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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate with an Industry Pitch Fest

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    It was that time of year once more as graduating MFA and BFA New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event.

    The Pitch Fest was held once again at the beautiful penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles. The location combined with how well-prepared our Screenwriting students are make this a favorite event of industry professionals.

    Industry Pitch Fest 2019

    A catered event and mingling opportunity for the students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrates the New York Film Academy’s graduating Screenwriting students and offers them an unique opportunity to jumpstart their professional development by pitching their Film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals.

    This year’s Pitch Fest was one of our largest events to date, including a record number of industry professionals coming out to celebrate and give invaluable input for the students to take with them as they move into the next stage of their careers.

    The students’ dedication and passionate love for their work shined as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had developed 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 night as professional screenwriters, this group of talented and creative students’ hard work paid off as they pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, VR, comic, TV, and film production company execs in a relaxed, roundtable environment.

    Organized and hosted by Jenni Powell, Ashley Bank, and Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including: Monkeypaw Productions, Juvee Productions, Practical Magic, Verve, We are the Mighty, Boom! Studios, Heroes and Villains, Madison Wells Media, BURR! Productions, De Laurentiis, and Lit Entertainment Group.

    New York Film Academy wishes to thank all of the Pitch Fest participants, particularly our industry guests, without whom this evening could not have been possible. We’d also like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA and BFA graduates and wish them the best as they move forward in their professional journeys!

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    June 18, 2019 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 81

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting Alum Inés de los Santos Wins Stephanie Rothman Fellowship

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    Earlier this month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting Alum Inés de los Santos received word that she won the Stephanie Rothman Fellowship.

    The Stephanie Rothman Fellowship is a contest for female filmmakers and writers that create thriller, horror, and fantasy stories. Every year, they grant a female creator with a cash award allows the artist to produce the screenplay, or another project they would instead like to make.
    Inés de los Santos

    Inés de los Santos applied to the contest with her thesis project, a comedy-horror pilot about a nun-in-training who accidentally performs an exorcism on her one-night-stand, and is subsequently sent to an exorcism academy.

    “This story has been one of the most passionate projects I’ve ever had,” de la Santos tells NYFA. “And even though it’s based on someone that is not part of my life anymore, I was able to adjust it and make it even more personal to me—all thanks to my teachers and classmates’ notes and suggestions.”

    Inés de los Santos enrolled in Fall 2017 to earn her MFA in Screenwriting from Burbank-based New York Film Academy. NYFA congratulates Inés on the Stephanie Rothman Fellowship and looks forward to seeing her project come to life!

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    June 14, 2019 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 215

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Screenwriting Randall Dottin Receives Sundance Institute Grant

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    The Sundance Institute has announced it is bestowing a grant to New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Screenwriting Randall Dottin for his documentary film, The House I Never Knew.

    Dottin is an award-winning writer, director, and producer as well as current Chair of New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting department at our New York campus. As Chair, he shepherds a program committed to giving students the unique opportunity to work with fellow filmmaking, acting, and producing students in developing and turning a script into a finished film as well as extensive experience with each step of the filmmaking process as it relates to screenwriting.Randall Dottin

    Dottin’s thesis film A-Alike won a Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards for Best Narrative Film and the Director’s Guild of America Award for Best African American Student Filmmaker, as well as earning other awards and a two-year broadcast run on HBO. His feature doc The Chicago Franchise was accepted into IFP Week’s Spotlight on Documentaries.

    The House I Never Knew, Dottin’s latest project, is a six-part documentary series and focuses on the struggle with and against the negative effects of housing segregation policy, including social ills like gun violence and educational failure—especially in Boston, Houston, and Chicago—as well as the personal lives affected by them.

    While teaching screenwriting at NYFA, Dottin requested a sabbatical to focus on shooting the film. NYFA Founder Jerry Sherlock personally granted the request and, along with NYFA, supported Dottin’s important work on the project, confident in his skills as a filmmaker.

    The film is one of 25 nonfiction projects that will receive Documentary Fund and Stories of Change grants from the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford committed to the growth of independent artists.

    The grants are bestowed on projects that range through all stages of development, and are aimed to help films anywhere from initial project development to building a larger audience.

