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  • 6 NYFA Alumni to Support this Black-Owned Business Month

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    August is National Black Business Month, where we as a nation of consumers recognize and support black-owned businesses across the United States. According to the 2019 Annual Business Survey (covering the reference year 2018), 124, 551 businesses are owned by Black Americans, representing just over 2% of total businesses in the US. In the Arts-related sector, only a handful of businesses (relative to the number of Black-Owned businesses across all sectors) are Black-Owned – they fall within the Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation sector. 

    In support of National Black Business Month, New York Film Academy is highlighting just a handful of incredibly talented NYFA alumni who not only own a business and have earned success through their crafts but continue to build their brands in order to support other artists. 

    We encourage you to support these individuals by contributing to their business or sharing their incredible work.

    Issa Rae

    Writer, Producer, & Actress

    Chief Executive Officer of HOORAE (formerly known as Issa Rae Productions), Issa Rae oversees the multi-faceted entertainment media company to ensure a diverse set of stories and stories about the community are told. An award-winning actress and producer in her own right, Issa Rae gained critical acclaim and international attention from her hit HBO show, Insecure. The show received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. 

    HOORAE includes HOORAE Film & TV, as well as groundbreaking companies such as ColorCreative Management and Raedio.XXX. While overseeing the company, Rae continues to perform incredible work across Netflix and HBO, including The Lovebirds and Coastal Elites.

    Rae studied filmmaking with us back in 2005. You can keep updated on the latest from Issa Rae by following her on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Leonice (Leo) Brown-Young Jr

    Partner & Co-Founder 

    Co-Founder and partner in starting MoonRift Entertainment, LLC, Brown-Young Jr inspires and innovates by re-imagining the future. MoonRift Entertainment is an entertainment company with the mission o change the game by building a foundation for success. The business curates content across a variety of forms, including video games, films, and novels. 

    Always pushing the box, MoonRift Entertainment continues to reflect the same values of its co-founder. Brown-Young Jr is co-founder of Young Dreamers United, which strives to pave the way for success for middle school students in the San Diego area in California. 

    Brown-Young Jr studied with us to earn his MFA in Game Design 2021. You can learn more about MoonRift’s latest content on Instagram, or follow Young-Brown Jr on LinkedIn

    Thandiwe Mlauli

    Founder & CEO 

    Founder & CEO of Studio Yez, Mlauli created her studio to illuminate and capture hearts at home and around the world. Studio Yezi is a development and animation studio dedicated to creating and telling stories made for people of color and the black community. Studio Yezi equalizes the playing field for black animators by creating content opportunities. Mlauli studied producing for film and TV as well as screenwriting with us back in 2015. 

    Learn the latest news about Studio Yez and updates from Thandiwe Mlauli on Instagram and LinkedIn

    Arthur Hylton (a.k.a. Nestlè Snipes)

    Photographer & Visual Artist

    Born & Raised In East Flatbush Brooklyn, Arthur goes by the professional name, Nestlè Snipes. Snipes founded Snipes Studios in order to create imagery that models his passion and visual influences. Snipes considers himself a muse-based photographer and takes inspiration from other professionals like Helmut Newton, Yves Klein, and Daido Moriyama. 

    Snipes focuses his imagery around muses of color and processes his photos as little as possible to ensure the models are depicted as realistically as possible. Snipes prides his craft around creating art that forces audiences to see the world as it “really is” and not “as they want it to be” by creating work that showcases models of color into scenes that typically feature light-skinned models. 

    Snipes studied photography with us back in 2017. You can follow Snipes’ work by following him on Instagram or LinkedIn.

    Donald (EAD) Eferere

    Creative Director & Digital Content Creator

    Founder and Creative Director of RDCYF Brand, Eferere has a wide array of filmmaking and content creation within the entertainment industry. RDCYF Brand is an award-winning production company and agency founded in 2019. Based in NYC, the agency has produced a variety of content. Eferere brings to the agency his own film in film direction, music videos, editing, video color grading, and general content development. 

