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  • New York Film Academy Instructor Edits Record-Breaking “Free Solo” Documentary

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    The Year of the Documentary strikes again with the arrival of National Geographic’s Free Solo. The 2018 documentary, edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructor Bob Eisenhardt, focuses on rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan, the vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, without ropes, or “free solo.” El Capitan is so dangerous, no one has ever tried before. Honnold is the only person to have ever accomplished the feat.

    Free Solo currently sits at an astounding 99% on Rotten Tomatoes after 66 glowing reviews. Tom Russo of the Boston Globe said of the film, “Go figure that the year’s most outrageously harrowing action movie turns out to be an arthouse doc from National Geographic.” Free Solo beat out An Inconvenient Truth as the highest per-venue average of all time. The documentary is also screening as part of Thom Powers’ Short List at the 2018 DOCNYC film festival, and has been shortlisted by the International Documentary Association (IDA). It was directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.

    Editor Bob Eisenhardt is an Academy Award nominee, three-time Emmy winner, and recipient of the coveted “Eddie” aka American Cinema Editors Award. He has edited over 60 films, mostly feature and television documentaries, including Everything is Copy (HBO), Jerusalem (IMAX), and another rock climbing documentary, Sundance Audience Award Winner Meru. He teaches Advanced Thesis Editing and is a Master Class instructor at the New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. In 2017, Eisenhardt’s film Scotty Bowers and the Secret History of Hollywood was screened at DOC NYC.

    Free Solo is the latest in an exciting run of releases for NYFA Documentary faculty. This year alone has seen rave reviews for Claudia Raschke’s work on RBG, Kristen Nutile’s work on Heroin(e), and Maxine Trump’s To Kid or Not To Kid, all of whom are instructors at NYFA’s Documentary school. For the past eight years, NYFA has been ranked as one of the nation’s top documentary filmmaking schools, grooming students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Bob Eisenhardt on the continued success of Free Solo!

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    November 8, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1228

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Kendall Ciesemier Talks Activism, Social Causes

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    Chicago native, New York-based producer, writer, and social entrepreneur Kendall Ciesemier has been making waves with breaking news stories and interviews about social causes ever since she was 11 years old. At that young age, she formed Kids Caring 4 Kids to empower young people to help provide basic human needs to children living in sub-Saharan Africa. While she was at Georgetown University, Kendall co-founded OWN IT, a women’s leadership initiative to empower college-aged women to engage with women leaders. And at New York Film Academy (NYFA), Ciesemier completed the 6-week Documentary program in 2017.

    Ciesemier’s personal history of health issues inspired her humanitarian work. Expounding upon that, she says, “My own health struggles entirely formed the lens through which I look at the world.” In lieu of gifts and flowers during her recovery, she humbly requested well-wishers donate to the village of Musele, Zambia — the most highly affected area by the AIDS epidemic at the time. “I found my purpose in founding Kids Caring 4 Kids,” added Ciesemier. Since 2004, 8,000 individuals in five different African countries have been assisted via the construction of dormitories, orphan care centers, a clinic, classrooms, computer labs, bicycles, indoor plumbing, meals, and clean water.

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    LINK IN BIO: My interview with #MeToo founder @taranajaneen just dropped on @mic’s FB watch show: #MicDispatch. Go watch and learn and wow! Tarana really brings it. We discuss Kavanaugh, the one year anniversary of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the state of the #MeToo movement. . Here’s her message for survivors which I found so comforting: “I want us to lay our burdens down. This should be laid at the feet of the Senate. This should be laid at the feet of your local politicians. It should be laid at the feet of the school or institution or whoever that didn't protect you. It's not our burden to bear.” #survivors #believesurvivors #metoo #believewomen #metoomovement

    A post shared by Kendall Ciesemier (@kendallciesemier) on

    Now a producer at Mic, Ciesemier recently found herself helping out with an interview of rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the House in 2018 as the youngest woman in Congressional history. The Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed 29-year old recently stunned the country after defeating longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District. Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed alongside fellow DSA-supported Cynthia Nixon, who lost her bid to defeat incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo.

    At Mic, her topics range from criminal justice reform, racial justice, the #MeToo movement, and more. Her recent interview with Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, helped lead to Johnson’s clemency as is arguably the highlight of Ciesemier’s career.

