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  • Spring 2018 Highlights from NYFA Los Angeles’ Acting for Film Department

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    It’s been a busy semester at for the Acting for Film Department at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles. In addition to our fabulous curriculum, we also hosted industry guest speakers, produced student-directed plays, saw our improv troupe return to the 80’s in a memorable performance, and an empowering performance from our dance troupe.

    Spring ’18 Student-Directed Plays

    This Spring’s series of student-directed plays commenced with The Shape Of Things, directed by Kylee Snyder. Neil LaBute’s play examines the protagonist’s relationship to her art, which she uses as a form of manipulation and punishment,  crossing the line and justifying self-serving behavior.     

    Five Women Wearing The Same Dress was directed by Nurgul Salimova. Alan Ball’s hilarious play about five very different bridesmaids all hiding out to escape the bride that none of them even like. Over the course of the play, they laugh, cry, fight, reveal secrets, and ultimately find a common connection in sisterhood. The creative set design was a true delight.

    Madison Miller and Jonas Grosserhode in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress

    The Greater Good Rebecca, directed by Kia Queener. This dystopian play by  Rebecca Gorman O’Neil explores the consequences when citizens don’t take action, blindly follow orders, and allow a government to silence dissenters.

    Stefan Leach, Bella Ferraro, and Evan Annisette in The Greater Good

    Women and Wallace is a one-act play by Jonathan Sherman and directed by Luke Sweeney. The play explores how a young man learns to navigate relationships with women after the suicide of his mother. By the play’s end, Wallace learns to forgive his mother and gains the ability to love again.

    Cock was directed by second-time student director Jeremiah Lucas. The play is a sharp witty study of the sexual identity and the paralyzing indecision that stems from stigmatization of same-sex orientation. The engaging and well-staged play was written by Mark Barlett.

    Jeremiah Lucas director of Cock

    Picasso at The Lapin Agile by Steve Martin and directed by Alon Fischer. What would happen if Einstein and Picasso met in a local watering hole (and hell throw in Elvis), and you have an uproariously funny play that asks the question what is genius and creativity? And, who do they belong to?

    Jacob Douglas Wolfe in Picasso at The Lapin Agile

    A Cell Phone Symphony id an original play written and directed by our BFA student Michael Anthony Johnson. It’s a contemporary comedy that included rap, pop music, Thriller-esque dance numbers, and a cell phone game. It takes place in NY and asks the question: what happens to our relationships when we have a more intimate connection to our phones than we do to the people in our lives. 

    Improv Troupe

    The first Improv Troupe Showcase was held on Thursday, April 5 at the Groundlings Gary Austin Stage after a four-month rehearsal process.  The company  – selected by audition from alumni and current students – performed for a sold-out crowd of industry professionals – including networks and top-tier talent agencies, managers and casting directors. The show was directed by LA Faculty Suzanne Kent and George McGrath, both Groundling alumni. The troupe wishes to thank Lynda Goodfriend and Anne Moore for their hard work and support.

    This spring, the Glee Club at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus held a 1980s music concert — and it was a huge success!  

    The Glee Clubbers put up seminal hits by Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Smiths, Guns and Roses, and DEVO. Glee Club faculty supervisor Melissa Sullivan said, “It has been an amazing experience to musically direct this multi-talented group the last two years. Throughout the semester, I have seen students flourish and grow through music.”

    To create a true pop sound for the music of this semester’s concert, the Glee Club utilized microphones — for some students, it was their first experience using mics. Sullivan had mics set up in rehearsals so students could learn mic singing technique. The event was also choreographed and staged with the help of students Sunny Amara and Jasmine Mensah.  According to Amara, “My experience in Glee Club has been everything I imagined; a group of talented people who just want to have fun, work hard and make beautiful music. I’ve become great friends with these people very quickly and we’ve become a little glee family!”

