Author: Jeanne Joe Perrone

Friday Films to Get You Safely Through Friday the 13th

Whether you’re very superstitious and believe in the curse of Friday the 13th or are simply looking for some great films, these movies will help you make it through the “unluckiest day of the year” in high style and with quality entertainment. From horror to comedy to inspired (and inspiring) high drama, we have it all on this list. Happy Friday the 13th!

Freaky Friday

In the original 1976 Disney classic, a young Jodi Foster is an athletic teen who finds herself in the horrifying situation of inexplicably switching bodies with her more traditional mother on Friday the 13th. The 2003 remake starred Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis with some new twists, including an enchanted fortune cookie and a rock concert.

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now poster via IMDB

Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, this 1979 Vietnam war fable may have nothing to do with Friday the 13th, but hear us out: the Francis Ford Coppola classic survived one of the most notoriously cursed productions in history. From the monsoons to Martin Sheen’s heart attack to the director’s stroke, it’s a miracle this cinematic masterpiece made it out of the jungle.

Fitzcarraldo

Speaking of cursed movies, check out Warner Herzog’s 1982 film about a madman who transfers a river boat over land, all to fulfill his dream of building an opera house in the jungle. To make the film, Herzog literally dragged a boat through the jungle, over mountains, in mud — driving his crew to desperation and inspiring Roger Ebert to observe, “It’s clear that everyone associated with the film was marked, or scarred, by the experience … Herzog denounces the jungle as ‘vile and base,’ and says, ‘It’s a land which God, if he exists, has created in anger.’” 

Friday

If you’re less interested in curses and more interested in laughing, you’ll enjoy this 1995 screwball comedy. Ice Cube and Chris Tucker’s relaxing Friday takes a turn for the absurd when they get themselves into trouble with a local dealer and have to come up with $200 by 10 p.m. The 2000 sequel Next Friday is also worth a binge, when Ice Cube goes to extreme lengths to help his uncle get some money to keep his house in Rancho Cucamonga.  

Friday Night Lights

Okay, this isn’t exactly about Friday the 13th either, but it’s about another sacred Friday tradition: high school football. This binge-worthy NBC series ran from 2004-2011 and follows the Dillon High School Panthers football team throughout their trials and tribulations as they fight every week for victory on the night that ever matters the most to the small-town community: Friday.

… And, of course, there’s Friday the 13th itself!

Since the original Friday the 13th film came out in 1980, the all-American slasher series centered around the hockey-mask-wearing spectre of Jason has become one of the largest and most successful horror franchises in history. We’re sure we haven’t heard the last from Camp Crystal Lake.

What are your favorite Friday films? Let us know in the comments below. And learn more about Filmmaking at New York Film Academy.

A Q&A With Conservationist and NYFA Documentary Alum Valentine Rosado

We are excited to share an exclusive email interview with biologist, conservationist, and NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Valentine Rosado. Check out his impressive work in Belize, his insights on documentary filmmaking within the context of conservation, and more.

NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your environmental work?

VR: I live in Belize with my wife and daughter. We found out we were expecting a baby only days before I went to NYFA and we had already decided to pass on on the course so that my wife would not go through her first phase of the pregnancy alone. After lots of contemplating we decided to make it work.  

I have worked on a multitude of conservation projects focused on protected areas and their benefits to communities. One of my areas of special interest is mangrove reforestation as a form of ecosystem-based adaptation. The idea is that we are able to reinforce coastlines against erosion and climatic impacts by integrating mangroves with coastal planning. The dialogue between preservation and development is most often a polarizing one, but I believe that scientists play a crucial role in facilitating the integration of sound sustainable practices into private sector development.  

I recently founded Grassroots Belize with my wife. It is a private consulting firm, where we now combine our qualifications and experience to work on conservation projects that instill meaningful change for the environment and the communities that depend on them.

I have done volunteer work throughout my career and pro bono work is still a big priority for us. We work with several community-based organizations throughout Belize by providing technical support where we can. In 2016 and 2017, 30 percent of our time was dedicated to pro bono work and 25 percent of our net revenue was contributed to charitable projects.

NYFA: Can you tell us how the WWF Professional Development Grant came about for you?

VR: We have been supporting a local community-based organization with their education and advocacy program. Fragments of Hope Belize works with volunteer fishers and tour guides in southern Belize and has out-planted more than 90,000 corals since 2006 — and that number grows significantly every year.

Through our work with FoH, I applied for a WWF-EFN professional development grant to participate in the NYFA documentary filmmaking course. I believed that specialized training in documentary filmmaking would greatly enhance our ability to present our stories to the wider public.     

NYFA: Can tell us a bit about your experience studying at the New York Film Academy?

VR: I have participated in countless training courses and workshops throughout my career but attending NYFA was a truly life-changing experience for me. I realized that storytelling and filmography was something I had always wanted to do. I now look back at my earlier years and realize that I did my first photographic story when I was just 10 years old. I was trying to get the local municipality to shut down the slaughterhouse that was located adjacent to our bayside community (even though our family business was a meat shop).

When I was 14 years old I scripted, directed, and shot a short film for a school project about a start-up tour company. My original idea was to produce the trailer of a faux movie involving scenes in the cemetery and a police riot but just getting access to an old VHS camera was enough of a challenge.

There was of course not much hope pursuing a career in the arts at the time, and I knew all too well that my sure bet was to pursue a career in science. The NYFA course made me realize all these things, and that I have always been a person that lives a life worth living. Hence, it enabled me to renew my interest in film and storytelling. It sent me into a phase of extensive reflecting and soul searching.

The experience could only have been possible because of what NYFA is: the location of the school, the facility, the amazing people that I now consider my mentors, and of course such a wide diversity of students. At the expense of my family and our business clients, I neglected every other commitment I had for the entire time I was at NYFA because I wanted to take advantage of every experience and opportunity I had during the course.

I especially enjoyed the hands-on approach of filmmaking that took us to interesting locations across New York and allowed us to really appreciate the fact that everyone has a story tell. Everyone’s story can be pleasantly captivating if we invest the time and creativity to put it together. I think that was my “take home lesson” — we have the ability to capture stories that will inspire others. As storytellers, people seek our storytelling abilities and we owe it to the world to do it right.    

NYFA: How has your time at NYFA impacted and changed your work in Belize?

VR: One of the main effects was that it make me think really carefully about what path my career would take after the course. I wanted to dive into filmmaking but I also knew that it was not realistic to give up my career as a scientist. The scientist in me made me conduct a thorough evaluation of all aspects (self, family, values, etc.) and to refocus our work under our Grassroots Belize banner.

Our mission is to inspire people to improve our world. Once we defined that approach, it cleared the dilemma of scientist or filmmaker or etc. We now take up projects of positivity to promote people living in harmony with nature. Science, business, filmmaking, etc. are various methods in our advantage.     

NYFA: What is Grassroots Belize? What is your role there?

VR: I recently founded Grassroots Belize with my wife. It is a private consulting firm, where we now combine our qualifications and experience to work on conservation projects that instill meaningful change for the environment and the communities that depend on them.

We believe that people can live in harmony with nature and we hope to inspire others through our work. We combine our experience in business, science and the arts to work on projects that enhance the sustainability of communities. Our multidisciplinary approach allows us to make connections across traditional boundaries and to develop a unique worldview for innovation. We work on a wide range of projects that aim to improve the environmental performance of natural resource users and the benefits they provide to communities.

I serves as a biodiversity scientist and my wife, Angie, is the administration and finance director.

NYFA: You were featured in WWF’s Education for Nature Annual Report. Congratulations! How did this come about?

