nyfa los angeles
Posts

  • New York Film Academy Chinese Students and Scholars Association (NYFA-CSSA) Awarded ‘Excellent Student Home’

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On May 19, the New York Film Academy Chinese Students and Scholars Association (NYFA-CSSA) was presented a Certificate of Appreciation and awarded the title of Excellent Student Home for outstanding contributions to the Southwestern Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

    The Southwestern Chinese Students and Scholars Association is an organization under the management from the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles. The group organizes clubs for students from China studying in the United States—the Chinese Students and Scholars Association—around college campuses nationwide.

    NYFA-CSSA Award
    NYFA-CSSA is based at the NYFA-Los Angeles campus and boasts around 30 students. The club has hosted two events so far this year, including the Chinese Spring Festival Gala in February. The Gala involved different shows and an authentic Chinese dinner for guests.

    In May, NYFA-CSSA hosted the LA Chinese Student Film Screening. The event showcased films from Chinese students—not only from NYFA but also from other distinguished schools in the area, including Chapman, AFI, and USC—making NYFA and NYFA-CSSA a central hub for Chinese students in the greater Los Angeles area. The LA Chinese Student Film Screening also invited the film directors to have a Q&A with the audience, and was a very well-received event by all.

    Because of these two events as well as other contributions by NYFA-CSSA, the Southwestern Chinese Students and Scholars Association awarded the club the Certificate of Appreciation. New York Film Academy congratulates the members of NYFA-CSSA on the terrific achievement!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    May 31, 2019 • China, Community Highlights, Student Life • Views: 236

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Fulbright Association LA Chapter’s Annual Fulbright Film Festival

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On May 4, 2019, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted the Fulbright Association LA Film Festival. Created by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Fulbright Association, the unique and exciting event showcased the best recent films that were directed, produced, acted, shot, or scored by current Fulbright grantees and Fulbright alumni of the prestigious Fulbright Program—the US government’s flagship international exchange program. The Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State supported the activity.

    The 2019 Film Showcase included evocative documentary films and breathtaking narrative films from extremely talented filmmakers hailing from United States, Estonia, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Peru, Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Armenia, Costa Rica, and Denmark.

    Fulbright Film Festival 2019
    The daylong event was held at
    NYFA’s Los Angeles campus and included film screenings as well as a panel of industry experts–Hollywood for Fulbrighters–featuring accomplished Fulbright Alums in very relevant positions in the industry.

    The President of the Fulbright Association-LA Chapter, Dr. Jose Siles, and NYFA’s Dean of Students, Dr. Susan Ashe, opened the event. In her remarks welcoming the audience, Dr. Ashe thanked the many volunteers that worked for months to put the event together, including the Festival’s panel of judges.

    Dr. Ashe gave special recognition to NYFA’s own Professor Miguel Cruz, a film and television director, Fulbright alum ’05, NYFA Director of Fulbright Initiatives, and the Vice President of the Fulbright Association-LA chapter, for his invaluable contribution to the Festival.

    “It was exciting to see so many talented storytellers,” says Dr. Ashe. “To know that NYFA is affiliated with Fulbright, and gives a platform for bright students to share their voice and vision, is truly inspiring.”

    Fulbright Film Festival 2019
    The “Hollywood for Fulbrighters” industry panel, moderated by Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Film Festivals Advisor and faculty in the College’s Screenwriting department, offered the audience insightful information about how the inherent diversity that is associated with the Fulbright Program can be an advantage in the current Hollywood landscape. The ensuing discussion included accomplished Fulbright alums and key players in the industry: Santiago Pozo, considered one of the foremost authorities in the advertising world for marketing entertainment and film to U.S. Latino audiences; Arturo Diaz, Netflix Manager for International Originals; Mikko Alannen, showrunner for the National Geographic Channel and screenwriter of feature film
    The 33, starring Antonio Banderas; and Miguel Cruz, film and TV director and NYFA’s Professor and Director of Fulbright Initiatives.

    The lively event ended with a reception that allowed participants—including current Fulbright scholars and students, Fulbright alumni, and NYFA students—to network with representatives of foreign consulates (including Manuel Valle, Spanish Trade Commissioner) and representatives of the Fulbright community (including Ann Kerr, California’s Fulbright Enrichment Program Coordinator), as well as share their own experiences in the Fulbright program and the film industry.