    Sullivan had this to say about NYFA Clubs in general: “What I find amazing about the clubs that NYFA has to offer is that the students involved are usually in more than one club. Some of the Glee Club students are also in the Dance Troupe. I believe these clubs are beneficial to student’s growth. They are collaborating with students outside of their class and have an additional creative outlet. “

    NYFA’s Glee Club is usually comprised of four sopranos, four altos, four tenors and four basses, and guided by strong student leadership and collaboration. This semester, the club had BFA student Rachel Gordine as assistant musical director, and the sections’ leaders were BFA student Rachel Gordine (sopranos), BFA student Paige Conroy (altos), AFA student Ethan Williams and BFA student Zackary Nel (tenors), and BFA student Zane Hudson (bass).

    Next semester the New York Film Academy Glee Club will be putting up the music of Broadway, and possibly collaborating with the NYFA Dance Troupe. It’s a very exciting time here in Los Angeles, and the Glee Club hopes you can join them at next semester’s show.

    International Women’s Day

    On Thursday, March 8th, International Women’s Day, a panel of entertainment industry women assembled to discuss their experience working in the industry and provide advice to our students in what was a highly informative evening.

    Event Details:

    “A Woman’s Place is In the Industry”-  Perspectives on Women in the Entertainment Industry: a Panel Discussion on the landscape for women today in different areas of the entertainment community, and in the interest of our students, who are the future of entertainment, answer the question – “How do we create a different, more empowering culture for women in the industry?”

    Panelists:

    Dea Lawrence

    – Chief Marketing Officer for Variety. As CMO, Dea is responsible for driving Variety’s global branding and communications strategy, including overseeing the marketing and production of their 70 annual events and summits along with the Variety Content Studio which creates storytelling for brands.

    Kelly Gilmore

    – former Senior Vice President of Global Toys for 28 years at Warner Bros. Consumer Products responsible for licensing intellectual properties such as DC Comics, Harry Potter, Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes to major global toy companies including Mattel, Hasbro, Spin Master, Jakks Pacific and Funko. When Kelly left in 2016, her team had the biggest financial year in the history of her career, winning nine toy awards. Since retiring in 2016, Kelly enjoys floral arranging, gardening, cooking, spending time with her dogs and mentoring a 14-year-old girl.

    Barbara Bain

    – a 3 Time Emmy Award Winning Actress, Barbara is perhaps best known for her role as Cinnamon Carter in “Mission Impossible” for which she won 3 consecutive Emmy Awards for Best Actress in a Drama Series. Barbara is also well known for her philanthropy work. Among her many charitable activities, Barbara is the founder of the Screen Actors Guild’s “BookPals” Program that has colleagues reading to children in schools all around Los Angeles.

    Jeanette Collins

    – Producer/Writer. Jeanette and writing partner Mimi Friedman started their careers writing on “In Living Color” where they were nominated for an Emmy. Many half-hour comedies followed including “A Different World”, “Suddenly Susan” and “Will and Grace”. After 2 seasons writing for the HBO series “Big Love”, they joined the staff of “Dirt”. They are currently developing a mini-series for HBO about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Winship Cook

    – Independent Producer. Winship worked in network television at Paramount Pictures on shows such as “Down Home” and “Fired Up”. She Co-Executive Produced “The Family Plan” a movie for the Hallmark Channel. Winship worked as a Producer and Vice President of Development for The Edward S. Feldman Company, where her credits include “102 Dalmatians” starring Glenn Close and “K-19: The Widowmaker” directed by Kathryn Bigelow, starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. As a theater producer, Winship developed and produced the one-man show “RFK” that in its Off-Broadway incarnation was an award-winning show directed by Larry Moss.

    Valorie Massalas

    – Casting Director/Producer. Valorie’s prolific, extensive casting career includes such features as “Back to the Future 2 & 3” directed by Robert Zemeckis, “Indiana Jones” and “Total Recall” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone.

    Ronnie Yeskel

    – Casting Director. Ronnie’s career casting countless films and television shows includes such iconic features as “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” for Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for Larry David on HBO.

