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  • NYFA Alum Irene Mendez on Film Sustainability and a UN Campaign to Change The Film Production Landscape

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    Spanish producer Irene Mendez has always been interested in visual storytelling. With her degree in communications coupled with her education from NYFA’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, Mendez is seeking change in the production space, aiming to make all media projects more sustainable across the industry. 

    Coming to NYFA, Mendez knew it would give her a new perspective on film production. “I’ve always thought it is essential to know and understand how movies are made in different countries, and I saw in NYFA the opportunity to do so,” she shared. “NYFA has some of the best professionals teachers, including instructors who have won BAFTAs and have been in some of the most important film festivals.”

    NYFA alum Irene Mendez

    From her time at NYFA, Mendez has learned that preproduction is the most essential part of any project. “Work before you get to the set. Study every possibility that might happen once you are filming,” she emphasized. “Be ready for any inconvenience. It is so vital to plan what might happen and be prepared for any kind of problem. It is funny cause it’s actually the same advice I will give to anyone who wants to make a more sustainable film.”

    Mendez first got involved in sustainability in filmmaking after attending Madrid’s Another Way Film Festival in Madrid, which focused on sustainable progress in filmmaking. “I realized that we can do much more. There are many things we can change to create the same entertainment content in a much better way,” urged Mendez. “We can tell the same great stories without hurting the planet and its future. Even more, we can help to be part of the change.”

    Mendez is now involved with Fiction Changing the World, an organization that specializes in sustainable audiovisual productions, working both in reducing the negative impact of productions and creating fiction and entertainment formats that convey important info about sustainable development to the viewers. “There is a lot of things that we can do when we work on a project to reduce the negatives impacts and create good ones. Not only on how we do things but also in how we tell the stories and entertain.”

    This past year, Mendez worked with Fiction Changing the World on a UN campaign to show the world that a new way to make content is possible. “Being part of the UN campaign and seeing Paloma Andres and Rhoda N. Wainwright (Founders of Fiction Changing the World) speak beside people with innovative ideas and famous names as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), makes you understand that we are not alone. There is a lot of people trying to be part of the change. Thousands of unique ideas can help us all to do our bit.”

    Fiction Changing the World has also started their campaign The Dante Movement, which focuses on creating fictional media that will inspire sustainable action and change in the world among others to do their part. “Documentaries are a wonderful way to bring attention to different topics, but they have a couple of problems when it comes to reaching the general public,” shared Mendez when asked why the fictional format is a better medium for the campaign as opposed to documentary filmmaking. 

    Irene Mendez on set

    “They [documentaries] often focus on particular topics, which is fine, but it is more difficult to get millions of people interested in very a specific issue. Also, documentaries are not always the first choice of entertainment for the general public. On the other hand, fiction is a format that is consumed by everyone on the planet; it leaves no one out. It is a more global and entertaining way to send a message and to educate and raise awareness.”

    “For example, I would dare to say that the vast majority of Spaniards of my generation know that water rotates in a different direction in each hemisphere thanks to an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart travels to Australia,” Mendez said. “Fiction is a way to reach every home. We all get motivated watching the Avengers fighting together against Thanos. In our universe, we can all unite to fight our own common enemy.”

    Though The Dante Movement is focused on fictional stories to get the message across to viewers, Fiction Changing the World still allows for other formats to be used to reach different people, like documentaries. In addition to working with the organization, Mendez has also been working on the TV series Foundation for Apple TV+ here in Spain, but what Mendez expressed she is most proud of is producing the first certified Positive Carbon Footprint spot for Greenpeace

     

    “This proves that it is possible to create sustainable content. We had to think from the script in how to make it more environmentally friendly way,” shared Mendez. “I had several meetings with the screenwriters and the production company to explain to them what are the points that make a film create more or fewer carbon emissions and what makes more negative impacts. They quickly understood what was needed and realized that thinking in a sustainable way doesn’t have to compromise the project’s creativity.” 

    As a lover of making films and the environment, Mendez is an advocate for change in the industry, working to make sets reduce their negative impact on the environment from issues like not recycling properly and consuming more on set than necessary. “The reality is that there are many more things we aren’t doing right. The material we use to build a set, the fabric to sew amazing costumes, and the places we choose to use as scenarios are decisions we can make to reduce the negative impact of production,” she explained. “Our responsibility as filmmakers is not solely to entertain, but also to inform and inspire our audiences. We have the power to reach every single soul, and we should use it.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Irene Mendez for taking the time to share more about the sustainability movement that is taking place on sets all over the world. With the urgency to act, filmmakers like Irene can continue to make a difference and be agents for change across the industry. NYFA looks forward to seeing what’s next from the alum and to hear more updates on Mendez’s mission for film sustainability. 

