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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum’s Documentary Film About Life Changing Meditation Technique Selected for the New York Lift Off Festival

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    In addition to having his film selected in the New York Lift Off Festival, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Naman Goyal is using his latest documentary as a means to educate others during the global Coronavirus pandemic about a unique meditation technique that could assist individuals in their fight against the virus.

    Naman Goyal, who hails from India, graduated from NYFA’s One Year Filmmaking Conservatory  in 2010 from the New York City campus. The Jaipur-based filmmaker is now gaining media attention surrounding his feature documentary The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra (revealed), which portrays a unique meditation technique that is having a positive impact on hospital patients and others seeking healing. 

    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Naman Goyal

    The docu-film explores an alternative healing method, otherwise known as “’Energy Healing Meditation Technique” and its founder, Guru Ram Lal Siyag. This meditation technique is said to build up the body’s immune system and generate antibodies that could help fight off bacteria or even a virus. 

    Goyal completed filming the documentary in January 2020, a few months before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. “Initially, I only wanted to make a half an hour film on this topic, but as I started researching, the project just expanded into a feature film and one and a half years just flew by,” shares Goyal. The docu-film, includes interviews from doctors and patients who benefited from the Energy Healing Meditation Technique both physically and mentally. Some patients interviewed even included former cancer patients who experienced significantly reduced cancer recovery times. 

    When the global pandemic hit, Goyal knew his documentary would be an informative resource for Coronavirus patients seeking healing. “I started sending clips of my documentary to patients in Wuhan (China), Daegu (South Korea), Milan (Italy), and New York City through Facebook,” says Goyal. 

    At the time the pandemic reached Goyal’s own city of Jaipur, India, he showed the meditation technique to a Coronavirus patient, who recovered a week after beginning the meditation, along with their prescribed medication. Goyal then reached out to another patient in Jodhpur City, who also owed their recovery to the meditation technique. Goyal has since been interviewed by a number of news outlets including India’s CNN-News18 about the technique featured in his documentary (Video below with English subtitles).

    Goyal’s docu-film  has already attracted festival attention and has been selected to appear in the upcoming New York Lift Off Film Festival. Goyal reveals the film may have an official release in September 2020 and shares that he is in talks with the U.S. Department of Health (NCCIH and NIH), who are looking at the possibility of doing a clinical trial with the meditation technique. 

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Naman Goyal on his forthcoming documentary film The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra and looks forward to upcoming projects from the Filmmaking alum.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alumni Direct Music Videos in Collaboration with Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmaking alumni Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange were given the opportunity to collaborate with Josh Homme’s super group, the Desert Sessions, to create two diverse and unique music videos for two of the tracks off the Desert Sessions’ latest album, Vols. 11 & 12.

    The Desert Sessions is a musical supergroup formed by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who has been hosting his “Desert Sessions” retreats since 1997. Each session involves a different group of well-known musicians mixed with unknown talent, who come together in the desert to simply play music and experiment with new techniques and melodies.

    Official photo courtesy of the Desert Sessions musical collective

    “It is a really creative project that Jonathan Samukange and I have had the pleasure to be involved in,” says Italian filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro. “Matador records and Josh Homme reached out to NYFA looking for filmmakers to shoot music videos for their latest album Vols. 11 & 12. We had a great first meeting with Josh [Homme], where he explained the nature of the sessions.” After pitching their ideas for their videos, Fabbro and Samukange were selected by Homme and given a production budget to create two videos for the Desert Sessions.

    Still from “If You Run” (Directed by Gabriele Fabbro)

    Fabbro’s video, “If You Run,” follows a young woman who witnesses something terrifying in the woods and tries to escape. The director’s inspiration for the video was taken from deadly attacks on European journalists. “I used to read a lot of news about murders,” says Fabbro. “I remember one [story] in particular that happened in a cornfield. That article came to mind while hearing ‘If You Run’.”

    Filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro

    “I wanted to play with tension,” says Fabbro. “I wanted a video that would keep the audience at the edge of their seat.” To portray this, Fabbro made sure that every aspect of the video embodied a sense of fear and unease for the viewer “Every tool in the video, from the shakiness of the handheld shots to the distorted sound of the radio, serves to exaggerate this fear.”

    The second video created for Desert Sessions was for the song “Move Together,” directed by NYFA Filmmaking alum Jonathan Samukange, who is also known as “Director O.” His video, filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe, is a reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve. The video enlisted residents of an entire village and utilized the region’s stunning natural landscape to create “a time capsule” and hallucinatory trip through time.

    “Move Together” (Directed by Jonathan Samukange)

    Before being involved with the project, Samukange says he wasn’t planning on staying in the U.S because his vision is to “change the face of cinema in Africa and bring new opportunities.” When he initially pitched his vision for the video, he knew it could only be filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe. “It was a huge risk, but I believed in my heart that the people in Africa have a lot to offer and that’s what I was bringing to the table.”

    Filmmaker and NYFA alum Jonathan Samukange

    When asked about his vision for the video, Samukange stated, “the theme of love and working together [in the lyrics] as well as the conflict that comes with such connections took me back to the time of Adam and Eve.” He explained that their love “created conflict in their lives and they still stayed together through thick and thin.” He wanted his audience to also feel the attraction of opposites and conflict by combining two opposite elements for the video. “I immediately fell in love with the idea of fusing rock and Afro House dance moves. In my opinion, when cultures clash, new relationships and ideas form.”

     

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate both Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange on the release of their videos for Desert Sessions and looks forward to seeing what both alums will come out with next. NYFA also encourages everyone to check out Desert Sessions Volumes 11 & 12, out now, on Matador Records.

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    May 28, 2020 • Alumni Events, Filmmaking • Views: 449

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing and Filmmaking Instructor Denise Carlson Produces ITS A DOG’S LIFE on Disney+

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    Not all heroes wear capes, but they do have fur. It’s a Dog’s Life, an upcoming Disney+ docu series explores the incredible role that many dogs play to make the lives of others better. New York Film Academy (NYFA) producing and filmmaking instructor Denise Carlson is one of the producers on the series that will be available on the Disney streaming platform May 15, 2020. 

