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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Sam LaFrance Featured in Road Theatre Company’s Summer Playwrights Festival

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    Lost Boy, a play written by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Sam LaFrance, was recently featured in Road Theatre Company’s Summer Playwrights Festival.

    LaFrance attended the 1-Year Acting for Film conservatory at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus in 2008. He currently works as the building manager for NYFA-LA’s Barham building.

    Lost Boy tells the story of a man being released from prison after kidnapping several children 22 years earlier. The play was previously part of NYFA’s 2019 Winter Series of Student Directed plays. LaFrance directed the production, mentored by full time instructor David Robinette.

    “I saw a few Student Directed Plays and figured this would be a good opportunity to workshop one of my own projects,” LaFrance told NYFA. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone who loves theatre. You are completely immersed in it and that’s an amazing feeling.”

    The tenth annual edition of the Road Theatre’s Summer Playwrights Festival staged nearly 40 staged readings of new plays in just eight drama-packed days. The festival concluded on August 4, after staging readings at both the Historic Lankershim Arts Center Theater and Gallery and the Road Theatre’s 77-seat venue in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony. The fest is considered one of the largest playwright festivals in the nation.

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Acting for Film alum Sam LaFrance on the success of his play Lost Boy and looks forward to future productions!

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    August 13, 2019 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 543

  • Playwright Lindsey Ferrentino Visits New York Film Academy (NYFA) Production of ‘Ugly Lies the Bone’

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    On Monday, July 1, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film department had the opportunity to host a special performance of Ugly Lies the Bone, directed by NYFA Acting for Film alum Coco de Bruycker. This special performance was followed by a Q&A with playwright Lindsey Ferrentino and actor Ralf Little, who were in attendance for the show.

    Ugly Lies the Bone tells the story of Jess, a veteran returning from her third deployment in Afghanistan who was wounded in action. She has been assigned to a new video game therapy—an immersive virtual reality experience created to distract soldiers from their pain. However, ignoring her actual reality proves more difficult than it seems. The spotlight is on Jess as she navigates her new life, desperate to feel comfortable in her—literally—new skin.

    Lindset Ferrentino Ugly Lies the Bone

    Director Coco de Bruycker worked with the NYFA Acting for Film department to arrange the Q&A after connecting with Lindsey Ferrentino. “That we had the honor to play Ugly Lies the Bone for Lindsey Ferrentino is truly amazing, says de Bruycker. “Truthfulness is probably the biggest thing I take away from her … It impressed me how much time she actually spends on research and discovery as you go. And that’s also one of the reasons why I chose to do this play.”

    Actor Luke Sweeney, who played Stevie, was inspired by the fact that Lindsey and Ralf came to the show and spoke afterwards. “I was just very grateful to have them in the audience,” says Sweeney. “They both have big things happening in their careers and personal lives right now and for them to take a night to come and see us perform was a gift … It also inspired me to know that even though there may be some quiet months, Lindsey and Ralf still work really hard to make sure they are making a living doing what they love. It gave me an immense amount of confidence starting off my career path to know that even the best actors and storytellers you meet are still navigating their way.”

    Actress Isabelle Germain spoke of the difficulty of working on the play, telling NYFA, “Becoming Jess was one of the toughest challenges I’ve had as an actor … I absolutely love this play and all of the characters within it. Ugly Lies the Bone was a cathartic, healing experience.”

    Lindset Ferrentino Ugly Lies the Bone

    Ángel Gabriel, who played Kelvin, was excited to be a part of the production. “To have the playwright with us on Monday with one of the original cast members was surreal,” says Gabriel. “A truly mesmerizing night for all of us … The universe prizes you when it sees the hard work and determination that you put in. I couldn’t be happier with the results.”

    de Bruycker discussed the process of directing the play: “In rehearsals—and also during the shows—we discovered so many things together, both cast and crew as a team, and I’m utterly grateful for all those different angles …The show taught me also to trust the team, the process, and myself. Any creative work is unpredictable, sometimes painful, and Ugly Lies the Bone shows that pain doesn’t necessarily have to discourage you. It’s empowering. You can use anything on your way, both the highs and the lows.”

    de Bruycker was thrilled to have been able to make the Q&A work, adding, “I’m so glad we could unite the playwright with our actors and great crew at New York Film Academy for a night. And also the audience in the tears and laughs they shared together every night we brought this story to life. Thank you.”

