New York Film Academy (NYFA) student Pablo C. Vergara recently worked on the independent feature film Adverse, a drama/thriller written and directed by Brian A. Metcalf. The film is being produced by the actor and musician Thomas Ian Nicholas, who previously starred in Rookie of the Year and the American Pie films, and who stars in Adverse as well.
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.
Lou Diamond Phillips, Brian A. Metcalf, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Pablo C. Vergara
In July, Vergara had the opportunity to work as a production assistant on the set of Adverse, a role into which the always hard-working and committed filmmaker threw himself with gusto. While on set, he got to work closely with Nicholas and Metcalf, as well as stars Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Stand and Deliver) and Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito’s Way, Kindergarten Cop).
Describing his experience, Vergara said, “I had the chance to watch Thomas and Lou work together on a scene and that was truly inspiring. We exchanged knowledge between takes about their craft and life in Los Angeles in general — Lou was a really cool guy and with an amazing personality, cracking jokes and talking to the rest of the crew regularly.” He continued, “The shoot went well and after wrap up, everyone’s spirits were high.”
Pablo C. Vergara
A friendly, energetic personality, Vergara also spoke with Nicholas about a possible on-camera role. He got to spend a lot of time with the producer and actor, driving alongside him to and from locations in a U-Haul full of film equipment for the independent shoot. They discussed film and music and their own careers, as well as Nicholas’s previous Q&A with the New York Film Academy. In 2017, Nicholas and Metcalf screened their previous film The Lost Tree — starring Michael Madsen, Lacey Chabert, and Scott Grimes — for NYFA students, which preceded their guest panel.
Adverse’s locations included 4 Hearts Studios in Sylmar, CA, and a private home used for an entire day’s worth of shooting. Vergara got to see the newest RED 8K camera in action up close and personal. “Being a cinematographer myself, I was excited to see this fine piece of equipment operate, and the visuals it captured were fantastic!” he exclaimed.
Vergara added, “No doubt this film is going to turn out to be incredible and I was very fortunate to be able to be part of it for a few days. The entire team was very embracing and cordial, and it forged great friendships.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Pablo C. Vergara on his exciting experience, and looks forward to seeing him return to NYFA next Spring to complete his MFA thesis!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Community Outreach and NYFA’s Photography department recently collaborated with Los Angeles Animal Services to help get some of their animals adopted into homes.
LA Animal Services provides care to found or surrendered pets by housing them in one of six city shelters located throughout the city. The organization has a fleet of volunteers that work with the animals on a daily basis to help get them adopted and into caring homes. One of the most useful tools for adoption is good photographs of the pets, so those interested in adopting can see the animals online. LA Animal Services intakes nearly 164,000 animals a year and any help they can get supporting their outreach and adoption possibilities is important.
NYFA’s Photography department brought 16 Photography students to the East Valley Animal Shelter on June 20th and set up several backdrops and lights to capture adorable images of the most underlooked dogs, cats, and bunnies at the shelter. The students had the opportunity to work with the animals and their handlers and produced beautifully lit images.
Amanda Rowan, a member of the NYFA-LA Photography Department faculty, remarked, “As somebody who cares deeply for animals, it was wonderful planning this shoot with my Applied Photography class.” She continued, “It was a great lesson in producing a shoot and working with unpredictable clients (the animals). Learning to light and work under these conditions is a great skill to have.”
NYFA students and everyone involved had a very positive experience working with LA Animal Services. This semester, a new group of NYFA students and alumni have signed up to donate their time to produce short Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about pet adoption and care with LA Animal Services. Mason Richards, Chair of NYFA Community Outreach, stated: “We’re excited to continue the partnership with LA Animal Services with the video PSAs, and also to continue the work of filmmaker and activist Julie ‘JD’ Disalvatore.”
Richards added, “It’s so exciting to see our NYFA student body, faculty, and staff sharing their talents for a greater purpose.”
