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  • From the Olympics to “Vikings” with New York Film Academy Acting Alum Ragga Ragnars

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars has quite the resume: the two-time-Olympic-swimmer-turned-actress recently snagged a role on the hit show “Vikings.” NYFA had the chance to sit down and catch up with her via email in between her busy schedule filming in Ireland and Iceland, to discuss her transition from athlete to actress.
    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    RR: I have been a swimmer all my life and for about 15 years I was a professional swimmer. I swam at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and after sitting out the 2012 Olympics to have my son, I decided that it was time to pursue my other passion, acting.

    I have always loved California and, as a teenager, I swam in Mission Viejo, where I also attended high school for a while. I also swam in Ventura for a while in my 20s and always loved coming to California. It had always been like a second home to me. So when I was looking at acting schools, NYFA kept popping up.

    I had looked into NYFA a few times before and decided I would start with an 8-Week Acting for Film program to see if I liked it. I had my son and my family with me and needed to make sure it was the right choice before committing to a longer course. I, of course, loved the 8-week program and enrolled in a one-year program right away.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us?

    RR: I made so many great friends while attending NYFA and got to know so many amazing teachers and instructors. There are so many moments that stand out for me and it’s hard to choose just one to mention. I do remember some great Q&A sessions with people from the industry that really taught me a lot. I also loved working on the backlot and getting to experience that aspect of the courses.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to shift gears in life to pursue your acting career?

    RR: Acting has always been a passion I have had. While I was swimming, acting was always in the back of my head. I don’t think it’s something I decided. I just always knew I would be an actress. Since I can remember, I knew that it was something I had to do.

    NYFA: You came back for the 1-Year Acting for Film program after finishing a short-term program with us — what made you decide to go to our conservatory?

    RR: I had such an amazing time in the 8-week program that I knew I wanted to keep going. I wanted to see how it would work out having a family and a young son with me so far away from the rest of my family. It was easier than I expected and my son loved the California sunshine, so it was a no-brainer. I also knew I had more to learn from the great teachers and instructors at NYFA.

    NYFA: Many of our students can relate to your experience of coming to learn the arts in a foreign country. What was it like for you as an international student, coming to study at NYFA Los Angeles? Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

    RR: Because California has always been like a second home to me, I almost felt like I was not an international student and more of a local. I knew LA pretty well and while at NYFA I got to know the city better.

    The only thing that I can remember being a difficult aspect of being an international student was to make sure that all of the paperwork was correct and that I had everything in order. With great help from NYFA it wasn’t too hard, but with getting a Visa, applying for an OPT and all of that, it was definitely a challenge. It was all worth it and I am so happy I decided to give it a try.

    NYFA: You’ve competed in the Olympics as a swimmer, and now you are working as an actor on “Vikings.” As a career-changer, what would you say was the most challenging and the most surprising part of going from one intense career to another?

    RR: The most surprising thing is how similar my life is, from when I was a competitive swimmer. Working on a big production is hard work, I want to stay in good shape and get ready for a day of work similar to when I was competing. I work out, warm up before big scenes, meditate and take care of what I eat in the same way I did when I was preparing for the World Championships or competing at the Olympics. There is so much time spent in preparing for scenes, learning dialogue and text, working on a character and getting ready. I am happy that I have years of experience as a swimmer in being focused, determined and knowing that nothing comes for free.

    It takes hard work for a long time to achieve goals and you have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience working on “Vikings” — are there any surprises or challenges you’ve encountered in working internationally in Ireland and Iceland?

    RR: Ireland and Iceland are quite similar places. I feel like Irish people have a lot in common with the Icelandic — very welcoming and have a bit of a small town vibe to them, just like in Iceland. It has been difficult to be away from my son who attends school in Iceland, but I travel back and forth quite a bit and he comes to Ireland every time we can manage that. I have loved the process so far and I am looking forward to continuing working internationally and broadening my horizon even more in this field.

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for our current students in transitioning from our conservatory training to the real world?

    RR: My advice is to set goals with everything you do and want to do in life and enjoy the process, the good and the bad.

    Rejection from one place is not the end of the road.

    Also, there is not one way to achieve success in this business. I signed with an agent before I even finished NYFA, I had a few agents who wanted to sign me and I thought that was the only way to get ahead. Then when I realized that the partnership was not working, I decided to do it on my own and that proved to be the right way for me at the time.