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    July 19, 2019 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 610

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Kicks Off 2019 Summer Series of Student Directed Plays

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    The New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Acting for Film department kicked off their Summer Series of Student Directed Plays with three amazing productions: Us & Them by David Campton, directed by Janey Nel (NYFA 1-Year Acting for Film) and mentored by instructor Mary Sala; In Love and Warcraft by Madhuri Shekar, directed by Elisa Nanty (NYFA alum) and mentored by Associate Chair of Acting, Anne Moore; and Dry Land by Ruby Rae Spiegel, directed by Bita Arefnia (NYFA BFA Acting for Film) and mentored by instructor Cathy Giannone.

    Us and Them is meaningful play that begins with two groups of wanderers looking for a place to settle. They agree to share and mark the line between their territories, then build a small wall. The wall is built higher and then still higher. Suspicion and mistrust grow to the point where the groups must inevitably explode in conflict. “I have learned so much about acting through this process,” says student director Janey Nel. “The message of the play was very important to me as I grew up in South Africa where racism is still very much an issue.”

    In Love and Warcraft follows Evie Malone—gamer girl, college senior, and confirmed virgin—who has it all figured out. She not only does she command a top-ranked guild in Warcraft with her online boyfriend but also makes a little cash on the side writing love letters for people who’ve screwed up their relationships. Love is like Warcraft, after all—it’s all about strategies, game plans, and not taking stupid risks. “Wanting to put up a cheerful play for people to just unwind and laugh still came with its challenges,” says student director and NYFA alum Elisa Nanty about her experience. “But what got the team and I through it was learning to trust in ourselves, each other, and the process.

    Dry Land is a play about unwanted pregnancy, female friendship, resiliency, and what happens in one high school locker room after everybody’s left. “I wanted to tell this story now because I believe it speaks to the time we’re living in,” says student director Bita Arefnia.

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    July 11, 2019 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 506

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Acting for Film Host Winter Season of Student Directed Plays

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    Starting in February, the New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Acting for Film department kicked off their series of workshop productions featuring plays directed by the students themselves.

    The season kicked off with the first two plays—Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Michael Gum (BFA Acting for Film) and Doll’s House Part 2 by Maame-Ekua Mensah (BFA Acting for Film.) Both plays were mentored by full-time NYFA instructor, Cathy Giannone.

    “The Student Directed Plays are an experience that changes all that are involved,” states Giannone. “They are a valuable and important lesson in creativity and process. Everyone walks away having more confidence and a better understanding of the work.”

    “I have learned quite a bit through directing Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” says student director Michael Gum. “As far as creatively, figuring out how to describe a vision in multiple ways so that everyone I am working with is on the same page.  Because the play is fantastical, bizarre, absurd, and at the same time talking about real issues, finding the balance of worlds and keeping everyone in the same world is one of the elements that I think is most important.”

    Gum adds, “I also think that there are two important themes in the play. One: that while technology can be used to form connections, an obsession with it can alienate. And two: The difference between loving the idea of someone and actually loving someone. To me, both these themes are very relevant to today, particularly for students and those working to get in the film industry.”

    Student director Maame-Ekua Mensah had this to say about her experience directing Doll’s House Part 2: “I wanted to do this play to encourage the  audience to take a stand on their own opinions in the future, while still being able to see the logic in others’. The play discusses old perspectives on feminism, love, marriage, and commitment. We currently live in a society where it’s easier to agree with everyone because we are unable to keep the peace when someone has am alternative opinion. I believe people should be coming together, whether or not we have altering opinions, to advocate for the greater good for society. I believe that you can learn a lot from listening to your ‘opponents’ in life. Working on this play has also given me much insight on how to work with a cast and crew.”