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  • NYFA Community Among Shortlist for 93rd Academy Awards

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    After teasing the annual announcement of shortlists for this year’s upcoming Oscar nominations, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally announced nine categories of shortlists on Tuesday afternoon. Included among the list in the Documentary Feature category was All In: The Fight For Democracy from NYFA alum and producer Lisa Cortés; Boys State from Documentary Cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke; and Dick Johnson is Dead from Cinematographer instructor John Foster. 

    The shortlists for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced for: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International Feature Film, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song), Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film and Visual Effects.

    NYFA alum Lisa Cortés

    Cortés co-directed and produced the documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy, released September 18, 2020, on Amazon Prime. The film follows Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and the struggle against voter suppression. As of February 10, 2021, the film holds an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been met with widespread critical claim with Kevin Crust from the Los Angeles Times writing “All In manages the triple-E feat of being entertaining, educational, and enlightening.” 

    This past year, Cortés attended the NYFA’s Rock The Vote Rally rally in October, where she brought a special sneak preview of Janelle Monae’s end-credit song, “Turntable,” song written exclusively for the film. Cortés also spoke about how her NYFA Producing education proved to be valuable in pulling together a project like All In during such challenging times. 

    Lisa Cortes, Lee Daniels, and Mo’Nique (Photo Credit: WireImage.com)

    The producing alum has had an extensive career prior to her success with All In. Cortés co-produced NYFA guest speaker Nicole Kassell’s film The Woodsman, co-directed The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion, produced The Apollo, and executive produced Academy Award-winning film Precious from Lee Daniels. 

     Documentary Cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke was an additional cinematographer on the set of the shortlist contender Boys State from A24. The film follows an unusual annual experiment in Texas that joins together a thousand 17-year-old boys from across the state to build a representative government from the ground up. The film won the U.S Documentary Competition Grand Jury at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and is currently available to stream on Apple TV+.

    Shortlist contender Dick Johnson is Dead was worked on by Cinematographer instructor John Foster.  The documentary film directed by Kirsten Johnson focuses on Johnson’s father Richard, who suffers from dementia, portraying different ways—some of them violent “accidents”—in which he could ultimately die. The comedic and heartfelt film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Lisa Cortés, Claudia Raschke, and John Foster for their films making the 2021 Oscars Shortlist for Best Documentary Feature and wishes all the projects that made this year’s Academy shortlist the best of luck when the full list of nominations are announced on March 15, 2021.

    The full shortlists for each announced category can be found below:

    DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

    “All In: The Fight for Democracy”
    “Boys State”
    “Collective”
    “Crip Camp”
    “Dick Johnson Is Dead”
    “Gunda”
    “MLK/FBI”
    “The Mole Agent”
    “My Octopus Teacher”
    “Notturno”
    “The Painter and the Thief”
    “76 Days”
    “Time”
    “The Truffle Hunters”
    “Welcome to Chechnya”

    DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

    “Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa”
    “Call Center Blues”
    “Colette”
    “A Concerto Is a Conversation”
    “Do Not Split”
    “Hunger Ward”
    “Hysterical Girl”
    “A Love Song for Latasha”
    “The Speed Cubers”
    “What Would Sophia Loren Do?”

    INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

    Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Quo Vadis, Aida?”
    Chile, “The Mole Agent”
    Czech Republic, “Charlatan”
    Denmark, “Another Round”
    France, “Two of Us”
    Guatemala, “La Llorona”
    Hong Kong, “Better Days”
    Iran, “Sun Children”
    Ivory Coast, “Night of the Kings”
    Mexico, “I’m No Longer Here”
    Norway, “Hope”
    Romania, “Collective”
    Russia, “Dear Comrades!”
    Taiwan, “A Sun”
    Tunisia, “The Man Who Sold His Skin”

    MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

    “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”
    “Emma”
    “The Glorias”
    “Hillbilly Elegy”
    “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “The Little Things”
    “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
    “Mank”
    “One Night in Miami…”
    “Pinocchio”

    MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

    “Ammonite”
    “Blizzard of Souls”
    “Da 5 Bloods”
    “The Invisible Man”
    “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
    “The Little Things”
    “Mank”
    “The Midnight Sky”
    “Minari”
    “Mulan”
    “News of the World”
    “Soul”
    “Tenet”
    “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

    MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

    “Turntables” from “All In: The Fight for Democracy”
    “See What You’ve Done” from “Belly of the Beast”
    “Wuhan Flu” from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”
    “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
    “Never Break” from “Giving Voice”
    “Make It Work” from “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”
    “Io Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
    “Rain Song” from “Minari”
    “Show Me Your Soul” from “Mr. Soul!”
    “Loyal Brave True” from “Mulan”
    “Free” from “The One and Only Ivan”
    “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami…”
    “Green” from “Sound of Metal”
    “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

    ANIMATED SHORT FILM

    “Burrow”
    “Genius Loci”
    “If Anything Happens I Love You”
    “Kapaemahu”
    “Opera”
    “Out”
    “The Snail and the Whale”
    “To Gerard”
    “Traces”
    “Yes-People”

    LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

    “Bittu”
    “Da Yie”
    “Feeling Through”
    “The Human Voice”
    “The Kicksled Choir”
    “The Letter Room”
    “The Present”
    “Two Distant Strangers”
    “The Van”
    “White Eye”

    VISUAL EFFECTS

    “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”
    “Bloodshot”
    “Love and Monsters”
    “Mank”
    “The Midnight Sky”
    “Mulan”
    “The One and Only Ivan”
    “Soul”
    “Tenet”
    “Welcome to Chechnya”

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    February 10, 2021 • Diversity, Entertainment News, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 969

  • NYFA BFA Producing Alum Thandiwe Mlauli Founds South Africa’s First Woman-Led Animation Studio

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    BFA Producing alum Thandiwe Mlauli has announced an upcoming project called SOLA. It will be South Africa’s first independently produced and women-led afro-animation, with Mlauli acting as producer, director and showrunner through her animation company Studio Yezi.

    The South African native, who had been told before that there was no audience for afro-anime, decided to take matters into her own hands. “I knew that [not having an audience] was not true. I had friends both Black and Brown, who were interested in seeing representation in animation,” she shared. “I decided to arm myself with the knowledge I would need to make this dream happen and Studio Yezi is the fruit of this decision.”

    Founded in 2019 in Johannesburg, Studio Yezi (short for/inspired by “inkanyezi,” which means “star” in Zulu) aims to create economic opportunities for Black and Brown people in the animation industry, as well as creating accurate representation on screen.

    Studio Yezi, founded by NYFA Producing alum Thandiwe Mlauli

    Studio Yezi has recently launched the campaign #MakeSolaHappen, a crowdfunding initiative to develop SOLA, a story about a magical young girl who awakens in a world where magic is considered dangerous. Set in 22nd century South Africa, the film would also reimagine a world where the country would have been colonized by the Spanish instead of the British. The short film is based on the TV series that Studio Yezi is also developing.

    Founder and CEO of Yezi Studios & NYFA producing alum Thandiwe Mlauli

    “We’re crowdfunding to help us get to the finish line,” explained Mlauli. “We’ve gathered a team of really dope creatives who can definitely bring a product worth talking about. If anybody is interested in supporting us, or becoming a producer, please visit our crowdfunding campaign.

    The film, still in development, is a project that Mlauli hopes will “inspire other young artists to invest in their dreams and pursue them, despite whatever resistance they experience.” The studio CEO also noted how this is a project where more people can recognize Africa for its talents and the people. “We want to create a hub where people refer to us as much as they refer to other places in the world.”

    For other creatives, Mlauli shares that it’s imperative to keep focus. “Remind yourself, as often as you can, why you chose the career path that you chose. When you focus on what you love, and give yourself a chance to dedicate yourself to your dreams, the world will open up for you. I’m an example of that.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Producing alum Thandiwe Mlauli for sharing more about her upcoming film SOLA and the vision of her newly formed company, Yezi Studios. To learn more about Yezi Studios and the campaign to develop SOLAclick here.

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    September 24, 2020 • International Diversity, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 751

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts SAGindie Executive Director Darrien Gipson on the State of the Industry During Covid-19

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    The New York Film Academy recently hosted an Industry Speaker session with the Executive Director of SAGindie, Darrien Gipson. Students and Faculty from all NYFA campuses attended as Gipson addressed the state of the industry during Covid-19.  With all sectors of the industry focused on returning to work, it was a prescient discussion moderated by NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman.