    But I learned from every failed audition and self tape, from every production I worked on while on my OPT, and I always kept up a positive attitude towards my goals.

    NYFA: Would you say your time studying at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing today?

    RR: Absolutely. I learned so much while attending NYFA. So many things were new to me as an actor before I attended NYFA. I feel like I got a very extensive overview of techniques and tools to choose from while working. Not everything that I learned works for me and some things I learned I have kept on learning after NYFA. I keep in touch with some of my teachers in NYFA and I feel like all of them took a real interest in teaching us and even as a former student, being able to send a quick line to a former teacher and still getting help with something is amazing.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ragga for taking the time to share a part of her journey with our community.

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  • Broadcast Journalism Update for Mid-August

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    Investigative journalism is difficult. Not only do you have to uncover facts that some people (often many people) want to keep secret, but it can also be expensive. Committing limited resources to a story that may never see air is a bold move. Yet more and more U.S. TV stations are getting back into the investigative reporting business, and according to a recent article in the Washington Post, it could help save local TV news. That’s because unique stories like these differentiate a station from its many competitors, and are far beyond the scope of online aggregators and digital news platforms.

    Lynda Baquero

    Lynda Baquero

    We would be remiss if we didn’t mention NYFA graduate and award-winning investigative reporter George Colli. Colli mounted an amazing probe into how defective concrete resulted in the collapse of the foundations of hundreds, perhaps thousands of homes in Connecticut. While he is now a Washington, DC correspondent for Cox Media, NBC-Connecticut is still pursuing the story.

    We should also acknowledge WNBC reporter Lynda Baquero, who visited NYFA earlier this year. The station has built an entire consumer protection unit around her, and has pledged to investigate every consumer complaint that it receives.

    If you are a regular reader of these updates, you know we often discuss the impact of Vice Media. This time, however, we’re not talking about its business model. Instead, we want to emphasize just how adept they are at getting “the story behind the story.” In this case, it is a feature on how reporters (especially freelance reporters) learn basic combat first-aid before they venture into war zones. As the headline accurately states, it is the kind of training that could help them stay alive. Similarly, it might allow them to save the life of an injured colleague.

    On a far happier note, NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Gillian Kemmerer is down in Rio covering the Summer Olympics. As Asset TV looks at the world through the lens of business and finance, that means stories about ratings as much as gold medals.

    First weekend ratings fall short of podium from Asset TV US on Vimeo.

    Staying with the Olympics, the New York Times produced a fascinating hybrid-journalism story on American swimmer Ryan Lochte. (You know, the guy who is really sick and tired of being compared to Michael Phelps, and for good reason.) Part print report, part new media, part full motion video. It is a great example of how the lines separating different forms of journalism have blurred.

    Great to see NYFA alum Emilie Olsson’s latest story for TV Expresse/Nyheter in Sweden, even if it is about a guy who burned down his neighbors’ home while they were away…

    the helpmann awards
    NYFA graduate Bryanna Reynolds had a lot more fun covering The Helpmann Awards, where Australia’s outstanding stage performers are honored. And once again it was a “sister act,” with Bryanna doing the interviews and her sister Alaina Reynolds shooting. (But who did the editing, Bryanna?)
    Grace Shao

    Grace Shao

    Finally, following her graduation from the NYFA Broadcast Journalism summer session, Grace Shao is back in Beijing. She is in the process of completing her financial journalism Masters degree program at Tsinghua University. Once that is wrapped, she will be joining CCTV as a reporter/editor in their English language news unit. It’s a real accomplishment to land a job like this before completing a degree program. Grace says she learned a number new skills during her stay with us. 祝贺!  (Congratulations!)
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  • Broadcast Journalism Alumni Highlights for August 2016

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    It was an eventful week for New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism graduates. In Denmark, NYFA grad Celina Liv Danielsen has joined Nyheder TV2 as a journalist. She is working at the first 24-hour Danish news channel.
    NYFA grad Celina Liv Danielsen

    NYFA grad Celina Liv Danielsen

    “Celina is one of the hardest working students I have ever met,” said NYFA Broadcast Journalism Chair, Bill Einreinhofer. “Her personal credo is to ‘do your best, nothing less.’ And she is a fabulous writer. Congratulations, Celina!”
    NYFA grad Chiara Carcano

    Another of our grads, Chiara Carcano, was chosen to be one of the co-hosts of the 2016 edition of the Italian travel show Donnavventura. “Kiki” was selected from 180,000 contests, and starting on September 10th, she will be traveling the world for the next 100 days.