    Eferere studied filmmaking with us back in 2018. You can keep tabs on Eferere on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Nicole “Soul” Creary 

    CEO & Executive Director 

    Experienced entrepreneur and CEO of Soul2Soulz, Nicole “Soul” Creary has a professional history of working for nonprofits doing social work as well as for film and education organizations. 

    Soul2Soulz’s mission is to create connections that build positive relationships. The organization aims to develop communities where youth, families, and all people, reach their fullest potential. Creary has professional strengths in organizing grassroots initiatives and coalitions, philanthropy, and community organizing. 

    Creary studied filmmaking with us back in 2018. You can keep tabs on her work and the great work of Soul2Soulz on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Like all of the alumni we’ve noted here, there are many other NYFA alumni with no shortage of drive to share their voice through business acumen or support for the black community. Continue to raise the bar by supporting Black-owned businesses even beyond this month. 

    If you’re an NYFA alum with a story to tell, please share it with us by submitting your NYFA Alumni Success Story

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    August 19, 2021 • Alumni Events, Diversity, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 982

  • NYFA Welcomes Producer Hilary Shor to The Q&A-List Series

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with producer Hilary Shor to discuss her work as an executive producer on the Oscar-nominated film The United States vs. Billie Holiday with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Hilary Shor is a producer who has worked on multiple critically acclaimed films including Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. Shor has had a longstanding relationship with Oscar & Emmy nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious, Empire), and has worked with him as producer/executive producer on The United States vs. Billie HolidayThe Butler with Oprah Winfrey, Forrest Whitaker, Lenny Kravitz, and The Paperboy starring Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron. She has also served as an executive producer on Eye of The Beholder, starring Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd.

    Hilary Shor (Left) and Tova Laiter (Right) for NYFA’s Q&A-List Series

    One of Shor’s first big productions, Children of Men, came to be after Shor optioned the book and held on for nine years. It was a testament to her ability to see a story worthy of being made and betting on the talent. It paid off when the-now-Academy Award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón directed the film and went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards.

    Hilary Shor (Right) on set of Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy”

    Shor has also had a longstanding relationship with her frequent collaborator and friend of 30 years Lee Daniels. “Back when we were both agents, [Daniels] would always try to sign my clients behind my back,” joked Shor. Eventually, Shor and Daniels began working together on his films, noting their shared love of humor on set, for Daniels’ films The Butler, The Paperboy, and now The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

    “It’s the first music-driven film I have worked on and it was really wonderful to see the period come alive,” Shor shared about working on The United States vs. Billie Holiday. “There’s such a richness. It was really wonderful to gather this extraordinary cast including the incredible Andry Day, who is nominated for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars.”

    “Emily in Paris” star Lily Collins (Left) and Hilary Shor (Right)

    Laiter also commented on Shor’s ability to focus on people, remained a trusted friend among Hollywood’s top talent including Nicole Kidman, Lily Collins, Charlie Hunnam, and more. “My role as a producer is to protect the environment [on set]. Talent instinctively knows who is a safe resource. I love them [the actors] and I really see them. When I work on a film, I want the actors to know I am really there for them and I’m in their corner.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Hilary Shor for sharing her time and invaluable knowledge of the producing world with NYFA students and alumni and showing students that, no matter how high you climb in the business, taking your ego out of the equation will always get you farther.

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    April 13, 2021 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1369

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

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

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

    NYFA alum Irene Mendez

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

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

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

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

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

    Irene Mendez on set

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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  • NYFA Presents: The Rock The Vote Rally 2020

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    A rousing group of New York Film Academy students, faculty, and staff from all three campuses (New York, Los Angeles, and South Beach) participated in a Rock the Vote Virtual Rally yesterday. The Rally included special guest, Tony-nominated actor Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s RENT, Les Misérables, The Rocky Horror Show ), who shared stories of her immigrant family background, becoming a U.S citizen, and the imperative to vote. 