    Randall Dottin The House I Never Knew
    “It was great to get the encouragement from an institution on that level,” Dottin tells NYFA. “And the type of resources that are now available to the project are immeasurable and will help us get the doc done in the best way possible!”

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Chair of Screenwriting Randall Dottin on his Sundance Institute grant and looks forward to the completion and release of The House I Never Knew.

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    June 6, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 17

  • South African New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Meet Up at Inaugural Events

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    This May, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted inaugural South African NYFA alumni events in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This was a fantastic opportunity for NYFA’s South African alumni to connect and expand their network. South Africa Alumni Event

    Blake Babbitt, NYFA Associate Director of Outreach, has been traveling to South Africa for that past 7 years on behalf of the school, and was very delighted to see a true community of New York Film Academy artists coming together in their home country. 

    “There is a growing entertainment industry here in South Africa,” says Babbitt. “Ultimately we want our graduates to use the techniques and knowledge gained at NYFA to influence the industry not only in America, but in their home countries as well.”

    Babbitt continues, “The power of community is essential to the entertainment industry and to artistic success. I am very pleased to see a community of New York Film Academy artists forming here in South Africa, and I’m excited to see how this budding community will expand and impact the way South African stories are told. The sky is the limit for this group!” 

    During the event, NYFA alumni exchanged contact information, formed WhatsApp groups, and tagged each other in social media posts and stories. There was even discussion to form an official alumni chapter in South Africa. 

    Additionally, many alumni expressed their gratitude for the training they received at New York Film Academy, and for NYFA’s concern for them after they graduated. “Once you join us at New York Film Academy, you become a part of our family for life,” Babbitt told the alumni. “We don’t forget about you the second you graduate. Seeing you succeed is incredibly important to us.”

    “Blake and Maria were the most gracious hosts,” says BFA Filmmaking alum Zack Schofield-Nel. “The people that I was blessed to have networked with were incredible; I have built connections that will last for a long time to come. This could have only have happened because I was fortunate enough to attend the New York Film Academy.”

    He adds, “It is the most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that I could have ever imagined!”

    Attendees included the following NYFA alumni:

    • Lunathi Mampofu (2-year Acting for Film): Trailblazing South African actress. Working on multiple TV shows in South Africa.

    • Eden Classens (2-year Musical Theatre): Runner-up, Dancing with the Stars South Africa; Lead on Afrikaans series Suidooster; recently cast in Netflix’s Kissing Booth 2.

    • Rethabile Ramaphakela (8-week Screenwriting): South African production company co-owner and voiceover artist best known as the voice of the Vuzu shows V-Entertainment and 10 Over 10. Co-owner of the production company Burnt Onion Productions with her brothers Tshepo and Katleho, who created and produced the SABC1 sitcom My Perfect Family and the Vuzu mockumentary Check-Coast. Produced and created a show that is currently available on Amazon Prime. Directing her first feature film in June.

    • Zandi Zim (MFA Acting for Film): Formed her own production company. South African actress that has performed at The Grahamstown National Arts Festival and Cape Town Fringe Festival. Stage actor since the age of eight and has studied Meisner and Alexander Technique. Zandi also sings, plays jazz piano and marimbas, and speaks English and conversational Sesotho.

    • Jacqueline Rainers Setai (8-week Screenwriting, continuing into 1-year Screenwriting): Head of Mojalove Channel on DSTV; well-known and established South African writer, producer, documentarian, broadcaster.

    • Petrone van der Merwe (8-week Acting for Film): Currently in two stage productions for the ADK (Academy of Dramatic Arts)’s 80th birthday celebrations that will premiere at the UJ Artscape Theater in Johannesburg and will also be performed in Stellenbosch at the Drostdy Theater. Signed with the talent agency, Gaenor Artiste Management.

    • Audrey Mokono (1-year Acting for Film, continuing into BFA Acting for Film): Recent graduate of NYFA’s 1-year Acting for Film program and will continue her studies in NYFA’s BFA Acting for Film program.

    • Anlezia Venter (BFA Acting for Film): Opened her own fitness studio in Cape Town.

