Author: New York Film Academy

Q&A With NYFA Producing Alum Max Peltz on the Role of a Producer and His Recent Documentary Releases 'In The Cold Dark Night' and 'Bad Hombres'

UK native and co-founder of Lone Wolf Studios Max Peltz has had a bustling career since he finished his 1-Year Producing program at NYFA in 2013. From learning about what it meant to even become a producer to starting his own company, Peltz has become a prolific producer and writer in his own right working with distributors like ABC, Hulu, and Showtime to name a few.

Ahead of the release of his latest project Bad Hombres (for Showtime), New York Film Academy caught up with the Producing alum to learn more about his recent projects, his time at NYFA, and what it means to be a producer.

NYFA Producing alum Max Peltz

New York Film Academy (NYFA): What made you decide to pursue a career in producing?

Max Peltz (MP): I’ve always loved watching films, but I was also incredibly curious about the work and team effort that went into actually making a film. Two of my cousins were film producers, and I would spend hours talking to them about their craft. By the time I started university in the UK, I knew I wanted to be a producer.

NYFA: What made you decide to come to New York Film Academy?

MP: After studying Business and Marketing at university, I knew that I had to become a producer. First, I first needed to learn what the job entailed and the various roles that come together to make a film. I found the New York Film Academy through online research and was impressed by the diverse number of courses and the producing curriculum. I made the right choice! In particular, Neal Weisman, Nick Yellen, and Lanre Olabisi taught me a huge amount about the art of producing. Neal and Nick put a lot of care and time into their curriculum and students, while Lanre gave me my first opportunity in production. I’m so grateful to them for this.

NYFA: What advice would you give to any incoming students?

MP: Three things I would say to any incoming student are:

  1. Listen
  2. Take notes
  3. Take every opportunity that comes your way. Attention and hard work are the key ingredients to success in any career. Opportunities are the only variable you can’t control, so always take them on.

Poster for ‘In The Cold Dark Night’

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your documentary In The Cold Dark Night and where people can watch it?

MP: Yes! In The Cold Dark Night examines both the 1983 and 2018 investigations into the murder of African-American man Timothy Coggins. The film highlights how one era enabled this crime to go without punishment and how the other attempts to bring justice decades later. It features a 360-degree view of all people involved within the case, conveying themes of hope and resilience. It’s available to watch on ABC/Hulu in North America and on Sky Documentaries in the UK.

NYFA: How did you get involved on the project? What inspired you to write/produce it?

MP: Almost three years ago in October 2017, I was watching a football match when my iPhone suddenly lit up with the CNN headline: “Cold case no more: Police arrest 5 in ‘torturous’ 1983 slaying.” At the time, I was unemployed, I had just finished a short film, and I was looking for stories that interested me both on a personal level and ones where I could also make a difference on a broader, societal and cultural level. As anyone will and should know, race relations is such a painful subject in the world right now. Its history in the South, in particular, is frightening. As the nights passed on and on, I kept thinking of the article I had read. So I decided to do something about it. I contacted the key contributors and, later that month, I flew out to Griffin, Georgia, where I met the key contributors in the story from the Sheriff, District Attorney, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and Timothy Coggins’ family. The rest is history. We filmed for the whole of 2018 and initially thought of it as a four-part series, but once we got into the edit, we eventually decided to structure it as a feature film. It’s essential to always be adaptable in this industry as trends and formats are ever-changing.

Still from ‘In The Cold Dark Night’

NYFA: With so much discourse right now and momentum surrounding systemic racism, why was it important that people see this project?

MP: It is important for precisely the reason you mention. The message, which most resonated with me from the Black Lives Matter movement, is the one of education. Making this project educated me on the history of racism in the United States—in particular the South—and I feel that everyone should be aware of this history and how it is still very much widespread in the present day. Being aware of systemic racism is the start of making a difference. Then the hard work begins.

NYFA: What other projects have you worked on?

MP: After finishing the NYFA producing program, I worked on a feature film, Somewhere in The Middle, directed by Lanre Olabisi and then interned at A24 and Jean Doumanian Productions. 

In 2014, I moved back to London, which is where I fell into the documentary space. I worked on several documentary films for the BBC including, Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran’s Ultimate Party (2016), Unknown Male Number 1 (2017), and Oink! (2017). 

Following this, I decided to start producing freelance, my first project being the docuseries Hacker: Hunter (2019), available on tomorrowunlocked.com. Now, my business partner Stephen Robert Morse and I run Lone Wolf Studios in the UK, and we are developing several unscripted and scripted projects.

NYFA: For those who may not quite understand the role of a producer – what would you tell them a producer does, in your own words?

MP: It’s a great question. A producer is a person who has to anticipate problems before they happen, as well as solve them when they do happen. They have to support their director to realise their vision; that can be creative support as well as organisational support. They’re responsible for the hiring and firing, the fundraising and budget, the pitching and shopping. Simply put, a producer is involved in every step of the way and every single area of the project. A producer makes sure that there is a working system in place, from the inception of a project to delivery.

NYFA: What makes you excited about a project?

MP: Stephen and I founded Lone Wolf Studios with the principal aim to tell commercial, hard-hitting, and character-driven stories that create lasting social and cultural impact. All of the films we eventually decide to work on must be smart, entertaining, and impactful. They have to be stories which we are passionate about.

Still from ‘Bad Hombres’ (Photo credit: Courtesy of SHOWTIME)

NYFA: Can you tell us about your latest project Bad Hombres for Showtime and any other upcoming projects you may be working on?

MP: Yes! Our documentary Bad Hombres airs Friday, October 16 on Showtime. The film looks at a professional Mexican baseball team who play half their home games in Laredo TX and half their home games in Nuevo Laredo Mexico. They have to cross the border by foot each time they play in the US. Our amazing director, Andrew Glazer, presented this project to us back in January 2019. We instantly fell in love with the story and the characters, and asked our team at CAA to start setting meetings. Showtime was the first meeting we had and, fortunately, they commissioned it a few months later. I produced with Stephen and Andrew.

The story has so much heart coupled with the overarching political issues between the USA and Mexico. Tune in tonight! It’s also available on-demand thereafter.

We also have a scripted limited series set up with Fuqua Films, Propagate, and CBS Studios, based on a book we optioned last year, and lots of projects in development! It’s essential to always have a pipeline of projects.

NYFA: Any advice you’d like to share for working in the industry?

MP: I would encourage any aspiring filmmaker/producer never to get too beat up by criticism. It’s an incredibly difficult industry to break into, but you have to work hard, stick to your convictions, and you will be fine. Consider it a journey rather than a career.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Producing alum Max Peltz for taking the time to share about his experience at NYFA, his career as a producer, and his recent projects. Peltz’s upcoming documentary Bad Hombres premieres on Showtime on October 16, 2020 at 9 PM ET/PT.

https://youtu.be/BI8-GZ1YoFk

Q&A With Acting for Film Alum Angela Blake on Studying at NYFA and Creating Her Own International Film Festival (SF3)

Native Australian Angela Blake grew up in Sydney, Australia and was surrounded by the arts from a young age. Now, Blake is a certified performer and the co-founder of SF3, the SmartFone Flick Fest, an international film festival that she co-created in the hopes that anyone can feel like they can enter a film festival and create a film no matter what kind of equipment they have.

New York Film Academy caught up with the NYFA alum during the busy festival season to ask her more about her career and how she came up with the idea for creating the International SmartFone Flick Fest (SF3).

New York Film Academy (NYFA): What did you study at NYFA and why did you decide to study with NYFA?

Angela Blake (AB): I moved to LA in 2010 when NYFA offered me a scholarship into their 1-Year Acting for Film program. The truth is, I was nearly 30 and looking to move my career into more acting roles. I had spent the past eight years touring internationally and I was also looking to spend some time in one place. I saw that NYFA was auditioning in Sydney and I went along. 

Straight after my audition, I started a six month tour of Australia in Dora the Explorer Live on Stage. This was an amazing gig but six months on the road is a long time, so when I got the call that I had been offered a place at NYFA, I jumped on the chance to relocate to LA and transition my career and I was very impressed with NYFA. I loved everything I had seen in my audition in Sydney. I also wanted to study with all the teachers I found in my research, and who doesn’t dream about moving to LA to act?! I was especially excited to be able to film on the Universal Studios Backlot as part of my program; that just seemed so cool to me all the way in Sydney.

NYFA Acting for Film alum Angela Blake

NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming students?

AB: I guess my advice is twofold and perhaps a little contradictory, but hey…isn’t that just being a human?

  1. I would say immerse yourself totally in NYFA and your study. NYFA hires some of the most amazing and experienced teachers in the world. They are instructors who are all working professionals themselves. Listen to them, learn everything you can from them, pick their brains, ask a million questions, let yourself be inspired daily, and do the hard work. 
  1. But on the flip side, make sure that you also live life outside of acting. LA is a really cool town; there are so many great sites to see, restaurants to go to, theatre, poetry nights…you name it, LA has it. Remember to be a person too. Go to LA to study but also remain grounded in life and the world around you. I think that’s an Aussie thing; the importance of staying grounded and true to yourself. 

NYFA: How did you get more involved in filmmaking and acting? 

AB: The other great thing about studying at NYFA is the whole set-up between the acting and the filmmaking students. This means that acting students are lucky enough to get to work in the filmmaking students’ films most weekends (and of course the reverse is true…how lucky are the filmmakers to have access to such talent)! But this connection meant that I got a lot of real time on set and real time on set with filmmakers who were learning their craft. I watched a lot, made friends with many filmmakers, many of whom I’m still close with, and I always asked questions. 

After I graduated from NYFA, I had a whole showreel and collection of films I had made and so I started working. I went back to my roots and did a lot of indie theatre, even touring a play to Off-Broadway in NY. I acted in web-series, film shorts and enjoyed some small roles in features. I auditioned for everything I could and kept taking classes almost every day. 

One of my mentors from NYFA was Anthony Montes, my Meisner teacher. “You look happy. I look happy. You look happy!” Anthony is one of the biggest artistic influences of my life and he was really encouraging of me and all his students to not just be an actor and not wait around for a role, but instead, we should be creating roles for ourselves and explore filmmaking, writing, directing, and producing as well. “Make your own work.” This really spoke to me. Anthony was the first teacher who thought I would make a good director and I learned a lot from him. He was so generous in his time and let me direct in class. He also encouraged us to write our own works and a bunch of students were able to put together a play we wrote together at a theatre in Hollywood, which I produced and directed. 

This “make your own work” notion and the idea I could create something myself is one of the strongest things I brought home to Australia with me. 

Photo courtesy of Angela Blake

NYFA: What roles are you attracted to the most?

AB: Great question. Hmmmmm, I guess I love troubled characters. People living life on the margins. Outsiders. I also love comedies and trying to be funny. I especially like directing comedies and seem to get hired to direct mostly comedies. I think I have a good understanding of what makes something funny. Or at least I hope I do!

As a filmmaker, I tend to make films with a social agenda or commentary; definitely not funny ones. For instance, I just finished a film on being transgender and the daily assaults one endures and, before that, I made a little short on domestic violence and another on infant death. Light stuff!

On the other hand, I seem to get hired to direct comedies. I think I have a good eye for what’s funny, or at least I sure hope I do! I love directing comedies and perhaps I love delving into the human condition in my own works. 

NYFA: You co-founded the SF3. Can you tell us more about that? How did this come to be and why Australia?

AB: Yes I am the Co-Founder of SF3, the SmartFone Flick Fest. We are Australia’s international smartphone film festival and are based in Sydney, Australia, though we accept films from all over the world. In fact, this year, we received submissions from over 50 countries including Australia and the US, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Russia, China, the Philippines, and everywhere in between. 

So after my time in LA, when my visa was expiring, I decided to move home. I missed my family and truly, I missed Australia. But, I returned home with a lot of amazing things I had learned from NYFA and from two teachers in particular, Ros Gentle and Anthony Montes. I really had learned from them to create my own work and this thought revolutionised my life and career. I brought this belief and drive home with me, along with the quintessential American enthusiasm I picked up living in LA for two years. 

So as soon as I got home, I directed a short play in a theatre festival here called Short + Sweet. Ali Crew, who is now my SF3 Co-Founder, auditioned for my play and I gave her a role. Over the course of the festival we kept winning rounds and we made it all the way through to the finals. This meant that I got to see how a festival worked up close and Ali and I both loved how the Short + Sweet Festival gave theatre makers and anyone who wanted to be a theatre maker the opportunity to get on stage, to give it a go, and try out new work. We realised that there wasn’t really anything like it for filmmakers at that time, in Australia anyway, and we wanted to rectify that. I mentioned that in LA people had just started making films on their phones, so we combined those ideas and SF3 was born. We wanted to help make filmmaking affordable and accessible to all. 