    Speaking of the experience, Ciesemier said, “We actually drove down alongside her family, three hours from Memphis to Alabama. We were racing to get there in time to pick up Alice and watching her walk across the street and see her family across from the prison was pretty powerful.” She continued, “I think, as a journalist, you’re taught to just do your job — but you’re also a human being. I don’t think I processed all of that experience until a good four days after. This is a story I’ll never forget.”

    Ciesemier tweeted her emotional reaction to the release:

    Activists also showed their support of Alice Marie Johnson’s release, including Reese Witherspoon, who thanked Ciesemeier on Twitter for her efforts:

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kendall Ciesemier for her time and, more importantly, her community service, philanthropy, and activism. We wish her the best of luck with all her future endeavors.

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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Mira Hamour

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    The award-winning documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities first found life as an MFA graduation project for New York Film Academy MFA Documentary alum Mira Hamour. It quickly took a life on its own, and thanks to the passion and incredibly demanding—both physically and emotionally—work put in by Hamour, the film has gone on to win eleven awards (and counting)  since its completion in July 2018.

    These honors include:Mira Hamour

    -London Independent Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -South Film And Arts Academy Festival (Best Documentary Short Film)
    -Best Shorts Competition (Award of Merit)
    -Cinema World Fest Awards (Best in Show, Best Documentary Short)
    -International Independent Film Awards (Platinum Award)
    -Los Angeles Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -Independent Shorts Awards (Gold Award for Best Documentary Short)
    -Top Shorts (Best Documentary Award)
    -Docs Without Borders Film Festival (WINNER: Revolution and Reform- Exceptional Merit)
    -Global Shorts (WINNER: Special Mention)

    Additionally, Syria’s Tent Cities has been selected to screen at the Studio City International Film Festival in Los Angeles, an official selection at Short to the Point festival, selected at the Short Long World Festival, been selected as a Semi-Finalist at the Directors Cut Int’l Film Festival, and chosen in the Top Shorts Semi-Finalist Top 40 films. Hamour will be attending the screening on November 14.

     

    The documentary short isn’t just a film—it’s a call to action by Hamour, telling vitally important stories from one of this century’s greatest humanitarian crises and educating its viewers on how they can help in their own small way. Not just a powerful work of filmmaking, Syria’s Tent Cities is an extrapolation of Mira Hamour herself—a passionate plea for empathy and understanding from an artist whose heart matches her mastery of the documentary craft. 

    Amid a festival circuit for Syria’s Tent Cities as well as pre-production and production of several other projects, Hamour found time to chat with New York Film Academy about her film, what drives her work, and her time at NYFA:

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

    Mira Hamour (MH): I identify as Syrian-Canadian. Growing up, I’ve lived in the Middle East and Canada and most recently spent three years in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, and New Jersey).

    When I was in high school, I love watching documentaries. I loved hearing real stories, about real people and learning about all of these world problems that not many people really seemed to know about. I felt like a lot of the social issues that interested me stemmed from the misinterpretation and incorrect practice of religions, and I explored lots of world religions throughout my bachelor’s degree to see if I could find the root cause of these problems and misinterpretations. I wanted to prove that when interpreted and practiced correctly, every major belief system preached love, acceptance, and unity at its core. I focused on taboo and challenging issues and throughout my Undergraduate schooling; I extensively researched a variety of controversial topics, including feminism and homosexuality in Islam, Jewish masculinities and gender identity and, exploring ISIS and radicalization’s global impact.

    Realizing the incredible power of film to bring people together, inform audiences, and encourage them to make a change for the better, I knew that I wanted to study Documentary Filmmaking to learn how to effectively shed light on social issues and present my audiences with viable solutions for positive social change. 

    In July of 2014, I enrolled in a 4-week filmmaking summer course at NYFA while still working on my undergrad, to sort of test the waters and see if this was really for me. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I get to meet incredible people who are still very close friends to this day, it kickstarted my career in filmmaking and confirmed my love for it. As soon as I was done with my undergraduate degree, I enrolled full time at NYFA for my MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My debut film, Syria’s Tent Cities, was shot in Jordan, Lebanon, and Canada. It started out as an MFA graduation project, but I worked on it long after graduation and have now developed it into the 30-minute award-winning documentary short that it is today.

