#WomenOfNYFA
Category

  • Artist Nancy Burson On the Convergence of Art, Politics, and Tech

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Renowned for her pioneering work in morphing technologies, legendary visual artist and New York Film Academy (NYFA) faculty member Nancy Burson has just shown how powerfully the arts can intersect with world affairs with her image on the cover of Time magazine: an arresting portrait that combines the faces of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Burson’s work was also recently singled out by Time magazine in its list of 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time. Together with MIT scientists, she patented the morphing technology that the FBI drew upon in the ‘80s to track missing children. She has been featured on Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN, National Public Radio, PBS, and Fuji TV News, as well as countless local TV segments in the USA, Canada, and Europe; and discussed in The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Houston Chronicle, and Scientific American Magazine, to name a few. There are four monographs of her work and reproductions of it appear in hundreds of art catalogs and textbooks on the history of photography, published in all languages. Burson’s fine art photography is available through ClampArt Gallery in NYC. Her website can be viewed here.

    At first glance, the man on our July 30, 2018, cover might seem familiar: it was created by morphing images of two of the world’s most recognizable men, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The composite image, by visual artist @nancyburson, is meant to represent this particular moment in U.S. foreign policy, following the pair’s recent meeting in Helsinki. As our senior White House correspondent Brian Bennett writes in this week’s cover story: “A year and a half into his presidency, Trump’s puzzling affinity for #Putin has yet to be explained. #Trump is bruised by the idea that Russian election meddling taints his victory, those close to him say, and can’t concede the fact that Russia did try to interfere in the election, regardless of whether it impacted the outcome. He views this problem entirely through a political lens, these people say, unable or unwilling to differentiate between the question of whether his campaign colluded with #Russia—which he denies—and the question of whether Russia attempted to influence the election.” Burson, who became well known for developing a technique to age faces, which is used by the FBI to find missing children, says the goal of her latest composite is to help readers “stop and think” when it comes to similarities between the two leaders. “What my work has always been about is allowing people to see differently,” she tells TIME. “The combining of faces is a different way for people to see what they couldn’t see before.” Read this week's full cover story on TIME.com. Photo illustration by @nancyburson for TIME (Digital imaging by @johndepew. Source photographs: Trump: @gettyimages; Putin: Kremlin handout)

    A post shared by TIME (@time) on

    Ms. Burson took time out of her busy schedule to sit down with the NYFA Blog and share her thoughts on the meaning of visual art, why she’s still learning, and what it’s like to see her TIME magazine cover image joining a vital international conversation about democracy, freedom, and the future.

    NYFA: Tell us, what does photography and visual art mean to you?

    NB: The best way of answering is just to say that I think art is destiny-driven, and then there’s the added element of determination that seems to be behind it. That’s what visual art means to me. There’s no choice; you just do it. You do it because it’s your destiny to do it, and you’re driven to do it through determination.

    NYFA: What inspired your morphing technology projects, and your recurring theme of composite images?

    NB: When I first came to New York, I had this idea to create a machine that would age you by computer. That was driven by a show that I saw at MOMA. It was the first time I had walked into MOMA, and there was a show called The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. I went there not knowing what to expect, but what I found was a very participatory show in which people that I began to know later on had pieces that were not only three-dimensional, but moving images, video images, and things that were more or less participatory in nature. I thought it was a lot of fun to participate in the art, and it was after that, shortly after that, that I conceived this idea of the aging machine where viewers could see themselves older.

    I took the idea to EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology), Robert Rauschenberg’s organization that was pairing artists and scientists together. So I went to them and said, “I have this idea to age people with a computer.”

    Androgyny (6 Men + 6 Women) 1982

    They paired me with someone who did very early computer graphics — it was pen and styles and a pad — and I was like, this is just drawing! And he said, yes, you have to wait for the technology to catch up.

    I kept in touch with him and eventually he told me to call Nicholas Negroponte, the head of MIT’s now Media Lab, and he thought it was a great idea. They had something called a digitizer (now called a scanner), and it was one of the first times that a computer could interact with a live version of a face.

    So I was kind of in the right place at the right time. I had the idea in ’68, and I went to work with MIT in ’76. I’m not that patient, but I was doing other things and kept connecting back to this person, and along the way got to know a lot of other people developing programs that were similar. One friend of mine became the Oscar winner for the morphing technology to make images move. Originally I had the patent on the still images, and he had the technical Oscar.

    NYFA: What inspired your latest project, the image of Trump and Putin on the cover of Time magazine?

    NB: I’ve been politically active over the years, and I felt I needed to say something.

    This last couple of years has not been an exception, and since Trump was elected I have done what I could on Instagram. That’s pretty much what I think an artist can do, unless it was about showing work that had to do with Trump. A few years ago before he was even elected or running, I did a piece called What if He Were showing Trump as 5 different races. I showed it as art in LA. It was a commission by a very prominent magazine that never ran it — they decided at the last minute it was too controversial, so I went elsewhere and finally placed it with Huffington Post.

