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

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

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

    A screencap from "A Sniper's War"

    “A Sniper’s War”

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

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

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

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

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    September 25, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4070

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) to Host National Bullying Prevention Month Screening of “Thirsty”

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    October is National Bullying Prevention Month and to bring awareness to the cause, the Filmmaking school at New York Film Academy (NYFA) is hosting a screening of Thirsty with its filmmakers. Described by as a “post-queer musical biopic,” Thirsty follows bullied girly-boy Scott Townsend as he grows into revered drag queen Thirsty Burlington, fighting obstacles along the way only to discover what he really wants is self-acceptance.

    The musical drama was released in 2016 and won Audience Choice for Best Narrative Feature at the Boston LGBT Film Festival, Best Narrative Feature at the Harlem International Film Festival, and the Jury Prize at the Portland Film Festival. It will be screened at NYFA New York’s 1st Floor Theatre on October 11th.

    Margo Pelletier directing Marilyn Matarrese and Deirdre Lovejoy

    Margo Pelletier directing Marilyn Matarrese and Deirdre Lovejoy

    The screening will be followed by a Q&A with producer Lisa Thomas, actors Jonny Beauchamp (who plays “middle” Scott Townsend), and Michael DiGioia (Uncle Gene), Choreographer Alexandra Amirov, and editor and NYFA alum Fabrizio Famá. Thomas is an industry veteran who has worked on Wonder Showzen and Ugly Americans. Beauchamp has appeared in Penny Dreadful and Stonewall. Famá has worked on many Italian feature films, documentaries, and shorts.

    The 97-minute feature film was directed by the late filmmaker Margo Pelletier, who was known for her exploration of gender and identity. She previously made the documentary Freeing Silvia Baraldini. Thirsty stars Scott Townsend as himself, lending a unique realism to its ability to tell a story based on his life. Deirdre Lovejoy (The Wire, The Blacklist) co-stars as Townsend’s addiction-addled mother Doris. Keith Leonard plays opposite her as Townsend’s absent and abusive father. Before her death, Pelletier had told Variety that a “good percentage” of the cast is LGBTQ.

    National Bullying Month began in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. It was originally the first week in October and has since expanded to include the entire month. Studies have shown bullying causes “school avoidance, loss of self-esteem, increased anxiety, and depression.” Learn more at StopBullying.gov. If you or someone you know is struggling, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You may anonymously report cyber bullying here and also find help and resources here.

    Prior to the Thirsty screening, NYFA will also be hosting a Wellness Day event from noon to 5pm on the 5th floor student lounge in NYC. View some statistics on bullying below:

    National Statistics

    Been Bullied
    • 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.
    • 20% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.

    Seen Bullying

    • 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.
    • 70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.
    • When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time

    Watch the trailer for Thirsty below:

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    September 21, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Diversity, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Musical Theatre • Views: 1283

  • New York Film Academy Hosts Hip Hop Film Festival Screening Event

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    The New York Film Academy recently hosted screenings, a Q&A, and panel presented by the Hip Hop Film Festival and 247films.tv. The event at NYFA’s Battery Park theatre was entitled “WeWatch: Femme Fatale Edition” and was presented as part of a series of Women’s History Month events hosted by NYFA. The hip-hop-focused festival is based in Harlem, and was founded in 2015. The third annual festival will take place this year from August 2-5 in Harlem.

    NYFA-HHFF-WomensHistory

    The WeWatch event began with food and drinks presented by Revive Kombucha. Attendees shifted into the theatre for the three-hour screening and Q&A portion of the event. Hip Hop Film Festival founder C R Capers introduced and moderated the event.

    After the first screening of comedy web series Shampagne, Capers sat down with series creator and lead actress Melissa Mickens to talk about her process and what served as inspiration. Mickens’ real life experiences of being pigeonholed during auditions spurned her desire to shift focus and pursue a rap career. She also discussed filming on a budget and in Harlem, where she resides.

    Next up was Australian filmmaker Bella Ann Townes’ Hip Hop & Holiness, which profiled Matthew “Mystery” Peet,  a breakdancer, rapper, and graffiti tagger who also happens to be a pastor at church. Peet discusses his relationship to both hip hop culture and religion and how he does not feel they should be mutually exclusive. Townes won Best Emerging Australian Director for the documentary short at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival in 2017.

    Seattle creative Voleak Sip’s short film Float was third in the lineup. Sip was unable to attend the event, but she recorded a video explaining how her older brother was the inspiration behind the main character, Rocky, who is a Cambodian hustler still living with his parents. The music was a key element of the film, and sound editor Jono Hill was on hand to speak to C R about his process. While the film is set in the ’90s, the music was created by present-day producers and musicians who provided a fresh take on the prominent ’90s boombap hip-hop sound.

    The event concluded with Jasmine Callis’ powerful documentary short set entirely in North Philly. Stay Black, Baby: The Mixtape is a complex portrait of Black youth rising, Black art glorified, Black voices uncovered, Black struggle acknowledged, and Black empowerment revered. Over the course of 20 compelling minutes, the film shifted seamlessly from motivational to heartbreaking and back again, covering topics from Black pride and resilience to police brutality and misogyny.

    Callis, who currently works at New York Film Academy as a video editor and producer, attended the event and discussed her inspirations, including Spike Lee and Philadelphia hip-hop legends The Roots. During the Q&A, Capers raved about Callis’ work, which she said belongs in a museum.

    Keep an eye on the Hip Hop Film Festival’s website for upcoming events and details on the 2018 iteration of the festival.