    Identifying as both Syrian and Canadian, watching the refugee crisis continually worsen has been especially difficult for me. I felt helpless, and knew that many others also wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. Almost eight years into the crisis, I noticed that the Syrian refugees were now being viewed as one, singular mass statistic. I spent many summers in Syria growing up and have amazing memories there; I wanted to remind the world that these refugees are individuals: they’re parents, they’re children, they’re teachers, they’re families, they’re friends. In many ways, they’re not very different from us, they’ve just been forced into a very unfortunate situation and had their world turned upside down.

    My film is unique in that it explores the Syrian Refugee Crisis from both a local and global perspective by examining the lives of Syrian refugees in Middle Eastern refugee camps while also answering the question of what happens next, once they’re resettled in North America. While planning the film and working on months of pre-production from Los Angeles, one prominent issue kept coming up: there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian children around the world growing up without any access to education. In the long run, this could have very dire consequences and prevent them from becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of their society. The lack of education takes away from what’s left of their childhood and doesn’t give them a sense of importance or purpose. I knew that I not only had to focus on education while making the film, but also present the audience with feasible solutions to help fix this problem. 

    Throughout the film, the refugees work to improve their situation through the efforts of the two individuals I chose to tell this story through: Nowell Sukkar, founder of Nowell’s Mission working in Jordan and Lebanon, and Mazen El-Baba, founder of H.appi Camp working from Ontario, Canada. Both of them have dedicated their lives to making education and inclusiveness a right for all Syrian children. 

    I also worked with Human Rights Watch in Jordan and Lebanon to better explain the situation to the audience; instead of blaming the refugees’ parents automatically, the HRW researchers break down the many reasons why all these barriers exist and how we can combat them.

    Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent CitiesNYFA: What inspired you to make Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: The Syria we see on the news today is painfully different from the one I knew growing up; it’s hard to come to terms with just how bad things have gotten in a relatively short amount of time. As with many other global crises, after a while people begin to grow tired of it because, even if they want to help, they don’t know how to. It seems too complicated, too difficult, and they feel helpless. And that’s why I wanted my film to focus on the specific issue of education and how the lack of it is killing refugees’ childhood, their ability to dream, aspire, and achieve.

    During a visit to my home city of Toronto in August of 2016, I spoke with newly resettled Syrians who noticed a world of difference in their children who had just attended the first ever H.appi camp, a free summer camp experience exclusively for newcomer refugee children. H.appi aimed to help these children integrate into Canadian society, improve their linguistic skills and aid them in overcoming the trauma that they had experienced before arriving to Canada. When I actually made the film a year later, I realized that whether they’re living illegally in neighbouring countries or permanently resettled in Canada, many of the refugees were united in one thing: their goal to achieve a better life through a good education and the mental health resources many of them needed to overcome the trauma of war.

    NYFA: What was your experience filming Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: Personally, working on Syria’s Tent Cities was especially challenging. For starters, I had under two months to travel to two continents, three countries, and four cities to shoot all of my footage. One of the things about being a low-budget student and having to operate as what was often a one- or two-person crew is that you learn to wear many, many hats on the job. As with most of my other projects, I was in charge of directing, producing, shooting, recording sound, and editing Syria’s Tent Cities. 

    As someone who’s doing the job of five people on location at refugee camps in the Middle East, I needed to be able to handle my emotions, even when faced with a seven-year-old girl whose leg has been amputated during the war staring longingly from her wheelchair as her twin sister and other siblings run around their one-bedroom apartment. Even when a two-year-old little boy being raised by a single father is so deprived of the love of a mother he lost while the family were fleeing the country that he curls up in your lap while you’re shooting an interview with his father and clings to you, refusing to let go when you have to leave later. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    I had to keep my composure on location; if I was an emotional wreck, the film wouldn’t get made and no one would hear their story. There were many, many tears when I got home. But I’d have to get up the next day and do it all again, pretending that my heart wasn’t breaking every time I met another child who just didn’t understand why they had to lose family members and run from what was once a safe and happy home. What kept me going was that I knew I was helping, I was telling their stories and encouraging the world to change their lives. In making this film, I truly feel like I grew so much as a person and a filmmaker.

    NYFA: What are your plans for Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My main goal was that I didn’t want my audience to leave the theatre feeling sad and helpless. I wanted to give them tools and solutions to make a difference. In the film we see Nowell and Mazen; they’re not millionaires, they’re not people who have absolutely nothing else going on in their personal lives. Mazen is a full-time medical student and Nowell is a mother of two who has to tend to her own family’s wellbeing. 

