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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Alexandre Kyriakidis

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alexandre Kyriakidis grew up watching movies, and eventually, started making his own. Kyriakidis attended NYFA’s 8-week and 12-week workshops in 2001 before going on to shoot multiple short films as well as over 50 music videos across the globe.

    Kyriakidis hails from France from Greek and American parents, and has lived both in Europe and California, watching movies from his grandmother’s vast film collection nearly as early as he can remember. Those movies both inspired and influenced his own projects, which he started making at a young age and continues to make today.

    Filmmaking runs in the family — Kyriakidis’s aunt is producer, director, and Oscar-winning actress, Jodie Foster. While Kyriakidis says their artistic sensibilities differ greatly, Foster has still appeared in some of his favorite films.

    The New York Film Academy spoke with Alexandre Kyriakidis earlier this year about his background, his work, and about the four movies that had a lasting impact on his filmmaking aesthetic:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Alexandre Kyriakidis (AK): I was born in France from a Greek father and an American mother, and have been living in Europe most of my life with some extended periods in the USA, in California mostly. I started making backyard films in high school until landing an internship at 14 years old for the French visual effects company DUBOI (they don’t exist anymore), who were doing Alien: Resurrection at the time.

    What brought me to NYFA was that after graduating from high school I couldn’t find a film school that I liked; most of them would rely too much on theory and not enough on practice, and I also didn’t want to sit in classes for hours learning about the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder for example, when I had already seen these films and built my own film education since I was a kid.

    But then I learned about New York Film Academy and it suited me perfectly; it was all about practice and hands on, where just after the first day you would already touch and use the most important tool in filmmaking — the camera. It was all about living, breathing, and dreaming films.

    NYFA: What was your time at NYFA like?

    AK: It was the best time in my life, because nothing around me was important, nothing else mattered but films, and I was surrounded by people just like me — people who loved films more than anything.

    I also met some of the most amazing people in my life, other students with whom I shared the same passion, other students with whom I can talk about movies that weren’t just blockbusters, and students from all over the world who became friends and with whom I still communicate today.

    Alexandre Kyriakidis
    Alexandre Kyriakidis

    NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on directing?

    AK: I always wanted to tell stories, to make movies, but I wanted to be the person who was in charge of the creative aspect — deciding what was going to be on the screen, basically put on the screen what is in my head — and that is why I wanted to become a director.

    I have had many influences from when I was a kid, and even today I’m influenced by many great filmmakers. But when I was a kid, four movies had a big impact on me, and three were directed by the same person.

    First was Raiders of the Lost Ark by Steven Spielberg. I think I saw that film on VHS when I was four or five years old, and I remember seeing it in Greece at my godfather’s home. Looking back at it today, it’s a harmless film, but … leaves a big impact on you as a kid.

    The other film was Robocop, that I saw on VHS at six, and when I first saw it, it felt like if I was watching something forbidden, something I wasn’t allowed to see … Then when I was eight, Total Recall was being replayed in Greece one night on a giant screen on the beach, and my dad and godfather took me to see it.

    And then when I was ten, I was in Los Angeles one summer and my grandmother showed me Basic Instinct. So as you have guessed, Paul Verhoeven had a big impact on me.

    After that my grandmother, who owned at the time a huge film collection, started to show me everything she owned, from the films of Werner Herzog, to the classic Italian films like Last Tango in Paris, as well as the films of Akira Kurosawa, the films of Stanley Kubrick, French films, German films, Soviet films — I basically saw everything, and I mean absolutely everything.

    So my film education came from there, and it’s after seeing all these great works of art that I wanted to make films myself.

    NYFA: What drew you to making music videos?

    AK: I had always wanted to make music videos, but never really knew how to get into it. All I knew is that great directors like David Fincher, for example, started in music videos and still make some once in a while.

    In my case, there is this guy I know in England who was starting his own music company after owning an event company for whom I shot videos in nightclubs, and he asked me to make a music video for a Romanian singer.

    And I had never worked on a music video before, never learned how to make a music video, so really I didn’t know much, but I told him I would do it. A few weeks later we were shooting on the Mediterranean with a skeleton crew and a Canon 5D camera.

    And after the success of that music video, a second music video was made for the same singer; again it was a success, eventually new artists were signed up, mostly metal and hard rock, so I ended up doing more music videos.

    Eventually other music companies from all over Europe, even Russia, contacted me, and I made music videos for them. Some being hits, some doing well, others doing less well, and once in a while there is a controversial one that ends up in flaming internet debates.

    Now even after making 50 music videos, I still feel that I’m learning more every day, and each one of these 50 are like making a new short film each time. A good thing about music videos is that they allow you to experiment, to test new tools or to try things you would never dare doing in a movie.

    NYFA: What kind of music videos do you prefer working on? Is there a particular genre of music you feel lends itself better to the medium?