Angela Blake (left) at SmartFone Flick Fest

NYFA: At a time like this, why is this something filmmakers should take part in now more than ever?

AB: Because now more than ever we need stories, we need to stay connected, we need to share what makes us human, share love, and stay creative. Many people around the world have spent so much of this year in lockdown with nothing much except their phones and imaginations. Perfect for SF3 ! That’s why we introduced our Iso Category this year, to honour what was happening in the world and to keep people inspired and making films no matter what the obstacles or how limited the resources. 

NYFA: What were some of the challenges you faced getting the festival up and running?

AB: Hahahaha money. Isn’t that the truth for us all? Really that was and still is the main obstacle. 

It’s amazing how generous other humans are though; we get so much industry support and love. We have a group of some of the most incredible creatives out there who sit on our judging panel out of the kindness of their hearts. Our five Ambassadors are the cream of the crop, Phillip Noyce, Kriv Stenders, Kerry Armstrong, Nicole da Silva and Christopher Stollery, and they donate so much of their time to us doing media and our first ever online panel discussion. We have a slew of sponsors from our Major Sponsors including: We Are Treehouse, Struman Optics and Luma Touch to all our prize sponsors, who all donate over $40,000 worth of prizes annually to our prize pool. It’s so humbling to have the in-kind and monetary support we receive. 

But, our big corporate sponsor, the one will eventually allow us to hire staff and grow the festival quicker and in ways that only cash can…that is the ongoing difficulty. However, I’m persistent so watch this space!

South Korean Actress Yoon Joon (Left) with Angela Blake (Right)

NYFA: Can you tell us about any other projects you are working on?

AB: SF3 takes sooooooo much of my time and creative energy, but the season is about to end and I’m looking forward to getting back into some of my creative pursuits that have been waiting in the background. I’m currently studying for my Master’s in Creative Writing and I have a lot to write for that, including a feature film (that I’ve been writing for way too long), but I plan on finishing my first draft by Christmas. I’ve also just finished another short film and so I will be entering that one into festivals (I shot it on my phone too), and I have my poetry which I’d like to do something with. 

NYFA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

AB: I’d love to hear from anyone! Please follow SF3 on our socials as we love connecting with creatives from all over the world. 

It’s now SF3’s 6th year running now. You can catch 85 smartphone films, including 11 features in our very first Online Virtual Festival. Tickets start at pay-what-you-can and run from October 10 – 25, 2020. We are also hosting an online master class with Hollywood legend, Phillip Noyce, on Saturday 17th Oct at 6pm LA time or Sunday 18th at 12pm AEST. 

You can grab tickets to all events from www.sf3.com.au or https://watch.eventive.org/sf32020

New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA alum Angela Blake for taking the time out of her festival schedule to share more about SF3 and her journey as a creative performer, writer, director, and collaborator. NYFA looks forward to seeing what’s next from the Acting for Film alum!

Q&A with NYFA Screenwriting Alum Miguel Ángel on Switching Careers and His Award-Winning Script ‘The Pink House’

After spending years in his career as a journalist, Spanish native Miguel Ángel Parra realized it was time to make his dreams come true and make the jump from journalist to screenwriter. He then enrolled in the 8-Week Screenwriting program at NYFA where he wrote his screenplay for The Pink House, which has since gone on to win screenplay contests in the Madrid International Film Festival (2020), the LGBTQ Toronto  Film Festival (2020), the All Genre Screenplay Contest (sponsored by Amazon, 2020), and become a semi-finalist in the Nashville International Film Festival (2020). 

NYFA was able to catch up with the Screenwriting alum and discuss his successful script and what this journey has meant for him as a writer and creator to have other people recognize his work and to make such a huge career move. 

NYFA screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Tell us a bit more about yourself. What first got you interested in screenwriting?

Miguel Ángel Parra (MP): I always wanted to be a journalist and I always knew that I would focus on the world of information and communication. I started my career as a journalist in 1997 working in a newspaper in my hometown, Jaén, Spain. I worked in different newspapers for 13 years. Then, somehow, I got tired of writing about reality and started writing fiction. I felt that I had a lot of stories to tell so I started taking writing classes. In 2010, I quit my job and went back to study at university. I got my Master’s in Scriptwriting in Seville, where I have lived since 2003. There have been a lot of voices that have been silenced across history, and I felt that it was time to make people listen to them.

NYFA: What made you want to study at NYFA? Is there anything specific you have learned that you have carried with you since you completed your program?

MP: New York is my favourite city in the world. I had visited the city several times as a tourist but I wanted to live there for some time. In January 2019, I lost my job, so I thought to myself: “This is the right time to make your dream come true.” Then I thought that it would be perfect if I could improve my writing skills learning from the best. I have a lot of friends and colleagues from Spain who studied at NYFA and I have always heard good things about the school. So I chose the 8-Week Screenwriting program and applied for it. The day I got an email from NYFA saying I got in was one of the happiest days in my life. 

I learned a lot there, especially from instructor Dennis Green, my script writing teacher. He showed me the importance of the structure of a script, very useful techniques, and how to write better dialogues. Studying at NYFA helped me a lot in the scripts I have written since then. 

NYFA: Was The Pink House the first screenplay you had written? 

MP: The Pink House is my first feature film script and I wrote it in English! When I came back to Spain, I translated it into Spanish and rewrote it several times. During the quarantine, I finished it and translated into English again in order to be able to submit to international competitions. I have also written some short film scripts. One of them, Espich, was shot in 2014. 

Last summer, right after coming back to Spain, I wrote another short film which was shot this August called The Eternal Angels, which won a prize at a national contest last year. Set in the XVIIth century, it tells the story of the famous Spanish painter Murillo and his wife, who lost their first three kids in the plague that devastated Seville in 1647. 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about the story behind The Pink House?

MP: The Pink House is a story that needs to be told. It is basically about finding a home. It’s a comedy on the surface, but underneath there is a story about abandonment; the abandonment suffered by LGBTI seniors. The young activists who fought for the LGBT rights in the late 70s in Spain are nowadays men and women in their 70s and 8os and most of them don’t have a home to live in, as they were rejected by their families or have lost their partner. 

In my country, we lived 40 years of a dictatorship, with a hard repression on these people, so I felt that I HAD to thank them for their fight somehow, because thanks to them we have the rights we have right now.

NYFA screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel on set for ‘The Eternal Angels’

NYFA: What do you hope audiences feel after reading your script for The Pink House?

MP: I hope the audience, especially the younger generation, realize that we have rights and freedoms because someone fought for them. Things haven’t always been like this. Some people had to fight and suffer for us to live in a free world.

NYFA: How does it feel to have this story receive the notoriety that it already has?

MP: I am a bit overwhelmed. I submitted the script to a few festivals some time ago and the verdicts and decisions are happening all at once. Being my first feature film script, it is quite exciting to see that people (and jurys) like it. It’s been an honor to see The Pink House selected at the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and reaching the semifinals, being one of the Best Unproduced Scripts at Madrid International Film Festival, or seeing my script published and on sale on Amazon thanks to the All Genre Screenplay Contest. I never imagined something like this would happen. 

NYFA: Do you have any other upcoming projects coming up?

MP: My short film The Eternal Angels was shot in August and it will probably premiere at the Seville European Film Festival in November. Besides that, I wrote a play that we hope still opens in January and I also wrote a TV pilot called The Golden Boys, as a renewed and gay version of the popular TV show The Golden Girls. There is a production company that showed interest in it so I hope it could be a reality very soon.

NYFA: Any advice to other screenwriters out there?

MP: I’m not good at giving advice but I would say something that worked for me: Never think you know everything and never stop studying, reading, and learning.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel Parra for taking the time to share his journey on writing his first feature film script and the importance of telling the stories of those who have been silent for a long time. NYFA looks forward to seeing what is next from Parra and wishes him the best on his upcoming short film The Eternal Angels.

https://youtu.be/xO58tiHtui8

Q&A With NYFA Alum and Actor Fredrik Scheike on Coming to NYFA, The Importance of a Good Story for an Actor, and His Upcoming Projects

Originally from Sweden, Fredrik Scheike grew up doing theatre and taking drama classes at a very early age, but hadn’t considered the possibility of a professional career in acting. Now, the NYFA Acting for Film alum has two Netflix productions under his belt and a role in a critically acclaimed film to show for it and is showing no signs of slowing down having multiple projects in the works. 

New York Film Academy spoke with the alum about his upcoming projects and advice for incoming students coming to the Academy and the role of a good story for an actor. 

NYFA acting for film alum Fred Scheike’

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Well, first off, can you tell us more about where you are from? What made you decide to pursue a career in acting?

Fredrik Scheike (FS): I’m originally from Åre/Östersund, Sweden, where I started doing theatre and taking drama classes very young. I didn’t even consider it a possibility until I came across NYFA and Steven Chinni in New York when I went there on vacation one spring in 2011. I’ve always done it as more than a hobby, up until then.

NYFA: What made you decide to come to New York Film Academy?

FS: I went to New York on a whim, got great, cheap tickets and accommodation, and walking about one day I asked for information at NYFA. The next day I was invited for a tour and an interview, and I fell in love with the possibility of studying and living in New York, and reigniting my passion for the dramatic arts.

NYFA: What advice would you give to any incoming students?

FS: Make the most out of your time at NYFA, don’t settle, challenge yourself and apply yourself. The acting world is hard and having a career is even harder. The more you put your back into it from the get-go, the more you’ll get out of it, and the more you’ll be prepared for the real world.

NYFA: Can you tell us more about some of your recent/most notable projects?

FS: We’re currently in a pre-production phase of a new family feature, mixing animation and real actors, and we’ve already got some great Spanish names on board. I’m working both on the production, with our family’s production company Tyl Escénicas Producciones A.I.E, and as an actor in a small part. We produced another feature, Moira, which premiered last year and is currently running on the Spanish streaming platform Filmin and, before that, I was lucky enough to get involved for two episodes in a Netflix Original here in Spain!

Film poster for ‘Moira’

NYFA: Can you tell us about your character in Moira? What was it like to work alongside the cast and how did you connect with the story?

FS: The story is that of the family I married into, with a fictional twist of course, so having gotten to know them long before reading the script made it easy. The story is relationship-oriented, but does strike a universal chord. There are so many people suffering dictatorships, exile, emigration, immigration and segregation, and those who try to forget their past. Just look at the total number of refugees in the world right now, even though COVID-19 is at the forefront of all conversations. 

My character is Mike, an American franchise owner who has relocated to Spain for work and gets involved with the story’s protagonist and eventually serves as a bit of a catalyst for the protagonist’s transformative decision. It was fun to play a chauvinistic dirt-bag, to be honest, because it challenged myself to strike that human nerve in despicable behavior.

NYFA: For any project, what gets you excited? 

FS: Story. Story. Story. I’m a story-junky. A good story always gets me going because with it comes the challenge to tell that story in the best manner possible.

NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects coming up?

FS: I just got optioned for a national commercial and I briefly mentioned Uli, the Dog, a new family feature we’re developing and pre-producing. It’s a project we hopefully will get up and shooting towards the end of Spring, 2021. A lot of pieces of the puzzle are coming together, but there’s still a whole bunch of work to do, and it all depends on how we all come out of this mess [COVID-19]. Also, financing is a thing we’re working on right now and I’m reaching out to producers and production companies both in Sweden and in the US to jump on board this fun project, but international projects, especially being a small Indie-producer, are sometimes hard to find funding.

NYFA: With COVID-19 halting productions, how are you staying creative right now?

FS: During the months of complete lock-down here in Spain we had a project commissioned to us where we represented classical stories and fairy tales for the children of our community, which was a lot of fun. That project unfortunately ended, so instead I’ve been taking a lot of photos, doing some videos and skits, but mainly writing. I’m always writing stories, prose and poems, and I actually published my first collection of poems…only in Swedish unfortunately.New York Film Academy would like to thank Acting for Film alum Fredrik Scheike for taking the time to share more on coming to NYFA, working in the industry, and more on his upcoming projects.

Q&A With NYFA South Beach Alum Ester Nunes on Life After Graduation and The Importance of Having Fun as a Filmmaker

Ester Nunes has always been a creative person. Growing up, Nunes would always draft short stories and as a teenager would create homemade videos and stage photoshoots with her friends. “It was not something I ever considered for pursuing as a career,” she shared. 