    Recent graduate Federica Polidoro explained that the series is “Amazons for the digital age.” (No, not an online marketplace, but the female warriors of classical literature.) She will be facing challenging and extreme conditions, and reporting her experiences to TV, radio and magazine audiences. Congratulations Kiki, and don’t forget to wear your NYFA t-shirt!

    Patricia Saad

    By this time you have likely seen at least some of the network coverage of the Rio Olympics. But Brazilian NYFA grad Patricia Saad is taking a very different approach, exploring the local implications and legacy of the Olympic Games.

    Take a look at Canal Ilumida. And that “walk and talk” she does in the introductory video… she learned how to do that at NYFA. Nice job, Patricia!

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    August 8, 2016 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2626

  • NYFA Alumnus Sergei Ivonin Talks with Students About Covering the 2014 Sochi Olympics

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    When Sergei Ivonin became a student at the New York Film Academy, he had high career goals but lacked the skills to attain them. Thanks to what he learned at NYFA, he is now a staff producer with NBC News. Recently he returned to NYFA to tell Broadcast Journalism students what it is like to be a Digital Journalist working on Dateline: NBC. He also gave them an insider’s perspective on coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

    An eight hour time difference between Sochi and New York meant that the production staff was constantly on-the-go. Whether it was shooting material for Today, working on stories for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, or conducting interviews for prime time Olympic coverage, sleep was in short supply. Work days that could stretch to 18-hours not withstanding, Sergei was thrilled to play a role in covering what is the quintessential global news event.

    sergei ivonin

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    March 18, 2014 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4293

  • Sprinting Toward Hollywood: A Pro Athlete Turned Actress

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    As a child in Markham, Ontario, Charlotte Plummer was involved in countless extra-curricular activities: ballet, modern dance, piano, accordion, trombone, horseback riding, acting classes. She did well in all of them, but started aggressively pursuing sports in high school. By the end of her 9th grade year, she was already being offered scholarships for universities in the United States.

    After finishing high school, she accepted a scholarship to New Orleans’ prestigious Tulane University, receiving her BA in Psychology, with a minor in Exercise and Sports Science. She was a conference athlete for the school, an NCAA qualifier, and won at the Penn Relays. She started as a 400-meter hurdler, and ended up as a runner in the 800-meter dash, making it to the Olympic trials for Canada.

    Though she originally planned on going into sports psychology, Charlotte had worked with mentally disturbed adolescents during school, and decided to change her path. As she says, “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to work with pampered athletes, or people who really need help?’” She ended up working with individuals with brain injuries, mostly resulting from car accidents. She helped patients with rehabilitation, speech therapy, psychology, and fitness.

    A series of injuries took Charlotte away from the world of competitive sports, but through her experience in track, she became an athletic model and did a lot of commercial work for Tennis Canada, Nike, and Pfizer. A chance meeting with a New York Film Academy representative led to another scholarship, and soon Charlotte would be pursuing her MFA in Acting for Film. “Doors have opened up, and I have to step into every door that is open to me,” says Charlotte.

    She began her studies at the school’s New York City campus before finishing at the Universal Studios campus in Los Angeles. “I’m glad I did New York and L.A.,” says Charlotte. “New York is definitely more theater based. In L.A. you really get the business side. You learn a lot in production and writing.”

    Just a few weeks before graduation, Charlotte participated in the Acting for Film showcase, produced by Valorie Hubbard. Scores of agents and managers came to see the showcase, and every student received callbacks the following week. Charlotte took 3 meetings, and is currently deciding which agent to sign with. She is also in rehearsals for an upcoming short film, and going on auditions. Of her education, Charlotte says, “You don’t realize while you’re in it how much you’ve learned. Now when I go on auditions I’m surprised at how prepared I am. Because there‘s so many teachers of so many backgrounds, you get so many perspectives.”

    Charlotte looks forward to a career in film, but also hopes to continue with mentorship. “I feel like young people are so lost in this world and have no concept of dreams,” she says. “I’m pursuing my reality. I’ve lived so many dreams. I’m able to make them realities. I’m still striving.”

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    July 26, 2012 • Academic Programs, Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3489