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  • Forbes Interviews New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Alum Alana Blaylock

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alana Blaylock has had a productive career since finishing the 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in the summer of 2011. It’s no surprise then that many in the indAlana Blaylockustry have taken notice of the Emmy Award winner, including Forbes Magazine, which recently published a profile on and interview with the up-and-coming producer.

    Blaylock has amassed an inspiring roster of credits since finishing her workshop at NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school, which teaches aspiring reporters a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of the production process, including researching, writing, shooting, producing, and editing. This is important in the modern digital landscape as contemporary broadcast journalists are expected to be multimedia journalists, marrying their technical skills with their creative ones. 

    This is exactly what Blaylock has excelled at, and why she has already won an Emmy and why her career is taking off even as her path winds between both traditional roads and outside-the-box ones. Her credits include work on CNN, HBO, NBC News, National Geographic, and the ID Channel, including popular programs Deadline and United Shades of America. However, her work on newer streaming models like Amazon and YouTube is what has been generating a lot of buzz. 

    One of her latest projects is producing for Best Shot, a YouTube Originals docuseries executive produced by Lebron James and Maverick Carter for the NBA. The show follows the student basketball players of Newark Central High School as well as chronicling the life and career of their mentor, former NBA player and sports television personality Jay Williams.

    In addition to working in both traditional and digital media, Blaylock curates a strong online presence on social media, further highlighting her smart instincts in an ever-changing media landscape.

    “I love the visual storytelling that happens on Instagram,” Blaylock tells Forbes. “That’s the platform I probably use the most [in my personal life]. And I am inspired by movies, set design, museums, exhibits and artists.”

    She continues, “I try to take in as much new culture as possible and then decide what I want to do with it or how it fits into my process as a creative.”

    What lies ahead for Blaylock remains to be seen, but it’s clear whatever she does next will be insightful and successful due to the work she puts in and the philosophy that keeps her driven. When asked about keeping her own personal voice while working on other parties’ projects, Blaylock tells Forbes, “My brand evolves as I attain more world experience. I have to remain authentically Alana, and the projects that I take on are continuations of my career journey.

    “I can adapt to the demands of a project and still be the best version of myself. I remain steadfast in my goals while producing every show, documentary or collaboration. As a result of working on many projects, there’s always new information and experiences. It keeps me well-rounded.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Alana Blaylock on her career and looks forward to her future successes sure to come!

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  • NYFA Alumnus Michael Gallagher Returns to Screen “The Thinning”

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    On December 16, YouTube pioneer and NYFA alumnus Michael Gallagher screened his latest film, “The Thinning.” Following the screening, Eric Connor led a Q & A with Gallagher.

    michael gallagher

    Connor was Gallagher’s TA when he attended the NYFA Filmmaking Summer Camp when he was just thirteen. He made a film where Connor was chased around the “Jurassic Park 3” set. Using forced perspective Gallagher used a toy dinosaur to chase Connor around the set. It was in this moment that Connor knew Gallagher was special.

    Since then Gallagher has made hundreds of shorts, started the YouTube channel TotallySketch, directed the television mini-series “Interns,” “How to Survive High School” and “The Station,” and produced three films; “Smiley,” “The Thinning,” and “Internet Famous.”

    “The Thinning” was inspired by the current political climate and Gallagher’s own fear of the SAT’s. In the film high school students are required to take an aptitude test. If the student fails they are killed. When two students discover the results are predetermined they’ll do anything to reveal the truth.

    One student asked, “What were some of the things you did to advertise your earliest work?” When I first started I knew you only get so many favors. I knew the first thing that the first thing I asked, I knew it had to count. I went in with my first video. I planned it out and made this attack plan and I just carpet bombed everyone I knew asking, ‘If you ever do one thing for me promote this video.’”

    Gallagher also targeted video sharing sites like Reddit and IAmBored.com. He posted his video on viral threads. Gallagher also found websites centered on themes or items featured in his video. He reached out to administrators and asked for his work to be featured. “You just have to be creative,” Gallagher said.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Michael Gallagher for taking the time to come speak with our students. You can support Gallagher’s work by visiting his YouTube page and hitting the thumbs up. “The Thinning” is now available on YouTube Red.