    AK: I have done mostly rock, metal, and gothic music videos, but I have also done a lot of pop music videos in Eastern Europe, in Southern Europe, and in Russia. My first music video was a pop one.

    My taste in music is rock with a preference for ’90s and ’80s rock. I have always been a rock fan, so I’m always enjoying making rock music videos.

    But I still feel pop music videos are the ones that are the most fitted for music videos, because the songs are often so overproduced and have so much Auto-Tune in them that they are often recorded with a music video already planned.

    Rock music is made for the stage, pop is made for the screen.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your short films? What are they about and what inspired you to make them?

    AK: My first short film, Blues Stop was made right after NYFA, shot on Super 16mm. It’s a thriller about a Bible salesman who falls for a psychopathic, beautiful female serial killer who ends up framing him for murder. The film was never shown in its home country of France, but it was screened in festivals all over the world, including in Los Angeles.

    My second short film, C22, made many years after my previous one, is a sexual thriller with a dose of action, a dose of horror — it’s about a kidnapping gone wrong. This film once again didn’t get shown in any festivals in France, but was shown in festivals all across the world, including North America.

    And my third short film, Sfagi, is just a small-budget martial arts action movie about capturing a fugitive. Originally it was just going to be a demo reel for a group of martial artists and stuntmen, but I managed to convince them to make a short film.

    You can check out Alexandre’s film below, though speaking with NYFA, he made it clear that since it was his first film straight out of school, he finds it very hard to share with anyone these days.

    “I will always be proud of it,” he says, “on the other I have made so much progress since.”

    But even in his first film, his talent is evident and shows the potential of his craft that would come later. Alexandre also made sure to give props to his experienced crew, many of who had just come offLove Actually and Neil Jordan’s The Good Thief. The director of photography of the film was focus puller on Star Wars: A New Hope.

    NYFA: Besides Raiders and the films of Paul Verhoeven, what are some of your other favorite films or types of films?

    AK: I don’t have a type of film, I like any film — science fiction, drama, horror, action, or comedy. I can enjoy just as much a classic heavy duty drama just like I can enjoy an old ’70s exploitation film.

    But my all time favorite film, the one that is all the way up there, would be Gone with the Wind and then I would say the following: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Blade Runner (the original one), Ran, Suspiria (the original one), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Léon: The Professional, Schindler’s List, and I can go on because I have actually done a list of my 200 favorite films of all time. But as you can see in just these titles, it’s very diversified.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you’ve applied directly to your filmmaking?

    AK: I learned to think and not be impulsive. By that I mean back when I was at NYFA we still shot on film, meaning that each time we pressed the camera trigger it would mean money being lost — so if you failed your shot, or if an actor messed his lines, that is money lost that you will never see again… While today with digital we can shoot all day; sure it saves a lot of money, but you end up not thinking as much anymore before shooting. While I, because I learned on film, I tend to treat digital the same way I learned to treat film.

    Also the fact that NYFA is very hands on, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty… how many times was a prop in the way and I would just go and move it myself, instead of having the 1st AD call the Prop Master so he would come and move it? How many times have I picked up the camera myself and taken the shot myself, and little details like that?

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    AK: I have been trying for years now raising enough money to make a feature film, it’s a vampire film — it’s at the same time a sexual thriller, a horror, and a romantic film. But it’s not easy.

    I’m also trying to make another short film named Femme Fatale that is a tribute to the old “film noir” movies of the ’40s and ’50s. And I’m trying to finish a script named The Lobster Shift that is a mix between After Hours by Martin Scorsese, Into the Night by John Landis, and the Japanese anime Cat’s Eyes.

    NYFA: How has your aunt, Jodie Foster, as either an actress or director, influenced your own work?

    AK: Our works are the total opposite — she’s more cerebral than me while I’m more impulsive and react more by instinct. And you can notice it in her films, her films as a director are always very character-driven, while my works are more visually driven.

    As an actress she happens to be in three of my all-time favorite 100 films — Taxi Driver of course, Silence of the Lambs obviously, and Bugsy Malone, a forgotten gem that happens to be Alan Parker’s first film.

    It’s not an influence, but each one of my works — being a music video or a short film, even my scripts — she’s always the first person to see them (even sometimes before the actual producers or bands) or the first reader, especially when it comes to scripts; her advice and opinions are very precious, and help me to make them better.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    AK: Be ready to live films 24/7 … try not going out at nights and have fun learning about your passion, and you are all in good hands.

    The New York Film Academy thanks alum Alexandre Kyriakidis for taking the time to answer our questions and looks forward to following his continued success as a filmmaker!

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    March 11, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 593

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Fatima Al Taei

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Fatima Al Taei stars in Justice, the procedural drama set in Abu Dhabi that is now available on Netflix. The 18-part legal series originally premiered on OSN HD in 2017 and is now available for streaming with subtitles in 20 different languages.

    Al Taei first attended NYFA in 2009 in Abu Dhabi. Since then, she has gained steady work as an actress, including a lead role in When the Autumn Blooms, Saudi Arabia’s first longform drama series.

