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  • 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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  • New York Film Academy Alum DonnaLee Roberts in Production for Stroomop in South Africa

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    DonnaLee Roberts via IMDB

    New York Film Academy Acting for Film grad DonnaLee Roberts is a model for on-screen performers seeking to build their own career, their way.

    The prolific, award-winning South African performer-turned-writer/producer is now shooting feature-length adventure film Stroomop, in which she not only stars but also serves as co-writer and co-producer.

    Stroomop is the directorial debut of Roberts’ frequent collaborator and fellow South African A-lister Ivan Botha, who shared the screen with Roberts in South African blockbusters Vir Altyd and Pad na jou Hart, which the team also co-wrote and co-produced.

    Screen Africa reports that Stroomop is slated for a nationwide release on South Africa’s Women’s Day, Aug. 9, 2018, through the distributor Ster-Kinekor Entertainment.

    Roberts, who holds South Africa’s prestigious Huisgenoot Tempo Award for both Best Actress and Best Feature Film, told Screen Africa that she did some serious water training in preparation for Stroomop, which follows five women on a whitewater rafting misadventure on the Orange River.

    “My character finds herself in a situation where she must take the lead in rough waters,” Roberts said, “So it was crucial for me to be fully prepared for the challenges of filming on the river.”

    At a moment when the eyes of the world are on Hollywood’s gender imbalance, it’s especially exciting to see Roberts leading the way both on screen and behind-the-scenes as a content creator. Roberts summed up her strong work ethic and inspiring outlook well in a previous interview with the NYFA Blog:

    “In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”

    Bravo, DonnaLee!

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  • NYFA Alumna’s “Alive and Kicking” Documentary to Screen at Venice Film Festival

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    lara-ann

    Lara-Ann de Wet

    One of the more successful films to come out of the New York Film Academy in recent years is Lara-Ann de Wet‘s documentary short, “Alive and Kicking.” Her film has screened at numerous film festivals, including SXSW, Brooklyn Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, where she won Best Short, and DOC NYC, where her film won Jury Prize for “Spirited Storytelling.” Next up, de Wet will be taking her film to the 73rd Annual Venice Film Festival, where it will screen with four other NYFA short films.

    “Alive & Kicking” is a triumphant story about elderly African women who have taken their health and happiness into their own hands by taking up the game of soccer. It is a story that celebrates the fact that even against the harsh and desolate realities of their lives, living in extreme poverty and crime, and surrounded by death and disease, these African grandmothers are able to create a joyful space whereby they can celebrate being alive and physically able. Not only that, but through the love and guidance of their coach Jack, and Founder Mama Beka, these grannies run and kick their way down the soccer field more impressively than most young people in their community.

    “More often than not we are often only given the unfavorable social and economic statistics of what life is like in rural Africa or South Africa without any documented account of the culture and vibrancy often found within the rural communities,” said de Wet. “Being South African, there are so many wonderful stories that have yet to be told and need to be brought to the world stage.”

    De Wet says her film also celebrates the African women as being a pillar of strength in their society as well as the importance role exercise and community can play as a means to deal with physical or mental illness.

    Alive & Kicking Trailer from Lara-Ann de Wet on Vimeo.
    “My NYFA Doc experience was invaluable in terms of equipping me with the skills and insight I needed to direct this film,” said de Wet. “Prior to my one year conservatory course in documentary filmmaking I had never in fact made a film before, as I had been working in a management role at a brand consultancy. The course not only taught me the technicalities of shooting, editing, producing and directing, but more importantly the elements and critical thinking behind what makes a good story; and how to convey that to an audience. Doing the one year documentary course at NYFA may have been the most worthwhile investment I have ever made and, considering this film was my thesis film, I attribute nearly all I have learned to my training at the New York Film Academy.”

    De Wet continues to work as a freelance editor and producer on other documentaries. She is also in the process of applying for funding to make a second film about surf therapy in South Africa.

    “My goal is to continue to direct and tell stories that shine a light on African Culture,” she says.

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  • South African Actress Donnalee Roberts is an All Around Superstar

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    Coming off the success of the popular South African television series, 7de Laan, and the feature film Klein Karoo, New York Film Academy 8-Week Acting for Film graduate Donnalee Roberts has greatly expanded her role in the South African entertainment business. Not only does the hard-working South African enjoy the artistic gratification of acting for the camera, she also loves running a business and exploring the integrated marketing and networking that goes on behind the scenes of her films.


    Her critically and commercially successful romantic adventure, Pad na jou Hart (Road to your Heart), in which Roberts played the lead actress and was co-producer and co-writer along with Ivan Botha, has been seen by over one million people thus far!