    • Zackary Nel (BFA Filmmaking): Currently finishing his BFA thesis film in Cape Town, and has hired his own local crew.

    • Paul Fulton (8-week Screenwriting): Copywriter for ad agency. Has two feature-length scripts he is working on getting sold.

    • Keyuri Naidoo (6-week Acting for Film): From Johannesburg; known for her role as Karishma in Droomdag (2017) directed by Willie Esterhuizen. During her time at NYFA-Los Angeles, Keyuri directed and acted in numerous student short films.

    • Thuto Marrengula (1-year Acting for Film): Thuto Marrengula is an actor, known for Non American Dreamers (2018) and Ask Questions Later (2016); currently developing an hour-long stand up routine.

    • Nyeleti Khoza (AFA Acting for Film):  South African actor known for The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead (2016), Black Tea (2017), and Remember Me (2017). Recently cast in Giyani – Land of Blood, a new highly-viewed telenovela on SABC2

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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Maria Minguez

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Maria Minguez started out as a 2nd AD and assistant director in her home country of Spain, but her true passion was writing and storytelling. 

    Minguez decided to move to New York and attend the Screenwriting school at NYFA’s New York campus, where she learned the skills necessary to begin her new career as a writer.

    Since then, Minguez has found success back in Spain, and has written the upcoming feature film Vivir dos veces, directed by renowned Spanish filmmaker Maria Ripoll and starring Inma Cuesta, Nacho Lopez, and Argentinian star Oscar Martinez.

    maria minguez
    NYFA recently spoke with Maria Minguez about her film, her life before screenwriting, what drove her to become a storyteller:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Maria Minguez Vivir dos veces

    ‘Vivir dos veces’

    Maria
    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Vivir dos veces?

    MM: Vivir dos veces is a script I started to write at NYFA for the Feature Film workshop. So the first draft was built on the notes my teachers and my classmates gave me. When I returned to Spain I continued working on it, writing more drafts, until I sold it to a producer. It was shot in October 2019 and it comes out at the end of 2019.

    NYFA: What do you feel most comfortable writing, whether themes or elements of a screenplay? What do you feel least comfortable writing?

    MM: The genres I feel more comfortable writing are dramatic comedy, such as Little Miss Sunshine; and dramatic thriller, such as Mystic River. It doesn’t matter if it is TV or film. The genres I feel the least comfortable writing are action movies and horror movies.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MM: I have another feature film which will probably shoot at the end of 2019. And I have also been working on a miniseries for Tele 5, a Spanish TV channel, which is going to shoot in two months.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Vivir dos veces, or your work in general?

    MM: During the program we worked a lot on the structure of movies (three act structure, the eight sequencing system, etc.). It has been very useful to me. It is not easy to face a one-hundred-page script, but if you know how to structure it, you at least know the way you have to follow.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    MM: To screenwriting students I have just one piece of advice: to WRITE. 

    NYFA gives you the opportunity to have people giving you notes all the time, and that is something not that easy to find outside of school. The best way to learn how to write is writing. So write a lot, all the time, and take the material to class so teachers can read it and give you notes.

    NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

    MM: I would like to add that when you become a professional screenwriter, you realize that it is not just important to know how to write. You also have to know how to handle producers, contracts, etc. So I encourage the students to pay attention during the business courses of NYFA’s programs.

    New York Film Academy thanks Screenwriting alum Maria Minguez for taking the time to speak with us about her career and her film Vivir dos veces.

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    May 28, 2019 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 272

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Producing Students Give Notes to Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Tom Schulman

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    Academy Award Winner Tom Schulman, renowned for penning Best Screenplay Winner Dead Poets Society, engaged in a team discussion with New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Producing students over potential modifications on his new script, which is currently slated for production in the next few months.

    Over the course of more than two hours, Schulman listened with undivided attention as students dissected his script and offered detailed notes on its story, characters, and its world.

    The special opportunity for the students came as part of their Script Collaboration & Story Development class (MFA Program, 5th semester). The class is designed to teach students script analysis, and how to write and convey notes to a screenwriter professionally and effectively.

    NYFA instructor John Morrissey invited Schulman to participate not only as the recipient of the students’ notes, but also to offer our Producing students a rare opportunity to make a direct impact on the story of a professional film.