    The third Student Directed Play by the NYFA-LA Acting School was a production of In the Blood, by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Hattie Sallie (BFA Acting for Film) and Cathy Giannone.

    In the Blood tells the story of a homeless woman with five children by five different fathers in a society pitted against them. Speaking about her experience directing the play, student director Sallie says:

    “I wanted to do this play because at the end of it, I cried and in the midst of the crying I asked myself ‘why?’ I wanted to explore my place in society and how I treat people who can do absolutely nothing for me. Then I decided that this would be an amazing, timeless play that I could put up because I wanted to try my hand at directing and I wanted the audience to take a look at themselves as well, have the kind of journey I had while reading In the Blood. 

    “I learned so much from directing this play. I learned the importance of listening, hearing the writer’s intention, colors!!!. I think I have learned how to become a better actor because of it. I am so thankful for this opportunity because now I know the feeling of being on the other side of the casting process and how much I wanted the actors to come in and be ‘the one.’ I know how I loved when the actors came in prepared, when they worked with me, trusted me and not tried to be against me. I learned how much reading and replying to emails and text messages and notices are because I wanted my actors to let me know that they received all the information given. 

    “I learned the importance of rehearsal—how you rehearse is the way you will perform—and how to communicate with actors, how to bring in the energy and uplift them when they needed encouragement. I could go on and on but I will leave it at: This was one of the best experiences of my life!”

    In the Blood star MFA alum Demyra Ravyne Payne has this to say about her fifth production she’s acted in: “NYFA gives not only its students but its alumni the opportunity to do work we couldn’t do anywhere else. “I am very thankful for all the support NYFA has provided me.”

    Thurs. Feb. 28 7:30pm The fourth Student Directed Play of the winter season was an original work from NYFA Acting for Film alum Sam LaFrance: Lost Boy, who also directed it, mentored by full time instructor David Robinette. 

    The play tells the story of a man responsible for kidnapping a handful of children twenty-two years prior being released from prison.

    “I saw a few Student Directed Plays and figured this would be a good opportunity to workshop one of my own projects,” says writer/director LaFrance. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone who loves theatre. You are completely immersed in it and that’s an amazing feeling.”

    NYFA-LA Student Directed Plays Winter Season 2019
    The final Student Directed play of the winter season was Tartuffe and was performed earlier this March. Tartuffe was written by Molière, translated by Richard Wilbut, and directed by Valerie Torres (MFA Acting for Film), mentored by full time NYFA instructor, Mary Sala.

    New York Film Academy congratulates the student directors of the NYFA Acting for Film Winter Season of Student Directed Plays on jobs well done! Bravo!

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    March 10, 2019 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 201

  • New York Film Academy Acting for Film Instructor Peter Allen Stone’s ‘Everygirl’ Premieres in Finland

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    On January 18, Everygirl opened at the Kallio School in Helsinki, Finland. Directed by Annemari Untamala, the play was written by actor, director, and Acting for Film instructor at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), Peter Allen Stone. The play concerns a 17-year-old girl who finds out she is dead at the beginning of the story.

    Everygirl is based on a famous morality play from the 15th century, updated by Stone with a transgender character and LGBTIQA+ themes. The original medieval play, Everyman, was used by the church to encourage people to be good, or they may end up going to hell. In 2013, after watching 16 high school plays in two days while at a theatre competition, Stone began devising a more modern version.

    Everygirl
    (Photo: Anni Ågren)

    “I thought it would be interesting to set it in a modern high school, play with current archetypes, and make the themes spiritually universal,” says Stone. “I always intended that play be performed by younger actors and for a younger audience that would hopefully receive the core message to be kind to one another.”