    Yet they still make the time to help, they’re dedicated. And although I don’t expect every person who watches the film to start a non-profit like theirs, they show us the small ways in which we can all help truly make a difference in these children’s lives. Simple things and contributions that actually end up having a noticeable and positive impact in the long run. 

    It was incredibly inspiring to work with them and I really hope that, when they watch the film, the audience is inspired in the same way I was. I set up a page on my website where people who watch the film can learn more about Mazen’s and Nowell’s work and make a simple contribution that will truly end up making a world of difference. 

    Additionally, after working with Human Rights Watch through making this film and seeing all of the incredibly valuable research they do on the ground, I partnered with them and created a page specifically dedicated to this cause! All donations that come through the page from the link on my website will be designated to Human Rights Watch’s Refugees Division, specifically for their work on Syrian Refugees.

    I’m especially proud of Syria’s Tent Cities. As someone who identifies as both Syrian and Canadian, this story really hit close to home. It’s something I wanted to do for so long that every (increasingly difficult) challenge that I was faced with while making this film was a blessing I was grateful for, because it meant that I was finally actually making the film and telling the story of Syrian refugees. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    As proud as I am of how well the film’s been doing and as honoured as I am to be able to tell this incredible story, the awards are especially meaningful because they confirm that people recognize the importance of the film’s message and that they’re moved to give it an audience and help. This is just the start, but I know that I’ve succeeded in beginning to raise more awareness, which is what I set out to do when I first made the film.

    I plan to continue showing the film to as many audiences as I possibly can; this is a crucial problem and small contributions can make a very large difference in the life of a refugee child.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MH: While working in the field of Documentary Filmmaking, I’ve created films that focused on issues that I felt needed to be heard and further explored. I wanted my films to not only educate the audience on the issue at hand, but to also show them clear ways in which they can help and make a difference or learn about an issue that was once foreign to them and become more accepting, compassionate individuals.

    One of the films I’m working on now, PCOS, is about the often neglected and discredited Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder in women and how the many side effects it causes impact those affected by it, including facial hair in women. Some of the women in the film resort to elective weight loss surgery to reverse the symptoms of their PCOS, while others accept and try to change society’s harsh criticism of them. I actually have the condition myself and am one of the characters in the film (truly challenging as a simultaneous director!)

     

    I’m also about to release a short documentary film about two Syrian senior citizens who relocated to stay with their family abroad. And while they’re technically safe and living in a comfortable home, their whole lives have been uprooted extremely unexpectedly. At their age after retirement, they expected to live out the rest of their days in familiar Syria, and so they now spend much of their time reminiscing and missing those they lost to the war and during the move. Living in a state of constant uncertainty, major change, and having to adapt to a completely foreign country at their advanced age has made them question whether leaving Syria was worth it, and so the film is named Safe or Sorry.

    Apart from my own projects, I also currently freelance, primarily in Documentary Filmmaking. Most of my jobs are in pre-production and/or production. I love researching a great topic extensively, reaching out to people, booking and conducting interviews, being on location shooting vérité and seeing my subject’s world through the camera’s lens. 

    When people let you into their lives in that way, it’s a really great, fulfilling feeling — there’s a certain mutual trust and understanding there. The amazing people that documentary filmmaking brings into your life and the relationships you develop with the people you film are truly incredible and constantly remind me of why I got into this field and how fortunate I am to call this my job. For instance, making Syria’s Tent Cities was such a humbling and eye-opening experience; I saw firsthand the difference that dedication and love, even coming from a single individual, can make in the lives of those facing a global crisis.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Syria’s Tent Cities, or your work in general?

    MH: The biggest thing I learned is that loving something doesn’t make it easy — it just makes it worth fighting for and working towards. When I first started this journey, I had absolutely no idea how hard making documentaries would be! But because I love it, it has definitely been worth every challenge I’ve faced.

    As an emerging artist, you’re definitely going to have times where you doubt yourself and your abilities, sometimes even whether you were meant to be in this field at all. You’re going to have friends in ‘safe’ jobs, with a steady paycheque and very little risk involved. And sometimes it’s going to scare you. Being a documentary filmmaker is hard, it’s challenging, there’s a lot of discipline, work, and time management that goes into it. You have to be able to believe wholeheartedly in yourself and your project and the message that you’re trying to put out there. 