    Many times during the conversation–punctuated by laughter and meticulous detail-offering—Schulman jotted down students’ notes on a sheet of paper. When asked what he considered the best way for a producer to provide notes to a writer, he promptly responded: “The way we have been doing it here today!”

    He then shared with the students some inside stories on how studio executives give notes to screenwriters and praised the students for their genuine passion and thoughtfulness.

    New York Film Academy thanks Academy Award-winning screenwriter Tom Schulman for giving his time and advice to our MFA in Producing students.

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    May 8, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 413

  • ‘Boxing Girls’ Features Two New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni

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    Boxing Girls, a new Arabic-language drama from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) premiered earlier this year and is the screenwriting debut of New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Afnan Alqasimi. Additionally, the program features actress and NYFA alum Dana Al Salem.

    Alqasimi hails from the United Arab Emirates and attended NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2012. Alqasimi previously worked on the animation short Homecoming. Al Salem is originally from Bahrain and enrolled in NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in August 2015. Al Salem previously appeared in The Sleeping Tree and the short film Canary.

    Boxing Girls is gaining buzz for its focus on female characters and stars several well-known Arabic performers, including Fatima Al Hosani, Ali Al Sherif, and Shaifan Al Otaibi. The program was directed by Saudi filmmaker Samir Aref and was produced by O3 Productions and twofour54 Abu Dhabi.

    Boxing Girls

    “This drama production is particularly unique, because it puts a real emphasis on the region’s young talent — both in front of and behind the camera,” says Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority, Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.

    The program was shot over two months across various locations in Abu Dhabi, before completing production in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additional cast members include Mila Zahrani, Abdul Aziz Skeirin, Alaa Shaker, Anoud Al Saoud, Abeer Sander, Noura Ezzer, Mohammed Meshaal, Rakan, Zuhair Haider, and Zara Al Balushi.

    Boxing Girls debuted in February of this year.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates workshop alumni Afnan Alqasimi and  Dana Al Salem on the production and success of Boxing Girls

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Abby Ajayi Featured in Largest Hollywood Reporter Photo Shoot Ever

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    Abby Ajayi, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. In a rebuke to the industry sentiment that it’s hard to diversify writers rooms because there aren’t enough women writers and writers of color to choose from, the industry magazine gathered dozens of women from the networking group Black Women Who Brunch.

    Black Women Who Brunch (BWB) was founded in 2014 by television writers Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Erika L. Johnson, and Lena Waithe as a way to get black female TV writers a chance to meet, support, and get to know one another. Their first meeting was in March 2014 and had 12 attendees. The current membership of BWB is now around 80.

    In addition to taking photos, many of the women shared their experiences and thoughts on being black women television writers—many of whom were the only person of color on their staff. NYFA alum Abby Ajayi was one of those at the shoot interviewed. Unlike many of her peers, she wasn’t the only woman or person of color in her writers room.

    Abby Ajayi

    “On How to Get Away With Murder,” Ajayi toldThe Hollywood Reporter, “there were seven women in the room and six were women of color. It didn’t fall on one person to be the voice of all women or all black people. Having multiple women from diverse ethnic backgrounds broadened the conversation, which in turn led to richer, deeper characters.” 

    Ajayi added, “It’s also inspiring to see the women higher up the ladder prove that there is a path.”

    Ajayi originally hails from Nigeria and attended NYFA’s Screenwriting school in 2011. In addition to How to Get Away with Murder, Ajayi has worked on Eastenders, Doctors, and Hetty Feather. She is currently co-producing Hulu’s limited series adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi on her current success and encourages everyone to read The Hollywood Reporter’s piece!

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    April 16, 2019 • Diversity, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 644

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Matt Harry

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    With his debut novel published last October and development underway for his animated pilot, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screenwriting instructor Matt Harry is making waves in the industry. A multi-hyphenate, Matt’s not only a writer—he’s an editor, director, and producer. Matt took some time to chat about his career, teaching, and the time he made a fool of himself in front of Tom Hanks.

    NYFA: Where are you from originally? 