    “It was extremely inspiring and touching to see how the vision of Senator Fulbright of promoting mutual understanding among people from different countries, cultures, and social backgrounds was so well-reflected and empowered by the work of our Fulbright filmmakers,” says Dr. Jose Siles, President of the Fulbright Association-LA Chapter.

    Fulbright Film Festival 2019
    Dr. Siles adds, “Organized by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Fulbright Association, hosted by the New York Film Academy, and sponsored by the The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Association LA Film Festival was a total success and set the basis for a yearly event that will continue sending out loud to the world the Fulbright message through the big screen.”  

    The U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. New York Film Academy is proud to have hosted more than 60 Fulbright students from over 35 countries to date.

    The Los Angeles Chapter of the Fulbright Association and NYFA congratulate the following talented filmmakers that were selected for the 2019 Fulbright Film Festival & Showcase:

    Selected Documentary Films Category
    Lucía Florez (Peru)
    Adrineh Gregorian (Armenia)
    Pedro Peira (Spain)
    Kelly Richardson (USA)

    Selected Narrative Films Category
    Laura Ávila (Costa Rica)
    Abdallah ElDaly (Egypt)
    Lasse Elkjær (Denmark)
    Ishani Jayamaha (Sri Lanka)
    Vlad Klimchunk (Ukraine)
    Madi Lääne (Estonia)
    Nataliya O’Lea (Ukraine)
    Alejandro Márquez Vela (Mexico)
    Catherine Taylor (United Kingdom)

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    May 20, 2019 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking • Views: 209

  • Sun Valley High School and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Give Students the Opportunity to Shoot Films on the Universal Studios Backlot

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On March 21, Students from Sun Valley High School were able to attend a filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) that allowed them to produce short films at the highest level over the course of a single day.

    Sun Valley Backlot

    NYFA’s hands-on approach gave the students a chance to learn college- and professional-industry level practices on the Universal Studios Backlot, where students of NYFA’s conservatories, workshops, and degree programs also have the opportunity to shoot their films. Over the course of the day, the Sun Valley students were able to shoot, direct, and edit their very own short films.

    The students were broken up into teams and worked closely with NYFA instructor Steve Morris to make their films. The students had a great time and were able to enjoy a professional atmosphere created by the NYFA team that will prepare them should they ever enter the industry. The goal of the workshop especially is to inspire them to be creative and believe in themselves as creatives. 

    New York Film Academy has been partnering with Sun Valley High School for several years. The four-year educational institution is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District and has a goal to “shape young minds to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges not only in film, but in life and give [their] students the ability to cognitively understand society and allow them the freedom to make choices for their own success.”

    Sun Valley Backlot

    Some of the Sun Valley students spoke about their films and their experience making them:

    Daniel: “One thing I like working on the backlot of Universal Studios is just seeing everything how it was back then and what it looks like now … Right now we’re working on a comedy film, where a guy is meeting up with his crush and he just has bad luck—he’s trying to get to her but he keeps having bad luck that stops him … They meet up and in the middle of the film she hits her face on a pole and that’s his bad luck happening to her. My favorite thing about working here is being able to have the experience and work with teens like me and just learn the everyday things and I just love it”.

    John: “We’re working on a film about a kid—so basically he’s supposed to tie his shoe but he can never tie his shoe because there’s always something distracting him … He ends up seeing the guy who robs him for his shoe and gets his shoes back and that’s basically it. I’m not gonna lie—our shot was a little rough in the beginning because we had some complications, but we worked it out and discussed it and we’re just rolling with it. It’s going pretty good now and we’re almost close to finishing it. What I like most about being on the backlot is the new experience—it’s my first time being here. I’ve never seen a backlot like this before. I always wanted to work in the film industry; personally, I want to be a screenwriter, but I wouldn’t mind acting because it’s pretty cool out here.” 

    Fernanda: “I’m the director of the short film that we’re filming here on the Universal backlot and our film is basically about a girl that falls in love with this guy and they end up getting pregnant, but the guy doesn’t want the baby so he beats her and becomes really abusive and she has a miscarriage. My favorite thing about the universal backlot is we get to location scout … We don’t have time to procrastinate so everything’s really fast and fun. My favorite scene was the beating scenes because it was so intense and getting the shots and angles for that scene especially was so cool. I feel really confident with my accomplishments.”

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 1, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 566

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Grads Attend Industry Pitch Fest Event

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    It was a time of celebration once again as graduating MFA New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held in the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles.  