    Gipson spoke of the various protocols that are being proposed once production resumes. While a certain degree of uncertainty prevails, and as the industry awaits government guidelines, a consensus around various parameters is formulating.  They include reduced crew sizes, staggered work hours, “pods” of crew alternating on set, various departments working timed shifts, longer days sanctioned by the unions, strict enforcement of social distancing, personal and set/equipment sanitizing regimes, monitoring for symptoms, and isolating actors.

    NYFA Producing Chair Weisman with SAGindie’s Darrien Gipson

    On a positive note, various “silver linings” are beginning to emerge from the current environment. Smaller productions with lower budgets, like student films and web series, are going to find it easier to handle the logistics and flexibility required to move forward. There will be a great hunger for projects as a result of the freeze on production in effect since March. 

    The smaller productions that can proceed at a quicker pace than the larger, more cumbersome projects will be better positioned for distribution. Gipson cited that a smaller number of “starry” submissions to festivals like Sundance will enhance the chances of less high profile films obtaining top-tier festival launches. Streaming platforms and other distribution entities will be seeking more product than ever. These observations connected with the NYFA audience as the conversation made it more apparent that there has rarely been a better time for emerging producers, filmmakers, writers, and actors to create content for a voracious audience. 

    The New York Film Academy has a long standing relationship with SAGindie, and thanks Executive Director Darrien Robbins for her insight and generosity. SAGindie is an invaluable resource for the NYFA community, as they not only assist in navigating the various paths forward working with the Screen Actors Guild, SAGindie will also offer guidance on a host of matters from financing to festival strategies, and more.  SAGindie welcomes NYFA students who would like to reach out and learn more. 

    For more information on SAGindie and how to contact them click here.

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    June 2, 2020 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1203

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Carlson with SuperCorgi Jojo, the surfing corgi

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

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

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    May 13, 2020 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1482

  • New York Film Academy’s Inaugural Virtual Industry Pitch Fest

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    The New York Film Academy’s New York campus Producing Department hosted their first ever Virtual Industry Pitch Fest on May 4, 2020. Students in the Fall 1-Year Conservatory Program in Producing presented their “final” feature film pitches to a group of esteemed producers, casting agents, and production executives, who gave feedback to the Producing students over the course of the day. 

    Film producer Chris Bongrine listens to a NYFA student, Alice Shy, give her “final pitch”

    Industry Guests included Chris Bongirne (Marshall featuring Chadwick Bosemen,, I Am Legend, featuring Will Smith) along with Dan Hank (Former executive in charge of production for Netflix/Marvel and AMC Networks), Darren Dean (The Florida Project, Tangerine) and Eve Pomerance (Son of the South, sadly Brian Dennehey’s most recent and last film).

    Industry professional Dan Hank shares feedback with NYFA Producing student, Caspian Khonigh

    Producing instructor Nick Yellen organized the event and said, “students received detailed critiques on their presentations, along with invaluable industry advice and strategies on how to further their projects toward production. More importantly, students made valuable industry contacts and found it exciting, informative and… nerve-racking!”

    NYFA Producing student Richard Payne recounted, “Monday’s Virtual Industry Pitch Fest was definitely nerve-racking at first. It was the first time my “final pitch” was done virtually. My classmates and I would have liked for it to be in person, but due to the current state of the world that clearly wasn’t going to happen. With that being said, it went really well.” He continued, “It was a great experience to practice pitching with real industry professionals. Nick Yellen does a great job in preparing his students for the “final pitch” and for pitching [stories] in the real world.”

    Producer Eve Pomerance discusses Camille Rao’s “final pitch”

    When asked about the Virtual Industry Pitch Fest, Producing Chair, Neal Weisman, said, “this is the culmination of months of students’ work, and it’s gratifying to see it all come together on this new online platform.” Weisman also concluded, “this is exactly the kind of interaction our students will encounter when moving into the industry. The Pitch Fest also serves as a terrific networking opportunity.”

    Producer Darren Dean listens as a NYFA Producing student, Christine Aberyuf, gives her “final pitch”

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) would like to thank special guests Chris Bongrine, Dan Hank, Darren Dean, and Eve Pomerance for providing their industry expertise and constructive feedback for NYFA student’s final pitches. NYFA would also like to congratulate its Producing students for presenting outstanding work as a culmination of their hard work and creativity.

