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  • New York Film Academy Instructors Shoot “The Sisters Karras” And Enter Post-Production

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    Two estranged half-sisters, a will reading, a valuable antique rug, and a mysterious stranger. 

    NYFA Acting for Film and Filmmaking instructor Micah Stathis’ latest film, The Sisters Karras, has deep roots within the NYFA community. With Stathis’ SK Deli Market Productions at the helm of the production, the film also includes New York campus instructors Dan Rodriguez, Dennis Green, and Andy Mendez among the film’s cast and crew.

    Poster for “The Sisters Karras”

    The film, shot last Summer in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is an original feature written, directed, and starring Stathis. NYFA teaching assistant for Acting for Film Dan Rodriguez served as the film’s director of photography, with NYFA’s Post-Production Supervisor, Andy Mendez, serving as the main editor of the film. Joining Stathis in the cast is NYFA screenwriting instructor Dennis Green.

    Photo courtesy of Micah Stathis

    The shoot itself proved challenging for the crew as safety took precedent with the filming during the pandemic. 

    “It was very stressful shooting during the pandemic,” explained Stathis. “We were a SAG registered production, so the COVID protocols were very strict and required a lot of additional planning and precautions. Not to mention, it’s really hot shooting in New York in August…especially while having to wear masks!”

    With the production wrapped, The Sisters Karras now enters the post-production phase. Like many filmmakers know, shooting the film is half the battle, with a huge part of the filmmaking process dedicated to putting all the finishing touches on the project and getting the film out in the public eye.

    Dan Rodriguez (Left) and Micah Stathis (Right)

    “I hope that audiences enjoy the tragicomic tone and nature of the film. I hope audiences find the story of the two sisters captivating, funny, and stressful but ultimately, relatable,” shared Stathis.

    Photo courtesy of Micah Stathis

    “We are definitely aiming for a festival run with an eye towards sales and distribution. We have already been in dialogue with a few distribution companies who are waiting for the film to be ready. We do not want to rush the post-production process and want to make sure the film is, ultimately, as good as it can possibly be. That’s why we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign specifically for post-production.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates the instructors who banded together to create a feature film safely in the middle of the pandemic. To learn more about The Sisters Karras, you can visit the film’s Kickstarter page by clicking here.

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    April 2, 2021 • Acting, Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 14617

  • Akinola Davies Jr. Awarded Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance For Film “Lizard”

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Akinola Davies Jr. has won big at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize for his film Lizard.

    Sundance announcement of “Lizard” winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize

    The film was written by Davies and his brother Wale Davies, and was backed by BBC Film and producer Rachel Dargavel. Lizard follows an eight-year-old girl, Juwon, who has the ability to sense danger. After getting ejected from a Sunday school service, Juwon witnesses the underbelly in and around a Mega Church in Lagos, Nigeria. In addition to the Sundance win, the film was also nominated for an ALFS Award by the London Critics Circle Film Awards.

    Film poster for “Lizard”

    Davies has previously made short films Zazzau and Unity Is Strength. The UK-Nigerian filmmaker is known for his exploration of themes of community, race, spirituality, identity, and gender. Ultimately, through his work in film and music videos, Davies aims to navigate the collision of both colonial and imperial tradition, whilst advocating a return to indigenous narratives. His next slated project will be sci-fi film X Us.

    NYFA alum Akinola Davies Jr.

    “I’m overwhelmed and as much as I’d love to gloat, filmmaking is really crazy hard,” shared Davies on his Instagram after the winners were announced in a virtual ceremony. “Big love to all those who were part of the shorts program – it’s an honour to be amongst such brilliant films. I have to say this award is really for the whole cast and crew who worked so hard and committed their all to this little film pre and during a global pandemic. I’m so proud this was made in Lagos by the many hands that make up the beautiful people of Nigeria.”

    To view the full list of Sundance Film Festival winners, click here.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Akinola Davies Jr. on his important Grand Jury win at Sundance for his short film Lizard and looks forward to seeing the film’s impact and Davies’ upcoming projects.