    Her more recent award-winning film, Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling (Ballad for a Stranger), which stars Roberts as Carina, had its premiere in Australia and New Zealand and had a nationwide release in South Africa. Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling is a romantic thriller based on the popular South African television series from the eighties. Not only did the series have South Africans nailed to their televisions, the film was highly acclaimed and was both a critic and box office hit, earning Tempo awards for South African Film of the Year. Donnalee also won Best Actress of the Year for both Pad na jou Hart and Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling.

    Roberts’ goal is to continue to provide original content to her native country, which has recently seen a resurgence in its film industry.

    “We have a wonderful supporting audience in South Africa that is extremely loyal to local content,” said Roberts. “I would love to have this audience grow and also keep on motivating our existing audience. As a filmmaker and storyteller, my goal is to not only make South Africans proud of the films and stories that originate in our country but to also make films that are so universal in their themes that they transcend language barriers and move people from all over the world.”
    As an independent filmmaker one knows the importance of marketing your film correctly in order to reach its full potential. That is why Roberts and her team started a marketing division within their production company which specializes in making marketing personal and creating a need for people to want to see their film.
    “In a country where we speak 11 official different languages and where we are at all times directly competing against international blockbusters, marketing has become essential. The South African film industry, specifically the Afrikaans language market films, is literally bursting out of its seams, and as a young filmmaker it is so exciting to be on the forefront of this endeavor!”

    vir altydHer upcoming film, Vir Altyd (Forever), which Roberts stars and also co-wrote and co-produced with Ivan Botha, was shot half in South Africa and half in Mauritius. Vir Altyd is a romantic adventure film that takes us on a journey through the seasons of love and the true meaning of what ‘forever’ means. Roberts and her team are currently busy with post-production and the feature film releases nationwide on February 12th, 2016.

    Roberts advice to those who are pursuing acting, especially current students is to CREATE. “In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”

    She strongly encourages actors to involve themselves more with writing and producing their own material.

    “You should never stop learning and growing,” Roberts added. “Always have a spirit of growing.”

    blake and donnalee

    Donnalee Roberts and Blake Babbitt

    Donnalee Roberts will be joining Blake Babbitt at the New York Film Academy’s audition and portfolio review event at the Davinci Hotel and Suites on Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg on September 5th at 18:00.

    The Film Academy will also be holding auditions and portfolio reviews in Cape Town on Tuesday, September 8th.

    For more information on either of these events, please email southafrica@nyfa.edu or CLICK HERE to sign up.

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    August 25, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights, Road Show, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 24736

  • NYFA Awards Scholarships to “Be Your Dream” Performers

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    be your dream

    Acting Scholarship Winner Prosper Mangena (right) with Blake Babbitt and Anaïs

    As an on-going effort to reach talented individuals not only in the Unites States but also abroad, the New York Film Academy has partnered with the “Be Your Dream” project in South Africa to offer two full tuition scholarships to teen musical theatre and acting students.

    Founded by artist and Ambassador of Lifeline, Anaïs, the “Be Your Dream” project is an initiative to spread awareness throughout South Africa, regarding LifeLine and their free services and counseling that is provided for those in need.

    After auditioning forty selected individuals from the program, our admissions team was forced with the difficult decision of awarding two of the many deserving artists with these talent-based scholarships.

    kayla

    Musical Theatre Scholarship Winner, Kayla de Araujo

    Today, with Anaïs on hand at NYFA Battery Park, NYFA showcased our most recent student scholarship winners:

    • Prosper Mangena, Awarded 4-Week Acting for Film Teen Scholarship
    • Kayla de Araujo, Awarded 4-Week Musical Theatre Teen Scholarship

    “I had the honor of awarding Prosper Mangena and Kayla de Araujo full talent-based scholarships to attend our 4-Week Teen Summer Acting for Film and Musical Theatre programs,” said Director of Performing Arts Admissions, Blake Babbitt. “I see such incredible talent come from South Africa, and it’s a pleasure to be able to join with the ‘Be Your Dream’ project to offer Kayla and Prosper this unique and life changing opportunity.”

    We’re delighted to have these two gifted young performers currently enrolled at NYFA, and look forward to seeing next year’s talent!

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    June 30, 2015 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5503

  • New York Film Academy Returns to South Africa

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    cape-town-south-africa

    Once again the New York Film Academy couldn’t resist another trip to South Africa! We are never disappointed and we’re always anxious to get back. Not to mention the overall enthusiasm South Africans have for the arts and the New York Film Academy.

    If you are interested in finding out more about NYFA or would like an audition, check below to see when we’ll be in your area.

