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  • It’s Happy Hunting for New York Film Academy BFA Student Connor Williams

    Connor Williams has truly hit the ground running in Los Angeles, not only booking a lot of professional work as an actor but also keeping up with his studies in the intensive New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA program in Acting for Film. It’s a schedule that would certainly prove challenging for anyone, yet Williams shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

    With his strong supporting role in feature horror flick Happy Hunting newly released on Netflix — along with his supporting role in indie feature The UnMiracle — Williams found some time to tell the NYFA Blog some of the secrets behind the hard work, dedication, and talent that go into the blistering pace of his life in acting for film.

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

    CW: I had made a feature film heading into my senior year of high school. Relativity Film School reached out to me and offered me a full tuition scholarship, which was great, but I turned it down. I was just really unsure what I wanted to do after high school, and college was not in the plans. I then informed my parents of my plan that I was going to work full time in Utah (where my agent was located) and audition for smaller parts when movies came to town. They thought maybe I was making a mistake, so they asked me to reconsider. I called the school back about two weeks later to see if the scholarship was still good. They said it was, but in the meantime I had a buddy that was in my feature film Spoilers move to LA, and his place was right across the street from NYFA. I looked into NYFA, filled out the app, sent them my reel, and overall just had a better vibe with everyone at NYFA, so I decided to go there.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to pursue this craft?

    CW: I booked a commercial as a baby. …When I watched the videotape of the commercial years later, I told my parents I always wanted to be a actor. My dad did some networking, and two weeks later I had booked a part in a feature film. I was two-for-two for auditions! …

    When I was 10 years old, my dad realized he was waiting for people to do projects, so he paid for a two-day film camp. My brother Aidan and I learned how to shoot, light, boom, and edit. My dad would write these two-minute scripts for us, and we would do the rest. We won some awards, money, and prizes, which kept us motivated. From then on, I knew I wanted to make movies or act.

    3 semesters down. 6 more to go 😎

    A post shared by Connor Williams (@the_connor_williams) on

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or classes from your time studying with us so far?

    CW: The very first semester our class was obviously all new, and we rented a limo bus and took it around LA. That was fun. And I really enjoyed shooting an episode from Friends [in class]. Not only is it my favorite show, but I also worked with Isabella Hoffman, who is a great director, and did this with a bunch of my NYFA friends. It was a real fun shoot.

    Regarding moments, I have really clicked with a couple of teachers that really care about my auditions and want to help and guide me. That’s been pretty cool. We will break down the sides and make choices.

    I’ve always lived with NYFA students and it’s been great meeting people from all across the U.S. and abroad. I just got done with my voice-over class and just made a VO reel, which I’m really happy with.

    One other thing about NYFA classes: before I came here I had never taken an acting class, so this has really helped me understand the process so much better.

    My favorite thing about NYFA is all the connections I’m making. My classmates will always be my friends forever. I actually call them family.

    NYFA: You’ve been working professionally while also balancing your full-time studies at NYFA Los Angeles. What does that look like for you?

    CW: … At the beginning I would get an audition and go. Now, my manager and agent have my schedule and I ask them not to schedule an audition during class time. I can’t afford to miss class for an audition. You only get so many missed days and then your grade is dropped. I need to save those days for when I book something.

    NYFA: What is your advice to your fellow students for finding a balance between the intensive schedule at NYFA, and beginning to build your resume in the wider industry?

    CW: I would do the opposite of me. Just come here, do your school work, get involved, and learn the craft. The gigs will be there when you graduate.

    I would suggest that on the days off, go do background work on film and television. While on those sets, watch and listen, and when you go back to NYFA it will make a little bit more sense. Take it slow.

    Just by coming here, you will have an awesome reel before you leave. The talent here is crazy. Your game will go up just by being here.

    NYFA: Tell us a bit about your work in Happy Hunting. How did that project come about for you, and what was that experience like?

    CW: It was weird how fast that happened. I drove in from Idaho and had an audition set up for Happy Hunting through Actors Access. We get to LA with the car jam packed with all my junk, and we don’t have time to go to my new apartment and chill. We went straight to the audition. I remember thinking, “This traffic is insane and I really wish I had time to clean up and not so be rushed!”