    The next weekend, Stone outlined his vision for the play. After three years of talking about it with colleagues and running it through his mind, he finally sat down and wrote a first draft while teaching at NYFA’s Florence location. Later that year while back in New York, Stone workshopped the play with some NYFA students.

    By the time a final draft was written, Everygirl had also included themes like minimalism and consumerism. One character, Things, appears through Facetime. Other characters include Death, Best Friend, Father, Fear, Beauty, Strength, and Knowledge. 

    Everygirl
    (Photo: Anni Ågren)

    However, it is the play’s connection to youth and the place of kindness in the modern world that serves as the story’s backbone. Explains Stone, “There is a transgender character named Kindnessin the play that represents the kind acts that we can do to one another everyday of our lives regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation if we choose to lead with love.” Additionally, there is a character named Boyfriend/Girlfriend, a fluid role that can be played by a performer of any gender.

    These themes are close to Stone’s heart. In 2012, Unnatural Acts, co-written by Stone, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Produced by Classic Stage Company, the play is based on true events revolving Harvard deans trying to expel the school’s homosexual population in 1920. “I spent over six years creating that play about the injustices done to the LGBTQ community with an exceptional group of artists,” says Stone. “We fought then, and I will continue to fight for equal rights for the rest of my life.” 

    Everygirl premieres January 18, where the Deputy Mayor of Education for the City of Helsinki will be in attendance. Information about the play can be found on Helsinki’s Arts and Culture website.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Peter Allen Stone for continuing to apply his talents and passion to praiseworthy projects like Everygirl both home and abroad! 

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    January 18, 2019 • Acting, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1468

  • “One Night in Miami” Stars New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting Alum Kieron Anthony As Cassius Clay

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailLast October, One Night in Miami premiered as a Miami New Drama production at Miami Beach’s Colony Theatre, starring New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting Alum Kieron Anthony as legendary fighter Cassius Clay.

    The play was written by Kemp Powers and staged by Miami native Carl Cofield, associate artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem. It imagines the events of February 25, 1964, after Clay had defeated Sonny Liston and won the World Heavyweight Crown. After the fight, Clay was joined at the Hampton House Motel Room by three other famous men of color — Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Malcolm X. 

    Kieron Anthony as Cassius Clay

    Leon Thomas III, Esau Pritchett and Jason Delane listen as Kieron Anthony’s Cassius Clay (standing on bed) recounts his victory over Sonny Liston in “One Night in Miami.” Photo by STIAN ROENNING

    While only the surviving member of the foursome, Jim Brown, knows what the men really discussed that night, One Night in Miami postulates what could have been happened when four such prominent personalities are confined in a small room after such an incredible evening. The play, which takes place during Segregation, also incorporates important themes of race and religion in the 1960s.

    Kieron Anthony plays the pivotal role of Cassius Clay, who the day after the night depicted in the play would announce his conversion to the Nation of Islam. He would change his name and be known by for the rest of his life as Muhammad Ali. Of his performance, Christine Dolen wrote in the Miami Herald that Anthony “conveys the young champ’s joyous confidence as he reenacts moments of his life-changing fight for his famous friends. He dials up the rhetoric and swagger when he goes outside to speak with the reporters who finally track him down, but with his friends he’s willing to show he’s still grappling with embracing and declaring his faith.”

    Anthony graduated from New York Film Academy South Beach’s 1-year acting conservatory in 2015. As part of an extremely diverse student body with classmates from around the world, Anthony received an educational experience unique from other acting schools in Florida, focusing on hands-on experience from faculty members currently working in the Miami acting scene.