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  • NYFA Alum Boise Esquerra’s “Blackwater” Screens at 2021 Slamdance Film Festival

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    Known both as a festival “by filmmakers, for filmmakers” and for its Oscar-qualifying short film awards, the Slamdance Film Festival has long been a mecca for emerging independent directors. This year NYFA alum Boise Esquerra, a graduate of the Los Angeles campus’s MFA Filmmaking and MFA Screenwriting programs, will be right in the middle of the action when his episodic film Blackwater screens in the virtual festival February 12 – 25, 2021. 

    In the days leading up to the festival Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, caught up with Boise to talk about the personal experience that inspired his series and the importance of filmmakers from diverse backgrounds telling their own stories.

    NYFA alum Boise Esquerra

    Cricket Rumley (CR): Hi, Boise! Congratulations on getting into Slamdance! Tell us a little about yourself.

    Boise Esquerra (BE): I’d be happy to. I am a Native (Hopi) and Mexican American filmmaker enrolled in the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Parker, AZ. I am a recent graduate of the New York Film Academy (MFA Screenwriting) and hold a BA in Digital Filmmaking and Video Production and an additional MFA in Filmmaking from NYFA. I love storytelling, creating, and everything that entails filmmaking from start to finish. Currently, I reside here in lovely Burbank, CA, and am represented by Sandra Avila at Inclusion Management.

    CR: Tell us about your film. What is it about and where does it take place?   

    BE: Blackwater is an episodic pilot about Native American country music star Birdie Blackwater whose career is fizzling due to excessive drinking that began 10 years ago. Upon moving back to her home reservation, barely clinging onto what little dignity she has left, Birdie is arrested for a barrage of drunken charges and lashing out at tribal police officers during a late-night performance. The next day, tribal courts order Birdie to complete 180 days of wellness therapy and intense probation or face two years in prison. Birdie now finds herself contending each week with a group of offbeat individuals who each possess their own…“unique” mental limitations. The story takes place on a fictional Native American reservation call Red Rock. 

    CR: Sounds very powerful. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this story? 

    BE: The inspiration for Blackwater came about in September of 2018… a tough experience. I had started a new class (Transmedia) at the New York Film Academy in Burbank, CA. The ultimate goal of the class: develop, write, and shoot a web series pilot. During the first half of the six-month course, I was given the news that my older brother Brandon had developed cirrhosis of the liver to such a serious extent that he would need a liver transplant. My brother had gotten this condition from depression and extreme alcoholism after the death of our mother in 2015. The additional news I would receive from him is that he would be opting for hospice care and wanted to just go peacefully with family for the remainder of his time. That news, to say the least, was devastating. 

    Shortly after his funeral, I returned to my Transmedia class. The project I had been working on up to that point was scrapped. I wanted to write something I was familiar with. I had felt my brother in my heart moving me to lean into all that I had experienced with drug addiction and dependency. I also wanted to heal from losing him to alcoholism. Thus, I put forward a new proposal to my instructors, which was Blackwater

    CR: Boise, I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain your family must have experienced. It’s truly inspiring how you were able to transform your personal tragedy into a meaningful story, and so quickly. 

    What was it like to direct the film?

    BE: My favorite experience directing Blackwater was working with such a phenomenal cast and crew who brought their A-game to each and every scene both on and off-screen. I mean, this was a set from heaven, and pulling off a thirteen-page script in just one day with minimal time, a skeleton crew, and several different scenes went by like clockwork. Heck, we even had an hour to spare after the whole thing was over! Directing that day was one of the best experiences I ever had on set.

    Kyla Garcia as Birdie Blackwater (“Blackwater”)

    CR: You directed a thirteen-page script in one day? Wow! Dare I ask what was the most challenging thing about making the film? 

    BE: It’s crazy because you usually are anticipating challenges that may or may not arise on the day of production, and they did of course, but they were minor and quickly remedied. No. The challenges here were definitely in the final days leading up to production. You would think that getting a simple location (an empty room) for the group scene would be easy-peasy in LA, but when you’re working with a shoestring budget, a simple task all of a sudden becomes a near impossibility. And that was the case up until the last week of location scouting. We finally locked our location, which was an old American Legion post here in Burbank. It was great because they had everything we needed for each scene! 