    So I go in there, sign in and take a seat, and I really wanted to focus. Right when I sat, they call me in. I do my lines and they ask me to do it again. To me, that’s always a good sign. I leave the room tell my parents it went great, they remind me this is LA, not Idaho or Utah, and not to stress about it.

    We were finally driving to my new apartment and my phone rings. It was the Happy Hunting gang and they asked if I would turn around and read for a bigger part. I did, and I got the gig!

    I’m not sure what the record is but I feel like I have it: I was literally in LA less than 10 minutes before I booked my first feature film! We shot in Barstow and the Salton Sea. My part shot for nine days. What I didn’t know at the time was that the co-writer/director is Mel Gibson’s son, Louie. He just wanted to be one of the guys. I respect him for that.

    NYFA: Happy Hunting has just released on  Netflix — congrats! How does that feel?

    CW: It feels pretty awesome. …

    The UnMiracle with Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin is also on Netflix. I got that part by skyping my audition and a callback from my bedroom in Idaho, and we shot that in Chicago. I actually shot that while in high school, but it was held up for whatever reason and got released about six months ago.

    NYFA: What have you learned that has surprised you the most in your NYFA studies?

    CW: First off, the teachers care about us. They want us to succeed. I have a teacher that helps me all the time with my auditions. It’s intensive but fun.

    NYFA: Are there any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about?

    CW: The feature film Regionrat, where I play the lead, is now hitting the festival circuit. So far so good, as we just won the Chandler Film Festival for Best Feature! I flew out there for that. It has also won Best Feature at Barcelona Planet Film Festival, Festigious Film Festival and Best Ensemble at Festigious.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    CW: With Regionrat I have won Best Actor at the London Independent Film Awards, Festigious Film Festival and Stars Hollywood Film Festival. I was up for a fourth but didn’t win.

    I’m also up for Breakout Performer and Best Actor in a Feature at the First Glance Film Festival. Regionrat plays at that festival March 10 at 8 p.m. in North Hollywood. I guess I’m seeing what happens to me and this film … but I really think 2018 is going to be a great year for me.

    Congratulations, Connor! Thank you for sharing some of your story with the NYFA Blog.

  • Pete Hammond is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Deadline film critic and reporter, Pete Hammond, joined New York Film Academy (NYFA) students for a Q & A at the Los Angeles campus. NYFA Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Hammond has worked as a contributor for Variety, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

    Laiter began the evening by asking Hammond how he got his start in the industry.

    It turns out Hammond didn’t set out to be a journalist. He just knew he wanted to be in the film industry. As an NBC Page, Hammond began working his way up the ladder. From page, he was promoted to a children’s television writer. Soon after, he became a researcher at Entertainment Tonight. From there he moved to the The Arsenio Hall Show, worked on Access Hollywood, and finally, Hammond created the entertainment news program Extra.

    With the Oscars just around the corner, students were curious to know more about the inside politics of the Academy.  One student wanted to know about the possibility of a shake-up at this year’s Oscars. “Looking at the statistics,” he began, “No film has won Best Film without first being nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay.” Three Billboards hasn’t been nominated for Best Director, but it has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. The student wanted to know if Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri could take home the grand prize.   

    Hammond was impressed and jokingly asked the student if he was looking for work. “Your predictions are spot on. This is what I’ve been writing about for the past couple of years.”

    Hammond said that only three times in Oscar’s history has a film won Best Picture that had not been nominated for Best Director. Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Argo, though he did win the Director’s Guild Award later that year. Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford and Grand Hotel director Edmund Goulding were not nominated, either. “The odds are statistically against Three Billboards but I think it has a shot because of the preferential ballot.”

    Hammond explained that when voting for the Oscars, Academy members number all of the nominees from their favorite to their least favorite. That numbering system can have a huge impact on the final turnout. If enough members place Three Billboards as a three or higher, it could mean a win.

    Hammond also noted a new trend over the past five years: Four out of the five Best Picture winners didn’t see their director rewarded, but all of their scripts did win Best Picture. In looking at the history of the Oscars, this trend is very rare.  

    Of course, students also wanted to pick Hammond’s brain about his personal opinion on the 2017 lineup of films. Hammond was particularly impressed with the stamina of Get Out. A film released in February usually isn’t in contention for the Oscars a year after it’s release. In fact, the last Best Picture nominee to have a February release was another thriller film, Silence of the Lambs, in 1991.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Pete Hammond for taking the time to speak with our students. The Oscars air on Sunday, March 4, 2018, on NBC.  You can read Hammond’s film reviews here.

