VoyageLA, the flagship publication for Voyage Group of Magazines, is a media and city guide for Los Angeles that aims to authentically represent a wide variety of artists and communities, looking for outside-the-box ways to bring together the many different small businesses, independent artists and entrepreneurs, local institutions of LA.
It’s no surprise that many of New York Film Academy’s incredibly talented students and alumni have been featured on their pages, usually with personal and informative interviews. Here are the most recent NYFA artists who have been showcased by VoyageLA:
Recent 1-Year Acting for Film grad Dayana Espinoza has a knack for landing roles in quality films–she’s appeared in award winners Outlandish(Winner – CKF International Film Festival) and The Rosy Summer Day (Best Fantasy Film – Los Angeles Film Awards; Best Short – Top Short Film Festival; Best Women Short – Indie Short Fest; Best Director – Independent Shorts Awards; Best Director – Festigious International Film Festival) as well as InvisibleMurderer, which was nominated in the Indie Short Fest for both Best Original Story and Best Film Noir Short. Espinoza, who was born and raised in Peru and has been recently interviewed by both VoyageLA and Film Daily, is currently represented by two agencies and recently worked on her first SAG-AFTRA project.
Current BFA Photography Joseph Ford has been hired to shoot Instagram influencers including Blac Chyna and Brittany Renner, and has recently shot photo coverage of the Amazon float for the 2019 SF Gay Pride parade. The Marines veteran talks about his fashion photography company and the path that led him to NYFA-LA and beyond.
In her interview with VoyageLA, 1-Year Acting for Film alum Saana Laigren talks about how she first got into acting during her childhood, and about the internal struggles she’s faced while trying to create a career in the arts. In the end, though, her path ultimately led to her following her dream, and she’s recently won Best Foreign Actress at Chandra Khamini International Film Festival.
VoyageLA calls MFA Producing alum Alice Rehemutula a “trailblazer” in an interview that charts her unconventional path from a Muslim province of China to Shanghai to Hollywood. Rehemutula found great success overseas as a performer, including appearing on China’s Got Talent, but she also has a passion for working behind the camera, earning her Master of Fine Arts in Producing from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus.
Round Trip, a six-minute action film written and directed by New York Film Academy Australia alum Ren Thackham and starring NYFA Australia alum Danny Bolt, recently went online after a spectacular festival run.
Thackham and Bolt met while studying at NYFA Australia, where Thackham attended the 1-Year Filmmaking program in 2014. Since then, she’s had a great deal of success on the festival circuit with her short films, collaborating often with Bolt, and winning numerous awards and nominations for her work.
Their latest short, Round Trip, packs a serious punch with an incredible automobile stunt involving a police car flipping over. “We had one police car and one shot at flipping it on camera, and if it didn’t land on it’s wheels, we wouldn’t have had a film,” says Thackham.
The film was in good hands though; the head of the stunt team was Judd Wild, who worked on Australian action epic Mad Max: Fury Road. Thackham calls Wild “one of the best in the country.”
Wild wasn’t the only top shelf talent on the production. The film stars 2013 NABBA Mr. Universe Lee Priest in his acting debut, as a criminal trying to escape Bolt’s police officer protagonist. Additionally, the score for Round Trip was composed by Rafael May with didgeridoo by Darren Narul, recorded at Skinny Fish Music in Darwin.
Thackham and Bolt next plan to make their first feature film, Ridgy Didge, in 2020 as a directing/producing team.
New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Australia alumni Ren Thackham and Danny Bolt on the online release of Round Trip and encourages everyone to check out the death-defying short!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Cinematography alum Anna Vialova was recently interviewed by Short Close-Up Film Magazine.
Vialova hails from Ukraine, and first attended New York Film Academy in July 2015, enrolling in the 8-Week Filmmaking workshop at our Burbank-based campus. She followed that up in Spring 2018 with the advanced and rigorous studies in the 1-Year Conservatory at NYFA’s Cinematography school.