    For more information on the Producing School at New York Film Academy, click here.

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    May 6, 2020 • Producing • Views: 1636

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Alum Alex Lebovici Launches Hammerstone Studios

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Alum Alex Lebovici, along with his partner Steve Ponce, is launching Hammerstone Studios, their new production company that will finance feature films for Hollywood and beyond.

    The two previously worked at Oriah Entertainment. Over the last year, they’ve had a run of very successful projects, including feature film Roman J. Israel, Esq., which earned Denzel Washington an Academy Award for Best Actor, as well the upcoming drama/thriller Red Sea Diving Resort, featuring Chris Evans, Michiel Huisman, Ben Kingsley, Michael Kenneth Williams, Greg Kinnear, and many others. Lebovici and Ponce also executive produced the fan-made adaptation of blockbuster video game Uncharted, starring Nathan Fillion as title character Nathan Drake. Also starring Stephen Lang (Avatar), the fan short went viral and spawned talks of being adapted into an official Hollywood feature.

    Hammerstone StudiosAccording to a press release exclusive with deadline.com, the goal for Lebovici and Ponce is to produce a “diversified slate of films, from commercial, talent-driven titles to specialty films from proven filmmakers.” This includes projects like Come Away, a feature directed by Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt, Brave) and staring Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo. Hammerstone Studios is also trying to get the long-awaited second sequel to 80s classic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure off the ground — with original stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters on board, Bill & Ted Face the Music is closer than ever to finally coming to theaters.

    Lebovici hails from Ontario, Canada. He enrolled in the 1-Year Producing program at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus in the fall of 2005. The producing school at NYFA teaches students strong project management skills without requiring a business school background, and allows collaboration opportunities with NYFA filmmaking, acting, screenwriting, and cinematography students (among others) on their ambitious projects throughout the program. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates producing alum Alex Lebovici on his incredible success in Hollywood and looks forward to the future films of Hammerstone Studios! 

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    October 25, 2018 • Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1866

  • Documentarian Amy Rice Presents “By The People” to New York Film Academy Students

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    This July, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing and Documentary Filmmaking departments presented a screening of By the People: The Election of Barack Obama followed by a Q&A with director Amy Rice. The discussion was moderated by Producing Chair Neal Weisman and Documentary Chair Andrea Swift.

    Producing Chair Neal Weisman, Director Amy Rice, and Documentary Chair Andrea Swift

    Producing Chair Neal Weisman, Director Amy Rice, and Documentary Chair Andrea Swift.

    The nearly two-hour film documents the years leading up to the election of Barack Obama. Rice gives viewers an inside look into Obama’s evolution from little-known Illinois Senator to symbol of change for a generation.

    Calling it one of her favorite documentaries, Rice was greatly influenced by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s The War Room, about Bill Clinton’s campaign for president in 1992. By the People premiered in August of 2009 on HBO, and last week’s screening gave younger students a look at how the 2008 election differed from recent elections.

    Rice began her career as a cinematographer, working with her eventual co-director on By the People, Alicia Sams. The documentarian talked about the appeal of this type filmmaking, saying, “There was something very organic about documentary. Just pick up your camera and go shoot and follow the story as it’s unfolding in front of you.” 

    "By the People" director Amy Rice

    By the People director Amy Rice.

    After her other brother told her about Obama before he was well-known, Rice watched his speeches and read his book, Dreams from My Father. “I was just naturally obsessed with his story,” she says.

    Her and her team used a trip to Africa during a congressional delegation trip as a testing ground. From there, the film follows the lead-up to the 2008 election and Obama’s transition from presidential long shot to favorite. Rice discussed the difficulties that began to arise as the presidential candidate’s popularity increased. For instance, at one point the film crew was unable to use a boom mic due to secret service safety concerns. Rice pointed out another instance deep into the campaign where security tried to stop her from filming: “I looked so horrified that he was trying to stop me from getting my final shot.” 

    The filmmaker also dropped some words of wisdom on the students throughout the course of the discussion. One thing she stressed was to “always say ‘yes’ to all film opportunities.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Amy Rice for her time and the illuminating discussion with the Producing and Documentary Filmmaking departments.

    Watch the trailer below and/or purchase the film here.

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  • Christina Beck Brings Perfection to New York Film Academy Los Angeles Guest Speaker Series

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    In February, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles welcomed writer, director, and actor Christina Beck as a Guest Speaker to the Q&A stage, following a screening of her award-winning film Perfection.