The New York Film Academy spoke in further detail with three others involved with the LA Animal Services photo shoot. Denise Carlson is a NYFA-LA Producing instructor who is also a pet owner and advocate for animal safety. She connected LA Animal Services with NYFA C.A.R.E.S. — which is part of NYFA Community Outreach. Brenda F. Barnette is the General Manager for LA Animal Services, and Ashley Rodriguez is their Public Relations Specialist:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What are the primary services that LA Animal Services provides? Why are these services important?
Brenda F. Barnette (BB): We provide shelter to lost animals until we are able to reunite them with their owners and help stray pets find their new homes.We offer free spay/neuter services to low-income LA City residents and discount coupons to any City resident for three dogs, three cats, and three bunnies per household. Additionally, the community can visit their nearest shelter location to adopt, foster, and license and microchip their pet.
Ashley Rodriguez (AR): You can adopt your best friends at our Animal Services Centers. All of our pets are spayed/neutered, microchipped and vaccinated upon adoption. For those whose pets aren’t spayed or neutered yet, we have free or discount spay/neuter vouchers available to help you get your pet fixed. It’s healthier for them and helps reduce unwanted litters. We also have an amazing team of Animal Control Officers that work out in the field and conduct animal rescues if there is ever a cat stuck in a tree, a raccoon stuck on a roof, or a horse who has fallen into a ditch and can’t get out on its own.
NYFA: Denise, how did you get involved with LA Animal Services?
Denise Carlson (DC): I have been involved in animal rescue for many years, networking animals who need homes, raising money, and doing what I can to help. I usually foster a litter of kittens every year, and two of my dogs are actually fosters. The shelters generally do a great job, but they can’t do it alone — there is so much need, and when you look at the faces of the animals there who don’t have homes it is heartbreaking. The staff and volunteers at LA Animal Services are amazing, and they really appreciate whatever you can do. It is just a very worthwhile organization and NYFA can be proud to work with them. This is a way to really make a difference in the community.
NYFA: Why do you think its important to volunteer?
DC: In general, there are nothing but positives about volunteering.When you volunteer you are not just giving a gift to the organization, you are also giving a gift to yourself — it is so satisfying to know you have done something worthwhile! We in the creative community can use our talents in ways that others may not be able to in order to help. Taking photos of shelter pets can help them get noticed and adopted more quickly; making videos about life at the shelter, adoption, how to bring new pets into your home, etc., can make all the difference. You are literally saving lives by helping, and there is nothing better than that!
NYFA: What are some misconceptions that people may have about pet adoption? Why is it important to make people aware of the issues affecting animals?
BB: A common misconception is that all shelter animals are broken — and that’s far from the truth. At our LA Animal Services Centers, we have a variety of pets in all sizes, ages, and breeds, just waiting for us to find them a new home of their own. There are life circumstances that may put a pet owner in a position where they must re-home their animal because they have no other option. That pet was raised by a kind person, lived with a family, and knows to trust people. It’s then our job to transition that pet into a new home. Another common misconception is that animal shelter staff view their duties as only a job and do not care for animals. Our staff are extremely dedicated to the animals in our care and the people that we serve. They care compassionately, advocate actively, and work tirelessly to insure the best possible environment for all animals.
AR: A common misconception I see often is that people can’t believe that they can find a purebred or non-shedding dog at a shelter. We want to encourage all people to visit their local animal shelter before going to the pet store or looking for a breeder. We have amazing cats, dogs, bunnies, and we also have turtles, birds, snakes, guinea pigs, hamsters, roosters, and more available for adoption now! Adopting from a shelter gives the pet you take home a second chance at living a great life and provides space at the shelter for an incoming pet.
NYFA: What can you say about Julie “JD” Disalvatore’s contribution to LA Animal Services? Why is it important to continue her tradition since her passing?
DC: I met JD through a friend who knew we were both interested in animal rescue. I was completely blown away by her. JD was a very talented filmmaker, and when I met her she was battling terminal cancer. She did not focus on herself, though, instead she devoted her remaining time on earth to helping save animals. She was at the shelters all the time taking pictures of animals who needed homes, she worked on videos for the shelter, and was always an outspoken advocate for them. She would go from chemo sessions to the shelter to help, she did not let anything stop her. JD was a force of nature, and she made a tremendous difference.When she died it was incredibly sad, but also a real loss for the shelter pets, and I realized that her legacy had to be continued somehow, so I thought it would be a perfect match for NYFA students to be able to do something so valuable and also keep JD’s spirit alive.