    A catered event and mingling opportunity for students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrates the New York Film Academy’s graduating Screenwriting students, offering them a unique opportunity to jumpstart their professional development by pitching their Film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals. In addition, a very talented alum of the Screenwriting Department also joined in the event.

    2019 Pitch Fest

    Organized and hosted by Jenni Powell, Ashley Bank, and Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including Monkeypaw, MGM, Practical Magic, Paramount, Automatik, Grandview, and Gulfstream Pictures.

    The exceptional writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructor Ashley Bank in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and other members of the Screenwriting department, preparing and fine tuning their pitches.  

    The students’ dedication and passionate love for their work shone as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had developed for nearly a year. Students left with new contacts, excitement about the scripts they’d worked so hard on, and a sense of what it’s like to meet with industry professionals.  

    Their hard work paid off as the talented and creative students pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, VR, TV and film production executives in a relaxed, roundtable environment.

    “My experience at Pitch Fest was excellent to say the least,” shares David Barbeschi, one of the graduating MFA students at the event. “Nothing like pitching to people who listen to these things as a job to better yourself and see where you stand in the immense LA Film Industry.”

    The New York Film Academy wishes to thank all of the Industry Pitch Fest participants, particularly our industry guests without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA graduates and wish them the best of success as they move forward in their professional journeys!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    March 12, 2019 • Screenwriting • Views: 748

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Holds Q&A with “Affairs of State” Director and Cast

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn Monday, December 3rd, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Affairs of State followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, producer, Stephen Israel, and actors, David Corenswet and Nate Walker, moderated by NYFA Producing Chair, Roberta Colangelo. Affairs of State explores the extent to which one man is willing to take risks to progress his career in Washington D.C.

    Director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, is known for directing A Country Christmas Story (2013), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000). Producer, Stephen Israel, is a former VP of New Business Development at TBS, worked in strategic planning at Warner Brothers and spent four years as a management consultant with Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He is known for producing Blood, Sand and Gold (2017), G.B.F. (2013) and I Do (2012). Actor, David Corenswet, is a Julliard graduate known for his roles in House of Cards, The Tap and Elementary. Actor, Nate Walker, is known for his roles in Homeland, Bottom of the Barrel and The Maladjusted.

    Colangelo opened up the Q&A by inquiring about Bross’ inspiration for the film. Bross shared that he and Todd Cudworth, the film’s writer, were inspired by the ruthlessness of the “game” of politics; the original script, written in the early 2000s, was based on the tactics used by the Republican party to discredit President Bill Clinton– and the Democratic party as a whole– in the public eye in the late 90s. Bross said that Cudworth asked himself, “What if the Democrats got really ruthless, just matched the tactics of the Republicans who seemed to be pretty much willing to do whatever it [took]?” However, as America moved closer to the Trump presidency, the script evolved.

    Ultimately, Bross and Cudworth wanted to bring attention to the world of politics rather than make an argument about a specific political party as contemporary politics is so consumed by polarity. Producer Stephen Israel assisted with the blurring of the political binary in through the characterization of the protagonist’s boss, a political candidate named John Baines, “We took a lot of trouble to play…Baines’ politics down the middle,” said Israel, “We tried to make him a conservative who could appeal to liberals.”

    Colangelo noted that sex is used by the main character of the film, Michael Lawson, to gain power in the political sphere and asked how Bross navigated the sex scenes from a storytelling perspective. “I never like to shoot anything gratuitous,” said Bross, “Every scene in every movie should have a purpose…and this movie, ultimately to me, is about the exchange of power, sex for power.” Bross discussed how the sex scenes in which Michael is with Mrs. Baines, his boss’ wife, and the sex scenes in which Michael is with Darcy Baines, his boss’ daughter, were shot and edited differently to give different effects; Michael’s scenes with Mrs. Baines are focused on the exchange of sex for power whereas Michael’s scenes with Darcy are more romantic and idealized.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Eric Bross, Stephen Israel, David Corenswet and Nate Walker for sharing their perspectives on storytelling and working in the entertainment industry with our students.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 7, 2018 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 846

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Q&A with “The Goalkeeper” Director Rodrigo Patiño

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn Thursday, November 29th the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of The Goalkeeper followed by a Q&A with director, co-writer and former NYFA instructor, Rodrigo “Gory” Patiño, moderated by Marlene Dermer, co-founder and former director of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.