  • Wonder Woman Writer Allan Heinberg Joins New York Film Academy Guest Speaker Series

    The New York Film Academy was proud to welcome Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg to its Los Angeles Campus.

    Heinberg has written for Party of Five, Sex in the City, The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, and Gilmore Girls. He is also the creator and showrunner of The Catch. Outside of television, Heinberg has worked for DC comics, writing The Young Avengers, Justice League, and the 2005 reboot of Wonder Woman.

    Heinberg regaled students with the tale of how he was hired to write the Wonder Woman film. He first saw the character of Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, on an episode of Super Friends. He was seven. A few years later, when Linda Carter burst on television screens in the 1970s, Heinberg was hooked. The very first play he wrote after graduating college featured Wonder Woman. After that, Heinberg moved to Los Angeles and immediately began working in television.

    After years of working on Grey’s Anatomy, Heinberg began looking for a new project. There was a Wonder Woman feature in development but Heinberg did not consider applying. He explained, “Usually, there’s a big wall between movie writers and television writers … It is a big risk for a television writer to be asked to work a large tent-pole film. They just don’t do that.”

    Heinberg was happy to cheer on his friend (and President of DC Comics) Geoff Johns as he worked to develop the Wonder Woman film for Warner Brothers. After about a year, Johns called Heinberg and told him that his team had hit a wall in the writing process. Producer Zack Snyder wanted to start over from the beginning.

    Snyder and Johns brought their teams together to explore the fundamentals of Wonder Woman. When it came time to decide who would have a seat at the table, Johns said he didn’t want anyone except Heinberg. Snyder agreed and the brain trust that created the final screenplay was formed.

    Heinberg listened as Synder explained the finer details of the project. Snyder broke down what the team had been preparing. Heinberg knew what story he wanted to tell. He said, “For me, there’s really only one essential Wonder Woman story and that’s her origin story.”

    One of the major problems most writers run into when writing Wonder Woman is that her origin story does not typically contain the deeply personal, emotional hook — like a terrible crisis or loss to overcome — typical in a hero’s origin. For example, in contrast, Batman’s parents are murdered and, as he grows up, he is driven to protect his entire city from feeling that same pain. Similarly, Superman was orphaned and his home planet was destroyed, so he spends the rest of his life protecting his new home and the people in it. In the case of Wonder Woman, Diana Prince was molded from clay by her mother, Hippolyta, and grew up in a women-only utopian paradise, where the powerful Amazons live independently from the world and evils of mankind.

    Using references like Splash and The Little Mermaid, Heinberg described Diana’s origin myth, where she leaves Themyscira to save mankind. Heinberg referred to it as a fish-out-of-water story. The comparison resonated with Snyder. By the end of the first meeting, everyone agreed that Heinberg’s version of Wonder Woman’s origin was the right direction to take the film.

    Over the next three days, they constructed a story and broke down a script so Snyder could pitch it to the studio. It was green-lit on the fourth day. The film already had a release date. Now, Snyder wanted Heinberg to write the script.

    The only problem was that Heiberg had a job. He was still a part of the Shondaland family after moving from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal, and it was the middle of the season. Heiberg wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to do both the show and the film. So, he had to speak with Shonda Rhymes. He was convinced she would say no. With two more years on his contract, Heinberg fully expected to have to walk away from his dream job.

    When he walked into her office, Rhymes thought he was going to quit. When he told her the news, she said simply, “It’s Wonder Woman. You have to do it.”

    Heinberg was adamant that no other showrunner would have afforded him this opportunity, and says the moral of this tale is that none of this could have happened if it wasn’t for the relationships he’d previously built with his colleagues. He described Snyder as his hero for championing his vision of the film. It’s not a typical superhero film: Wonder Woman focuses on the human relationships, as opposed to the hero and villain aspect of the genre.

    During the Q & A portion of the Guest Speaker event, one NYFA student asked, “How do you think the success of Wonder Woman has changed the way people will write women in the future?”

    Heinberg gave a cheeky response, stating, “Well, Wonder Woman has made a lot of money.”