After turning 16 and deliberating about what she wanted to do in the future, it was her dad that encouraged her to look into filmmaking as a career, which led her to New York Film Academy’s South Beach campus as a Filmmaking student in the fall of 2016. Now, Nunes is mentoring others in filmmaking, working on other sets, and has even teased a short comedy that she is looking to direct next year.

New York Film Academy caught up with Nunes about what it was like coming to New York Film Academy, what life after graduation has looked like, and what her personal filmmaking experience has looked like.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): What made you decide to come to NYFA? Why the South Beach location?

Ester Nunes (EN): After I graduated high school, while looking for universities to apply to, I came across Variety’s list of best film schools, which mentioned the New York Film Academy. Curious, I researched the curriculum for NYFA and loved the hands-on approach and teaching methodology. 

Applying to NYFA Los Angeles was my first choice, since it is so close to the industry, but after learning it had a South Beach campus, I decided to come to Miami; it was closer to home, so my parents can visit me more, and I have family that lives in Florida, which provides a support system. I also liked that the classes were smaller and I could have more one-on-one time with my teachers. 

BFA filmmaking alum Ester Nunes (Left)

NYFA: What is something you have learned that you have carried with you after graduation?

EN: Make movies and create art for yourself, not for others. I’ve learned that the more personal something is (whether a song, a movie or a piece of art), the more it resonates with other people because it is just so honest and real. You will also never please everyone, so you might as well create art that will make you happy. 

NYFA: Tell us more about your work after graduating? What has been your favorite project so far?

EN: After graduating, I started working with a Miami non-profit called After School Film Institute, which teaches middle and high school students filmmaking in a program after school. I’m a mentoring artist, and last year in our program I taught production design. I also post content for their social media page. 

Recently, I started working with an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker in a documentary about Liberty City, called Razing Liberty Square.

Last November, some of my filmmaker friends got together and did a short film called La tarde, which I worked on as a Second AD. I think that was the set I’ve had the most fun in. The atmosphere was just so light and cool, with a crew that works together a lot and that makes our sets awesome. 

Photo courtesy of Ester Nunes

NYFA: As a filmmaker, how would you describe yourself? What stories do you want to tell?

EN: I think I’m a more experimental filmmaker. I like trying different structures and non-linear stories, things you don’t always see. These kinds of movies reflect my personality well. And I want to tell stories for myself. Films are a way I can express how I’m feeling and let my creativity flow. Emotions are universal, and if at least one other person can relate to it, that’s enough for me. 

Ester Nunes reviewing her notes on set

NYFA: Do you have any incoming advice for students?

EN: Network! Make connections! Talent is important, but so is knowing people. Don’t hesitate to put yourself out there. 

Also, have fun making movies, don’t stress too much. 

New York Film Academy would like to thank Ester Nunes for taking the time to speak on her experience as a NYFA student and industry professional. NYFA looks forward to seeing what’s next from the filmmaking alum as she expands her own creative work and teaches others to create.

Q&A With Acting for Film Alum and Director Howard Campbell on Acting and His Original Film ‘Sick Boys Die Alone’

New York Film Academy Acting for Film alum Howard Campbell has hit the ground running since graduating NYFA, not only auditioning for roles as an actor, but putting himself behind the camera as a writer and director. 

His short film Sick Boys Die Alone is now available to watch on Amazon Prime and follows a diagnosed bipolar comedian as he shares his last jokes on an unexpected crowd after a lifetime of unfortunate events. 

NYFA caught up with the Acting for Film alum to discuss everything from wanting to become an actor and studying at NYFA, to taking on the hybrid role as a director and writer.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Where did you grow up and how did you first get involved with acting?

Howard Campbell (HC): I was an army brat from birth so I don’t really have one place that I grew up in. It was more of a collective of different states because my family moved around so often. However, I lived in Texas the longest so I sometimes claim that that’s where I’m from. 

My earliest memory of wanting to be an actor was probably around seven years old. I was obsessed with Jurassic Park and the original Karate Kid movie, so I would just rewatch movies like that around that time, and essentially repeat everything I saw the actors doing. A year later, I got my own VHS camera and started making little films myself. 

NYFA Acting for Film alum Howard Campbell

NYFA: So what made you decide to come to NYFA?

HC: Aside from wanting to get better at my craft, NYFA’s location and the fact that we would be able to work on the Universal Studios backlot is what really sold me on attending. Directing is equally important to me and I liked that NYFA had a whole department for filmmaking because I knew somehow I’d be able to to learn more of that side too, even though I did the acting program. 

NYFA: That’s exciting, so the hybrid learning was key in how you decided what you wanted to study. Do you have any advice for incoming students?

HC: My advice to incoming students would be to go to as many of the networking events, Q&A’s, and screenings that you can! I went to the Q&A’s religiously and aside from the knowledge you’re getting from working professionals, you may also get inspiration you need to keep going. Also, the school is what you make of it; so if you really want to improve or learn, you will. But you have to do the work.

NYFA: After graduation, how did you seek out auditions or what was your first big start in the business as a professional?

HC: After graduation, I found an agent and manager who began submitting me to auditions. It was much harder than I thought it’d be but when you book something, it’s rewarding; a never ending journey though. I’m still VERY early on in my career and even though I have a couple projects under my belt, I still deal with rejection every week and the inconsistency of the life of an actor. Ya’ gotta love it! (sarcasm).

NYFA: Though you mention your short time in the business, you have still managed to land roles on some notable shows like Snowfall and The Boys? What was that like?

HC: Snowfall was actually one of the first projects I booked and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. Being on such a stylized, serious show was a dream of mine. All the actors we’re so talented and took the work so seriously that every day on set I would just watch and learn from everyone, including the crew. 

I had a tiny scene on Amazon’s The Boys, but it was great doing that show because It allowed me to travel and meet really dope people in Canada. I also learned more about the making of a high budget action-superhero show, which I didn’t think I would see for a while.

Poster for ‘Sick Boys Die Alone’

NYFA: You wrote, directed, and acted in your film Sick Boys Die Alone. The film itself really captures the dark side that many comedians draw from to make jokes or their commentary on life, which many creatives do for their own craft. What inspired you to make this film?

HC: A couple things inspired me to make my film Sick Boys Die Alone. Mental health is, and probably will always be, an extremely important topic to me. So writing “Sick Boys” was honestly therapeutic for me because I was going through a tough time when I wrote it. Also, I have a close friend that’s a comedian so I used to go to a few comedy shows and was so amazed at how personal some of the comedians would get with their jokes. 

I knew it had to come from a real place sometimes. I believe people can relate to vulnerability so I thought it was important to tell a story like “Sick Boys” because it’s real life; men, people of color, and all humans need to see that represented more on screen.   

NYFA: What do you hope audiences experience or feel after watching Sick Boys Die Alone?

HC: I hope audiences feel more compassionate to all humans after watching the film. I really wanted to reinforce the statement that you really never know what people are dealing with in their lives. We all have a different deck of cards we were given in this life so a little compassion and taking the time to listen and understand people, goes a long way. 

NYFA: Do you have any other upcoming projects you would like us to know about?

HC: Currently, my upcoming projects are in the air. I have a couple exciting pitch meetings coming up for the Sick Boys Die Alone limited series, and a few other projects I have written. I know it’s only a matter of time before I find the right home for those projects and can begin pre-production on them. As for me just as an actor, I did do a fun role in a new indie feature that’s set to come out this year but I still don’t have a specific date at this time, so I don’t want to misspeak on it. I’m still auditioning and enjoying the good ol’ actor’s journey! (sarcasm).

New York Film Academy would like to thank Acting for Film alum Howard Campbell for taking the time to speak on his experience in the industry and encourages readers to check out his latest film Sick Boys Die Alone, now available on Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.

Q&A With NYFA Filmmaking Alum Ismael Gomez III on His Latest Film ‘Death of a Fool’ and Starting a Production Company in Miami

New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Ismael Gomez III recently released his latest film Death of a Fool on Amazon Prime Video. The film is the latest project from the Cuban-American filmmaker who, after graduating from NYFA, worked as a lead editor on several motion pictures and commercials that have been screened at Cannes, Tribeca, Miami, and Starz Denver international film festivals. 

Gomez’s Death of a Fool was recently covered in The Miami Herald and also mentions Gomez’s Miami-based production house Rabbit Hole Pictures, which Gomez co-founded and continues to serve as the CEO.

NYFA caught up with the Filmmaking alum to discuss his latest film and ask “Why Miami?” for the home of his production company Rabbit Hole Pictures.

NYFA Filmmaking Alum and Rabbit Hole Pictures CEO/Co-Founder Ismael Gomez III

New York Film Academy (NYFA): What first got you into filmmaking?

Ismael Gomez III (IG): I was born in Havana, Cuba in a small town called Parraga. At the age of six, my parents took me for the first time to an old movie theater in Havana to watch ‘The Lion King’ and I immediately felI in love with cinema. From that moment on, I was attracted and deeply curious about how movies were made. This passion was increasingly cultivated as I started being exposed to great directors like Coppola, Kurosawa and Kubrick. At the age of 19, I emigrated to the United States and read about NYFA’s filmmaking program and decided to apply. NYFA awarded me a grant that covered half of my tuition, so I was able to start on my filmmaking path in the original building at Union Square.  

NYFA: Is there anything you learned that you have taken with you into your projects or running your own company?

IG: I’ve witnessed many people getting into film school and quitting after the first semester. This is because many of them love movies; they love to consume stories. The problem is that there is a substantial difference between “watching movies” and “making movies.” They are two completely different processes. Making films is a creative venture that takes immense amounts of effort, perseverance and commitment. It nurtures delayed gratification rather than instant reward, and there lies the conflicting realization many students encounter when they start film school. Hence, NYFA is a marvelous place to explore your compatibility with filmmaking. Having such hands-on programs where students are shooting their projects Monday through Sunday, promptly helps them discover if filmmaking is really a passion they wish to pursue. In my case, I truly enjoyed discovering all the intricacies of moviemaking at NYFA. I became so passionate about the creative process that now I spend most of my time producing films, and barely get to watch any theater releases. 

NYFA: How would you describe yourself as a creative? What do you look for in a project?

IG: Our mission at Rabbit Hole Pictures is to tell mystical stories that spark curiosity and wonder. For us the word mystical embodies a sense of mystery, awe, and fascination for the unknown. Therefore, our films’ narratives always attempt to explore thought-provoking themes through the fantasy genre. Fantasy always creates a striking contrast that helps us reframe and examine reality. Stories that carry people far-far-away to look at themselves up close. 

I had always contemplated the idea of making films in Miami but the thrill of filming in NYC always pulled me back. Yet, in 2016 when I was visiting my family in Florida, I went to the theaters and watched Moonlight by Barry Jenkins. Here was a guy who had made this astonishing film completely in Miami, and now was even receiving Best Picture at the Academy Awards. So a fuse had been lit up inside me; how many movies have we seen entirely produced in Miami? How many of those belong to the fantasy genre? These two questions inspired me to create Rabbit Hole Pictures and show a part of Miami that is rarely depicted on the big screen. Many clever producers have built sets that look like Miami, but the magic of the real thing cannot be duplicated.

NYFA: What is your film Death of a Fool about? Was it a personal film for you?

IG: Death of a Fool is a coming-of-age motion picture that combines elements of fantasy and mystery. It tells the story of a teenager and his dying grandfather conducting afterlife investigations in Miami when a mysterious man hires them to find the secret to immortality. I remember being five years old, looking out my backyard one morning and seeing my dog, Charlie, lying motionless. He was sick for weeks and had now passed away. It was my first encounter with death and I did not know what to make of it. I had so many questions and every adult would give me a different answer. Thus, I grew up with an inquisitive mind about the human condition and metaphysics.

As technology keeps advancing and making promises to reverse the damage of aging at the cellular level, I often wonder the consequences that attaining immortality could bring. Physical immortality is quite different from the biblical concept of eternity. If eternal life is achieved in our world, it could create universal conflicts between various belief systems. Hence, Death of a Fool is built on the simple idea that if we could live forever, would we necessarily want to? What would we live for? Creation, whether by God or the universe, built in death, so we would know when to stop. As Stewart Alsop wrote, “A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.”

NYFA: Having not experienced the theatre release it deserved due to the pandemic, what are your thoughts on it being released on Amazon?

IG: We’ve been having great success with our digital release. We did have our first public screening at the enchanting Coral Gables Art Cinema, but that was around the time the pandemic started, so we had to make the quick decision of moving online. In a way, it has certainly been a lot easier sending everyone to Amazon to watch the film rather than going around the country booking screenings. Although I really wanted to expand theatrically, if there’s something filmmaking has taught me, it is to adapt quickly to rising obstacles, make a new plan and keep moving forward.

NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects coming up for Rabbit Hole Pictures?

IG: We recently launched a Movie Pitch Contest to help other creators. We wanted to give them a platform where they could have their movie ideas exposed to other producers, and at the same time offer them a financial reward to help fund their projects. You can read more about it here. We’re also developing our second feature film. A fantasy thriller about an indigenous tribe in the Amazon. We hope to start production next year.

New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Ismael Gomez III on the recent success of Death of a Fool and encourages everyone to check it out now on Amazon Prime Video.

Q&A With Acting for Film Alum Dr. Ariel Orama López on Creating Short Film '2ḦOOM' During a Global Pandemic

Like many filmmakers in 2020, this year has proven to be an uncertain time for filmmaking, however, filmmakers like Dr. Ariel Orama López has shown that the COVID-19 has no intention of slowing down their creative process or pursuing a successful film festival run.

Dr. López was eligible for the 2020 Oscars with his previous film One and for his latest film for his latest latest film 2ḦOOM [Zoom] he has already begun to receive a steady amount of laurels. Filmed indoors and outdoors, under strict protection measures and with the integration of creative elements during the COVID-19 pandemic, the short film follows the vulnerability of human beings, patients at risk and themes of immortality and Dr. López enlists the help of Peruvian animator and cartoonist Jorge Cáceres and an Italian composer Daniele Carretta to create a project that represents the related topics that emerged after the pandemic. 

NYFA caught up with the Acting for Film alum to discuss his latest short film 2ḦOOM [Zoom] and creativity in the time of COVID-19. López’s responses have also been translated into Spanish by the alum for those who prefer to read his responses in Spanish. 

Film poster for ‘2ḦOOM’

New York Film Academy (NYFA): What has been your inspiration for creating your short film 2ḦOOM [Zoom] during this very uncertain time as a writer, director, and actor?

Dr. Ariel Orama López (AL): When the pandemic arrived, my intuitive mind thought of two things: first, that the vaccine or the ‘antidote’ against COVID-19 could be related to the structure that gives the dreaded virus the shape of a “crown.”  I shared with my loved ones, with evidence, right at the beginning of this global situation. Second, that HIV/AIDS could be understood, in another way, after studies and future findings on the relatively new condition, and vice versa. Considering my formal education in Science and Arts, I decided to create a short film that linked such elements with the unimaginable power of water and the mysteries of quantum physics: a story that alluded to the “shield” or “armour” of the coronavirus (even on an emotional level, as a metaphor) as well as the stigma of HIV. Today we are one voice, without races: a new universe of masked beings. And that is how my short film 2ḦOOM [zoom] was born.”

Cuando llegó la pandemia, mi mente intuitiva pensó en dos cosas: la primera, que la vacuna o el ‘antídoto’ contra Covid-19 podrían estar relacionados con la estructura que le otorga al temido virus la forma de ‘corona’. Lo compartí con mis seres queridos, con evidencia, justo al comienzo de esta situación global. En segundo lugar, que el VIH/SIDA podría entenderse, de otra manera, después de estudios y hallazgos futuros sobre la condición relativamente nueva, y viceversa. Al considerar mi educación formal en ciencias y artes, decidí crear un cortometraje que vinculase tales elementos con el poder inimaginable del agua y los misterios de la física cuántica: una historia que aludiese al ‘escudo’ -o ‘armadura’- del coronavirus (incluso a nivel emocional, como metáfora) así como al estigma del VIH. Hoy somos una sola voz, sin razas: un nuevo universo de seres enmascarados. Y así nació el cortometraje 2ḦOOM [Zoom].

In addition to animation, live action sequences are also present in ‘2ḦOOM’ 

NYFA: Are you submitting the film to any upcoming festivals

AL: The short film 2ḦOOM [Zoom] is already submitted into distinguished international festivals: we hope that it can be screened in various countries, just like my previous short film One, which screened at 40 festivals. The magic of 2ḦOOM lies in its hybrid of animation and live filmed scenes, which is why we bet that they will be very well received in various contexts. We are celebrating that we already received eight international laurels (Chile, UK, Estados Unidos (virtual limited projection), Los Angeles, India and Puerto Rico) and one international prize.

El cortometraje 2ḦOOM [zu:m] ya se encuentra sometido en distinguidos diversos festivales internacionales: esperamos que pueda ser proyectado en diversos países, tal como sucedió con mi cortometraje anterior ONE, proyectado en 40 festivales. La magia de 2ḦOOM [zu:m] radica en su combinación de animación con escenas filmadas, por lo cual, apostamos a que tendrá una gran acogida en diversos contextos. Estamos celebrando que ya recibimos ocho laureles internacionales (Chile, Reino Unido, Estados Unidos (proyección limitada virtual), Los Ángeles, India and Puerto Rico) y un premio internacional. 

Still from animation sequence in ‘2ḦOOM’

NYFA: What do you hope people relate to or discuss after watching your film?

AL: I hope that 2ḦOOM viewers do not lose sight of the challenges of making a short film in full confinement. Precisely, the short highlights the vicissitudes of two family members when faced with such circumstances, in addition to the COVID-19 factor. Along the way, we managed to create a story with substance and creativity, with wonderful elements that inspire our new society to evolve, beyond races or social distinctions: as one, powerful voice.

Anhelo que los espectadores 2ḦOOM [zu:m] no pierdan de perspectiva los retos que conlleva efectuar un cortometraje en pleno confinamiento: precisamente, el corto destaca las vicisitudes de dos miembros de la familia al encontrarse ante tales circunstancias, sumados al factor COVID-19. En el trayecto, logramos elaborar una historia con sustancia y dotada de creatividad, con elementos maravillosos que inspiran a nuestra nueva sociedad a evolucionar, más allá de razas o distinciones sociales, como una sola y poderosa voz.

NYFA: What were some of the challenges you faced when creating the film?

AL: Among the challenges faced, the distance factor was one of the most complex elements and, at the same time, the one that allowed us to use creativity the most. Recreating a Zoom conversation with visual and sound quality, allowed us to think of innovative strategies to make it feel like a Zoom© call, but from a filmmaking perspective. Thanks to God and the commendable work of all the participants of the project (which includes talent from Peru, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, USA, Venezuela and Chile, together with Puerto Rico), we were able to create a product of which we are proud and one that I am sure it will be kept in the hearts of the spectators.

Dentro de los retos confrontados, el factor distancia fue uno de los elementos de mayor complejidad y, a la vez, el que más nos permitió utilizar la creatividad. El recrear una conversación de zoom© con calidad visual y sonora, nos permitió pensar en estrategias innovadoras para que se sintiera como Zoom, pero desde una mirada fílmica. Gracias a Dios y al trabajo encomiable de todos los participantes del proyecto (que incluye talento de Perú, Italia, Argentina, México, Perú Colombia, Estados Unidos, Venezuela y Chile, sumado a Puerto Rico), pudimos gestar un producto del cual nos sentimos orgulloso y que, estoy seguro, quedará guardado en los corazones de los espectadores.

Mask on for Dr. López behind the scenes filming on location in Puerto Rico

NYFA: When will the film be available for the public to view?

AL: The film will be competing for two years in a cycle of international festivals and we are in negotiation for a commercial screening in the US. Recently, it was presented in the United Kingdom, the United States and Puerto Rico, virtually. Currently, it is presented at the Rincon International Film Festival (RIFF) from August 7 to September 6, 2020.

El filme estará por dos años compitiendo en ciclo de festivales internacionales y estamos en negociación para una proyección comercial en cine en USA. Recientemente, se presentó en Reino Unido, Estados Unidos y Puerto Rico, de forma virtual. Actualmente, se presenta en el Rincón International Film Festival (RIFF) del 7 de agosto al 6 de septiembre en 

New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Dr. Ariel Orama López on his recent success for his latest film and for sharing more on creating a film during the COVID-19 pandemic. NYFA encourages others to view the film when it becomes available to view outside the festival circuit. 

UPDATE: September 14, 2020

“Our short film 2ḦOOM [zu:m] just received four nominations: two for Leading Actors (“Best Leading Actors” – Jonathan Cardenales & AG Orloz), one for Script Work (“Best Screenplay” – AG Orloz) and a fourth nomination laurel for Best Soundtrack (Danielle Carretta from Italy & AG Orloz)With all this, our short film on Covid-19 and HIV / AIDS reaches 19 international laurels, in just two months of international festivals. In other words, almost the trajectory of ONE -eligible to the Oscars 2020-, in two years. For our optimized version of the short film, we have included representative voices from Italy, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Brazil. Our eternal gratitude to them, as well as to the entire production team and the representative voices of Latin America (Chile, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina) that make up this Film and Multimedia project. We continue to add cinematographic achievements for Puerto Rico, in times of transformation!”

Q&A With NYFA Filmmaking Alum Donald A. Eferere (A.K.A EAD, the Creator) on Filmmaking and Award-Winning Short Film 'Dari Ji Mi'

New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Conservatory alum Donald A. Eferere (a.k.a Ead, the Creator) has directed music videos and has collaborated with popular recording artists such as Falz the bad guy, Teni the Entertainer, Mark Bautista, Dj Neptune, Sean Tizzle, CDQ, Reekado Banks, Peruzzi, Mayorkun, Yonda, Highonfi, Jkinggz, Trepdee. As a Film Director, EAD has also experience success.

His more recent film, Dari Ji Mi, won the Best Short Film USA category at the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival in Canada and was also an official selection for several festivals in the United States including the Capital City Black Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Queen City Black Film Festival and many others. He is also currently in post-production for his upcoming Short Film Smith’s Way Out, which features Tony-nominated Actress Starletta Du Pois, along with a remake of the three little pigs and the big, bad wolf in a film called Reality.

New York Film Academy was able to catch up with EAD to discuss more about his award-winning short film, as well as his upcoming projects.

NYFA alum Donald A. Eferere (a.k.a Ead, the Creator)

New York Film Academy (NYFA): For those who may not know your background as a creative, can you share a bit more on how you became the creator you are today?

Donald A. Eferere (EAD): My name is Donald A. Eferere, popularly known as EAD for the music videos and content that I create.  I was born in Nigeria, but I am currently based in America;  I relocated to the United States shortly after completing my Bachelor’s degree to study filmmaking in 2016 at the New York Film Academy for eight weeks. That move completely change my mindset on how I viewed my art and the next steps that i needed to take. So I went back to my country to make music videos my main focus and because of my five year background in photography, it totally worked out. By 2019, I was 150 music videos deep and I  lost inspiration, so I decided to go back to the New York Film Academy for a year. That’s where my journey really began.

NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Dari Ji Mi?

EAD: Dari Ji Mi is a film where the lead character, Mr. Bankole, has taken the worst advice ever from his late wife’s sister, who advised himself to put a curse on his daughter in order to protect her from the alarming high rate of rape going on in the town. He succeeds in putting a curse on her and made his daughter, Ife, promise him that she’ll keep herself till marriage. This takes a terrible turn when her boyfriend Peter dies suddenly after having intimate relations with Ife for the first time.

Film poster for ‘Dari Ji Mi’

NYFA: What inspired you to make Dari Ji Mi?

EAD:  In Africa, kids have been brainwashed and put in certain situations that have damaged their lives one way or the other. Either it’s the profession that they have to choose or abstaining from sex till marriage. I really wanted to raise awareness to the parents who force their children to make certain decisions. The truth is that decisions really scar children and restricts their exposure level. I also intended for my film to send a message to the children, so they believe in themselves and discuss these things with their parents because they are the authors of their lives and their parents should just be guides. Dari Ji Mi has had great success on the festival circuit.

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

EAD: I also have two short films currently in post-production; Smith’s Way Out, which features Tony-nominated actress Starletta DuPois and my remake of the three little pigs story called Reality.  I believe that the steps I’m taking can really aspire young creators out there. So I recently started my company “RDCYF BRAND” which means Respect D Creators Young Future, and I am slowly building the company way up to achieve the goals of creating a better life for our young creatives and brands back in Africa and abroad.

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

EAD: NYFA really helped with making me a better producer and gaining skills in team building and planning to make my projects better.

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

EAD: Take every class project seriously. Make use of the resources and get your reel up because you’ll need it when you leave NYFA. It’s a jungle in the outside world. Best of luck!

New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA Filmmaking alum EAD, the creator for taking the time to share his inspiration and advice to incoming filmmakers and looks forward to seeing EAD make his way in more film festivals with his upcoming projects.