    I’ve been so fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents, family, friends, and teachers in my life who have definitely played a big role in getting me to this point today. But to make it in this field, you have to truly believe in your work and keep pushing to make the story you’re working on heard; working past every festival rejection you receive, every professional failure that comes up along the way, every person who discredits you and doesn’t believe in you, and every one of the many challenges you’re going to face. 

    I want to specifically thank Sanora Bartels, who was actually the Consulting Producer on Syria’s Tent Cities for being an amazing mentor, friend, support system, and just an overall wonderful human being. She’s gone above and beyond her role as Chair of the Documentary MFA Program to make sure that her students succeed and reach their full potential. Most importantly, she believed in us and our abilities even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Having teachers like that when you’re only just starting out in the field is truly invaluable. Sanora is just one of the many incredible teachers I’ve been lucky to work with at NYFA.

    NYFA: What lies ahead for you now?

    MH: In addition to filmmaking, I’m very passionate about travel and hope to be able to see the world through my work. I’ve been to 25 countries so far and it never ceases to amaze me how many similarities we all have on a basic human level, regardless of differing social and cultural norms. I will continue to travel and make films while I learn more about the world; Syria’s Tent Cities is just the beginning, I have so many other projects planned and some are already in pre- and post-production!

    The New York Film Academy thanks Mira Hamour for the time she took to speak with us, and congratulates her on the well-deserved success of her documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Ilaria Polsonetti Nominated for News & Documentary Emmy

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary school alum Ilaria Polsonetti’s film has been nominated for multiple awards at the 39th Annual News & Documentary Emmys. Made for VICE News Tonight on HBO, “Libya: Intercepting Migrants” is nominated for Outstanding Editor News and for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story. Winners are announced on the first of October in New York City.

    Ilaria Polsonetti

    Ilaria Polsonetti

    Polsonetti graduated from NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary program in 2011. She is also a graduate of the 3-Month Screenwriting program, which she finished in 2013. Over the course of her career, the editor has melded her knowledge gleaned at NYFA with her M.S. in Sociology (London School of Economics). After graduating, she worked for Market Road Films, Singer Street Films, and as a freelance editor.

    A screenshot from "Dirty Oil in Nigeria"

    A screenshot from “Dirty Oil”

    Since 2015, Polsonetti has worked for VICE in Brooklyn. With the expansive and ever-growing global media brand, she has had the chance to work on urgent and political topics such as Libya’s migrant crisis and Venezuela’s anti-government protests. VICE’s increasingly diverse and critically-acclaimed documentary series’ have been an ideal place for the multicultural filmmaker to hone her skills. In 2017 alone, Polsonetti worked on “German Hotelier turns Hotel into a Migrant Center,” “Dirty Oil,” and “The Politics of Terror” in addition to the aforementioned Libya piece. Along with her work for VICE, Polsonetti has worked on “The Notorious Mr. Bout” and “First to Fall.” She was also recently editor on VICE’s Raised in the System” starring Michael K. Williams (aka Omar on “The Wire”).

    Documentary Chair Andrea Swift says of Polsonetti’s work,”These nominations don’t surprise me in the least. Ilaria has always been an insightful and diligent editor who demonstrated a unique sensitivity to the human experience. She developed a strong sense of story that is equally evident in this piece.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Ilaria Polsonetti on her recent success and looks forward to seeing what she works on next! You can watch VICE on HBO’s documentary on migrants in the Mediterranean below:

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Releases Chilling Doc “A Sniper’s War”

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Olya Schechter recently released her film, A Sniper’s War, to rave reviews. The harrowing documentary focuses on a Serbian sniper named Deki, whose anti-US views caused them to join pro-Russian rebels in the Ukrainian conflict.

    The film’s official website summarizes the documentary as “[exploring] the ambiguous morality of war when social media becomes a communication platform for two rival snipers to schedule duels in hope to kill one another between the shadows of rival superpowers.” The filmmakers were given an unbelievable level of access to the conflict’s front lines and the military bases of those involved.