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  • NYFA Graphic Design Alum Elle Hasanli Discusses Her Work

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    New York Film Academy’s Graphic Design program in New York City combines in-class instruction, hands-on education, and extensive coursework, resulting in a challenging and rewarding experience with plenty of real-world application. Students enrolled in the program have intensive classes five days a week, with many evenings and weekends spent working on original projects. Talented alum Elle Hasanli, who recently completed the 1 Year Graphic Design program at NYFA, has been successful both in and out of the classroom.
     Elle Hasanli Evoke

    Elle (short for Günel) uses her art as a tool for social justice. The self-proclaimed human rights activist is inspired by abstract patterns in everyday life and uses many of these elements in her design work. The Graphic Design alum has already landed an internship with Mirko Ilić Corp., an internationally recognized designer in NYC. “The mentors at NYFA made sure to provide us with practical skills so that we could enter the world of design,” Hasanli says. “In 8.5 months, I learned how to use InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and AfterEffects.” Because these programs are “essential skills to get a job,” Hasanli felt more than equipped to enter the job market and learning them has clearly already paid off. She continues, “Faculty dedicated time and energy to work on our resumes, explained to us how to carry ourselves at a job interview, and gave us tips on how to build a professional network.” Hasanli also came out of the program equipped with a portfolio and website, two tools absolutely necessary for any designer in the field. Guests from the design world to attend portfolio reviews daily so students have opportunities to make valuable connections.

    In addition to skills necessary for securing a good job after school, Hasanli learned things such as typography which she had no familiarity with previously, “now I can instantly recognize good typography. “NYFA worked on my existing talent and taught me how to start implementing it in practice.” This is evident in work such as “Virgin” which ties in her passion for social justice with the skills she acquired in her classes at NYFA. She also designed posters for Climate Week NYC and has worked on packaging and art for various other brands.

    Elle Climate Week
    She sums up the program as such: “I needed the basic skills and I needed the inspiration. I got both of them. The course promised to be very intensive and it was just what it promised. The program taught me how to communicate my ideas effectively through graphic design.”
    Hasanli is inspired by a variety of current and historic artists, experimental and otherwise: Alexei Brodovich for editorial design, Milton Glaser, Ai Weiwei and the performance art of Marina Abramovich. In addition to graphic design, she practices conceptual and documentary photography. She also wrote a script for an animation film which is a world she would like to further explore.
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    October 20, 2017 • Graphic Design • Views: 1834

  • NYFA Shows Early Screening of “The Florida Project” with Darren Dean

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    On Wednesday, October 4th, New York Film Academy hosted an early screening of the already critically acclaimed “The Florida Project,” as part of the Producing Department’s Industry Speaker Series.  NYFA Instructor and Producer of the film Darren Dean was on hand to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A session following the screening. Produced by Sean Baker, “The Florida Project” focuses on Florida motel residents who live in the shadow of Disney World in and around Celebration, Florida (Kool & The Gang’s post-disco smash “Celebration” blares during the credits). We previously wrote about the film’s premiere at the prestigious Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. The film is being distributed by A24 which has positioned itself as a curator of excellent cinema with recent releases such as “Good Time,” and last year’s excellent, Academy Award-winning “Moonlight.”

    Darren Dean at NYFA

    Producer Darren Dean discusses “The Florida Project” with NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman

    Neal Weisman, Chair of Producing at NYFA, introduced the film and moderated the Q&A with his colleague. Dean described his entry into the film industry as such: “I started making films when I was 40. I was working marketing. I worked with Sean, went back to school to complete my degree, and ended up shooting a film he liked.” He continued,”I know no other world. I don’t know the ‘let’s go from the paper, let’s strictly follow the rules’ world.” His unique vantage point was valuable to students who may eventually try to marry traditional methods with experimental filmmaking styles such as Baker and Dean.

    “[Sean] likes to get involved with the families that live in the motels, for example, or, in ‘Prince of Broadway’, the West African street hustlers, or, in ‘Tangerine’, the trans sex workers.” As Mr. Weisman put it, this lends an authenticity and honesty to all of Baker’s work. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned to trust, it’s his instinct.” “Create this pastiche of ‘The Little Rascals. This is Sean’s tribute to ‘The Little Rascals.'”

    “We are two straight, white men from New Jersey who happen to think straight white male filmmaking is boring,” Dean joked referencing his work, such as the acclaimed “Tangerine,” with Baker. The newest film focuses on another marginalized group, the “hidden homeless” people living week-to-week in motels outside of Orlando. A number of the bit parts were people who actually live in the motels with no prior acting experience. Like many actors and actresses in Baker’s previous films, the female lead, Bria Vinaite, was cast from Instagram. Veteran actor Willem Defoe is the “name” of the cast and delivers a powerful performance as the tough but empathetic manager of the motel. The main child character, Moonee, is played by Brooklynn Prince who is astounding and is sure to receive recognition come award season.

    New York Film Academy students from Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Acting for Film, and other disciplines were captivated by the harrowing drama and stuck around for questions afterward. Following the Q&A, Dean was gracious enough to sign posters given by A24 and chat with students and aspiring filmmakers.

    “The Florida Project” is released nationwide this Friday, October 6. Director Sean Baker will be attending a Q&A at AMC Lincoln Square in New York City following the 9pm showing of the film. See below for more info.

    The Florida Project NY Q&As

    UPDATE: “The Florida Project” has since been nominated for the following major awards, among others:

    • Golden Globe – Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor
    • Independent Spirit Award – Sean Baker for Best Director
    • Satellite Award – Sean Baker for Best Director
    • Screen Actors Guild Award – Willem Dafoe for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
    • Gotham Independent Film Award – Brooklynn Prince for Breakthrough Actor
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    October 6, 2017 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 3422