Q&A With MFA Filmmaking Alum and International Production Manager Valéria Costa

New York Film Academy Los Angeles alum Valéria Costa was born to be in the film industry. After graduating from NYFA’s MFA Filmmaking program, Costa went on to produce work for Netflix, Uber, TLC, NatGeo, Twitter and Spotify. She also began to divide her time between the U.S and her native country of Brazil as a Production Manager for Brazil Production Services

Costa has worked on multiple projects both in Brazil and in the United States including Netflix’s Hyperdrive and 90 Day Fiance: The Other Way. She also worked on the NYC unit for the Brazilian feature film Minha Vida em Marte and on the set of the shoot for the Get to Know Me music video for Brazil’s biggest popstar, Anitta.

Costa recently worked on the Brazil Unit for Netflix productions of Sergio and Street Food: Latin America. New York Film Academy recently spoke with the NYFA alum to discuss some behind the scenes insight on these recent projects, as well as Costa’s role as a Production Manager, who specializes in working with foreign productions. 

NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum Valéria Costa

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us more about your background and how you got interested in filmmaking?

Valéria Costa (VC): I’m from São Paulo, Brazil and I’m 29 years old. While I was doing my Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, I took acting classes and, once I finished my acting course, I took an internship in a theatre company. During my time there, I had the opportunity to learn about all the other components of a play that wasn’t the acting itself. As we went through rehearsals, I learned from the director of the company how to design and operate the stage lighting of the show and also followed her process in choosing and building the play’s score, costumes and make-up. All those processes ended up interesting me a lot more than what I originally intended to do there, which was to act. But, I knew that I didn’t want to be in the theatre world only, so I decided to start exploring and studying the universe behind the film and television cameras.

NYFA: That’s a really neat story of how sometimes you find what you enjoy when studying something else; it’s all about discovery! So how did you end up coming to NYFA? 

VC: After I finished a post graduation course for Cinema in Brazil, I felt the need to learn the practical side of filmmaking. And I’ve always wanted to study abroad and improve my English, so I decided to apply to the Masters in Filmmaking at NYFA and kill two birds with one stone. 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your role as Production Manager with Brazil Production Services?

VC: At Brazil Production Services, we act in a very specific niche part of the film industry. I’m specialized in assisting American and other foreign companies that wish to shoot productions in Brazil, as well as Brazilian companies that wish to film productions in the U.S. Due to my experience in both markets, I’m able to understand my client’s expectations when they arrive in Brazil or when they plan to have a city in the US as a filming location. So, besides having the usual responsibilities of a Film Production Manager, such as building and managing the production budget, sourcing qualified local crew, overall costs negotiation, overseeing risk assessment and production insurance matters, managing the production’s legal paperwork, monitoring deadlines and the production schedule…I also advise my clients on the local filming requirements of the country that they are looking to film at and align their expectations based on the limitations that their chosen location imposes. 

Film poster for ‘Sergio’

NYFA: Can you go into more detail about your work in the Brazil unit for Netflix film Sergio?

VC: It was a great experience. We had several weeks of pre-production and the challenge to build a 100+ local Rio de Janeiro crew, being the main members bilingual so they could communicate with the American crew that flew to Brazil for this shoot.

We also had to build a temporary production office to accommodate the project needs and, after analyzing the production plan, we felt that the best place to have it was in the Ipanema neighbourhood, in the same hotel where the foreign crew was staying, so we ended up almost closing the entire hotel for the production.

Another big challenge in this production were the underwater scenes that we shot at the Reserva beach in Rio de Janeiro. For those scenes, we decided to bring in from São Paulo the best underwater camera operator in Brazil so we could make sure we were getting the best footage for those moments.

There were also some challenges with both art and wardrobe departments. The scenes filmed in Rio de Janeiro were written as Sergio’s flashbacks, so they were set during the 70’s and we had to make sure all scene components were true to that time, such as street signs, cars, beach wear, people’s wardrobe, accessories, etc. 

Valéria Costa (Second from left) with the production crew behind the scenes of a shoot

NYFA: What has been your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

VC: I have special care for two Brazilian movies that I’ve produced scenes for in the U.S, which starred a big Brazilian comedian, Paulo Gustavo: Minha Vida em Marte (translates to: My Life in Mars) and Minha Mãe é uma Peça 3 (translates to: My Mother is a Character 3). 

Respectively, I produced the NYC Unit for the first film and the Los Angeles Unit for the second film. It was a great experience and really fulfilling to produce for an actor that is so well known in my home country. 

Valéria Costa (Second from Left) prepping for a production

NYFA: You’ve shot predominately in both Brazilian and U.S markets; What are some of the differences or similarities between working on those two sets culturally or professionally?

VC: I think that, besides the language, the biggest differences between shooting in Brazil versus shooting in the U.S are the processes, especially the bureaucratic ones. For example, the Brazilian customs are very tricky and complicated to deal with, so every time a client wants to ship an equipment or any other goods to Brazil, I have to make sure everything is done the right way, or else we can have packages stuck at customs. 

On the other hand, film permitting processes are different in the US, it has more requirements, especially in LA, and the jurisdictions are more divided between each film commission. 

NYFA: In addition to production, you’ve also written and directed some of your own short films – how has that helped you as a Production Manager?

VC: The short films that I wrote and directed were all very small productions, which means I had to wear a producer hat also at times – even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I believe that helped me to learn how to produce with little resources and how to manage what I had the best way possible and I definitely use those skills today as a Production Manager.

NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming NYFA students?

VC: There’s a Brazilian saying that I believe summarizes working in the film industry for me. It says: “A rapadura é doce, mas não é mole não” which translates to something like “The candy is sweet, but it’s not easy to bite.”  What we do is definitely not easy. You work long hours, deal with extremely tight deadlines and budget limitations, but I really love making movies and dealing with all the moving parts of a set and once you can see the final product I can guarantee that it’s worth it.

New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA Filmmaking alum Valéria Costa for sharing more about her experience being a Production Manager and congratulates her on the latest successes of her projects; we look forward to what is next from the NYFA alum. 

Q&A With New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Student Kartik Venkatraman on His Film Festival Success and Upcoming Film ‘Tehravin’

It was not too long ago when the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking student Kartik Venkatraman decided to quit his day job in India and start a new career in filmmaking in the U.S. Now, his drive for storytelling and the decision to follow his dreams seems to be paying off with his film Tehravin already receiving festival buzz from the likes of New York Lift-Off Festival and the IndieFEST Film Awards. 

NYFA filmmaking student Kartik Venkatraman (Second from right)

NYFA was able to connect with the filmmaker and discuss his journey from Mumbai to the U.S, his upcoming film Tehravin, and the challenges he faced while shooting at the beginning of a global pandemic.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): So tell us a bit more about yourself and how you came to be a filmmaker!

Kartik Venkatraman (KV): I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India and raised in a middle class household. When all kids would go out to play during their summer vacation, I would make my own stories, convert them into a three hour screenplay, and act them out alone and sometimes with my friends. However, as I grew into an adult, I followed the traditional path of completing my education and taking up a day job, but the creative kid in me was still alive and I could not stop thinking of story ideas and converting them into screenplays. 

I would narrate the stories to my wife and my best friends and would usually get positive feedback for them. I ended up writing screenplays for two feature films. Once I wrote them, I wanted to give life to the screenplays and did a six month course in filmmaking, all while keeping my day job. I finally began to realize that I had it in me to become a filmmaker and tell my stories visually, and I couldn’t do so without proper training if. I finally made the bold decision to leave a well-paid job that I did not enjoy and follow my dreams. I was supported by my wife, who also encouraged me to take this opportunity as she believed in me. I did a lot of research and came to the conclusion that New York Film Academy (NYFA) would be best suited to help me enhance my skills as a filmmaker and thus I started my journey into the filmmaking world by moving to the U.S and joining NYFA.

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film Tehravin?

KV: Per Hindu rites, 13 days is a grieving period which helps in healing the pain of the loss of a loved one. Tehravin (Thirteenth in English) is about a man who follows this ritual to help himself come out of the pain of the death of a relationship. While doing so, he reflects back on his past and the good and the not-so-good memories of the person he lost. His struggle eventually pays off as he emerges stronger and sees the light at the end of this dark period.

NYFA: Where did you shoot Tehravin and what was that process like for you?

KV: I shot Tehravin over the course of five days in New York City and New Jersey. I had a few challenges while shooting the film, however. My actor backed out a day before the shooting and I had to find a new actor within a few hours to make sure I completed the shoot; I was lucky that I could find one (a student who was already taking a 8 Week Acting for Film course with NYFA).

The biggest challenge was that the global COVID-19 outbreak had become an official global pandemic a couple of days after we started shooting (I started shooting on March 8, 2020). I had three days of shooting left and was worried if I would be able to complete it, but my crew and my actors stuck with me and we made sure we completed the shooting in between the pandemic safely. 

It was my first major short movie (I had made a few class assignments before) and I believe the fact that I finished shooting it was the most satisfying part, especially considering the challenges.

NYFA: As writer, director, and producer for this film, what are you hoping the audience will understand or perhaps empathize with after watching Tehravin?

KV: The pain of the end of a relationship is akin to the death of a person. If we mourn the death of a relationship like we would mourn the death of a person, we should have the ability to emerge a stronger person at the end of the mourning period. 

The film also has no dialogue and is reliant on visuals and background music to tell my story. I hope the audience is able to relate to the pain of the protagonist and also learn that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to work your way towards it. There are some subtle nuances that I’ve tried to bring out through the visuals and the acting, and I hope the audience is able to get them. 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about the New York Lift-Off Film Festival?

KV: The Lift-Off Global Network is an organization encompassing worldwide live screening events, distribution initiatives, a seasonal awards ceremony, and an ever growing and active Network of indie film creators.

The Lift-Off Season Awards is an annual event which celebrates the very best of indie film. Following each Lift-Off film festival, films which have excelled in their respective category are nominated and invited to attend the prestigious Lift-Off Season Awards, culminating at the end of the Lift-Off season.

Each year the Lift-Off Global Network of film festivals screen hundreds of incredible films from a diverse range of artists with huge talent that deserves recognition. Throughout the year, they aim to discover and publicize the very best of this pool of talent and give those filmmakers the recognition they deserve.

In addition to being selected for the New York Lift-Off Film Festival, I also recently got selected for the IndieFEST Film Awards

NYFA: Do you have any other projects in the works?

KV: I am currently working on my thesis film. It is, once again, a very sensitive film and is about child labour and helping poor children have access to education. I have locked my screenplay and look book for the film. I would start shooting it once we are out of quarantine and are allowed to shoot again as I would like to shoot the film in India. 

NYFA: What are some personal elements that you like to include in your stories as a filmmaker? 

KV: Most of my stories are about sensitive topics and about human connection. The thing that attracts me most about an idea is the “what if” part. For example: What if a person who has recently gone through a divorce treats the end of a relationship like he would treat a death? 

I like to take an existing concept and apply a twist to it, and then keep the audience unaware of the twist until the very end. Like I did with Tehravin– it starts with a person mourning a death. All throughout the film, the audience believes that the protagonist is mourning the death of a person and it is only in the end we realize that he was actually mourning the death of his relationship with that person. 

I also like to have subtle nuances in my film and not explain everything to the audience. 

NYFA: Do you have any advice to any incoming NYFA students?

KV: Believe in yourself and never stop dreaming and believing that anything is possible. Make sure you go out of your way to give life to your movie. A movie is like a child. It starts with an idea and then converting that idea to a story then a screenplay, and it does not end with the production and post production. You need to market your film, find a distributor, send it to film festivals, and make sure it gets all the visibility it needs. I did all of that with Tehravin and was lucky to find an audience who understood and related to my movie.

***UPDATE August 6, 2020 – Kartik Venkatraman won the Film Short (Student) Award at the IndieFest Film Awards.

Resources to Educate Yourself About Anti-Racism and Race

Throughout history, playwrights, filmmakers, authors and other creatives have used their stories and art to confront systemic issues and racial inequality. In light of the continued nationwide and global support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and the call to end systemic racism, NYFA recognizes that it is our responsibility to continue to educate ourselves on the black experience and celebrate the stories of black creatives, who seek to end racial violence and prejudice, and continue to work tirelessly to educate and inform.

Though this is by no means an exhaustive list, but we hope these educational materials (films, television shows, podcasts, books, and plays), selected by members of the NYFA community, serve as a starting point for us and others to continue to: confront racial inequalities within our society, recognize and applaud black stories and creators, and represent a brighter future in the film, media, and performing arts industries that promotes collaboration and inclusivity.