    The other difficult part was not in pre-production or production, but actually editing. Here I am, dealing with footage of numerous great takes from each actor/actress and reviewing them over and over. Now, you have to realize, that when you’re dealing with high caliber talent as we had, each throwing you grade-A performances with each take, it is extremely hard to pick the right one! This was mainly the case with our main character, Birdie Blackwater, portrayed by Kyla Garcia. What she brought was gold, I tell ya…GOLD. So for her, sorting through the stuff she gave us and settling on certain clips was by itself a two-month process. Keep an eye on Kyla, SHE IS AMAZING!

    CR: It’s true – Kyla is downright riveting to watch. Besides the editing, what did you learn while making this film?  

    BE: To say I didn’t learn much would be a “shooting myself in the foot” moment and never being able to walk right again, hahaha. I learned a hell of a lot. But I’ll narrow it down to one thing above others, and that was giving my talent the freedom they needed to experiment with their characters and craft on set. There was a lot of ad-libbing, and the more I stepped back and let them have at it, the more they gave. Their performances were elevated, and aside from the few adjustments I gave every now and then, I just kept my mouth shut and steered the ship. I believe this is extremely important because, by the end of any script, these people are going to be the ones who embody this person you wrote, and ultimately bring them to life – and not only the talent, but the entire crew as well. 

    As a director, I realized that you can only hold onto the material for so long before giving it up. You must trust your talent and pass the baton you have and be the coach they need, guiding them from the sideline. Hopefully, if you put in the hard work needed in pre-production and cast the film right, the process will fully evolve on its own. You only need to sit back and enjoy the show at that point. 

    CR: Can you talk about the development process for this pilot and the class you developed it in? 

    BE: Given I had changed my proposal during the six-month Transmedia course, development for Blackwater was done in a three-month period, which is not much time. But…it came very easily to me. The vision for it was clear, so it was really a matter of honing in on what was already in my head. I knew I wanted to do something that was set in a Native American world, and I completely cast with Indigenous talent. This was something I have always wanted to do, I just felt I hadn’t honed in on my craft enough back then. But now it was different. I felt confident enough to give it a try. It was a matter of finding the right, tone, cast, and overall theme, which it turned out to have many. 

    CR: Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who really helped or inspired you?  

    BE: One of the coolest things about the Transmedia 1 & 2 courses at NYFA were instructors Jenni Powell and Chris Modoono. Not only were they extremely wise and easy to talk to, but their guidance was priceless as they were able to get me from concept to a finished pilot. I can’t stress enough about the creative freedom Jenni and Chris gave us in class. I really owe the experience and opportunity to them and to NYFA. 

    CR: That is so cool. You know every teacher’s dream is to inspire and elevate students at the level you just described. 

    Let’s talk about the amazing festival run you’re having with Blackwater.  

    BE: Blackwater has garnered twenty festival selections, five of those being the Austin Film Festival, Slamdance, Nashville Film Festival, Hollyshorts, and Cinequest Film and VR Festival. 

    CR: That is any filmmaker’s dream list! So what are you looking forward to with Slamdance? 

    BE: I hope to get as much positive attention as possible and of course find a potential buyer or investor for continued production. Native American content and storytelling are so important in this day and age — and extremely hard to find. Slamdance is one of those benchmark experiences you constantly take a step back and go “Wow, I did something really cool here” and realize you’re on the right path. I also hope to network virtually and meet many of the talented filmmakers at this year’s festival! 

    Poster for “Blackwater” pilot

    CR: You will definitely have some great opportunities there. Do you have any advice for recent graduates making their way into the professional world?  

    BE: I would say be consistent, persistent, and honest in your work and what it is exactly you want for your future. Filmmaking and its many crafts are a life long pursuit. Pursuing it should make you happy, grateful, and full of good spirit to have such a calling. If it doesn’t, maybe take a step back and re-evaluate. Focus on what you want, whether that is screenwriting, directing (or both), and constantly sharpen your craft and talents in that world every day in some shape or form. Look to each day as an opportunity to move towards that ultimate goal, and eventually one day…you’ll find yourself there. But don’t forget to have fun and relax along the way. Be happy. 

    CR: Those are very wise words. And speaking of wise words, let’s talk about these trying times we live in today. Do you want to share any thoughts about the importance of film in the lives of humans living right now? 