    UPDATE (June 6, 2019):

    Michael Gallagher’s latest film, “Funny Story,” is now available to rent or buy on iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, and more! The film features critically-acclaimed performances from Emily Bett Rickards, Matthew Glave, Jana Winternitz, Pete Gardner, and Reginald VelJohnson.

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    December 16, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3940

  • NYFA Works with Korean Producers and Directors Educational Institute at Youtube LA

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    On Tuesday, October 25th, the New York Film Academy helped bring cultures together by working alongside the Korean Producers and Directors Educational Institute (KPDE) at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles. The producers traveled to America to learn about the American style of development, streaming, and television audiences.

    youtube la

    The tour of YouTube Space included all the highlights. In the first studio, they visited there was a podium with a mock presidential seal at the far end of the room. This set was housed in one of the smaller studios, but the group had fun pretending to address the nation.

    The next studio they visited was the largest in the building. Studio one is decked out with a hanging light rig, sound absorbing floors, and a three hundred and sixty-degree catwalk. Sets that have been housed in this space include half an airplane and a two-story hotel.

    youtube la

    Other highlights of the trip include the gear room which holds a RED Dragon, a green screen room where Weezer shot a music video and the control room where live streams are produced.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank YouTube Space for hosting us and the Korean Producers and Director’s Educational Institute. If you’d like to learn more about YouTube Space LA and their various locations around the world click here.

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    November 8, 2016 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3325

  • New York Film Academy in Association with Warner Bros. Records Produces Jenny Lewis’ New Music Video

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    Jenny Lewis Video

    One of the many exciting partnerships the New York Film Academy has developed is with Warner Bros. Records. From this exciting collaboration, the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles was tapped to film the music video for popular singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis’ new song She’s Not Me, which comes off her new album, The Voyager. Following production, the video was edited by NYFA student, Saud Al-Moghirah, and is now live to view on Jenny’s Youtube page!

    Have a look at the video below, which is a time-lapse of a mural painted outside of the famous Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Jenny’s full album, The Voyager, will be released July 29th by Warner Bros. Records.

     

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  • Geoffray Barbier’s Video Featured on Jay Z’s Youtube Page

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    New York Film Academy Filmmaking Instructor, Geoffray Barbier directed a short film for Oddka about the New York City band, The Virgins, which is being featured exclusively on Jay Z’s YouTube page. In the video, the band members discuss the relief of removing themselves from a major record label and focusing on their love of the music. Be sure to check it out!

    fgqw_AfficheOddkaxTheVirgins_1

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    June 27, 2013 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 4171

  • Scholarship Opportunity with NCAC Film Contest

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    New York Film Academy will be providing a workshop scholarship to the winner of the National Coalition Against Censorship YFEN film contest. Post your favorite video to your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, or other social media and tell your friends and family to vote!

    Voting is easy. Log into your Gmail, Google or YouTube account and click “Like” on your favorite video on their Film Contest homepage.

    The semifinalist video with the most “Likes” will be declared the People’s Choice winner and the creator will be awarded a Certificate of Free Expression Excellence from NCAC. The deadline for casting votes is February 15 at 5 p.m. EST.

    While audiences choose their favorite, a stellar panel of judges, including New York Film Academy’s Co-Chair of Filmmaking, Michael Sandoval, will be hard at work selecting the Grand Prize, Second place, and Third place winners, to be announced sometime in February.

    So, submit your video now. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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    January 18, 2013 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights • Views: 4964

  • Art Imitates Life for Horror Film Director

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    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with 'Smiley' Director Michael Gallagher at New York Film Academy

    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with ‘Smiley’ Director Michael Gallagher

    Director Michael Gallagher attended summer camps at New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios campus 3 times as a youngster. He started making short films, music videos, and documentaries while in high school. Since then, he has started a wildly popular web series called Totally Sketch, which has over 850,000 subscribers on YouTube.