Credits as a cinematographer include Devour, I Just Wanted to See You, Silent Voices, Things That Fall, and No Longer Perfect. Vialova also shot her own film, Brave. New., which she directed and produced. Additionally, Vialova is an accomplished photographer, and has had photos published in ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue UA, and L’officiel.
Short Close-Up is an international, independent online magazine that covers a variety of culture, including, narrative, documentary, animation, music video, experimental, fashion, commercial, and mobile. Short Close-Up shares the experiences of established filmmakers by publishing in-depth profiles and interviews by the most in-demand filmmakers working today.
In the interview, Vialova spoke about what inspired her to become a filmmaker, the important of collaborating on set, and the role film festivals have played in her life. She also asked about the relationship between a filmmaker and the artist, telling Short Close-Up, “I feel that the best thing I can do is to stay honest with my audience and myself. I don’t shoot scripts I don’t like. If I don’t feel connected to the story it will be disrespectful to director and audience to shoot it, because I won’t be able to tell the story in a best way.”
New York Film Academy wishes Cinematography alum Anna Vialova the best of success as her career continues forward, and encourages everyone to check out her full interview with Short Close-Up here.
First Wives Club, the new adaptation of the hit 1996 film developed for television by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Tracy Oliver, premieres this week.
Oliver attended the New York Film Academy 4-Week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in 2005. In that workshop she met fellow classmate and NYFA alum Issa Rae, forming a friendship and working relationship that continues to this day. Oliver wrote an episode of Rae’s career-launching webseries, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, as well as starring in the show as Rae’s antagonist, Nina. She has since become a wildly successful Hollywood screenwriter, with script credits including Barbershop: The Next Cut, Little, and The Sun is Also a Star.
Additionally, Oliver co-wrote the hit comedy Girls Trip with Kenya Barris, which made over $140 million at the box office. Oliver and Barris were nominated for a 2018 Image Award for their work on the movie.
First Wives Club, Oliver’s latest project, is loosely adapted from the feature film of the same name, which starred Diane Keaton, Better Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Maggie Smith, and took audiences by storm in 1996. The original film revolved around a group of women who cope with the divorce and seek retribution against their ex-husbands. The show has been in pre-production for several years, having gone through multiple producers, casts, and studios, before Oliver was handed the reins.
Oliver’s adaptation focuses more a story of sisterhood, and chronicles three best friends after one of them, Hazel, is caught up in an infamous cheating scandal. The three friends, who all recently came out of relationships, support each other while seeking revenge as they learn to put themselves first. The show stars Jill Scott, Michelle Buteau, and Ryan Michelle Bathe as the three friends—Hazek, Bree, and Ari. The cast also includes Mark Tallman, RonReaco Lee, and Malik Yoba. In addition to developing the show, Oliver also directed its seventh episode.
First Wives Club will premiere on September 19 as a launch title for the brand new Viacom streaming service, BET+, which also goes live on September 19. Its first season, which filmed in New York City late last year, will air for ten episodes.
New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Tracy Oliver on the launch of her new series, First Wives Club, and encourages everyone to check out the show when it premieres on BET+!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum Shahad Ameen recently debuted her first feature film at this year’s Venice Film Festival (VFF). The film, a stark black-and-white drama filled with magical realism, was written and directed by Ameen.
Scales (Sayidat Al Bahr in Arabic), tells the story of Hayat, a young girl who lives in a poor fishing village where every family must give one daughter to mysterious sea creatures who inhabit the nearby waters, who in turn are also hunted by the men of the village. Saved by her father, Hayat is banished from her village and branded a curse.
“I want the audience to relate to the main themes of the film: life and women’s roles within it,” Ameen tells Women and Hollywood in a thoughtful interview. “Although the film is set in the Arab world, this is a universal story that everyone can relate to.”
Ameen originally hails from Saudi Arabia and studied the 1-Year Screenwriting conservatory program at NYFA’s New York campus in 2012. “I taught Shahad in 2012 and back then she was always the hardest worker in the room,” says NYFA-NY Chair of Screenwriting Randall Dottin. “Her stories consistently reflected the rare alchemy of rigor, complexity, and innovation along with a healthy dose of compassion for her characters.”