    Elvi Cano

    – Executive Director at EGEDA US & Premios Platino. Elvi and her teams In Los Angeles and Miami provide assistance to Spanish and Latin American filmmakers serving as a liaison facilitating relations between the US film industry and those of Spain and Latin America. She has been actively involved in the production of the 4 editions of The PLATINO AWARDS OF IBEROAMERICAN CINEMA in Panama, Spain & Uruguay and is the talent producer/head of talent for the Awards.

    Lisa Guerriero

    – Lisa Guerriero began working as a Camera Assistant in Los Angeles in 1989. She has worked on feature films and television shows such as “Fight Club”, “Lost Highway”, and “Mad Men”. Lisa has been on the Executive Board of the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600 since 2001 and was the Co-Chair of their Diversity Committee for four years.

    Jana Winternitz 

    – an award-winning producer and actress having produced over 70 projects including “The Thinning Franchise”, “Internet Famous” and “Funny Story”. She has worked with Legendary, 20th Century Fox, Disney and Focus Features along with a slew of wonderful talent including Maggie Gyllenhaal and Angela Bassett. Jana enjoys generating strong and complex female roles for the screen.

    STAND-UP FOR WOMEN!

    On March 7th, at the NYFA Theater, we hosted a benefit for women helping women (WHW). “Stand-Up for Women” was hosted by Lisa deLarios, featuring performances by stand-up comics: Laura House, Kate Willet, Vanessa Gonzalez, Jena Friedman, Jessica Sele, Annie Lederman, and Ellington Wells, and NYFA faculty member Jackie Kashian. The fabulous collection of talent was assembled by Peri Litvak.     

    Dance Troupe 

    The theme of our upcoming show and Troupe is Diversity and Empowerment through Community and Purpose – To dance, create, express, entertain and have fun.

     As Dance Troupe is an extracurricular class students audition and once accepted, commit themselves to creating together and putting up a show of original works at the end of the semester. These students love to dance, choreograph and perform. The dance styles are diverse from Hip Hop, Break Dancing, Contemporary, Salsa, Belly Dance to Bollywood! They are all very dedicated and happy to be part of a dance community at NYFA where they can meet other students, have fun and dance off their stress as well. This will be the biggest show we have put on so far and we are really excited about it! This semester we have 27 dancers and we will be showcasing 18 original pieces!

    Students have to audition at the beginning of the semester to get in to Dance Troupe. We audition dancers and choreographers. It meets every Friday night in Bogart from 7:15pm to 10pm. Who is evolved – NYFA students which include the Acting Department, Film Department and Alumni. 

    The rehearsal process is pretty straight forward  – Choreographers show there pieces, then teach a part of their choreography to the dancers who are interested. Then the choreographers select the dancers they want in their piece –  for the most part the choreographers try to accommodate as many dancers as possible. Choreographers set up outside rehearsals with their dancers and present their progress on Friday night when we meet. If there is time left over we break the time up and let different choreographers work on their pieces. These rehearsals are highly productive to say the least!

    Here’s what the students had to say about it:

    “Being apart of dance Troupe Has allowed me to explore a side of myself that’s filled with passion, leadership and overall growth and love for everyone involved. The progress of the troupe is incredible!:” – Jacqueline Hahn

    “I get an outlet for myself to express my creativity without the pressure of grades and succeeding in my major” – Lotta Lemetti

    “Dance Troupe has made me a happier, joyful and motivated artist to express my feelings through creative movement” – Derek Ramsay

    “It’s a different medium of art I get to explore. I can give myself so much freedom through dance.” – Julia Newman

    ” Dance Troupe has really helped me to open up as a person. It helps me to express myself without words, just through body language, which ultimately helps me in my acting. In addition, I met a lot of amazing and super talented people, who I am great friends with now.” – Danel Azimova

    ” I get out of Dance Troupe the feeling and opportunity to reach out to others. I am able to interact with dedicated dancers that support one another. Just like any other branch of art, I can tell a story and get a message across, but in this case through music and movement.”- Sabrina Hartmann

    “Every rehearsal is amazing for me because I’m getting a lot of energy, love, good vibes, laughter and good workout.” – Elizaveta Emerenko 

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    June 14, 2018 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 194

  • Student Spotlight: Rodrigo Zanforlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And to think it all started with a road trip!