    Patiño is a Bolivian actor, writer and director. He earned an MFA in Film and Television at Chapman University in California and later returned to Bolivia where he co-wrote and directed La Entrega, a 10-episode TV series about human trafficking. This series inspired the film, The Goalkeeper, which has now been chosen to represent Bolivia at the 2019 Academy Awards. Patiño’s most recent film is Pseudo, a political thriller about a taxi driver who steals the identity of a passenger who turns out to be a mercenary.

    Dermer opened up the Q&A by inquiring about the writing process for The Goalkeeper. Patiño shared that one of his co-writers, Camila Urioste, is a novelist who had done extensive research on human trafficking in Bolivia; she helped him create and write the series, La Entrega, which ultimately led to the production of The Goalkeeper. “Eight girls disappear every day…and that’s what’s reported.” said Patiño. Patiño added that he and his team interviewed a high-profile activist in Bolivia, a mother whose daughter went missing, and she shared a multitude of stories with them that helped to shape the film.

    Patiño and his team added a layer of complexity to the issue of human trafficking by forcing the main character of the The Goalkeeper, a father, to make extreme and tragic choices in the hope of paying for his sick son’s surgery; the father ultimately decides to sell a young girl into sex slavery in order to pay for his son’s surgery and he must deal with the consequences of his decision. “We [ask] the audience, ‘How far would you go to save your son or daughter?’” said Patiño, “We wanted to provoke a dialogue.”

    Dermer went on to ask the audience if they had any questions for Patiño; one audience member wanted to know how Patiño and his writing team navigated having the main character of the film, the father, make the disturbing decision to sell the girl to human traffickers as that could quickly turn the audience against his character. “We were conscious that this [was] an anti-hero story…but, believe it or not, we had some people that said, ‘Yeah, but he had to save his son!’…We wanted that dilemma.” said Patiño.

    Another audience member asked Patiño what his advice would be for aspiring filmmakers. “Write, write and write,” said Patiño, “because people are hungry for content.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Patiño for sharing his knowledge about the epidemic of human trafficking in Bolivia and his advice for young storytellers.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 5, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 833

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Lujein Ashi

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailLujein Ashi is a filmmaker, graphic designer, and storyteller who works for Saudi Arabia’s leading oil company, Saudi Aramco. In August, Lujein completed the 4-week Filmmaking workshop at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus after winning a scholarship with a 1-minute video. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) met up with Lujein to find out what her experience was like with the program, and what her plans for the future include.Lujein Ashi

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): So, how did your interest in coming here start? 

    Lujein Ashi (LA): I’ve always loved filmmaking stories since I was a child. I told stories to my sisters before we’d go to sleep, stuff I’d make up. I remember there was one moment that really stood out to me in my life. I went to watch Lord of the Rings in the cinema. I was with my friends. When we left everybody was so happy, but I felt sad. I didn’t understand it then. I understand it now. I felt like I was on the wrong side of the screen, like I was the one who was supposed to be giving people that feeling, not people giving that feeling to me. So, stories have always been a part of my life. 

    When it came time to choose what I wanted to study in college, I had to choose something that was practical. In the Gulf, we don’t have many opportunities for film, but then the New York Film Academy came to Bahrain to do a promo. I went and I just sat there and listened to [Dean of Enrollment Services] Tami Alexander do the presentation. She was really sweet. 

    I told her one day I’m going to come — hopefully, if it’s meant for me — and I signed up to their newsletter. I think it was like a month or two later, I get an email saying there was an opportunity for two scholarships for Saudi students. They want to encourage Saudi filmmakers because they’re opening cinemas in Saudi. 

    I saw the email late. I had two days to come up with my 1-minute video. I’ve never done a film before, but I knew I could write. So I wrote a script really fast and I did a very little video. I must have done something right, because she contacted me and told me I was one of the two students that got the scholarship. I was really, really happy. I cried hysterically.

    So I came here. It’s been a crazy four weeks. It’s just so amazing, the collaboration that you have with people… people that were strangers to me on Day One are like really close friends. There’s nothing like it, really. It’s everything I thought it would be, and even more.

    NYFA: Why did you choose the city of Los Angeles?