    NYFA Producing alum Lisa Cortes (producer of the Academy Award-winning Precious, recent Emmy Award-winner for The Apollo, and producer/co-director of the just-released Stacey Abrams documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy) spoke of the importance of voting in light of the long history of voter suppression in the U.S. In the making of All In: The Fight For Democracy during the COVID pandemic, Cortes talked about how her NYFA Producing education proved so valuable in pulling together the project during such challenging times. Attendees were treated to a special viewing of the All In trailer and a special musical clip of Janelle Monae performing the closing title song from the film. 

    Also joining via specially recorded video clips was Nikki Renée Daniels from “Hamilton” and Shoshana Bean from “Wicked”,  A special “Get Out The Vote” tribute by Lin Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton capped the Rally. 

    The event was co-produced by NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman and Chair of the Musical Theatre Department, Kristy Cates. 

    “Our sincerest hope was not only to invigorate the NYFA community to become excited about and committed to voting, but to inspire everyone in attendance to reach out to their circles and do the same.” – Kristy Cates

    NYFA’s Rock The Vote efforts include a Zoom room every Tuesday from 1 p.m. ET – 4 p.m. ET that offers voter registration and mail-in ballot assistance for NYFA students, faculty, and staff from all three campuses. Please stop in and check your registration, apply for absentee ballots, etc. Further information is available on the NYFA Voter Resources page.

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

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

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

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

    Studio Yezi, founded by NYFA Producing alum Thandiwe Mlauli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    September 24, 2020 • International Diversity, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1430

  • New York Film Academy Producing Alum Alex Lebovici Produces ‘Bill & Ted Face The Music’

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    One of the long-anticipated films of the summer, Bill & Ted Face The Music, starring Keanu Reeves (John Wick) and Alex Winter (The Lost Boys) was released everywhere on VOD and in select cinemas on August 28, 2020, with NYFA alum Alex Lebovici as a producer.

    The free-spirited and beloved characters Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) from the original films Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), make their epic comeback in the Bill & Ted series’ biggest film yet, which has been hailed by critics and is being called a “Surprise Summer Hit.”

    Film poster for ‘Bill & Ted Face The Music’ (Produced by Alex Lebovici)

    The long-awaited film was originally shot in 2019 and was slated for a full theatrical release. Like many indie films and blockbusters alike, the film opted for VOD and limited theatrical release due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    On the weekend of its release, it was the top-rented film on FandangoNow, Apple TV, the iTunes Store, and Google Play. Fandango also announced that despite being released for only four days, the film held the most popular spot on their most rented list for the month of August.

    NYFA producing alum Alex Lebovici at a NYFA Q&A event

    Lebovici, who produced the film, posted photos from the production on his Instagram and recalled how the film was such “a blast” to make. “I can’t believe it,” he shared. “This was by far the most challenging experience of my life but I’m blessed to have an amazing family who supported me through it all.”

    Lebovici was also an executive producer on The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019), Academy Award-nominated Denzel Washington drama, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), Mom and Dad (2017), Who We Are Now (2017), and The Clapper (2017). Lebovici will be an executive-producer for King Fury 2 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Fassbender, which is currently in post-production.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate the Producing alum on his latest success with the release of Bill & Ted Face The Music, and looks forward to hearing more about the upcoming release of King Fury 2.

    “Be excellent to each other.” 

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    September 22, 2020 • Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 938

  • Hans Augustave Unveils New, Powerful Short Film ‘Before I Knew’

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    “This was before I felt the need to make up for my imposing stature and hue by developing an overly gentle and inviting persona.

    This was before George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castille, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice…”

    This is before I knew I was Black.”

    These statements and more are included in Hans Augustave’s latest short film Before I Knew, a visual poem that he wrote, directed, produced, and appeared in. 

    The Haitian-American filmmaker attended NYFA’s One Year Conservatory Program in Producing and then became a digital video producer for BLUR, a tech startup with an in-house production team. There, he directed, shot, and edited dozens of ads for the digital space. He then moved to the independent film world where he currently works as an Assistant Director. 