    During a recent guest speaker event at New York Film Academy, Gallagher shared his recently-released horror film, Smiley, which was released in theaters nationwide. He described how his experience with internet shorts helped prepare him for his first feature length film. “Most of the sketches I shoot are like little scenes,” he said. “It was like 110 sketches in a row.” Working with a tight budget, the indie film was shot in just 15 days, and the filmmakers were shooting as many as 8 pages of the script per day. But as Gallagher puts it, “Horror movies fit the low budget. You can do a lot more with a little.”

    Gallagher cast friends and actors with large YouTube followings to help build buzz around the film. To date, the trailer has racked up over 21 million views on YouTube. At just 23 years old, his first feature length film was about to be released in AMC theaters across the nation. Things were going well until users of the website 4Chan got wind of the film’s plot.

    Gallagher said he was going for authenticity when he decided to make 4Chan users the villains of his film. In an interview with Huffington Post, he said, “I anticipated a minor backlash of people leaving harassing comments online.” But he didn’t anticipate the website’s users posting his home address, his personal information, and leaving dozens of death threats on his cell.

    After interviews with the TODAY ShowInside EditionVarietyPaste (and the FBI), 4Chan users realized they were only giving him free publicity. Just as the movie was released in theaters nationwide, the threats disappeared.

    Much to 4Chan’s chagrin, we’re happy to report the Smiley DVD is now available for pre-order.

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    December 14, 2012 • Academic Programs, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5478

  • NYFA Alum Nominated for Latin Grammy!

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    Congratulations to New York Film Academy graduate Alexis Morante for his Latin Grammy nomination! Since his graduation in 2010, he has worked on a dozen music videos, racking up over 10 million views on Youtube. His most recent video, Licenciado Cantinas, is a 25-minute film with Spanish rock star Enrique Bunbury. It played in movie theaters and on television in 10 countries, and was nominated for Best Music Video – Long Format last week. “I’m very proud of the whole team, made up of several friends and fellows from NYFA,” says Alexis. “I hope this nomination, along with hard work and perseverance, will help me to develop a better career as filmmaker, especially in the American industry.”

    Alexis is no stranger to success. His first-year thesis film, Voltereta, was an official selection at over 70 festivals worldwide, winning over 20 awards. Alexis’ second-year thesis film, Matador on the Road, has played over 50 festivals, winning over 10 awards.

    But he wasn’t always so sure about a career in the film industry. Alexis was in law school in his native Spain when he decided to make his first short film. Soon after, he decided to pursue a degree in Communications. Then he travelled to Cuba and Sweden for short-term filmmaking courses. He chose New York Film Academy to earn his MFA in Filmmaking, doing his first year at the school’s New York campus, and the second year at the Universal Studios campus. “None of this would be possible without NYFA and the students here,” he says. “I’m still working with the students on a professional level.”

    Though he is thrilled to have success working on music videos in Spain, Alexis hopes to expand to more work in the U.S. “I see myself concentrating on movies, doing advertising and music videos in between. I also love documentary and travel documentary.” He is currently developing a feature length script, and will be ready to take it to market soon.

    SHOWREEL – 2016 – Alexis Morante from Alexis Morante on Vimeo.

     

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  • Five Viral Videos That Changed the World

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    Andrea Swift is the department chair of Documentary Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. She has written, directed, and produced many projects, having been awarded the Scriptapalooza TV Award, Silver at the Chicago International Film Festival, a DGA award, and many others. Her PBS Documentary “In the Life” was nominated for an Emmy three times.

    Has a viral video ever really changed the world? Even a little bit? How?

    As the latest crew of NYFA Docsters begin their first cyber film, I am once again updating my list of must-see viral videos for them to consider. It’s always a tricky list to compile, and even trickier to narrow down. YouTube’s greatest hits make a good starting point. In at least one key respect, they clearly “worked.” Hundreds of millions of people have watched and shared Charlie Bit My Finger and The Evolution of Dance. There’s something to learn there, and something to learn from Waka, Waka (This Time for Africa) and other uber viral music videos.

    Perhaps virally successful corporate advertisements have even more to teach. Somehow the makers of The Force, for example, got well over 50 million of us to willingly watch a Volkswagen commercial without the pay off of “real programming” around it. And then they got us to “share” it with to our friends. That’s an even higher bar to clear. Yet they did it.