Ameen’s film is a milestone for Arab cinema, as it is the first narrative Arab film to premiere at the Venice Film Festival, one of the three major international film festivals in the world, along with Cannes and Berlin. Scales premiered as part of the fest’s Critics Week, and screened in competition for the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Debut Film.
NYFA-NY Screenwriting Chair Randall Dottin was thrilled to hear the news about Ameen’s presence at Venice. “On behalf of New York Film Academy Screenwriting Department, I’d like to wish Shahad all the best as she competes with her debut feature film Scales in Critics Week at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. After reading Scales years before Shahad went into production, I’m excited to see her incredibly unique and powerful story on the big screen.”
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Roshni Bhatia was recently a Guest of Honor at the Zonta Club of Burbank and was awarded their WINGS grant, allowing her to focus more on directing and shepherding her film Plasmid through the festival circuit.
(from L to R): Zonta President Gloria Salas, Roshni Bhatia, Marva Murphy
Plasmid is a horror short about a young nurse fighting to survive after her house is invaded by an unearthly intruder. The film has been widely met with praise, and will screen next on August 27 at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival.
The WINGS grant program is the signature service project of the Zonta Club of Burbank Area and helps women who have overcome adversity or a life-changing setback better their lives through education with one-time financial assistance. The next application deadline is September 30.
“The award allows me to make more short films while studying,” remarks Bhatia. “With the award, I can continue to work with great people creating cinematic and pithy shorts with (hopefully) an interesting story to tell.”
Bhatia was the only one considered for and awarded this year’s grant. “It was Zonta Club of Burbank’s wonderful opportunity to contribute to the education of a NYFA former student,” says Marva Murphy, Chair, WINGS Committee. “Our WINGS grant offers assistance and encouragement for a brighter future.”
Part of what makes Bhatia worthy of the award is her perseverance and determination. “One will face endless obstacles and sometimes reasons not to do something, just because they’re waiting for the right moment or the right person to do it for them,” Bhatia says. “To go out there and not just think about it, but to just do it, is the hardest, yet most rewarding part.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Roshni Bhatia on winning the Zonta Club WINGS grant and wishes her success as she continues screening Plasmid in the festival circuit.
Tayla Schaffner, graduate of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA in Acting for Film program, has been turning heads with her thesis film When It Rains, which has been steadily winning awards since its debut.
Schaffner originally hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, where she first auditioned for NYFA Associate Director of Recruitment Blake Babbitt. “She immediately stuck me as incredibly talented, professional, and driven,” says Babbitt of their first meeting. “I’ve been fortunate to get to know Tayla as a person during her studies at NYFA and we’ve kept in touch since her graduation from our BFA Acting for Film program. It’s inspiring to see Tayla’s growth as an artist.”
After getting her feet wet in her school’s drama club, Schaffner left her home country and headed to study at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. Through the course of her BFA studies, she was cast in a total of 17 student-directed films and an Off-Broadway production of Antigone by Sophocles in which she played the lead at the Majorie S. Theater in Times Square, New York.
“I believe my time at NYFA shaped me into an on-the-spot thinker,” says Schaffner. “It taught me to take exactly what I have, and work with it. There is no point in fussing over what you don’t have.”
Her hard work came to fruition with When It Rains, her short film about a woman named Lila who discovers she has cancer for the second time. Apart from playing the lead, the film was also written and produced by Tayla as part of her final thesis project for her Bachelor in Fine Arts.
The film has gone on to win several nominations and awards, including:
Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival – Winner – Best Drama Short
Best Shorts Competition – Winner – Award of Recognition
Los Angeles Film Awards – Honorable Mention – Student Film
United International Film Festival – Winner – Award of Merit
The IndieFEST Film Awards – Winner – Award of Recognition
Los Angeles Movie Awards – Honorable Mention
Los Angeles Cinefest – Semifinalist
Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards – Semifinalist
Taking time to reflect on her achievements and never forgetting her roots, Schaffner shares a very important message to her fellow South Africans back home: “Anything is possible if you just believe. The opportunities are endless.”