Films & TV Series to Watch:

Podcasts to You Should Hit the ‘Subscribe Button’ on:

‘The 1619 Project’ (Photo Credit: New York Times)

Books to Read:

Book cover for ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander (Photo Credit: The New Press)

Plays to Read and Study: 

If you would like to share the images in the above carousel, feel free to download by doing an easy right click to save the image.

Q&A with Actor and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Alum Anthony R. Mottola

Manila-born Anthony R. Mottola got quite the wake up call when he realized he wanted to go from musical theatre into becoming a screen actor. Mottola realized his dream of pursuing acting in 2014, when he enrolled in New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) MFA Acting for Film program to get hands-on experience working on set and honing his skills to make it in the business.

Since then, Mottola has booked television roles on shows like Netflix’s Friends from College, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Netflix special and is set to appear in the upcoming theatrical film Silent Retreat, starring opposite Sarah Goldberg (HBO’s Barry). New York Film Academy spoke with alum Anthony R. Mottola about his switch from musical theatre to screen acting, and how coming to NYFA was the first step in this new career: 

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

Anthony R. Mottola (AM): First off, this is my first interview/Q&A ever so thank you for reaching out. Also, if this constitutes that I’ve made it, welp, high-five to myself! 

I was adopted from Manila, the Philippines when I was a baby, and am the youngest of three boys. My middle brother was also adopted from a different part of the Philippines, Legazpi City. We were three very distinct children growing up in Central Pennsylvania. Oddly enough, I’d compare us to Alvin & The Chipmunks – me being Theodore literally because I was (and ALWAYS will be) the cutest.  I also have a little bit of Tigger from Winnie The Pooh in me. A couple months ago my brother found a home video of us in grade school. I was maybe around six or seven, and I was bouncing all over the place, quite literally.

At the age of five, my mother enrolled me in dance class, and I believe she was smart enough to know that there was a reason I had all this energy, and it WASN’T because I was a problem child. I was a creative mind, but I just hadn’t realized it yet. I started out as a tap dancer in first grade and, by second grade, I was on a competitive tap dancing team that won awards at NYC Dance Explosion. I was the only boy and I was the youngest team member. I also remember being OBSESSED with River Dance, which was a big thing at the time. 

As I got older, I didn’t exactly want to introduce myself to other teenagers as “Tony the tap-jazz-ballet dancer.” Then my freshman year of High School, my dance teacher choreographed the musical 42nd Street. I was so scared of getting made fun of by other students, and I remember being at the audition and shaking. Right before it was my turn to audition, I walked out. I walked right out of the auditorium and went home. When I got home, the phone rang and my dance teacher gave me the part of Andy Lee (the guy who tap dances) even though I walked out of the audition. I believe there are moments in one’s life that almost scream: THIS IS DESTINY. After that, I got my first professional musical theatre job (and my first paycheck) from a regional theater called Gretna Playhouse during my sophomore year of college in the musical The King & I

Here’s the thing though: I knew I was good and I did enjoy performing but, at the end of the day, I wasn’t ever quite fulfilled. That’s when NYFA came into the picture; when I really started to question what I really wanted to do, and why exactly I needed to perform.

NYFA: What was your experience like with the audition process for film and TV?

AM: I gotta say, auditioning for TV and film is a completely different world compared to auditioning for stage plays/musicals. Truthfully, post-graduation was a bit of an adjustment for me. I had moved back from LA around April of 2017 and decided to take a year off from the business altogether. Honestly, I was going through a tough transition and feeling a bit lost. I graduated from NYFA in 2016 and didn’t exactly hit the ground running after that. I hit the ground flailing until I decided to move back home. I essentially walked away for a bit and wasn’t sure I would go back. What people say is true, it [the entertainment industry] chews you up, and spits you back out. 

I just couldn’t stop thinking about acting, though. I kept thinking, “well, what if,” because I was working a retail management job, which I was grateful for, but let’s be honest, it was a bit of a dead-end job for me. 

I decided to put myself out there again and got new headshots. I chose a photographer based in Philly [Philadelphia], Vikrant Tunious, who was so welcoming and helped me feel at ease. At the end of my photo session, he gave me a four page PDF file of agencies on the East Coast and I emailed each one of them in hopes of getting myself back in the game. Well, NONE of them emailed me back. I was literally about to call it quits when I noticed that I missed one.

 

An agent named Will Ball had just formed his own agency named VIE Model & Talent. I tried to submit via his website, but my materials were not going through. I emailed him with no expectations he’d reply when, low and behold, he shoots me an email back the next day. We met in Fish Town, and he signed me! That was around May 2018. By the end of May, I had my first professional audition for this Netflix show called Friends From College, which was shooting the second season at the time. I essentially had no idea what to expect, but I went in, read the lines and, the next night, I booked it! Will called me and told me that I actually booked a role that I didn’t even audition for, which, looking back on the episode, I was so grateful for, because they showcased me even more in my new role than if I had booked the role I initially auditioned for. So that was my first screen audition ever. Booked it. Taft Hartley’d. It was insane.

Mottola (right) poses with actress Cobie Smulders on the set of ‘Friends From College’

I got to spend the day with Keegan Michael Key, Fred Savage, and Cobie Smulders, as well as the rest of the main cast. The whole day was a bit surreal. Keegan and Cobie were the first actors to welcome me on set and the director went right up to me after everything was said and done, shook my hand, and said I was hilarious. Best believe I cried that night with a glass of Pinot Noir. 

After that, I got to really experience the ups and downs of a working screen actor. Following Friends From College, I booked a co-star role on Comedy Central’s Broad City, a co-star role on FOX’s pilot show for Almost Family, and AMC’s Dispatches From Elsewhere. All great, and varying on-set experiences, where I learned a lot. My scenes were actually cut out from all three….well, I never even had any lines in Dispatches From Elsewhere, but I was contracted as a co-star. Seeing yourself cut out on TV is the toughest feeling but, to this day, you gotta remind yourself that it’s never personal. “That’s showbiz, kid!” I was VERY lucky and fortunate to get a 1.5 minute scene on Friends From College, and I’ll always be grateful for it. 

Mottola shooting the ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ interactive Netflix special

NYFA: Congratulations on your role in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt interactive Netflix special. What was the auditioning process like for that?

AM: Now, Kimmy Schmidt, that was something special. I LOVED the show beforehand, so the pressure was on for me. Especially because the tone of the show matched my brand so well. My scene was with Titus Burgess, so….yeah, “no pressure at all.” What I can tell you is the auditions are so fast; they’re like a blur. Most of the time you get the material 24 hrs before the audition time and, if you’re lucky, you get them maybe 48 hours in advance. Still, it’s maddening really, and the deadlines are much stricter than you would find for musicals/plays. People work faster because they have to! Also, you’re not exactly supposed to pay much attention to other actors in the waiting room, but a lot of times I can’t help it. I’m an observer/voguer at heart. 

I went in and Cindy Tolan [the Casting Director] seemed to be working quickly because she knew exactly what Tina Fey wanted. A few days later I’m on set in upstate New York with Titus Burgess and Jane Krakowski being funny. Titus was arguably the most welcoming actor I have met so far. I was fortunate enough to have him share some wise words with me, and he made me feel at ease during our scene. 

A lot of times, the pressure is on once you start your scene, but if you are lucky enough to establish a rapport with one of the stars, the whole scene shines! That doesn’t always happen, so I was blessed. I am blessed. And I’m eager to see the finished project!! 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your NYFA thesis film Unrequited?

AM: I was assigned to write, produce, cast, and act in my own personalized short film. Not gonna lie, it seemed near impossible to pull off. Especially because I am not at all rich. I spent maybe $3,000, and my parents helped me. I can’t even begin to express the infinite gratitude towards my parents and my family for their support. I filmed it in my apartment, and my roommate/best friend was my AD. She kept me sane during the whole process, and I’ll never forget it. I cast two other actors who I met my first year back in NYC, and whom I trusted as actors.

Still from Mottola’s thesis film at NYFA, ‘Unrequited’

NYFA: What was the inspiration behind Unrequited?

AM: I had to think long and hard on what exactly I wanted to say. What exactly I wanted to put out there, you know? I wanted to say something I knew I would hold dear to me decades later. This short film was the result of at least six rough drafts. It won an award for Best LGBT Short that year and I still have the certificate and the statuette in my room right behind me! Growing up gay, adopted, and Asian in Central Pennsylvania in the 90s into the 00s was, well, it was something. 

I had a diary growing up and writing helped me express emotions I wouldn’t express outwardly. I wanted to write my script about a culmination of events and feelings I had endured from my adolescent years well into my young adult life. Unrequited love. Being taking advantage of and not caring about oneself. There was something beautifully cathartic to be said about the situations I put myself in and with the guys I choose to involve myself with. I remember just sitting in my bed, laptop in front of me, and just writing and quietly just crying. I had been so angry for years and I never told anyone. This was my heartache I had been putting into words and I believed, and still believe to this day, that when someone shares their trauma with the world, they have the ability to heal. Heal themselves. Heal others. Heal the world. I do plan on revisiting the topic later on in my life. I can see myself directing later on in my life, for sure. 

Mottola acting in his thesis film ‘Unrequited’

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

AM: That is such a loaded question! I feel like this will sound cliché and corny but you have to really look into your soul. Acting is more of a spiritual journey than anything. Ask yourself questions. If you’re doing this because you think it’s cool, you’re only skimming the surface. If you stick to the surface, I promise you that you won’t last. If it resonates within your soul, you’ll find your way. Take it from me. I’m about to be 31, and my life is just getting started.

New York Film Academy thanks actor and NYFA alum Anthony R Mottola for taking the time to speak with us and wishes him the best of success as his career continues to grow. Since this conversation, Mottola has landed a role in the upcoming theatrical film Silent Retreat, starring opposite Sarah Goldberg (HBO’s Barry). Mottola is repped by Will Ball (Vie Agency) and Matt Ilczuk (Entertainment Lab).

Editor’s Note: The Q&A with Actor and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Anthony R. Mottola by New York Film Academy has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

4 Tips To Create a Productive Study Space at Home

Everyone knows there are times when, for any number of reasons, you’ll have to study or work from your home as opposed to a communal space, office, library, or cafe. Unlike these other locations, studying from home–while convenient–poses its own issues, including distractions and creating a mood that pushes you more to relax than be productive.

With that in mind, New York Film Academy (NYFA) has put together these tips to create a productive study space in your home. Even the smallest touches can pay off dividends with your work, studies, and creative output!

productive study space

Ensure ideal lighting

One of the first things students at NYFA’s Filmmaking and Cinematography students learn is color temperature–sunlight has a bluish hue and indoor lighting typically has a warmer, orange hue. Even if you’ve never overtly noticed this, your brain subconsciously has, and studies have shown that your body responds to sunlight and can be both physically invigorating and beneficial to your mood. 

To that end, make sure you find a space that has access to natural light. Sometimes, this isn’t possible, but there are alternatives such as cool temperature bulbs and “happy lights” that you can place on your desk and keep you from getting the indoor doldrums.

Add some green

Have an empty surface or open area on your wall in your study space? Try adding a plant or two. Adding some green near your study area can make your personal space seem more serene and lively, making it perfect for staying focused. Plants may also add a bit of color and are said to improve indoor air quality, according to institutions like NASA. Having one or more plants in your study area can make for a peaceful, stress-free environment. 

Plant tip for beginners: All plants have different needs, so start out small with a low-maintenance plant like a succulent or tillandsia, then work your way up to a Chinese green, fiddle leaf fig, or a spider plant. 

Your area should be clean, and free of clutter

While messy areas can often be part of the creative process, sometimes you just need to focus and clutter can be distracting and disabling to that process.

Here are a few tips to get your creative process going by removing clutter:

  • Take what you need: When you’re grabbing things to take to your desk, kitchen table, bedroom, or any other space, make sure you only bring the essentials like your water bottle, a laptop, a notepad with your editor’s notes, and your camera to upload footage.
  • Toss & trash: If you don’t need something for that study session, move it or throw it away. Try and remove all trash from your study area before you begin so you don’t get distracted by it being there later on. After your study session, clean up your area so you don’t have to do it the next time you are about to study.
  • Create zones: Maybe your study area isn’t just one area and it involves multiple places to get things done. By organizing your projects to be done in a certain area on your desk or in your study area, you can organize and better prioritize your workload. In other words, when you mentally move, you physically move. For example: Perhaps the right side of the desk is for your computer and the left side of the desk is for handwritten notes, and maybe there is a couch nearby that is your designated space to focus on editing your projects.