NYFA: How do you feel about the partnership between NYFA-Los Angeles Community Outreach and LA Animal Services? What are some of the benefits for the students as well as your organization?
BB: We are very excited to be partnering with NYFA-Los Angeles Community Outreach. This is a win-win for the animals, the department, and the students. This partnership helps us artistically communicate our mission to the community while providing the students lessons and opportunities to practice their art.
AR: We love it! It really is great to be able to partner with the NYFA-Los Angeles Community Outreach team of professors and students to highlight all the great work our staff and volunteers do every day for animals in LA. The students get the chance to work with animals, learn about our services, and help us share very important messages about animal care and welfare at the same time.
The New York Film Academy looks forward to working with LA Animal Services every semester, using our photography skills and resources to get animals into homes! If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a pet from LA Animal Services, you can find more information here.
Twenty students from the Chinese GMFZ High School joined a 1-Week Animation Workshop from July 30th to August 3rd at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. At the end of the course, the students prepared a special Tea Performance to show their appreciation to the New York Film Academy (NYFA).
During the week-long animation workshop, the students learned about Paper Puppets, Stop Motion Animation, Visual Story, VFX, and Editing. In addition, they had the opportunity to film on the Universal Studios Backlot, Hollywood’s world-famous lot where movies such as American Beauty, Back to the Future, and Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds have been filmed. NYFA has a special relationship with Universal Studios, where students have the unique opportunity to spectate the importance of “studio life” to the Los Angeles area up close and first-hand, while also getting the one-of-a-kind experience of shooting on the lot themselves.
The location shooting went very well as students were taught hands-on skills in storytelling. The GMFZ students showed satisfaction with this learning experience upon getting their certificate at the end of the week.
The program was concluded with the Chinese GMFZ School performing a unique tea performance, a cultural exchange that was greatly appreciated by NYFA staff and faculty. The performance demonstrated the traditional Chinese art of tea tasting as a show of gratitude to NYFA for arranging their Animation Workshop.
During the ceremony, students explained the history and procedures involved in the art of tea-making with a recital and performance. A sample of 10 kinds of teas from various provinces in China were brought to the Chair of Animation, Craig Caton-Largent, who happened to be an ardent fan of Chinese tea.
The New York Film Academy proudly holds a special relationship with Chinese filmmaking students. In 2017, President of NYFA Michael Young visited multiple schools in China, and the Academy has offered local workshops in Shanghai and Beijing. The New York Film Academy congratulates the Chinese GMFZ High School students on their completion of the 1-Week Animation Workshop, and warmly extends their gratitude for their exquisite Tea Ceremony!
The New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus welcomed director Tim Warren and producer Kelli Joan Bennett for a Q&A following a screening of their award-winning, impactful documentary, High School 9-1-1 for summer high school students. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter moderated the event.
The doc follows a year in the life of the members of EMS-Post 53, a volunteer student-run ambulance service in the small town of Darien, Connecticut, where Warren himself had volunteered as a senior in high school.
Tim Warren is an American film and television producer whose credits include popular reality programs such as Bar Rescue, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and more. Kelli Joan Bennett is an actor and writer, who recently produced and starred in the feature crime-thriller Collusions, alongside Tom Everett Scott. Together, Warren and Bennett formed Boomerang Production Media in 1996, and it was under this banner that High School 9-1-1 was ultimately produced.
Laiter started the night off by inquiring after Warren’s motivation for pursuing the film, so many years after he had experienced life at Post 53. “I was sort of thinking,” he explained, “if I die tomorrow, what would I regret not doing? And ultimately, I always thought about doing a documentary on this organization that was so positively impactful on my life. And even though I didn’t go into the medical field, the things that I learned on the ambulance thirty plus years ago, I still use today as a producer and director.”