    Justice (Qalb Al Adala) was created by Oscar nominee Walter Parkes (He Named Me Malala) and Emmy award-winning producer William Finkelstein (LA Law) and was filmed and produced in Abu Dhabi by Image Nation and Beelink Productions. The story follows a passionate lawyer, Farah, who rebels against her father’s firm and sets out on her own to become a defense attorney. 

    Netflix Justice

    The series uses actual cases from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department as a basis for their stories, and was directed by Ahmed Khalid. In a recent Harper’s Bazaar Arabia piece, Al Taei’s character was called a “strong, ambitious” lead”—an important milestone for female representation on television in the Middle East.

    New York Film Academy spoke with alum Fatima Al Taei about her experiences at NYFA and filming her culturally important lead role in Justice:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Justice?

    Fatima Al Taei: When I was learning at NYFA, they made sure not to tie me into a specific technique—they taught us different ways to get into the character and it helped me in different situations during the shoot, being flexible and open yet focused and specific.

    Also, they taught me how to deal with other actors and directors. NYFA was a lab for me, with great helpful tutors!

    NYFA: Can you speak a little about your experience playing a strong, ambitious Emirati woman? Do you see yourself as a role model for other Emirati women?

    Fatima Al Taei: It was a unique experience. We had the opportunity to shoot inside actual courtrooms, because all the cases are based on true events.

    Playing a strong Emirati woman is the same to me as playing any “strong woman,” an inspiration for all women to follow what they believe in no matter what kind of pressure they may be under. So it’s not only for Emirati women, but for all women. 

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    Fatima Al Taei: NYFA will teach you so many things. You will be surrounded by people who have the same passion, which is good networking as a start. 

    But NYFA will not do the job you have to do—you have to secure your dream and make it happen. If it takes months or years, studying at NYFA won’t be a waste unless you give up. Many students disappeared after graduation because they didn’t have enough patience and didn’t want to get out of their comfort zone.

    The industry is not much in interested in your specific acting techniques (these are your tools.) If the industry is interested in “You” they will work with you—your attitude and passion is important, so MAKE THEM WANT TO WORK WITH YOU.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates actress and alum Fatima Al Taei on her success and encourages everyone to check out her legal drama Justice on Netflix! 

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    March 1, 2019 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 820

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Alum Celina Liv Danielsen Covers the 2019 Oscars Red Carpet

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    There is no evening more exciting than when the Academy Awards are handed out. It’s so important that TV networks from around the world send reporters to cover it. This year that included New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism grad Celina Liv Danielsen. 

    Danielsen was at the Oscars representing Danish network TV2. “One of the more fun Sundays,” she said in an epic understatement. NYFA helped teach her digital production skills. Her fashion sense, however, she likely learned somewhere else.

    Danielsen recently covered the tragic wildfires in California late last year, as well as covering the United Nations for TV2. In September 2018, Danielsen also reported live from the memorial service for the late Senator John McCain.

    Celina Liv Danielsen

    Meanwhile, down in Brazil—where it is summer—NYFA grad Daniella Gemignani did the first of two weeks of coverage leading up to the Catholic feast of Ash Wednesday. It’s better known as CARNIVAL. Daniella reports for Globo TV in São Paulo.

    Broadcast Journalism

    Meanwhile, NYFA alum Paula Menezes is reporting on Brazilian sports. (You know, things like “futbal.”)  A grad of one of our 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshops, she says she is having the time of her life. She even sent along some visual evidence…

    Broadcast Journalism

    So, we started with the Oscars and that’s how we’ll end. I’d like to thank the Academy… the Beijing Film Academy… for lending me their Academy Award when I visited last September. Giving a lecture at this prestigious school was in itself an honor. But to have the opportunity to hold a genuine Oscar is priceless. Of course, I do have an independent feature film coming out later this year…

    Broadcast Journalism
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    February 27, 2019 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 561

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Pablo C. Vergara

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Pablo C. Vergara has shot and is in the process of finishing the feature film metal horror, Necromurder. Vergara hails from Mexico City and works as a cinematographer, actor, and filmmaker, among other roles. 

    He enrolled at the New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking program in New York in Fall 2016, before moving to Hollywood to work on completing his MFA at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. In Los Angeles, he has worked on several projects, including Adverse, starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Thomas Ian Nicholas. 

    Pablo C. Vergara Necromurder

    New York Film Academy recently spoke with Vergara about his film and how the NYFA community can support it, as well as about his passions and his ambitious plans for the future of his career and his artistic output:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Pablo C. Vergara (PCV): Hi! My name is Pablo C. Vergara. I was born in Mexico City. I am a musician and a filmmaker and have travelled the world for most my adult life and lived everywhere! This quest for adventure led me to discover the New York Film Academy when in 2016, I was invited to join them in NYC after applying for their consideration. Best decision I’ve made in my entire life!  

    NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on filmmaking? 

    PCV: This is a rather personal question but to narrow it down, I became a father and was struggling in a failing music career where basically I was stuck and being ripped off left and right and was going nowhere. So I decided to make a drastic decision, and that was to change careers and move into film, another of my main passions! I shot many, many music videos and some music documentaries while being a pro musician, so it was just underlying for me. Film it is!

    Pablo C. Vergara Necromurder

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Necromurder?

    PCV: This film is going to be HOT real soon, because a new movie called Lords of Chaos has been released and it’s creating quite an impact. This movie is basically what I based my story upon. Some real crimes committed by some young crazy musicians back in the 90s. I used the same story and added some fiction and biographical elements into it. 

    I wrote, directed, and acted as the lead, so it was quite a challenging thing for me. And yes, I am very, very tired, but also very satisfied with the end result! 

    People can support the film in three ways: first, by buying into our Perks (which will be very rewarding at the end, as we are giving generous perks). Secondly, by sharing on their social media and with their email contacts, family and friends. And lastly, by working with us! This one’s the special one. If you’re in NYFA and want to be part of this project, we will be casting for actors and doing interviews for crew around the fall of this year (subject to change). 

    So just keep in touch, and eventually you’ll hear news about it and you just have to email me your headshot and resume and we’ll go from there! Just keep in mind it’s a heavy metal horror movie! Yes, we have zombies, too, and a scene in Limbo. In conclusion, you could support by doing all of those things, too, which wow, would definitely make you our heroes… for real!

    Pablo C. Vergara Necromurder

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Necromurder?

    PCV: Coming from the Metal music background myself and being a musician professionally for 15 years, I got as far as getting a record deal, getting management and offers for full European tours. Two of my favorite movies are The Crow and The Doors, so basically I wanted to pay tribute to these films by making a very music-oriented movie along with strong visuals and cool dialogue and character design. 

    Of course, a horror too, which is my favorite genre and I’ve written four other horror screenplays. Basically, being part of the Metal world and a musician I knew about the story that I mentioned before—The Lords of Chaos—and I wanted to make a film about it. It had been documented and in countless articles and books so I thought, why not make a film about it? 

    But that happened right when Jonas Akerlund got the rights to do the story of the book, so I had to recreate a new story, but still based on those real events. Kind of a fictional biopic of some sorts! Plus, we shot in NYC throughout all four seasons so it’s visually striking!

    NYFA: What are your plans for Necromurder after it’s completed?

    PCV: I haven’t got that far yet, but definitely move it to the festival circuit a bit to see where that takes us and definitely make it a franchise! If you invest in us and this becomes a hit, I can guarantee you we’ll have Necromurder II, III, IV and maybe a Space 3D version too! Why not?!  

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    PCV: When I am through with Necromurder (and it might take a while) I will definitely want to shoot my other screenplays, real cool sci-fi and serial killer stories that I wrote. Those movies would look so cool if ever made. My plan I guess is just to consolidate as a serious filmmaker and keep bringing good quality films and stories into the world! 

    I would love to act more, too. I love acting, but it’s hard when you are on both sides of the camera, so I would welcome acting gigs more! If anyone needs an actor, hey, I’m here!!!

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work?

    Pablo C. Vergara Necromurder

    PCV: I learned a lot, especially by having to multitask the way I did. I would definitely never do it that same way ever again. But that being said, it was like a “baptism by fire” and it was purely coincidental since my lead actor dropped out 12 hours prior to rolling cameras and I had to step up and take the role! A friend, trying to calm my nerves, said to me, “Just do it! You wrote it, you know the story better than anyone, and you’re a real musician! Just do it, dude!” 

    And so I did, but it was very hard. I know how I would want to do things differently when a new project arises. That, and having a solid screenplay! Luckily as part of acing the course, I had to have a screenplay approved and it got reviewed by three professionals and drafted to it’s eighth or ninth version! 

    So yes, this story kicks serious ass and it’s real solid! I also learned a lot about all that it entails to produce a film. NYFA has been pivotal in my film career and the pinnacle of it as well! 

    Pablo C. Vergara Necromurder

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    PCV: Enjoy it! As hard as it gets and as tired as you may get, don’t quit! Trust me, you will regret it in the end, and I’ve seen it happen. If you stay, you will cherish those memories for the rest of your life because we’re fortunate to be part of such a great film institution—the best! 

    NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

    PCV: Just to remind people that even if your budget is tight to buy perks, sharing our link is another way of also helping the project. When big movie studios check us out (and they will!), they’ll want to see numbers! This is test-proven, too… So we need all the “Likes” you can give us! 

    Help us spread the word about Necromurder and it’ll be well worth it! 

    The New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Pablo C. Vergara for taking the time to speak with us about his film and career! 

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    February 22, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 297

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students Tour the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

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    Vampire bats, West African flying squirrels, pangolins and tigers — oh my! 