New York Film Academy congratulates BFA Acting for Film alum Tayla Schaffner on the success of her film When It Rains and looks forward to seeing her future successes!
Boxing Girls, a new Arabic-language drama from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) premiered earlier this year and is the screenwriting debut of New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Afnan Alqasimi. Additionally, the program features actress and NYFA alum Dana Al Salem.
Alqasimi hails from the United Arab Emirates and attended NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2012. Alqasimi previously worked on the animation short Homecoming. Al Salem is originally from Bahrain and enrolled in NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in August 2015. Al Salem previously appeared in The Sleeping Tree and the short film Canary.
Boxing Girls is gaining buzz for its focus on female characters and stars several well-known Arabic performers, including Fatima Al Hosani, Ali Al Sherif, and Shaifan Al Otaibi. The program was directed by Saudi filmmaker Samir Aref and was produced by O3 Productions and twofour54 Abu Dhabi.
“This drama production is particularly unique, because it puts a real emphasis on the region’s young talent — both in front of and behind the camera,” says Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority, Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.
The program was shot over two months across various locations in Abu Dhabi, before completing production in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additional cast members include Mila Zahrani, Abdul Aziz Skeirin, Alaa Shaker, Anoud Al Saoud, Abeer Sander, Noura Ezzer, Mohammed Meshaal, Rakan, Zuhair Haider, and Zara Al Balushi.
Boxing Girls debuted in February of this year.
The New York Film Academy congratulates workshop alumni Afnan Alqasimi and Dana Al Salem on the production and success of Boxing Girls!
You’d be hard pressed to find a New Yorker who doesn’t experience their fair share of frustration with the MTA, the corporation that runs the city’s sprawling and crowded transit system of trains and buses. Especially these days, as commuters deal with train construction, delays, and an impending apocalypse, while fares continue to increase (the MTA announced just this week their plan for yet another fare hike of 4%).
And every New Yorker deals with it in their own way. Some of us mutter under our breaths, while others aren’t afraid to scream and yell at the top of their lungs. Some of us weep silently when we finally get home, while others pray to themselves that they’ll actually get home.
But what most of us haven’t done, is sing a song about it. With Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA, a new musical number performed by Broadway actress Kristy Cates, that’s no longer the case. And now that it has an accompanying music video produced by the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA), the song is easily available for everyone to share, relate with, and sing along to.
Kristy’s Lament is very much based on a true story. “I have the worst train luck,” Cates tells NYFA, continuing, “I’m always stuck underground with no explanation, waiting for a train that never shows up, or on the car with the person about to puke. And I often share these wild stories on social media.”
After one particularly nasty commute for Cates, where one bizarre thing followed another as she tried to make her way home from her Broadway show, she recounted the entire nightmare on Facebook. Her story quickly gained traction and gained a lot of attention on social media. Typically, the story would end there, but not for Cates.
After seeing her commute from hell, lyricist Chris Giordano was inspired to adapt the tale into song, writing lyrics for a number that step-by-step portrayed Cates’s disastrous trip. Soon, it was put to music by composer Ryan Edward Wise, and Kristy’s Lament was born. It wasn’t long after that that a music video was produced to accompany the track.
The video features Cates playing multiple roles — not just the tragic commuter narrating the song, but also a rude passenger carrying numerous bags, a stoner, and a homeless man, among others. It is mostly a stage production, filmed at NYFA’s 1st Floor Theatre, with gorgeous lighting direction and a minimal subway set. The video was also partially shot in an actual subway station, where the video opens and closes.
The video was produced by the PCMT at NYFA, where Kristy Cates also serves as Creative Director. The renowned musical theatre school prides itself on giving its students real world training that prepares them to achieve success in a competitive, empowering industry, creating an educational experience few other musical theatre schools can offer.