    The film, which tells the story of a young woman who struggles with self-harm, and her relationship with her mother, was screened in honor of Self-Injury Awareness Day, a global event dedicated to removing the stigma surrounding self-harm, and spreading awareness so that those who suffer do not have to suffer in silence.

    Beck began by discussing the script’s origins, which, unsurprisingly, initially sprang from her own experiences. “I wasn’t a cutter, but in my 20s I used to pick at my skin a lot, and I had a lot of self hatred,” she shared. “I grew up in LA, I had a very beautiful mother, and there was a lot of emphasis on exterior beauty and trying to be perfect. And trying to fit in and finding my way as a young woman, I felt like I wasn’t enough … so I started writing that character, and then later it morphed into a bigger story.”

    NYFA Los Angeles Producing Department Co-Chair Roberta Colangelo, who moderated the event, followed up with a question about what the medium of film can do, or what kind of opportunities it can bring to the subject of self harm.

    “I think even if you’re not someone who cuts yourself you can relate, hopefully, to the feelings,” said Beck. “For me, I always think that filmmaking is such a powerful medium, that we can observe behavior, follow a story, hopefully, and connect with a protagonist, and go on that journey.”

    Beck went on to talk about the process of making the film, which took two and a half years — and in true micro-budget fashion, the journey was full of ups and downs. They started out with no financing, cast the film out of Beck’s living room, and on one occasion, had only a half-hour at a location to film an entire scene.

    “So that’s a little stressful, for sure,” Beck admitted. “And there were quite a few moments like that, honestly … but you just kind of have to make it work, because the bigger picture is more important than the stress of the moment.”

    The bigger picture, in the case of Perfection, is an opportunity to positively impact the people sitting in the audience.

    “It leaves you with a strange sense of empowerment,” Colangelo noted. “Not by showing a very powerful female figure that has heroically overcome everything, but someone that is working her way [through it]. It’s a very powerful message.”

    Perfection is by no means a comprehensive guide to healing, but it was never intended to be. As Beck stated, the intention behind the film was, if nothing else, to be truthful.

    “In 85 minutes, it’s really hard to wrap up someone’s whole recovery,” said Beck. “It just wouldn’t be truthful. And so we kind of modified that journey to leave with a sense of hope.”

    Perfection is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.

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  • New York Film Academy Hosts Producing Pitchfest For MFA and BFA Students

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    The recent graduates of New York Film Academy’s MFA and BFA Producing programs got to share their final projects with high-powered industry professionals at this year’s Producing Pitchfest.

    A herculean effort went into completing these producing projects. NYFA is known for having classes that are fast-paced and hands-on. Students enter as aspiring creatives and leave with the ability to walk onto a set and make a film. From the producing side, students create a show bible, design a budget, and learn multiple ways to pitch their script to executives, studios, and potential investors.    

    The “story pitch” is as much a part of Hollywood movie making as is the script itself. At the Producing Pitchfest, students were given the opportunity to pitch their projects to professional producers, directors, writers and executives. Getting an opportunity to pitch a projects to professionals is incredibly important. Not only did students get the chance to get constructive feedback from the guests, they also had the chance to land a deal!

    Student Reginald E. Luck credited NYFA with his ability to look and sound professional in the presence of such incredible talent. “NYFA taught and prepared me by grilling me during thesis committee meetings. They really made me focus on why I was telling this story,” he began. “When my instructors said, ‘Relax, you got this,’ I found they were right. I had made pitching harder in my mind than it turned out to be in reality.”

    Luck said his favorite part of the event was meeting and interacting with the writers and producers who attended the festival. “It really made me feel important to have them all listen intently to my story,” Luck confessed. “I was given some tremendous pointers by each person I pitched too.”

    At the end of the event, many of the participating judges let our instructors know how impressed they were with the students and their work. The event was a huge success all the way around. Students walked away with encouragement, new ideas, and a lot of real-world contacts.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank the following panelists for taking the time to hear our student’s pitches: writer and director Blake Harris, writer and director Doug Cooney, writer and director Brian Herskowitz, actor and producer John Morrissey, producer Patrick Peach, writer and producer David Rosenberg, writer and producer Arnold Rudnick, attorney and producer Marlon Schulman and filmmaker and festival director Kimberly Browning.

    Congratulations to all of our graduates. We look forward to all of the great stories you’ll tell.  

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    April 27, 2018 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights, Producing • Views: 1605