    LA: I think there’s no place better to learn filmmaking than in Los Angeles because it’s the hub of worldwide, excellent movies. It’s where the Hollywood industry is. Universal, Warner Brothers… all of these places, they’re all here. So there’s no place better to learn filmmaking.Lujein Ashi

    NYFA: What did you learn about filmmaking?

    LA: It’s all about story, that’s for sure. If your story is weak, then it doesn’t matter what you’re going to do. It’s not going to be something that touches people. Also technically the camera is your eye. You need to be one with the camera. You have to look through it, and if you don’t like what you see then you’re not going to like your movie. 

    I mean, it’s not like people can imagine what you meant, you know? So you have to be aware of the technical stuff. Which [at first] was very hard for me, because I’ve never touched a camera before, but Charlie did a really good job teaching us.

    NYFA: Is this something you want to continue doing? What’s your plan after this?

    LA: I found my heart here. I really did. It’s an amazing thing to find. People live their whole lives trying to find that thing they love. I think that’s the key to a happy life. I really feel like I found it here. I’m really going to try and do my master’s in this. Hopefully, then I could just do this for as long as I can. 

    NYFA: Do you see opportunities opening up in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain? 

    LA: Yes, for sure! Especially with the opening of cinemas, the government has been opening different entertainment entities trying to open things up to the people. I think there’s definitely going to be a demand for that. It’s going to be an exciting time for Saudi.

    NYFA: As Saudi opens up, is there a place there for you? Do you see yourself working there?

    Lujein AshiLA: I don’t know. I mean, sure, if there’s a place for me in Saudi to make great movies. I would love to. I mean, it’s my country. But to me, my geographic location was never something that was important. I’m very multicultural. My father is from Saudi, my mom’s from Lebanon, I lived in Baghdad, and I’m married to a Palestinian. I come from very different places, so I never felt like I belonged somewhere. Sometimes it’s a disadvantage, but sometimes it’s an advantage. Wherever you are, you feel like you can just connect with people because you’re from everywhere, basically. 

    So yeah, I mean, I could be — for example— in LA or in New York or anywhere with like-minded people, trying to do the same thing, just doing what we love; ultimately making somebody feel something. That’s why we go to the movies, right? Because we want to feel something! I could make somebody feel like Lord Of The Rings made me feel or Game of Thrones or any of these shows that have changed me so profoundly. It just amazes me how somebody could get that feeling out of you. It’s so satisfying. 

    NYFA: You mentioned two high-fantasy titles — is that kind of your thing?

    LA: I love fantasy, yeah. I mean, I love getting out of the real boring world and leaping into somebody’s imagination. That’s something out of this world! 

    NYFA: Why do you think stories are important?Lujein Ashi

    LA: I think they make people feel empathy for one another and understand each other on a level that maybe we don’t. In real life, there are a lot of issues that, when a film sheds light on them, could actually bring people closer together. You know, I think arts and filmmaking have the capacity to change people’s lives, to change societies and to open people up.

    Truthfully, it’s fundamental for our growth. It’s fundamental for us to connect and to see the point-of-view of other people. If I saw it from your perspective, which is what film lets you do, maybe I’ll be able to connect with you and understand you.

    The New York Film Academy wishes Lujein Ashi the best of success with her future endeavors, and hopes to see more of her amazing and beautiful stories in the near future!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 5, 2018 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 821

  • The Power of Music: Being Part of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Glee Club

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe New York Film Academy (NYFA) Glee Club is an extracurricular club that not only affords NYFA students another way to express themselves artistically, but brings them together and bonds them through a joint love of music and song.Glee Club Summer 2018

    Sunny Amara, a member of the Glee Club for six semesters and its current choreographer, calls being in the club “a new, exciting, thrilling experience every time. There’s nothing I love more than taking the stage and performing my heart out. The Glee Club has been a perfect place for that. It’s just so much fun.”

    Amara also echoes the sentiment shared by many in the Glee Club, that “the basis of Glee Club is a love of music, a love of singing and a love of performing that we get to share with audiences. And to me, that’s tops.”

    Amara adds, “Watching my choreography come to life with these beautiful, singing souls is an experience unparalleled by any. We work hard in rehearsals getting the music and dances to their best, then we get to pour our hearts out on that stage. There’s nothing better than that to me.”

    These sentiments aren’t just felt by Amara, but by many of the members of the NYFA Glee Club. Lara Heine is studying for her BFA in Acting at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus and is also a member of the club. After a performance at the end of last summer, Heine put her thoughts into words, writing the following piece, entitled “The Power of Music”:

    Music and Dance is like therapy for many people. It eases your soul and spreads happiness.