Many of these lessons, Warren noted, came in the form of mantras from the organization’s beloved founder, Bud Doble. “One of them was, ‘Be prepared for what you find, but be prepared to change your mind.’ And that applies to not only when you’re on the ambulance, but when you’re in television and film.” Warren went on to paraphrase, “You need to have a plan. You need to have an idea of what you want to do. But you can’t be so married to that plan that you either miss a greater opportunity, or don’t see a problem that’s coming at you.”
Over the course of several years following their almost year-long stage of principal photography, that lesson would come into play in more ways than one. The first cut of High School 9-1-1 was upwards of six hours, followed soon thereafter by a two-hour cut. After screening the film for an audience, and being told it was still too long, the two of them cut it down by another fifteen minutes. “We submitted the one hundred and four minute cut to the top ten film festivals,” Warren began. “We were [resoundingly] rejected. So we’re now seven, eight years into this process, a mountain of debt, and nobody loves us.”
Warren and Bennett returned to their professional lives for a time, until their collective spark was reignited after Bennett ran into the program director for the LA Film Festival. “The program director says, ‘Oh, I remember that film — great film. Too long. But don’t give up on that film.’ And she said that the film needed to be under 90 minutes. So, that reinvigorated us.”
The pair then cut the film down to 86 minutes and launched a successful festival tour, screening at Heartland, Kansas City, New Haven, and more, as a part of the American Film Showcase program. After nearly ten years put into the project, its success was well-deserved. But documentary film, as Warren later attests, isn’t necessarily about success.
“The thing with documentary that I always say is… you have to be really passionate about the subject matter.And you have to go in pretty much knowing that it’s not your ticket to riches… If you’re thinking about doing a documentary, you have this feeling that, ‘I have to tell this story, and I’m going to tell this story — really — at any cost.’”
High School 9-1-1 is currently on a world-wide tour, screening at high schools and within communities, with the ultimate intention of “empowering young people through responsibility.” For behind the scenes, screening information, and more, visithere.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Elizabeth Soto-Lara can now add a feature film to her list of screenwriting credits after finishing production on the film Un Regalo Esencial (An Essential Gift). Not only is she the film’s screenwriter, but Soto-Lara also served on set as the First Assistant Director.
Un Regalo Esencial was filmed in more than 30 locations in Costa Rica over the course of about ninety days. It was co-written and directed by Jose Mario Salas Boza. Both Boza and Soto-Lara graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Fall ’16 MA Film & Media program.
The film tells the story of a grandfather who relives the memories of his first romantic relationship to share life lessons with his grandchild about the consequences of jealousy and insecurity. It merges genres of romance, drama, comedy, and musical, and looks to make its audience ride a rollercoaster of emotions. Its setting ranges from the 1980s to the near future, all in a running time of about 90 minutes.
Un Regalo Esencial stars notable Costa Rican actors Viviana Calderon and Pablo Rodriguez, as well as featuring Mauricio Hoffman and Norval Calvo in supporting roles. It is currently in post-production and will be released in October 2018.
Soto-Lara is a Mexican filmmaker who has been writing for television and film for more than four years. She has written and directed more than 10 short films within both Mexico and the US. Soto-Lara won the award for Best Short Film at the Mexico International Film Festival for her film Restored, which was originally her NYFA thesis film. Restored is also an Official Selection at the 2019 Los Angeles CineFest.
Of her work on Un Regalo Esencial, Soto-Lara remarked, “It was an unforgettable experience to be able to be on set and see how the words I put on paper came to life. I feel very lucky and thankful to have had this opportunity to share a beautiful story, make friends from around the globe, and learn in the process.”
She continued, “This experience will remain as an indelible mark in me for the rest of my life.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Elizabeth Soto-Lara’s on her well-earned success and encourages her and the rest of our students to continue writing and keep sharing their stories.
The theater lights dimmed, the first frames of film flickered across the screen, and the orchestra played their opening bars. Orchestra? Yes, orchestra, for this wasn’t just any film screening. This was the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival, a celebration of the relationship between film and music, and that was the Helix Collective playing live as the films screened.
Held on July 21, 2018 at the Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theatre, the festival featured the works of Los Angeles area film students, including five New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmakers. Festival director Sarah May Robinson paired each of them with a composer from the Academy of Scoring Arts who scored the shorts.
