NYFA Alum Tracy Oliver Delivers Killer Laughs With Horror-Comedy “The Blackening”

If the Black character always dies first in a horror movie, what happens when all of the characters are Black?

It’s a question that NYFA Alum Tracy Oliver poses with The Blackening (2022), a horror film based on a Comedy Central short of the same name. The film premiered at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) and received three major distribution offers. The film will announce a public release date once a distribution deal is made.

The film’s all-star cast includes Antoinette Robertson from (Dear White People), Sinqua Walls (American Soul), X Mayo (American Auto), Melvin Gregg (Nine Perfect Strangers), Grace Byers (Empire), and Jermaine Fowler (The Drop) as well as Yvonne Orji and Jay Pharaoh, and was second runner-up for the TIFF People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award.

The Blackening: From Comedy Short to Horror Feature

After the short film was sent to Oliver, she had the idea to make the short into a feature film.“I just really, really loved the concept of it,” she said in an interview with Deadline. “The short that I saw was all about who is the blackest, and whoever is the blackest is going to die first, and I just thought there was something really brilliant about that nugget.”

theblackeninggameboardAn image of a board game called “The Blackening” shown in the 2022 film. Courtesy of TIFF.

Oliver, who also starred in The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl (2011) with NYFA Alum Issa Rae, is known for her work on Girls Trip (2017), The Sun is Also a Star (2019), The First Wives Club (2021), and her Amazon Prime series Harlem (2021). Acting as Producer and Co-Writer, Tracy teamed up with Dewayne Perkins of Brooklyn 99 (2013) and The Amber Ruffin Show (2020) to write the script. Dewayne also stars in the film. With Tim Story of Think Like a Man (2012) directing, the film builds on the initial concept: whoever is the Blackest has to die.

In the 2018 short, a group of friends flee a knife-wielding Michael Myers-like character, leaving their friend Dwayne behind. He is spared when the killer is confused that Dwayne, as well as all of his friends, are Black. 

“I fell like a white woman, so he let me go,” Dwayne explains in the film.

The killer tells the group to decide which of them is “the Blackest” and says he will spare the rest. We get arguments from Lisa, who watches Gilmore Girls, and Nnamdi, who is from Africa, but “the part Charlize Theron is from,” and hates seasoning. Finally, the group decides by emptying out their bags to see who has hot sauce. The film develops this idea further, showing what happens when a group of Black friends vacationing at a secluded Airbnb to celebrate Juneteenth are put in peril as they’re pursued by a crazed killer. Just like the short, they’re challenged to examine and rank their Blackness in order to save their lives. 

blacula the vampireWilliam Marshall as the title character in Blacula (1972). Courtesy of Bloody Disgusting.

The History of Black Characters in Horror

While very funny, the short and the film also demonstrate that when filmmakers write horror for film, Black characters are based on stereotypes and often used to scare, are sacrificed, or further the plot for white protagonists. Throughout horror film history, filmmakers have exploited fear of Blackness in films like King Kong (1933) and Candyman (1992). Black characters die (not always first) in Spider Baby (1967), Beware! The Blob (1972), The Shining (1980), and throughout the Friday the 13th, Scream, and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. 

“It’s high time for filmgoers to recognize the racist undertones of using Black characters as foils, particularly in horror films,” says Denise Hamilton, NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Instructor and member of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee. “Years ago, I remember distinctly feeling dismayed when seeing actor Duane Jones killed off at the end of Night of the Living Dead, and thinking how awful that this hero was a suspect because of his Blackness. He wasn’t given a chance to clear himself because Black people are often considered criminal in nature and automatically deemed guilty.”

Even when Black characters in horror are spared, such as Keith David in The Thing (1982), Brandy in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), Duane Martin in Scream 2, they serve as a sidekick and sounding board to the main (white) character. These tropes expand to other film genres and television shows, notably in the Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and X-Men franchises, as well as in Ghost (1990), The Green Mile (1999), American Horror Story: Coven (2013), and even A Christmas Story (1983).

brandynorwoodBrandy Norwood as Carla in “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998).” Courtesy of IMDB.

“We’re often among the first to get killed, or we simply aren’t there,” says Entertainment Journalist Stacey Yvonne of Black Girl Nerds about the horror genre in a review of Oliver’s upcoming 2022 film.

The Future of Horror

Films like The Girl with All the Gifts (2016), Get Out (2017), The First Purge (2018), Us (2019), Atlantics (2019), His House (2020), Black Box (2020), and Nope (2022), show that there’s an audience eager to see horror films with diverse, fleshed out characters. 

“We’ve shifted from being the focal point of the fear to being the heroes,” says Robin R. Means Coleman in Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2021), a Shudder original documentary film based on her novel that examines Black representation in horror.

While The Blackening sends an important message about Black characters in horror films, Oliver also hopes that audiences also will have fun watching the movie. “I want people to go out with their friends, and laugh, and have a good time. That, to me, is a success of a movie,’ she says.

We congratulate Tracy on all of her success, and we can’t wait to see The Blackening.


The Many Saints of Newark, The Prequel You Probably Didn’t See Coming

Many many moons ago, HBO put itself on the map by running a show by the name of The Sopranos, created by David Chase. It’s been 14 years since the show ended, but now, eager fans of the series have hope. Chase is back at it again with the new prequel film The Many Saints Of Newark. To better appreciate this surprising comeback, we’ll get you up to speed on what you need to know for the upcoming film.

Who Were The Sopranos?

In case you’ve never heard of or seen The Sopranos to begin with, that’s okay, we’ll go over that too (and not spoil too much either). The show follows Tony Soprano, a New Jersey mob boss who deals with personal and professional issues in his home and business life that affect his mental state,  resulting in him seeking professional psychiatric counseling to cope with the stresses he faces. The series ran 6 seasons long, with 13 episodes a season, with the exception of  Season 6 which got 21 episodes. When last the iconic series aired, the DiMeo crime family (run by Tony) were in a tight spot as the New York and New Jersey crime families were warring with one another. Its ending was ambiguous, and is held in high regard as one of the greatest series endings of all time. 

Resurrecting An Iconic Story

The Many Saints of Newark will be turning back the clock, visiting Tony Soprano in his younger days. The film takes place during the long hot summer of 1967, a time of considerable “political and civil unrest”. Amongst the turmoil the setting presents, the DiMeo crime family’s hold over the city is being challenged by rival gangsters as they begin to rise up against them. The film will focus on young Tony’s relationship with his uncle, Dickie Moltisanti, who also struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities much like Tony will in The Sopranos later on. The movie will ultimately bear witness to the experiences that shape Tony into the mob boss fans are familiar with.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, The Sopranos is considered a time honored classic when it comes to drama. For those who might be less eager, there is a compelling discussion that seems to be hidden under the surface of all this good news. One of the things the article by Collider expresses, is something of a cautionary hesitance in its initial remarks about the film. Especially when talking about it being “a huge undertaking”, speaking to the notion that audiences would need to “trust a return to this world so long after the finale”. These remarks are interesting, very much so when one considers that most praise The Sopranos to be one of the best shows out there, in addition to having what is widely regarded as one of the greatest endings a series can get. It begs the question, did we really need this prequel?