     

    JOHANNESBURG

    Auditions for partial Talent Based Scholarship to the Acting and Musical Theatre programs

    AND

    Portfolio reviews for partial scholarship to Filmmaking, Photography, Cinematography, Documentary, Game Design, 3D Animation, Broadcast Journalism, Screenwriting, and Producing programs

    WHEN: Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

    WHERE: Johannesburg (Kempton Park)

    TIME: 13:00-15:00

    ——————-

    Open House and General Information Session for All New York Film Academy programs

    WHEN: Thursday, September 12th, 2013

    WHERE: Johannesburg (Kempton Park)

    TO RSVP: You must email southafrica@nyfa.edu 

    —————–

    CAPE TOWN

    Auditions for partial Talent Based Scholarship to the Acting and Musical Theatre programs

    AND

    New York Film Academy portfolio reviews for partial scholarship to Filmmaking, Photography, Cinematography, Documentary, Game Design, 3D Animation, Broadcast Journalism, Screenwriting, and Producing

    WHEN: Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

    WHERE: Cape Town

    TIME: 13:00-15:00
    —————–

    Open House and General Information Session for All New York Film programs

    WHEN: Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

    WHERE: Cape Town

    TO RSVP for this or any event, please email southafrica@nyfa.edu

     

    READ CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU RSVP

    1. Portfolio Reviews consist of a panel review of two pieces of creative work pertaining to your desired field of study. Reviews are for partial scholarship to our *full time Filmmaking, Photography, Cinematography, Documentary, Game Design, 3D Animation, Broadcast Journalism, Screenwriting, and Producing programs.
    2. Auditions are for partial scholarship to our *full time Acting or Musical Theatre programs.
    3. MUSICAL THEATRE AUDITION: Consists of a 60-90 second monologue from a published contemporary American play or screenplay, and two contrasting musical theatre songs with music backing.
    4. ACTING AUDITION: Consists of 2 contemporary, contrasting monologues of approximately 60- 90 seconds per monologue.
    5. Information session/Open House: A detailed overview of all the programs NYFA has to offer.
    6. *Full Time = 1 Year or longer
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    August 13, 2013 • Academic Programs, Road Show • Views: 13325

  • NYFA Returning to South Africa

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    South-Africa-Cape-Town

    The New York Film Academy is thrilled to return to South Africa this April and May! We’re never disappointed in the talent and enthusiasm that the country has to offer. So, if you’re interested in learning more about NYFA’s hands-on intensive programs and you live in the area, you will not want to miss this event!

    Check out the schedule below to see when and where exactly we’ll be in your area.

    Private Auditions for Acting and Musical Theatre Programs

    When: Sunday, April 28th 2013
    Where: Johannesburg, South Africa

    You must contact Blake Babbitt at Blake@nyfa.edu to confirm time slot, instructions, and location.

    NYFA Information Session (Information for all NYFA programs)
    When: Sunday, April 28th
    Where: Johannesburg, South Africa
    Location: Mannah Lodge- 39 Pomona Road, Pomona, Kempton Park
    Time: Info Session Starts Promptly at 3:00 PM or 15:00

    Private Auditions for Acting and Musical Theatre Programs
    When: Friday, May 3rd 2013
    Where: Cape Town, South Africa

    You must contact Blake Babbitt at Blake@nyfa.edu to confirm time slot, instructions, and location

    NYFA Information Session (Information for all NYFA programs) 
    When: Friday, May 3rd 2013
    Where: Cape Town, South Africa
    Location: Lagoon Beach Hotel –  Milnerton, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
    Time: Info Session Starts Promptly at 5:00 PM or 17:00
    Please RSVP to all South Africa events by emailing, Blake Babbitt- blake@nyfa.edu.
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    April 1, 2013 • Study Abroad • Views: 4833

  • Actors Can Never Stop Learning

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    After dreaming of studying acting in New York for ten years, South African native, Donnalee Roberts made her dreams come true with New York Film Academy’s 8 Week Acting for Film workshop. However, Donnalee came to NYFA with an already blossoming career in acting and filmmaking back at home. Roberts is a regular on the popular South African soap, 7de Laan, where she plays the vibrant young waitress, Annelie. “It is amazing to play this part,” said Donnalee. “A lot of young girls can relate to the character.”

    In addition to her work on the popular television show, Donnalee will star in the feature film, Klein Karoo. The film plays off the central location of the South African town, Klein Karoo. Landing the role was another dream of Donnalee’s, rewarding her the opportunity to work with a director she’s always admired and respected. Though, she wasn’t always lucky in her career. Donnalee spoke about perseverance and maintaining a positive attitude in the highly competitive field of acting. “You can go on 100 auditions and never get the part. It just means the part wasn’t meant for you, but don’t give up.”

    Next, Donnalee will be playing the lead in a new romantic comedy, Pad na jou HART (Road to Your Heart), which she co-wrote and is co-producing. “I’m very excited about where the South African film industry is going.”

    Aside from her passionate acting and filmmaking work, Donnalee is heavily involved with a charity called Children of Fire. The charity aids young burn victims in South Africa. For more information on how you can help in this cause visit their website: http://www.firechildren.org.