Adjust the noise

Some of us love listening to music while working. Songs put us in a good mood, but it’s important to pay attention to the content we’re supposed to learn; otherwise, music can end up being counterproductive. It might be better to alter the type of music you’re listening to, trying tunes that help provide focus rather than distract from it. Try classical music, where large orchestras can produce pleasant mental effects without taking your mind off the words on a page. 

Click here for a playlist from New York Film Academy with some of our favorite classical music.

productive study space

Additionally, ambient noise, such as white noise, pink noise, etc. played in the background at a consistent level can help mask unwanted sounds. Some of these background noises can also include rainfall and waves crashing on the beach. 

Click here for a Spotify playlist that NYFA has created with some of our favorites ambient sounds.

productive study space

Alternatively, sometimes a change of music and turning up the beat can be all it takes to get you back into study mode, so click here for another Spotify playlist with some of our all-time favorite pop songs.

productive study space

**Extra Tip** – Snack healthy

Remember always to keep handy some healthy snacks and a bottle of fresh water to keep your mental and physical energy up. Try to avoid over-consuming sugar and caffeine while studying, as the resulting crash could be counterproductive. 

Here are some fantastic brain food snacks for studying:

Almonds
Dark chocolate
Air-popped popcorn
Hummus and veggies
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Nutella energy bites
Edamame
Carrots
String cheese
Roasted chickpeas

Q&A with Actress, Composer, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Xiren Wang

Canadian-born Xiren Wang is quite comfortable wearing many hats in the entertainment business–she is an actress as well as a composer, and has found success doing both. Wang first attended the 4-Week Musical Theatre workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) before pivoting to the 1-Year Acting for Film conservatory at our New York campus.

Since then, she has found work both in front and behind the camera, especially when it comes to scoring films and as well performing live. Her biggest project to date is scoring The Eyes, which aired on Showtime. New York Film Academy spoke with alum Xiren Wang about her eclectic work and how she first ended up at NYFA:

New York Film Academy (NYFA): The Eyes was released nationwide and had a run on Showtime. You scored and appeared in the film. Tell us more about this project and your experience working on it.

Xiren Wang (XW): After graduating from NYFA, I started taking classes at One on One, where I met Robbie Bryan, who directed the film. It was the first class that was back and running, because it was immediately after Hurricane Sandy, so I was one of the two people who actually showed up – and sometimes, showing up is that important. I met him as an actor, and invited him to the shows and concerts I performed in, and later on, when he needed a composer for the feature film, he thought the tone of The Eyes was a good match. The Eyes is a psychological thriller. Cerebral themes and dark emotions are definitely my genre of music. I write mostly for romance, drama, and yoga, all very different tones, but knowing your forte helps you define your sound, and film needs that specificity. Even though every trained composer, in theory, should be able to write for anything, doing something well is another level. Knowing your own sound helps carve out your sound world, and just like how there’s no actor who really can take every role, there’s no composer that is good for every general story. 

Xiren Wang

Because The Eyes was mostly filmed in one room, the sound world needed to be rich and multidimensional to keep the story moving forward. I blended classical sounds and electronic soundscapes to give each character another layer of identity, to speak to their backstories, and to expose a bit of what’s going on in their heads. I like to study the script and characters, and really get deep into the subtext and the headspace of what each character is holding back from the audience. 

Working on the film also afforded me the opportunity to learn about foley, and I was fortunate to have worked with the team at Skywalker Ranch for this. Because we had such a small team, I learned on the job what foley editing was about, and I’m glad to say that after the post-production process, I can handle any work that’s under the sound and music departments – usually consisting of a dozen or even hundreds of people, depending on the scale of the production. I’ve definitely started paying extra attention to the credits, just to see how the soundworld is sculpted for each film. I want to take what I’ve heard and then break it down into how it’s made, sort of like reverse-engineering, and then find ways to recreate something that sounds like the expensive output, but with a more resourceful approach, because most movies don’t allocate much budget or team to the music and sound departments. 

The reality of Hollywood orchestras recording for Hollywood films is not the reality we live in today, and a lot of production teams want skeleton crews and one-(wo)man powerhouses to take care of “everything”. Unless the director is keen on music, they often don’t know what creating a score really entails – composing is just one step of the journey, which then goes to recording, editing, mixing, matching to picture, etc. It’s a full suite of work, for many people, and having gotten my sound design start at NYFA really helped me understand this world, so that when I was hired as a composer, I could double as the sound designer as well. Understanding foley and other audio elements of the film is also crucial, and important lessons I learned from working on The Eyes

I’m fortunate to have worked with director Robbie Bryan, who trusted me enough to have this be my first feature film score. The soundtrack is also available to stream and buy on most digital retailers, but definitely get the whole experience on Showtime.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: You also music directed and performed live concerts at venues ranging from Arlene’s Grocery to Carnegie Hall, in which you also performed original music. Is your approach to composing music for your concerts different from the one you have for composing original film scores? How?

XW: Definitely. Music for film and music for picture is driven by story and frame. Music for live concerts is standalone music, driven by the pulse of the music itself, removed from the frames that anchor what it should be about. When I’m scoring a film, everything has to serve the story, and I believe a good film score should carry you further along and deeper into the story. A good film score makes you sink into more of your feelings and more of the story, it shouldn’t distract you with sounds that take you out of the story. It’s like a piece of fabric, tailored to the script and to each frame of what’s going on visually. 

Film music isn’t standalone music, it has to serve the story, and whatever doesn’t, is cut, like so much visual footage, as well. Composing for live concerts is where the musicians are the rockstars, and the performance itself is the story, so it’s a completely different mindset and landscape. Using the fabric analogy again, this time without a “body” of work to adhere to, the fabric can form its own shape and dynamics. 

I’m fortunate to be able to switch back and forth, because an actor-composer brings an extra set of eyes to the film, I feel. And being and actor-musician, I’m able to play with style, lighting, and the overall design of the music in a way that is storytelling, so this hybrid definitely heightens the production value, as it creates a multi-layered and multi-sensory experience. After all, whether we are actors or musicians, we are delivering an experience, and we want to make our work memorable.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

XW: It was a talent scholarship to the Musical Theatre program, and then an extended talent scholarship for the Acting for Film Program. But there was definitely a distance between learning about NYFA and receiving the scholarships. 

I first came to New York when I was still in high school (2005!) at the time–I competed as a junior actress at IMTA (boosted as the talent convention where Katie Holmes and Ashton Kutcher got their start), and one of the girls in our group received a scholarship to NYFA, which for her was a huge deal, and for me, that meant more than the callbacks I got from the various modeling agencies in both LA and NYC. It was more valuable because it offered a journey, a journey of becoming something more, and of self-actualization. 

In 2010, I went to IMTA with one goal in mind, and that’s to get a scholarship from NYFA. As fortune would have it, one of the callbacks I received was from NYFA, and Steven Chinni, whose offer really changed my life, helped me make the transition to move to New York. One of the lines he said during the callback, I’ll never forget, was  “as an actor, you can be whoever you want.” And the possibilities of living a full and rich life, that line offered, meant the world to me. 

By August, that dream became a reality, and I did a record amount of student films while in the program. Working with the cinematography class also afforded me friends who not only gave me reel material, but helped me cut my first reels, some clips which remain in my material today! When I was in the Acting program, I was also taking composition classes at Juilliard, and I saw a NYFA filmmaker’s poster on the bulletin board asking for original music scores. So, I made a lot of posters saying that I could score your film, and put them all over NYFA, and I ended up scoring a lot of student films, and my first sound design job also came from that, and it was something NYFA instructor Paul Warner had produced. 

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What was the most valuable takeaway from your time at NYFA both artistically and personally?

XW: The education I received at NYFA made me a better human being. It introduced me to the entire spectrum of human emotions and taught me what empathy is. I learned about human behaviour, and about darker emotions, and confronting them in a safe place was something so rare – it doesn’t happen outside of school. It gave me access to emotions I never knew existed or knew what to call them. It taught me how to speak clearly, so that my voice lands. It taught me what subtext is, and what pathology is, and life is richer when you understand these layers.

NYFA: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and composers?

XW: First of all, this is not an easy life! If you’re going after fame and celebrity, then it won’t take long to realize that the craft of both acting and composition is really hard work, on so many levels. I’m fortunate to still count myself in the business, but I’ve done a lot of work to get here, juggling multiple careers as an actor, musician, fitness model, composer, sound designer, VO artist, and radio host/producer. You’re constantly competing with people better looking than you, and surviving in the industry requires a lot of inner work, work that we have to do every day, long after we’ve graduated. Because keeping our tools sharp is just one part of the puzzle, having a strong mental game is so necessary. 

Lastly, this is a piece of advice that was given to me, and I finally started to apply it: to create your own content. Find your voice, know what you’re about, and start creating your own work, because most people are waiting for work, and waiting is not a way to live. It’s most disempowering. So figure out what fuels you, and be proactive about life and career, because this really is a marathon, not a sprint. Art comes from life, and in every stage of life, there is story. It’s easier now than ever to create content, but not everyone who has a Canon5D is a great photographer! Continue training, always be learning, and learn about business and look at this as an entrepreneur.

New York Film Academy thanks actress, composer, and NYFA alum Xiren Wang for taking the time to speak with us and wishes her success as her career continues to grow!

Major Trends in Animation in 2020

The top five grossing films of 2019 had one thing in common: they all relied heavily on visual effects & 3D animation

The top five–Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel, Frozen II–all used the cutting edge of what computer imaging had to offer in 2019. So as we dive headfirst into the new year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) surveyed our instructors and alumni who worked on dozens of movies, games, and television shows this year to find out what 2019’s biggest trends were and how they will lead to the big trends of 2020.

Paradigm Shift in Buyers

If you want to pitch an animated show, you are lucky as there have never been more producers buying animated works. In the recent past, the main purveyors of animated series were Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox, and Comedy Central. A good amount of those developed internally use a library of existing IP. 

But with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon now major players in the industry, more series than ever are being made. Hulu, TBS, Apple, Disney+, HBO Max, and Quibi have also thrown their hats in the ring, and more major and minor services are right on their heels. Because the streaming competition is international and because animation (generally) travels well overseas and is not ballooning in cost like live action productions, animated series are becoming a staple of streaming services.

2020 Animation Trends VR

Virtual Production

Visualizing the final film before it shoots it has never been more difficult. Modern tentpole films require more and more VFX, digital sets, CG characters, which means what you capture on set is bits and pieces of plates, as well as green screens that will need to be stitched together in post. This makes it hard for directors and other creatives to ensure what they are getting in camera is right for what they want.

That’s where virtual production comes in. Virtual production is when you use real-time 3D tracking and visualization to approximate what the final set extension or 3D VFX will look like in post, on set while capturing actors reacting to them in real time. A rudimentary form of this  technology has been used in line broadcast for decades, like the first-down line on a football field that is keyed to the ground and matches perspective across mulit-cam cutting; or the real time weather graphics that respond to the meteorologist’s movements. However advancements in game-engine and real-time rendering has allowed franchises like The Lion King to use VR technology, like that NYFA Game Design alum Guillermo Quesada helped develop, to visualize what a fully CG set looks like when captured using conventional directorial and lensing techniques.

Work Stations in the Cloud

Despite decreases in GPU costs, a modern top-of-the-line workstation can still set an artist back $5000. This spread across hundreds of artists can mean quite a costly investment for traditional VFX companies, which is why some artists and VFX houses are turning to “cloud” computing.

The most resource-intensive part of most shows is rendering. If a company does not need to own a render farm or even need to use a RAM farm that can generate previews, they would be able to have hundreds of thousands of dollars and spend more time on the art rather than the computing. This is where cloud computing comes in. Artists, companies, and supervisors are able to “rent” time calculating the preview or render of the shot they are working on, only paying for what is needed from more advanced computers to visualize what they are working on and then switching back to their home (local) stations for tweaks and then sending to a cloud farm for finishing. This process will allow boutique houses to compete with bigger competitors while keeping most of the money on the screen.

Real-Time Technologies

One of the most time-consuming parts of the VFX and/or animation process is rendering. For the first Frozen film, it took 30 hours to render a single frame, and with 24 frames a second, the render times add up fast. Video games on the other hand have been rendering at 60fps for decades but not quite at the quality expected for broadcast or theatre experience. The Unreal game engine is changing this. With strides in real-time rendering driven by the success of Epic Games (Fortnite) pouring resources into real-time rendering for use in animation and VFX, it is possible to render media in seconds what previously would take hours. For those looking to learn the tools of this future, Unreal is the software for you.