    It’s a Dog’s Life is hosted by voiceover legend Bill Farmer, known for his iconic role as Disney’s Goofy, as he crosses the country to meet different dogs doing incredible jobs or extraordinary activities and explores the special bond between dogs and humans. 

    Title card for ‘It’s A Dog’s Life’

    Carlson, who had previous experience with Disney while working at Disney Channel, was a clear fit for this project given her past production experience and her enthusiasm for animal foster care and animal rescue. “Seriously, there is nothing about working with the dogs that I did not love,” Carlson tells NYFA. “But my favorite part of this project is actually the people involved. We have an amazing group of people who came together to put this show together.”

    Each episode of It’s a Dog’s Life explores a new dog that goes well beyond just fetching the stick in the backyard; dogs like Monte, the latest celebrity dog who starred in the recent live action adaptation of Lady and the Tramp. “It [the show] fits right into the Disney brand, in general, especially since there have been so many dogs in Disney shows and movies,” says Carlson. “It also crosses cultural boundaries- I mean, who doesn’t like dogs?”

    Carlson with Monte, dog turned actor featured in ‘Lady in the Tramp’

    With so many different stories featured on the show, Carlson says the one that sticks out the most is the episode dedicated to SuperCorgi Jojo, the surfing corgi. “It is incredibly touching. Jojo started surfing as therapy after a bad injury,” she says. “Jojo is the happiest little dog and you can tell he loves what he does.”

    Carlson with SuperCorgi Jojo, the surfing corgi

    New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking and producing instructor Denise Carlson on her new series It’s A Dog’s Life and encourages everyone to celebrate man’s best friend and all the wonderful things dogs do for us by watching It’s A Dog’s Life when it comes out on May 15, 2020 on Disney+.

    Watch the trailer for It’s A Dog’s Life below:

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    May 13, 2020 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 850

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Aisultan Seitov Nominated For 2019 MTV VMA “Video of the Year”

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum and Partizan director Aisultan Seitov has been nominated for MTV’s VMA for Video of the Year Award for 21 Savage’s music video “a lot” featuring J. Cole. The tone and visuals of the video were influenced by The Godfather Part II and last year’s Oscar-nominated film Cold War. Seitov previously directed the music video for “Red Room,” the first single from Offset’s much-hyped solo album, which gained a lot of buzz for its striking visuals and powerful emotive tone.

    The following video contains explicit content.

    Born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Seitov first came to New York Film Academy as a high school student in our Advanced Filmmaking Camp for Teens, a year later attending the 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory at our New York campus before enrolling in the BFA program in Los Angeles. Along the way, Seitov gained a substantial social media following as an influencer with insight about music and international film. As Shoot Online explains, “This nomination further solidifies Seitov’s reputation as a leader among the new crowd of creators who integrate cutting-edge creativity and digital savvy with youthful authenticity.”

    Hosted by comedian and actor Sebastian Maniscalco, the 36th annual MTV VMAs will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the first VMA ceremony to be held in the Garden State. Often called the “Super Bowl for youth”, the VMA ceremony draws millions of youth each year, and awards the coveted “Moon Person” statues to winners chosen by viewers who voted on their favorite videos in each category on MTV.com

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Aisultan Seitov on his nomination for Video of the Year and looks forward to tuning in tonight for this year’s MTV VMAs at 8:00pm ET.

     

    Nominees for the 2019 MTV VMAs include:

     

    Video of the Year

    21 Savage ft. J. Cole – “a lot” – Epic Records
    Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records
    Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records
    Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” – Republic Records
    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – WINNER

     

    Artist of the Year

    Cardi B – Atlantic Records
    Billie Eilish – Darkroom/Interscope Records
    Ariana Grande – Republic Records – WINNER
    Halsey – Astralwerks/Capitol Records
    Jonas Brothers – Republic Records
    Shawn Mendes – Island Records

     

    Song of the Year

    Drake – “In My Feelings” – Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records
    Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records
    Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” – Republic Records
    Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – “Shallow” – Interscope Records
    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records – WINNER
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records

     

    Best New Artist

    Ava Max – Atlantic Records
    Billie Eilish – Darkroom/Interscope Records – WINNER
    H.E.R. – MBK/RCA Records
    Lil Nas X – Columbia Records
    Lizzo – Atlantic Records
    Rosalia – Columbia Records

     

    Best Collaboration

    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records
    Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – “Shallow” – Interscope Records
    Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – WINNER
    Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – “ME!” – Republic Records
    Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – “I Don’t Care” – Atlantic Records
    BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records

     

    Push Artist of the Year

    Bazzi – Atlantic Records
    CNCO – RCA Records
    Billie Eilish – Darkroom/Interscope Records – WINNER
    H.E.R. – MBK/RCA Records
    Lauv – LAUV/AWAL
    Lizzo – Atlantic Records

     

    Best Pop

    5 Seconds of Summer – “Easier” – Interscope Records
    Cardi B & Bruno Mars – “Please Me” – Atlantic Records
    Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records
    Ariana Grande – “”hank u, next” – Republic Records
    Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” – Republic Records – WINNER
    Khalid – “Talk” – Right Hand Music Group/RCA Records
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records

     

    Best Hip Hop
    2 Chainz ft. Ariana Grande – “Rule the World” – 2 Chainz Ps/Def Jam
    21 Savage ft. J. Cole – “a lot” – Epic Records
    Cardi B – “Money” – Atlantic Records – WINNER
    DJ Khaled ft. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend – “Higher” – We The Best/Epic Records
    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records
    Travis Scott ft. Drake – “SICKO MODE” – Epic Records/Grand Hustle/Cactus Jack

     

    Best R&B

    Anderson .Paak ft. Smokey Robinson – “Make It Better” – Aftermath Ent/12 Tone Music
    Childish Gambino – “Feels Like Summer” – RCA Records
    H.E.R. ft. Bryson Tiller – “Could’ve Been” – MBK/RCA Records
    Alicia Keys – “Raise A Man” – RCA Records
    Ella Mai – “Trip” – 10 Summers/Interscope Records
    Normani ft. 6lack – “Waves” – Keep Cool/RCA Records – WINNER

     