    Then the last couple of years, I did a very early version of Trump and Putin, because the Russia thing has been going on for awhile. Time magazine photography director Paul Moakley is familiar with my work, it was three years ago they put me into their 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time. Since then I’ve been sending him creepy images of Trump, one with Kim Jong-un, and one with the three together, and there’s been this dialogue back and forth, and he mentioned last year he was considering them for the cover. I was like, oh, I didn’t know that! I didn’t find out until the last minute this was going to the cover, and I didn’t know if they would run it because it’s so controversial.

    So in the end I had a couple hours to finish it and send it in. It was really fast. I had to run down to do the video interview. It was really truly a wacky day, one of the wackiest ever.

    What was really meaningful was to be able to have this input in this dialogue that’s ongoing about this investigation, and I think that week was a turning point.

    NYFA: What is it like to see your image having such an impact, especially with the wildfire spread of the internet?

    NB: Yeah, I mean, amazing. I’m very grateful.

    NYFA: What did it feel like to see your artistic techniques used to help the public through searches for missing children?

    NB: What happened with missing kids was really amazing. The first case we did was the Etan Patz case for the FBI, and at that point we had done some other images of kids that had been not parental abductions but stranger abductions, and usually those kids don’t turn up. We had done a number of those, and it’s so hard to do. Then Cosgrove/Meurer Productions in LA — these are the people who became the producers/directors of Unsolved Mysteries — did a couple of hour-long TV specials about missing children.

    They pulled some of the parents of parental abductions in here and we did updates of the kids. The parents were pulled in to see the update on the screen, and then these images were aired on TV, kids were found literally within a half an hour of the show’s airing.

    So we began to find kids — this was around the mid ’80s — and we found at least several in that one year.

    I remember this one kid getting on the phone with me because the father had gotten him back from the mother after that show was aired. This was a kid who had just been an image, and then I was talking to him — and his picture looked really very similar to the update we had done. It was a Frankenstein moment. I really was. Just wow.

    At that point in the mid-80s the FBI purchased a copy of our software and then they started finding missing adults as well, which is a kind of a different process.

    Etan Patz Combo final

    Etan Patz Update (Age 6 to Age 13), 1984

    NYFA: What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching photography? What would be your one piece of advice for students interested in the visual arts?

    NB: Probably the most rewarding thing about teaching is that it gives back, in a way, to the photography community. I think that when you teach you also get something back from the fact that you’re always learning. There’s always something to learn from students. I think teachers understand that it’s a give-and-take.

    I find student are always wanting to find out what’s out there, what’s new, wants happening. I keep up with the community, not only for my sake, but for their sake. Sometimes there are important things to learn and it’s important to know the state of the art of the tech.

    What I say to my students is that if you really want to be a visual artist, or in the case of NYFA, if you really want to be filmmaker, if you really feel this is what your role should be and it feels like destiny to you, then it will become what you do in a certain way that overrides a lot of other stuff. So if your priority is your art, you’re not going spend a lot of time messing around with doing things that you shouldn’t be doing — you have to stay focused.

    I think the people that really understand that their destiny is artmaking in a certain way are more solidly based and determined. The kids who I know are going to make it are the kids who are hanging out at NYFA and shooting their projects at night and shooting on the weekends, and they’re just making it — every day they’re making it.

    That’s the basis of a career that’s going to be ongoing. That’s going to be a sure thing; you have to have the determination and you have to be unwilling to give up. You have to see that as you goal.

    NYFA: Which of your projects have surprised or shaped you the most?

    NB: Certainly missing kids was one.

    The human race machine, when that came out in 2000, came out as a collaboration with Zaha Hadid at the Millennium Dome in London. I thought it was very cool that people were standing in line for a couple of hours to see what they would look like as a different race. Now it’s not something that I would want to bring out in the world. Now I see that as more about separation than togetherness. But at the time it was an interesting way for people to raise awareness that elicited an empathetic response. My whole concept for right now is called TogetherAllOne, which addresses what astronauts see in space; they see the bigger picture, they see the blue marble. They understand that we are TogetherAllOne.

    So there’s the missing kids, the human race machine, and the craniofacial kids. I spent seven years photographing deformity and I got to know kids with progeria, the aging disease as well as adults

    Recently it’s really nice, as I’ve heard from some people form those years who saw the new Time cover. One of them in Europe reached out. I had photographed her son, and now she’s developed an organization since them to keep the progeria kids’ families together. I think it’s really great. And I remember her son. It’s been powerful hearing from people whose kids I photographed when they were young. There was even one incident that I heard about where one of the craniofacial kids used the machine with his family to see what he would look like with more of a “normal” face, so that was also a really powerful moment.

    During those years I also spent time with adults with prosthetics on their faces from cancer. These are people who had survived cancer and had pretty big holes in their heads if you took their prosthetic device out. I knew the head surgeon at Kettering, and he introduced me to his clients and I photographed them. It was great. It was a real educational experience for people to see these people, and I would have shows of these images and the subjects would come. It was in its own way very experiential.

    NYFA: How gratifying is it to see a process you created and revolutionized decades ago still have such an impact on photography, media, and culture?

    NB: It’s interesting, I was thinking that the technology was too rudimentary and not specific enough to address politics in a way that would have an impact. But here it is. That was great.