2020 Animation Trends

 

AI and Machine Learning

“Deepfakes” and “machine learning” have become daily terms in our newsfeeds, and they are affecting the VFX industry as much (if not more) than anything else. Being able to do head replacement, digital doubles, or de-aging, or having an actor give a postmortem performance as see with Peter Cushing in Star Wars: Rogue One, requires a tremendous amount of frame-by-frame pixel perfect work across dozens of software packages. This year, a deepfake plugin was released for After Effects, allowing artists to use this tremendous technology of machine learning to “photo-realistically” create deepfakes with little to no coding knowledge–training the algorithm yourself on your home machine. 

written by Matt Galuppo, Associate Chair of NYFA 3D Animation & VFX

What is Adobe After Effects?

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a motion graphic designer, you’ll quickly find Adobe After Effects to be essential software. After Effects artists are split between motion graphic designers and visual effects artists.

Adobe After Effects is a digital visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing application and is used in the post-production process of both filmmaking and television production, in live action and animation alike, with a wide variety of different uses.

Artists who create title sequence designs that begin almost every movie or television show you’ve ever seen, as well as animators will need to know After Effects. Similarly, artists who create informational graphics that explain complex circumstances visually can utilize the program. In the commercial world, motion graphic designers are tasked with animating logos for companies or creating stylistic lower thirds to introduce speakers in interviews.

Adobe After Effects

In contrast, visual effects artists use After Effects to mix computer generated elements with live action footage. This is known as compositing. Artists use After Effects to track, rotoscope, and key footage to create otherworldly environments that one might see in fantasy and science fiction films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Captain Marvel. After Effects can also be used to create stunning visual effects seen in films such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as Avengers: Infinity War

After Effects has dramatically affected the digital editing industry by increasing the quality and frequency of visual effects in entertainment. What used to require expensive and dangerous practical effects such as puppetry and pyrotechnics is now typically done by visual effects artists. 

Digital visual effects can be done cheaper and safer and can be integrated into any scale of project. There’s nothing that can’t be visualized on screen now–the only limitation is one’s imagination and knowledge of software such as After Effects. 

Examples of television shows and movies that have utilized skills that will be taught in the After Effects workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) include the title sequences for Stranger Things, The Leftovers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and American Horror Story. Similarly, we will explore and mimic the compositing seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the visual effects seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as the visual effects seen in Captain Marvel.

New York Film Academy’s Digital Editing school offers workshops that provide students with hands-on instruction in editing theory, techniques, and the fundamentals of digital editing, as well as hands-on experience by editing various projects with footage provided to them in class. Apply today to upcoming workshops in 2020 to learn and strengthen your digital editing skills!

Written by Nate Garcia
Digital Editing, NYFA After Effects Instructor

The History of ‘Star Wars’ on TV

Star Wars has become one of the most iconic cinematic franchises of all time, spawning three hit trilogies to date, as well as two big-budget side adventures. But Star Wars has long since become more than just a movie franchise—it has spawned countless books, comics, toys, merchandise, and more. 

But perhaps closest to the film universe of Star Wars is its presence on television, including numerous shows that are now canon. Most of these series were or are animated, however with the dawn of Disney+, live action shows set in the galaxy far, far away will be coming very soon, with budgets and special effects that look like they’d fit just as well on the big screen.

With the first of these shows, the hotly-anticipated bounty hunter series The Mandalorian, about to arrive, New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a look at the history of Star Wars on TV:

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

The Star Wars Holiday Special has cult status among Star Wars fans—it came right on the heels of the massive success of the first film, included cast members and sets from the film, and was notoriously awful, so bad that it was never released and only exists in bootleg form. Rather than a Christmas special, the television movie is a series of vignettes based around the Wookie holiday Life Day and the family of Chewbacca, and features appearances from cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and James Earl Jones, as well as non-Star Wars stars Bea Arthur, Richard Pryor, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, Harvey Korman, and classic rock group Jefferson Starship. While the special is regarded as a silly flop, it did introduce two very important elements to the Star Wars canon—the Wookie planet Kashyyyk and the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

 


The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour (1985)

The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour is mostly held in little regard by Star Wars fans, perhaps because the series revolves around some of the series most controversial characters—but it was the first in a long line of animated series for the franchise. The show was actually two separate prequel series, one based around C-3PO and R2-D2 and one based around the teddy bear like creatures from Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

A series of short animated films that fleshed out the massive Clone Wars event that first began in Episode II on the big screen later begot a serialized animated series with the same name. The latter focused on Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, but also gave a ton of time to world building and showing the various Clone Wars battles across the galaxy. Also included was the return of Darth Maul and deep dives into the Mandalorian culture, the Galactic Senate, droids, Count Dooku and the Trade Federation, the Jedi council and Jedi culture, and the Clone troopers themselves, some of whom become fully fleshed-out characters despite being identical copies of the same person–not to mention some of the greatest lightsaber duels in the entire canon.

 


Star Wars: Rebels (2014)

The follow-up series to The Clone Wars was more focused, centering around a single ship and its crew, that included a former Jedi and his apprentice, years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and only shortly before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. The series managed to expand the mythology of the Jedi and the Force, and also served as a direct sequel to The Clone Wars, bringing back fan favorite characters like Ahsoka Tano, Darth Maul, and Clone trooper Rex. The series also introduced expanded universe villain Grand Admiral Thrawn into the proper canon, which delighted Star Wars fans.

Star Wars: Resistance (2018)

The next animated series switched up its style and shifted towards more anime and cel-shading visuals, and was also the first series to take place after the original trilogy (but before the events of The Force Awakens.) Oscar Isaac reprised his role from the new trilogy as Poe Dameron, and the series, aimed towards younger audiences, follows a young boy named Kazuda Xiono, who finds himself involved in the early days of the Resistance as General Hux and Captain Phasma bring the nefarious First Order closer to the events of Episode VII.

The Mandalorian (2019)

With a pilot directed by NYFA guest speaker Jon Favreau, and a cast boasting the talents of Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Espositio, Werner Herzog, and Nick Nolte, The Mandalorian has a lot to prove as the first serialized live action Star Wars series. The show will also dive into the state of the galaxy between the original and latest cinematic trilogies as well as shed light on the criminal underworld of the universe, something typically only fleshed out in expanded universe books outside of Han Solo’s storyline.

 


Untitled Cassian Andor series (upcoming)

Rogue One star Diego Luna will reprise his role as Rebel spy Cassian Andor in this prequel series, one that will show the famous original trilogy’s Rebellion from a different angle—its darker, spy side. Alan Tudyk will also be reprising his role as fan-favorite droid, K-2SO. The show is expected to debut in 2020.

Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi series (upcoming)

A Star Wars story film featuring Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi has been rumored for years, but now that Disney and Lucasfilm are shifting from the big screen to the smaller screen, it looks like Obi-Wan’s story will be told on television instead. One of the most famous and important Star Wars characters ever, little is known about what Obi-Wan was up to in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope—this series will fill some of that in. Presumably, Obi-Wan is dealing with the aftermath of the Jedi’s extinction, as well as his new life as a hermit on the desert planet Tatooine, where he is keeping a close watch on the baby Luke Skywalker. While nearly nothing is known about the series, other than McGregor’s involvement, many fans hope and expect Darth Maul to return for a final showdown with Kenobi, now that Solo has confirmed the Sith warrior is still alive and well.

It’s a Good Time To Be a Comics Fan

These days, comic books are synonymous with summer blockbusters, with box office records constantly being broken and high-profile names in the film industry vying for a chance to be a part of major cinematic universes and perhaps cementing a legacy akin to Tony Stark, aka Robert Downey Jr.

That’s right. RDJ’s performance as billionaire playboy with a heart, Tony Stark, has merged with the actor and for the public eye become a single persona of the larger-than-life hero that he plays. He’s not the only one–comic book fans around the world now see these actors embodied by the characters they portray and it is simply because they were able to bring to life the stories that they have grown up with. 

The different incarnatoions of Hulk

Stories have molded many a reader from the shy, unpopular kid who can relate to Peter Parker and Spider-Man to the person who feels out of place in society because of their appearance or sexual orientation who empathize with the trials of discrimination in the pages of X-Men. 

Many comic books represent the most important topics affecting contemporary society. It wasn’t always this way though. Comics started as a way for struggling writers and artists like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to make a living by coming up with characters with funny names and weird backstories and placing them in the most ridiculous outfits they can think of. A perfect example would be the original costume for Batman, who first started out wearing red tights with black underwear and bat-like wings. It wasn’t until his revolutionary creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, decided to take these stories and make them mean something more. 

Today you can look to Captain America for moral high ground, Batman for discipline and dedication, or the many female characters leading the charge for all young women seeking equality, recognition, and empowerment–including Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Supergirl, and She Hulk, to name a few. 

Gal Gadot

The recent renaissance big-budget comic book adaptations and the performances of perfectly cast actors, paired with years of character development in the pages of comic books are now truly amazing cinema audiences. 

Take the upcoming film, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Arthur Fleck,is a failed comedian spiraling into insanity, who eventually becomes the titular homicidal clown. The film generating so much buzz before its release that it is already an Oscar contender, and broke October box-office records in its first weekend of wide release.

No longer are comic books regarded as silly pulp magazines for kids to entertain themselves with. They now represent the individual reading them, they connect emotionally, and inspire generations of people who strive to tell the stories that can impact people and change their lives. Together, comic books and the film industry has become a juggernaut–with no slowing down in sight. 

It truly is a good time to be a fan of comics.

 

Written by Gabriel Marte

7 Must-See Films of Pedro Almodóvar

Whenever anyone talks about Spanish cinema, it’s impossible to ignore the achievements of Pedro Almodóvar, one of the most internationally successful Spanish filmmakers of all time. Born in 1949, Almodóvar has won countless awards for his work, including two Oscars, five BAFTAs, six European Film Awards, two Golden Globes, nine Goya Awards, and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the French Legion of Honour and the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Recently, he was awarded with an Honorary Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival.

Barely 18 years old, Almodóvar moved from his rural hometown to Madrid to pursue his passion for filmmaking, and worked several jobs to support his art. Interested in experimental film and theatre, Almodóvar became a key figure in La Movida Madrileña (the Madrilenian Movement), a cultural renaissance that followed the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. 

Here is a look at some of the most important films of Almodóvar’s decades-spanning, award-winning, groundbreaking career as a director:

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Pepi, Luci, Bom was Almodóvar’s first feature as a director, but it was 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that launched him into the cinematic pantheon. The dark dramedy starred Carmen Maura and was an early breakout role for Antonio Banderas, who has remained a collaborator with Almodóvar to this day. The film, about a woman who is abandoned by her married boyfriend, was nominated for the 1988 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won five Goya Awards.

 

All About My Mother (1999)

In the eleven years between Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and 1999’s All About My Mother, Almodóvar continued to make films that were critical and commercial hits, including Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), High Heels (1991), and The Flower of My Secret (1993). All About My Mother is his best known film from the 1990s however, and opened the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, where Almodóvar won Best Director. The awards kept coming for the film, which explored themes of sisterhood and family, and earned Almodóvar his first Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as a Golden Globe, two BAFTAs, and six Goya Awards.

Talk to Her (2002)

Talk to Her received nearly universal critical acclaim when it was released, employing unconventional cinematic techniques for mainstream films like modern dance and silent filmmaking. The film tells the story of two men who bond while taking care of a comatose woman they both love. Almodóvar won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director, cementing his status as not just an internationally respected filmmaker but one of the best in the industry.

Bad Education (2004)

Starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, Bad Education was a drama about child sexual abuse and mixed identities, and employs unconventional storytelling structure in its screenplay. The film opened at the 57th Cannes Film Festival and, among other awards, won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release, in part for its deft portrayal of transsexuality.

 

 

Volver (2006)

Volver was a very personal film for Almodóvar, who used elements from his own childhood to craft a story about three generations of women as they deal with sexual abuse, grief, secrets, and death. The film was anchored by a powerful performance by Penélope Cruz, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the first Spanish actress to do so in that category. 

The Skin I Live In (2011)

The Skin I Live In was Almodóvar’s first foray into psychological horror, and is loosely based on a French novel by Thierry Jonquet. The film stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon haunted by tragedy who is obsessed with creating burn-proof skin, and ends up keeping a prisoner in his mansion to achieve this. The film reunited Banderas with Almodóvar for the first time since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and employs a variety of cinematographic and editing techniques inspired by genre filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and David Cronenberg. 

Pain and Glory (2019)

Almodóvar’s latest film was released earlier this year and debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or. Pain and Glory tells the story of a film director whose career has peaked, and again stars Antonio Banderas, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his work. The film was unsurprisingly a critical hit, and became the highest-grossing Spanish film of the year.

 

What’s your favorite Pedro Almodóvar film? Let us know in the comments or @ us on your favorite social media platform!