VR: WWF-EFN works diligently at growing and strengthening their network of grantees (alumni). The network consists of over 2,500 experts in different fields of conservation from all corners of the world. I had the opportunity to participate in the first alumni symposium this past year that brought together over 40 current and past grantees from 17 countries.

I even had the opportunity to document the stories of three grantees and capture the portraits of several of the scientists. One of the most interesting aspect of the experience is that I was very much interested in their stories and considered my story not interesting at all.

Ironically, everyone else seemed to feel the same (super interested in the stories of others and considered their own less important). I guess if we all reflect on it, we will realize that perhaps we should all be open about sharing our own stories in the hopes to inspire others.

NYFA: Has anything shifted for you as a result of WWF’s Annual Report?

VR: Indeed. In my readings I came across literature about human personality. It turns out that the better we are at traits that result in great scientists, the less we are at the traits that define our communication with others. It seems like a challenging paradox for conservation where we invest so much effort into sound science aimed to address unsustainable behavior.

Basically, every alumni I heard from [at WWF’s symposium] confirmed in some way that our research is not having the impact we desire at the community and global level. The experience with WWF, post-NYFA, has reenergized my drive to expand my knowledge and efforts in science, and to complement it with my recent training in storytelling.

Someone has to tell the stories. The difference is that I also understand the science.   

NYFA: What do you most want people to understand about environmental conservation in Belize? How can we help?

VR: I believe that in an effort to bring attention to the issues facing our world we focus heavily on issues and challenges. However, it may result in an atmosphere of constant negativity and sense of helplessness. In the process, we tend to overlook or underestimate the good progress and the good stories around us.

I have always believed that we should be highlighting the stories about people doing their part to improve our world. We have many such stories in Belize and I think that this would inspire others at a global level.

If a small group such as Fragments of Hope can replenish reefs with 90,000+ corals in 10 years (with very limited resources), what would this world be if the global financing for conservation gets directed to initiatives that have this level of direct impact on communities?

My final message would be to follow our stories. We hope they inspire others to improve our world in their own communities, in their own small way.  

NYFA: What is next for you? Any upcoming projects we can watch out for?

VR: This past year of training, reflection, strategic planning and welcoming my daughter (thankful for good health and all), made me put several projects on the back burner. Now that our business is focused and we have all this training, we have several exciting projects in our work plan for the year.

The following is a synopsis of 3 short films that I have in post-production and expect to complete in the next few months.  

  1. Sandwatch Belize: children from schools in Placencia participate in hands-on program that assesses coastal erosion of coastal communities. The activities serve as a meaningful incentive to inspire greater learning but not everyone gets to participate.
  2. Man O’War in Peril: the island was officially protected in 1977 as a bird colony but in recent years, storms have affected the island’s vegetation. Tour guides are concerned that they are about to lose an important tourist attraction.
  3. Palo Seco Costa Rica: resort owners used mangroves to reinforce their coastline against erosion. In the process, they were able to safeguard their land concession with the government. The success has prompted scaling up of efforts.

Congratulations to Valentine, his family, and Grassroots Belize! Connect with Valentine Rosado on Facebook and follow Grassroots Belize on Facebook.

Groundhog Day: Our Favorite Binge-Worthy Time-Warp Movies

Ah, Groundhog Day — it’s everyone’s favorite holiday, from the cute little mammal to the intermittent time travel.

Time travel?! Yes, that’s right: you may not have heard, but ever since the seminal 1993 classic found Bill Murray reliving “Groundhog Day” over and over again to comic perfection, the holiday itself has become the perfect excuse to get your time-warp on — film buff style.

If you’re in the mood for some Groundhog Day fun but can’t quite figure out how to travel through time, we’ve created a movie list that will make you wish every day was Groundhog Day. If you haven’t seen them, stop the clock: these beloved time-travel movies will rock your socks and maybe even save the world.

“Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Okay, okay, this movie may not involve an actual time warp … but then again, are you sure?

Nothing is as it seems in this popular cult classic. Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick) blow a tire and find themselves stranded at the spooky castle of the mysterious Dr. Frank-N-Ferter (Tim Curry). Hilarity and weirdness ensues — including the actual musical number, “The Time Warp,” to help you get your Groundhog Day started right.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

In this adrenaline-packed action flick, Wolverine goes back in time to save the world. What more do we need to know? We’re watching it:

“Time Bandits”

No self-respecting child of the ‘80s could put together a time-travel movie list without including Terry Gilliam’s inventive brain-child.

When a troop of time-travelling pirates (who, oh yeah, are dwarves) bumble into a young boy’s life looking for treasure, our hero finds himself unable to avoid tagging along through time on a series of misadventures that just might save the universe…

“Edge of Tomorrow”

Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself dying on the same day over and over again. The loop continues until he can build the skill and strategy to work with warrior Rita (Emily Blunt) to fight off an alien invasion and save the world:

“Dr. Strange”

For those who like their time-loops in another dimension and with a heavy dose of sarcasm, step into the weird and wonderful world of unlikely hero Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) — the caped cynic who survives a debilitating accident and discovers that he can learn and practice magic. SPOILER ALERT: His ultimate feat is triggering a time loop to — you guessed it — save the world:

“The Time Traveller’s Wife”

Take a break from the high stakes of time-travelling-to-save-the-world movies and refresh your palate with this sweeping romance.

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, time-travelling Henry (Eric Bana) can’t control his strange powers or his fate as a time-traveller. But that doesn’t stop true love  — it just complicates it — as he pursues his wife Clare (Rachel McAdams) through time in this lush tear-jerker:

“Arrival”

Ready for an Oscar-winner? This riveting 2016 sci-fi, adapted from Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life,” was nominated for 8 Oscars, and won for Best Sound Design.

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in to break the language barrier with aliens that arrive on earth, preempting an apocalyptic global crisis. Yet while figuring how to communicate with the visitors, Louise discovers that alien language has some important side-effects … including a life-altering effect on time.

“Happy Death Day”

For those who like their time-loops with a side of horror, this flick provides mind-bending chills.

College student Tree (Jessica Rothe) is murdered on her birthday, and then wakes up again to re-live the ordeal on loop until she can figure out who is after her. It’s a horror puzzle sure to thrill fans of time loops and terror alike.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

Eva Green stars as Miss Peregrine, who runs an orphanage for children who have inherited a rare recessive gene of “peculiarity” that grants them powers that are … unusual, to say the least. With the help of a time loop, they live together in relative safety and secrecy … until the time loop is no longer enough, and young Jake must learn to use his powers to become the protector.

“Safety Not Guaranteed”

Starring New York Film Academy alum Aubrey Plaza, this flick follows a sardonic magazine intern as she investigates a local man (Mark Duplass) who places a classifieds ad seeking a time travel companion. Complications ensue when she goes undercover in this quirky indie adventure.

“Groundhog Day”

The movie that started it all … Phil (Bill Murray) is a cranky weatherman who finds himself trapped living the same day over and over again — until he gets it right!

“About Time”

Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) life changes when his Dad (Bill Nighy) reveals a family secret: men in their family can time travel! Tim revels in his newfound ability and its possibilities to help him bolster his love life with wife Mary (Rachel McAdams, who can’t seem to avoid marrying time travellers), solve problems, and excel at work … until he discovers that some of life’s most bittersweet moments just can’t be time-hopped around.

“Back to the Future”

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes back to the 1950s in a Delorean to save the life of his friend, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). But in the process, he disrupts the time space continuum — and jeopardizes his own existence — when he accidentally interrupts his parents’ first meeting. Forget getting back to 1985: the real question is, can Marty make his mom fall in love with his geeky dad, and get a chance to exist at all?

Marty McFly may not exactly save the world, but this is the greatest time-travel adventure of all time. It’s official.  