    One obvious change is that more women-centered films in the superhero genre are being green-lit this year. Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Captain Marvel will all be getting feature films soon.

    “There’s an audience we can serve,” said Heinberg. “I don’t think the formula that made Wonder Woman can be replicated. You need to come up with a compelling and emotional story that can stand up on its own.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Allan Heinberg for taking the time to speak with our students. Wonder Woman is now available on DVD.

  • New York Film Academy Alum Sapra Drops Love Trumps Drugs Music Video

    At the New York Film Academy, we are big believers in the idea that understanding all different aspects filmmaking offers a huge advantage for aspiring artists — an advantage that can pave the way to all kinds of creative successes. NYFA Cinematography Conservatory grad Sapra (2009) is living proof that being able to approach the entertainment industry from multiple angles is sure to come in handy. The dynamic artist is many things — rapper, actor, director, producer, cinematographer — and now he has just dropped his own music video, Love Trumps Drugs.

    Sapra took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog to speak about his experience making his own music video, and what it’s like to forge a truly unique path as a multi hyphenate artist.

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

    Sapra: I was born in New Delhi, India, and started playing instruments as a kid. I was auditioned for a theater show randomly when I was bunking a class and that got me a lead part in a big theater production. That started my acting career. I got a taste of what it feels like to be in front of 5,000 people at an early age and I got addicted to the fun of performing. I remember while all of my school friends were studying in seventh standard and I was touring with my high school all over India. So I got to skip the classes!

    In college, I was a theater performer, emcee and an event manager. I had my own event management company called Beyond Exclamation. This was in my first year of college. After doing a lot of that, I wasn’t able to really reach out to millions of people, I was performing for thousands. So the yearning to learn film got me to NYFA. I started with studying film and cinematography, and then ventured into acting for film.

    After graduating from NYFA, I directed and produced multiple music videos for other artists, and I also directed and acted in PSAs. NYFA gave me a kick start in Los Angeles

    NYFA: Love Trumps Drugs is very polished, romantic, and high-energy music video. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the music and the story?

    Sapra: I see the youth involved in all kinds of substance and I also see adults fancying the use of marijuana. I had a personal encounter where female friends of mine would use marijuana and become delusional and act weird. I also saw a lot of my talented friends leaving back for their country get involved in things they should have stayed out of.

    What I found common in all of them was abuse of such drugs. I saw people who were more talented than me giving up because the drug made them weaker. So I thought of an interesting way to entertain youth and suggest my thoughts. I am not being judgmental about the usage of marijuana in my video, however, I am suggesting a fact.

    NYFA: What surprised you most during the music video shoot?

    Sapra: The steady cam guy did not show up, so I had to find someone on the day of. I was the producer on this so it was a challenge juggling multiple things and keeping everyone happy.

    What also surprised me was the amount of money and time one has to spend to make each frame look good. Also one has to be spontaneous for last-minute story changes.

    NYFA: Were there any challenges in creating this music video, and how did you overcome them?

    Sapra: Budget was a challenge. What we wanted was not cheap. Our financier backed out two days before the shoot, so I had to take out a loan. The rest was easy as I had a great team.

    NYFA: What advice would you share with our NYFA students who want to produce their own music and music video?

    Sapra: Los Angeles is a producer’s paradise — you can make anything happen here! You can work with the best of the best people and teams if you hang tight. The best part is that it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. What matters is whether you are ready to put in the work.

    My agent, Jon of JS Represents, says Los Angeles is a one-way move. Once you are here, get financially stable first. Make this your home and keep on your career, and you will find yourself where you want to be. The industry will cast you when they are ready for you in their time. So hang tight and don’t give yourself a time limit.

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

    Sapra: I am looking for distribution for my next music video Coco, which is my favorite of all. I filmed it in Mammoth. I have produced the video and it’s directed by my decade-old friend AB Chandra.

    I have two more videos in pre-production and a series I am casting for — and guess what? All this with no financial support from anyone!

    NYFA taught me in the beginning: DIY (do it yourself). I have the best mentors and team in the world. I am the lead actor/rapper and producer in all the productions.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at the New York Film Academy was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    Sapra: Yes, NYFA taught me a lot. They supported me after completion of my course. They had great follow up. Dan Mackler, Michael Pessah, and Kirill guided me throughout my stay at NYFA.