    Also a Dj (DJ Hanzi), Augustave’s storytelling journey has taken him from the art of spoken word, to the stage with his one-man show The Lost and Found and now to the screen with his latest project Before I Knew; a visual poem depicting the subtle and not so subtle ways Black men come to the realization that they are seen as less than human. 

    While working on the film, Augustave was introduced to sound mixer Edward Morris II, who worked on Before I Knew. After having started to mix the sound, Augustave found out that Morris’ cousin was Elijah McClain, a young Black man who was killed by the police and whose story broke to the media when Before I Knew was in post-production.

    Augustave is also co-producer on a documentary feature film The Forgotten Occupation  which examines the United States’ occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 and the  negative impacts on Haiti’s current political climate. 

    As DJ Hanzi, Augustave founded the popular and growing sober-curious dance party, Reprieve. “It’s part Funk, part House, part Pride, very Black and ALL Love,” shared Augustave. “It’s defying the misconception that no booze & no drugs = no fun.” 

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Hans Augustave on his powerful short film Before I Knew and encourages readers to watch and have their own discussions about the short film. 

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    September 18, 2020 • Diversity, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1215

  • Assembly Line Entertainment Founder & NYFA Producing Alum Janek Ambros Shares Exciting Slate of Upcoming Projects and Collaborations with Fellow Producing Alum Robbie Leacock

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    After graduation, it’s straight to set for many alumni; but for others, it means a new era of innovation injected into the film industry by bringing in new, incredible stories to new audiences. MFA Producing alum Janek Ambros decided to do just that by starting up his own international production company, Assembly Line Entertainment, which has already had films appear in festivals all over the world including Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

    “When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I took a production company course at NYFA,” recalled Ambros. “It was in that class where I created the company logo, and the type of company I’d want (heavily inspired by American Zoetrope). Seven years later, we’re on a very similar path that was outlined in class – starting with shorts and moving on to high-end festivals like Sundance and TIFF, with more development focused on projects we make from the ground up. It’s testament to NYFA’s goal of learning by doing.”

    Janek Ambros (Right) at TIFF for Assembly Line Pictures’ ‘Human Capital’

    Assembly Line Entertainment already boasts an impressive filmography, including 10,000 Saints (Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld), Human Capital (Maya Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Alex Wolff), and documentary Imminent Threat (Dir. Janek Ambros), among others. 

    “We’re excited to be working on a new large slate of movies going into 2021 that we’re producing with our new Head of Production, Kahlilah King,” shared Ambros. “From traditional narratives to social impact docu-series, we [Assembly Line Entertainment] have many projects that are adapting to the ever-changing landscape of distribution.”

    Alex Wolff (Left) and Maya Hawke (Right) in ‘Human Capital’ (Photo Courtesy of Assembly Line Entertainment)

    Some of those upcoming projects slated for release include Mondo Hollywoodland (Dir. Janek Ambros), animated political satire First New Nation, an untitled birthing docu-series (Written by Khaliah King), and Sixties, a digital campaign on social media that features 60-second films from countries all over the world to highlight new developing directors.

    Another upcoming project is feature film Hey, Johnny, directed by Ambros and produced by fellow NYFA Producing alum Robbie Leacock, who previously also produced Imminent Threat, serves as the executive producer the Sixties project, and is writing and producing upcoming mockumentary series The Flat Tyres for Assembly Line Entertainment. 

    Robbie Leacock (Left) on set of ‘The Flat Tyres’ (Photo Courtesy of Assembly Line Entertainment)

    After graduating from NYFA, Leacock started at Potboiler Productions as a producer’s assistant before moving up to assistant producer. He later served as an associate producer on Netflix’s The Red Sea Diving Resort before returning to the U.S. to join producing partner Janek Ambros at Assembly Line Entertainment. “We were always told that the relationships you build at film school are the ones that will last throughout your career, and this proved to be so true,” revealed Leacock. “We now have our first TV series in the works (The Flat Tyres), a satirical comedy about a gang of hijackers from the townships, for which we are currently shooting on location in Cape Town, South Africa.”