    BE: Well, if I do share anything, it’ll be about the importance of diverse inclusion in today’s film industry and breaking the current mold at hand. And I am speaking specifically to Native American inclusion. Native Americans are perhaps the most underrepresented culture in the film and television industry right now in terms of film and television content, screenwriters, directors, and leading talent. We as Native Americans have been fighting an extremely uphill battle in finding large, fair platforms or opportunities to tell “our own stories,” tell our own history, and voice our own point of view. Since the dawn of cinema, history has been flat-out brutal in our depiction, reducing us to “elk skin and feathers,” mascots, savages, and whatever else the multitude of history books will have you believe. We as a people, as a culture, need to be allowed to write and depict our own stories, our own views, and our own history. Blackwater is one such example out of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States. The time for diverse inclusion is now, and Hollywood needs to comply accordingly. 

    CR: The time is definitely now, and I’m so happy that you and your work are a solution to this lack of diversity in Hollywood.

    So how we can watch your film during Slamdance and see your Q&A? 

    BE: Slamdance is an online format this year, meaning anyone with a computer or smart TV can access it for only ten bucks. Yes… $10. We’re talking the crème of the crop here, people! Although the official schedule of events isn’t out yet, getting your pass now will ensure you do not miss a single screening. All films will be viewable throughout the festival from February 12th – 25th

    Blackwater will be screening in the “Episodes” block with many other awesome filmmakers and their films, and you will also be able to watch our Q&A as a bonus feature. Go to www.slamdance.com now for your ticket! 

    CR: Thanks for stopping by, Boise. Congratulations and best of luck!

    [NOTE: NYFA students can get their festival passes for $5 by using their NYFA email address].

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    February 11, 2021 • Diversity, Entertainment News, Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1617

  • Filmmaking Alum Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt Attached as Writer For Facebook Watch’s “Woman in The Book” Animated Horror Series

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    Screenwriter and Director Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt grew up in Spain with her musician parents and a grandfather, who directed TV and theater for many years. Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, Gonzalez Szigriszt explored the theater world, eventually finding her way to film and television. From packing her bags in 2011 to study at New York Film Academy to pursuing multiple projects years later, the NYFA alum has now bagged the writing gig for Facebook Watch’s animated horror series Woman in The Book.

    After graduating from NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program in Los Angeles, Gonzalez Szigriszt scored internships in the development departments of Bold Films (Drive, Whiplash, Nightcrawler) and Vendôme Pictures (Source Code, Larry Crowne, What Happened to Monday?). “It was after reading many scripts and writing coverage for the companies that I really fell in love with screenwriting,” gushed Gonzalez Szigriszt. “I wrote my first TV series and got the attention of a manager, which is how I got my first project optioned.”

    After developing more material over the course of a few years, Gonzalez Szigriszt got signed by one of the largest talent agencies in the world, Agency for the Performing Arts (APA). “My agent did a great job sending my scripts out and he got me some good general meetings with production companies,” she shares. “Now I am working on several projects with people that I have admired for so long.”

    She recently penned the first animated horror drama for Facebook Watch (from Crypt TV) called Woman in The Book. “This was an open writing assignment. So, I was going for the job as did many other writers and I was asked to come up with a take on the concept the company had developed and pitch it,” she recalls. “I ended up getting the gig! The show stars Diane Guerrero (DC’s Doom Patrol and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black). It is a LatinX show that uses both English and Spanish and follows three estranged siblings who reunite at an aging Mexican hacienda to discuss their inheritance, but they inadvertently unleash a book-bound horror that has plagued their family for generations. I can’t tell much more as the project has not come out yet. It is set to be released on Facebook Watch some time by the end of next year.”

    Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt

    The alum also has a science fiction TV series coming soon that was just bought by an unnamed big studio with Gonzalez Szigriszt, herself, attached as an executive producer alongside the creators and executive producers of Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. She also has an original sci-fi TV series in the pipeline with producer Lloyd Levin (Hellboy, Watchmen, Lara Croft series), and Gonzalez Szigriszt will also be co-directing a feature film she wrote called Turn. As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she is developing an epic sci-fi animated series with “one of the most amazing Executive Producers in the TV animation world” and is developing a couple of additional projects in Spain

    It’s safe to say that she is booked and busy. Reflecting on all the events leading up to this point in her life, Gonzalez Szigriszt reveals that NYFA is one of the reasons why she was quick to navigate the film business.