    MH: I was born in West Virginia, but my parents moved around a lot. We ended up in Cleveland when I was in sixth grade.

    NYFA: Growing up, what did you want to be? 

    MH: I wrote a novel in seventh grade, so I wanted to be an author from a young age. Later I became interested in theatre, then filmmaking, but eventually I went back to writing. 

     

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What’s your professional background? 

    Matt Harry (MH): After I graduated, I spent 12 years working as an editor on shows like The Bachelor while continuing to write. I’ve written screenplays for various production companies and my feature film Fugue, which I wrote and produced, was named Best Horror Film at the Mississippi International Film Festival. My short Super Kids, which I wrote and co-directed, has over 3.7 million views on YouTube and is being developed into a feature by Temple Hill and Fox 2000.

    NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

    MH: A chance encounter with my former USC classmate Eric Conner at a coffee shop led to me to NYFA.

    NYFA: What are you working on right now? 

    MH: My novel Sorcery for Beginners was released last October, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’m also developing a TV adaptation of Sorcery as well as an animated pilot I wrote called Monster Cops. I also have a couple new book projects I’m finishing!

    NYFA: What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far? 

    MH: My short film Super Kids was the first project I worked on where the finished product looked almost exactly like what I imagined it could be. 

     

    NYFA: What is your favorite course to teach?  

    MH: The thesis screenwriting workshops.

    NYFA: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current students?  

    MH: Keep working. I’ve met very few artistic geniuses, but my own career is a testament to the fact that if you keep pushing, working and revising, you’ll improve.

    NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of teaching?  

    MH: Frequently I’ll be discussing a student’s project, and I’ll have a realization about not only their work, but mine as well. Thanks to the students, I’m constantly learning and improving.

    NYFA: What is most challenging about teaching for you? 

    MH: Finding enough time. I could talk about story development all day, but with less than three hours per class, we have to set timers to get to everyone!

    NYFA: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?  

    MH: “Stick with it. Even if you don’t make it, eventually everyone you know will make it, and you make it by proxy.” I have absolutely found this to be true.

    NYFA: Who has influenced you the most in life?

    MH: My wife Juliane. Her work ethic, morality, and positive attitude inspire me to be a better person.

    NYFA: What creators have influenced you the most? 

    MH: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, David Lynch, Edgar Wright, Colin Meloy, Madeline L’Engle, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Pullman, and Wes Anderson.

    NYFA: What do you do to take a break from work and teaching? 

    MH: Video games, going to restaurants, and hanging out with my family. 

    NYFA: What is an interesting fact about yourself your students and fellow faculty might not know about you?  

    MH: I interviewed Tom Hanks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when I was 15 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was incredibly gracious. I remember shouting out some inane question about Madonna, but he treated me like every other adult journalist there.

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    April 15, 2019 • Digital Editing, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 385

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Grads Attend Industry Pitch Fest Event

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    It was a time of celebration once again as graduating MFA New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held in the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles.  

    A catered event and mingling opportunity for students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrates the New York Film Academy’s graduating Screenwriting students, offering them a unique opportunity to jumpstart their professional development by pitching their Film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals. In addition, a very talented alum of the Screenwriting Department also joined in the event.

    2019 Pitch Fest

    Organized and hosted by Jenni Powell, Ashley Bank, and Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including Monkeypaw, MGM, Practical Magic, Paramount, Automatik, Grandview, and Gulfstream Pictures.

    The exceptional writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructor Ashley Bank in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and other members of the Screenwriting department, preparing and fine tuning their pitches.  

    The students’ dedication and passionate love for their work shone as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had developed 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.  

    Their hard work paid off as the talented and creative students pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, VR, TV and film production executives in a relaxed, roundtable environment.

    “My experience at Pitch Fest was excellent to say the least,” shares David Barbeschi, one of the graduating MFA students at the event. “Nothing like pitching to people who listen to these things as a job to better yourself and see where you stand in the immense LA Film Industry.”

    The New York Film Academy wishes to thank all of the Industry Pitch Fest participants, particularly our industry guests without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA graduates and wish them the best of success as they move forward in their professional journeys!

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    March 12, 2019 • Screenwriting • Views: 748