To have achieved such a masterful ending, one would have had to create a distinct air of finality. Although a prequel, would this film in some sense be violating that sense of finality? It does, after all, seek to continue a story that has been finished for 14 years. To be fair though, it isn’t like the property is being brought back into existence by some stranger, David Chase himself is coming back to tell this story. If there’s any one who has the inherent right to exercise revisiting the world of the Sopranos, it is the creator of the series. On top of that, without spoiling the ending, there were many questions concerning how the show ended, so it isn’t like there wasn’t any desire whatsoever to revisit the story. The Many Saints of Newark, starring NYFA Alumni Michael Gandolfini (playing Tony Soprano) and Gabriella Piazza (playing mob wife Joanne Moltisanti), is screening in theaters.

Q&A With Acting For Film Alum Z Tozum on What Motivates Her as an Actress & Staying Positive

From switching careers and hopping into the world of acting Zeynep (“Z”) Tozum, found a new world where she realized she fit in and belonged. After years in a different profession, the Acting for Film alum decided it was time for a change and to pursue her love of cinema and explore the performing arts.

New York Film Academy caught of the Acting Conservatory alum to discuss her plans post-graduation, staying creative during a worldwide pandemic, and her latest project Zoomin’. 

New York Film Academy (NYFA):  For so many people, switching careers is such a tough decision. What made you knew you could do it/want to leave and pursue acting?

Z Tozum (ZT): Honestly, I didn’t know if I could actually do it at first. I knew I was a curious/restless learner and was finding myself in a season of feeling stagnant,  a familiar place similar to the one I was in 12 years ago when I embarked on a different professional transition; I felt the urge to move into another area. This time though, it was more of a conscious decision to leave my all too comfortable profession and learn a completely new set of skills.

To start off, I knew I wanted to do something around Cinema. Watching movies has been like breathing to me since the age of 10 when my dad instilled in me the love of the movies. While considering studying, I realized that unless I understood what acting was all about; studying filmmaking or screenwriting wouldn’t really make sense to me. And yet, I hadn’t even worn a tutu as a child, nor ever walked on stage with the exception of my earlier career as an executive. So I decided to give it a chance and took some classes in Portland, Oregon, where I fell in love with acting. 

The following year, I set my eyes on NYFA, put my business on hold and took the 8-Week Acting For Film program to explore whether or not I could do it. After graduation, the fabulous Blanche Baker took me by the hand and set me up for an audition to apply for the 1-Year Conservatory Program. The rest is history! 

Why I love acting is a question I continually ponder and the answer changes every other week: these days, I believe acting makes me feel more alive. The moment I say that I realize in how many different ways, it actually has bewitched me. 

Photo courtesy of Zeynep “Z” Tozum

NYFA: What made you want to come to NYFA?

ZT: I was impressed that faculty was chosen from working artists and experts. I come from a corporate background, so I care a lot about practicing and learning from those experiments and failures. I sensed that the coursework would go beyond foundational theory and intellect around the matter and really teach through practice, and that grabbed me. Understanding that I am joining the game much later than my classmates, I needed to be as ready as I possibly could in order to launch myself into the work straight out of school.

NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming students?

ZT: I’d recommend putting aside what they already know, lean into their incompetence, and trust their teachers when they get challenging assignments no matter how uncomfortable they may feel. As students at NYFA, we had the luxury of having this huge safety net: our teachers. I often felt like a baby bird, unaware that I had wings and when asked to fly off the branch and couldn’t breathe, there was always an instructor to catch me if I fell (and I’ve learned how to fall too). How rare it must be to have a support system like this in the alleys of this profession!

Stay curious about themselves; praise will be plenty but stay hungry for stretching feedback too. Lastly, stop whining about the non-stop anxiety: when I stopped, accepting that it’s part of the work, life got better

NYFA: What projects have you worked on?

ZT: As soon as I graduated from NYFA and got my OPT/work permit, I started auditioning. Barely four weeks into that process, COVID-19 hit us all. I had a year ahead of me to work as an actor, to get some commercial credits for a longer-term artist visa, and boom! That movie had ended so abruptly.  

Then I took a deep breath in and created my own project: a mini web series with a group of very talented people, called Zooming In,  which went live on YouTube in November 2020.

Screenshot from Zooming In Episode 4- “If You Can Even Call It That”

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your new series Zooming In that you created? Where did you get the idea and how did it come to be?

ZT: After a few weeks of mental and emotional stress, I decided that I needed to create my own project in order to keep my sanity intact and to keep working on my craft despite the industry’s complete shut-down. I had been thinking a lot about how social lives had been reduced to the size of a phone or computer screen and how that must be affecting people in many facets given their psychological make-up, experiences, habits, and will to survive. One evening, I found myself imagining the life of a working woman, living by herself and struggling on all fronts of life. I wrote a synopsis and the first episode for a mini web-series idea. 

I  sent it to Jenna Mate, my teacher from NYFA and a theatre director. She liked the idea and very generously offered to direct it (all on Zoom of course). Honestly though, I don’t know that I could ever do this project if it wasn’t for Jenna’s encouragement and ability to refine the idea,  get writers to write the remaining episodes, and enroll other actors.  Her work with us on this project was crucial.  I realize now that if there is hope and will, there is always a way. Then there is the element of luck too, but luck is not enough on its own either; it’s really choosing NYFA as my drama school, the way they set us up for challenges, and Jenna Mate’s big heart and professional expertise that made it all come together.  

Zeynep “Z” Tozum

NYFA: It’s been a tough time for the film and entertainment industry, how have you stayed positive?

ZT: Accepting the circumstances (no jobs; threatened health; isolation), staying sharp with what I wanted (to act), creating options to practice (continuing training in specific areas of the craft), and ferociously reading and watching performances…all these helped me preserve my mental and emotional sanity. While writing these words, I am realizing how similar it is to the process of acting: know your circumstances, know your objective, go and get it in any way you can.  I am thinking that acting is all about living, and the reverse is equally true too. 

Lastly, the power of hope. That is why we called it “Project Hope.” All cast and crew members donated their time to bring this project to life. We hope this will create a wave of “hope” among performing artists who are facing trials/ hardship during these disturbing and challenging times. 

NYFA:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

ZT: Four months have passed since Zooming In went live and my mind is already set for doing a new/better/different project. That keeps me energized and growing and while the chaos of our days can be disturbing, I do believe we risk perishing in an excess of stability as well. Hence the beauty of welcoming change and acting on it!

I’d like to end with a moving quote from W. Saroyan (from the introduction to his play called Time of your Life):

“In the time of your life, live so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

New York Film Academy would like to thank Z Tozum for taking the time to share more about how she got her start in acting and her motivations for the craft.