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

     

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    June 14, 2018 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 136

  • Final Draft’s Write On With Altered Carbon Writer Nevin Denham Live From the New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles recently welcomed Final Draft to the NYFA Theater for Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast. The live Q&A event featured Final Draft’s Pete D’Alessandro and writer Nevin Densham, executive story editor for Netflix’s original series, Altered Carbon.

    NYFA and Final Draft, the entertainment industry’s standard screenwriting software, have a relationship that goes back many years. NYFA provides a 12-Week Fellowship for the winners of the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest, yet this was the first time that Final Draft held Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast at the NYFA Los Angeles campus.

    “We’re excited to extend our relationship with Final Draft and build upon the great work we’ve done with the Final Draft Big Break Fellowship,” said Dean of Faculty and Chair of Screenwriting Nunzio DeFilippis. “Having the Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast take place at the NYFA Theater provides our students with additional networking opportunities and even more chances to gain insights from podcast guests.”

    Final Draft’s Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast provides listeners with insights into writing from industry experts and professionals, and in this case the audience of NYFA students and guests from Final Draft who were able to learn more about Densham’s journey as a writer. 

    Before delving into writing for Altered Cabon, Densham admitted that his path into writing for television was not traditional. He grew up in Los Angeles in a household where he had the unique experience to learn from his writer, producer, director father Pen Densham.  

    “I was mentored from a very early age on story and a love for storytelling,” said Densham. “At the time, in the late ‘80s, a version of a hero was a man who killed other men, and he did not want me to be raised seeing that as what a hero was. A hero was a man who fought for other people even though you didn’t necessarily get what you wanted. Selfishness versus, you know, being selfless. And from a really early age, those kind of things were made really clear to me because it was just what he believed.”

    Densham shared that he learned early on that it was about “thoughtful storytelling. It wasn’t just ‘hey let’s make a buck.’ It was how do you tell a story that matters? How do you do something that hopefully leaves a little good left in the world? And I was encouraged to write.”      

    Although the lessons from his father shaped his story sensibility, Nevin decided to leave Los Angeles to study sociology. When he returned to L.A. he had the opportunity to jump into the deep end of the pool, but he wanted to understand the business of film and television and first.  

    “I came back to L.A. and I wanted to roll phones,” he explained. “I didn’t know how to do that and I wanted to take notes, ‘cause I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know anything, frankly. I knew how to go have a meeting with a top level executive and talk and not be intimidated, but I could not answer a phone, and I knew that was a fatal flaw.”  

    During his time working “on a desk,” he took courses in television writing to learn the things he didn’t know. He wrote spec features and television pilots. His work got him some freelance writing jobs and an offer for a staff position, but his family friend, (and future Altered Carbon showrunner) Laeta Kalogridis told him not to take the job — but she couldn’t tell him why.

    What Densham soon learned was that Laeta wanted him to join her as the story editor of Altered Carbon. Densham took a leap of faith and passed on an offer in hopes that Kalogridis’ project would come through … and it did.  

    Densham knew the Altered Carbon book series well, and over several months worked with Laeta to breaking down the show, learning a lot from Kalogridis during pre-production and production. He praised Kalogridis as the hardest working person, driven out of pure passion.  Through her, Densham learned to not settle for something that could be better.

    Densham spoke about how he approached some of his favorite spec scripts and pilots, saying that he kept giving himself permission to write it the way he wanted. This comment sparked a NYFA student to ask how far out there stories should be.  

    Densham responded, “My advice is to be out there to the degree you’re comfortable with, that you want to be. You have to be able to sell you. You have to be you to the most you can be, and as interestingly and effervescently or at least marketably as you can be. If I’m going to hire a writer or someone is going to hire a writer, they’re looking at not just, can they write?They’re looking at, can I bear to be with them — for hours and hours? Can I have conflict with them? You have to be you, because any kind of inauthentic you will ‘out,’ because you’re going to be working hard with a lot of people. Best to be yourself and to make that what is marketable about you.”  

