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  • 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: 441

  • 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: 800

  • Broadcast Club at New York Film Academy (NYFA) Work the WGA Awards Red Carpet

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailEarlier this February, members of the Broadcast Club at New York Film Academy (NYFA) got to see some Hollywood stars up close and personal on the red carpet at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards. Even better, they got to interview some of them!

    NYFA Broadcast Club WGA Awards 2019
    The Writers Guild of America is the largest guild for Hollywood and industry screenwriters. Along with other major guilds, like the Directors Guild, Producers Guild, and Screen Actors Guild, the WGA gives out a slate of awards during the height of Tinseltown’s Awards Season, with an obvious focus on the scripts and screenplays of the year’s top productions.

    In attendance at the WGA Awards were Broadcast Club president Derek Johnson, II; vice president Eric Alt; PR head Valeriya Mashynets; record keeper Chris Desiderio; and members Anatolii Panchenko and Skylar Duhe.

    The Broadcast Club members got to hone their chops by interviewing celebrities about their craft, including Ed Helms (The Hangover, The Office), as well some of the award winners. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates the Broadcast Club on a job well done! Check out some photos of the students hard at work below!

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    February 22, 2019 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights, Student Life • Views: 166

  • Q&A with NYFA Instructor and ‘Project Blue Book’ Creator David O’Leary

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    On Tuesday, January 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of the pilot episode of Project Blue Book, a new original series from HISTORY (formerly The History Channel) that adapts the real-life US Air Force investigations of UFOs in the 1950s. The screening was followed by a Q&A with creator and former NYFA screenwriting and producing instructor, David O’Leary, moderated by NYFA Producing instructor, Ashley Bank.

    O’Leary is a former development executive who has worked for Bellevue Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, Kopelson Entertainment, Rogue Pictures, Warner Bros., and Industry Entertainment. He is also a producer on two features set for release this year, Parallel for Bron Studios and Eli for Netflix. Additionally, O’Leary is adapting a sci-fi book series for A+E Studios.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    Bank opened up the Q&A by asking about how O’Leary became a writer. He shared that he started his career as an intern at New Line Cinema and decided he was interested in development, so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with a friend at Village Roadshow Pictures. From there, O’Leary worked his way up from the mailroom to assistant jobs and became a development executive, himself, at the age of 28. He realized, however, that his true dream was to be a screenwriter. “I pivoted and I’m a big believer in pivoting,” said O’Leary.

    O’Leary shared that even though he knew he was passionate about becoming a professional writer, that wasn’t enough. “Honestly, I had to get good at being a writer; I was not a very good writer when I made that choice.” He continued, “I think the way that you get better at being a writer is you have to keep writing, but you can’t keep writing in a vacuum; you have to keep showing your work to people and you have to keep getting feedback… you need people you trust to tell you ‘Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and here’s why.’”

    O’Leary added that working as a screenwriting instructor at NYFA required him to be extra knowledgeable about professional screenwriting. “It really forced me to practice what I was preaching,” he said. O’Leary then shared that something that helped him stay positive while he worked toward becoming a successful professional screenwriter was “celebrating small victories” because trying to be successful in the entertainment industry is a long and arduous process and one needs to have stamina to make it all the way to their end goal.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    O’Leary made it clear to the audience that hard work is important but sometimes luck also plays a role in success; with Project Blue Book, “It was sort of the right idea at the right time at a network that was looking to grow and move into scripted series.” The simplest way that O’Leary could sum up the show to pitch it to producers was “X-Files meets Mad Men,” which was a concept that had not really been explored before.

    One of the members of the audience inquired about navigating a narrative based on real events. “Every week we look at a real-life case… so it has that kind of ‘based on true events’ cache,” said O’Leary. “[Lead character] Hynek was a real-life guy; we ended up recruiting both [of] his sons as consultants on the project… I really want the show to be entertaining, but I also want to educate people on this phenomenon.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank former instructor David O’Leary for sharing his experiences and advice for writers as well as details about the development and production of Project Blue Book.