    Best K-Pop

    BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records – WINNER
    BLACKPINK – “Kill This Love” – YG Entertainment/Interscope Records
    Monsta X ft. French Montana – “Who Do You Love” – Epic Records
    TOMORROW X TOGETHER – “Cat & Dog” – Republic Records
    NCT 127 – “Regular” – SM Entertainment
    EXO – “Tempo” – SM Entertainment

     

    Best Latin

    Anuel AA, Karol G – “Secreto” – Universal Music Latino
    Bad Bunny ft. Drake – “MIA” – OVO Sound/Warner Bros. Records
    Benny Blanco, Tainy, Selena Gomez, J Balvin – “I Can’t Get Enough” – NEON16/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope Records
    Daddy Yankee ft. Snow – “Con Calma” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment
    Maluma – “Mala Mía” – Sony Music US Latin
    Rosalia & J Balvin ft. El Guincho – “Con Altura” – Columbia Records – WINNER

     

    Best Art Direction

    BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records – Art Direction by JinSil Park, BoNa Kim (MU:E)
    Ariana Grande – “7 Rings” – Republic Records – Art Direction by John Richoux – WINNER
    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records – Art Direction by Itaru Dela Vegas
    Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – Art Direction by Tatiana Van Sauter
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – Art Direction by Brittany Porter
    Kanye West and Lil’ Pump ft. Adele Givens – “I Love It” – Warner Records & Def Jam Music Group – Art Direction by Tino Schaedler

     

    Best Rock

    The 1975 – “Love It If We Made It” – Dirty Hit/Interscope Records
    Fall Out Boy – “Bishops Knife Trick” – Island Records
    Imagine Dragons – “Natural” – KIDinaKORNER/Interscope Records
    Lenny Kravitz – “Low” – BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd.
    Panic! At The Disco – “High Hopes” – Elektra Music Group – WINNER
    twenty one pilots – “My Blood” – Elektra Music Group

     

    Best Dance

    The Chainsmokers ft. Bebe Rexha – “Call You Mine” – Disruptor/Columbia Records – WINNER
    Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato – “Solo” – Big Beat/Atlantic Records
    DJ Snake ft. Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B – “Taki Taki” – DJ Snake Music Productions Ltd/Geffen
    David Guetta, Bebe Rexha & J Balvin – “Say My Name” – Big Beat/Atlantic Records
    Marshmello & Bastille – “Happier” – Capitol Records
    Silk City & Dua Lipa – “Electricity” – Columbia Records

     

    Best Direction

    Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Directed by Dave Meyers
    FKA twigs – “Cellophane” – Young Turks – Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang
    Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records – Directed by Hannah Lux Davis
    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Records – Directed by Calmatic – WINNER
    LSD ft. Labrinth, Sia, Diplo – “No New Friends” – Columbia Records – Directed by Dano Cerny
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – Directed by Drew Kirsch & Taylor Swift

     

    Video for Good

    Halsey – “Nightmare” – Astralwerks/Capitol Records
    The Killers – “Land of the Free” – Island
    Jamie N Commons, Skylar Grey ft. Gallant – “Runaway Train” – Interscope Records
    John Legend – “Preach” – Columbia Records
    Lil Dicky – “Earth” – Dirty Burd, Inc./Commission/BMG
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – WINNER

     

    Best Visual Effects

    Billie Eilish – “when the party’s over” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Visual Effects by Ryan Ross, Andres Jaramillo
    FKA twigs – “Cellophane” – Young Turks – Visual Effects by Matt Chandler, Fabio Zaveti for Analog
    Ariana Grande – “God Is a Woman” – Republic Records – Visual Effects by Fabrice Lagayette, FKristina Prilukova & Rebecca Rice for Mathematic
    DJ Khaled ft. SZA – “Just Us” – We The Best/Epic Records – Visual Effects by Sergii Mashevskyi
    LSD ft. Labrinth, Sia, Diplo – “No New Friends” – Columbia Records – Visual Effects by Ethan Chancer
    Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – “ME!” – Republic Records – Visual Effects by Loris Paillier & Lucas Salton for BUF VFX – WINNER

     

    Best Editing

    Anderson .Paak ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Tints” – Aftermath Ent/12 Tone Music – Editing by Elias Talbot
    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)” – Columbia Record – Editing by Calmatic
    Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Editing by Billie Eilish – WINNER
    Ariana Grande – “7 Rings” – Republic Records – Editing by Hannah Lux Davis & Taylor Walsh
    Solange – “Almeda” – Columbia Records – Editing by Solange Knowles, Vinnie Hobbs, Jonathon Proctor
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down” – Republic Records – Editing by Jarrett Fijal

     

    Best Choreography

    FKA twigs – “Cellophane” – Young Turks – Choreography by Kelly Yvonne
    Rosalia & J Balvin ft. El Guincho – “Con Altura” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Charm La’Donna – WINNER
    LSD ft. Labrinth, Sia, Diplo – “No New Friends” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Ryan Heffington
    Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – Choreography by Calvit Hodge, Sara Biv
    Solange – “Almeda” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Maya Taylor, Solange Knowles
    BTS ft. Halsey – “Boy With Luv” – Columbia Records – Choreography by Rie Hata

     

    Best Cinematography

    Anderson .Paak ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Tints” – Aftermath Ent/12 Tone Music – Cinematography by Elias Talbot
    Billie Eilish – “hostage” – Darkroom/Interscope Records – Cinematography by Pau Castejon
    Ariana Grande – “thank u, next” – Republic Records – Cinematography by Christopher Probst
    Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” – Island Records – Cinematography by Scott Cunningham – WINNER
    Solange – “Almeda” – Columbia Records – Cinematography by Chayse Irvin, Ryan Marie Helfant, Justin Hamilton
    Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – “ME!” – Republic Records – Cinematography by Starr Whitesides

     

    Best Group

    5 Seconds of Summer
    Backstreet Boys
    BLACKPINK
    BTS – WINNER 
    CNCO
    Jonas Brothers
    PRETTYMUCH
    Why Don’t We

     

    Best Power Anthem

    Ariana Grande – “7 Rings”
    DJ Khaled, ft. Cardi B & 21 Savage – “Wish Wish”
    Halsey – “Nightmare”
    Lizzo ft. Missy Elliott – “Tempo”
    Maren Morris – “GIRL”
    Miley Cyrus – “Mother’s Daughter”
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down”
    Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign – “Hot Girl Summer”