    However, the real Holy Grail for us social documentary types is the movie that changes the world – at least a little bit. Not an easy feat. If it was, everyone would do it. Still, I propose that there are several viral videos, mostly micro-docs that have managed to pull it off.

    5.)  Crush on Obama: This one’s been on the cultural radar for four years now. In their combined incarnations, Obama Girl videos have scored over 120 million views.  And while it seems silly, many in the mainstream media have identified Crush on Obama as a key influencer in the 2008 elections, and beyond. Perhaps the greatest take-away for aspiring viral game-changers is its success as a “meme.”[1]  In fact, in 2010 Newsweek named the video the #3 biggest meme of the decade.

    Elaborating, The New York Times wrote, “That video probably had more to do with shaping Obama’s complicated public image — young and exciting but maybe a bit shallow — than any Internet appeal devised by the candidate’s own aides.”

    I have to admit it’s especially warm in my mind because its director is upstairs teaching a Viral Video class for the Doc students right now. On the other hand, he’s there because it was already warm in my mind.

    4.)  Susan Boyle – Britain’s Got Talent: This micro-doc pulled from a television show, tells a great, authentic story that makes the cyber world laugh, cry and share again and again. For the viral doc-maker, I´d say the major take-away here is story. As the old adage goes, “a great story, well told” is pure gold in any medium. And a great, well-told, cyber-sized, underdog fable hits our biological “share” button like one of those little rubber reflex hammers.

    Granted the first chapter of this particular viral video-making story is luck.  Well-produced luck, I would argue, but still, luck. Even so, her performance would have been a tree that fell in the woods had the producers not met that lucky occurrence with the skill to recognize it, shoot the story beats as they happened, and then carefully recreate them so their audience could experience the moment as if we were in the room the moment it’s going down. Even with all that, however, it would have been a tree that only fell on British TV if someone hadn’t excised the exact arc of that perfect cyber-sized story, uploaded it and set it free to spread itself through our socially networked cyber psyche.

    But what game did it change? It certainly didn’t help elect a president. Someone who’d been marginalized was laughed at and then became an international star. Her game certainly changed, but more to our point, the whole pop culture game changed with it – just a little bit. That story shamed us for the initial pejorative response we probably shared, at least a little. And it opened our hearts and minds to the possibility that a woman who is not young and not so physically attractive could still be worth listening to, could even have a place in the modern Pop Pantheon. It´s hard to measure the exact impact of that change, but by integrating Susan Boyle into our pop iconography, our collective-self image grew just a little more complex, and ever so slightly less scornful.

    Susan Boyle's viral video

     

    3.)  Playing for change, “Stand by Me: This little documentary is my all time favorite viral share. “But that’s a music video,” you say? It is. It’s also a micro documentary.  I only argue this about the original Playing for Change video, Stand By Me. The others really are just music videos. Good music videos, but still, just music videos. “Stand by Me,” on the other hand, tells the story of the making of itself, and consequently the story of the project and its meaning. That’s what lifts it out of the realm of simple music videos and into the arena of viral micro-documentary.

    More importantly for this list, I argue that in rhythmic, gentle ways that are difficult to quantify, that musical documentary changes the world by changing us.  It tells a story that moves us – both emotionally and physically – which helps it work its simple meme deeper and deeper into our consciousness: all our divergent, wonderful cultures can play together and when they do, our global jam session can become transcendent.  We aren’t “others.” We make magnificent music together.

    And being a story with a great beat, and a meme we can sing along with, Stand by Me can reinforce that change, and inspire its propagation, over and over again.

    2.)  KONY 2012: Scoring over 100 million views in less than a month and spawning spin-offs and backlash videos which have generated almost as many views themselves, it is easily the viral video story of the year. Like Zietgeist before it, KONY 2012 demonstrates the incredible power of the web to spread ideas and create movements, along with its absolute lack of controls for testing a video’s validity or veracity before allowing its entry into this burgeoning engine of our collective consciousness. On the other hand, it also demonstrates the new, highly democratic forum that, if stimulated, creates a remarkable after-the-fact control for both the validity and veracity of the memes we launch into cyber space.