    A screencap from "A Sniper's War"

    “A Sniper’s War”

    The Hollywood Reporter called the film “powerful and disturbing” with “superb cinematography.” Despite positive reviews, however, the film has generated controversy online from those who have misinterpreted the film’s message as “pro-Russian propaganda.” Its rating on audience-driven sites such as IMDB has been torpedoed with 1-star ratings. As a positive review on Film Threat points out, “Schechter tried to keep politics out of it, telling the story of a man, not the story of a war.” She gives a comprehensive (and often tragic) background to her protagonist, who could otherwise be difficult for the average audience member to empathize with. “There is a fine line between a soldier and a killer,” Deki explains.

    The pro-Russian, anti-United States sentiment of the protagonist makes for bold subject matter. The film was released by Journeyman Pictures and joins a lineup of daring, diverse pictures such as I Love My Muslim (concerning a 62-year old Muslim marrying a 33-year old Libyan freedom fighter), Pani: Women, Drugs and Kathmandu (about opioid addiction in Nepal), and Take Light (concerning Nigeria’s electricity crisis).

    In July 2018, Schechter returned to NYFA’s Battery Park campus to screen her film for students and alumni in the Academy’s 1st Floor Theatre. Chair of NYFA’s Documentary school Andrea Swift joined the audience to support her former student.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates alum Olya Schechter on a breathtaking work of filmmaking and looks forward to following her already impressive career. You can watch the trailer to A Sniper’s War below, or buy it on Amazon here.

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    September 25, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4077

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Doc Instructor Maxine Trump

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    Maxine Trump is a filmmaker, producer, editor, and author. She is based in Brooklyn and teaches Documentary at the New York Film Academy. Her films Musicwood and To Kid or Not To Kid cover such varied topics as the state of the acoustic guitar industry and the decision to not have children, respectively. NYFA sat down with her and talked about her career as a documentarian and freelance filmmaker, as well as her new book:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): How does the process for writing a book differ from writing a screenplay or documentary? Do you prefer one to the other?

    Maxine Trump (MT): That’s an interesting question. It’s very different, it’s a different way of talking to an audience. Although you still want to be accessible, it is more academic — no surprises there — writing an academic book.

    Maxine Trump

    Maxine Trump

    I never go for an academic voice in my films, everything should be entertaining, never educational. I tell all my students never to describe your documentary films as educational. Even the BBC has taken that word out of their mission statement. It just sounds boring, and your film will be boring generally, if it’s educational. You’re not making instructional YouTube videos, that’s a very different form of entertainment. Although I love hybrids, and being inventive with formats. So maybe there will be an amazing instructional documentary that someone will make and I’ll eat my words, but I’ve yet to see it. Werner Herzog comes close.

    Anyone want to experiment?

    NYFA: I watched your “Trumps Against Trump” short and Donald Trump was elected President shortly thereafter. How have you dealt with sharing his last name since?

    MT: That’s funny to be asked that question here, people ask me ALL the time. You know we often make documentaries to deal with something personal that we have wrestled with, even if it’s not obvious in the film we’re making. I know one famous documentarian that realized they kept making films that somehow always wrestled with a father figure. So this was my purging, I had to do something. And with all the crazy, shocking political decision-making right now, this film brings a little bit of light. Some humor, and helps me cope with my name. After all, as I’m told in the film by one great character on the street, the [guy] ruined my name.

    NYFA: You’ve covered disparate topics from the decision to children not having access to toilets to the acoustic guitar industry’s interaction with the environment. How do you decide to focus and hone in on topics that you think will make for good and worthwhile documentaries?

    MT: This is a lovely question, and one that I talk about a lot with the students. You will sit with your film for a very long time, so what are you passionate about? I’ve made documentaries with an underlying message, from the overloaded New York sewage system, to people deciding not to have children. But my films are entertaining. I don’t even like the phrase “social issue filmmaking” anymore, and I make them all the time. But, first and foremost, I think often about who might be coming home from a hard day at work and would want to turn on my film. I don’t want them to necessarily feel bad about life, I want them to feel like there is hope and be surprised and sometimes shocked and sitting on the edge of their seats and laughing, and crying, and want to see more.

    That’s filmmaking.

    Maxine Trump - Musicwood

    Maxine Trump’s “Musicwood”

    NYFA: What projects do you have coming up that people should keep an eye out for?