     

    Song of the Summer

    Ariana Grande & Social House – “boyfriend” – WINNER
    Billie Eilish – “bad guy”
    DaBaby – “Suge”
    Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – “I Don’t Care”
    Jonas Brothers – “Sucker”
    Khalid – “Talk”
    Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road (Remix)”
    Lil Tecca – “Ransom”
    Lizzo – “Truth Hurts”
    Miley Cyrus – “Mother’s Daughter”
    Post Malone ft. Young Thug – “Goodbyes”
    ROSALÍA & J Balvin ft. El Guincho – “Con Altura”
    Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita”
    Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down”
    The Chainsmokers & Bebe Rexha – “Call You Mine”
    Young Thug ft. J. Cole & Travis Scott – “The London”

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  • Insomnia on STARZ Executive Produced by New York Film Academy Alum Slava N. Jakovleff

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    Many artists dream of creating something entirely original, but to realize that dream on prime-time television is extra special. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Filmmaking grad Slava N. Jakovleff has done just that, distributing not one but two of his original series to major networks; Siberia, to NBC, and Insomnia, now seen worldwide on STARZ.

    Here, Slava shares some of the amazing story behind producing his hit series with the NYFA Blog.

    *Please note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    INSOMNIA | TV SERIES | TRAILER 1 [HD] | STARZ from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

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

    Slava: I wanted to be an actor — this is my passion. I graduated as an actor after four years at one of the best and most famous Russian acting schools in Saint Petersburg, and then got a PhD as an acting and voice teacher. I always thought about directing and producing. I figured out that the knowledge of acting and directing was not enough to make my dream happen. I needed to study filmmaking. And where is the best place to do it? Of course in Los Angeles, the global center of the film industry.

    I checked online resources and found that New York Film Academy had Filmmaking courses at Universal Studios. So, I joined the school at 36. Yes! At 36. It’s never too late to learn.

    NYFA: You wear many hats, as an actor, director, and producer. What inspires you about these various roles, and how does changing between them inform your work?

    Slava: It’s great that now I know something more about acting, directing, and producing. I know how to play, how to be an actor on the set or on the stage. For me, acting is an absolutely phenomenal state of mind. To me, it’s not a job! It’s a state of mind, of soul. Acting is a study of the human soul. This is the first and inner circle.

    Acting really helps me to direct. I’m more an actor’s director than just a director; I love actors and love to work with them. Directing makes it possible to not only deliver the story and actors’ emotions to the audience, but also to make the audience think, laugh, or cry — in short, feel something — while watching a screen or a stage. This is the second circle, a bit wider.

    Producing is the third, wide circle, and gives me the opportunity to care for the first two circles and bring all of these three circles to the audience.

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

    Slava: I loved how the learning process was organized at the Academy. I got so much professional information in such a short time.

    NYFA: Before establishing yourself in Hollywood, you worked as an actor in Russia. How did you navigate that transition from one industry to another, including acting in another language?

    Slava: Yes, I was a pretty established actor at that time in Russia. When I moved to LA for business reasons, only one thing was important to me: I wanted to establish myself in Hollywood as a producer and director. … But regarding acting as a whole, if you are a professional, educated actor, it doesn’t matter in which language you act. It’s only about the professionalism.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your company, Welldone Production?

    Slava: I founded Welldone Production as my own company in 2004, during my time at NYFA, as a filmmaking company.

    The first project I did in LA was a stage play called The Last Night of The Last Tsar, a mysterious story about the last night of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II Romanov and his family — and what happened with the lead executioner, Yurovsky, exactly 20 years after the execution. We played 6 weeks at the Stella Adler Theater in 2005. It was a successful run, and I told myself, “Let’s start to write the script for my own feature film.” We are now in pre-production. I rewrote the script many times since the start, researching historical information and studying archives. And now I am completely happy with the script I have, titled Swampy Roads. It seems like a very long journey just for one project, but I am completely satisfied and proud of that.

    At the same time, my company and I did many projects in Russia and the U.S. One of them was my first TV project here in Hollywood, Siberia (2013), where I was an executive producer and director of some episodes. Siberia was completely independently financed, and afterward the show was bought by NBC for prime-time airing. It was the first time that a Russian producer sold his own independent TV show to NBC. I am very proud of that.

    Siberia TV Series_NBC_ Official Trailer from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

    NYFA: As executive producer and director for STARZ series Insomnia, what inspired you to take on this project? 

    Slava: Insomnia was also a completely independently financed TV series, and when the show was completely ready it was picked up by STARZ.

    My Russian friend, a producer, showed me a story on which he was working at that time. I loved the concept, because I thought this could work for any audience around the globe. I bought the license from him to make an English version, and invited an American-Canadian writing team to rework the story. At the end we got a deep, very edgy psychological thriller, an action story with sci-fi elements.

    I knew that not everyone would like this story, and some networks and streaming platforms would be afraid to put it on the air, saying that the story is too extreme for them. My team and I tried to show the truth that human life costs nothing in modern life. My entire team, cast, and crew members — including one of the best directors of cinematography, Primetime Emmy winner John S. Bartley (LOST, X-Files, Bites Motel), and one of the best casting directors, Primetime Emmy winner Stephanie Gorin (Fargo) — tried to make it happen. I understood that many of us would not like to hear the truth. I really do not like it either, but I needed to say this about it to sort it out myself. I needed to say it without any “politeness” and “polishing.” I wanted to make the viewer think and draw conclusions.

    After the show was done, STARZ picked up the series for worldwide distribution. I am very proud of that.

    NYFA: Were there any challenges along the way in bringing Insomnia to Starz?

    Slava: Bringing any projects to any network or distributor is a big challenge for every team, and this project was no exception.

    The story of Insomnia was set for filming in Washington D.C., but when I was scouting locations there I realized it was impossible. I took a week-long break and announced to my team that the show would be filmed in Moscow, Russia, and the first day of filming should be June 1. This was a real challenge: the team was booked for principal filming starting on April 15 in D.C.

    We had only six weeks for making changes in the script, finding a local Russian production company, organizing to bring the entire American-Canadian team to Moscow, rescheduling the production, new location scouting, language problems (as we had two teams), etc. But we went through all these incredible difficulties (just imagine the problem with visas or understanding between two different languages and mentalities on set) and began to shoot exactly as planned, on June 1.