    During their field trip to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, New York Film Academy (NYFA) students from this summer’s environmental biology course saw a myriad of species firsthand that most people will never be lucky enough to encounter. 

    Mammal Collections Manager Dr. Jim Dines gave a behind-the-scenes tour for the students and generously introduced them to the world of natural history collections and explained the importance of museum specimens to scientific endeavors.

    Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County


    The specimens presented have been collected and preserved over the past century for use in ongoing and future biodiversity research. Students also learned about specimen preparation and the usage of specimens for animation and filmmaking

    The environmental biology course is part of NYFA’s Liberal Arts and Sciences department, where the creative artists pursuing their degrees at NYFA can build a foundation in courses ranging from Arts & Humanities to History of Art, Theatre & Media to the Social and Natural Sciences.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Dr. Jim Dines and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for giving NYFA students an invaluable insight into this amazing resource and the chance to see and feel such remarkable animals!

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    February 20, 2019 • Liberal Arts and Sciences • Views: 519

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Mey Novak

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Mey Novak was always meant to be an actress. She’s always been a huge movie buff, especially action movies, but she’s acted in plays from a young age. 

    Originally hailing from Brazil, Novak first attended New York Film Academy (NYFA) in 2012, taking the 4-week Musical Theatre workshop at NYFA’s Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre. She followed that with more advanced studies in NYFA’s 1-year Musical Theatre conservatory

    After graduating, Novak worked as an admissions specialist at NYFA’s New York campus, helping fellow aspiring artists from Brazil enroll at the Academy. She’s acted in commercials, short films, and most recently, the feature film River Runs Red.

    River Runs Red is a thriller/drama written and directed by Wes Miller and starring Taye Diggs, John Cusack, George Lopez, Luke Hemsworth, and RJ Mitte. Miller previously directed Prayer Never Fails and Atone, and is completing production of Hell on the Border, starring Ron Perlman and Frank Grillo.

    New York Film Academy recently spoke with Mey Novak about River Runs Red, her passion for acting, and what she learned at NYFA that she still applies to her work to this day:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us what drew you to acting? What brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    Mey Novak (MN): Acting has always been inside me. I was in all the school plays, performing for my family during Christmastime, I always watched movies… it was kind of my happy place growing up. I always knew I wanted to be an actress. I remember being around seven years old watching movies and saying I wanted to do that one day. 

    When I got my theatre degree in Brazil I knew it was time to go to the US to study my craft further, and I saw that the New York Film Academy was auditioning in Brazil and that it was my time.

    Mey Novak Mey Ferdinand

    NYFA: Is there anything about your Brazilian background that you apply to acting in the United States? 

    MN: Yes, I was very versatile because of my Brazilian background. We are a very culturally rich country, so I realized I could play all sorts of foreign roles the industry requires all the time. My first commercial in the US I played a Russian girl. I hadn’t even thought about it before, then I noticed there was a whole thing for foreign accents and types in the US.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about River Runs Red?

    MN:River Runs Red tells the story of an African American judge whose son is murdered by the police. It’s a very strong and currently relevant plot—it’s necessary because it talks about the racism that still exists nowadays in the US, in Brazil, and the whole world.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on River Runs Red,or your work in general?

    MN: So many things!! NYFA was a stepping stone in my career! 

    First, I have learned with the best teachers—I’ve found mentors for life that even after school was over I had supporting me. I’ve also learned how to be a professional—it was more than just going to class, learn a method, and go home—I learned about the real world of acting and the industry. And I had the chance to practice while I was in school. This is very important. I was in touch with the filmmaking students, I was auditioning, shooting with them, also with the photography students, etc. 

    So when my first big job arrived, I was ready. It was very important. For my acting specifically, I’ve learned my favorite method, the “Meisner technique” at NYFA, it’s necessary to me on set.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MN: I’m currently in Brazil shooting a show in Portuguese called Os 3 Irmaos (The 3 Brothers). It’s my first time acting in Portuguese after such a long time working in the US. After this I have plans to work in Europe for a while.

    NYFA: What’s your dream role? 

    MN: I love action movies, I’m obsessed with them!!! I practice martial arts and have studied Stage Combat since my NYFA days, and my dream is definitely a strong female role in an action movie with amazing choreography, like in John Wick.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    MN: I’d say enjoy your time there and listen to every single thing your teacher has to say—they really know about the industry. Be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, it really pays off!

    NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

    MN: I want to say to all the aspiring actors to follow their dreams! Sounds cliché but there will be doubts, there will be moments you just want to give up, but you just need that one person to believe in you and that one “Yes” that changes everything. Be grateful and embrace every step of the journey!

    The New York Film Academy thanks actress and NYFA alum Mey Novak for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of luck as her career continues to grow!