What are your favorite time-loop movies for Groundhog Day? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

NYFA Photography School Dishes on Favorite Vintage Photography

Most of us who fall in love with photography remember the moment we saw a specific image that changed the way we see the world. Whether the “Afghan girl” on the cover of National Geographic or the WWII sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square, many images have stamped their mark not only on our hearts, but on history.

In photography, the industry moves fast — but that doesn’t mean that powerful images can’t stand the test of time. In fact, vintage photographs (images more than 20 years old) are a vital part of shaping our understanding of photography as an artform, and learning to see the world a bit differently.

This week, we asked our NYFA Photography School to weigh in on their favorite classic photographers and their favorite vintage photographs. Check out what they had to say!

NYFA Photography Senior Program Coordinator John Tona:

Armed with nothing more than his 35mm camera, LIFE’s Robert Capa joined the 34,250 troops who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Although only a few images survived that day, his most iconic image of Private First Class Huston Riley gave the world a view of the dangers faced by soldiers during war:

BOB194404CW000X1/ICP585

Image © Robert Capa Normandy France June 6th, 1944

What makes this image even more impactful for me is the perspective in which Capa made this photograph, turning his back to the Nazis to capture Riley making his way through the surf toward the enemy.

NYFA Instructor Jackie Neale:

Robert Frank would be my favorite photographer of yore.

Robert Frank’s photographs from his book, “The Americans” (1958), display 35mm vernacular photography at its best. Frank framed and captured time as if we, the viewer, happened into the remarkable split second just as the persons, the wall, the ceiling, the car, the baby, the cowboy, the bus all orchestrate themselves into lyrical narratives of space, geometry, timing, contrast, gestures, and humanly beauty.

Frank mastered timing and the abstraction of time all at once. Robert Frank is my favorite photographer and his work from over a half century is a glowing example of making the photograph into a relic and revealed object of art.

NYFA Instructor Paul Sunday:

My favorite “vintage” photography is that of Man Ray:

Copyright: © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

Copyright: © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

His enthusiastic experimentation early in the last century set the stage for the future of photography’s infinite possibilities. He was an interdisciplinary artist and, in his photography, a great adventurer — exploring every aspect of the form, from portraiture to abstraction.

NYFA Instructor Jaime Permute:

Growing up in Guatemala, we did not have access to photographic schools such as the New York Film Academy. We were all essentially self-taught. We pored over photographic books and magazines and tried to befriend more established photographers in our efforts to learn the tools of the trade. I was lucky that my father was an avid photographer himself and had a substantial library at home. This is how, even without ever meeting him personally, Manuel Alvarez Bravo became one of my great teachers. During my teenage years, his monograph “Instante y Revelación” was my constant companion.

Alvarez Bravo is Mexico’s most famous photographer. His life spans exactly 100 years and it begins and ends with the 20th century. Alvarez Bravo had a prolific and distinguished career. His circle of intimate friends include some of the most notable writers and artists of his times: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Octavio Paz, Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Breton, Sergei Eisenstein and many others.

Alvarez Bravo is most commonly understood in the context of surrealism. However, one might also argue that his work is essentially documentary in nature and that the reality of Mexico itself lends his photographs their mysterious and dreamlike quality. My greatest debt to Alvarez Bravo is his understanding of the poetics of image-making and how artistic intention reveals the other side of reality, the one that lies hidden and out of sight, beyond the mere surface of things.

NYFA Instructor Joan Pamboukes:

One of my favorite artists and major influences is László Moholy-Nagy.

I’ve always loved to read and learn about Moholy-Nagy’s experimentations not only in the darkroom but also with other types of media (especially his Light Space Modulators, these kooky sculptures that made colorful light patterns).

He was something of a mad scientist, an innovative thinker, and an educator at the Bauhaus. He encouraged photographers and his students, as part of the New Vision, to witness and document the world in unexpected ways, utilizing strange vantage points and abstracting reality. He also embraced technology and sought to incorporate that into his artwork.

You can find more information about his life and work from the Moholy-Nagy Foundation.

NYFA Instructor Kristina S. Varaksina:

Photography by Lewis Carroll

Photograph by Lewis Carroll


Lewis Carroll
, the famous writer, was also an incredibly talented photographer. He made a big contribution to the development of children’s portrait and fashion photography. He often worked with sets, props, and wardrobes. To this day, similar ideas can be found in many photographers’ work. His ability to capture natural emotions and the mature side of children is fascinating.

His long career as a photographer (1856-1880) coincides with the “Golden Era” of 19th century photography, which centered on the wet collodion “wet plate” negative process and the corresponding positive albumen print process.

What are your favorite vintage photos? Who are your favorite master photographers from the past? Why? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about photography at the New York Film Academy.

What Does the Internet Think About “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” opened last weekend to a whopping $220 million Box Office take — which USA Today reported is the second-largest opening weekend ever (second only to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”)! Which has all of us asking: yeah, but … what did the internet think?

While the New York Film Academy offered a filmmaker’s perspective on some of the storytelling elements of Episode VIII, there are many more angles to plumb as fans and film buffs alike respond — with wildly different feelings — to the much-anticipated film.

With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% but an audience score of only 53%, there is clearly a disturbance in the force. The internet has been a cacophony of conflicting voices and passionate debate.

If you haven’t seen Episode VIII yet, stop what you’re doing and make it happen — we want to hear your reaction, too!

In the meantime, here are the main types of of responses we’ve seen so far to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Spoiler Warning! Read with caution!

Joy and Adulation

What character actor Andy Serkis has called “a rich meal of a film” seemed to hit the sweet spot for nearly every critic and at least half of the three generations of Star Wars fans who reacted across Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and beyond. As Rotten Tomatoes makes clear, the critical response is all positive: “The Last Jedi” is officially “too big to fail.”

Many applauded director Rian Johnson’s fresh take on the Star Wars universe, with a more tongue-in-cheek tone, a breathless, complex interweaving of characters, and entirely new themes added to the starscape of the franchise.

Newsweek featured a sampling of some of the joy and adulation across Twitter. “Best Star Wars ever” was a common refrain:

 

See a roundup of more positive Tweets in Newsweek and EW.

Yet social media wasn’t always kind to “The Last Jedi”…

Fanboy Fury

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" poster via IMDB.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” poster via IMDB.

“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

As the title of Episode VII suggests, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” takes a sharp turn away from the central themes of prior Star Wars films. There’s no new hope, there’s no return of the Jedi. There may not even be a light side or a dark side of the Force.

And many life-long, die-hard Star Wars fans are not having any of it.

Perhaps most of the social media backlash down to the fact that a very vocal swath of the hardcore Star Wars fanboy population feels Johnson may have gone too far, not refreshing the franchise but rather feeding it to the Sarlacc. For social media’s loudest critics, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” takes us to a galaxy far, far away from everything made them love Star Wars in the first place. Many also criticized “The Last Jedi” for failing to answer what seemed to be the driving questions left unanswered by “The Force Awakens.” (Who are Rey’s parents?! Why is she special?!)

And while some fans applauded Johnson’s decision to infuse a strong dose of jokiness to “The Last Jedi,” a louder group thought the humor just didn’t work. Also, it seems many are angry at what happens with Luke Skywalker’s character … perhaps including Mark Hamill himself, who is quoted in Mashable as saying, “‘It’s time for the Jedi to end.’ Are you kidding me?” Between the fanboy fury and the huge box office wins/positive critical feedback, maybe the real question, as Vanity Fair pointed out, “Is whether this divide is representative of how the fandom truly feels.” Yet I can’t help thinking it seems unwise not to take them seriously…

See a roundup of more angry fan responses on Screenrant.

