth to power is one important way to help bring about these changes. The New York Film Academy encourages those who were previously afraid to use their voice to tell their stories, and to be loud as possible — the time is now.

    • "Big Little Lies" at the Golden Globes

      “Big Little Lies” at the Golden Globes (Photo by @Ramona_Rosales)

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    January 10, 2018 • Entertainment News • Views: 975

  • Harper’s Bazaar Profiles New York Film Academy Alum Khadijah Kudsi

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    Khadijah Kudsi

    Copyright © Harper’s Bazaar Arabia 2017

    With the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival coming to a close this December, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia profiled six pioneering female filmmakers from the Middle East, including New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Khadijah Kudsi. The in-depth piece about the six directors not only celebrates their hard work and achievements, but highlights the cultural shift taking place in the 21st Century Middle East, and subsequent progress women have made in playing a larger role in society—including the arts.

    NYFA alum Khadijah Kudsi grew up in Saudi Arabia and was always artistic and interested in storytelling. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “I went to New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi in 2014. I only meant to go for four weeks, but that turned into eight, which led into a year and then into a whole career. I did a diploma in filmmaking and then I started working on short films and writing.”

    After graduating from the Academy, Kudsi quickly found work for a Chinese television channel. As her career has progressed, Kudsi likes to focus on stories from Abu Dhabi and the Middle East, including one film that’s premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and another currently in production focusing on Dana Al Ali—the first Emirati woman to climb Mt. Everest.

    Kudsi continued, “I think it’s important to have ties to this region and highlight positive stories coming out of it. But it’s not always easy—the funding is hard. As is finding the right producer and managing your time being a mother and a working woman.”

    Festivals in the Middle East have grown in importance as more and more voices from the region are making themselves heard. The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) first launched in 2004 with 76 films and 13,000 attendees. During its initial six-day run, acting legend Omar Sharif was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The festival has steadily grown since then, with over 60,000 admissions to its 2016 event. This year marked the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival and presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to Irrfan Khan and Sir Patrick Stewart.

    As the region modernizes and women are being given more and more freedom, their roles in society are becoming more prominent as well. For Middle Eastern women working in the arts, that uphill struggle feels all the more real, considering the industry has been historically unequal not just in the region but around the world. Kudsi told Harper’s Bazaar, “I have four children, whereas most of the crew you work with on set are single or have no kids. They don’t understand when you say you need to wrap by a certain time because I need to go see my kids.”

    The New York Film Academy strives to give filmmakers and artists of all kinds a voice, and prides itself on its diverse student body. By learning and working hands-on together, students find their differences are a strength—learning and sharing experiences not just from the school but from one another. If you’re interested in filmmaking or the visual arts, you can find more information about NYFA’s programs here.

    NYFA has committed itself to giving aspiring storytellers in the Middle East an education they can build their careers on. The New York Film Academy is thrilled to see Khadijah Kudsi recognized for her inspiring work and career, and looks forward to the stories she will tell in the years to come. “I love the rawness in the stories here,” professed Kudsi, “and we have so much to talk about.”

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    December 27, 2017 • Abu Dhabi, Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1537