    “What NYFA offers, that most of the other film schools don’t, is a hands-on approach to filmmaking. The fast-paced environment (I remember shooting at least one short movie or scene a week), the easy access to equipment and facilities… It all helped classmates and me improve our skills by doing it, not just dreaming it. Having to meet so many deadlines, working fast but without sacrificing any quality…that strengthened the work ethic I apply to any of my projects today.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt for her new writing credit for Facebook Watch’s Woman in The Book and looks forward to the news and releases of her upcoming film and television projects.

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    January 29, 2021 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1618

  • NYFA Screenwriting Alum Jon Mann on New Show “Pub Crawl” and Working in the Canadian Film Industry

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    Canadian native Jon Mann grew up with a love of movies and writing. Now Mann is living the best of both worlds as a screenwriter and director, working on projects like his latest television series Pub Crawl, released this November on Bell TV in Canada.

    I love movies. I read a lot as a kid, and for a while wanted to be a novelist,” shares Mann, “but even at that time, my goal was always to have one of my books be turned into a movie, so one day I figured I should cut out the middle man and become a screenwriter.”

    Photo courtesy of Jon Mann

    Mann, who graduated from NYFA’S 1-Year Screenwriting program in 2013, shares that being involved closely in the Canadian film industry has been a very positive experience, having worked on projects in his home country and in 2018 winning the National Screen Insitute’s Totally Television program with production partner, Rob Ramsay, for their pilot Wolfville.

    “It’s been interesting to also see the way my home province has handled COVID (the Atlantic Bubble, as it’s known). Our industry has boomed because it is so safe here right now compared to, literally, anywhere’s else,” says Mann. “Even last summer, it really picked up. The Lighthouse was filmed here a couple of summer’s ago, Adrien Brody is currently filming a miniseries here, and obviously, Schitt’s Creek has been incredible for the Canadian film industry. We’re kind of killin’ it.”

    “Pub Crawl” host Rob Ramsay

    With the Canadian film industry receiving more attention these days, Mann is excited to continue to work on projects in the Great White North, including his latest project Pub Crawl, a television series that explores the historically significant bars in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    “I have lived in Halifax for 10 years now and the culture here is so embedded in alcohol – for better or for worse. I think it is a healthy mix of cold winters and our location on the trade routes during the 1700s and the 1800s that created an environment where our social lives have practically depended on drinking for over 200 years.” shares Mann about the subject matter. “I could be wrong, but I have never seen a show like this. Telling the history of cities through the lens of the local drinking establishments makes a lot of sense. Halifax, and I’m sure cities of the same age, were literally built by people meeting in these bars and pubs.”

    Still from “Pub Crawl”

    With Halifax’s rich history, Mann hopes that viewers can appreciate not only the region’s pub culture but the stories behind buildings near their homes. “Whether they are pubs, schools, homes, whatever, there is history hidden in plain sight if you are willing to sit down and have a beer with the right person and ask the right questions.”

    The show itself, Man explains, could work in any location around the world covering any point in time in history. “Atlantic Canada has a ton of great locations. St. John’s, Newfoundland would be perfect. The dream would be to take it to Paris, London, New York, Chicago, Boston. Whether it’s the prohibition era in the Americas or going to places like Café de Flore in Paris, there is a lot of history to go around.”

    Still from “Pub Crawl”

    As a writer, Mann encourages others with an original idea to work on projects they can be excited about. “You have to enjoy it, or, I don’t really know what to say. Maybe being a writer isn’t for you. Why would you want to do it if it feels like a chore? I’m a firm believer that if you aren’t enjoying the story you are trying to tell, it will show in the end result.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA alum, Jon Mann, for sharing more about his latest project and looks forward to what’s next from the writer/director. Pub Crawl premiers November 24, 2020, on Bell TV in Canada.

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    November 13, 2020 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1820

  • NYFA Screenwriting Alum Miguel Ángel Parra’s Enjoys Successful Festival Run With Screenplay ‘The Pink House’

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    We hear it all the time, “write what you know.” As a journalist, Spanish native Miguel Ángel Parra was all too familiar with that phrase and went from applying it to his work as a journalist to becoming a screenwriter writing stories that reflect pockets of his own life. 