Last but Not Least: Honoring Carrie Fisher

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" poster via IMDB.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” poster via IMDB.

 

The main thing critical and fanboy reactions across the board can seem to agree upon within the internet universe of responses to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” is that it’s very hard to say goodbye to Carrie Fisher.

The actress, writer, and mental health advocate, who sadly passed away last December, turned in an unequivocally amazing performance as Princess Leia in “The Last Jedi,” and will be missed not only in future franchise episodes, but throughout the galaxy.

Director Rian Johnson, it turns out, felt just as emotional about losing Carrie Fisher as the rest of us did, and went out of his way to keep the storyline of Episode VIII the same even after her tragic death.   He told The New York Times in September, “I felt very strongly that we don’t try to change her performance. We don’t adjust what happens to her in this movie. Emotionally, you can’t help recontextualize it, now that she’s gone. It’s almost eerie how there are scenes that have an emotional resonance and a meaning, especially now. She gives a beautiful and complete performance in this film.”

If you’re not afraid of more spoilers, check out Time magazine’s feature on Carrie Fisher and how “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has said farewell to a legend.

What were your reactions to Episode VIII? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

A Q&A With New York Film Academy Filmmaking Alum Jacob Hayek

New York Film Academy Filmmaking alumnus Jacob Hayek decided to use his NYFA thesis project as an opportunity not only to tackle tough contemporary issues, but also as an opportunity to take the international film festival community by storm.

So far this year, Hayek’s film “The Jim Crow Holocaust” received a fantastic collection of accolades from international festivals. The nominations and wins include Best Short Screenplay, Best Rising Star, and Best Ensemble Cast at the Monaco International Film Festival; 2nd Best of the Fest, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Actor at Feel the Reel in Glasgow; Best Short Film, Best Short Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress at WIND International Film Festival, Los Angeles; the Golden Palm Award at Mexico International Film Festival; and more at the Transylvania Cinema Awards in Romania, the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in the U.S., the Bucharest Shortcut Cinefest, and the Sochi International Film Festival in Russia. Whew!

Hayek found time in his busy festival schedule to chat with the NYFA blog about his film and his recipe for success after film school.

 

The Jim Crow Holocaust

The Jim Crow Holocaust

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

JH: Well, believe it or not, the last thing I wanted to be before I chose to become a filmmaker was a professional wrestler. When I graduated high school, I was sort of discovering what I wanted to do with my life. I got a job at McDonald’s, which taught me a lot about what I didn’t want to do. I was going back and forth between being a pro wrestler and a filmmaker. One day I thought back to my childhood and realized I love telling and creating stories, particularly movies. For fun, I decided to write a short screenplay to see if I was good at making a movie. I absolutely loved the experience, and that’s when I decided to become a filmmaker.

I searched for a ton of film schools in the New York area; I thought it’d be a good way to start. What drew me most to NYFA was that it threw you right into filmmaking. Whenever I set my mind to something, and my Dad can confirm this for sure, I’m like a bulldog: When I get my jaws on something, I never let go. I wanted a school that didn’t linger on, but made us work under that pressure and realism that you only get on a set. That’s what I love about NYFA. It’s for those who are really driven and committed to their craft, and who will get the type of education that won’t drag on like others. It’s shock and awe. Only the best can make it.

NYFA: Why filmmaking?

JH: I love the idea of making an incredible story and bringing it to life for all to see. Making an amazing film requires the most vigorous of research and knowledge. It’s one of the best ways to learn.

NYFA: For our current filmmaking students, can you tell us about navigating your transition out of school? Any advice?

JH: My advice to them would have to be, just keep jumping into it. The more experience you gain, the better you become. Make as many connections as you can, make as many movies as you can to master your craft, and yes it’s going to kill you knowing this might not be your best work, that you made mistakes that could’ve been avoided, but never let it get you down. The reason we fall is so we can learn how to get back up. And if your ideas don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.

NYFA: What inspired “The Jim Crow Holocaust” and how did you go about bringing this film to life?

JH: It was originally a very short film about a little girl sewing a scarf back together for a little boy who was bullied. I was coming up with ideas for a thesis film before I officially enrolled in NYFA. One day my Mom said to me that I was the product of an Arab and a Jew: My father being Lebanese and my mother being born a Jew. In light of all the recent events happening in the Middle East, it hit me that that’s a rare combination today. I decided to make the boy a Syrian Muslim and the girl Jewish. As the election here happened, I added the events of a future with Trump as president and the mass hate encompassing America.

In comparison to many thesis films, mine was beyond ambitious. I co-produced the film with my father. We had actors come from Virginia all the way to Alaska to be in this film. That, and we had to have a ton of extra actors. The one thing that kept this film going was the amazing people who helped us make it, from crew to actors, and the need to create a story about the issues going on today.

NYFA: Your film has inspired an amazing response at film festivals internationally. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and how you found the right festivals for this film?

JH: It came as quite a shock to be honest. We sent the film to multiple festivals to see where it could go. The very first festival we applied to (Monaco International) nominated us and we ended up winning. From then on, we were on a streak. We were both nominated and won awards in countries like the U.K., Mexico, Romania, Russia, Japan, and here in the U.S.

Don’t limit yourself at first, achieve all you can. You’d be surprised the kind of doors that can open for you.

NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for preparing you for your work on “The Jim Crow Holocaust”?

JH: Yes it was. It taught me just how hard it is to make a movie, and that it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I learned that you need to know the rules and the reasons for them if you’re ever going think outside of them.

NYFA: What is next for “The Jim Crow Holocaust”?

JH: Because of the amazing reception the film has received, we’ve decided to turn it into a feature film. We’re going to take our time, do everything right, and create a film for the whole world to see. The screenplay is complete and we’re getting ready to pitch it to studios.

NYFA: Are there any other projects you are currently working on that you’d like to tell us about?

JH: In addition to “The Jim Crow Holocaust,” I’m currently writing a short screenplay for Director/Cinematographer Earl Stepp of “Isomnija.” I’m also writing a few screenplays for other future projects, as wells as video promotions for well known companies and their products. My father and I started a production company together called Birds of Prey Films, and we intend to make it the best there is.

Interested in learning the art of filmmaking? Check out the hands-on programs the New York Film Academy has to offer here!

A Q&A With New York Film Academy Photography Conservatory Student Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow


Known for decades as a cutting-edge leader in crafting fine light-shaping and flash tools for professional photographers, Profoto is a Swedish company that recently
featured New York Film Academy (NYFA) 2-Year Photography Conservatory student Tanne Willow and her images in their Local News section.

A true representative of NYFA’s diverse international community, Tanne original hails from Sweden and has lived in Denmark, France, and the United States. With a background in dance and an obsession for motion, her work has a truly unique energy and it’s easy to see why she was chosen by Profoto to spotlight as a “Rising Light.”

In the midst of her fourth semester at the New York Film Academy, Tanne took the time to answer some questions and to share part of her story with our student community. Read on to hear more about her pathway to NYFA, her favorite photography equipment, and how surviving a busy semester is helping her create her own professional identity as a photographer.

NYFA: You worked for many years as a dancer before deciding to go back to school for photography. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience studying in NYFA’s Photography Conservatory, as an adult continuing education student?

TW: Before I came to NYFA I had quite a few years of experience but it had been a very long time since I had last studied, and I felt there were a lot of holes in my knowledge. To be able to come here and build it up from the base even though I had preexisting knowledge was completely a revolt. It changed everything.

Today I can say with confidence that I am a photographer and know that there is a certain professionalism that comes with that word that I possess, and I can now deliver on a professional level consistent work. I know my own limits in a completely different way, and I also know my capabilities after these two years. It has really meant everything in that sense.