    I’m very thankful to Time magazine, who allowed this cover to be. It was a chance and they knew it, and they took it. They had just done something controversial a few weeks before, with Trump looking down at the little kid who is crying, and that had two million hits. The Trump/Putin cover is there, and has I think a two million hits at this point. That was a big cover for them and it was controversial, and they chose to do it again.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Nancy Burson for so generously giving her time and her story to our student community. Ms. Burson has a show currently in Brescia, Italy, with a solo show upcoming at Art Basel Miami in December. Read our headline piece on Nancy here. Watch Nancy’s interview with TIME below:

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    August 8, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Photography • Views: 363

  • Q&A With New York Film Academy Documentary Alum Carolina Sosa

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Carolina Sosa graduated in 2017 from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus with a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. Since then she’s been hard at work on Trumphobia, a feature-length film that originally started as her thesis documentary.

    Carolina is one of many notable alumni and faculty to hail from the NYFA Documentary School, including instructor Kristen Nutile, who edited the Oscar-, Peabody-, and Emmy-nominated Heroin(e) on Netflix, and RBG’s director of photography and NYFA Documentary professor Claudia Raschke. Ranked as a top documentary filmmaking school for the past eight years, holding a coveted spot on The Independent Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers, the New York Film Academy’s documentary program aims to prepare students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films. Carolina Sosa

    Only 27, Carolina has already amassed several awards and honors for her work in documentary filmmaking. She received the award for Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script, and Film Festival and the Award of Excellence from the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards for her documentary short Exit the shelter. She was also invited by CinemaFest 2014 to adapt movies for the blind and deaf after directing Okurelo Cine in 2013.

    It was no surprise, then, when NYFA alum Carolina Sosa recently received a $10,000 grant from the Rogovy Foundation, an organization that works “to build a more enlightened and harmonious planet,” and supplies grants to documentaries and other “highly targeted projects which will have a measurable impact.”

    Recently, Carolina spoke with the New York Film Academy about her film Trumphobia, her time at NYFA, and other projects she is currently working on:

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Carolina Sosa (CS): I’m from Uruguay, I’m 27 years old, and I got a Fulbright scholarship to study a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking, and NYFA was the school that gave me the highest tuition award from all the schools that I have applied; also the program was located in Los Angeles.

    NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on documentary filmmaking?

    CS: I like to use art as a tool for change. I believe that reality is often more fascinating than fiction, and I want to dedicate my life to tell true stories that inspire, promote justice, and can make a difference in this world. And also, because I love to travel and share my view with others.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Trumphobia?

    Carolina SosaCS: Trumphobia: what both sides fear (tentative title) is a feature documentary about the political division in the United States and how Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric increased that division with the help of the mainstream media. On one side, he gave strength and safety to his supporters and, on the other side, he imposed fear and anger on his opponents, which led to major confrontations, protests, and counter-protests across the country. Trumphobia analyzes the reasons for the political division, provides a moving description of Trump’s supporters along with the people who are most affected by Trump’s policies, and proposes empathy and compassion for all as a possible solution to the turmoil. The documentary has the participation of the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, New York Senator Michael Gianaris, Berkeley professor of cognitive science and linguistics George Lakoff, Ph.D., professor of psychology and social behavior Peter H. Ditto, six hate crime victims and witnesses from both sides, representatives of major organizations, many of Trump’s supporters and opponents, and includes footage from more than thirteen debates, marches, and protests across six states.

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Trumphobia?

    CS: The documentary started as part of my master’s thesis. I was looking for a subject matter right when Trump got elected, and I thought that making a documentary about a current topic that affected millions of people was worth my long work. Especially because I wanted to portray both sides of the story — his supporters and opponents — and I wasn’t seeing much about the right side on the media, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to make a documentary that actually tried to be objective when it comes to politics. The good thing is that most of the crew was international, so we all had an outsider perspective that allowed us to listen without immediately judging. And the one thing that got my attention the most was the articles about hate crimes related to the election and the violent confrontations between people, so it’s not about Trump’s policies — it’s about critical thinking and how moral values determine our worldview. I believe we are all biased, and we need to be more empathetic with others to overcome our differences.

    NYFA: How did you find out about the Rogovy Foundation grant?

    CS: Thanks to NYFA, I became a member of the International Documentary Association and, through their website, I searched for all the grants that I could apply and that’s how we heard about the Rogovy Foundation. We have applied for more than ten different grants, it’s a long and tedious job to prepare all the documents and materials for each grant, but it was worth it because we got their Miller / Packan Film Fund for the postproduction of our film, and they have been very supportive. Moreover, the IDA accepted our project and they became our fiscal sponsor, so that’s also good news.

    NYFA: That’s great news! What are your plans for Trumphobia?