    After he lost his job in January 2019, Parra realized it was time to make his dreams come true and focus solely on screenwriting. He also credits the many “voices that have been silenced along the way throughout history” to being the driving force behind wanting to make people listen to those stories as a screenwriter. 

    Enrolling in the 8-Week Screenwriting program at NYFA finally allowed Parra to learn how to improve crafting the structure of his scripts and how to write better dialogue for his characters, crediting instructor Dennis Green as being the driving force behind learning new techniques.

    While studying at NYFA, Parra wrote his screenplay for The Pink House, which has since gone on to win screenplay contests in the Madrid International Film Festival (2020), the LGBTQ Toronto  Film Festival (2020), the All Genre Screenplay Contest (sponsored by Amazon, 2020), and become a semi-finalist in the Nashville International Film Festival (2020). 

    “It [The Pink House] is my first feature film script and I wrote it in English! When I came back to Spain, I translated it into Spanish and rewrote it several times,” shared Parra. “During the quarantine, I finished it and translated into English again in order to be able to submit to international competitions.” 

    NYFA screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel Parra

    The Pink House is a dramedy that, while humorous, is also a story about the abandonment suffered by LGBTI seniors. “The young activists who fought for the LGBT rights in the late 70s in Spain are nowadays men and women in their 70s and 8os and most of them don’t have a home to live in, as they were rejected by their families or have lost their couples,” explained Parra about his award-winning script. 

    “It is a story that needs to be told. In my country we lived 40 years of dictatorship, with a hard repression on these people, so I felt that I HAD to thank them for their fight somehow because, thanks to them, we have the rights we have right now.”

    Parra hopes that audiences, especially the younger generation, will be able understand that the story is about having the rights and freedoms of today “because someone fought for them.” Since Parra has submitted his script to multiple festivals and competitions, he has received incredible notoriety and shared that the positive response is overwhelming.

    “Being my first feature film script, it is quite exciting to see that people (and jurys) like it. It’s been an honor to see The Pink House selected at the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and reaching the semifinals, or being one of the Best Unproduced Scripts at Madrid International Film Festival, or seeing my script published and sold on Amazon thanks to the All Genre Screenplay Contest. I never imagined something like this would happen. “

    As for what’s next for the newly minted screenwriter, Parra’s upcoming short film The Eternal Angels was shot in August and is expected to premiere at the Seville European Film Festival in November. Parra also revealed he recently wrote a play that he hopes will open in January a TV pilot called The Golden Boys, a renewed, gay remix of the popular TV show The Golden Girls, which has already shown interest with a production company.

    Miguel Ángel Parra on set for ‘The Eternal Angels’

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel Parra for taking the time to share his journey on writing his first feature film script and the importance of telling the stories of those who have been silent for a long time. NYFA looks forward to seeing what is next from Parra and wishes him the best on his upcoming short film The Eternal Angels.

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    October 7, 2020 • Film Festivals, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1438

  • New York Film Academy Alum Mickey Fonseca’s Sells Award-Winning Film ‘Resgate’ to Netflix

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, Mickey Fonseca, has struck a deal that many producers dream of with his latest film Resgate (“Redemption” in English) being acquired by streaming giant Netflix. Fonseca, who wrote, directed, and produced the film, shot on location in his home country of Mozambique.

    Fonseca was born in Mozambique and grew up with a love of film and acting. At the age of 12, he even remembers writing Steven Spielberg and expressing his interest in becoming an actor. “Amblin Entertainment replied a few months later telling me to get an agent. I didn’t know what an agent was, but I was ecstatic with the news.” Though his dreams of becoming an actor faded over the years, Fonseca continued to immerse himself in film, watching movies as often as he could.

    NYFA alum and director of ‘Resgate’ Mickey Fonseca (Far right)

    After moving to Cape Town, South Africa in his mid-twenties, Fonseca got a job as a runner for Monkey Films, where he continued to develop his love for telling stories. “I watched lots of films and read all the books I could get my hands on,” he remembers. Fonseca also gained more experience by working on film sets for big-budget films like Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and Diana, starring Naomi Watts.