 

Photo by Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow

 

NYFA: Can you tell us how your featured story on Profoto came about?

TW: I sent in my images for submission, and I was chosen. There was a call from my [NYFA Los Angeles] teacher Amanda Rowan, she was the one who put me in touch with the Profoto agency.

NYFA: What is your absolute essential toolkit for a shoot? Any equipment you can’t leave the house without?

TW: It depends on what I am shooting, and for every shoot there is a different toolkit. I shoot in very many ways. I shoot digitally but also analogically on large format — 4×5, and medium format also. The only thing I can say I can’t leave my house without is my camera! That’s the essential part photography can’t happen without — and me and my eye! As long as I have my camera, I can do something.

NYFA: What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on?

TW: I’m currently in my fourth semester at NYFA and working on my thesis project, “Matriarch.” It’s a study about the definition of femininity — something I am quite unclear about. Growing up as a female in this world, I have experienced different countries. Being born in Sweden, living in Holland, France and the U.S., I have seen many variations of how femininity is defined and how females and non-females are defined by femininity. I have heard myself being described as feminine and I have used the word myself, but I have a very ambivalent relationship with it — because of that fact that it is so so attached to my being somehow, yet I see the difficulties that I have myself, in the world around me, in knowing what we mean when we use this term.

What I do is I work with performance artists. I search for the physical interpretation of their ideas of what femininity is. I discuss with them what they think it is and how they define femininity, then they improvise under my direction. And I photograph them. I document them both digitally, all environmental portraits. The cameras I use in my thesis are a Canon 5D Mark III, with a 24-70mm lens, and a Toyo 4x5in View-camera, with a 90mm lens. 

NYFA: What are your goals as a photographer?

TW: My main dream is fine arts exhibitions, also shooting fitness (dance background) and have lots of experience in shooting motion-filled images. My preferred way to work is with people in motion, whether it’s fine arts or commercial photography. This is my main interest. I thoroughly enjoy the analogue part of photography and I wish I could incorporate that in my career with lab and print work.

 

Photo by Tanne Willow

Photo by Tanne Willow

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Tanne Willow for taking the time to share a part of her story with our student community.

Ready to go back to school as a continuing education student? Check out the New York Film Academy’s Photography 2-Conservatory programs!

A Q&A With NYFA Los Angeles Director of Admissions Ragga Thordarson

New York Film Academy Los Angeles MFA Producing Alumna and Director of Admissions Ragga Thordarson was recently spotlighted in leading Icelandic publication Morgunblaðið for her impressive roster of accomplishments as a filmmaker, artist, and educator. Originally hailing from Iceland, Ragga has mastered many transitions: between nations, between careers, and between student and professional life in the film industry. Check out her inspiring insights, below.

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

RT: I am Icelandic-American, born in Reykjavik (Iceland´s capital) and raised in a small fishing town in Iceland called Stykkisholmur with a population of 1,000 people until I was almost nine. I then moved to the States and have lived extensively in both places.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Los Angeles area (moved a lot). When I finally came to NYFA, I had been working in TV and radio in Iceland for several years (hosting several shows) and I had been thinking about going to graduate school for some time. I kept coming back to the idea that I wanted to go back to school. Although I had a career which involved a few years of broadcasting and producing and had made and directed one film (a documentary called “From Oakland to Iceland”), I wanted to learn more.

I was essentially a self-taught filmmaker and producer, and felt there were some elements missing from my film education. School was the answer for me in that regard. I also happen to love school and being a student, so college and graduate school have been some of the most rewarding times of my life.

NYFA: What was it like moving to the U.S. from Iceland?

RT: The immigrant experience definitely marked my life. I didn’t speak a word of English until I was nine years old. I remember being in a Montessori School classroom all of the sudden and not really understanding anything, but within three months I was speaking English pretty well. I also went from walking to school in Iceland in the dark in a snow suit covered from head to toe all by myself to wearing shorts and T-shirts in Berkeley, and being driven everywhere. We were more on our own in Iceland, there is a lot of freedom there for kids. Here everything was bigger and there were more moving parts; bigger cities, skyscrapers and freeways, more rules and regulations, more people! These are different worlds. It is great to be able to experience different cultures and then the interesting part is that when you grow into a bicultural individual you take parts of each and then that becomes the evolved version of you. Certain sensibilities are very Icelandic and others very American for me. Also, I don’t  have an accent when I speak English, so often people assume I´m from here … but I grew up in a household speaking Icelandic and celebrating Icelandic customs. My brothers and I gravitated toward and had friends that were also from bicultural households, Iceland, Iran, Thailand, East Germany, Romania, Tanzania.

NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time as a student? And now, a favorite NYFA moment as part of our staff?

RT: I had many such moments while studying at NYFA, most which involved me learning something new. Screenwriting classes are really where I found my producer voice as creative producing is my favorite kind.

My top favorite moment was likely when I finished my thesis, it was definitely thrilling, and when my $500-budget sketch “Carlos & Brandi,” that started as a class project, was featured on Funny or Die´s front page.

I also loved the pitch fests in the producing program. I met people there that I ended up working with later on, so the networking really started in school for me. Those were important moments that turned into relationships down the line.

As a staff member, I always enjoy the feedback from excited students that are coming into the programs. When I read pieces about countless former students that I remember running around campus that are out there doing well in the industry, that is always inspiring and makes me happy.

NYFA: What advice can you give to fellow NYFA students who are adjusting to life in the U.S.?

RT: I think being open-minded and a little bit outgoing, frankly, is important here. It is such a large, diverse market and environment (at least compared to Iceland). In order to create relationships and opportunities here I found just good-old taking initiative was the way to go. Also, seeking out like-minded people who are in the same adjustment phase or have similar goals. Building a little community around oneself is great, and school is the perfect place to start.

NYFA: What do you think is different about working in the arts in the U.S. in particular? What should international students do to prepare?

RT: There are differences both as far as content goes (some of the stuff in Iceland would probably be considered more “arthouse” vs. commercial, etc.) [and in the market size]. The U.S. market is so big and there are scores of people from all over the world trying for the same goals, so it´s hard work.

When possible, show up early, stay late, don´t complain, and be easy to work with. Always keep your word with or without what you consider having success, which rarely happens overnight. Focus on the craft, the art not just on the end goal. It´s easy to caught up in a game of comparisons, but I say focus on the work itself.

NYFA: You went back to study at NYFA after living a little life out in the workforce. What was your experience like going back to NYFA for continuing education to make a career shift? Why did you pick NYFA?

RT: The New York Film Academy had a philosophy that I connected with: the hands-on approach. The do-it-yourself Icelandic part of me definitely found that appealing. The thought of graduate school had been looming for a long time, as I felt I was missing some stuff being a self-taught filmmaker and I wanted more knowledge.

Also, I liked that the teachers are industry professionals, and they were truly the best part of my NYFA experience. I still see some of the producing, screenwriting and film instructors around that I connected with, and it really marked my time here. The instructors truly are phenomenal.

NYFA: What inspires you in your creative work? What kind of stories do you want to be a part of telling?

RT: I write and produce comedy when I am doing my own stuff and have done producing and consulting of various kinds of projects for others, or as a freelance producer. If I really look at the stuff I´ve made personally, most of it is a bit female-centric and in fact a lot of it is about my bi-cultural life experiences. The Scandinavian sarcasm and cynical humor is definitely visible in there too.

NFYA: What advice can you give to our students who, like you, are passionate about a profession in the filmmaking industry, while also juggling parenting?