How NYFA Alum Camilo Navas Created His Animation Project “George is Hungry”

What does it take to actually make a creative animation sequence? Hard work, a bit of training, and the drive to manage multiple skillsets at once. From Game Design to Animation, NYFA students are taught the tools they need from some of the most skilled instructors in the business to create some of your favorite pieces you see every day in the digital world.

Colombia native Camilo Navas came to New York to visit a friend, who introduced him to an instructor that taught at NYFA. The instructor then told Navas about scholarships and ways to make studying at the school possible for what he wanted to study.

NYFA alum Camilo Navas

“I liked the city and the school was film and media-focused, so I loved it. The next semester after that, I started my admissions process, although I started studying Game Design and then I found out that what I really wanted to learn was Animation, so I was able to swap my program.” 

During their course, Animation students are trained to use multiple tools to create their assignments. For one project, Navas created a sequence called “George is Hungry,” and explained that he used Zbrush for modeling, Motion Builder for the animation and motion capture, and Maya as the 3D software, among others. 

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

For this same assignment, the NYFA alum decided not to storyboard it as some other creators may choose. “I actually didn’t storyboard the film because I’m not a great drawer,” he shared. “I had the plan of implementing motion capture, which would allow me to make an animatic. It was a great idea because it adds the timing of the acting and lets me place the camera wherever I want. It was like shooting a movie that I could rewind and fast forward, and I didn’t have the pressure of being on a budget or limited time for shooting.

For the whole process, Navas revealed that there was a workflow he followed to create his project that made the work more seamless, due to the complicated nature of animation. His process included the following order of operations:

  1. Scripting the story
  2. Modeling the characters
  3. Rigging
  4. Motion capture
  5. Animation editing
  6. Blocking the camera
  7. Animatic
  8. Dynamics
  9. Rendering
  10. Compositing
  11. Editing
  12. Sound design
  13. Exporting the final result

“I chose the tools that needed the smallest investment of time and effort in order to get results faster and make corrections multiple times. It could be considered an iterative process. The project itself needed 5 months to be completed including the sound.”

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

For this project, Navas needed sound to make the sequence complete, so when that was ready, the 1-Year 3D Animation alum had his finished project ready. “What happens on the screen is what creates the need for sound and music.”

With this project now finished and Navas graduated from NYFA, he is looking to produce a second episode and eventually make George’s universe from “George is Hungry” into a series. Navas also encourages those who are interested in animation to seek it out and pursue their passion. 

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

“There are probably a lot of people like me, who think that you need to be super smart and a talented illustrator in order to achieve some success in this field. I previously said that before NYFA I didn’t know anything about animation or I even didn’t have skills like drawing. Sincerely, I still don’t know how to draw the human body with its proportions, but it really doesn’t matter because creating an animation piece is a colossal amount of work that it’s very likely for anyone to find a job to do where they are good at it.”

New York Film Academy would like to thank the NYFA alum, Camilo Navas, for sharing more about his experience studying in the Animation Conservatory at NYFA and for giving readers insight into what goes into creating a full animation sequence.

How To Direct a Short For Adult Swim With NYFA Alum Dylan Mars Greenberg & The Crew of “The Puppeteer’s Assistant”

Whether it’s long-form or short-form content, there are so many different ways to storyboard, direct, write, shoot, and experiment with film. But how does one exactly bring a concept to life from start to finish? 

NYFA alum Dylan Mars Greenberg, who has been hailed as a cult filmmaker, explains that it’s all about surrounding yourself with the right people. Greenberg, known for feature films Dark Prism, ReAgitator, and the upcoming film Spirit Riser, recently directed a short for Adult Swim’s Smalls compilation called The Puppeteer’s Assistant, which required a skilled team to pull it off.

The short film, which was comprised of live-action and CGI elements, was an ambitious project that required a group effort to get the concept off the ground from paper to screen and shoot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Greenberg, along with collaborators Hannah Schilsky and Glitter Macabre, spoke with NYFA about how they were able to bring their short to life and create the magic and majesty of the live-action/CGI puppets.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did The Puppeteer’s Assistant come to be? How did it get picked up by Adult Swim?

Dylan Mars Greenberg (DG): At the encouragement of my friend Avi Ezor, I originally brought some of my ideas and past work to Development Meeting, an excellent streaming show which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. The format was that anyone can call in and pitch things to the hosts and, if they like it, they send you a few hundred dollars. They liked what I showed them and sent me some money, so that was a really wonderful way to get a foot in the door. Then, Avi encouraged me to reach out to Dave Hughes, who is in charge of the Adult Swim Smalls and creator of the show Off The Air, on Twitter. Dave was very friendly and cool and invited me to email him! So I pitched him a few ideas, which just didn’t exactly fit the bill of what they were looking for until I remembered a puppet story, which I had actually come up with a while ago. I sometimes would just tell people about how puppets can’t drink saltwater as a joke because my natural sense of humor is to make up facts about things that just obviously don’t make any sense. So I pitched that and it clicked!

New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did you get involved in The Puppeteer’s Assistant?

Hannah Schilsky (HS): Dylan called me up very excited one day saying she had a project she wanted me to work on. While she explained the premise of the story they had written, in my mind, I had already decided I was on board. All of the creepy but beautiful wooden puppets I would get to sculpt appealed to my aesthetic, and the story is so absurd, it’s hilarious!

Glitter Macabre (GM): A year or two ago Dylan told me and Matilda Sabal (who created the miniature set seen in the short) a bit about puppets who drank salt water and turned evil. The idea was very silly and ominous, so I loved it. Dylan and I collaborate often, and when the idea was picked up by Adult Swim we started talking makeup and styling. Dylan asked me to create concept sketches for the puppets.

Photos courtesy of Glitter Macabre

NYFA: When making this kind of short, what comes first: the concept or budget? How did you begin to envision the production as a whole?

DG: The concept definitely came first! I had actually thought about making it into a short earlier, just on my own, but making it for Adult Swim was a million times cooler! Once that came into place, I knew immediately for the live-action actors I wanted Jac Bernhard, who I met on the set of the movie Adam, and my friend and long-time collaborator Josafat Concepcion. I wanted to have a wide array of people with very distinctive voices do the puppets, so I got one of my closest collaborators, actor Amanda Flowers, to voice the princess puppet. Then, I reached out to my friend since elementary school Nicolai Gorden, who is now working as a voice actor professionally. I got Avi [Ezor], my friend Bonnie Bloomgarden from the band Death Valley Girls, who has a distinctive high voice, and I decided to voice the clown puppet myself. The next step was to figure out how to make the puppets actually come to life, which is where Hannah Schilsky and Glitter Macabre come in.

HS: My roles as both a producer and the 3D artist making all of the CGI put me in a position where I felt incredibly invested in this project and wanted to push it as far as I could. When Dylan sent me the script I knew right away how time-consuming of an endeavor this would be to pull off. I didn’t want to limit the story based on how much it would take to realistically hire a 3D artist. Having a producer title and seeing my time as an investment made a huge difference in the way I interacted with every aspect of the project. It motivated me to throw myself wholeheartedly into working on it every night after working a full-time day job. Ultimately, we ended up with a short film that included every frame of the original storyboards and that’s something I am really proud of. 