    In 2006, Fonseca started his own production company (Mahla Filmes), and later decided to go to New York City to attend NYFA’s 8-Week Screenwriting program. “I decided I needed to go to NYFA to get better knowledge of the craft,” he shares. “I wanted to write the best script as I possibly could and, for this, I needed ‘one-on-one’ guidance from the best instructors.”

    Still from ‘Resgate’ featuring Gil Alexandre (left) and Arlete Bombe (right)

    After years in the business, Fonseca and his team have released their most challenging project to date, Resgate, which was produced by his company Mahla Filmes and a small crowdfunding campaign. “For over six years, we shot commercials, bought most of the equipment, saved money to pay cast/crew/locations, and we could finally make the film at all costs, with no interference,” he shares.

    Resgate revolves around a man who, after four years in prison, returns to his girlfriend and child to learn about a dangerous debt taken by his late mother. “It’s the first Mozambican independent film and it did extremely well in the local cinemas (8 weeks), breaking all records,” says Fonseca. The film also went on to win two Africa Movie Academy Awards for ‘Best Production Design’ and ‘Best Screenplay,’ and was nominated in four additional categories including ‘Best Director’ (Mickey Fonseca).

    Behind the scenes in Mozambique for ‘Resgate’ (Photo Courtesy of Mickey Fonseca)

    With the film’s local success, Fonseca and his team knew they needed to get a distributor. “We pulled out all our contacts, hustled very hard and managed to get our film to the Netflix door,” he explains. “Fortunately for us, they liked it.” After Netflix acquired the film, Fonseca reveals that the agreement is more than just a business move, it is an important moment for African film. “Resgate is the first film from Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) Africa on Netflix and I am positive this will pave the way for other films to be screened on the platform and hopefully create Netflix co-productions too.” He continues, “Africa is a creative bomb waiting to explode. There’s so much creativity and talent.”

    Still from Fonseca’s film ‘Resgate’

    Fonseca shares he is now in the early stages of writing a thriller on Xenophobia with a focus on African unity and hope, and another script set in southern Mozambique. “I write my own films and what inspires me to write is my city, its people, and the day-to-day stories. My films are all about people l meet, hear about and read about, and the social instabilities that lead to life-changing decisions.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA alum Mickey Fonseca on his exciting news with Netflix and encourages everyone to check out Resgate when it becomes on the streaming platform.

    Check out the Resgate film trailer below or click here.

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    July 24, 2020 • Acting • Views: 1688

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Alan Trezza Writes and Executive Produces ‘We Summon the Darkness’

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    We Summon the Darkness, a horror film written and executive produced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting instructor Alan Trezza, recently screened at Fantastic Fest.

    Trezza teaches screenwriting to students at New York Film Academy’s Burbank-based campus. Trezza previously wrote and directed the short film Burying the Ex, which was adapted into a feature directed by Joe Dante.

    “I learned a great deal writing and executive producing We Summon the Darkness,” Trezza tells NYFA, “and I look forward to sharing all the lessons I’ve learned with my students.”

    The film stars Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, and Johnny Knoxville, and was directed by Marc Meyers. A period story set in the height of the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, the movie follows three best friends into heavy metal after they head off to a secluded party one night, where the evening takes a deadly turn.

    We Summon the Darkness has been receiving overwhelmingly positive praise, including at Fantastic Fest, with Bloody Disgusting calling the film “a metal mayhem joyride” with “extremely likable, fully realized characters in a fully fleshed out world.” 

    Fantastic Fest is an annual festival held in Austin, Texas that focuses on genre films, including horror, fantasy, science fiction, action, and cult movies. This year’s Fantastic Fest was held from September 19 – 26.


    We Summon the Darkness
    will next be holding its premiere on Thursday, October 17, at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, followed by Q&A with director Marc Meyers and cast members Keean Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Logan Miller, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, and Austin Swift. Tickets to the screening are available here.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting instructor Alan Trezza on his new film We Summon the Darkness and encourages everyone who can to attend to the Los Angeles premiere on October 17!

    (UPDATE: 8.10.2020) We Summon the Darkness is now available on Netflix.