    With a slate of upcoming projects and new opportunities for Ambros’ production company, 2021 is set to be the biggest year yet for Assembly Line Entertainment and the NYFA alumni, who are working to create character-driven projects for audiences that reflect modern society.

    Assembly Line Pictures Founder Janek Ambros

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Alumni Janek Ambros and Robbie Leacock on their upcoming projects with Assembly Line Entertainment and looks forward to hearing about new projects as they develop. 

    NYFA also encourages readers to check out Assembly Line Entertainment’s Instagram account, where their project Sixties will officially be launched. For a full list of the company’s productions, click here.

    Assembly Line Entertainment
    Founder: Janek Ambros
    Producer: Robbie Leacock

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  • NYFA Documentary & Producing Departments Welcome Film Producer Christopher Leggett Who Encourages Developing Tangible Skills & Saying “Yes”

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    This summer, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure of hosting a live video Q&A with the talented Producer Christopher Leggett to discuss his current success with multiple films and projects in recent distribution, including Ask Dr. Ruth, Mike Wallace is Here and Honey Boy, Shia LaBeouf’s award winning, screenwriting premiere.

    Producer Christopher Leggett, along with Rafael Marmor, is a controlling partner at Delirio Films, a production company with a long list of award-winning films, both documentary and narrative, and several compelling non-fiction television series on platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, The History Channel and NBC, to name a few.

    NYFA instructors Sanora Bartels (Top Left) and Roberta Colangelo (Top Right) with Christopher Leggett

    The Q&A was conducted by Los Angeles Chairs of the Documentary and Producing Departments, Sanora Bartels and Roberta (Robi) Colangelo, respectively. They were excited to speak with the producer, who has a very active and successful record with both documentary (where he started) and narrative filmmaking; his credits are a testament to the importance of storytelling, regardless of genre.

    The discussion focused on how to make the transition from film student to filmmaking professional and the most important aspects of a successful professional career. Leggett was generous with his time and inspiring with his answers.

    His advice to students in film school was to work on their tangible skill sets and noted that, for him, that includes editing: “I was a swimmer in college…so I had a little bit of the athlete mentality of just constantly doing the work was really important right out of school.” He went on to say that while you’ll have a lot of uncreative, “grunt work” to perform, “everything is a stepping-stone at that level.”

    Leggett (Far right) on a press junket for ‘Ask Dr. Ruth’

    Once he mastered the technical level of the work and had something tangible on his resume, he knew he had to move on from the secure job and get himself out into the world networking in order to use his storytelling skills picked up in school. He also acknowledged the importance of internships during school, which allowed him to maintain professional relationships that he would reconnect with after getting some experience under his belt.

    He also used his connections in the competitive swim world to differentiate himself as a filmmaker. In other words, he understood that he needed unique access to a world outside of filmmaking in order to tell stories that he was uniquely qualified to tell. This allowed him to pitch an idea to NBC, get hired and move up the rungs of the ladder at NBC Universal where he worked on Against the Tide and began cutting his teeth as a producer.

    Of his time at NBC, Leggett reveals that “when you’re in an organization like that, there are a lot of boundaries… your job goes from here to here [hands about six inches apart]…and I think good people are constantly pushing at it to try to get more responsibility.”

    This desire for more responsibility caused Leggett to develop his own project, The Short Game. He admitted that he did this while employed by NBC and because golf was not yet an Olympic sport, it did not pose a conflict of interest and he was able to see it through. He called it his “side hustle.”

    Leggett (Left) at New York premiere of ‘Mike Wallace is Here’

    His practicality and go-getter attitude spills into his philosophy around “luck,” which he believes is presented as an opportunity, but you have to say yes. “I learned early in my career not to be scared that I don’t know what I’m doing. So luck happens when you say yes.”

    Talking to him about his producing philosophy led to an interesting discussion around titles versus ego versus the very real job of the producer, Leggett shared: “The Producer’s role I feel is so vast,” he explained. “You are an essential person to have birthed this project into the world.”