On the night of the event, host Brian Ralston of the SCOREcast interviewed each director/composer team, asking them to discuss the experience of being matched with a total stranger and what it was like to work together.
Next, conductor Phil Popham picked up his baton and led the orchestra in a thrilling accompaniment for the films. Audiences were entertained by the films of NYFA directors Victoria Gagieva (Niara), Vicken Joulfayan (Liminal), Oliver Weinmann (The Pill), Nicolas Varela (Aphrodite), and Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou (Arrow and Oil).
But the excitement didn’t stop at the last “The End” because the audience was asked to vote for the Best Film and the Best Score. The tension was palpable as audience members texted in their choices. The winners for Best Film were Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou with Arrow and Oil, and their composer George Oldziey took Best Score. After their win, Zhang exclaimed, “I’m thrilled and excited! Now I have great expectations about launching into more film festivals!”
Zhou was also full of thanks, remarking, “I want to thank my parents. They supported me to come to the USA to study Filmmaking! Secondly, I want to thank my school. NYFA taught me so much knowledge about filmmaking and gave us this chance to represent the school in this festival. Especially, I want to thank my teachers Nick Sivakumaran, the Kohnen brothers — Matt Kohnen and Sean Kohnen — Carl Bartels, Sanora Bartels, Steve Morris. They are the best teachers, ever, ever!”
Their prize was a free studio recording of the orchestra playing their composed score.
All the filmmakers were winners, though, as each received a studio recording of their score for a nominal fee plus a free sound mix from Greenhouse Post.
The New York Film Academy congratulates all the filmmakers and wishes them continued success in their film festival runs!
Cameron Dean completed the Acting for Film program offered at New York Film Academy’s Gold Coast campus and has since relocated to Vancouver, Canada. He has worked on a number of projects including Kong: SkullIsland and Thor: Ragnarok in Australia, as well as the latest campaign for Lamborghini, shot in Vancouver.
Speaking of his experience at New York Film Academy (NYFA) Australia, Dean stated he most enjoyed “how interactive and hands on it was” and how It offered him the opportunity “to create and express myself in a safe environment with other like-minded individuals.”
Dean continued, “The lecturers at NYFA were always helpful and professional; their guidance throughout my entire journey was a step above, and I am where I am today because they brought out the best in me.”
“When you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” he added. “When I was at NYFA it never felt like work, whether I had a 1200-word essay to hand in or doing research for a character, it was all just fun because it’s a part of being an actor. Finding answers and bringing a character to life and giving him or her the voice is what makes this job beautiful.”
Dean spent time on the sets for both Kong: SkullIsland and Thor: Ragnarokwhile still a student of the Acting for Film program, allowing him “to get firsthand training on big production sets with A-List actors.” He credits NYFA for preparing him for the film industry by “stripping away my inhibitions which held me back from expressing myself creatively. NYFA set me up with the necessary tools to confidently break down a script, add depth and layers to a character, and take an organic performance into the audition room or on screen.”
With plans to stay on in Canada, Dean hopes to sustain his career as a working actor and explore stunt performance for action films. “Things I want to achieve as an actor are to play a lead in an action film and do a lot of my own stunt work, for example a John Wick or a Jason Bourne style film.” Dean keeps himself motivated with boxing to increase his fitness and gather skills for the action film genre, and has also started writing him own material.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film graduate Jordan Abbey-Young is living the Aussie dream – originally a boy from the bush, he recently finished shooting on the feature film Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan. The Vietnam War drama was filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on Australia’s Gold Coast, adjacent to the New York Film Academy Australia campus co-located in Southport, Queensland.
Abbey-Young plays the role of Private Ron Eglinton alongside stars Richard Roxburgh and Travis Fimmel, best known for playing Ragnar on the History Channel’s original series Vikings.
Abbey-Young stated that NYFA provided “an environment where you could build that personal network of like-minded people all there for a common goal. In this industry you’re nothing without each other, and the relationships NYFA gave me (good and bad, not everyone gets along), have done nothing but propel me as a person and as an all-round creative individual.”