    ‘We Summon the Darkness’ Official Film Poster

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    April 3, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 3746

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Acting for Film Alum Michael Johnson Receives Inaugural Elan Vega Award

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    Before he unexpectedly passed away last summer, New York Film Academy (NYFA) 1-Year Screenwriting conservatory and BFA Acting for Film alum Elan Vega lit up the lives of everyone around him, especially his NYFA classmates. His positivity, hard work, and commitment to the arts now lives on through NYFA’s Elan Vega Award, and it was no surprise that the award’s first recipient was NYFA 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory student and BFA Acting for Film grad Michael Johnson.

    Both Johnson and Vega graduated from the BFA Acting for Film program at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. Both alumni also sought to expand their artistic talents into other avenues; in Spring 2019, Johnson enrolled in NYFA-LA’s 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory while Vega began studying in the 1-Year Screenwriting conservatory. Vega was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who had a huge heart and who personified service, perseverance, and passion. Johnson is also a military veteran, having served in the US Army, and shares these same virtues, making him the perfect choice to receive the inaugural Elan Vega Award.

    Michael Johnson Elan Vega Award

    NYFA alum and Elan Vega Award recipient Michael Johnson

    The award will be distributed each semester by New York Film Academy in Vega’s honor to students that embody Vega’s kindness, selflessness, and thoughtfulness, students who have demonstrated the desire to help their fellow artists whenever and wherever needed, as Vega had done so many times. Vega loved the process of storytelling, our community, and the friends he made at NYFA, and elevated both his classmates and his program with his enduring attitude.

    To that end, the Elan Vega Award includes both a beautifully-crafted plaque and a financial grant to help recipients further their studies and artistic pursuits. Johnson received the award in February in a ceremony attended by, among other NYFA senior faculty, actor and NYFA Master Class instructor Matthew Modine.

    Michael Johnson Elan Vega Award

    Michael Johnson receiving the Elan Vega Award with senior NYFA faculty

    Like Vega, Johnson is beloved by his peers in the NYFA community, as well as his instructors and other faculty and administration. While the tragic passing of Vega will never be forgotten, his spirit living on through his friends and through future graduates of NYFA who embody that spirit is something to celebrate. Friends and classmates of both Vega and Johnson were glad to see Vega’s memory honored by Johnson, who gave a heartfelt acceptance speech at the award ceremony.

    New York Film Academy congratulates 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory and BFA Acting for Film grad Michael Johnson on receiving the inaugural Elan Vega Award and honoring the spirit of NYFA alum Elan Vega.

    Michael Johnson Elan Vega Award

    NYFA alum and Elan Vega Award recipient Michael Johnson

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate With Largest Industry Pitch Fest to Date

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    Graduating New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting students attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held as always at the beautiful penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles.

    This semester’s event was particularly special because it was the largest the NYFA Screenwriting school has hosted to date, proving once again it is a favorite of industry professionals.

    Pitch Fest 2020

    A catered event and mingling opportunity for students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrates the New York Film Academy’s graduating MFA Screenwriting students, offering them a unique opportunity to jumpstart their professional development by pitching their Film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals.  A record number of industry professionals came out to celebrate and give invaluable input for the students to take away with them as they move into the exciting next stage of their careers.

    The students’ dedication and passionate love for their work shined as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had been developing for nearly a year. Students left with new contacts, excitement about the scripts they’d worked so hard on, and a sense of what it’s like to meet with industry professionals.

    Considered by the Academy to be their first official night as professional screenwriters, the hard work of this group of talented and creative students paid off as they pitched agents, managers, studios, and alternative media, TV, and film production company execs in a relaxed, roundtable environment.

    Organized and hosted by Screenwriting faculty Jenni Powell and Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including Monkeypaw Productions, Verve, Ventanarosa Productions, Energy Entertainment, Madison Wells Media, ICM, Lit Entertainment Group, Inclusion Management, Legacy Pictures, and nearly 20 other companies.

    New York Film Academy gives a heartfelt thanks to all of its participants, particularly our industry guests, without whom this evening could not have been possible, and extends a big congratulations to all of our MFA Screenwriting graduates and wishes them all the best as they move forward in their professional journeys!

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    February 4, 2020 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1812