    Yves Arispe, NYFA South Beach’s Director of Housing and Student Services, called Anthony’s performance “natural, believable, relatable as he delivered on every beat,” and that, “Kieron’s performance makes NYFA South Beach proud!”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Acting alum Kieron Anthony on his stellar performance as Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    November 27, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, South Beach, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 995

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum and Siblings Star Off-Broadway

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailThis June, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni Jameelah Rose Lineses and Joseph Lineses starred together in Mindanao: The Legend of Tabunaway, Mamalu and Their Descendants at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. In addition to both being graduates of the New York Film Academy, Jameelah Rose and Joseph are sister and brother.

    Jameelah Rose Lineses and Joseph Lineses

    Joseph Lineses and Jameelah Rose Lineses

    Mindanao: The Legend ran from June 21 – June 24, with both evening and matinee shows. Based on the oral tradition legend of the brothers Tabunaway and Mamalu, Mindanao: The Legend highlights the culture of the indigenous peoples and sultanates of the Southern Philippines. Mindanao: The Legend was written and directed by Potri Ranka Manis, who also devised the show’s concept and choreography.

    The production supports Kinding Sindaw Melayu Heritage, a dance ensemble founded in 1992 and devoted to preserving and educating people about the rich, vibrant culture of the Philippines. In addition to the production and additional shows and benefits, Kinding Sindaw also offers workshops and classes in Filipino dances. Its Executive Director is Potri Ranka Manis.

    Jameelah Rose and Joseph Lineses have been members of Kinding Sindaw for over eight months. Jameelah first attended New York Film Academy in June 2011, taking the 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop. Two months later, she enrolled in the 1-Year Filmmaking program at the New York City campus, where she was given hands-on training with state-of-the-art film equipment, and taught the skills necessary for pre-production through post-production.

    Since graduating, Jameelah has made multiple films, including Historic Jeddah, Our Journey to Hijaz, and The Lifestyles of Expats in Jeddah. These films have been screened in many festivals, and Jameelah has accumulated several awards for her efforts, including the IFFM Film Festival Director Louie Award Honorable Mention. In addition to her work as a filmmaker, and as a dancer and actress for Kinding Sindaw, she is also part of the media and marketing team for the nonprofit organization.

    Jameelah Rose Lineses

    Jameelah Rose Lineses

    Her brother, Joseph Lineses, attended New York Film Academy’s 4-Week Photography program in New York City. Joseph was born in Quezon City in the Philippines, but like his sister Jameelah, he was raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Portraying Mindanao: The Legend was very important to him because of his deep interest in his ancestors and the culture of the Southern Philippines.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates both Jameelah Rose and Joseph Lineses on their successful run of Mindanao: The Legend of Tabunaway, Mamalu and Their Descendants, and looks forward to the continued works produced by Kinding Sindaw. Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    July 17, 2018 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1783

  • New York Film Academy Master Class With Lyle Kessler Wraps With Impressive Performances

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    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    This December, students from the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film 2-Year Conservatory performed scenes written and directed by renowned actor/playwright Lyle Kessler. The performances were the culmination of an 8-Week Master Class taught by Kessler, who has been an icon in the world of theatre for several decades.

    Kessler studied acting under industry legend Lee Strasberg and has been a longtime member of the famed Actor’s Studio. Kessler had the opportunity to play Strasberg in the 2001 biopic “James Dean.”

    Kessler is best known as a playwright though, with numerous works that have helped shape the modern era of American theatre. For Peter Allen Stone, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Acting for Film, Kessler was a vital part of his education. “I used to dig through his plays in my college library looking for monologues and scenes many years ago,” remarked Stone, “so it was something special for me to get to know him and come full circle.”

    Scene from "The Display Man"

    Scene from “The Display Man”

    The best known work written by Kessler is “Orphans,” which first debuted in 1983 at Chicago’s world-renowned Steppenwolf Theatre and was originally directed by Gary Sinise. It was later adapted into a feature film starring Matthew Modine and Albert Finney, and has been performed on Broadway as recently as 2013 with Alec Baldwin and Ben Foster.