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    February 12, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 643

  • Q&A with ‘A Country Christmas Story’ Filmmakers

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    On Friday, December 14, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of A Country Christmas Story (2013) followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor Eric Bross, and writer and NYFA instructor Steven Peros, moderated by NYFA student, Bakyt Zhumadilova.

    Bross is known for directing Affairs of State (2018), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and Peros is known for writing Footprints (2009), The Undying (2009) and The Cat’s Meow (2001).

    A Country Christmas Story

    Zhumadilova opened the Q&A by asking Peros about his inspiration for the screenplay. Peros said he started by researching the history of country music and its prevalence in the South, then adding layers of complexity to the story by making the protagonist both a child of divorce and biracial within that world. 

    Peros also wanted the film to be about the various characters’ relationships with music and the arts and added that the music teacher in the film was inspired by a teacher he had when he was a kid.

    Zhumadilova inquired about what it was like for Peros to write A Country Christmas Story star Dolly Parton’s lines knowing she was going to be playing herself in the film. “The funny thing about writing her was, I had written this thing… and suddenly I’m on set going, ‘I’m about to meet Dolly Parton!’ Is she gonna come up to me and say, ‘Well, first off, Steven, I don’t talk like that at all,’” joked Peros. “But she didn’t at all! She didn’t want to change anything… so I was somehow channeling my inner Dolly Parton.”

    “I just thought he really captured her voice,” added Bross.

    Peros shared that Parton suggested that she sing instead of just introducing the music contest at the end of the film. “She just kept giving us gifts.” said Bross.

    A Country Christmas Story

    Peros shared that one of the most notable moments of the shoot was when Parton sang in between takes to entertain extras in the audience. “She knew that all those extras who were there pretty much for free… were there for her,” he said. “She never left the stage… she sang ‘Tennessee Waltz’… and it was like a moment out of a movie; one by one, everything started to get silent.”

    The discussion then moved onto producing a film like A Country Christmas Story on a tight shoot schedule and a tight budget. Bross advised filmmakers to keep the frame focused on the actors as much as possible when working with a small budget because sometimes it’s difficult to afford full, dressed sets. This way the story would still be the center of the film.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank A Country Christmas Story filmmakers Eric Bross and Steven Peros for sharing their entertaining anecdotes from the shooting of the film, as well as their production advice for students.


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    January 4, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 609

  • Recent Success For New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen has had a productive 2018. His sitcom screenplay, The Library, recently made the 2nd Round at the 2018 Austin Film Festival. Additionally, it was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest.

    Cohen hails from Decatur, Georgia and is currently based in Brooklyn. He has studied at various institutions across the globe, and has honed his comedy chops at Upright Citizen Brigade, among other theaters and playhouse troupes. 

    In addition to writing and performing, he currently teaches for the Filmmaking school at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus, where he has gained a reputation for being incredibly devoted to both his students and his fellow faculty members. He is also a great role model for the aspiring film school students he teaches, as he balances his position at NYFA with a working career in the film and comedy industry, much like most of the Academy’s experienced, industry-savvy faculty members.

    It’s no surprise then that his script for The Library made it to the 2nd Round of the 2018 Austin Film Festival (AFF). The AFF was founded in 1994 and has a focus on screenwriters, and has had judges from Warner Bros., Pixar, ABC Studios, and Nickelodeon in past years.

    Ben Cohen

    Ben Cohen Hosting 2018 NYFA Emmy Party in NYC

    Cohen’s script was also a finalist for the New York Screenplay Contest, a premiere global screenwriting contest that has introduced numerous talented and unique voices to the industry. Being named as a Finalist or Winner of the contest is a coveted, distinct honor.

    Cohen has remained modest about his recent achievements, telling NYFA, “It’s nice to see my writing get some recognition, but it’s important for folks to know rejection isn’t the negative — it’s the norm.” 