    CS: For the thesis, I made the first 20 minutes of the film and, since September 2017 when I graduated, I have been working on the 90-minute version. It took me a lot of time because I started working as an editor right after school, and so I have been very busy. But I have never given up, even without money or with a full-time team, I truly believe in the message of the movie and I’m very proud of the result so far, thus we are still working on it. We shot the movie during a year almost and there is always a new thing with Trump, so it takes a lot of work to edit many hours of footage and do constant research, but we are almost there. We are planning to have a final cut that we can send to the Sundance Film Festival in September, and then really finish the movie in October. After that, we will send it to more festivals and try to find online distribution immediately.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    CS: For the 1-year project of the school, GuangLi Zhu and I made a short documentary about the killing of pets in animal shelters, called Exit the shelter, and I have been promoting that short as well. We received the award of Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script and Film Festival and an Award of Excellence at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and we are still waiting to see other festivals’ results. GuangLi was one of my classmates and he is back in China now, but I have partnered with the LA Animal Services and other shelters, so we recently did a screening of the short and a fundraising event to help the pets in two different shelters. Meanwhile, I work as an editor, producer, and cinematographer at Dame Dash Studios; right now I’m editing a documentary about a trip to China for them, but I’m also working as a camerawoman for Harrison Engle (former president of IDA) for one of his documentaries. And every once in a while, I work freelance on other small projects. I’m a workaholic, I work eight hours (or more) at my job every day, then I get home and I work four hours on Trumphobia, and on the weekends it’s all about Trumphobia.

     

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Trumphobia, or your work in general?

    CS: The documentary department at NYFA was very helpful with my project Trumphobia. Since the topic was so urgent, they allowed me to borrow the equipment in November 2016, while all my other classmates shot their thesis in June 2017. I pitched the project when Trump got elected and I asked them if I could travel across the U.S. in the winter holidays so I can shoot what I needed, and with almost no bureaucracy involved they said yes, so I’m always thankful for that. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted and the resources that I needed when I asked for it, because I shot through the whole year several times and they never said no. I can imagine that this could have been very different in other schools. NYFA gave me the tools that I needed to feel prepared to shoot across the country with little resources.

    Carolina SosaNYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    CS: My advice to new students is to think big, work hard, go to all the events, conferences, and workshops that you can (even the ones that are not related to your degree); go out, meet people, build your network, and apply to as many grants, scholarships, and festivals that you can — you never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to receive, and what you are going to learn.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Carolina Sosa on her recent grant and looks forward to the completion and distribution of Trumphobia and Carolina’s continued career!

    Interested in learning documentary filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • “On the Other Side of the Wall” With Elizabeth Grimaldo

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Elizabeth Grimaldo was already a household name in her native Panama when she came to study Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy, but since then her career has truly crossed international borders. Now based in Miami, the singer/songwriter and actress recently made her U.S. television debut on Telemundo NBC ’s Al Otro Lado Del Muro, tackling an intense storyline involving immigration, human trafficking, and unbreakable family love.

    Here, Elizabeth shares a bit of her amazing story with the NYFA Blog.

    Feliz Miercoles🌵🤗 📸: @mauricionovoaofficial

    A post shared by Elizabeth Grimaldo 🌻 (@lizagrimaldo) on

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    EG: I’ve been on TV since I was 12 years old as a singer, which is also my profession. It started in a national singing contest for kids (Canta Conmigo), which opened so many doors for my career in Panama. At the age of 15, I started acting in my first soap opera as the main character, and it was an amazing experience. My next big project, at the age of 18, was Romeo and Juliet the Musical as Juliet, at the national theater of Panama City. That was a dream come true, to perform there.

    That play turned on my hunger for the performing arts, and I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to this field. One month after the play finished, I went straight to the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us? Or did anything about your program particularly surprise and challenge you?

    EG: Many things were challenging. Acting is hard work, and not many people understand what it really takes to build a character who is nothing like you and convince an audience that it’s “real.”

    I remember one of my coaches, Michael, used to challenge me a lot — which I am grateful for, because I admire him as a person and professional. He was so passionate in every class, every detail, and most important, he wanted us to do what it takes to be great. He cared and wanted us to succeed. He told us once, “Imagine all the secrets that someone would need to know about you to play you perfectly.”

    That was the most challenging part for me, because I realized in that moment how far I was from knowing my character. I realized what it takes to do the job. It’s not acting; its life, and a lot of research.

    NYFA: Before coming to NYFA, you acted in Panama’s Summer Dreams. How has your process changed regarding performing, since your studies and other experiences in Miami?

    EG: It’s totally different. I started to act without having studied acting. Now that I have studied acting (which you never stop doing), I wish I could go back and do it again with what I know now. It’s been a satisfying and fun process.

    NYFA: For our international student community, can you offer any advice on studying in the U.S.? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of coming from Panama to NYFA Los angeles?

    EG: It was the best decision of my life. It’s hard yes, but it’s so worth it.

    I know it’s scary to leave home and pursue a dream by yourself out there, but let me tell you something: it’s going to change your life in so many positive ways! I accept that I felt overwhelmed many times missing home and feeling lonely, but all those situations that I went through back then in Los Angeles made me the strong, independent, and passionate woman that I am today.

    NYFA made me grow as a professional and a human being. I learned so many things and I am grateful and happy for it.

    NYFA: How did your experience on Canta Conmigo come about? What was it like achieving second place?

    EG: It was amazing. It changed my life, basically. So many doors opened for me after. Since then my career in Panama has been accepted and successful, thanks Gob and to the people that has been supporting me since the beginning. I feel blessed that I have been able to represent my country in the U.S. and make them proud.

    NYFA: As a singer and musician, what most inspires your work?

    EG: I could say experiences, in every sense of word, which led me to start writing songs. It’s funny because that process started when I was at NYFA living by myself for the first time. I wrote my first songs back then.