    NYFA gave me a jump start and gave an overall understanding of Hollywood and filmmaking in general. Doing multiple projects and finding ways to make them happen without any resources is a part of the great training one can get from NYFA. You can be the best writer, actor, or director, but if you don’t consistently produce your content you may not be seen for years in the industry. That’s what NYFA taught me.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Sapra on his exciting music video launch. Check out Love Trumps Marijuana, Coco, and more from Sapra, coming soon!

  • 2 New York Film Academy Grads Premier Films at 2018 Winter Film Awards

    New York City’s Winter Film Awards International Film Festival will feature the short films of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) grads in its seventh season, beginning Feb. 22. NYFA Los Angeles grad Tamara Ruppart screens Path of Dreams, a love story based on the life of Japanese poet Ono No Komachi, while NYFA New York grad Joseph Park premiers Inner Glow, a surreal journey of self-discovery and freedom following a troubled young woman in the clouds. More details from the Winter Film Awards, below:

    Path of Dreams

    Directed by NYFA Alum Tamara Ruppart

    Short, from Japan, in Japanese, 25 mins, 2017

    Screening Sunday Feb. 25, Block 10: 9:15 PM-11:45 PM     

    Path of Dreams TRAILER from Kotaro Mori on Vimeo.

     

    In poetic Japan, Komachi strikes a tantalizing bargain with suitor Shosho. If he agrees to write poetry with her for 99 nights, she promises they will create a love more beautiful than poetry. Every day he must ride to her home, and when the sun sets on the 99th night she will take him as her lover. For 98 nights, they journey through poetry, exploring their hearts and minds, as their love and desire grow in anticipation. On the 99th night, Komachi joyfully awaits her lover. But as she watches the sun set, Komachi moves from disappointment to anger, until a sense of mystery fills the stillness in the air, and heartbreak takes hold of her heart. In her grief, she will carry Shosho with her as she walks the path of dreams.

    Inner Glow

    Directed by NYFA Alum Joseph Park

    Short, from United States in English, 11 mins, 2017, World Premiere

    Screening Saturday Feb 24, Block 4: 3:45 PM-6:15 PM /Wednesday Feb 28, Matinee: 2:00 PM-5:00 PM    

    Skye, a troubled young woman trapped amidst the dark clouds with nothing but a window, struggles to access her power to illuminate light bulbs. After much despair and failure, Skye discovers a calling from outside, which turns out to be her clone. This encounter allows her to draw more power, and therefore, the bulbs begin to glow. However, she finds that her clone disappears, which causes the light bulbs to fade away. Skye’s only hope of freedom lies in seeking her true self and acceptance in order to bring in light again.

    The Winter Film Awards lineup will include a total of 93 films at Cinema Village in Greenwich Village, and this year the festival has reported their selected filmmakers come from 31 countries; 40% of the films were created by women, 43% were created by people of color. The New York Film Academy applauds the continued work to promote diversity in the entertainment industry, and congratulates Tamara Ruppart and Joseph Park. If you’re in the city, tickets are on sale now — check out our alumni films at the Winter Film Awards. 

  • HOLA Partners with New York Film Academy Jaguars to Create Basketball Clinic for Kids

    This winter, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus men’s basketball team, the NYFA Jaguars, embraced the idea of giving back. Forming a partnership with Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a non-profit organization that provides Los Angeles children free access to academic, art, and athletic-based classes, together, HOLA and the NYFA Jaguars created a basketball clinic for kids.

    The clinic was led by the NYFA Jaguar’s coach, NBA Champion Lucius Allen. The clinic consisted of basketball drills that legendary UCLA Coach, John Wooden, used to train Allen when he was in college. “Wooden’s philosophies helped define success for me both inside and outside the game of basketball.” Allen said. The goal was to help instill confidence and sportsmanship in the young basketball players.

    Reflecting on the class, HOLA Athletic Director Kristina Wheeler said, “This was a great experience for our kids. The opportunity to learn from someone like Coach Lucius Allen is rare. I believe the lessons learned today will stick with the students for the rest of their lives.”

    The NYFA Basketball team felt the experience was a special one as well. Coach Allen remarked, “The kids were great. They were receptive, respectful to each other, and very competitive.”