RT: Before we have families, working up to 17-hour days at something is entirely possible and it is something I personally did for years. After kids, it’s all about balance. Having said that, some days are longer than others and obviously production by nature is time consuming. It´s about time management and truthfully perhaps some things you did before you simply won’t do unless you can make it work on multiple levels (appropriate assistance with childcare, etc.). I say write for your budget and according to time while in film school! I.e: Shooting minimal amounts of locations, etc. Anything to simplify production without compromising the material.

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ragga for taking the time to share a bit of her story with the NYFA community. Ready to learn more about filmmaking? Check out our many programs at NYFA.

 

National Photography Month: A Q&A With NYFA Instructor Paul Sunday

May is National Photography Month, which means it’s time to take a deeper look at the visual language that inspires and evokes so much in human life. From ads to Pinterest, from high fashion editorials to high art, from photojournalism to Facebook, photography is more a part of our lives than ever before. What better way to learn more about photography and gain insight into its importance than by hearing from expert photographers? We had a chance to catch up with some of our amazing photography instructors here at NYFA to ask them about why they love photography and what a life in pictures really looks like. Read on to get a glimpse into life behind the lens:

Photos by:  Paul Sunday  @paulsundayphoto for Soma Magazine’s “I-POSE”

Hair by George Kyriakos for Stylebookings.

Makeup by Yumi Nagashima

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Photos by: Paul Sunday @paulsundayphoto for Soma Magazine’s “I-POSE” Hair by George Kyriakos for Stylebookings. Makeup by Yumi Nagashima

NYFA: Tell us a little bit about your journey in photography and your approach to your craft.

Paul Sunday: I became involved with photography through my theater work. I started documenting plays I was involved with and doing head shots for friends. I still view photography in the context of performance. When it comes to my fashion and portrait work, directing and playing off the subject as a fellow actor is the most important part of my craft.

NYFA: What first inspired you to become a photographer? How has your style evolved?

Paul Sunday: I bought a damaged book of Man Ray photographs from a sale rack on the street. The images somehow got a hold of my brain and wouldn’t let go. Within weeks I was enrolled in a basic black and white darkroom workshop.

In the beginning, my style was a bit nostalgic. It has evolved into a more contemporary, minimalistic approach.

Photos by: Paul Sunday @paulsundayphoto for Soma Magazine’s “I-POSE” Hair by George Kyriakos for Stylebookings. Makeup by Yumi Nagashima

Photos by: Paul Sunday @paulsundayphoto for Soma Magazine’s “I-POSE”
Hair by George Kyriakos for Stylebookings.
Makeup by Yumi Nagashima

NYFA: Are there any particular photographs or photographers that have particularly impacted you and your work?  

Paul Sunday: In addition to Man Ray, it would be Mr. Penn above all. He is the master. Beyond those two, I always look at Rodchenko, August Sander, the Bechers, Sugimoto, Atget, Judith Joy Ross, Disfarmer, Brassai, Lartigue and many, many others. I believe in tapping into diverse sources of inspiration.

NYFA: When you’re on a shoot, what is your process? Any must-do’s on a job? Any pet peeves?

Paul Sunday: For fashion and portrait, I set some of the lights the day before. In the morning I welcome everyone to my studio and feed them breakfast. Then I meet with the team. During hair and makeup, I do more light tests. I don’t allow myself any distractions during a shoot.  No phone calls, no social media, no newspaper, no internet. I focus intensely on my team and the pictures. I observe my subject and build a relationship. It’s like having someone over for tea, but we are also making images. I pay close attention to my energy level. The late afternoon and the end of the shoot are moments where one needs to call in an extra reserve of concentration. It’s all about pacing.

Regarding pet peeves, I have two: lateness and distraction.

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Photos by: Paul Sunday @paulsundayphoto for Soma Magazine’s “I-POSE” Hair by George Kyriakos for Stylebookings. Makeup by Yumi Nagashima

NYFA: Why the New York Film Academy? What drew you to teaching with us? What about the program here is unique?

Paul Sunday: I saw an online ad seeking new teachers and I had been aware of the school for awhile. I had known a few people who taught here in the acting department. I loved the swirl of creative energy. The place reminds me of my early days in New York when I studied acting.

The unique thing about the photography program is the emphasis on replicating real-world scenarios, and the quality of our infrastructure. NYFA does not scrimp on the details. Fantastic spaces, quality gear, professional collaborations and our hands-on approach, all support us in thoroughly preparing students for the industry.

NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment — with your students, on a project, etc.?

Paul Sunday: My favorite NYFA moment is the moment a student realizes that they have had a creative breakthrough. There is nothing like seeing that joy of accomplishment where a new world has opened up to an artist. I also love the thesis exhibitions. It is so exciting to see emerging photographers have that first experience of showing their work publicly. It’s a pivotal moment in their self-belief.

Brooke

Photos by: Paul Sunday @paulsundayphoto for Soma Magazine’s “I-POSE” Hair by George Kyriakos for Stylebookings. Makeup by Yumi Nagashima

NYFA: What do you feel is the most important thing for your students to understand from your classes?

Paul Sunday: I want students to leave us with rigorous self-assessment skills, professionalism, and the readiness to own their artistic choices. I try to help them develop the courage to go for it, to develop a career strategy and take the necessary steps to realize their aspirations. The most important thing is for them to understand that they can make meaning through their photography practice.

NYFA: What does photography mean to you in the age of the internet, social media, and smartphones? With technology innovations and the popularity of iPhone photography, why is it important to study photography?

Paul Sunday: Photography has become the language of contemporary society. It is more important than ever for serious photographers to study and develop their craft. It is the best way to set oneself apart and discover a voice in the photographic universe.  

Thank you Paul Sunday for sharing a bit of the story behind your passion for photography with our NYFA community! For those ready to learn more about photography, NYFA has a wide array of incredibly hands-on photography programs. Check out our photography courses.

A Q&A With NYFA Acting for Film Alumna and Teacher’s Assistant Alice Dessuant

An actor plays many roles in the course of a career, but Alice Dessuant is also interested in roles behind the scenes. After completing her New York Film Academy training in acting for film, Alice decided to stay on and work as a TA, and most recently she booked a role in “La Recompense” in Paris.

NYFA had an opportunity to sit down with Miss Dessuant to hear some of her insights on what it’s like to shape shift and work in so many different types of roles within the entertainment industry. Here’s what she had to share with our community.

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NYFA: Congratulations on your upcoming performances in France! Can you tell us a bit about your role and the production?

AD: Thanks! So I will be performing in a play called “La Recompense” (The Reward) at the Edouard VII theater, one of the biggest private theaters in Paris. We will be on stage every day (twice on Saturday) from March 14 to July 16 after six weeks of rehearsing.

“La Recompense” is the story of Martin, a brilliant historian who is rewarded with the International History Prize. His girlfriend and his brother seem to think it is THE prize of a lifetime, the accomplishment of his entire career. Martin however would do anything to give it back: indeed, all the laureates from the past years died a year after they got rewarded.

My character is introduced by Martin’s brother, who speaks about me during the play. I then quite literally appear to Martin at the end of the play to seal his fate.

NYFA: You’ve worked both in front of the camera as an actor and behind the scenes as a cinematographer and wardrobe assistant, and you’ve also worked in several countries. What would you say is your number one takeaway from shifting position, working internationally, and seeing the industry from so many sides?

AD: I feel like shifting position on set made me a better actress. And I would recommend it 100 percent. Knowing exactly who’s doing what and how they do it on set makes you more comfortable in your own position, and makes work more fluid. As for working in different countries, I definitely learned new acting tools for me to use back home. It’s a great way to approach new methods and expand your working skills.