    After running the playwriting division of the Actor’s Studio in Los Angeles for many years, Kessler is still active and working with the Actor’s Studio in New York City. The NYFA students attending Kessler’s Master Class were able to visit the Actor’s Studio as part of their course. Student Elizabeth Hopland reflected that “going to the Actor’s Studio was a highlight of my acting career so far, thanks to Lyle.”

    The NYFA students who were privileged to work with Kessler started in Fall 2016, and began their 2nd Year training in the summer of 2017. Each session of the 8-week Master Class focused on a specific aspect of the craft, like the inner anger of a particular character. The acting students worked on scenes from new works written by Kessler, who directed and worked closely with them throughout the course.

    Scene from "Prisoner"

    Scene from “Prisoner”

    The scenes were two-person dialogues, with the acting students performing multiple roles and plays. One of Kessler’s new works included “Prisoner,” about a privileged woman tied up during a burglary, who poked and prodded her captor while trying to learn more about him. Other new works included “The Display Man” and “The Great Divide,” the latter concerning two brothers dealing with a woman claiming to be pregnant with the older brother’s child.

    The final session of the Master Class included performances of the scenes for a small audience, including New York Film Academy president Michael Young. The final scenes of the evening were from another of Kessler’s new works—“Temptation”—about inappropriate sexual behavior between a psychiatrist and his patient, a story and theme that is especially relevant in today’s current Hollywood climate.

    Kessler Directing "Prisoner"

    Kessler Directing “Prisoner”

    One of the performers, student Agnes Hedwall Schmidt, remarked “What I liked most about working with Lyle was the way he made the work a collaboration. We give him our view of the text and the character, he gives his, and together we create a scene that is so much fun to act in, and allows me to keep growing and learning as an actor.” Schmidt added, “I had so much fun working with Lyle!”

    The appreciation was mutual—the performances ended with Kessler thanking the students for their strong, courageous work, and the students overwhelmingly thanking Kessler for his invaluable training and direction. Of the students, Kessler said he was “very impressed by the work and talent of the group of actors at NYFA who acted in my plays. They kept growing in their roles. A real commitment.”

    The Acting for Film students couldn’t ask for a better compliment from an artist of Kessler’s stature. The New York Film Academy thanks Lyle Kessler for giving our students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study and learn from one of the theatre world’s greats.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 22, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 3033

  • New York Film Academy Alum & Associate Director of Recruitment Screens Powerful Documentary “I Heart Jenny”

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    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny” at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Theatre

    “I Heart Jenny,” a heart-wrenching and beautiful documentary by producer and director Blake Babbitt, had a special screening this December at the New York Film Academy’s recently opened New York City Theatre. The film follows Babbitt’s close friend Jenny Rie Vanderlinden as she struggled with and eventually succumbed to a rare form of ovarian cancer. More importantly, the documentary focuses on the powerful positive spirit Jenny embodied, inspiring her friends, family, and eventually total strangers with her optimism and zestful love of life.

    In a piece written about Jenny, the Huffington Post wrote, “Jenny doesn’t seem terrified of this thing that is so far beyond us, this thing that none of us can now see… Instead, she’s investing her unconquerable energy in living the spectacular life she’s always lived—skiing, canyoneering, rafting, traveling and raising four amazing children—with a bit more urgency.”

    “I Heart Jenny” started documenting Jenny’s journey over a year after her diagnosis, and followed her right up until her untimely end, a death she refused to allow to shadow her life. Babbitt was inspired to make the documentary after seeing the “I Heart Jenny” stickers their mutual friends began posting frequently as badges of support.

    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny”

    The initial idea of the documentary came to Babbitt during a pitch session that was part of his curriculum while attending the New York Film Academy’s Evening Producing workshop. From there, he started a years long journey, utilizing the skills, resources, and colleagues he met while at NYFA. “I had never made a film before,” said Babbitt, “but I was able to use the resources at NYFA to get my feet underneath me. At NYFA I was surrounded by people who really knew what they were doing. I felt supported by NYFA the entire way.”