    That sentiment of creating positive change within the community is a cornerstone of the New York Film Academy’s Athletics Program. Through the Athletic Leadership Development Program (ALDP), NYFA students are encouraged to seek out opportunities where they can give back as a team. With that goal in mind, the basketball team will also be creating Valentine’s Day cards for children at a local hospital.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank HOLA and Coach Allen for giving our students a chance to pay it forward.

  • Vogue, TEDx, Paper Magazine and Celebrity Portraits With New York Film Academy Photography Alumni

    From Vogue to TEDx, it’s been a busy month for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography School alums and students alike. As 2018 picks up momentum, we couldn’t be more proud to share some truly inspiring success stories from various members of our NYFA community who have had their incredible photography work featured on major publications and thought leadership platforms.

    Samuel McKnight

    Samuel McKnight grew up in Germany and Oklahoma before following his dreams to the NYFA Los Angeles Photography Conservatory, graduating from the 1-Year Photography Program in 2017. Not much later, his photo of DJ and activist Zeke Thomas has been published in an interview in Paper Magazine.

    Monika Sedziute

    Lithuanian Fulbright scholar and NYFA graduating MFA student Monika Sedziute has worked as a photographer all over the world, from her native Lithuania to London, Spain, and New York, with work published in magazines including IKONA, L’Officiel, Elegant Magazine, Promo Magazine, Shuba Magazine, Eden Magazine, Fayn Magazine, Stilius Magazine, Zurda Magazine (online), The Wrap (online), Luxure Magazine. See more of her clients on her website.

    Most recently, the graduating MFA student’s shots of actor Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water) and actor/director Kenneth Branagh were published in Rap Mag. She has also photographed actor Waytt Oleff from the film, IT.

    Alina Grafkina

    Alina Grafkina is currently working hard as a BFA student at NYFA Los Angeles, but being a busy student didn’t hold her back from finding a home for one of her photos in the greatest fashion photography publication of all: Vogue! Her lyrical portrait titled Innocence went live on Vogue Italia in late January 2018.

    Alejandro Ibarra

    MFA alum Alejandro Ibarra nearly broke the internet when the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Metro.Co.UK, Buzzfeed and more spotlighted his NYFA class proejct, Coming Out Stories, last spring. This year, Ibarra has held a burst of editorial photoshoots with celebrities including Kick-Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz, comedian John Oliver, Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth, and Armie Hammer of Oscar-nominated film Call Me By Your Name. Check out more of his work on his website.

    Brenda Cantu

    Brenda Cantu has been up to big things since completing her BFA in Photography at NYFA Los Angeles. In a project called Midnight Memories which she began during her studies at NYFA, Cantu began to document every interaction she had with people, and made some surprising discoveries. The project evolved to become her 2016 TEDx talk, Why People Matter.

    Pamela Garcia Aguirre

    MFA grad Pamela Garcia Aguirre is a multidisciplinary artist — a photographer, filmmaker, designer, and writer — focused on a cinematic approach to moments of magic and mystery in art history, sociology, life cycles, and more. Her mystical approach is evident in her photo Thunder in Paradise, published in Vogue Italia last fall. See more of her work on her website.

    Congratulations to our busy alumni for all their awesome work!

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Alum Barret Bowman of OhForShow as Guest Speaker

    The first Alumni Spotlight Showcase of 2018 kicked off on this January at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus. Alumni Relations Coordinator Gabriela Egito hosted an evening with NYFA alumnus Barret Bowman and his business partner Peter Castagnetti. Together, the pair are the directors and founders of OhForShow, a production company that creates soft pitch ads (otherwise known as branded content).

    OhForShow’s stated mission is to “help purpose-driven people create culture through thought.” When the two men began working with Yeti Coolers, they found a prime example of a corporation willing to trust filmmakers. Yeti’s clients range from average campers to wilderness adventurers. In their first short for the company, OhForShow pitched content that would feature Yeti Cooler’s product in an emotionally impactful story. Yeti liked the story, but they didn’t actually want their cooler to be the star.

    “We were shocked,” Bowan said. “Yeti just wants to interact with their base.”  In the final film, the cooler appears roughly 70 times, “But we always hear people say they didn’t even notice the cooler.”