    MT: The beauty (and the bane) of freelance is that you’re always working, juggling about five projects any one time. But I love this life. Yesterday I was commissioned to write TV treatments for micro-docs for a TV network, today I’m talking to distributors about my latest feature documentary To Kid Or Not To Kid, about people deciding whether or not to have children. And this afternoon I’ll be pulling together casting ideas for a web series for public television that I’ve just been comissioned to make. And then, of course, I teach at NYFA. This lifestyle allows me to teach (and write) about real world examples.

    I love my flexible life, and it’s so great that NYFA supports faculty to work in this way. I think we have a really strong documentary department helmed by Andrea Swift and supported by Amanda Brzezowski, and it’s a joy to teach.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Maxine Trump for her time answering our questions and for all the hard work she does to educate NYFA’s Documentary school students. You can purchase her new book, The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmap: A Practical Guide to Planning, Production and Distribution here.

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    September 24, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1350

  • Stranger Than Fiction at the IFC Center, Co-Presented by the New York Film Academy

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    Stranger Than Fiction

    Stranger Than Fiction with IFC and NYFA

    Stranger Than Fiction, the annual weekly documentary film series hosted by Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen and co-presented by IFC Center and the New York Film Academy, announces the spring season of its 14th year.

    The regular Stranger Than Fiction spring season is shown at IFC Center every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. for eight weeks, plus two Thursday night screenings, all starting April 17.

    The new season’s lineup kicked off with Sara Driver’s Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (April 17), about the pre-fame years of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat; and will close with Jason Kohn’s Love Means Zero (June 5), about the controversial tennis coach Nick Bollittieri. Other works include New York rappers Nas and Dave East in Rapture (May 1).

    Legendary Queens rapper Nas

    Legendary Queens rapper Nas

    Each event includes a discussion with the filmmaker or special guests, followed by a gathering at a nearby bar. The full season schedule appears at the bottom of the blog. For detailed information, visit here or IFC Center’s website.

    Tickets for Stranger Than Fiction screenings are $17 for the general public and $14 for IFC Center members. A Season Pass, good for admission to all 10 evenings, is available for $99 ($80 for IFC members). A NYFA ID gets you nearly a 20% discount at the door!

    View the full schedule below:

    Jean-Michel Basquiat from "Boom For Real"

    Jean-Michel Basquiat from Boom For Real

    • April 17 – Opening Night: BOOM FOR REAL: THE LATE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT (2017, 78 min) Q&A w/ dir Sara Driver
    • April 19 – Thursday Special: HAIKU ON A PLUM TREE (2016, 78 min) Q&A w/ dir Mujah Maraini-Melehi
    • April 24: THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND (2003, 92 min) Q&A w/ dir Sam Green & prod Carrie Lozano
    • May 1: RAPTURE: NAS & DAVE EAST (2018, 63 min) Q&A w/ dir Sacha Jenkins & EP Ben Selkow
    • May 8: GOTTI: GODFATHER AND SON (2018, 90 min) Q&A w/ dir Richard Stratton & subject John Gotti Jr
    • May 15: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ (2017, 94 min) Q&A w/ dir Kate Novack
    • May 22: THE FOURTH ESTATE (2018, 90 min) Q&A w/ dir Liz Garbus
    • May 24 – Thursday Special: A JIHAD FOR LOVE (2007, 81 min) Q&A w/ dir Parvez Sharma
    • May 29: ATOMIC CAFE (1982, 92 min) Q&A w/ dirs. Pierce Rafferty, Kevin Rafferty & Jayne Loader
    • June 5 – Closing Night: LOVE MEANS ZERO (2017, 89 min) Q&A w/ dir Jason Kohn
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    April 18, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Film Festivals • Views: 1159

  • NYFA to Screen Student & Faculty Work at DOC NYC Film Festival

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    The New York Film Academy Documentary Department is excited to announce a special NYFA Showcase at the renowned DOC NYC Film Festival this Friday, November 10th, at 11:45 AM at IFC Center, 323 6th Ave, New York, NY. Tickets for the Showcase can be purchased here.

    DOC NYC has been voted one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “five coolest documentary film festivals in the world.”  It’s also one of the most respected, and America’s largest. Based at the West Village’s IFC Center, Chelsea’s SVA Theater and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema, the eight-day festival showcases new achievements in documentary film along with panels and conversations.  This is third consecutive year NYFA students will premiere projects at the festival.