    Then we figured out that Insomnia is not just the title of this series, but actually what became a way of life for the cast and crew! Filming for all eight episodes took place over 68 working days, 2/3 of which were night shoots. We needed to shoot everything by the end of August, as the story takes place during four consecutive summer days. Management of the production was critical, as filming night scenes during the summer in Moscow was challenging — some nights only had around 2-3 hours of darkness, and the weather is unstable: the sun, clouds, and storms.

    The entire show was filmed in Moscow, with scenes set in New York and Cambodia being filmed on sets. We were able to film in unique locations, such as Red Square and near the Kremlin, Bolshoi Theatre, the Federal Assembly of Russian Federation, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the Four Seasons, and the Ritz Carlton Presidential Suite with its authentic view of the Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre — no other foreign production companies have been allowed to film in this location before. By the way, Insomnia’s production company, Welldone Production, is the only foreign production company in the last 20 years to be able to film in the highly secure Red Square.

    All explosions, car crashes, gunshots, and underwater scenes were filmed without CGI, and all action scenes were filmed by the main unit team (we didn’t have second unit).

    Then, we spent months editing the series here in Los Angeles in one of the best post-production facilities in town: Burnish Creative. They’re such a talented, professional, and passionate young team. When the show was picked by STARZ, we entered the delivery process and had to go through quality control. It was such a great challenge and big experience.

    The series employed 720 people from nine countries and filmed around 750 total scenes. And I want to again say thank you to my entire team and the people who worked for Insomnia.

    NYFA: What is your best advice for NYFA students who are interested in following your footsteps and founding their own production companies, in Hollywood or elsewhere?

    Slava: In short I can say: break the rules (which is very tough sometimes), and never give up.

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

    Slava: No doubt!

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you would like to speak on?

    Slava: Many years ago, when we were young, my army friend, on the day when we finished our service in the tank troops, gave me a simple drawing of our tank with the inscription, “Follow your star!” Here I am, still following.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Slava N. Jakovleff for his generous interview.

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  • First Doc Feature By Ravjot Mehek Singh Tackles U.S. Health Care System

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    After graduating from New York Film Academy Filmmaking conservatory in New York City at the age of 19, Ravjot Mehek Singh hit the ground running. First, she started with large-scale roles directing Bollywood music videos. Soon after, she was assistant director on The Voice India, an opportunity that opened the door for her to write and direct three of her own TV shows for Dish Network by age 21.

    Singh’s first documentary is I Stand With Jessy, a powerful and intimate portrait of an South Asian immigrant woman in the U.S. fighting breast cancer, in poverty. The film premiered on Dish Network last year in March before going on to win at Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival in New Delhi, India, as well as winning the Impact Doc Awards Film Festival in 2017.

    Here, Singh shares her best advice about telling a story that matters, through filmmaking.

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

    RMS: I am an Indian American film and TV director, with strong roots in both Bollywood and Hollywood. I have directed a handful of films and TV talk shows for channels on Dish Network, such as Jus Punjabi and Jus 24×7, and have directed many Bollywood music videos.

    I came to study at NYFA directly after high school, after learning how hands-on the approach was and how students would be learning practical skills from day one.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you about this medium?

    RMS: In high school, I was always interested in pursuing work that would impact society on a large scale. As a teenager, I would spend many days out of the week vlogging on Youtube, self-teaching editing tricks, and creating improv characters for my comedy sketches. My love for video came together with my goals of positively influencing people on a mass scale, and led me to NYFA.

    What inspires me most about filmmaking is how you can truly allow the audience to see, hear, and feel the struggle of others. The best way to create love and understanding in our world is by walking in each other’s shoes. Many people choose not to step into each other’s [points of view] on a day-to-day basis, which is where film and television come in to assist people in seeing someone else’s perspective.

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

    RMS: I have so many wonderful memories with my teachers, such as Professor William Tyler Smith, Professor Nicola Raggi, and Professor Tasos Panagiotopoulos. Each of them taught me incredibly valuable lessons that come into use every day in the industry.

    Some of my favorite moments are from the summertime, when all the students were new and figuring out how to use traditional film cameras. It was a unique bonding experience between students from all over the world, and an important lesson on rehearsing until you get the shot right on the first few tries.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your journey in working with Jus TV? What drew you to the mission of Punjabi programming?

    RMS: After graduating from NYFA, I immediately began working overseas in the Indian film industry. I worked on TV shows such as The Voice India, which helped transition me to the more stable, routine lifestyle of television. Jus TV is a major Asian TV channel that is based in New York City, so coming back to the U.S. to work in a channel that crossed Hollywood and Bollywood concepts was the perfect fit! I wanted to use my skills and dual cultural upbringing to create progressive television programming for Asian children and young adults who grew up in America. We are constantly getting two separate streams of content, one side being totally American and the other side being totally Asian. My goal was to create a blend of both types of media to better appeal to our cross-cultural upbringing.

    NYFA: How did your project I Stand With Jessy come about?

    RMS: Jessy is actually my aunt. I did not expect to create a feature documentary on the topic, I had originally planned the project to be 10 minutes long and only focusing on Jessy herself. However, as the project continued to build up, Jus TV gave me the opportunity to merge my personal project with their company and create a full-length feature (the first feature film to come from their channel).

    The more investigation I did to fully understand laws for breast cancer detection and treatment for low-income women, the more flaws I found in our healthcare system in the U.S. I discovered that a huge number of women are left without proper care or any consideration of how time-sensitive treatment options are for breast cancer.

    I started developing the film to focus more on how we can take a stand to change these deadly rules and regulations in the healthcare industry.

    NYFA: What were some of the challenges you faced in creating this feature documentary, and how did you overcome them?

    RMS: One of the biggest challenges for this documentary was allowing Jessy to feel comfortable enough to speak out about a topic that most Asians choose not to openly discuss. There is a huge stigma in nearly all Asian countries about women’s bodies and how illness is perceived. Jessy, like most Asian women, was anxious about how the community would react to her being so open about her breast cancer and the issues that come with chemotherapy.