    I use to think I couldn’t write lyrics, but I was wrong. Experiences are necessary to tell stories from the heart.

    But what inspires me the most is my mom. She is my drive, the one who encouraged me to do this and helped me in everything. She believed in me since I was three years old and sang for the first time, Cucurrucucu Paloma. Everything I do is dedicated to her.

    NYFA: Can you tell us how your work with Telemundo came about, and a bit about your character?

    EG: This February I had my debut on American television in the Telemundo NBC series Al Otro Lado Del Muro, which means “the other side of the wall.” I still don’t have words to express how happy I am for this opportunity. It was an honor to work with renowned actors such as Gabriel Porras, Litzy Martinez, Marjorie De Sousa and Adriana Barraza, the Oscar nominee for the movie Babel, who was my coach here in Miami at her school Adriana Barraza Black Box. Being able to work with Adriana on my first job was a dream come true.

    The series talks about immigrants and their different stories. My character is Raquel Aranda, a Salvadoran immigrant who arrives in the U.S., running from the human trafficking. Later, she is separated from her family and unjustly deported to Mexico. She tries to cross the border, again facing dangers in order to be with her family and her one-month old child.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • Broadcast Journalism Summer School, Wind Summer Festival, and Invisible Love From the New York Film Academy

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
    Summer is well underway here in New York City, and that means the NYFA Broadcast Journalism Summer Session is in full swing too. Once again this year, we have students from seemingly everywhere: Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Connecticut, Uzbekistan, and Washington, D.C.! Below is the “Official Unofficial Class Picture.”
    On Saturday, the group was outdoors practicing their shooting technique. (Which was good, seeing as today they are shooting their first project!) Our students work with Canon C300 cameras, which are better than the equipment many TV stations actually use. Battery Park, located right across the street from NYFA, is a great location to shoot. Especially on a lovely Summer day.
    Trust me, as serious as the folks in the picture below look, the short-term workshops really are fun. (NYFA grads reading this email can back me upon this…)
    Speaking of having fun …
    NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Chiara Carcano is one of the hosts of the Wind Summer Festival, a combination performance series and singing contest seen on Canale 5 and heard on the Radio 105 network in Italy. (The skills you learn at NYFA don’t always lead to newsroom careers — they can be used in a variety of ways!) This is also an example of how English remains the linqua franca for many international cultural events.
    As most of you reading this know, I have spent my professional career creating non-fiction video. But that has changed, as I’m now part of the creative team producing an independent feature film called Invisible Love. In fact, I am an executive producer. (Nothing like starting at the top…) A China/Vietnam/U.S. co-production, I got involved thanks to the work I did in China last year for my soon-to-be-released documentary Shanghai: 1937. I have to say, it’s exciting to see my name on a movie poster.
    That poster makes it clear this is a drama. The story takes place in what was then called French Indochina, during the 1930s.
    NYFA Acting for Film grad Kazy Tauginas has been cast in a major role. He plays an American doctor haunted by his troubled past, whose involvement with a Vietnamese nurse leads to tragedy. (You can see Kazy in the new Denzel Washington film The Equalizer 2.)
    The Invisible Love team had a booth at the film market associated with the just completed Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). We’re looking for theatrical presentation in China and Vietnam, as well as international theatrical and TV distribution.
    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • RBG, Shot by New York Film Academy Documentary Professor Claudia Raschke, Is Box Office Hit

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    This year’s breakout documentary, RBG, shot by Director of Photography and NYFA Documentary Department Cinematography Instructor Claudia Racshke, tells the story of Supreme Court Justice and surprise millennial icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg (aka “The Notorious RBG”), The Flatbush, Brooklyn-born Justice was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1992, becoming only the second female to serve at the highest federal court in the United States.

    When the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, we highlighted Claudia on the NYFA blog, and Filmmaker magazine also featured an interview. Sundance and American Cinematographer spotlighted her on their “Women Who Shoot” panel. MovieMaker magazine also ran an article exploring her equipment preferences.

    RBG NYFA

    RBG 

    And why not? Claudia’s previous work has already been nominated for Academy Awards four times, and has won a Peabody, a DuPont, and a National Board of Review Award, among many others. She has worked on such acclaimed documentaries as My Architect, about Louis Kahn, Mad Hot Ballroom, which focuses on a New York dance program, and Small Wonders, which documents a music teacher in East Harlem.

    On its opening weekend, RBG scored the second-highest-per-screen average at the box office, second only to Avengers Infinity War. The film has also earned a 93 percent Fresh rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It then spent the next three weeks among the Top 10 overall Box Office earners, holding its own in the company of blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War, Ocean’s Eight, Black Panther, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, and A Quiet Place.

    Claudia Raschke with Ruth Bader Ginsberg

    Claudia Raschke with Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Photo provided by Claudia Raschke.

    RBG has also already worked its way amongst the 25 highest-earning documentaries in history, and its run is far from over. NYFA would like to congratulate its Documentary instructor Claudia Racshke on her impressive work on an already important film. You can watch the official trailer below.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • First Doc Feature By Ravjot Mehek Singh Tackles U.S. Health Care System

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    After graduating from New York Film Academy Filmmaking conservatory in New York City at the age of 19, Ravjot Mehek Singh hit the ground running. First, she started with large-scale roles directing Bollywood music videos. Soon after, she was assistant director on The Voice India, an opportunity that opened the door for her to write and direct three of her own TV shows for Dish Network by age 21.