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    February 20, 2019 • Acting, Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 702

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Alum Publishes Book After Climbing the Seven Summits

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    As you might imagine, I have written a whole lot of updates since I became Chair of the Broadcast Journalism department at New York Film Academy (NYFA). But, remarkably, this is the first time I can talk about one of our grads writing a book…

    Elizabeth Rose was a member of my first graduating class. After leaving NYFA, she worked for a time with a cruise ship company. She shot/edited/produced a daily news program aboard one of the company’s vessels. 

    But Liz had another goal in mind, something that would take her far away from the tropics. She was determined to climb the Seven Summits —  the tallest mountain of each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest. Without a doubt, she is the only NYFA grad to accomplish this feat. And in doing so, she raised funds for wonderful causes such as Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada).

    I suggested to Liz that she take along a video camera. But given it was a choice between 10 pounds/4.5 kilos of camera or 10 pounds/4.5 kilos of food, the camera was left behind. Now Liz has put her adventures down in writing, in a book called Written in the Snow: My Journey To The Seven Summits. It is an incredible tale.

    Congratulations Liz, from all of us at the New York Film Academy! We’re proud to have played a part the development of your storytelling skills…

    NYFA encourages everyone to find out more about Liz’s incredible achievement by reading Written in the Snow: My Journey To The Seven Summits by NYFA grad Elizabeth Rose!

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    February 19, 2019 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 351

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Q&A with ‘Dear White People’’s Chuck Hayward

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    On Wednesday, February 13, as part of celebrating Black History Month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the NYFA African Black American Film Society hosted a screening of two episodes of Netflix’s Dear White People, followed by a Q&A with writer and producer Chuck Hayward.

    One of the episodes was directed by Academy award nominee Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), which was a real treat for the filmmaking students. It was moderated by NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, and co-moderated by NYFA directing student, Nicole “Soul” Creary.

    Chuck Hayward

    Hayward landed his first staff writing gig on the NBC series Bent. His feature film script, Potluck, won the WGA’s 2012 Feature Access Project. He then sold an untitled baseball project to Nickelodeon, after which he wrote for the Nick at Nite sitcom Wendell & Vinnie. In 2014,  Hayward became a staff writer on the new NBC series One Big Happy, followed by Fox series Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life

    In 2016, he had two movies produced—Fat Camp and Step Sisters—and sold the Untitled Urban Pitch Perfect Project to The Firm and PepsiCo. Hayward is currently a writer and co-producer on the Netflix series, Dear White People, and a producer on Marvel’s upcoming untitled Scarlet Witch and Vision series.

    Many students in the audience were curious about how Hayward started his career as a writer. “For me, personally, it was the contacts I already had,” said Hayward. “It was reaching out to all of them saying, ‘Can we meet for an informal meeting? Here’s what I’m interested in doing… can you introduce me to anybody else who might be able to help me in that?’… And then it’s just all about following up…You don’t want them to forget about you, although not bug them too often… A lot of times, offering to work for people for free on a project is a good way to show, like, ‘Hey… I’m not looking for anything from you financially; I’m just kind of looking for you to help me get my foot in the door and I’m looking for a chance to show what I’m capable of.”

    Other students wanted to know about Hayward’s writing process. “I’m a big pre-writer so I’ll sit down, I’ll write my character sketches, I’ll write my outline; I’ll do as much as possible before I open up Final Draft because I don’t want to look at a blank page and freak out,” Hayward said. “It’s also knowing if your idea is better suited to television or film.”

    Chuck Hayward

    One of the students asked how Hayward and the other writers on Dear White People navigate the complexity of the topics discussed on the show. He replied, “Most of the blowback that we’ve gotten about Dear White People happened before the show came out because people were like, ‘Dear White People? How dare you … address us as a group!’ And we were like, ‘Oh that happens to us all the time, oddly, so it’s not that big of a deal’ … But I think once people started to see the show and see what it was about and see that we weren’t just ‘coming for’ white people and taking out … aggression on them; we weren’t blaming them for stuff; it was just like, ‘Hey, here’s some of the shit you do that bothers us; like, maybe don’t do that anymore; it’s super easy!’ And we also take as many stabs at, you know, black folks and the things that we do that are problematic or that are not beneficial to us all as a group.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank writer and producer Chuck Hayward for sharing his entertainment industry and writing advice with our students!

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    February 15, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 477

  • Producing Department Industry Speaker Series Welcomes ‘The Rider’ Producer and Sound Recordist

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    On Monday, February 11, the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series welcomed producer Mollye Asher to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) for a “Conversation with” and Q&A session following a screening of Chloé Zhou’s The Rider. Also participating in the session was sound recordist on the film, Mike Wolf Snyder. 

    This is the second Chloé Zhou film produced by Mollye Asher. The Rider was shot over five weeks, with non-actors playing roles very much based on themselves. Writer-director Zhou spent close to two years researching the story and developing the film before the shoot. The story follows a young rodeo star recovering from a serious head injury suffered when thrown by a horse in the midst of the rodeo. 