    “DOC NYC is one of the most important documentary film festivals in the world. It’s a huge honor to be included in their showcase for the third year in a row.  Luckily, our students are up to the challenge,” said Andrea Swift, Chair, NYFA Documentary Department. “These five films are as accomplished as they are diverse, which is representative of the majority of NYFA documentaries.”

    "Jatar" by Braulio Jatar

    “Jatar” by Braulio Jatar

    When tagging DOC NYC on social media platforms, use @DOCNYC and #docnyc or #docnycpro

    The NYFA films that will screen are below:

    Atomic Love (USA, 17 min., Yusaku Kanagawa) A Hiroshima orphan begins a tentative friendship with an enemy soldier.

    Home Free (USA, 15 min., Marie Vanderrusten) Jack the bubble man, who has lived in Central Park for years believes himself more home-free, not homeless.

    Little Red Lie (USA, 13 min., Mariko Ide) Battling the fable of the Big Bad Wolf, Rebecca struggles to release young Mexican Gray wolves back into the wild.

    Jatar (USA, 10 min., Braulio Jatar) The “capture order” on a young journalist’s head stands between him and his father, a high-profile dissident dying in a Venezuelan prison.

    Jaguaribara (USA, 17 min., Lucas M. Dantas). When the ruins of the submerged city, Jaguaribara begin to reappear after a drought, the filmmaker’s family search for their lost ancestral home.

    Jaguaribara by NYFA student Lucas Dantas

    Three faculty films are also premiering at DOC NYC. Information about those is included below:

    Saturday Nov 11, 2017, 3:45 PM SVA Theatre, Tickets
    Scotty Bowers and the Secret History of Hollywood (US premiere), featuring Editing Master Course prof and Oscar nominee / multiple Emmy Award Winner and editor, Bob Eisenhardt

    Sun Nov 12, 2017, 4:45 PMIFC Center. Tickets
    Hot Grease, (world premiere) directed and produced by NYFA Documentary Department Producing professor, Jessica Wolfson
    Wed Nov 15, 2017, 9:15 PMIFC Center. Tickets
    Atomic Homefront, (NYC premiere) NYFA Documentary Department Cinematography prof and 4 x Oscar Nominee and cinematographer, Claudia Raschke
    This film is co-presented by Human Rights Watch.

    DOC NYC U – New York Film Academy Showcase
    Fri Nov 10, 2017, 11:45 AM IFC Center
    Buy Tickets

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    November 8, 2017 • Acting • Views: 1620

  • Netflix Releases NYFA Documentary Faculty Work “Heroin(e)”

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    heroin(e)_netflixA new Netflix original short documentary entitled “Heroin(e)” premieres today, Sept. 12, and a New York Film Academy instructor was instrumental in its production. Kristen Nutile, who teaches filmmaking and editing at NYFA, served as editor during the making of the film.

    “Heroin(e)” focuses on three women in Huntington, West Virginia, attempting to reverse the devastating, years-long cycle of the opiate epidemic. The film was directed by Peabody-awarding winning documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon who is a native of West Virginia. Her unique, local viewpoint allowed for a more empathetic and passionate portrayal of the issue as opposed to the many outside news outlets that have attempted to cover the epidemic.

    “When I was approached by Elaine, I was very moved by this particular problem and that is why I took on the project,” said the NYFA documentary instructor. The fact that three heroines played the lead roles in the harrowing story was also appealing to Nutile, who stated, “I loved how she was following three women trying to make a difference. I love that it was female-centric.”

    The film focuses on Fire Chief Jan Rader, Cabell County drug court Judge Patricia Keller, and Necia Freeman of Brown Bag Ministry, all of whom have taken it upon themselves to attempt to slow the devastating effects of opioid use on West Virginia.

    Nutile is an award-winning, New York-based veteran documentary editor and filmmaker. She has worked on “The Bullish Farmer,” “Deep Run,” “Unfinished Spaces” and edited a wide range of other films, documentary and otherwise. She founded Soft Spoken Films in 2001.

    Check out the trailer for the film below and watch in its entirety on Netflix. You can also learn more on the website.

    UPDATE: “Heroin(e)” has made the shortlist for a 2018 Academy Award Nomination in the documentary short subject category.

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    September 12, 2017 • Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 3322