    Singh’s first documentary is I Stand With Jessy, a powerful and intimate portrait of an South Asian immigrant woman in the U.S. fighting breast cancer, in poverty. The film premiered on Dish Network last year in March before going on to win at Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival in New Delhi, India, as well as winning the Impact Doc Awards Film Festival in 2017.

    Here, Singh shares her best advice about telling a story that matters, through filmmaking.

    NYFA: First can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    RMS: I am an Indian American film and TV director, with strong roots in both Bollywood and Hollywood. I have directed a handful of films and TV talk shows for channels on Dish Network, such as Jus Punjabi and Jus 24×7, and have directed many Bollywood music videos.

    I came to study at NYFA directly after high school, after learning how hands-on the approach was and how students would be learning practical skills from day one.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you about this medium?

    RMS: In high school, I was always interested in pursuing work that would impact society on a large scale. As a teenager, I would spend many days out of the week vlogging on Youtube, self-teaching editing tricks, and creating improv characters for my comedy sketches. My love for video came together with my goals of positively influencing people on a mass scale, and led me to NYFA.

    What inspires me most about filmmaking is how you can truly allow the audience to see, hear, and feel the struggle of others. The best way to create love and understanding in our world is by walking in each other’s shoes. Many people choose not to step into each other’s [points of view] on a day-to-day basis, which is where film and television come in to assist people in seeing someone else’s perspective.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    RMS: I have so many wonderful memories with my teachers, such as Professor William Tyler Smith, Professor Nicola Raggi, and Professor Tasos Panagiotopoulos. Each of them taught me incredibly valuable lessons that come into use every day in the industry.

    Some of my favorite moments are from the summertime, when all the students were new and figuring out how to use traditional film cameras. It was a unique bonding experience between students from all over the world, and an important lesson on rehearsing until you get the shot right on the first few tries.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your journey in working with Jus TV? What drew you to the mission of Punjabi programming?

    RMS: After graduating from NYFA, I immediately began working overseas in the Indian film industry. I worked on TV shows such as The Voice India, which helped transition me to the more stable, routine lifestyle of television. Jus TV is a major Asian TV channel that is based in New York City, so coming back to the U.S. to work in a channel that crossed Hollywood and Bollywood concepts was the perfect fit! I wanted to use my skills and dual cultural upbringing to create progressive television programming for Asian children and young adults who grew up in America. We are constantly getting two separate streams of content, one side being totally American and the other side being totally Asian. My goal was to create a blend of both types of media to better appeal to our cross-cultural upbringing.

    NYFA: How did your project I Stand With Jessy come about?

    RMS: Jessy is actually my aunt. I did not expect to create a feature documentary on the topic, I had originally planned the project to be 10 minutes long and only focusing on Jessy herself. However, as the project continued to build up, Jus TV gave me the opportunity to merge my personal project with their company and create a full-length feature (the first feature film to come from their channel).

    The more investigation I did to fully understand laws for breast cancer detection and treatment for low-income women, the more flaws I found in our healthcare system in the U.S. I discovered that a huge number of women are left without proper care or any consideration of how time-sensitive treatment options are for breast cancer.

    I started developing the film to focus more on how we can take a stand to change these deadly rules and regulations in the healthcare industry.

    NYFA: What were some of the challenges you faced in creating this feature documentary, and how did you overcome them?

    RMS: One of the biggest challenges for this documentary was allowing Jessy to feel comfortable enough to speak out about a topic that most Asians choose not to openly discuss. There is a huge stigma in nearly all Asian countries about women’s bodies and how illness is perceived. Jessy, like most Asian women, was anxious about how the community would react to her being so open about her breast cancer and the issues that come with chemotherapy.

    Ultimately Jessy and I worked together to create a list of questions that would ease her into speaking about certain harsh topics. In the end, Jessy had become so comfortable while filming that she even allowed me to follow her around throughout her day and film all of it!

    Another unique challenge was reaching members of the government to comment on the issues of our healthcare system. Though many attempts were made to contact government officials, none of them responded to give their input on issues regarding women’s health.

    There is still fear and negativity attached to openly assigning opinions on women’s health and the poor setup of the healthcare system in the United States.

    NYFA: What is your advice to NYFA students interested in producing a feature documentary?

    RMS: My best advice would be to think of a topic that has the depth to be turned into a film of one hour or longer. The topic should be something unique or quirky enough that the audience would be willing to sit and watch a nonfiction piece over the many fictional TV shows and films out there.

    Ultimately, you don’t need much to create a beautiful documentar, besides yourself, a camera, and a subject you’re passionate about. That is part of what makes the documentary genre so accessible for new filmmakers.

    NYFA: Congratulations on all your film festival success! What is next for I Stand With Jessy?

    RMS: I Stand With Jessy has an adjacent petition for the government to lower the age of breast cancer screenings and include screening options that go beyond the basic mammogram. It can be found and supported at change.org/p/i-stand-with-jessy. As of now, 1,702 people have signed it.

    I hope to continue the petition and reach out to members of congress to discuss a reasonable goal for healthcare in the United States.