    The final question to Densham was, what advice would you have given to yourself 10 years ago? After a moment, Densham said he would have told himself, “have a little be more faith.  Have a little bit more confidence.”

    His final piece of advice to himself would be to write more, be more industrious, and to know that “you don’t have to be the natural talent, you have to do it, keep doing it.”

    This was the first Final Draft podcast recorded at NYFA but we look forward to hosting more in the future. Listen to the full episode of Final Draft’s Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast with Nevin Densham here.

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  • The Palm Springs Photo Festival Welcomes New York Film Academy Students

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography Department’s third annual trip to The Palm Springs Photo Festival was the best yet.

    “Everyone I met with said they were really impressed by the work from the students at The New York Film Academy,” said NYFA Photography Instructor Amanda Rowan. “I felt so proud to be representing our school and the amazing and talented emerging image-makers in our program.”

    NYFA Instructors took 13 students and collectively attended more than 50 portfolio reviews. The review meetings included photo editors from People Magazine, National Geographic, Wired Magazine, and Vanity Fair, as well as gallerists from both emerging and established national galleries.

    In addition to having portfolio reviews, the students attended several lectures and career retrospective presentations by legendary image-makers such as Stephen Wilkes, Dan Winters and Erwin Olaf. The festival hosted networking events and parties every night, which NYFA students were able to attend to connect with the wider photography community.

    NYFA BFA Photography student Lotta Lemetti said,For me the biggest lesson this festival gave me, was having to learn how to articulate what my work means to someone who has never seen it before.”

    “It was really cool to get to talk about my work and show my images to fresh eyes,” agreed NYFA 1-Year Photography student Maddie Smith. “I had no expectations going in but was just excited. The feedback was amazing!”

    Each year at The Palm Springs Photo Festival, students receive valuable feedback that often lead to jobs or gallery exhibitions. Last year MengMeng Lu met with the curator from Embark Gallery in San Fransisco and a few months later was a part of an amazing exhibition there. In addition, Alejandro Ibarra met with an Editor from BuzzFeed and was then published.

    Amanda Rowan and Kean O’Brien organized this event alongside the director of The Palm Springs Photo Festival, Jeff Dunas. The festival is very generous in supporting the New York Film Academy’s students each year. We cannot wait to go back next year.

     

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  • New York Film Academy Glee Club Honors the ’80s in Spring Performance

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    This spring, the Glee Club at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus held a 1980s music concert — and it was a huge success!  

    The Glee Clubbers put up seminal hits by Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Smiths, Guns and Roses, and DEVO. Glee Club faculty supervisor Melissa Sullivan said, “It has been an amazing experience to musically direct this multi-talented group the last two years. Throughout the semester, I have seen students flourish and grow through music.”

    To create a true pop sound for the music of this semester’s concert, the Glee Club utilized microphones — for some of students, it was their first experience using mics. Sullivan had mics set up in rehearsals so students could learn mic singing technique. The event was also choreographed and staged with the help of students Sunny Amara and Jasmine Mensah.  According to Amara, “My experience in Glee Club has been everything I imagined; a group of talented people who just want to have fun, work hard and make beautiful music. I’ve become great friends with these people very quickly and we’ve become a little glee family!”

    Sullivan had this to say about NYFA Clubs in general: “What I find amazing about the clubs that NYFA has to offer is that the students involved are usually in more than one club. Some of the Glee Club students are also in the Dance Troupe. I believe these clubs are beneficial to student’s growth. They are collaborating with students outside of their class and have an additional creative outlet. “

    NYFA’s Glee Club is usually comprised of four sopranos, four altos, four tenors and four basses, and guided by strong student leadership and collaboration. This semester, the club had BFA student Rachel Gordine as assistant musical director, and the sections’ leaders were BFA student Rachel Gordine (sopranos), BFA student Paige Conroy (altos), AFA student Ethan Williams and BFA student Zackary Nel (tenors), and BFA student Zane Hudson (bass).