In preparing for entering the industry after completing his training, Abbey-Young says that his teachers “were very realistic people who got on the level with you. That more personable aspect is a huge benefit to NYFA, I feel. It’s a hard industry and having the people teaching you giving you that blunt reality at the same time, it makes you take things on board a lot more if you’re serious about giving it a go.”
He continued, “My motto has always been ‘Live Life Like A Movie’, so I’ve always had a very internal and a very narrated perspective of my life like it was being filmed.”
Along with his role in Danger Close, Abbey-Young will appear in another feature titled TheLastVideoStore. “It’s comprised of a lot of NYFA family from graduated actors, to filmmakers and lecturers, which has been really fun,” he added. As for his future, “I’ll probably go back to robbing banks and doing auditions,” he joked. “Keep an eye out for an eight-part web series entitled Don’t @ Me next year — a very talented lad decided I was worth putting in front of the camera for it.”
New York Film Academy’s Katherin Hussein and Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez are the most recent recipients of Entertainment Partners’ Movie Magic Scholarship Producer Award. The scholarship is sponsored by Movie Magic, a software program for production professionals. Both students come from the Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking Feature Track.
Katherin Hussein is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. Originally hailing from Venezuela, Katherin is currently in development on her first feature film, The Unfinished. The film is about a recently orphaned twelve-year-old who girl who must stop a monster before it destroys her mother’s legacy. The monster is from an unfinished painting.
With this award, Katherin is recognized for her outstanding development effort on The Unfinished, including the creation of a beautifully crafted and visually powerful proof of concept to support her fundraising efforts.
Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. A native of Wyoming, Bobby has an extensive background as both an actor and director on stage and in films. He is in development on his film directorial debut, Safe, about a death row inmate who relives his time spent with a wild young couple on a deadly crime spree across the badlands of Montana.
Bobby is recognized for his outstanding development of the film’s script, adapted from a play by Ron Fitzgerald. A consistently excellent and ambitious student, he is a very worthy recipient of this recognition.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Katherin and Bobby on their well-deserved awards and looks forward to the completion of their feature films and to all their future successes!
Interested in studying filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here.
Carolina Sosa graduated in 2017 from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus with a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. Since then she’s been hard at work on Trumphobia, a feature-length film that originally started as her thesis documentary.
Carolina is one of many notable alumni and faculty to hail from the NYFA Documentary School, including instructor Kristen Nutile, who edited the Oscar-, Peabody-, and Emmy-nominated Heroin(e) on Netflix, and RBG’s director of photography and NYFA Documentary professor Claudia Raschke. Ranked as a top documentary filmmaking school for the past eight years, holding a coveted spot on The Independent Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers, the New York Film Academy’s documentary program aims to prepare students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.
It was no surprise, then, when NYFA alum Carolina Sosa recently received a $10,000 grant from the Rogovy Foundation, an organization that works “to build a more enlightened and harmonious planet,” and supplies grants to documentaries and other “highly targeted projects which will have a measurable impact.”
Recently, Carolina spoke with the New York Film Academy about her film Trumphobia, her time at NYFA, and other projects she is currently working on:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Carolina Sosa (CS): I’m from Uruguay, I’m 27 years old, and I got a Fulbright scholarship to study a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking, and NYFA was the school that gave me the highest tuition award from all the schools that I have applied; also the program was located in Los Angeles.
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on documentary filmmaking?
CS: I like to use art as a tool for change. I believe that reality is often more fascinating than fiction, and I want to dedicate my life to tell true stories that inspire, promote justice, and can make a difference in this world. And also, because I love to travel and share my view with others.
CS: Trumphobia: what both sides fear (tentative title) is a feature documentary about the political division in the United States and how Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric increased that division with the help of the mainstream media. On one side, he gave strength and safety to his supporters and, on the other side, he imposed fear and anger on his opponents, which led to major confrontations, protests, and counter-protests across the country. Trumphobia analyzes the reasons for the political division, provides a moving description of Trump’s supporters along with the people who are most affected by Trump’s policies, and proposes empathy and compassion for all as a possible solution to the turmoil. The documentary has the participation of the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, New York Senator Michael Gianaris, Berkeley professor of cognitive science and linguistics George Lakoff, Ph.D., professor of psychology and social behavior Peter H. Ditto, six hate crime victims and witnesses from both sides, representatives of major organizations, many of Trump’s supporters and opponents, and includes footage from more than thirteen debates, marches, and protests across six states.