GM: For me, the concept comes first-but both Dylan and I tend to start thinking about how to do something right away. Almost as soon as the idea was pitched she had created a storyboard. Those drawings inspired my designs for the characters. For example, she wanted The Boy to have a little ruffle around his neck and a curl painted on his forehead. We talked about the budget and supplies I would need early on while I was collecting pictures of suitably cute-and-creepy marionettes and rocking horses. Since the film was created in quarantine, we discussed filming the whole thing by ourselves. 

At one point she [Greenberg] asked if I would put her in a big white beard and I would play the Boy. I am delighted he was instead played by Jac and that so many fabulous elements could be incorporated.

Photos courtesy of Hannah Schilsky

NYFA: With multiple elements involved (live-action/puppetry/animation), how did you and the crew juggle it all to combine seamlessly?

DG: I know this is such a cliché statement, but it was definitely a learning process. I had done a short film with Khloaris productions called The Bathtub, where we shot the actors on green screen and then composited them into miniatures. So, I had some experience with that concept and felt the best way to do it would be to once again shoot everyone on green screen. Believe it or not, I usually don’t do this, but in this instance, I did in fact storyboard each shot. I think that was essential for all the elements to blend together because that immediately puts us all on the same page in terms of what is happening where. I wanted the live actors and the animated characters to feel consistent which is where Glitter’s styling came in. Aside from the clown, which was fully designed by Hannah, Glitter drew each puppet character in detail, and then Hannah rendered them in three dimensions. 

Then Glitter drew sketches of what we’d make the live actors look like, and actually made them look just as cartoonish with the power of makeup. That created a real consistency. Matilda Sabal also designed the set, which is a real miniature, and then I actually was tasked with photographing it from hundreds of different angles, sending it to Hannah, and then Hannah scanned those images and rebuilt the set on the computer. She’s a genius, I still can’t wrap my head around that. Then, there was basically the filming with the live actors, which took about four hours, and once the models were rendered, several sessions of essentially directing the animation like it was live-action. So, in real life, Adam Ninyo was the DP and in the animated world, Hannah is the DP, because she’s in control of the virtual camera, and in a way, she’s like a God. I say that because I’m asking her to make these creatures move in a certain way but she’s the one actually making them do that. It really felt close to directing living actors, I’d never experienced that before. 

HS: The true ring leader behind that operation was Dylan. While I was in a work bubble only worrying about what I had to do they were herding the cats, myself included. She was personally involved with every aspect of the production, on top of tracking progress and dependencies, and that is how things ran so smoothly. 

GM: Dylan was the center of communication between the production team. Once the script/storyboard was created, things were in motion. Hannah designed the clown puppet. It was perfect and told me how the marionettes should be proportioned, how they would move. I illustrated the other four puppets and sent ideas for textures, colors, fabrics. I looked at photos of the voice actors as references. The Fairy Princess puppet was directly inspired by Amanda Flowers. I believe the first time we met on one of Dylan’s music video shoots, she was wearing a giant fluffy pink dress! I also talked to Matilda about the set colors to make sure no one would be blending into the walls. It felt like a very smooth and positive process to me. I love the details that Hannah brought to life – like one of the King puppet’s eyes being a moving spiral. Everyone’s work came together really well, which speaks to the strength of Dylan’s vision and passion for this project.

Dylan Mars Greenberg (Left) shooting “The Puppeteer’s Assistant”

NYFA: What were some challenges you faced along the way? Is there anything you wish you would’ve known prior to working on the short?

DG: I think I was really lucky in that I had such a great team working with me, there were very few problems. We did however shoot this in a pandemic so we had to keep everything as COVID safe as possible. We had all the crew and myself wearing masks at all times. Glitter wore a mask while doing the actor’s makeup in the first location. However, they had to redo some makeup once we were on set because we had to transport the actors to the set in a car and we all wore masks in the car, so the masks smudged the makeup a bit. I also made sure the actors themselves were distanced from each other, and I shot one scene where Josafat leans in to tell Jac something in two separate shots because I didn’t want to risk Josafat possibly getting even a small amount of saliva on Jac’s face while speaking. So, we filmed Jac reacting, and then Josa leaning in, and combined both shots together in post. Also, I wanted to make sure we had everything perfect with the green screen because so often there are problems with keying and you get artifacts of green around the actors. So, I made sure there was enough in the budget for a really good green screen studio with proper lighting, which BC Studios provided. I had the editor on set to check each shot we did and during a break actually do some test shots, to make sure the green was keying out properly. 

HS: This project was my first time attempting to render an entire short film using the cinematic tools inside of Unreal Engine. There was never an out-of-control moment where I felt like it wasn’t going to work, but I was definitely battling with a bunch of features before I took a step back and revisited the documentation. There will always be information that would have been very useful to know before starting a project, but it’s the sink or swim situations where I really level up. 

GM: My only wish is that I had asked for some extra time on makeup! It was a crazy hot day, one of the hottest of the year, and we only had a few hours to shoot on green screen. Jac and Josa were sweating in full makeup and face masks on the way to the location, and I was quietly panicking. But I am very happy with how things came out.

Jac Bernhard behind the scenes in makeup as The Boy

NYFA: What are some other parts about making this project that you would like to share?/Is there anything else you would like to add?

GM: This is the first animated film I have worked on. I have been inspired by animation since childhood, particularly stop motion films like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride-I was very much thinking of those character designs while working on this project. Seeing my illustrations come to life in this way was very special.

HS:  For anyone who has watched this I hope it brought you some joy in these crazy times.

DG: I’d like to thank everyone who helped me on this project. It truly was a collaborative effort and I couldn’t have done it without the incredible team of young brilliant artists who all made this a truly hilarious and beautiful short. I’d also like to encourage all filmmakers reading this to embrace weirdness, and if you have an idea floating around in your head that keeps making you laugh, or cry, or feel something, to write it down. Even if you don’t make it immediately, that idea could come in handy years from now. 

New York Film Academy would like to thank director and alum Dylan Mars Greenberg, producer and animator Hannah Schilsky, and puppet artist and stylist Glitter Macabre for taking the time to share their experience making The Puppeteer’s Assistant for Adult Swim.

To watch the short, click the video below.

The Puppeteer’s Assistant

Created and directed by: Dylan Mars Greenberg
Starring: Jac Bernhard, Josafat Concepcion, Amanda Flowers, Nicolai Gorden, Bonnie Bloomgarden, Avi Ezor, and Dylan Mars Greenberg
Music by: Matt Ellin
Produced and animated by: Hannah Schilsky

Director of photography: Adam Ninyo
Edited by: Phill Skokos
Model built by: Matilda Sabal
Humans and puppets styled by: Glitter Macabre
Associate producer Avi Ezor
Makeup assistant: Leor Freedman
Sound: James Boylan
Additional animation: Ezra Pailer
Color: Gene Rosati Jr.
Shot at BC Studios
Special thanks to Dave Hughes and Danya Levine

Q&A With Alum Alfredo Tavares About What It’s Like to Work as an Actor in The Film Industry

Two years ago, Alfredo Tavares graduated from the 1-Year Acting for Film Conservatory program at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. Since he graduated, chances are, you have likely seen the Acting alum appear in one of your favorite shows or films, with Tavares having over 90 credits as a professional actor. 