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  • The Art of Impact with James Lecesne

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    James Lecesne is an Academy award winning filmmaker, teacher, and philanthropist. It’s been an exciting time for James with a Tony nomination for The Best Man and soon after that receiving the role of Dick Jensen opposite James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury. However, we especially commend James on the release of his book The Letter Q, a passion project conceived to inspire the youth of America and to raise proceeds for The Trevor Project which he had founded in 1998. We had a chance to speak with James about his inspiration for the book and his teaching at the New York Film Academy. He also shared key insights into the craft of storytelling and how the industry landscape has changed for LGBTQ artists. Don’t forget to get connected with Mr. Lecesne on Twitter and learn about his impact in the arts.

    What was the inspiration for The Letter Q? You’ve already contributed so much to LGBTQ youth, and this book seems to be a continuation of your work with the Trevor Project. 

    Two years ago Dan Savage launched the phenomenally successful It Gets Better Project as a way of spreading the word to young LGBT and Questioning young people that the Trevor Project is there for them 24/7. As the only nationwide suicide prevention and crisis intervention helpline for LGBTQ youth, our organization receives over 30,000 calls a year. Not all of them are rescue calls, but each call establishes a life-to-life connection with a young person who is asking important questions. We provide an ear to listen and the encouragement to be who you are. The idea for the The Letter Q came from Sarah Moon, my co-editor. When she was a teenager, she was lucky enough to be surrounded by adults who shared their stories and their wisdom with her – sometimes in the form of letters, and as she says, “It didn’t seem quite fair to me that I should have been the only teenager to get wonderful letters to carry around.” Soon after coming up with the idea, Sarah approached me about not only writing a letter to my younger self, but also donating a portion of the royalties from the sale of the book to the Trevor Project. Together we compiled a wish-list of authors and began to write to them, ask them, stalk them. The book seemed to fit so perfectly with my own desire around that time to provide young people with tools to help them get through their difficult years. We had been exploring ways to help young people “make it better” right now. And the minute Sarah proposed the idea for the book, I knew we were on our way.

    Has your teaching at NYFA helped inspire your work in some way? Reading the bio on your website, teaching plays a strong role in your career. What are the most important lessons you impart to your students who aspire to make it in film and theatre industries? Have students ever surprised you with their insights in the art and craft of telling stories?

    Teaching is a way to not only give back some of what I’ve learned, but also a way for me to continue learning about story. Storytelling, in any form, is hard work; it requires honesty, courage, craft and above all determination. But it can also be a mysterious and mystical experience, a means to enlarge and enlighten not only the storyteller, but the audience as well. For each of us, it happens differently, the idea comes in the form of a hunch, a worry, an inkling a fear, or sometimes as a fully formed brainstorm; but however it happens it always arises out of something that we happen to believe. We might not be able to articulate what it is exactly, but something in us knows, something in us feels for a truth that we need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    James as featured in the New Yorker.

    Stories are the blueprints of our passions told in code, the urge of something within our selves that is itching for resolve, the reliable and readable map of our beliefs. Leif Finkel, a professor of bioengineering at UPenn, once wrote: “Our cortex makes up stories about the world and softly hums them to us to keep us from getting scared at night.” I’m no professor of bioengineering, but I heartily agree. Of course, a good story does more than that. Stories hum not only for ourselves, but for our audience as well; their song transforms the muddled and often conflicted experiences of living in this troubled world into something valuable and enduring for us all; they are the means by which we can pass our wisdom along to future generations. The results are always surprising, or at least they should be.

    What are your thoughts on representation in the media regarding the struggles that independent filmmakers face as sexual minorities? How do you see the industry landscape for LGBTQ artists? Has it changed at all since you started as a young artist compared to the present day?

    When I was a teenager, the world was a very different place. I grew up without ever hearing the word homosexual spoken, I didn’t know a single gay person, there were no role models to whom I could look for encouragement or guidance. One of the great accomplishments of the LGBTQ community is this idea that we are not just here for ourselves. We have a responsibility to pass along our history and our pride to the next generation. Young people who are struggling and coming up in the world should not have to figure this out by themselves. Of course, there is still a ways to go in terms of achieving equality. Look to places like Uganda, South Africa, Russia, and Iran. Or right here at home to see what happens to certain people when they express themselves fully. But as Kate Millet, the revolutionary feminist recently pointed out —- gays and lesbians have achieved so much in a matter of mere decades, while women have been struggling for centuries to change things. To hear the President of the United States declare that the love of gays and lesbians is equal to that of their fellow (heterosexual) citizens, is certainly proof to me that the world is changing. More change is possible — and needed.  And I believe that by encouraging people to tell their stories, teaching them how to do it in the most exciting and engaging way, it will make for a better world.

    James with Daniel Radcliffe for The Trevor Project.

    To learn more about the Documentary Filmmaking program at the New York Film Academy, click here.

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    June 11, 2012 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 4261