NYFA: What inspired you to make Trumphobia?
CS: The documentary started as part of my master’s thesis. I was looking for a subject matter right when Trump got elected, and I thought that making a documentary about a current topic that affected millions of people was worth my long work. Especially because I wanted to portray both sides of the story — his supporters and opponents — and I wasn’t seeing much about the right side on the media, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to make a documentary that actually tried to be objective when it comes to politics. The good thing is that most of the crew was international, so we all had an outsider perspective that allowed us to listen without immediately judging. And the one thing that got my attention the most was the articles about hate crimes related to the election and the violent confrontations between people, so it’s not about Trump’s policies — it’s about critical thinking and how moral values determine our worldview. I believe we are all biased, and we need to be more empathetic with others to overcome our differences.
CS: Thanks to NYFA, I became a member of the International Documentary Association and, through their website, I searched for all the grants that I could apply and that’s how we heard about the Rogovy Foundation. We have applied for more than ten different grants, it’s a long and tedious job to prepare all the documents and materials for each grant, but it was worth it because we got their Miller / Packan Film Fund for the postproduction of our film, and they have been very supportive. Moreover, the IDA accepted our project and they became our fiscal sponsor, so that’s also good news.
NYFA: That’s great news! What are your plans for Trumphobia?
CS: For the thesis, I made the first 20 minutes of the film and, since September 2017 when I graduated, I have been working on the 90-minute version. It took me a lot of time because I started working as an editor right after school, and so I have been very busy. But I have never given up, even without money or with a full-time team, I truly believe in the message of the movie and I’m very proud of the result so far, thus we are still working on it. We shot the movie during a year almost and there is always a new thing with Trump, so it takes a lot of work to edit many hours of footage and do constant research, but we are almost there. We are planning to have a final cut that we can send to the Sundance Film Festival in September, and then really finish the movie in October. After that, we will send it to more festivals and try to find online distribution immediately.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
CS: For the 1-year project of the school, GuangLi Zhu and I made a short documentary about the killing of pets in animal shelters, called Exit the shelter, and I have been promoting that short as well. We received the award of Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script and Film Festival and an Award of Excellence at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and we are still waiting to see other festivals’ results. GuangLi was one of my classmates and he is back in China now, but I have partnered with the LA Animal Services and other shelters, so we recently did a screening of the short and a fundraising event to help the pets in two different shelters. Meanwhile, I work as an editor, producer, and cinematographer at Dame Dash Studios; right now I’m editing a documentary about a trip to China for them, but I’m also working as a camerawoman for Harrison Engle (former president of IDA) for one of his documentaries. And every once in a while, I work freelance on other small projects. I’m a workaholic, I work eight hours (or more) at my job every day, then I get home and I work four hours on Trumphobia, and on the weekends it’s all about Trumphobia.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Trumphobia, or your work in general?
CS: The documentary department at NYFA was very helpful with my project Trumphobia. Since the topic was so urgent, they allowed me to borrow the equipment in November 2016, while all my other classmates shot their thesis in June 2017. I pitched the project when Trump got elected and I asked them if I could travel across the U.S. in the winter holidays so I can shoot what I needed, and with almost no bureaucracy involved they said yes, so I’m always thankful for that. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted and the resources that I needed when I asked for it, because I shot through the whole year several times and they never said no. I can imagine that this could have been very different in other schools. NYFA gave me the tools that I needed to feel prepared to shoot across the country with little resources.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
CS: My advice to new students is to think big, work hard, go to all the events, conferences, and workshops that you can (even the ones that are not related to your degree); go out, meet people, build your network, and apply to as many grants, scholarships, and festivals that you can — you never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to receive, and what you are going to learn.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Carolina Sosa on her recent grant and looks forward to the completion and distribution of Trumphobia and Carolina’s continued career!
Interested in learning documentary filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here!