    In fact, the name Yeti only appears at the end of the film. “If you didn’t know what Yeti was you would think it’s a production company,” Castagnetti said.

    Of course, creating OhForShow did not happen overnight.

    “When I left NYFA, I probably had a month’s worth of money,” Bowman said. “I knew I had to get a job right away.”

    Through a fellow alumnus, Bowman was able to get a job as a location scout to make ends meet. After working that job for a few months another NYFA alumnus, a producing friend, hooked him up with a gig at Easton, a sports equipment manufacturer. As an intern, Bowman made technical videos about baseball bats. It could have been just another internship, but he made the most of his time there.

    Two things happened at Easton. First, Bowman met Castagnetti. Second, they filmed a short that highlighted the Little League World Series. That video served as an unofficial launch for their newly forming production company. They didn’t have the name yet, but the pair felt a kinship and knew they wanted to work together.

    UnitedSTATE lululemon from OhForShow on Vimeo.

    When it comes to getting clients, the duo has to think creatively.  “It’s less about convincing them [to hire us],” Castagnetti said, “… and more about convincing them to spend the money [required to produce a film].”

    In this spirit, the duo has tried a lot of “outside the box” ideas to get the business started. Once, Bowman even sold himself at an auction: in exchange for a place to stay, Bowman promised to develop work for the buyer or their company. It worked! Three bidders donated a couple thousand dollars to support Bowman while he worked on their projects. During that time he slept on couches, washed dishes, and cooked meals to help pay his way. One client begot another client. Soon their business was taking off.

    Pinterest Pin Collective from OhForShow on Vimeo.

    In addition to their commercial content, Castagnetti and Bowman also create documentaries. Their work includes “Accidental Courtesy” and the upcoming “This is Not Normal.”

    The skills they’ve learned on these projects are evident in all of their work, but the men stressed fun as a fundamental component to their success. A motto they live by is, “I don’t create magic, I create an atmosphere to allow the magic to happen.” This energy allows for the talent to feel relaxed on set. The crew is small and comfortable working with one another. The results speak for themselves.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Bowan and Castagnetti for taking the time to speak with our students. You can explore more of their work by clicking here.

     

  • New York Film Academy to Host Second Annual Young Saudi Film Festival

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Los Angeles recently announced the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival (YSFF), which is slated for Feb. 18, 2018, at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset Boulevard. A showcase of recent Saudi films, YSFF is currently accepting submissions from filmmakers.

    Director of NYFA Los Angeles Dan Mackler greets YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi.

    “Last year Saudi filmmakers didn’t have any theaters where they could show their films and creative productions. With hope and consistent effort, cinema is now back again in Saudi Arabia,” said YSFF President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi (Spring 2016 BFA Acting). “Our goal since Abdulaziz Almutari (YSFF Vice President, Fall 2015 MFA Cinematography) and I started YSFF was to have a platform to link filmmakers to each other so they can exchange experiences, knowledge, and connections. It’s going to be the same case this year.”

    Last year’s screening was attended by over 300 guests and presented eight short films. NYFA alum Maan bin Abdulrahman of Prince of Arabia Entertainment hosted the event and moderated a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers, which included Saudi Arabian filmmaker, Meshal Al Jaser (NYFA Fall 2016 BFA Screenwriting).

    Regarding this year’s festival, Director of NYFA’s Los Angeles campus Dan Mackler said, “As an international film school and home to many Saudi Arabian alumni and students, the New York Film Academy is very happy with Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen theaters. We share Rakan’s excitement for this second event and expect it to surpass last year’s impact on bringing talented filmmakers to light.”

    While the festival focuses on the work of Saudi filmmakers, submissions from around the world will be considered, particularly those from Gulf and Arab states. A panel of NYFA faculty will select eight short films between five and 20 minutes long for the showcase. Judges include film star Miraj Grbic (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), actress and comedienne Suzanne Kent (“Taxi,” The Groundlings), cinematographer Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC (“Don’t Look Now,” “Legally Blonde”), photographer/cinematographer Bart Mastronardi (“Tales of Poe”), director James Rowe (“Blue Ridge Fall”), and novelist Crickett Rumley (“Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell”).

    For a complete list of rules and to submit a short film, please submit via Google form here or on the NYFA Student hub. The deadline is Jan. 28th, so hurry to submit your film!