    Ultimately Jessy and I worked together to create a list of questions that would ease her into speaking about certain harsh topics. In the end, Jessy had become so comfortable while filming that she even allowed me to follow her around throughout her day and film all of it!

    Another unique challenge was reaching members of the government to comment on the issues of our healthcare system. Though many attempts were made to contact government officials, none of them responded to give their input on issues regarding women’s health.

    There is still fear and negativity attached to openly assigning opinions on women’s health and the poor setup of the healthcare system in the United States.

    NYFA: What is your advice to NYFA students interested in producing a feature documentary?

    RMS: My best advice would be to think of a topic that has the depth to be turned into a film of one hour or longer. The topic should be something unique or quirky enough that the audience would be willing to sit and watch a nonfiction piece over the many fictional TV shows and films out there.

    Ultimately, you don’t need much to create a beautiful documentar, besides yourself, a camera, and a subject you’re passionate about. That is part of what makes the documentary genre so accessible for new filmmakers.

    NYFA: Congratulations on all your film festival success! What is next for I Stand With Jessy?

    RMS: I Stand With Jessy has an adjacent petition for the government to lower the age of breast cancer screenings and include screening options that go beyond the basic mammogram. It can be found and supported at change.org/p/i-stand-with-jessy. As of now, 1,702 people have signed it.

    I hope to continue the petition and reach out to members of congress to discuss a reasonable goal for healthcare in the United States.

    Luckily the film has gained major publicity for winning India’s biggest film festival, the Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival, and last year it gained American publicity thanks to winning the Impact Doc Awards Film Festival. These two festivals have helped spark public interest in bettering the healthcare system in the U.S. for immigrants.

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

    RMS: The wonderful hands-on approach at NYFA helped eliminate the wasted time of theories and repetitive classwork with no relevance to film. Thanks to NYFA’s one-year program in filmmaking, I was able to find work immediately, with the right connections in the film industry. I have not yet been on any set where my skills have not been at par with serious film professionals and former students with degrees in film.

    I am thankful to NYFA for creating this brilliant, expedited opportunity to learn the true essence of film. After that, it is up to each individual student to continue learning and filling in any blanks for themselves.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    RMS: This year, I am directing my first horror film in Boston with Mtown Films. Along with that, I am working on directing multiple Bollywood music videos, which has become a fun niche of mine in the past few years. The music videos will be shot all across the United States and India, and will be releasing later this year. I am also looking forward to developing more medical documentaries that expose the truth about the negative impacts of our healthcare system.

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  • iTunes, Amazon & Sydney Screen Far From Here by New York Film Academy Grad James Pillion

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    Making your first feature film is a challenge. Making your first feature film in a foreign country is an even bigger challenge. Yet rising Aussie director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking MFA graduate James Pillion did just that with his feature debut, Far From Here. Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, the film screened this Feb. 5 in Sydney shortly before its digital release on iTunes and Amazon.

    Pillion’s successful debut is even more impressive when you hear the backstory. Overcoming many obstacles, including losing his visa and being refused entry to the U.S., Pillion and his writing partner/leading man Jonathan Ahmadi were able to convert a formidable crisis into a poignant work of art. The result is a lush coming-of-age story that follows a young couple navigating pressures that may sound familiar for many NYFA students — holding onto love, living in a foreign country, sacrifice, following a dream, and facing the tough decisions that define your life.

    “The more you surrender your ego and open your eyes and ears to everything around you, the stronger your chances are of ending up with a film greater than the sum of its parts,” the director wrote in Australia’s FilmLink.

    Pillion took some time during the busy week leading up to his film’s Sydney premier and digital distribution to share an exclusive peek into his process with the NYFA Blog:

    FAR FROM HERE TRAILER from Jim Pillion on Vimeo.

    NYFA: What program did you take at NYFA and when did you finish?

    JP: I graduated with honours from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus in 2013 after completing the two-year accelerated Masters in Filmmaking (MFA).

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Far From Here?

    JP: Far From Here follows a young couple, Grant and Sofia, struggling to keep their marriage afloat in a foreign country. When a family crisis pulls them apart, the physical and emotional distance forces the couple to take a hard honest look at their choices and to confront a decision that could alter their future forever.

    The script was conceived in the wake of a life-changing event. I’d lost my visa to the U.S. and had been forced apart from the love of my life in the process. The script was an attempt to examine my newfound circumstances and was written in a very fast four month window over Skype with my writing partner, Jonathan Ahmadi. Jonathan would also go on to play the lead role in the film.

    NYFA: What are your future plans for Far From Here and beyond?

    JP: Far From Here was shot on location in Bucharest and received a very generous distribution deal, with the film screening in 40 cinemas across Romania — an amazing feat for a $100,000 budget!

    To celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of the film on iTunes and Amazon this year, we’re holding the Australian premiere at the Ritz Cinema in Sydney this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. 

    I’m also in pre-production on my new feature Fire Island — a psychological drama — which is due to shoot in Australia towards the end of this year.

    NYFA: What if anything have you learned from your NYFA experience that has helped you with your professional career?

    JP: My time at NYFA was invaluable. It taught me the value of failure and gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment in a way that I’d never had the confidence to do. Embracing failure is such an important part of my creative mantra — it helps me to continually sharpen my voice as a storyteller.  

    Congratulations to James Pillion and the Far From Here team! Check out more of the behind-the-scenes story of Far From Here in Pillion’s four-part series on FilmLink.

    Far From Here
    is available from the following sources:
    iTunes Australia
    iTunes USA
    Amazon USA

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  • New York Film Academy Instructor Joe Burke Releases Another Cancer Movie Indie Short

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    For many passionate filmmakers, one of the greatest challenges is bringing a film to life in spite of budgeting hurdles. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Directing instructor Joe Burke recently set a great example with how to execute a clear, enteratining, artistic vision on a shoestring budget with his newly released comedy, Another Cancer Movie. Check out his film, and his insights on indie production for NYFA students, below.

    ANOTHER CANCER MOVIE from Joe Burke on Vimeo.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to teach at the New York Film Academy?