From Netflix’s Bridgerton and Hulu’s The Great to Academy Award-winning film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the forthcoming Matt Reeves film, The Batman, Tavares is racking up incredible credits and remains booked and busy through 2021. 

During some downtime between filming, New York Film Academy had the opportunity to speak to Tavares about some of his upcoming projects, being a professional actor in Hollywood, what it was like to work with Quentin Tarantino.

Photo courtesy of Alfredo Tavares

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

Alfredo Tavares (AT): I wanted the best school in the world for acting because my dream since my childhood was to go to Hollywood after watching icons like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and Jean-Claude Van Damme and having been trained in karate/ kickboxing as a black belt.

NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming students? What about international students coming to study at NYFA?

AT: Students should not hesitate to come and study at NYFA because it’s the best school with the most hands-on intensive programs in the world. The teachers are professionals and they take care of students when they don’t believe in their dreams and help them to get the energy and motivation necessary to achieve their goals. The class sizes are purposefully made to be smaller so teachers give you more attention and you have more time to express yourself. NYFA also helps you when you struggle to find a place to stay or need help with documentation or your payments. They work with you, listen, and are more than teachers – they feel like family! I was alone in the USA because I came from France, but when you study at NYFA you never feel alone. Some of my instructors and fellow classmates have become my best friends!

Tavares on screen for Hulu’s “The Great”

NYFA: You have some exciting titles across film and television. Can you share more about the projects you have worked on and which ones are your favorite?

AT: I’ve only been working as a professional actor and model in Hollywood for two years. After I graduated from NYFA, things went so fast and the next week I signed a contract for the TV series The Coroner, my first job as a professional actor in Hollywood. From there, I began working every day in different movies and TV series. After three weeks I joined SAGA-AFTRA. 

Tavares on “100 Humans”

Two years later, I have been working in big movies and Tv series as a lead actor (For The People, 100 Humans, Allo Portugal), as a featured actor (Venom, The Statistical Probability of Love at The First Sight, Temple), as a stunt-double-stand in (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Fast & Furious 9, Stellar Vortex, 355, The Nevers). A full list can be found here

My favorite project that I ever worked on and I will remember for my whole life was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, produced and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Margot Robbie, and Dakota Fanning. Wow, it was just so exciting to work alongside these famous actors in the same movie. Tarantino donned no gold or watch, just sneakers, a t-shirt, and jeans, and was always smiling. He would sit and eat with the extras and talk with us, which is very rare for one of the most famous producers/directors in the world. 

Tarantino picked me out at the Central Casting Agency to replace Kurt Russell as a Double/Stand-In for Russell to rest and when we couldn’t see his face. Before I started shooting, Tarantino once said to me: ‘Alfredo, today I want you to be in a good mood. Tell me, what would you like to eat to give you energy?’ I exaggerated and told him ‘pizza, a Big Mac, and ice cream.’ He called his assistant and every day when I was filming she was going to buy that. 

Some of my other favorite projects include the TV series For The People with Vondie Curtis-Hall and Regé Jean-Page. He was my lawyer and I was a bad guy named “Carl French”; the Netflix TV series 100 Humans with 30 experiences, one of which was called the sperm dance; and Bridgerton with Regé-Jean Page (again) and Phoebe Dynevor. I was in some erotic scenes and scenes where I danced at the balls. I had lots of fun!

Tavares behind the scenes of “Shiddat” Photo courtesy of Alfredo Tavares)

NYFA: You’re currently working on Matt Reeves’ The Batman, one of the most anticipated films of 2022, can you share anything about your experience on set or the safety precautions in place? 

AT: We started filming in February 2020 some scenes in Central London and some at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, but one month later everything stopped because of the pandemic. Now, if everything goes well, the film should be released in March 2022. In The Batman, I’m a forensic going to investigate a murder of a man who was murdered in a living room. My character investigates everything inside the living room and finds some blood on the floor, which is very important…this scene was one of the most important that I filmed in the movie. In the next scenes, I still don’t know how those will pan out because of the current pandemic situation.

NYFA: What, as an actor, is the most important thing you have learned while on set?  

AT: Being at school versus being on set there is a huge difference. One teaches you and the other doesn’t have time to teach you. After you graduate and they book you to be in a movie or TV series, they consider you a professional actor. They don’t care if you just came from school. 

I remember when I went to audition for For The People, they gave me one page to memorize in 15 minutes. Then, with my lines in my mind, I went to see the casting director and I tried to use my imagination where I was in the scene with my character’s voice and body. Then I was on set with the other lead actors that I never met including the famous Vondie Curtis-Hall and Regé Jean-Page and I tried to imagine what was my character’s objective with the other actors just with my dialogues in mind. 

Sometimes they said ‘cut’ just to add one sentence to my dialogue and straight away…action. Crazy! It was one camera at an angle and just one rehearsal with two shoots. They [the production team] don’t have time to do ten takes in each angle. Time is money. They rented the location just for one day and the overtime is expensive especially for the main actors.

(Photo courtesy of Alfredo Tavares)

NYFA: You’ve got a lot going on. Do you have any upcoming projects coming up that you can share?

This year is the most important for projects. I’m going to be the lead actor in Subwater and Our Last Prayer that I have signed an NDA for. 

New York Film Academy would like to thank Alfredo Tavares for taking the time to speak on his experience as a professional actor and looks forward to the exciting catalog of upcoming films and television shows that Tavares will be featured in. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Q&A With South Beach Alum Yulia Korotkova on “Waters” and What Inspires Her as a Creator

Like many creatives, New York Film Academy (NYFA) South Beach alum Yulia Korotkovia was focused on finishing her degree and doing it during a pandemic. Not to let the current situation of learning and creating from home hinder her creativity, Korotkova decided to create a short film at home using her iPhone. The finished product, Waters, went on to win the Student Choice Award at the NYFA South Beach Made at Home Film Festival, and also we won proper use of location award from New York Film Academy Filmed at Home Festival. 

Korotkova’s Waters then got screened outside the NYFA community, earning an Official Selection at The Lift-Off Sessions – UK, the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival, and the Miami Independent Film Festival

NYFA caught up with the Acting for Film alum to talk about her film Waters, advice for incoming NYFA students, and her next projects. 

NYFA South Beach alum Yulia Korotkova

New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did you decide to pursue acting for film and film in general?

Yulia Korotkova (YK): I was always passionate about storytelling and acting. I have previous experience in the theater, but after I immigrated to the US I became shy about my accent and that shyness slowly grew over time. A friend of mine who studied in NYFA before suggested that I check out the program and take a workshop. 