    Expounding on this, he continued, “Much more of your creative life is spent being told that you’re not good enough, but you have to keep writing, and more importantly, keep sharing your writing. I’ve learned to appreciate the good days (like this one) and just keep going. It helps to care about other things. My students know I’m just as happy to talk sports or Bowie as I am to talk about writing.”

    Additionally, Cohen was recently featured in a PBS Documentary produced by NYFA alum Ashton Brooks, and he plans to continue writing and pursuing gigs in the industry. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking instructor Ben Cohen on his recent successes and looks forward to those still yet to come! Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • Q&A With Comedian and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Aubree Sweeney

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn Monday, October 22, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum Aubree Sweeney returned to campus to perform a stand-up comedy set followed by a Q&A with NYFA screenwriting instructor, Eric Conner.Aubree Sweeney

    Sweeney earned a master’s degree in screenwriting at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. After graduated NYFA’s screenwriting school, she studied with the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational comedy theater and training center in Hollywood; from there, she transitioned to stand-up comedy and now she is a nationally touring comedian. Sweeney continues to build her theatre resume and has been part of several television commercials.

    Conner opened up the Q&A by asking Sweeney’s advice for aspiring comedians. “If stand-up is something you wanna do, just go hit as many open mics as you can,” Sweeney said, “and just keep getting onstage until you feel comfortable.” Sweeney shared that her background as a dancer and a baton-twirler for football games at the University of Arizona helped her with confidence.

    Conner then inquired about Sweeney’s writing process. “Write it, rewrite it, rewrite it again, again, again, don’t look at it for a couple weeks — maybe a semester,” explained Sweeney.

    Aubree SweeneyShe continued, “Write it again, polish it, then you’ve got that confidence because you know this material; you know that it is written to the best of your ability, and then you’re going onstage, and then you’re gonna figure out what that little extra thing [is] that makes it better… I think that most of my confidence in doing stand-up comedy onstage comes from the work not onstage.”

    Sweeney also gave advice about how to deal with the anxiety of being new to performing stand-up, “I would recommend when you first start doing stand-up comedy, at the front, say ‘I’m new.’ I said it was my first show for probably the first 25 shows.”

    Sweeney shared some of the best ways to get gigs as a comedian: promote yourself as much as possible, be resourceful, be open to performing at unconventional venues like business expos and county fairs, and adapt your comedy content for different crowds.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Aubree Sweeney for her performance and for providing insider insight for aspiring comedians at NYFA.

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    November 7, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 763

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Grads Celebrate With an Industry Pitch Fest

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailIt was that time of year once more as graduating BFA New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held at the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by the astounding views of Los Angeles.Screenwriting Pitch Fest Sept 2018

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

    These exceptional writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with instructor Jerry Shandy in conjunction with Faculty Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and other members of the Screenwriting Department, preparing and fine-tuning their pitches. They were also joined by a stellar Screenwriting alum that night. The Pitch Fest shared the venue with an equally impressive event by NYFA’s Producing school.

    The students’ dedication and passion for their work was on display 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 school to be their first night as professional screenwriters, their hard work paid off as the talented and creative students pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, VR, TV, and film production company executives in a relaxed, roundtable environment.

    Screenwriting Pitch Fest Sept 2018Organized and hosted by Jenni Powell, Ashley Bank, and Adam Finer, the Pitch Fest featured representatives from Hollywood companies including: Jim Henson Company, MGM, Practical Magic, Verve, Rain Management, Little Studio Films, Tremendum Pictures, and Gulfstream Pictures.

    The New York Film Academy wishes to thank all of its participants, particularly our industry guests, without whom this evening could not have been possible. NYFA also extends a big congratulations to all of our BFA graduates and wishes them the best of luck as they move forward in their professional journeys!