    JB: I started out making films at a very early age. I was eight years old when I first picked up the camera, and I haven’t put it down since. I studied film and acting all growing up, and eventually went to film school in Chicago, followed by grad school at the American Film Institute in LA. Once my career began to start growing after grad school, I found myself getting to a point where I really missed the film school setting. Hollywood can be a crazy place, and a lot of the “business” side of things can unfortunately interfere with the artistic side, and it can be very frustrating. It’s very easy to lose yourself in it all. For me, it was very important to reconnect to the fundamentals of why I really wanted to be a filmmaker, to reconnect to the actual craft and art of it all. I decided to pause on my career for a moment, and shift my energy back to film school. I love being in the classroom, both as a student and as a teacher.

    I was thrilled to join the NYFA staff and teach Directing. I love teaching. I love making films. I love inspiring my students, and even more so, being inspired by them.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or memories from your time teaching with us?

    JB: I am very proud of the students I have taught. I have come across many talented young filmmakers who I see very bright futures for: it’s always inspiring to witness. I have found myself many times taken aback by the power of some of my students’ work. Those are my favorite memories.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most? What kind of stories are you most passionate to tell?

    JB: I love telling stories on film. For me, it’s all about capturing the heart and sole of people, of characters. To shed a light on both the drama and natural comedy that exists in all our lives. I love human stories that are grounded and relatable. I love making an audience truly feel something. I naturally lean towards humor, because I think a strong sense of humor is so important in life — but it has to come from an honest place. That’s why it’s funny; because it’s true.

    NYFA: For our students interested in making their own shorts outside of school, what is your best advice about producing on a shoestring indie budget?

    JB: My best advice would be write a film around a location that you can shoot at for free. If you have a location(s) you know you are able to shoot at, write your movie with that in mind. It’s what we did with Another Cancer Movie, as well as what I have done with many of my films — including our last one, House Sitting, and even my first feature Four Dogs.

    Also, find friends you like to work with and trust. Build your community of people who will be there for you, and work for you because they believe in what you’re doing. Don’t feel the need to pay everyone the big bucks early on. Work with people who understand you have a tight budget, just make sure to feed them well! Great food on set goes a very long way. And of course, keep a very positive and fun energy on set. As the filmmaker, you must set the tone on set to keep everyone in good spirits. It’s a team effort, but the director is the leader.

    NYFA: What’s next for Another Cancer Movie?

    JB: Another Cancer Movie just had its world premiere online. We’re stoked to finally be releasing it. This is a very personal movie to us, and we can’t wait to share it with everyone.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any other projects upcoming you can tell us about?

    JB: Right now, the big focus is developing a TV show with a buddy of mine. I can’t talk too much about it at the moment, but it’s an exciting project for us. I am also working on a couple of other screenplays, and acting in a few fun projects as well.

    Thank you so much for having me be a part of this. For those folks who would like to keep up with what I am doing, they can find me on Instagram/Twitter @joeburkefilm and my website joeburke.net

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  • The Simpsons Director Mike Polcino Shares Special Master Class at New York Film Academy

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) 3D Animation & VFX and Filmmaking students packed the Riverside Theater at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus for a storyboarding master class from veteran The Simpsons director, Mike Polcino.

    The Simpsons just surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running scripted show in television history, and Mike Polcino has been with the Simpsons from the very beginning, directing 31 episodes in addition to episodes from the first season of Family Guy.

    Polcino started his career in animation doing all of the tedious work that goes into a massive production such as The Simpsons, such as animation timing and quality control.

    “Occasionally, we’d get the final animations back and Bart’s eyes would be looking in two different directions,” Polcino reminisced. “You’d be surprised what people miss.”

    His talent was unmistakable and, after a few short years, he moved up to become a director. Since then, Polcino has been a staple at Fox Television Animation, whose office is next door to the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus in Burbank, California.

    Polcino took the students through his process of breaking down an Emmy-winning script to put it on screen. Episode #593, Fland Canyon featured some of The Simpsons most cinematic sequences, such as great sweeping shots of the Grand Canyon. Polcino took the enraptured audience through a visualization process to find the key shots.

    “Part of the fun,” he said, “is coming up with shots that would be impossible without the animation.”

    He then melded the material for both the Animation and Filmmaking students by sharing his process for storyboarding The Simpsons and how it is more directing than animating. The students loved the class, asking for autographs and even taking selfies with the Homer Simpson drawing Polcino left on the whiteboard.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mike Polcino for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with our students.

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  • Filmmaking Grad Jesse Kove Helps Save the World in Max Reload and the Nether Blasters

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    It’s not easy forging your own path in independent film, but New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking grad Jesse Kove has blazed a trail straight into the hearts of video game and ‘80s film fans with the upcoming adventure flick Max Reload and the Nether Blasters.

    The film recently wrapped in Arizona, and Kove took the time out of his busy schedule to tell the NYFA Blog more about his work, his exciting projects, and what’s next. Check out what he has to say:

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

    JK: My journey started as a young boy growing up in the film business around my father, (Martin Kove). I was six months old and on movies sets, and I still remember vividly today all the different film sets I’ve been on around the country, and the world that my father brought me along with — traveling with him or visiting him when he was on location was always my favorite thing. It was like going to Disneyland for me, the make-believe. It was always something different, whether [a film was set] in the future or going back in time to the West, I always loved it.

    One of my favorite trips was to India. We had an unforgettable time together. They filmed in Hyderabad, where they literally have a city just for filmmaking. I would travel on my own and walk around and look at all the backdrops and different film sets and feel right at home. I would watch the filmmaking process as well, and ask lots of questions. This was the best education a young filmmaker could get and I was very fortunate to have these opportunities.

    Back home I would make my own little movies with action figures and G.I. Joes. That’s how it all started. I would also copy what I saw in classic movies that my father and I would watch together, The Seventh Samurai, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and Casablanca, all the classics! Making movies is in my blood and its been my passion since early childhood.

    NYFA: Growing up in a show-business family, was there anything that you learned in your time at NYFA that surprised you?

    JK: What I loved so much about NYFA that I didn’t get enough of on film sets was actually learning the basics and history of film cameras, and actually shooting on real film. This was very special, and I was so grateful for NYFA to allow us to do that.

    Also just truly understanding how a digital camera works — the inner workings and technical aspects of all cameras. This is so important, these tools create great filmmakers! It is the knowledge and technology of filmmaking, and they’ve got it down!