    Next semester the New York Film Academy Glee Club will be putting up the music of Broadway, and possibly collaborating with the NYFA Dance Troupe. It’s a very exciting time here in Los Angeles, and the Glee Club hopes you can join them at next semester’s show.

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    May 23, 2018 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 333

  • Iggy Pop, Johnny Depp, and Jonathan Shaw in New York Film Academy Alum Mariana Robles Thome’s Scab Vendor

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    As a result of screening her film at the Marché Du Film at Cannes, NYFA Filmmaking alum Mariana Robles Thome landed her first celebrity interview with rocker Iggy Pop for her upcoming feature documentary Scab Vendor.

    Thome graduated with her BFA in filmmaking in 2015 and she’s in the home stretch of her documentary about renowned New York tattoo artist Jonathan Shaw. Thome, originally from Brazil, took some time to chat with the NYFA Blog about her career, her experiences at NYFA and her film.

    Photo provided by Mariana Robles Thome.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about Scab Vendor?

    MRT: Scab Vendor is a documentary about the life and times of Jonathan Shaw. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth as the son of jazz bandleader Artie Shaw and Hollywood starlet Doris Dowling, Jonathan’s teenage years were marked by rebellion against the glamorous life of his parents and extreme aversion to his mother’s alcoholism.

    After almost dying of a heroin overdose in his 20s, hitchhiking from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro, and learning from the best old-school American tattoo artists, Jonathan Shaw became the go-to tattoo artist in New York City. The clientele at his shop, Fun City Tattoo, ranged from Johnny Depp to Jim Jarmusch to the Ramones. Scab Vendor explores how a man at the height of his career as a tattoo artist chose to give up on his celebrity lifestyle and find his redemption through writing. 

    NYFA: How did the project come about?

    MRT: I met Jonathan Shaw because he was releasing his novel, Narcisa, at a renowned art gallery in Los Angeles, La Luz de Jesus Gallery. My co-director, Lucas de Barros, told me about it and asked if I could shoot the night, since he lives in Brazil and wanted it documented.

    When I met Jonathan, on the front door of his Hollywood penthouse, I was immediately drawn to him as a character. In front of me there was this 62-year-old man puffing on a vape, full of tattoos, chains, dressed like a hobo and speaking perfect Portuguese. Immediately I knew this project was going to be a feature documentary, and Jonathan was more than happy to be a part of it. 

    In 2016 I was able to go with a few projects to the Cannes Film Festival Market — including the film I made in my first year at NYFA. They were selected by Creative Minds Group, who booked a screening in the Marché du Film at Cannes for eight selected short films. This led to a great coincidence: Jim Jarmusch (who is good friends with Jonathan Shaw) was in the festival with two movies, including a documentary on Iggy Pop (who is also good friends with Jonathan). I immediately contacted Jonathan and we were able to schedule the first interview of the project with Iggy Pop.

    NYFA: How did NYFA prepare you for the professional world?

    MRT: Well, I must admit that I used my time at NYFA well. I really took advantage of everything that the school has to offer, the professionals, the equipment, the resources, and definitely, the red cards. (A red card allows any student to meet with any instructor at the academy for a consultation on their work.)

    I started this project when I was still a student at NYFA. I was actually in the middle of my thesis period, and was already producing three of my classmates’ films. I had the great advantage of having instructors who were willing to prepare me for the giant project that was ahead of me. Moreover, most of my classmates who were my close friends ended up helping me out in this project, and many NYFA alumni are part of my crew. 

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students — especially those about to graduate? 

    MRT: Keep doing what you love, work hard, go to festivals, talk to people, get out of your comfort zone. But most importantly, never forget that nobody will ever care more about your project than you do. 

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    MRT: This year I’m working on a TV series about the 1980s and 1990s in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, with historian and videographer Clayton Patterson (who I met through Scab Vendor) — whose work is currently exhibited, archived, and preserved at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

    We’re also in the process of producing a TV Series called Desterro, shot in my hometown in Brazil.  