NYFA: What made you decide to come to New York Film Academy and the South Beach campus?

YK: I live in Miami Beach so NYFA South Beach was an obvious choice. I loved the hands-on approach and the 4-Week workshop flew by. My love for acting and film came back, so I chose to enroll in the MFA Acting for Film degree. 

After the school went fully online because of COVID, I got to audit several filmmaking classes and learned more about the technical part of producing and filmmaking. In my summer/fall break I took it a step further and enrolled in an online cinematography class from NYFA as well.

NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming students? 

YK: Prepare yourself to be submerged in the world of opportunities. Open your mind and be a sponge. Ask as many questions as you have and enjoy every minute of learning. Remember, this is the place to learn from your mistakes, so don’t be afraid to take risks.

Still from Yulia’s film “Waters”

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film Waters and how you came up with the idea?

YK: Waters came to life as a desperate need of a creative outlet. Being enclosed in our homes, and not having easy contact with my classmates and friends, while in Zoom classes, was a very new and strange experience that took a toll on everyone’s mental health. My husband got an idea for an experimental shot while playing with the phone camera and I instantly came up with the story and the script for Waters

At the moment we got excited and didn’t think about our lack of equipment. We filmed on an iPhone, used our shopping cart with a tripod attached to it for dolly shots, taped the iPhone to a Swiffer mop for the feet walk shot and we used a regular straw to blow the water to create a ripple effect.

NYFA: What about your film Freedom?

YK: Freedom is a thesis project of one of my acting classmates, Alejandra Vergara. Because of all the restrictions due to COVID, we all had to cut, fix, and adjust our projects. Alejandra, the writer, and producer of Freedom, asked me for help to just film her on an iPhone. But when I saw the script I knew this film had to be made and shown to the world, and an iPhone would not do it justice. Freedom talks about questions we all face every single day and I believe everyone who watches the film will be able to keep a piece of it for themselves. 

NYFA: As an actress and filmmaker, do you think it is important to specialize in multiple places in the industry?

YK: I believe multi-proficiency is always a benefit. Actors/writers and writers/directors have been on an uprise. I recently attended a NYFA organized event with Tova Laiter and President of MGM’s Motion Picture Group, Pam Abdy, who mentioned how studios prefer a writer who can direct their films and actors who can write and even co-direct or direct. I was in an acting program but being able to learn to write, produce and even direct my own material was a very unique NYFA experience. I don’t want to sit down and wait to be discovered. I want to be on set, and I want to create and tell stories. [At NYFA] it was amazing to have so many wonderful instructors who are happy to guide and teach at any time. 

Yulia filming on set

NYFA: What gets you excited about working in the industry and creating? What stories interest you the most?

YK: I love everything about the industry. It is so powerful but with power comes the responsibilities. We are here to entertain, but also to educate, create awareness on different topics, and to influence people to be better. I, personally, love comedies and mystery but when it comes to writing I feel the need to tell stories of struggles and stories that will give hope to uplift the audience and give them the strength to believe in themselves and to keep fighting. 

NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects coming up that you can share?

YK: I am currently in post-production for the short that was my thesis film iN-siDe, which creates awareness for Dissociative Identity Disorder and I am also working on the early pre-production stage and a fundraiser for my script Step Away, which addresses different types of domestic abuse, such as emotional, mental and physical. Some of the scenes are based on true stories. 

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

YK: Never stop creating and whatever you do, do your best, give 150% and enjoy while doing it. Never ever let anybody kill your dreams. 

New York Film Academy would like to thank Yulia Korotkova for taking the time to share more about her time as a NYFA student and about her process when it comes to creating engaging stories and pursuing your work.

A Q&A With Acting Alum Chandrika Ravi on Her Favorite Projects and Admiration For Indian Cinema

Chandrika Ravi took the Indian film industry by storm after debuting in the 2018 Tamil comedy blockbuster Irattu Arayil Murattu Kuthu, immediately followed by the Tamil thriller, Sei.

Among other things, Chandrika is a UNICEF India Ambassador and was the first Indian to place in the state finals of Miss World Australia. She also has an active modeling career, appearing in international magazines and international campaigns for brands like Schwarzkopf and Beauty Blender.

NYFA spoke with the Acting for Film alum on her budding career, her admiration for Indian cinema, and the actress’ future projects.

Photo by Combina

New York Film Academy (NYFA): You grew up in Australia, but you are well known in the Indian film industry. How did you make the jump to begin a career in India?

Chandrika Ravi (CR): I had been getting a few movie offers in India already after I had competed in Miss World Australia and Miss Maxim India; but made my first work trip in April 2016 to try and scope out my options to see if it would be something that I would really want to do, especially as I had just settled down in Los Angeles. By July of that year, I was back in South India shooting my first Tamil film titled Sei, and have been shuttling back and forth between India and Los Angeles almost monthly ever since having already completed four South Indian films. 

NYFA: But you also decided to study acting. What brought you to New York Film Academy?

CR: Moving to Los Angeles had always been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl as I started learning acting and dancing from the age of three. I came to Los Angeles to research the various schools that were out here and my father and I actually found NYFA, and I immediately knew that was where I wanted to continue my studies in acting. 

NYFA: The Indian film industry is one of the largest and most diverse in the world, with so many different languages present and representation across multiple regions. What do you love most about working in the Indian film industry? For those who have yet to discover the Indian film industry, what films would you recommend they watch to introduce them to Indian cinema?

CR: Having been brought up learning classical and folk Indian and western dance styles my whole life alongside undertaking my studies in acting; that is honestly what I love the most about being in the Indian film industry. Of course, not every film is in the musical genre, but for someone who loves both; it is a dream come true to be able to perform both my passions in front of the camera. Two films that I would recommend that have always been the absolute favourite that I think captures the beauty of our culture, country, dance, colours, and sounds are Devdas and Ram Leela. The cinematography, choreography, costuming, dialogues, and sets are beyond beautiful! 

Photo by Derec Ethan

NYFA: What would be your dream project to work on?

CR: My dream project to work on both in India and in Hollywood would be a biopic film. I would love to be a part of a cross-cultural period piece like Troy that can give the western world an insight into our Indian history and mythological stories. 

NYFA: From modeling to acting, you’ve done a lot across the industry. Do you have a favorite of the two? 

CR: I would definitely say that acting is my favourite. Modeling has always been a hobby of mine, but acting has always been my first love. I definitely do think they both compliment each other as they both require you to know your angles, how to carry yourself, body language, and how to caress the camera. 

NYFA: You recently shot Un Kadhal Irundhal; did you shoot any scenes during the pandemic? As the world waits for the film’s release, can you tell us more about it and what you hope audiences will enjoy about the film?

CR: Luckily we were able to finish production on Un Kadhal Irundhal before the pandemic hit, but unfortunately our release date has been delayed due to the closure of theatres around the world. This film is something I am very excited for the world to see as I play a role that’s very different from what audiences have seen me play. It is a thriller film, with a great storyline and follows the story of the main character Neha, played by myself, as she maneuvers her husband’s secret plot to exploit her to create the storyline for his next film. 