    Shooting the film took two years, and was in post-production for another three—a long, laborious process that is not uncommon for documentaries, especially works of passion and as personal as “I Heart Jenny.” During this time, Babbitt not only applied the skills he learned at NYFA, but also used the connections made there to help his film see the light of day. In addition to being a distinguished alumnus, Babbitt is also currently the school’s Associate Director of Recruitment. With this notable position, he is able to guide incoming students as they look to grow as artists and filmmakers in their own right.

    Blake Babbitt

    Producer & Director Blake Babbitt

    As a result of the relationships formed at the New York Film Academy, Babbitt was able to recruit a strong, talented crew for “I Heart Jenny”—many alumni and staff from the school—including:

    Kathleen Harris – DP/Producer
    Brad Gallant – Lead Editor/Producer
    Zena Wood – Associate Producer
    Mike Diaz – Editor/Story Producer
    Chris Hayes – Editor
    Mike Walls – Camera Operator
    Shani Patel – Sound recordist/2nd Camera Operator
    Lexi Phillips – Colorist

    It was only fitting then that “I Heart Jenny” had its initial preview at the New York Film Academy. Babbitt continued, “It was an honor to be able to host my first screening in our stunning new screening room.”

    Andrea Swift, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Documentary Filmmaking, was in attendance, and was very impressed with Babbitt’s debut film. “It takes extraordinary passion, commitment, and talent to make a film like this.” She added, “This film can do real good in the world.”

    The specific cancer that took Jenny’s life was related to the BRCA gene, a sequence of DNA that has become more and more noted in recent years for its ominous relationship to many types of cancer. While making “I Heart Jenny,” Babbitt linked up with Jonathan and Mindy Gray, founders of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine. The Basser Center is the first of its kind to focus specifically on BRCA-related cancers, and Babbitt has tied his film to their worthy cause, helping to raise donations for further research (click here if you’d like to support the Basser Center as well.)

    While it’s been a long, winding road for Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” their journey is far from over. Babbitt’s goal is to get the documentary into the Telluride Film Festival, based in Colorado where Babbitt is from and where he first met Jenny. According to Babbitt, “If it gets in, she wants me to bring a cardboard cutout of her—LOL!”

    In addition to submitting the film to as many festivals as possible, Babbitt is also hoping to get distribution, hoping the more people who see the film, the more they will take home its poignant message and look to support the fight against BRCA-related cancers. Babbitt continued, “We’ve had so many supporters along the way, and anytime I felt dejected or lost in the process, I would just think about our supporters and Jenny. I knew I couldn’t let her or them down.”

    Supporters of the film can follow updates on Facebook as well as on Twitter. You can also follow Babbitt’s filmmaking exploits on Instagram.

    The New York Film Academy is proud of Blake Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” and wishes him the best of luck as he continues the legacy of Jenny Rie Vanderlinden and her powerful story.

    I Heart Jenny Promo- Extended Version from Blake Babbitt on Vimeo.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • Highlights From the 71st Annual Tony Awards

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    The New York Film Academy was especially excited to watch the Tony Awards this year, as our Musical Theatre Program has welcomed many members of the Broadway community as instructors, guest speakers, and featured artists in our original movie musicals, from our Artistic Director Kristy Cates to visiting Master Class lecturer Jonathan Groff. For industry insiders and theatre lovers everywhere, the 71st Annual Tony Awards on Sunday was the theatre event of the season. The New York Film Academy provided live social media coverage on Twitter, while the live CBS broadcast of the Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall gave nearly 6 million home viewers a glimpse into an evening full of Broadway royalty, moving speeches, and much-anticipated performances.

    In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the 71st Annual Tony Awards:

    Best Musical

    After much anticipation, audience favorite “Dear Evan Hansen” swept the Tony’s this season, taking home awards in not one, not two, but six categories — including the coveted spot for Best New Musical. The groundbreaking musical is a true original, featuring a small cast and orchestra and offering some innovative tie-ins to social media.