    With this, he shared how he transitioned from documentary to narrative filmmaking, something many find difficult, but his message was all about the work and he stressed the importance of business relationships built on trust and the ability to speak the same “language.” He eventually created Delirio Films based on relationships and the desire to help filmmakers evolve.

    Alma Har’el (Left) with Christopher Leggett at the Tribeca Film Festival

    Because Leggett is already pushing the boundaries of budgets on his documentaries, transitioning to traditional scripted narrative filmmaking came naturally. He chose to produce Honey Boy based on a past relationship with Alma Har’el and, again, he stressed the importance of trust and their mutual belief that they were “soldiers of cinema” who get things done.

    When asked how he chooses the artists on his team and how he defines which relationships are important to develop, he had this to say:

    “I do think that a lot of the directors that I respond to have strong opinions, are collaborative but have strong opinions! I’m not going to push them over. They have their take and I can try to poke holes through their take, and they will come up with solutions, not put up walls.”

    Leggett also shared additional advice to grow and develop your skills and become a talented professional:

    “I said yes to a lot of things and then I googled later what I said yes to….you learn so much by just being in it. You may not want to be an editor but learn it. You [as a student] have a great curriculum that leads up to a thesis film. Embrace that and try to learn every sphere when you’re doing the thesis film. You’re going to have so many more tangible skills.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Christopher Leggett for sharing his time and expertise with NYFA students and guests on developing tangible skills and saying “yes” to projects and opportunities to be a great filmmaker and producer.

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    August 26, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1169

  • NYFA South Beach Instructor Peter Baloff Holds Virtual Q&A with Emmy Award-Winning Producer and Director Michael Pressman

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    We’re collaborative artists. Our creative process involves working face to face and hand to hand, finding common objectives, and making it all happen. As an instructor at NYFA South Beach during this pandemic, I miss the personal connection with my students and I know my students miss the social and professional interactions with their fellow students. We all miss being there.

    Peter Baloff (Left) holds virtual Q&A with Michael Pressman (Right)

    I keep looking for silver linings in this time of pandemic. I’m upgrading my landscaping, enjoying my wife’s new-found love of baking, reading more and catching up on some pretty good movies and TV shows. But it’s been hard finding silver linings teaching my students on Zoom. But this week, at long last, a silver lining appeared on Zoom, which I’d like to share with you here.

    For the past few years I’ve wanted to invite guest artists to our South Beach campus – accomplished actors, directors, producers, casting directors, cinematographers, so many other journeymen filmmakers with whom I’ve worked over the course of thirty years writing, producing and directing in Los Angeles. 

    As it turns out, Zoom opened the door for my first guest artist invitation. For those who attended, there’s no doubt a good time was had by all – by not only our South Beach students, but all students across NYFA’s campuses. 

    Michael Pressman (Right) on set with Richard Pryor for ‘Some Kind of Hero’

    Michael Pressman directed his first feature film when he was only 26 and went on to direct quite a few big studio hits, including Dr. Detroit and Some Kind of Hero, starring Richard Pryor. He ventured into television, directing TV movies and dozens of episodes of quality TV shows, such as Law and Order, Grey’s Anatomy, The Guardian, and Sneaky Pete. As an Executive Producer, Michael became an experienced “Show Runner,” winning two Emmys for the acclaimed series, Picket Fences. His IMDB speaks for itself. 

    A natural story-teller, Michael regaled us with tales of working with famous actors, dealing with the studio system, casting, getting the most out of collaborating artists, and coping with the ever-changing filmmaking technology. He advised our students on breaking into the business and offer strategies for success. 

    I’m convinced the intimate Zoom platform, allowing Michael and I to talk to each other like old friends, was an ideal and more comfortable format for Michael – far better, I believe than a staged event before a live audience. I’m told by those who watched it, the Zoom meeting with Michael Pressman resembled a late-night talk show, as entertaining as it was informative. 

    Let’s all keep looking for those silver linings, knowing we’ll get together in person very soon.

    For more information on our NYFA South Beach programs, please contact  southbeach@nyfa.edu or check out our website here.

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    July 10, 2020 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing, South Beach • Views: 1475