    NYFA: How can people get involved with Scab Vendor?

    MRT: You can support us by contributing to our crowdfunding campaign at www.seedandspark.com/fund/scabvendor. Even if you don’t have the means to contribute, you can follow us on Seed&Spark and you’ll be helping us get a chance to win an extra 75,000 towards the project when we reach 1000 followers! We are also on facebook @scabvendordoc and Instragram @scabvendor.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mariana Robles Thome for her time and for sharing her experiences with us. We wish her the best of luck on Scab Vendor as well as all her other projects, and can’t wait to see it playing on the big screen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • 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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  • 2018 Acting for Film Alumni Industry Showcase a Success at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    On Wednesday, April 25, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles proudly presented their annual Alumni Industry Showcase at NYFA Theater. This showcase represented the very best from the AFA, BFA, and MFA Acting for Film program students who graduated from January 2017 – January 2018, and is attended by industry professionals.

    Photo by New York Film Academy.

    The evening was filled with short live scenes and an original short film, written by the alumni company and directed by NYFA Associate Chair of Acting for Film Christopher Cass.

    “Our goal is to showcase our students to be competitive with all the top schools in the country,” explained the director of the showcase and Associate Chair of Acting Anne Moore. “What sets NYFA apart is our focused Acting for Film training and international diversity.”

    “This is my favorite showcase of the year,” said casting director Billy DeMota.

    Overall the showcase was very successful, with top industry managers, agents, and casting directors in attendance from companies and agencies that included Evergreen Management, A.M.W. Talent Agency, Castboy Casting, Bella Agency, and Torque Entertainment.

    The alumni in attendance were equally enthusiastic and happy with the event.

    Spring 17 AFA grad Emily Morrison shared, “I’m very grateful to have been selected to partake in this year’s alumni showcase. It was a wonderful opportunity and allowed me to network with some great other alumni. Excited to see where everyone’s journey takes them.”

    Fall 17 MFA alum Vincson Green II agreed. “My experience at NYFA has been remarkable from the standpoint of being able to learn and understand movies and the techniques utilized in cinematic storytelling in order to create a compelling film,” he said. “Because of NYFA, I now watch films from a more educated perspective and can engage with them on a deeper intellectual level. Also, the acting program has opened up so many doors and gateways to new techniques and ways of approaching the craft that I had no prior knowledge of before attending the school.”
    Spring 17 MFA grad Zandi Zim said, “I loved learning about my craft alongside the professionals who could give us so many perspectives on their experience, past and present. It felt like we were all growing together and they were always pushing me to step up my game.”
    Fall 17 BFA Graduate Buffy Milner summed it all up: “I had a great experience doing the showcase and I’m so grateful to Anne for the opportunity. I had a lot of fun working on a great scene and putting on a show with a group of really talented actors.”
    New York Film Academy would like to thank all who participated and wishes our alumni the very best.
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  • IDA Magazine’s Spring 2018 Issue Highlights New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking School

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles’ Documentary Filmmaking department is honored to be featured in the prestigious IDA magazine, the official publication of the International Documentary Association, in an article exploring the advantages of pursuing an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    In reading the article titled The MFA Considered: A Sampling of Programs that Tackle the Current Marketplace by Akiva Gottlieb, one of the ways that NYFA stands out among the other programs explored, is expressed in the sentence: “Within two weeks of the first class, students will be making films.” None of the other programs make this claim.

    As NYFA New York City Documentary Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift notes, NYFA’s degree and conservatory programs are guided by the principal that students “learn to make documentaries by making documentaries.”

    Los Angeles Chair of Documentary Sanora Bartels concurs, noting, “The most important element of making documentaries is story. Our students are not just hands-on with equipment, they’re researching, they’re out in the community, they’re finding that story.”

    Here, in Los Angeles, those early films bloom into two years of intense research and production that culminates in a Master of Fine Art in Documentary.  The experience and degree allows our students to shine in the world of professional documentary filmmaking.

     

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