    At least that is how I always felt. As acting students, we are constantly on the go and expected to give our all. On very rare occasions we get something rewarded.

    That is why I chose to sign up for the Glee Club. To give and receive in return. 

    This semester was filled with a lot of talented and driven people and putting on a performance with them was an honor for me. Melissa Sullivan, our teacher, created an amazing lineup of thoughtful chosen group and solo pieces.

    Glee Club Summer 2018Most of us didn’t know each other when we met for our first rehearsal. Over the span of a few short weeks, we rehearsed some of the most challenging musical theatre pieces. We ended up growing, as a group and as people.

    Musical theatre is not always easy. The pressure to be a triple threat is high. When we were doubting ourselves, Melissa would listen and help us to see the positive and move past it.

    On the night of the performance our nerves were blank. During the final rehearsal, everyone was anxious and worried about different pieces and organizational things. The decorations kept falling of the walls and some of the choreography looked funky. Funnily enough, I was never worried if we were going to be able to pull it off. I just knew I was surrounded by so much talent and creativity that whatever happened, we would be fine. 

    And that was the case. Despite some doubts and worries, we went on stage and performed the hell out of it. As they say: “The show must go on.”

    The audience was blown away. They loved every single one of us. I could tell. The choreography was suddenly remembered by everyone, and the harmonies of all the group pieces were completely pitch-free. We all loved every second of it. We gave our heart and received so much love by the audience. All the hard work paid off. It was an awesome result after one semester of a lot of rehearsing. 

    Thank you to everyone who made this performance so amazing. And a special shoutout to Melissa, who has been our sunshine throughout the whole time.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    November 12, 2018 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights, Student Life • Views: 810

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

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe 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.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • Ayelet Zurer Speaks With Tova Laiter at New York Film Academy

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn October 30, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with actress Ayelet Zurer following a screening of a third season episode from Netflix’s acclaimed series Daredevil. The Q&A was moderated by Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series.Ayelet Zurer

    Zurer is an award-winning Israeli actress whose career began in Israeli television and crossed over to mainstream American movies and TV, most notably Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005); Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid (2008); Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons, with Tom Hanks (2009); Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013); Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert, alongside Ewan McGregor; Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Ben Hur, and many more.

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking about Zurer’s early career; Zurer shared that she was artistic as a young girl and did not “fall in love with acting as a profession” until she studied acting in her hometown,Tel Aviv. She then relocated to New York City to study further and acted in numerous theatrical productions before being offered a large role on a television series in Israel, moving back home where she would work in the Israeli entertainment industry to great success and winning many awards.

    Ayelet ZurerWhile Zurer was working on a television show, In Treatment, that would later be adapted for HBO, she got a mysterious call to audition from an English casting agent who caught one of her random films. Zurer was apprehensive but then she was informed this audition was for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Zurer landed the role and this launched her career as an actress in American media. “Say yes to things!” Zurer advised the students in the audience.

    A couple years later, Zurer has the opportunity to act in the film, Angels and Demons; she was anxious about the magnitude of the film but when she sat down with Tom Hanks to run lines, “I don’t know what happened; it was really magical; I was not nervous…” 

    Laiter inquired about the lessons Zurer learned from working with Hanks. Zurer replied, “The tone is set on a film by its leader. Tom was relaxed, intelligent, and generous. When he had an idea, he didn’t pester the director with it but suggested it in the right time… you have to have patience… he really set the tone.”

    Laiter asked Zurer about the lessons she has learned as an actress. “One of the things I’ve learned is to be very present because… that’s the most important thing for an actor and for a person in life, period.” Between “action” and “cut,” “…in that moment I [am] able to eliminate everything out there; the sound of fear, the self-doubt…” continued Zurer, while illustrating to the students a technique she uses just before she goes on stage or set.Ayelet Zurer

    To a student’s question of how she prepares for a role, Zurer talked about first learning the lines until they are embedded, doing research, and focusing on the storytelling; she asks herself: “What’s the beginning? Where [am I] coming [from]? What do I wanna say? What [does the] story [want] to say? What’s my job in that story? What is my role; what kind of a device am I?”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ayelet Zurer for sharing her entertainment industry wisdom and acting expertise with our students!

     

     

     

     

     Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    November 2, 2018 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 926