    That video’s career also demonstrates the power of simplicity in this realm, as well as our potentially ruthless response to being initially taken by a video what we then start to feel is a gross oversimplification, propaganda or self-promotion. Personally, I found the later pre-arrest video of Jason Russell almost as heartbreaking the original video. Yet I have to confess to feeling a teeny, tiny wave of schadenfreude as well. But why?

    There was an almost classical Greek symmetry to this flash tragedy playing out before our cyber eyes. Here a well-meaning hero sets out to save the world. But his hubris taints his self-told tale with just enough reckless oversimplification and self-aggrandizement that its instant mega-success breeds a near immediate aftershock of denunciation. And the laceration of that backlash wounds him so intensely that it sends our hero out onto the street, naked and beating the ground, seemingly driven mad by the extremity of his near simultaneous fame and mass rejection.

    It’s a cautionary tale for would be viral world-savers. However, read carefully, the story of the KONY 2012 video, can also light the way for making cyber media that matters. I rate it an unparalleled success, though perhaps not in the exact form its maker intended. April 20th will not find me graffiti-ing in favor of increased military support for a regime that now kills people for being gay; nor wheat-pasting in support of American military adventurism in Africa.

    But it did get us talking about KONY and the Jacobs of the world.  It did get young America interested in the mass kidnapping, rape and forced soldiering of children in central Africa. It did create an atmosphere that led the ratings-driven American media to devote the kind of airtime to the human toll of central African turmoil that it usually reserves for freeze-frames of Lindsey Lohan’s underwear, or purported lack thereof.

    So regardless of how many people hit the streets on April 20th, it’s already changed the world – a little bit. It could arguably have changed it more and more lastingly, and caused significantly less pain to its maker, if he had been a little more careful with his facts and little less certain that he knows best for Africa. But the equivalent of one in three Americans listened to Russell’s idea for a full 30 minutes, shared it, and spent an hour or two considering it, arguing about it, telling other people. And as a culture, we decided, at least, that what happens to children in Uganda, matters to us.

    1.) It Gets Better: You may remember that in 2010, American news reported four gay teen suicides in rapid succession. Each boy had clearly acted in response to relentless bullying. Trying to form a response, the nation could only seem to mutter inchoate disapproval.

    Meanwhile two men, Dan and Terry, decided that they had to reach out the hundreds (maybe thousands) of other teens who were experiencing similar fates. The men sat on their couch, in front of their home video camera, making a low quality, YouTube message-in-a-bottle for those kids. In it, they just shared the stories of their own terrible, humiliating experiences being bullied as teenagers, and about the thriving lives they have built since. With their stories, they offered the simple hope that “it gets better.”

    Well, the rest is history, that video tore around the internet spawning countless replications and morphing from a simple, unassuming offer of hope into a national rallying cry for reform. Hollywood, the Secretary of State, even the President stood up to be counted in their own, It Gets Better videos. And reform we did. State after state and school district after school district has changed its laws and policies. Anti-gay bullying is no longer simply swept under the rug of the collective cultural consciousness, with a “kids will be kids” wave of the hand. Like any other form of violence, it is now a crime.

    This one changed the world, in obvious ways – both political and cultural.

    And the big take away? For me, there are a few. One is that the law of unintended consequences is turbo-charged in cyber space. Set an idea free in the wilds of that vast neural network and there’s no telling what it will do. But the nature of your initial offering is crucial. It may replicate and morph and go places you never could have guessed but all of that will be defined by the essential nature of your meme. In this case, the voice of that selfless, authentic, first person “true” story carried throughout the entire movement it spawned and moved people to truly change themselves, and thus to change their policies.

    So what do you think? Have I convinced you that viral video can change the world – a little bit? Which videos would be on Your Top 5 list?


    [1] When Richard Dawkins coined the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, he wanted a word like gene that conveyed the way in which ideas and behaviour spread within society by non-genetic means. Since then the word has been picked up to describe a piece of information spread by email or via blogs and social networking sites. A meme can be almost anything—a joke, a video clip, a cartoon, a news story—and can also evolve as it spreads, with users editing the content or adding comments. Common collocates in the Oxford English Corpus are spread, pass, and transmit: as with the Internet sense of viral, meme uses the metaphor of disease and infection.

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    April 2, 2012 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 2524