    Best Actor in a Musical

    Dear Evan Hansen” also gave us one of the evening’s brightest new stars, when leading actor Ben Platt snagged the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Platt received a rousing standing ovation from the live audience and the orchestra at the Tony’s, and used his moment in the spotlight to spread some inspiration.

    As quoted in the New York Times, Ben offered encouragement to fellow theatre kids: “To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”

    Best Actress in a Musical

    “Dear Evan Hansen” was not the only star of the evening. The Radio City Music Hall audience also swept to its feet to recognize and celebrate beloved industry icon Bette Midler, as she won the the Best Actress in a Musical award for her portrayal of Dolly Levi in the revival of “Hello, Dolly!” 

    Best Play

    While musicals and musical performances punctuated the evening, the Tony’s also celebrate legitimate Broadway performers and plays. This year, the category for Best Play (non-musical) was especially competitive, but in the end the award went to “Oslo,” which dramatizes the 1993 Middle East peace accords.

    Best Actress in a Play

    Laurie Metcalf had been nominated for a Tony Award four times before her emotionally-charged win on Sunday, when she took home the category for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Nora in “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

    Most-buzzed Acceptance Speech

    Cynthia Nixon took the stage to accept an award for Best Featured Actress in a play for “The Little Foxes,” the Lillian Helman classic which was also nominated in the Best Revival of a Play category. During her acceptance speech, Nixon caused major internet buzz for quoting the playwright to make a political statement: ““Sixty years ago, [Hellman] wrote, ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it and other people who just stand around and watch them do it.’ My love, gratitude and undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”

     

    Surprise Stars

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, rocked Radio City during Jill’s moment on stage. Mrs. Biden made a brief appearance during the ceremony to promote Got Your Six, a campaign benefitting military veterans. And Variety reports that the crowd’s enthusiasm for the political superstars cased selfie-seekers to create traffic jams at the after-party as they clamored for a pic with the Bidens.

    Lifetime Achievement Award

    James Earl Jones received recognition for a full and incredible career on the stage, taking home the  2017 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theater. The superstar, who has portrayed roles from Darth Vader in “Star Wars” to Othello on Broadway, graciously thanked the New York City Police Department during his moment on stage for their work keeping the Broadway community safe.

    Here is the full list of this year’s Tony Award winners, as reported by The Tony Awards website:

    BEST PLAY

    “Oslo”

    BEST MUSICAL

    “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY

    August Wilson’s “Jitney

    BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

    “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY

    Kevin Kline for “Present Laughter”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY

    Laurie Metcalf for “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Ben Platt for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Bette Midler for “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY

    Michael Aronov for “Oslo”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY

    Cynthia Nixon for Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Gavin Creel for “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Rachel Bay Jones for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL

    Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE

    “Dear Evan Hansen” Music & Lyrics: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

    BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY

    Nigel Hook for “The Play That Goes Wrong”

    BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

    Mimi Lien for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”

    BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY

    Jane Greenwood for Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”

    BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

    Santo Loquasto for “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY

    Christopher Akerlind for “Indecent”

    BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

    Bradley King for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”

    BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

    Rebecca Taichman for “Indecent”

    BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

    Christopher Ashley for “Come From Away”

    BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

    Andy Blankenbuehler for “Bandstand”

    BEST ORCHESTRATIONS

    Alex Lacamoire for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    SPECIAL TONY AWARD® FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATRE

    James Earl Jones

    REGIONAL THEATRE TONY AWARD

    Dallas Theater Center

    ISABELLE STEVENSON TONY AWARD

    Baayork Lee

    SPECIAL TONY AWARD

    Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin

    TONY HONORS FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATRE

    Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser

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    June 12, 2017 • Entertainment Australia, Entertainment News, Musical Theatre • Views: 2287