    The second annual Young Saudi Film Festival on Feb. 18 at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood promises to be an inspiring event attended by both young filmmakers and Saudi esteemed officials. It is free and open to the public. In addition to the short films and a Q&A again moderated by Maan bin Abdulrahman, the event will feature a light reception and a performance by NYFA’s Improv Troupe.

    YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi with filmmaker Meshal Al Jaser.

    Reflecting on the upcoming festival, YSFF President Anneghaimshi complimented NYFA’s continued involvement, saying, “I would like to thank Dan Mackler for his endless support and caring, and I would like also to thank Tami Alexander, Crickett Rumley, and Brian Dillon.” He also had kind words for those submitting films: “I wish all the best for all filmmakers applying to the festival.”

    To RSVP to attend the Young Saudi Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.

  • New York Film Academy Acting Alum Adrian Voo Talks Teen Comedy “Little Bitches”

    Not many of us wish that we could go back to high school, but for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Conservatory alumnus Adrian Voo, revisiting teen angst never looked better. This month, the world will see him co-star in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s “Little Bitches,” a raucous, R-rated teen comedy that will release digitally Jan. 23 on iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Xfinity, Verizon Fios, Microsoft Store, Play Station and Google Play.  

    Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Voo was bitten by the acting bug when he was a business major at San Francisco State University. Following his dream led him to NYFA Los Angeles campus for an intensive year of conservatory training before going on to snag mainstream attention in the Jason Biggs comedy “Amateur Night.” “Little Bitches” follows three former-best-friends-turned-frenemies who must find a way to make peace in their senior year of high school in what Sony Pictures describes as a “crazy, twisted, coming-of-age female-empowerment comedy.”

    The NYFA Blog had a chance to catch up with Voo to hear more about “Little Bitches,” what he loves about comedy, and what’s next.

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

    AV: My love for film has spanned my lifetime but I had never really given acting much thought until my final year of business school. I was auditioning for plays and became fascinated with the craft. After receiving my BS, I decided to explore acting and searched for an intensive film school, and that’s when I found NYFA!

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

    AV: One of my earliest childhood memories was being in absolute awe while on a tram tour at Universal Studios. So the first time we had an on-camera class on New York Street was a little “magical” for me.

    NYFA: Congratulations on your role in Sony Pictures’ “Little Bitches”! How did this project come about for you?

    AV: Thank you! Long story short, I was pitched to Scott Aversano (producer). I was so excited to hear that he was assembling a teen comedy, knowing his previous success with “That Awkward Moment” and “Orange County,” among many others. We had a good meeting and he brought me in to read for Nick Kreiss (writer/director).

    NYFA: You’ve had a great streak of working in some big comedies. For our students, what do you find the most challenging about intensive comedy work? How do you prepare?

    AV: I’ve found the most challenging part to be forgetting that it’s a comedy — and not trying to be funny! I think comedy works best when you trust the script (the writers) and find the dialogue rhythm. Once you have the rhythm, you can add improv for color.

    NYFA: You recently served as an executive producer of “Dear Dictator” with Michael Caine and Katie Holmes, as well as appearing in the film. Tell us about that process, and why you felt drawn to this story?

    AV: I had worked with the writer/director’s on “Amateur Night,” which was their true life story, so I was thrilled when they invited me to be a part of “Dear Dictator.” The script is so inspired (it was featured in the Black List in 2006). It’s a satire but, ultimately, a story about a non-conventional family. There’s some familiar film moments but it’s truly a film like no other…

    It was also a full circle moment to work with Michael Caine since I studied his “Acting in Film” book at NYFA!

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

    AV: Very much so! When I first walked through the doors, I had a little stage experience and almost no formal training; I dreaded speaking with fellow actors whenever I was in productions because they used jargon that I had never heard of. NYFA instilled technique and discipline, and molded my process today. I’ve also become a strong proponent for hands-on training and found it to be an essential element.

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

    AV: Let’s just say, for now it’s “Little Bitches” and “Dear Dictator” in March! I hope you guys will enjoy the films as much as we had making them. Cheers to everyone at NYFA!

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Adrian Voo on his work in “Little Bitches,” and looks forward to seeing “Dear Dictator” soon!