    Luckily the film has gained major publicity for winning India’s biggest film festival, the Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival, and last year it gained American publicity thanks to winning the Impact Doc Awards Film Festival. These two festivals have helped spark public interest in bettering the healthcare system in the U.S. for immigrants.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing now?

    RMS: The wonderful hands-on approach at NYFA helped eliminate the wasted time of theories and repetitive classwork with no relevance to film. Thanks to NYFA’s one-year program in filmmaking, I was able to find work immediately, with the right connections in the film industry. I have not yet been on any set where my skills have not been at par with serious film professionals and former students with degrees in film.

    I am thankful to NYFA for creating this brilliant, expedited opportunity to learn the true essence of film. After that, it is up to each individual student to continue learning and filling in any blanks for themselves.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    RMS: This year, I am directing my first horror film in Boston with Mtown Films. Along with that, I am working on directing multiple Bollywood music videos, which has become a fun niche of mine in the past few years. The music videos will be shot all across the United States and India, and will be releasing later this year. I am also looking forward to developing more medical documentaries that expose the truth about the negative impacts of our healthcare system.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • Raising Suicide Prevention Awareness & Challenging Stigma With New York Film Academy Camp Alum Florence Kosky

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Creating a film that works as a beautiful piece of art as well as a platform for an incredibly important message is a challenge, even for the most seasoned filmmakers. Yet at a very young age, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film summer camp alum and British actress/model/director Florence Kosky has brought all these elements together in her short film All The World’s a Stage.

    Motivated by the profound loss of three young friends to suicide, Florence decided to collaborate with others to “do something positive” to help “break down the stigma around suicide by provoking thought and opening up a conversation.” Through crowdfunding, she assembled what she would need to put together a visually stunning film on a shoestring budget, and in the process built an incredible team of passionate professionals who volunteered their time for a cause they believed in: raising awareness and, hopefully, saving lives. Even Olivia Colman volunteered to narrate, lending her distinct voice to a script approved by MIND and supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

    Watch All The World’s a Stage here:

    A Message from NYFA Counseling:

    This beautiful and powerful piece really portrays the distorted thinking that accompanies depression well. The main character’s belief that he has to perform and come across in a specific way in order to be loved and appreciated is a thinking trap that people struggling with depression often face. It’s incredibly difficult to have the energy and persistence to get help: often the very things that we need when we’re feeling that way are exactly what depression tells us we don’t deserve. We hope that people take away that needing support, and then getting it, is something we all deserve; that mental health IS health; and that, as a society, we can all support a change to address the stigma that depression is a weakness — and as a result, save lives.

    U.S. Resources:

    NYFA New York City Counseling Website

    NYFA Los Angeles Counseling Website

    Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/

    Text TALK to 741741

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

    1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK)

    Here, Florence shares the process and inspiration behind a truly powerful film with the NYFA Blog:

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to the NYFA Acting for Film camp?

    FK: I’m a model, actress, and filmmaker from Dorset in England. I’m now 22 and so far have got three short films under my belt as a director and two indie features as an actress. As a model I’ve worked internationally for the past five years, working for brands from Adidas to Dior. It’s pretty busy, but very fulfilling!

    I came to NYFA when I was 16, and it was because I had always loved acting and film but had never experienced the two of them together, and we couldn’t really find anywhere better than LA to go for me to do this!

    NYFA: What inspires you most about acting and film?

    FK: I think I find acting and film so inspiring because it’s an art form that is really easy for the consumer to relate to and to be moved by. To me it’s wonderful because even if the director or the actor intends one thing, the viewer can take something else from it, and that is wonderful because it gives it a universal quality.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience making All The World’s a Stage?

    FK: Making All The World’s A Stage was pretty special because it was crowdfunded, and the whole cast and crew volunteered; so it felt like there was a real cause that everyone was rallied behind and cared about. That gave the experience this really lovely focused feeling, because everyone was working their hardest to make it the best it could be because they thought it was a story that needed to be told, rather than just a job they were being paid to do.

    I found this really moving, and it made me feel very supported throughout. I think you can see in the final product that it was made by people who really cared.

    NYFA: What was it like to put the story together and shoot the film? Were there any challenges along the way in making your film, and how did you overcome them?

    FK: The story was already in place, as the script is based on a poem that my friend, Charlie Fox, wrote when we were 17 and lost a mutual friend to suicide. Her words have stuck with me since, and they really painted a picture in my mind. For the narrative, it was just a case of relaying those visuals back into words.

    I think the biggest challenge we faced was that, generally, I want to create fantastic worlds that, if they were on a bigger production, would use a lot of VFX. So it was working out how to create those same feelings on a much smaller budget.

    We used a lot of stylized lighting in an empty studio to create mood shifts and different locations — my favourite of which is the night sky in the bedroom scene, because we just used a projector and some footage we bought for around £30 from Shutterstock which is A LOT cheaper than VFX — and actually a couple of people have asked me who did the VFX for that scene, so that was really the best outcome!

    NYFA: You used crowdfunding to support this film production, and worked with MIND, the Mental Health Foundation, and Olivia Colman. That is huge! What surprised you most about that experience?