    A good amount of the time Zhou spent researching the story was an investment in gaining the trust of the non-actor cast. The film was made mostly by a six-to-eight person crew, who also needed to gain the trust of the cast. Snyder, the sound recordist, does not like to use wireless, lavaliere microphones that can be hidden underneath an actor’s shirt. He uses a boom microphone for every shot. However, he says, he was very sensitive to not wanting to come off as intrusive towards the actors. 

    The Rider

    The Rider premiered at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was acquired for North American distribution by Sony Classics. At Cannes, Zhou also won the C.I.C.A.E. Award.

    The film has won numerous other awards, including Best Feature from the National Society of Film Critics Award, Best Picture at the Athens International Film Festival, and Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. It was also named one of the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Independent Films of 2018, and received multiple nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature and Best Director.

    The team recently wrapped production on a 50-day shoot on a “below the radar” project to be announced very soon.

    The New York Film Academy thanks producer Mollye Asher and sound recordist Mike Wolf Snyder for sitting down with students as part of the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series!

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    February 13, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 448

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Furaha Bayibsa

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Furaha Bayibsa has kept herself very busy since graduating the Fall 2015 1-year Filmmaking program—not just as a writer and director, but as a producer as well.

    Bayibsa is very passionate about her craft after growing up with a love of film and television. She seeks out artists who share that passion, and strives to work with those who truly care about what they’re putting on the screen. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    With that in mind, Bayibsa produced a feature film called Landfill, directed by MFA Filmmaking student Yesser Laham, as well as produced a few short films together with other NYFA alumni. In between producing projects, Bayibsa continues to write screenplays that she plans to either sell or direct herself.

    New York Film Academy recently spoke with Furaha Bayibsa about some of her work, what drives her as a filmmaker, and her love for all things Shonda Rhimes:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Furaha Bayibsa (FB): I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, but originally from Congo. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with TV and movies. It’s kind of cliche because every filmmaker says that (haha) but really… It was cringe. Movies and TV was the only thing I was talking about. At work people told me to shut up. My friends got upset because every Friday night were occupied for “Shonda Rhimes TGIT.”

    It wasn’t until my mom was like “Okay Furaha, it’s time to choose school because you can’t be home watching movies all the time,” and I was like “Okay, I’m going to film school in LA then.” It was an awkward silence at first, but then she said “okay” and four months later I got my acceptance letter.

    Furaha Bayibsa

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film 1989 and what inspired you to make it?

    FB: My older sister is a politician in Sweden for the Social Democratic party, a party running Sweden as we speak. The party basically stands for equality and giving back to the less fortunate. She’s my biggest role model, and I’ve always wanted to be like her. Do something meaningful, so my entire life hasn’t just been movies. It’s been movies, demonstrations, manifestations, voting parties, lectures, and a lot of political engagement. 

    Discovering Shonda Rhimes, I realized I could use a film as a tool to speak about really intense stuff, and not make it too much of a lecture. So I decided to make a film about rape, and make it as a ten-minute real-time moment in a couple’s life where they are discussing the topic casually, like couples do all the time (or in Sweden at least).

    I remembered a guy telling me this story of how he was sexually harassed by another man one night, and he never told anyone because he was embarrassed, but it really affected him. It pissed me off, because—hello—this happens all the time, so why should he feel embarrassed? So in the film I have the couple watching a news broadcast about a rape victim who killed their attacker, and then got convicted. After the broadcast we’ll find out that the man is enraged, and his fiancee doesn’t understand why. So they go back and forth until… you need to watch the movie, haha.

    “1989” (2018) Official trailer from Furaha Bayibsa on Vimeo.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about Caminante, Caminante: La Leyenda del Huay Chivo and what inspired you to make it? 

    FB: One of my closest friends, Luis Quijano—we met in film school. He pitched the idea to me 18 months ago. He’s obsessed with horror movies, and he’s from Mexico, so he wanted to make it in Spanish. When he was younger, he worked as a missionary in Mexico, and he grew up hearing a lot of folk tales about monsters in the woods. 

    The “Huay Chivo” is a Mayan beast—half-human and half beast with really creepy eyes. He can turn himself into a goat, a disguise he uses to eat livestock (at least that’s what I understood from it). Luis really wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so together with our friend and cinematographer Andrii Lantukh, we literally went in with our hearts and souls and we made the legend come to life. 

    I produced it together with Luis and it was the realest experience I’ve ever had as a filmmaker. I knew it would be. Luis is amazing at what he does, Andrii too. We’re turning it into a feature film as well. So much fun.

    Furaha Bayibsa

    NYFA: How do you decide which films to produce? What draws you to them?

    FB: In the beginning, I’d get a text saying “Hey Furaha, I have a friend who needs help… are you free?” And that’s literally how it’s been. Just me being nice, saying “yes” to almost everyone. Then I guess the word got out that “Hello everyone, Furaha produces movies and she can raise money too!” And I realized that okay maybe I should find a strategy because I’m only one woman. 