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    September 26, 2018 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1043

  • Women in Comics: New York Film Academy (NYFA) and Final Draft Host “Write On” Podcast

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn August 20, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) partnered with Final Draft to host a live taping of Final Draft’s podcast, Write On, focused on women in comics. The panelists were Shannon Watters, Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, and NYFA screenwriting school instructor Christina Weir. The event was moderated by Pete D’Alessandro."Write On: Women in Comics"

    Shannon Watters is the senior editor at BOOM! Studios and co-creator and co-writer of the award-winning comic book series, Lumberjanes. Kirsten Smith is a writer and producer (Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s the Man, Ella Enchanted, The House Bunny and The Ugly Truth) and Christina Weir is a writer (New X-Men, Skinwalker, Three Strikes, Maria’s Wedding, Bad Medicine, Play Ball, Dragon Age: Deception).

    The panelists were first asked what makes comics unique as an artistic medium. Smith said that, in her opinion, comics are special and intimate because they are “a work of art.” Weir added that, in the comic medium, it is essential to keep things moving; even if the scene is just a conversation, it’s important to keep it visually interesting to the reader. Watters shared that she likes using “the page turn” as a tool to surprise and entertain readers of comics in book form.

    The production of a comic is similar to the production of a play or TV show or film because, to be successful, the comic has to tell a story and, in order to tell a story well, there must be trust and communication between all parties involved. Watters described the relationship between a comic writer and artist as symbiotic and “like a marriage.”

    "Write On: Women in Comics"Weir added that comics are “great learning tools for screenwriting” because they “force [the writer] to get to what’s important… You only have so much space to get your point across.”

    The panelists were asked what they believe the future of the comic industry looks like. Watters said that she believes that in the next couple decades, there will be more and more women, people of color, and LGBTQ comic writers and artists. Weir added, “We are in an age now where kids are encouraged to read comics… Comics are cool!”

    Lastly, Watters’ advice for aspiring comic writers and artists is to “Get your stuff out there!” She encouraged students to share their work on the web and to meet other creative people to network, collaborate, and grow.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Shannon Watters, Kirsten Smith, and Christina Weir for sharing their experiences and advice for young writers.

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    August 28, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 1612

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Writes Feature Film Un Regalo Esencial

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailNew York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Elizabeth Soto-Lara can now add a feature film to her list of screenwriting credits after finishing production on the film Un Regalo Esencial (An Essential Gift). Not only is she the film’s screenwriter, but Soto-Lara also served on set as the First Assistant Director.

    Un Regalo Esencial was filmed in more than 30 locations in Costa Rica over the course of about ninety days. It was co-written and directed by Jose Mario Salas Boza. Both Boza and Soto-Lara graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Fall ’16 MA Film & Media program. 

    The film tells the story of a grandfather who relives the memories of his first romantic relationship to share life lessons with his grandchild about the consequences of jealousy and insecurity. It merges genres of romance, drama, comedy, and musical, and looks to make its audience ride a rollercoaster of emotions. Its setting ranges from the 1980s to the near future, all in a running time of about 90 minutes. 

    Un Regalo Esencial stars notable Costa Rican actors Viviana Calderon and Pablo Rodriguez, as well as featuring Mauricio Hoffman and Norval Calvo in supporting roles. It is currently in post-production and will be released in October 2018.

    Soto-Lara is a Mexican filmmaker who has been writing for television and film for more than four years. She has written and directed more than 10 short films within both Mexico and the US. Soto-Lara won the award for Best Short Film at the Mexico International Film Festival for her film Restored, which was originally her NYFA thesis film. Restored is also an Official Selection at the 2019 Los Angeles CineFest.

    Of her work on Un Regalo Esencial, Soto-Lara remarked, “It was an unforgettable experience to be able to be on set and see how the words I put on paper came to life. I feel very lucky and thankful to have had this opportunity to share a beautiful story, make friends from around the globe, and learn in the process.”

    She continued, “This experience will remain as an indelible mark in me for the rest of my life.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Elizabeth Soto-Lara’s on her well-earned success and encourages her and the rest of our students to continue writing and keep sharing their stories.

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    August 8, 2018 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2375