NYFA: Why NYFA? Tell us a little bit more about your journey in choosing the acting for film program at New York Film Academy.

AD: To be perfectly honest, it was completely random! I was spending some time in New York in the summer and I saw an add for the school at a bus stop. I’d always wanted to leave Paris and study acting for film in New York, I thought it was a good place to start. Probably the best decision I ever made!

NYFA: What was it like studying acting for film in a country other than your own?

AD: Whether you are studying, working or just spending time abroad, you always get through phases where you feel homesick, where you miss your family and friends. That was probably the most challenging for me (that and the three months of snow every winter, God I hate the cold!). But more seriously, it really is nothing compared to how rewarding it is to accomplish something outside of your country, out of your comfort zone. It was an amazing feeling to have people who barely knew me, willing to give me a chance. It definitely boosted my confidence! And the fact is, as soon as I got back to France I booked three big jobs in a couple of weeks. I don’t think it would have happened if I had never left Paris for a while.

NYFA: What has surprised you the most about your classes at NYFA? Were there any subjects that became a new passion for you?

AD:  I was really surprised to have audition technique classes. In France, being an actor is still considered an art, not a business. So you learn to do the job but not to get the job. That was the most useful class for me. And I definitely fell in love with TV classes! Especially when working on sitcoms. It really feels like recorded live theater!

NYFA: How did staying on with NYFA and working as a TA change the way you understood your craft as an actor? Did your perspective on your courses change?

AD: Working as a TA made me realise how easy [in some ways] it is to be an actor! Knowing how much equipment is involved, and how much work it takes to produce anything really put my own work into perspective. Sometimes as an actor you show up on set, having worked on your character, emotionally charged, sort of in your own bubble really, and you forget the humongous amount of work it took to build the set, prep the lights, get the camera ready. Working on the other side reminded me of that.

NYFA: What was it like to be a part of the NYFA community both as a student and as a TA?

AD: I had a great experience as a student at NYFA. I felt really privileged. I absolutely adored my classmates and it felt like working with a solid acting troupe all year long. I also had a blast working as a TA. The experience was especially interesting and different for me because I went from a student perspective to working side to side with the teachers I had the year before. I found that same feeling of a troupe with the other TAs, which made the job very enjoyable.

NYFA: Favorite NYFA moment?

AD: Favorite NYFA moment as a student was probably being part of the NYFA ensemble, and getting to perform “Gruesome Playground Injuries” with my classmates.

NYFA: What’s inspiring you right now

AD: The people I am working with at the moment. Actors I have admired all my life and whom I get to be on stage with now.

NYFA: Do you have a favorite film, or favorite actor?

AD: Hardest question ever. I absolutely can’t name one movie. It’s just impossible. As for actors, Johnny Depp in “Edward Scissorhands” is the reason i decided to be an actor (after I realised Jedi and Indiana Jones were not actual jobs). At the moment I am particularly obsessed with both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Watching them act is purely the best acting class you can get. And watching them act together … I literally pause to take notes.

NYFA: What advice would you give to aspiring acting for film students?

AD: My advice is, get as many different acting classes possible. Work on different methods, with different teachers. And if you are ever offered to do another job on set besides acting, say yes.

And stay away from the craft service, it’s a trap!

Alice, thank you for taking the time to share a part of your story with the NYFA community. Break legs in your upcoming shows!

 

A Q&A With VR Observer Founder & Entrepreneur Elena Titova

As a part of our continuing mission to keep our students at the forefront of the industry and offer real-world insights, New York Film Academy is pleased to have had the privilege to sit down with Elena Titova: thought-leader, entrepreneur, and founder of VR Observer magazine. Here is what she had to share with our burgeoning virtual reality community:

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Photo provided by Elena Titova.

NYFA: Hi Elena, thanks for joining NYFA to share your thoughts on Virtual Reality (VR). Let me ask, what was it about VR that first captured your imagination? And what inspired you to found VR Observer?

ET: What captured me is the opportunity VR presents in creating an entirely other universe. The endless possibilities. A dynamic shift in how we teach, how stories are told, how we learn, how we interact with information and each other. How we do things today will shift dramatically in the next few years.

I founded VR Observer to capture this change as it happens. To be on the frontline of a technology that will eventually impact all of our lives. That doesn’t happen all the time. It’s an exciting place to be and I’m happy to be a part of it.

NYFA: Tell us a little bit about your journey in creating a career for yourself in the world of VR? How did you get where you are today?

ET: When I was a little girl growing up in Russia I was fascinated by space travel, still am to this day. I believe this was the foundation to where I am today, wanting to explore and discover new places and technologies. I have a background in marketing and UI/UX design which merge perfectly in my work on VR Observer.

NYFA: How much experience does someone have to have to apply for/get a job using VR? In your view, what industries have most potential to utilize VR content?

ET: The experience level required will be dependent on what field and area of VR one is looking at. One thing I find exciting about an emerging technology though is the fact that so many people are learning as they go. This in a way levels the playing field.

The big one, of course, will be gaming. But we are really excited to see the utilization of VR in healthcare and the entertainment (movies/tv/news) industries.

NYFA: From what you’ve observed in the industry, what companies are investing in VR, and where are opportunities for growth within the next year?  

ET: Facebook’s recent announcement that the social network could end up spending over $3 billion in the next decade to improve virtual reality and make it accessible to the masses, pretty much set the gauntlet. That was Mark Zuckerberg essentially saying VR is going to be the next big thing, and they want to be in front of it. Of course Apple, Microsoft and Google all have major investments in both VR and AR. I find it interesting to also monitor the steady increase of VC money into VR/AR and MR startups. CB Insights has some great data on that.

NYFA: What exciting market trends have you observed in regards to both hardware and content?

ET: The hardware has been improving. Companies are understanding how individuals interact with the virtual world and are honing their products, both H/W and content to create a truly immersive experience. I’m excited to see companies looking at all the senses and how to incorporate them. There is a company that is working on incorporating smell into a virtual environment. Imagine walking into a garden and smelling the roses!

NYFA: You have a strong entrepreneurial background. How do you see entrepreneurship and VR working together? What should young professionals interested in VR borrow from the entrepreneurial mindset?

ET: They are peas in a pod. Anytime a technology comes along that has the potential that VR contains the entrepreneurial opportunities are everywhere.

Just do it. Go for it with no fear of failure. This is such an exciting time, learn from the best, but do it your own way. Always be learning and improving.

NYFA: As you watch VR evolve, what challenges do you anticipate the medium will face in the coming year? And how do you think those challenges can be met?

ET: Adoption. The early adopters have embraced VR. We now need the next wave of consumers to experience VR, and in turn purchase and utilize VR.

To touch further on what I said above, VR needs to be experienced. It cannot be described sufficiently enough to someone who has never actually been immersed in a virtual world.

Hardware and content providers will need to get their products in the consumer’s hands. Cost is also an issue, but I have faith in Moore’s law to rectify that in time.

NYFA: What do you wish everyone knew about VR?

ET: That is not just for games. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fighting zombies as much as the next person. But I don’t think people outside of the VR world know how VR is helping soldiers with PTSD, how VR is helping train our next wave of surgeons, how VR is helping people overcome phobias. All of these [applications] and more will help individuals, and in turn, society. This is what excites me about VR.

Elena, it’s been a pleasure learning more about you and VR Observer. Thank you for sharing your VR insights with New York Film Academy!

Are you interested in learning more about virtual reality? Explore the New York Film Academy’s three immersive VR workshops.