    I’ve tried to produce several short films at the same time, and line produce them too with directors I didn’t connect with. So I had to step back one day and think, “Okay Furaha, why are you here? Because you love storytelling right, not producing.” So now I ask for three things before even agreeing to a meeting. “Script, crew list so far, and budget.” Script to see if I need to help them develop it a little more, budget meaning what they want for the film, and how much money they have on their own so far. 

    Then I read the script, break it down in my head, check the budget, google search the crew. I take my notes, then I meet with them. Even if the material is flat I meet with them because sometimes they have no idea what they’re talking about but they’re just so adorable in person and I kinda love them instantly.

    Furaha Bayibsa

    So I decide to work with them anyways and help them with literally everything – hold their hand through every step until they don’t need me anymore. Because what draws me in is the director’s passion. The story is more important to me than the script, so I always ask them “tell me about the story” and if I can sense that they love filmmaking as much as me in that meeting, and I can laugh with them (super important), then let’s go. The process sounds strict, but the ones I’ve worked with have appreciated my straightforwardness and work ethic, so there must be something I’m doing right (right?) 

    NYFA: You have produced, written, and directed—do you have a particular preference for one of these roles?

    FB: Writing and directing goes hand-in-hand for me, and they are my favorites. But producing is so much fun when I work with directors who know the craft, as well as respect the craft. So I don’t know really.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    FB: Right now? Like, right this second? Right this second I’m only working on one project. I’ve written two feature films that I’ll direct, or sell, or do something with in the future. But now I’m writing a Swedish feature film called Silver Wedding; I want it to be the first feature I direct. The goal is to shoot it in Sweden together with my two favorite filmmaking friends from LA when the time has come. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    Then there’s another feature film I’m line producing for a friend of mine. A romantic comedy, but it’s standing still right now because our investor is still waiting on the final draft. So that’s gonna be fun too. But it’s the filmmaking industry, so you never know, maybe Shonda Rhimes will call me tomorrow wanting to add me to HTGAWM writer’s room, who knows really?

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your filmmaking?

    FB: Nothing… Just kidding! Too much to tell you about right now. But there were some things that I remember from my education that I will always keep with me. The class Film Art and the class Critical Film mainly. We had to read all the history from the beginning of cinema until the present. 

    I was one of those students who actually read all the chapters, took notes, watched all films, prepared study questions, etc. No I’m not embarrassed, yes my classmates thought I was extra. But now I know so much of the little things people don’t talk about anymore. Those books tell us how past filmmakers thought and experimented with cinema, struggles they faced and how they overcame it. How much they hustled and thought outside the box to achieve their goals. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    I was also one of the fortunate ones to have Gil McDonald as my screenwriting teacher, and he taught me everything I know about writing. The most important part was that we should show and not tell, and most importantly not to write what the character is thinking or feeling, but instead only write their actions. That’s been my life savior really. 

    My directing instructors (Joe Burke, Nick Sivakumaran, and David Armstrong) all taught me everything else I know about filmmaking. All of these classes have really taught me that we’re all artists painting on a blank canvas, so we should just let our imagination run free. They taught me that cinema is the place where the impossible is done, where there’s no limitations, we just have to put in the work. Maybe that’s why I am the way I am today, because I never let anything stop my creativity. My instructors taught me that. Now I’m teaching you that. You’re welcome!

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    FB: First things first, read the answer to my previous question and if you’re at the LA Campus, find these instructors and befriend them. They’ll change your life I promise. Secondly, and please take this to heart: we’re all different, so don’t compare yourself to another artist. It’s easier said than done I know, but I promise you everyone is going through their own struggles and just because someone might seem to be better than you or have it better than you, please don’t put yourself down because you really have no idea what they had to go through to get there. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    So what if there’s someone in your class you think is a better writer than you? Go and read more scripts of films you like to learn more about the craft of screenwriting and become as good as them. So someone in class directed a great film and you’re jealous? Go and talk to that person. Ask them about the stuff you admired in the film, how they thought of it, the process. Go online and read trivia from directors from movies you like. Break down movies you like to understand them better. 

    Anyone can watch three movies a day, but you need to put in the behind-the-scenes work to actually grow. And don’t rush please, because we all grow at our own speed, okay? Also, be nice. Not just to your classmates, instructors too. They’re people just like you with feelings. Just trust me on this one—always be nice. 

    NYFA: Anything else you’d like to speak on?

    FB: First day of class, ask for the club brochures and join a club! If there’s no club you like at NYFA, create one yourself. No, it’s not as time consuming as you think, or as lame. NYFA has the resources to make your stay at school more than amazing with their student led clubs, and as a founder and former president to one of NYFA’s coolest and I want to say all-time best (?) clubs, I know what I’m talking about. Join a club! I’d recommend the African Black American (ABA) Film Society at the LA Campus if you’re there. I’ve heard some great things about them. 

    The New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Furaha Bayibsa for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of luck as her career moves forward!

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    February 11, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 749