Aspiring performers develop their skills as triple threat performers by studying with faculty — like Kristy Cates — who have appeared in numerous Broadway and touring productions, top-rate regional theatre, opera, hit movie musicals, and television shows. NYFA’s musical theater alumni include llda Mason (On Your Feet), Pierre Marais (Aladdin), Christopher Viljoen (Les Misérables), Kylan Ross (Straight Outta Oz), and Tony Award-winner Yael Silver (Once on this Island).
Additionally, the PCMT at NYFA is able to use all of the resources shared by NYFA’s film school, cinematography school, and other departments. Using the Academy’s resources and state-of-the-art filmmaking equipment, its stage and its location in the heart of the New York City, and some of the Academy’s highly-talented staff — including director Jonathan Whittaker, editor Sean Robinson, Broadway veteran and choreographer Deidre Goodwin, and costume designer David Withrow — Kristy’s Lament was able to take advantage of high production values to really sell the humorous lyrics and support Cates’s powerful yet hysterical performance.
“One thing I love about working for NYFA,” Cates says, “is their willingness to explore new projects. As a result, our ability as a program to collaborate with up-and-coming composers and lyricists.” She adds, “It was wonderful to combine the expertise of our faculty, the passion of our alumni, the ingenuity of the composer and writer, and the generosity and support of the Film Academy.”
Cates is no stranger to high production values and show-stopping numbers. She is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and has starred in Wicked (Broadway, First National Tour, Chicago) as Elphaba, as well as playing Miss Bassett in Finding Neverland (Broadway), Grandma Josephine in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Broadway), and has had roles in a handful of off-Broadway shows and many regional productions. Additionally, she performs as a professional voiceover artist.
The Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy is proud to have Kristy Cates as an original and current member of its faculty, and was equally as proud to produce Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA with her. Next time you’re stressed and stuck on the subway, check it out and let yourself laugh a little — if the wifi is working down there, of course.
On Saturday, November 10, New York Film Academy and GreenLight Women hosted a screening of the documentary, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, followed by a Q&A with director, April Wright; producers, Michael Gruskoff and Marion Rosenberg; and stuntwoman, Amy Johnston; with the event moderated by Rosenberg. Afterward, students were able to meet the panelists and discuss the film at a reception in the lobby.
April Wright is a director, writer, and producer known for the films, My BFF (2015), The Graveyard Shift (2010), and Layover (2009). Michael Gruskoff is a producer known for the films, Prelude to a Kiss (1992), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Marion Rosenberg is a producer known for the films, Revolutionary Road (2008), Hollow Man (2000), and The Deer Hunter (1978). Amy Johnston is a stuntwoman known for the films, Deadpool (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).
Rosenberg opened up the Q&A by inquiring about how all of the panelists came to be involved in the film. Wright shared that she had already worked on an archive-heavy documentary, so she felt like she could take on the challenge of bringing the book, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, by Mollie Gregory to life.
Wright asked herself, “How can we bring this into the present [and] not just make it a history [documentary] but really, you know, what are stuntwomen doing today? And bring it up to the present and have some action in the movie so that it wouldn’t be all ‘talking heads.’”
Wright added that the timing of the documentary and its subject matter felt especially relevant as there have been movements in Hollywood recently to push for more inclusion of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community in various roles behind the scenes. “We felt like this group of stuntwomen represented the bigger picture,” Wright said, “It was just sort of this microcosm of what was happening in the whole industry [and] all the things that [women have] been fighting for for all these years.”
Rosenberg asked Johnston what the film meant to her as a stuntwoman. “One of the questions I always get asked is ‘how do you become a stuntwoman and why are you a stuntwoman?’” said Johnston. “This is so important to share vital information about how we do things and why we do things.” She added that the film taught her about the history of stuntwomen in the earlier days of the film industry, “I learned how much these women paved the way for us.”
Though strides have been made for the stuntwoman community in terms of job opportunities and safety, Wright and Johnston look forward to even more progress being made in the future.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank April Wright, Michael Gruskoff, Marion Rosenberg, and Amy Johnston for sharing their riveting documentary and positive message about inclusion in Hollywood.