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

    JK: There are so many memories of when I was at NYFA. The fondest memories were the relationships and time I had with fellow students — who I am still friends with today. In the industry, relationships are everything!

    NYFA: Can you tell us about Max Reload and the Nether Blasters? What drew you to this project?

    JK:  Max Reload and the Nether Blasters:

    A small town video game store clerk must go from zero to hero after accidentally unleashing the forces of evil from a cursed Colecovision game… Max Jenkins’ gaming fantasies collide with reality when a legendary “lost” installment of the Nether Game series appears on the store counter of his workplace, Fallout Games. Unbeknownst to Max, the game bears a “Curse of The Ages”, and in playing it, he has just unlocked the Nether, an ancient malevolent force of evil from the cartridge, upon his small hometown. Along with a mysterious masked man and his two best friends, Liz and Reggie, Max must figure out how to beat the Nether at its own game before its Game Over for humanity.

    This is a great project that I’m very excited about. The inception actually started two years before this film was written. Scott Conditt and Jeremy Tremp, the writers, directors, and producers, (CineForge Media) had written a short film called Show No Mercy, starring my father and me.

    The idea behind the short was all ‘80s galore and nostalgia: The story follows an arcade store owner (my father) who secretly is John Kreese, his character from The Karate Kid (although never mentioned, that’s a nice Easter egg for everyone), and his young store clerk (me), who both end up getting sucked into an arcade game. They have to fight each other to escape.

    It’s an extremely well done short and I highly recommend everyone go and watch it. The film premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada as well as the Phoenix Comic Fest in Arizona. Making that film was such a fun and creative experience, we all wanted to work together again as soon as possible. Thus, Max Reload came to fruition.

    I got a call from Scott asking if I’d read his new script. I instantly fell in love with it and knew it had huge potential. They had written a character (Steve) basically based on me, but I won’t say too much because you will have to go watch it!

    There are some stellar actors attached to this film, both new and veteran — Greg Grunberg, who is a riot; Hassie Harrison; Lin Shay from the Insidious films; Kevin Smith, who graciously tagged along as he loves indie films, this one caught his eye and we were very lucky to get him; Joseph Reitman; Tom Plumley; Joey Morgan; and of course my father.

    The film will be released around September.

    NYFA: Were you a big fan of video games growing up? Do you have a favorite?

    JK: Absolutely a huge fan of games! Some of my great memories were getting together with my childhood friends and playing games like Halo, 007, NFL Blitz — anything Nintedo 64 was our go-to!  

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspires you as a performer?

    JK: Acting is such an interesting art. It’s a wonderful journey that’s always changing. I love playing characters that inspire myself and others, I love to make the audience laugh, and I love to tell stories.

    Jesse Kove in Max Reload and the Nether Blasters

    Making movies changes you. You aren’t the same person at the beginning as you are at the end. You’ve learned so much and walked a road that your character has walked in some way, and that connects you forever. It’s living life with these characters: I’ve cried, loved, been through war, kicked ass, been killed and hated, admired, frightened, and have saved lives, plus so much more. It is the hardest but most beautiful, fulfilling work I can ask for and I can’t get enough of it!

    NYFA: What was your experience like serving as both a producer and an actor on As Night Comes?

    JK: As Night Comes was a great experience. I learned a lot from making this film and I owe a lot to my producing partner, Richard Z., who directed and wrote the script for this film. Without him pushing this film up the mountain, it would not have been made. In saying that, I think it’s so important to surround yourself with others who are willing to climb that mountain with you, no matter the odds. I was willing to do that with him.

    We started that movie with literally $200-300 and Subway sandwiches, and finished off by getting a limited theatrical release with our distributor, Gravitas Ventures. We were put on 20 of the 25 major VOD platforms that we have today. That film showed me that anything is possible with enough effort, drive, and belief in what you are doing. Most importantly, you have to have a great script — and we did. That brought a great team behind us.

    Lastly, I love being in front of the camera and behind the camera. Either way, you are still shaping a story. Wearing both hats can be challenging, but I urge everyone to try both. It actually makes you a better actor and or a better director to have been on both sides!

    NYFA: Any advice for our acting students who are looking to produce their own work?   

    JK: Persistence and believing. Believe in what you are doing!

    Through all my experiences, believing in the project, the story, and the character will always carry you through. Making movies is incredibly difficult, and one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. But it is also the most fun you will ever have, from the idea to a year or two later watching it on a screen after post and etc. It’s a journey, and a spiritual journey as well. You are forever connected to that project, and immortalizing something you’ve created … its forever!

    There’s a lot of naysayers in our business, whether it’s about money or what’s popular. Do not take no for an answer. Think outside the box, and get it done!

    When As Night Comes was being made, everyone told us we couldn’t do this or we couldn’t do that. It ended up fueling our passion for getting it made. Yes, you can do that, and yes, you can make your movie, and get it released, and have the world enjoy it!

    Jesse Kove in Max Reload and the Nether Blasters

    Also, this art is a craft. It must be practiced and changed and molded constantly. Keep at it! I still do, and I’m not perfect!

    Also be relentless and fearless. I have been on the phone with some of the biggest studios and top agents and or managers in Hollywood because I wasn’t afraid to pick up the phone and call them. You have nothing to lose.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    JK: I have several projects coming out this year, one of which is Max Reload and the Nether Blasters.

    Bring Me a Dream, which was shot in Atlanta, is a thriller directed by Chase Smith. I play a cop who stumbles upon a mansion in the woods and gets sucked into a supernatural wave of psychological mystery. It’s a fun take on the Sandman, played by Tyler Mane (X-Men, Rob Zombie’s Halloween I & II), as a supernatural spirit who injects himself into your dreams and brings out your biggest fears. Very fun!    

    In Bare Knuckle Brawler, directed by Joe Gawalis and filmed in New Jersey, I play a detective who goes undercover as a streetfighter to infiltrate an underground organization in which fighters are turning up dead.

    Next I co-star with my father in a TV pilot called Bloodlands, which follows Arizona detectives who may or may not be on both sides of the law, dealing with drug and human trafficking.

    Also, check out On Wings of Eagles, a World War II drama that I shot in China, starring Joseph Fiennes. It’s the unofficial sequel to Chariots of Fire and now you can watch on Amazon.

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