Q&A with NYFA alumna Jessica Myhill

New York Film Academy 1-Year Filmmaking Program alumna Jessica Myhill recently completed a short film that beautifully expresses her perspective on studying at NYFA. We had the chance to sit down with the South African filmmaker to discuss her video, her inspirations, and her experiences with student life at our New York City campus. Whether you are a current NYFA student or are considering joining our community, read on and be sure to check out her NYFA video!

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Hi Jessica, thanks so much for sitting down to answer our questions! We’re excited that you’re here to share your story with fellow NYFA students.

Before we talk about the short film you’ve created and shared with us, can you tell us a little bit about your journey to New York Film Academy?

I struggled with finding a school which suited me. Many universities or filmmaking schools I was looking at in my own country were too theoretical. I have always learnt best in an extremely hands-on environment. In high school I co-founded a film club with some friends and could already see that if you put a camera in my hands, I will start learning.

It’s amazing how much the New York Film Academy has packed into one year of school! I have had the opportunity to learn how to use all sorts of cameras starting from a 16mm Camera to the Red camera. I have written, produced, directed and edited about 10 short films and I have been a crew member for other directors and even acted in one or two films along the way. I have met and worked with so many people from all around the world which has been by far the most fulfilling thing for me as an artist. The collaborative nature of the New York Film Academy is one of my favorite aspects of the school!

What has surprised you the most about your classes at NYFA?

I have always been extremely passionate about nearly every creative medium. This made the diversity of what we got to learn very exciting for me. In high school I was very involved in art and theatre, thus the acting and production design classes were some of my favorites of course.

Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

It was the shoot of my classmates thesis film (the last film we filmed in my class). I was the cinematographer, one of my favourite roles. After many challenges and setbacks we had trying to shoot this film, this final reshoot was such an awe-inspiring experience. The director was prepared and everyone was just working together so well. I could see all my classmates growth and also my personal growth in trusting and managing the crew as well as my general understanding about the craft of cinematography. Most importantly, it was such a joy to see how much we bonded as a group of individuals

What has been your greatest challenge at NYFA, and how did you overcome it? What advice would you give your fellow filmmaking students?

Constantly coming up with ideas was extremely hard. I had a major period of writer’s block while trying to come up with an idea for my final film. I overcame it by bouncing ideas around with friends and family. I think it’s important in any creative field to know how to access your creativity. If you are visual, start drawing. If you get inspired by other films, watch lots of film. Learn what inspires you and do that until you come with ideas.

Most importantly, you must trust yourself. Everyone has powerful stories to tell. One just has to learn how to access them.

How do you feel your approach to storytelling has changed over the course of your studies?

Writing for film is challenging, as I sometimes forget to include information that only I know but that the audience may not be aware of. I realized that the craft of writing is learning how to take the audience on a journey. You have the pieces of the puzzle and you have to build it in the most interesting way to really make the final picture even more beautiful and impactful.

What inspired you to want to create your short film about your NYFA experience?

My family were organizing a Catch Up Fundraiser while I was in New York to celebrate as well as update my supportive community of my latest endeavors.

We decided that it would be good idea for me to record a message to summarize my NYFA experience, especially as I could not be at the event [in South Africa]. I set up and recorded an interview with the help of my classmates.

While I started planning and assembling the video, I was compelled to keep adding and expanding the visual elements to paint the picture of my journey more vividly.

In your video you mention what a significant role your community has played in your pursuit of filmmaking. Why is community important in film?

Filmmaking, in my opinion, is the most collaborative art form there is. Not only is it many different types of crafts and artists joining together but it also is a way of connecting with many ideas from the world and making it into a form of art.

You share in your video that you really discovered a lot of value in studying along with NYFA’s very diverse, international students. What is your biggest takeaway from meeting students from around the world?

Learning about the different cultures of my classmates was extremely interesting. I learnt we are different culturally in what we eat and wear and our traditions. The universal truths of what we all relate to become very clear – especially in film where these themes are explored often. It did make me see home differently and I have returned to visit South Africa with a huge appreciation of the weather, the food and the general spirit of the people.

Did you discover any new artistic inspirations from other cultures?

I fell in love with “Chunking Express” directed by Kar-Wai Wong. I admire how he captured the feeling of loneliness in such a visually stylized way.

What was it like studying film in a country other than your own?

It was character building to say the least. Living away from my family and living alone for the first time really forced me to grow. I had found a good support system in New York which eased the burden of being an international student living on a very weak currency.

What’s inspiring you right now?

I am inspired by the active responses to the current injustices of our society. It reminds me of the truth of this quote by Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

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What’s your favorite film?

“American Beauty”!

Any last thoughts you’d like to share that we missed?

I think it is important that more females go into filmmaking. I am so glad to see many strong females around me in this industry, but we need more.

It is also important that females allow themselves to be treated in the same way males are treated. If you are a gaffer and are able to carry lights, carry them instead of allowing a man to do it for you even if their intentions are good.

Equality in this field starts with people treating female filmmakers the same way as they treat male filmmakers.

Jessica, thanks so much for sharing your insights and your NYFA story. Congratulations on completing a lovely film. We can’t wait to hear about what you’re up to next!

3 Films About The “New World” to Watch This Columbus Day

At NYFA, our students come from over 120 countries around the world. So Columbus Day may not be a very familiar holiday for many in our community. And with Indigenous Peoples’ day on the rise as a potential replacement for Columbus Day, this controversial national holiday is an excellent opportunity dig into some big questions about culture, transformation, and change. And what better way to do that than to watch some worthwhile films?

We rounded up some well-crafted movies featuring North and South America around the time of the first European expeditions and colonies, for our students’ consideration. Here are three compelling films you won’t want to miss, each capturing a noteworthy, complex, and multi-dimensional portrayal of the New World. These films may not feature Columbus, but they do explore the question of what the “New World” meant from a few different perspectives.

1. “The Mission” (1986)

Acting giants Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons portray two Spanish Jesuit missionaries with equal passion but strongly differing views on how to protect the South Indian tribe they serve from Portuguese slave traders. “The Mission” is a poignant, intense, and exquisitely rendered film that visual and performing arts students can absorb and study on many levels. 

2. “Apocalypto” (2006)

Director/writer Mel Gibson and partner Farad Safinia’s imaginative portrayal of the Mayan Empire on the verge of collapse vividly calls a lost civilization, language, and way of being to life, with action-packed suspense and lush jungle settings all along the way. The audience follows Jaguar Paw, whose village has been ransacked by a the Mayans for human sacrifices, as he struggles to free himself from a terrible fate as a captive and reunite with his wife. It’s an interesting interpretation of a lost world.

3. “The New World” (2005)

This visually stunning Terrence Malick piece centers on the familiar, fictional love story between the historical characters of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, during one of the British Empire’s initial explorations of the New World. What this film offers is a unique tone and ambiance that bring this raw, wild point of history to life in alternately sumptuous and grim visual language that only Malick can speak. History buffs will also appreciate the inclusion of Pocahontas’ real-life husband, John Rolfe, in the plotline.

Honorary Mention: “Shakespeare in Love” (1998)

True, the action of this film doesn’t take place in the New World — instead, “Shakespeare in Love” centers in 1590s London. This period piece centers on the young and passionate writer, Shakespeare, as he explores a brave new world: falling in love. While this may not seem directly connected to Christopher Columbus or the New World, the British colonies — especially Virginia — do play an important role in a critical plot-twist. Besides, do we really need an excuse to watch this 1990s masterpiece that snagged seven Oscars and changed the way a new generation saw the immortal bard?

We hope this Columbus Day presents you with valuable opportunities to look deeper and go further with the questions and passions that drive us all to create visual and performing art. So immerse, enjoy, and learn from some noteworthy films.

What films are inspiring you this week? What does the New World mean to you? Let us know in the comments below!