    FK: Thank you! I think the most surprising thing was that Olivia wanted to be a part of it! I and my producer, Matt Cook, had always had her [in mind] as one of our ideal voices for the narrator. So when we were coming to the end of post production, we thought we might as well try to reach out to her agent and see if she’d be interested. We sent the picture lock and the score and, incredibly, she was! I am so grateful to have worked with one of my heroes so early on in my career — it was honestly wonderful to see a master of their craft work, and I think the film would be a lot less powerful without her voice.

    NYFA: What would you most like to say to your audience about your film, and what it means?

    FK: I would just like to say thank you for watching, and if you can take anything from it, please remember that depression and mental illness can happen to anyone, no matter how perfect their lives look on the outside. Remember to be kind and to look after each other, as you never know what someone is battling with. At the end of the day, we are all each other have.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    FK: I’ve got another feature that I’m shooting as an actress this summer, which is very exciting! It’s a comedy mockumentary which is going to be super fun and nice to balance out the heaviness of my recent projects. I’m also working on the script for my first feature as a director, which hopefully should go into production next year. Keep an eye out!

    #KeepYourCrown

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • Good Morning Connecticut, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and Cannes From the New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism School

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
    So another week, and another item about Snapchat … No, I am not obsessed with the digital platform. But if you look at the image below, you’ll notice that a wide range of content publishers are.
    As reported by Digiday, Snap — the parent company of Snapchat — has hired veteran digital executive Sarah Gallagher to coordinate communication between Snapchat and the growing number of news and non-fiction content creators that rely on the digital distribution service. Why are major legacy media outlets anxious to distribute their content via Snapchat? Because people my age watch TV, and people your age (well, the age of the majority of people reading this) use apps.
    At NYFA, we offer a skills-based Broadcast Journalism program because there are certain key skills you need to know in a world that includes both broadcasting and narrowcasting.
    Traffic is moving in the other direction as well, with well-known broadcast outlets searching out digital content. Vice is the preeminent digital platform for edgy non-fiction. Begun as a free arts magazine in Toronto, the now USD $8+ billion production powerhouse cut a deal with Channel 4 in the UK. Channel 4 has a reputation for cutting-edge non-fiction programming, and this alliance allows them to build their brand (and their on-demand video service), without the expenses associated with original production.
    Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is a lot of time to fill. And, as one of my former colleagues once put it, “every dream has its budget.”
    I heard from NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Alyssa Taglia on Thursday. Last year around this time, she was a student. Now, she is the morning traffic reporter, and a multimedia journalist, at WTNH in Connecticut. Plus, last week she got the chance to anchor the station’s 9 a.m. Good Morning Connecticut newscast.
    Congratulations, Alyssa!
    Meanwhile, in Georgia (“the country, not the state“), NYFA grad Liza Tsitsishvilli works at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Recently she did a story about one of the most famous singers in her country. It is evidence of just how much they value her that she was given such an important assignment!

    Broadcast Journalism alum Federica Polidora should probably get an award for the sheer number of Italian news outlets she contributes to. Recently she interviewed Philip Glass, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

    She was at the Cannes Film Festival, but instead of the usual red carpet shot she sent us a picture of her with two of her colleagues, and her son…
    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • New York Film Academy Highlighted at New Taipei City Film Industry Exchange Conference

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    The New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) was honored to participate in a high-level New Taipei City media event, the New Taipei City Film Industry Exchange Conference.

    NYFA Executive Vice President for the China Region Dr. Joy Zhu was a panelist at a segment of the event that focused on the cultivation of talent. Dr. Zhu offered an experienced American and Chinese perspective to the conference delegates, which included members of the Taiwan media.  

    NYFA Executive Vice President for the China Region Dr. Joy Zhu.

    The conference saw film industry professionals from around the globe converge to explore the new Linkou International Media Park, the largest film park in northern Taiwan. Under the guidance of the city government policy, the film industry in New Taipei City has cumulatively developed nearly 130 hectares of industrial land, not only attracting famous TV stations like TVBS and FTV, but also 597 film companies, including Vieshow Cinemas of Banciao Mega City, Showtime Cinema of HiMall, Ambassador Theatre’s Crown Plaza and the upcoming Showtime Live Shulin Store.

    The opening ceremony was presided over by the mayor of New Taipei City, the Honorable Zhu Liwen. In his speech, Mayor Zhu Liwen commended NYFA, and stated, “NYFA’s involvement will bring opportunities of high-level film and media education to the media park.”

    Along with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the National Taiwan University of Arts (NTUA), the event marked an exciting opportunity for NYFA to forge a new and lasting partnership aimed at fostering talent and cultivating rising stars in New Taipei City.

    An Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing between NYFA and NTUA was a highlight that captured a great deal of media attention. The agreement is expected to yield a rich collaboration on future culture exchanges, academic partnerships, research, trainings, and more, as the institutions work together to develop new courses and programs attuned to the exciting opportunities developing in New Taipei City.

    As New Taipei City opens its state-of-the-art film park up to the world, the New York Film Academy is honored to partner with the city’s government, National Taiwan University of Arts, Linkou International Media Park, and the American Institute in Taiwan, to cultivate rising professionals in the media and entertainment industry.

    NYFA is very grateful to the Commercial Specialist Department of the American Institute in Taiwan for this opportunity.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail