New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary MFA Alum Sasha-Gay Lewis was honored when her MFA Thesis film was included on the program of the International Film Weekend, held annually in Würzburg, Germany.
Filmwochenende Würzburg was started in 1974 with just 12 films and 1,000 visitors. This year, the 45th edition of the International Film Weekend – Würzburg was the most visited with more than 10,000 film fans visiting the traditional festival. Held from January 24 – January 27, 2019, the festival screened 82 films over four venues.
The aim of the festival is to showcase international films that have not yet found their way to distributors. Added to this is the opportunity for cinephiles to meet the makers behind the productions and to discuss their films with them.
Lewis is a Jamaican documentary filmmaker, producer, editor and writer, as well as a trained journalist and award-winning writer/producer for radio. She has written, produced, and directed several short narratives and docs in Jamaica, California, and Belize. She enrolled in New York Film Academy’s MFA Documentary Filmmaking program in Fall 2014.
The Incursion, her documentary short, follows the residents of Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica as they seek justice after a government raid in 2010 that resulted in the death of over 150 residents.
In addition to Filmwochenende Würzburg, the film was named Honorable Mention at the 2017 DOC LA Film Festival, was an Official Selection at the 2017 Pembroke Taparelli Arts & Film Festival, won an Award of Recognition at the Impact DOCS Awards, and won Best Documentary Short at the LA Film and Script Film Festival.
In its 45-year history, this year is the first year Filmwochenende Würzburg have screened a film from Jamaica. Additionally, Lewis is the second black director to be invited to the festival; the first was filmmaker Spike Lee. The Incursion had a full house for both days of its screening. packed cinema on both days.
The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary alum Sasha-Gay Lewis on the success of The Incursion and looks forward to following her career and future accomplishments!
There are many reasons to become a journalist. A number of them involve idealism, and the belief that journalists play an essential role in society. Still, for me, a key factor was that journalism is exciting. No, you aren’t flying off on a helicopter into the sunset every day. Yet everyday there is the possibility that you might.
What is guaranteed is that every day you are going to meet people with important stories to tell. Some of those stories are happy. Others are sad. But they are stories that society needs to hear. And you are the storyteller…
One of my favorite storytellers is New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism grad Bryanna Reynolds. She lives and works in Australia, and recently she reflected on her career and opportunities:
So what do you do after covering “the red carpet”? For Bryanna, it was onto the Australian Open tennis tournament…
Our students come from everywhere—across the United States, and around the world. We’ve been fortunate to have a number of students from Brazil. One of them is Livia Fernanda. During a cold New York City winter, it’s nice to think of warmer places. But if you take a closer look at the map behind Livia, I think some of those places are a bit too hot! 34 C translates into a toasty 93 F…
Last week we were back in the studio for the 2019 season of NYFA News, our own in-house news magazine. (We use the same type of green-screen effect that Livia does. Only instead of a weather map, we insert banks of TV monitors.)
That’s student Nicole Abebe anchoring the show. Nicole was born in Nigeria, but came to NYFA via London. And while this was her first time as a presenter, she looked and sounded like an experienced pro.
If you want to get an idea of just how exciting that day was, take a look at a short video NYFA instructor Evgenia Vlasova put together. I think it really captures how TV is a collaborative effort—a real “team sport.”
Dunya’s Day, a satirical short film tackling class privilege and associate produced by current New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary student Aya Hamdan, is premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as part of its international shorts competition. The film is notable for its all-female, Saudi cast, who give complex, layered performances that are generating a lot of buzz.
The film, written and directed by Raed Alsemari, tells the story of Dunya, who struggles to throw the perfect graduation party after she’s abandoned by her domestic help. The film already has the honor of being the first Saudi film to have its premiere in Saudi Arabia, with an IMAX screening at the Vox Cinema at Riyadh Park organized by the General Culture Authority, represented by the Saudi Film Council.
Hamdan first attended NYFA’s 1-week Filmmaking workshop before enrolling in the Academy’s Documentary Filmmaking 1-year conservatory in New York City, where she is being prepared by professional, distinguished faculty members for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.
Hamdan is grateful for the support she has received from the Documentary school staff while working on Dunya’s Day. She tells NYFA, “I want to thank Andrea, Tracie, Joao, Claudia, and Maxine for all of their support.”
As part of her curriculum, Hamdan is working on several documentary shorts, including a social issue film and a thesis film that she will shoot in her home country, the Kingdom of Bahrain. She also plans on working with Alsemari on his next film, possibly a feature set in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“He has the creativity and drive to positively influence the perception of Arab women in the media,” Hamdan says of writer/director Raed Alsemari. She adds, “I am truly thankful and proud to be part of this journey. I love this film and what it represents not only for Saudi Arabian cinema but for cinema across the Middle East. I can’t wait for it to be shared with a wider audience; it touches on a universal topic that anyone can relate to, but through the stories of the fierce women of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.”
Hamdan served as associate producer on Dunya’s Day. In addition to Alsemari, the crew includes Sarah Elnawasrah as producer, Oliver Theurillat as director of photography, and Tamara Kalo as production designer, and stars Sara Balghonaim, Rahaf Bazian, and Ayah Bazian.
The first screening of Dunya’s Day at Sundance is Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at Prospector Square Theater.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking student Aya Hamdan on the Sundance premiere of Dunya’s Day and looks forward to following her work as she completes her studies!
On January 18, Everygirl opened at the Kallio School in Helsinki, Finland. Directed by Annemari Untamala, the play was written by actor, director, and Acting for Film instructor at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), Peter Allen Stone. The play concerns a 17-year-old girl who finds out she is dead at the beginning of the story.
Everygirl is based on a famous morality play from the 15th century, updated by Stone with a transgender character and LGBTIQA+ themes. The original medieval play, Everyman, was used by the church to encourage people to be good, or they may end up going to hell. In 2013, after watching 16 high school plays in two days while at a theatre competition, Stone began devising a more modern version.
“I thought it would be interesting to set it in a modern high school, play with current archetypes, and make the themes spiritually universal,” says Stone. “I always intended that play be performed by younger actors and for a younger audience that would hopefully receive the core message to be kind to one another.”
The next weekend, Stone outlined his vision for the play. After three years of talking about it with colleagues and running it through his mind, he finally sat down and wrote a first draft while teaching at NYFA’s Florence location. Later that year while back in New York, Stone workshopped the play with some NYFA students.
By the time a final draft was written, Everygirl had also included themes like minimalism and consumerism. One character, Things, appears through Facetime. Other characters include Death, Best Friend, Father, Fear, Beauty, Strength, and Knowledge.
However, it is the play’s connection to youth and the place of kindness in the modern world that serves as the story’s backbone. Explains Stone, “There is a transgender character named Kindnessin the play that represents the kind acts that we can do to one another everyday of our lives regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation if we choose to lead with love.” Additionally, there is a character named Boyfriend/Girlfriend, a fluid role that can be played by a performer of any gender.
These themes are close to Stone’s heart. In 2012, Unnatural Acts, co-written by Stone, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Produced by Classic Stage Company, the play is based on true events revolving Harvard deans trying to expel the school’s homosexual population in 1920. “I spent over six years creating that play about the injustices done to the LGBTQ community with an exceptional group of artists,” says Stone. “We fought then, and I will continue to fight for equal rights for the rest of my life.”
Everygirl premieres January 18, where the Deputy Mayor of Education for the City of Helsinki will be in attendance. Information about the play can be found on Helsinki’s Arts and Culture website.
The New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Peter Allen Stone for continuing to apply his talents and passion to praiseworthy projects like Everygirl both home and abroad!
On Monday, January 7, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a guest lecture by NYFA Producing alum, Alex Lebovici. Lebovici was executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated Denzel Washington drama, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), Mom and Dad (2017), Who We Are Now (2017), The Clapper (2017) as well as an unofficial short fan film based on hit video game Uncharted, starring Nathan Fillion and which garnered rave reviews and Internet buzz.
Lebovici began the lecture by discussing his beginnings: “I started making short films [when] I was 13 with my closest friends … and I always wanted to be part of the movie business.” Lebovici moved from Canada to the United States and studied directing at New York Film Academy, where he made 12 short films during his academic career. After he graduated, Lebovici was an intern at Original Film, the company that produced the Fast and the Furious film franchise, but, unfortunately was laid off.
After moving back to Canada, Lebovici became a door-to-door salesman, working six days a week, 12 hours a day, for six years. “I prepared myself [by] doing something very challenging … of the people that opened the door, 95% of them said no but the 5% that said yes [were] more than enough to earn a living.” Despite his success, he still ached to return to the entertainment industry.
Lebovici was inspired one night after being denied entry to a fancy nightclub in his native Toronto. The next day, he purchased an American pay-as-you-go mobile phone, registered it to a Beverly Hills zip code and called the nightclub as his own fake assistant; he told the nightclub that he was an assistant to a producer from Los Angeles that wanted to produce a television show about “bodyguards who protect A-list celebrities when they come to Toronto.”
That phone call got Lebovici introduced to all of the nightclub owners, bodyguards, and doormen in Toronto. Word got to movie star Steven Seagal that Lebovici owned a bodyguard company; he didn’t, but he made sure Seagal and his guests were taken care of during their visit to Toronto free of charge. Seagal knew that nothing comes for free and asked Lebovici what he wanted in return; Lebovici asked if he would star in a pilot for a show about bodyguards. Seagal agreed.
In a matter of months, Lebovici went from being a guy who couldn’t get into a nightclub to a guy that was known and welcomed by all of the nightclub owners in Toronto, with a potential television show pilot starring Steven Seagal. Lebovici called all of the production companies in Toronto, pitched his pilot to them and started a bidding war between two companies for the rights to produce the show. Lebovici was then contacted by various Hollywood actors’ representatives and the show’s cast started to grow.
Lebovici learned from this experience how to be a producer and went on to produce a number of projects in the United States; he continued to make valuable contacts through networking with nightclub promoters and owners and he carefully gauged when it was appropriate to ask his contacts for favors, “You’ve got to build them up to it by playing a slow game,” said Lebovici, “…you don’t want to be too thirsty in this business.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Producing alum Alex Lebovici for sharing his experiences and honest advice with our students!
It’s the start of a new year, and graduates of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism school are right in the middle of many of the exciting things that are taking place.
NYFA alum George Colli — now with WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut — was back in Washington, DC to document history in the making, speaking with Representative-elect Jahana Hayes the day before she was sworn into office. Rep. Hayes is the first African American woman and first African American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress.
Broadcast Journalism grad Suzane de Oliveira, whoworks for Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Rio de Janeiro, put together a wonderful story about New Year fireworks over the legendary Copacabana Beach. (You can’t get more visual than fireworks!) Her story was likely distributed globally, as AFP serves news organizations around the world.
The end of the year is also a time when production teams take group pictures. Gabriela Matte is a graduate of one of our short-term Broadcast Journalism workshop. She works for media giant Globo, on the first 24-hour news cable channel in Brazil. It’s called, not surprisingly, GloboNews. I often say that TV news is a “team sport,” and Gabriela wrote: “Yes, teamwork with a lot of passion.”
Here’s what she wrote when she first started at GloboNews. “One of the reasons I got the job was my experience abroad, and NYFA is part of it.”
Delphine Dormancy attended the 1-year Broadcast Journalism program. Right now, I think she is working in Beruit, Lebanon. But here in New York she produced a lovely story for the digital outlet Labneh&Facts. “What do Hummus, refugees, New York City and a pair of Lebanese siblings have in common? Well, a passion for good, home-made food and doing good, of course!”
BTW, how many of you reading this have eaten lebneh? Trust me, it’s wonderful. What regular yogurt yearns to become…
Finally, short-term Broadcast Journalism workshop graduate Alexandra Salandy is working in the news department of FOX5 New York. She tells us, “I am a production assistant here. I help cut the teases and VOs and I also help the assignment desk, and assign reporters to editors.”
Last night, movie and TV fans around the world watched the 76th Golden Globe Awards, where award winners were announced and presented with the famed statuettes at a televised dinner ceremony hosted by Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg.
The Golden Globe Awards are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and have been given out to cast and crew of film and television productions since 1944. The awards show is typically looser and more casual than other ceremonies like the Emmys and Academy Awards, with Hollywood stars drinking and mingling in a dinner atmosphere.
Highlights of the evening include Jeff Bridges winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the entertainment industry and the subsequent, seemingly off-the-cuff speech he gave that ranged from heartfelt thanks to his family and collaborators to the invention of ship rudders called trim tabs. Among many other feelings, Bridges referred to his role in The Big Lebowski: “If I’m lucky, I’ll be associated with The Dude for the rest of my life.”
Other memorable moments from the evening included host Sandra Oh speaking to her parents from stage and winning a Globe herself for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for her role in Killing Eve, and a surprise appearance by Taylor Swift, who presented the awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. The latter award went to Lady Gaga for “Shallow”, seen here being covered by New York Film Academy (NYFA) student Amanda Jerlov:
Additionally, the second Golden Globes ceremony since the start of the #MeToo movement contained multiple nods, references, and calls to action for more diversity in the entertainment industry for women and people of color.
The big winners of the night was an eclectic mix of expected wins for favorites, mild surprises, and upsets. The Americans won Best Television Series – Drama for its final season, while The Kominsky Method won Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy for its inaugural first season. In a year of genre-bending films, Green Book won for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy while Bohemian Rhapsody took home the prize for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Veteran actress and previous New York Film Academy guest speaker Glenn Close also surprised many with her win for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, for which A Star is Born lead Lady Gaga was considered a favorite. Close seemed genuinely surprised and gave a powerful, tearful speech that touched on her mother and gender roles in both the industry and society as a whole.
After describing how her mother regretted not doing more with her life, Close told the audience, “Women — we’re nurturers — and that’s what’s expected of us… but we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that’ and ‘I should be allowed to do that.’”
Other NYFA guest speakers were at the Golden Globes too, as well as several alumni. New York Film Academy Acting for Film alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Widows, The Magnificent Seven) was in attendance, as was NYFA Camp alum Lana Condor (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, X-Men: Apocalypse.)
Former Saturday Night Live star and NYFA Workshop Alum Bill Hader was also present last night. Hader earned five Emmy nominations last year for his work on Barry, a dark comedy about a midwestern hitman who moves to Hollywood to become an actor. At that awards show, Hader picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor. The Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy was the latest achievement in the comedic actor’s evolving career.
The show itself was nominated for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, an impressive feat for a new series with only one season of episodes to date. Barry has received glowing reviews since its 2018 debut, with Hader’s performance being an obvious standout.
Hader’s Barry co-star, Henry Winkler, was also nominated for a Golden Globe, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. The veteran television actor has previously been a guest speaker at New York Film Academy.
Other guest speakers and lecturers at New York Film Academy have also worked on several Golden Globe-nominated works this year, including Adam Driver. Driver spoke with NYFA students in New York City earlier this year, and has a featured role in BlacKKKlansman, nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Guest speaker for NYFA Los Angeles Amy Smeed served as an animator on Ralph Breaks the Internet,Golden Globe nominees for Best Motion Picture – Animated. Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose agent Andrew Finkelstein spoke with NYFA students in a productive Q&A at our Los Angeles campus, was a nomineefor Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his role in Mary Poppins Returns.
Additionally, Francesco Panzieri, an alum of New York Film Academy’s animation school, worked on the HBO series Westworld, whose star Thandie Newton earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Panzieri is a Visual Effects artist whose other credits include Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avengers: Infinity War.
Eric Demeusy, who attended the 1-Year Filmmaking program at NYFA’s film school in Los Angeles, also worked on Westworld, having helped create its famous and evocative title sequence. Demeusy has previously won the Emmy for Main Title Design for his work on Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things.
The New York Film Academy is proud to see its alumni and other members of its community involved with such highly regarded, award-winning productions.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees! Here is a full list of the winners and nominees for the 2019 Golden Globe Awards:
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Green Book The Favourite Vice Mary Poppins Returns Crazy Rich Asians
Best Motion Picture, Drama
Bohemian Rhapsody BlacKkKlansman If Beale Street Could Talk Black Panther A Star Is Born
Best TV Movie or Limited Series
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story The Alienist Escape at Dannemora Sharp Objects A Very English Scandal
Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy
The Kominsky Method The Good Place The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Kidding Barry
Best TV Series, Drama
The Americans Bodyguard Homecoming Killing Eve Pose
Best Foreign Language Film
Roma Capernaum Girl Never Look Away Shoplifters
Best Motion Picture, Animated
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Mirai Ralph Breaks the Internet
Best Director – Motion Picture
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman Adam McKay, Vice Peter Farrelly, Green Book
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie; Green Book Alfonso Cuaron, Roma Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk Adam McKay, Vice
Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Justin Hurwitz, First Man Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs Ludwig Goransson, Black Panther Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns
Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Shallow,” A Star is Born “All The Stars,” Black Panther “Girl in the Movies,” Dumpling “Requiem for a Private War,” A Private War “Revelation,” Boy Erased
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk Amy Adams, Vice Claire Foy, First Man Emma Stone, The Favourite Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Green Book Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Glenn Close, The Wife Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born Nicole Kidman, Destroyer Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Rosamund Pike, A Private War
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, Vice Lin Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns Viggo Mortinson, Green Book Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun John C Riley, Stan And Ollie
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman
Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora Amy Adams, Sharp Objects Connie Britton, Dirty John Laura Dern, The Tale Regina King, Seven Seconds
Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso Daniel Bruhl, The Alienist Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited Series, or TV Movie
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Thandie Newton, Westworld Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series or TV Movie
Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method Kieran Culkin, Succession Edgar Ramirez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Henry Winkler, Barry
Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Kristen Bell, The Good Place Candice Bergen, Murphy Brown Alison Brie, Glow Debra Messing, Will & Grace
Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method Sasha Baron Cohen, Who Is America? Jim Carrey, Kidding Donald Glover, Atlanta Bill Hader, Barry
Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve Caitriona Balfe, Outlander Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale Julia Roberts, Homecoming Keri Russell, The Americans
Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama
Richard Madden, Bodyguard Jason Bateman, Ozark Stephan James, Homecoming Billy Porter, Pose Matthew Rhys, The Americans
On Friday, December 14, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of A Country Christmas Story (2013) followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor Eric Bross, and writer and NYFA instructor Steven Peros, moderated by NYFA student, Bakyt Zhumadilova.
Bross is known for directing Affairs of State (2018), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and Peros is known for writing Footprints (2009), The Undying (2009) and The Cat’s Meow (2001).
Zhumadilova opened the Q&A by asking Peros about his inspiration for the screenplay. Peros said he started by researching the history of country music and its prevalence in the South, then adding layers of complexity to the story by making the protagonist both a child of divorce and biracial within that world.
Peros also wanted the film to be about the various characters’ relationships with music and the arts and added that the music teacher in the film was inspired by a teacher he had when he was a kid.
Zhumadilova inquired about what it was like for Peros to writeA Country Christmas Story star Dolly Parton’s lines knowing she was going to be playing herself in the film. “The funny thing about writing her was, I had written this thing… and suddenly I’m on set going, ‘I’m about to meet Dolly Parton!’ Is she gonna come up to me and say, ‘Well, first off, Steven, I don’t talk like that at all,’” joked Peros. “But she didn’t at all! She didn’t want to change anything… so I was somehow channeling my inner Dolly Parton.”
“I just thought he really captured her voice,” added Bross.
Peros shared that Parton suggested that she sing instead of just introducing the music contest at the end of the film. “She just kept giving us gifts.” said Bross.
Peros shared that one of the most notable moments of the shoot was when Parton sang in between takes to entertain extras in the audience. “She knew that all those extras who were there pretty much for free… were there for her,” he said. “She never left the stage… she sang ‘Tennessee Waltz’… and it was like a moment out of a movie; one by one, everything started to get silent.”
The discussion then moved onto producing a film like A Country Christmas Story on a tight shoot schedule and a tight budget. Bross advised filmmakers to keep the frame focused on the actors as much as possible when working with a small budget because sometimes it’s difficult to afford full, dressed sets. This way the story would still be the center of the film.
New York Film Academy would like to thank A Country Christmas Story filmmakers Eric Bross and Steven Peros for sharing their entertaining anecdotes from the shooting of the film, as well as their production advice for students.
A select group of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary and Filmmaking students were invited to attend The Price of Free, a feature-length documentary which screened on November 10, 2018 at the Studio City Film Festival. The film depicts Kailash Satyarthi, who left a career as an electrical engineer to start Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) in an effort to rescue children from slavery.
Along with Sanora Bartels, Chair of Documentary NYFA-LA, the selected NYFA students in attendance were from both BFA and MFA programs and included, from Documentary: Lucia Florez, Assemgul Sarsembayeva and Khalila Suprapto; and from Filmmaking: Jose Miguel Perez, Jenny Mochahari, Katherine Russell, and Aastha Verma.
All of the students felt it was an important event and looked forward to attending. Before the screening, Katherine Russell, Spring 2018 BFA Filmmaking student, told NYFA:
“I’ve always considered myself very socially conscious. I began my first undergraduate career as a political science and sociology double major at Penn State. Throughout my filmmaking career at NYFA and beyond I plan to inject these passions and what I’ve learned into my films. This film piques my interest for these exact reasons.”
The film did not disappoint; Derek Doneen’s direction is deeply moving. The story opens in a raid on a factory to save several children from slave labor. The camera work and action immediately pulls the audience into the center of the conflict.
The audience is then taken back to the beginning of Satyarthi’s work, and the history of the struggle is conveyed through masterful animation and several interviews with key supporters of the cause. Some of the most compelling footage is “observational” — using hidden cameras — of the charity workers as they go undercover as “buyers of goods” in an attempt to expose the locations of illegal factories and their captive labor.
The work is not for the faint of heart. Throughout, the worthiness of the project is expressed in the experiences of the children who are freed from shackles and able to pursue education.
The screening was followed by a Q&A session with The Price of Free director, Derek Doneen, and its featured subject, Nobel Prize winner Kailash. Satyarthi was asked how he had the courage to begin and continue the work to free children from slavery, considering the dangers involved. In addition to the very real threat of reprisal from the criminals running the factories, there are police officers who are bribed and, at best, look the other way, and, at worst, savagely beat those who attempt to break the children free.
Satyarthi replied to the question with a smile and shared a lovely Indian folktale:
“One day a terrible fire broke out in the jungle – a huge section was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the jungle. As they came to the edge of a stream, they stopped to watch the fire and were feeling very discouraged and powerless.
“They all bemoaned the destruction of their homes, except the hummingbird. The hummingbird swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water in its beak and flew into the jungle to put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. Finally, the tiger grew concerned for the hummingbird’s safety: ‘It is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire. What do you think you’re doing!?’
“The hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, ‘I am doing what I can.'”
After the screening, the students enthusiastically shared their experience and thoughts about moving forward:
“After watching The Price of Free you will never be the same. You will carefully read the labels in supermarkets. You will evaluate your every purchase and think whether [you] really need another decorative box or a candle. Consumerism at its highest degree of barbarism is the focus of Derek Doneen’s film… Kailash Satyarthi has a mission: the battle for the right of every kid on this planet to have a childhood.”
—Asem Nurlanova, Fall 2017 MFA Documentary
“From the opening of the documentary to the last frame, there was not a minute where I felt unmoved or a disconnect by the reality of the harsh hitting stories. The director, Derek Doneen, did an exceptional job bringing the reality to life. As the credits rolled, I saw people right, left, and center tearing up, almost sobbing.
“Not a lot of people have the power to move the world forward with them, he surely is one of them. It was an honor and an inspiration to be in the same room and having a moving conversation with the humble man himself, Mr. Satyarthi. I highly recommend for everybody to watch The Price of Free and would like to thank Crickett Rumley and NYFA-LA for the opportunity.”
Just as 2018 was wrapping up, Netflix managed to squeeze one more buzzworthy hit movie into the zeitgeist with Bird Box, a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Sandra Bullock and featuring a haunting, memorable scene with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film instructor, Happy Anderson.
Bird Box was an instant hit, dominating social media with both high praise and viral memes. According to Netflix, it was the media company’s biggest opening to date, having been streamed by over 45 million accounts in its first week alone.
The film, directed by Susanne Bier and written by Eric Heisserer based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, is a story about survivors who must keep themselves blindfolded to stay alive from mysterious creatures who drive people insane once they look at them.
Some of the infected victims are compelled to force survivors to open their eyes and look at the creatures. As Sandra Bullock’s protagonist rows down a river blindfolded while protecting two children, a mysterious River Man comes out of the fog and attacks them. The scene is moody and tense before coming to a violent, thrilling, and frightful conclusion. The River Man is played by actor and NYFA instructor Happy Anderson.
Anderson had a blast shooting the scene, posting photos to his social media of the complicated rig needed to shoot in waist-deep water. “Bird Box time was a very fun time!” he wrote, included with a production still.
Bird Box is the latest in a string of impressive credits for Anderson, including another Netflix original film, Bright, starring Will Smith, and Mindhunter, the drama series from David Fincher that was also produced and distributed by Netflix.
Other credits include Gotham, The Blacklist, The Tick, and The Knick, co-starring Clive Owen and NYFA alum Eve Hewson. Upcoming projects include the X-Men horror film The New Mutants and the highly-anticipated television adaptation of Snowpiercer.
Anderson teaches Acting for Film at NYFA’s New York campus, along with many other working professionals who teach at the acting school. The Academy prides itself on its faculty, who share with students their experience and expertise from working in a dynamic, competitive, labor-intensive industry.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Acting for Film instructor Happy Anderson on his latest role and encourages everyone who hasn’t to check out the mysterious and haunting thriller, Bird Box!