Poster for Un Kadhal Irunthal

NYFA: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

CR: I am currently working on an original scripted show, in which we were able to fine-tune the script with the time spent at home during the pandemic; alongside getting ready for pilot season starting back up over here. I am really looking forward to being able to get back to Indian cinema as soon as it is safe to travel back. Apart from that, I am still continuing my advocacy work with UNICEF India and the other charities and causes I work with; and spending more time this year alongside other South Asian artists in bridging the gap and creating stronger ties between the east and west, especially in the entertainment industry. 

NYFA: What advice do you have for incoming NYFA students after your experience?

CR: My advice for incoming students would be to soak every little thing in. Every moment in class, the people around you, the professors; especially those who are going to continue their careers in their own countries. The experience, knowledge, and memories will stay with you forever. The classes were so interactive and learning from professionals who are also still working in the industry was incredible. It was such a pleasant experience and I look back on my time at NYFA very fondly.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Chandrika Ravi for taking the time to share more on her career and looks forward to the upcoming release of Ravi’s latest film Un Kadhal Irundhal.

Q&A With The Academy Director of MultiChoice Talent Factory East Africa Academy and NYFA Filmmaking Alum Njoki Muhoho

Njoki Muhoho is a lover of growing organizations to support people and takes pleasure in scripting and producing films, so don’t ask her to choose one career over the other. The Kenyan native is a member of the International Emmys, the Academy Director of MultiChoice Talent Factory East Africa, runs her own production company, was profiled by Business Daily Africa this year, and was named by the Women in Film Awards as the ‘Most Influential Women Personality’ in the Kenyan film industry. 

Earlier this year, NYFA had the opportunity to ask the MultiChoice East Africa Academy Director about her career behind the camera, studying at NYFA, and advice for aspiring filmmakers and creatives. 

Njoki Muhoho during MultiChoice Networking Portal

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us more about yourself and what brought you to study at New York Film Academy back in the early 2000s?

Njoki Muhoho (NM): I am from Nairobi Kenya and I am the Academy Director for Multichoice Talent Factory EA. (MTF).  MTF is the film academy for Multichoice Africa Group.  We have 4 hubs. South Africa- Johannesburg, Southern Africa – Lusaka, East Africa – Nairobi, and West Africa – Lagos.  

In East Africa, our Hub caters to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.  I’m also the founder of – Zebra Productions Kenya Ltd where I am the Executive Producer. I have been in the film industry for about 18 years and I have a dual career in Management Consultancy, including a Pricewaterhouse background with 30 years of experience in Organisation Development. 

From my school days, I always enjoyed, creative writing. In 1996, while busy with my consulting career, Multichoice/Mnet launched a scriptwriting competition and I had never seen a film script let alone know a filmmaker. But I was confident in my ability to tell a story, so I entered the competition and ended up becoming the national winner. I remember thinking, ’This is a fluke or I might have innate talent.’ I then promised myself that one day, I would take at least a six-month sabbatical and go away to learn filmmaking. I also promised myself that I would have to learn with the experts, no matter how much it cost. 

For over two years, I quietly researched. I wrote to institutions and finally decided on NYFA. I choose Los Angeles based on the weather. I did not want to experience a cold winter in New York!

NYFA: After finishing your studies, what was that transition like coming back to Kenya?

NM: There was fear that I may not get opportunities to apply the highest level of sophisticated skills that I had learned and I worried about how I would fund my productions. In the middle of planning for upcoming productions, I also needed to go back to consultancy just to make ends meet. 

NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your current positions (MultiChoice, Zebra Productions, Emmy’s) and what it’s like juggling all of them? What keeps you inspired?

NM: Multichoice Talent Factory – Academy Director: This was an advertised and competitive job, but I got it. I run the academy of 20 students. The academy is a practical film immersion for adult students who already have a maximum of 2 years of experience in filmmaking.

Zebra Productions Kenya Ltd: I am the founder of this company. I was commissioned to produce the first high-end drama series in E.A by Mnet (Multichoice), I was also Co-Executive Producer for 75 made-for-tv, feature films for Multichoice channels. My first fully owned drama series, Mama Duka, won the prestigious Best Indigenous Film/TV Series East Africa 2014. It later went on to win four more awards. 

International Emmys:  I am a Member of the International Emmys. The only East and Central African.; a situation I am working hard to change. I have just endorsed 12 of my colleagues in the industry to join the International Emmys. I have also done Jury work for the International Emmys for the last four years. I find the experience very enriching and it provides a benchmark of the quality of content. I attended the International Emmys Festival and Gala last year. It was very educational with fantastic networking opportunities. 

NYFA: What are your goals and what’s next for you?

NM: To ensure I streamline MTF and find a successor. Then, I will put full-time work in my production company. I want to produce proudly and authenticate African content for International and local audiences. I need to produce more. 

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you are applying or plan to apply directly to your work?

NM: Plenty. Set standards in your work and stick to them. Let it be your brand. Tell your stories. Understand why others tell their stories in their own way (e.g. the Hollywood template), but not to copycat but, instead, benchmark and tailor. At the time, I was the only non-American student in my class. I constantly insisted on translating skills learned into Africa content. Not always easy, but I feel I stayed true to who I am, and learning from practicing filmmakers was an amazing experience. 

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

NM: Be truthful to yourself and your background. Learn everything and then learn more. There is more to learn at NYFA than just what is in your super busy schedule. Have curiosity. Talk to other students in other departments. Be open-minded. Accept criticism of your work as a means to grow. Don’t waste time defending yourself.  Even when you do not agree, still learn how to do it differently.  Criticism of work comes hard-hitting at NYFA. Have a thick skin and a light attitude. Keep the contacts; they will come in handy later in your career.

New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA alum Njoki Muhoho for taking the time to share about her life, experiences in the industry, and the importance of staying truthful when creating.

NYFA Alum Francesco Panzieri on What It’s Like Being The Compositing Supervisor on a Netflix Film

Netflix’s upcoming release of the holiday musical feature film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (“Jingle Jangle”) will see NYFA alum Francesco Panzieri among the film’s credits as the film’s compositing supervisor. The film was released by the streaming giant on November 13, 2020, release, and audiences are already loving the whimsical film from director David E. Talbert. 

Panzieri has had an extensive career since attending NYFA’s 3D-Animation & VFX conservatory program and has contributed to over 20 feature films and 50 television series. Some of his credits include Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Fate of The Furious, Avengers: Infinity War, Westworld, and Spiderman: Homecoming to name a few.

Francesco Panzieri

The NYFA alum’s latest work will be featured in Jingle Jangle, a holiday musical by Talbert, starring Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, and Hugh Bonneville; with songs by EGOT winner and celebrated recording artist John Legend. The film follows a former joyful toymaker (Whitaker) who is rejuvenated in his love of creativity for his craft when his curious granddaughter appears on his doorstep one day.  

Panzieri worked as an in-house compositing supervisor for Jingle Jangle, leading a team of artists who completed over 230+ shots of post-visualization since they began their work on the film in October 2019. Once the post-visualization was finalized, Panzieri, along with his in-house visual effects team (INH), moved onto production shots, working from beginning to end on shots that are meant to be in the final cut. Panzieri and his team then completed over 70 shots, spanning from clean-ups to set extensions to color correction to split screens to retime. “The team went above and beyond and everyone on the VFX production side was very pleased with our work,” shared Panzieri. 

Still from a scene in “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

Panzieri had the opportunity to share more about his experience working on the film with New York Film Academy and the process of leading a team as the Compositing Supervisor on the Netflix Film:

We (INH) spent the first 5-6 months on post-visualization, focusing on the 2nd & 3rd act of the movie, namely the Magic Man G sequence and the Tunnel Escape sequence,” he revealed. “In light of the multiple audience screening tests that were scheduled on our way forward, we did several interactions each time on both sequences depending on the feedback received from Netflix and the audience.

Keegan-Michael Key in Netflix’ “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

For the Magic Man G (MMG) sequence, we were presented with the cut of the sequence that editors Michael Tronick and Joe Galdo put together. We paid attention to what David E. Talbert was asking us, and animated & composited accordingly the Whirly Twirly to bring flow and life to the sequence, and to connect the choreography of the audience with the flying toy that Gustofson is introducing to them, including the malfunctioning and crash at the end. Once we had a lock on the sequence in terms of animation, timing, positioning, look, we sent our work to Framestore Montreal (one of the several VFX vendors on the show), who dived head-in into the sequence, and started working on it from scratch, using our post-visualization renders as basically blueprints to masterfully build the final visual effects for each shot. The MMG sequence is my favorite part of the movie, with some incredible music, lyrics, and acting/dancing by everyone, especially by Keegan-Michael Key.

For the Factory Escape (FAC), we had to design the entire sequence from scratch.

It was gracefully shot entirely on blue-screen, and it had nothing but the two characters (Journey and Edison) rigged and secured to the wooden chest. INH built the 3D assets for the tunnel, matching roughly the parts that were built on set, and then did all the animation and composites for each shot. On my side of things, I also managed to keep the entire edit of the sequence open separately and literally laying on top of each blue screenshot of our composites, slowly managing continuity and look. That’s where the sequence started coming to life. 

Still from “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

We delivered each draft of the sequence to the editors, they re-arranged things on their side in terms of swapping shots around, adding repos, camera animations, and then sent out the movie each time for the audience screening. Our work was always welcomed warmly during every screening. John Legend and his daughter came twice to the office to watch the movie, and Luna seemed to really enjoy and dig the sequence, so we knew we were on the right path. From there on, Framestore Montreal took our work and once again brought it to final quality with fantastic finesse. 

Once we finalized post-visualization (230+ shots), INH moved onto production shots, which means working from beginning to end on shots that are meant to be in the final cut, so the real deal. We completed over 70 shots, spanning from clean-ups to set extensions to color correction to split screens to retime. The team went above and beyond and everyone on the VFX production side was very pleased with our work.

Still from “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

Sadly, Covid-19 hit right as we started working on those final shots, so we had to relocate and work remotely from home for the rest of the project, which meant having so many production meeting prior to leaving the office, in order to make sure everything was planned and taken care of. It was a challenging but stimulating situation to be in, figuring out for example the length of network cables that each artist needed, or testing the internet connection speed for everyone in order to make sure that we could do downloads/uploads and Cinesync reviews in a timely fashion. I was also requested to assist/consult VFX production for the purchase of a workstation for our director David E. Talbert, in order for him to review all the work from home. Production purchased for him exactly what I had advised to them, shipped it to me in order to configure it and set it up with all the necessary software for reviews, and I eventually ended up going to his residence to install it, do a first dry run test with my remote team, and explain David every bit and piece on how to run things properly.

JJ was: photographed with spherical Signature Prime lenses on Alexa Large-Format at full-aperture resolution (4448×3096), worked on at 4k-flat resolution (3996×2160), finished in DI at 4k-UHD resolution (3840×2160). Real 4k movie. Additionally, graded in Dolby Vision and mixed in Dolby Atmos for the most immersive viewing experience.”

Forest Whitaker in “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

With COVID-19 hitting right as Panzieri and his team started working on the final shots, like many companies, they had to relocate and work remotely from home for the rest of the Jingle Jangle project. With the new change of scenery, Panzieri was requested to assist/consult VFX production for the purchase of a workstation for the film’s director, David E. Talbert, in order for Talbert to review all the work from home, to which Panzieri himself implemented in the director’s home successfully with the help of his remote team. 

Working on this film was an amazing experience that allowed me to learn so much,” shared Panzieri. “The strenuous teamwork and love that everyone involved in this feature poured into it couldn’t make us prouder. I feel that the final result looks really dazzling, just like a true Christmas movie should look, and I hope that Jingle Jangle will turn into a holiday classic to enjoy with family and friends for years to come for audiences of all ages.”

New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Francesco Panzieri on his involvement in Netflix’s Jingle Jangle and encourages everyone to check out the holiday film when it gets released on Friday, November 13, 2020, and to see why the Magic Man G sequence in Jingle Jangle is Panzieri’s favorite part of the film. 

Q&A With NYFA Filmmaking Alum Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri on Becoming a Filmmaker, Working With His Wife, and Producing “Freddie’s Piano”

In 2018, Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri decided to leave his job and pursue his dream of finally becoming a filmmaker. With a younger son in Berklee College of Music in Boston, Kovvuri, encouraged by his family, was also back in school at NYFA’s New York campus to study the filmmaking craft. 

NYFA caught up with one of its own just as Kovvuri is in the middle of screening his latest film Freddie’s Piano at the Scottsdale International Film Festival to discuss his film and what the director has been up to since attending NYFA. 

NYFA filmmaking alum Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Som! For those who may not know, can you share more about your film Freddie’s Piano?

Somasekhar Kovvuri (SK): Freddie’s Piano is about two recently orphaned brothers trying to make sacrifices to fulfill each other’s perceived needs but finally realizing all they need is each other. As time progresses the film depicts how they balance their grief, their responsibilities, and life’s normal activities in their unique ways.

NYFA: How did you get involved as a producer? What was it like working alongside your wife for this project?

SK: Being our first film, it was a great learning experience being involved as a producer.  My work experience in the corporate world fortified my belief that if you get a good team together, give them independence, and remove obstacles it results in success.  Lisa and I followed the same principle with this film. I also stepped into the role of casting director. I was truly fortunate in connecting with KM Music Conservatory in Chennai and finding Pranav to play the role of Freddie.

Film poster for “Freddie’s Piano” (Poster art by Lisa Kovvuri)

On the set, Lisa (my wife) and I were mostly behind the monitor. Being a portrait painter, she could appreciate the intent of our art director and cinematographer and helped me understand them better. It was great working alongside her and I am happy with the painting she did of Freddie and Aden in their piano ties for our poster. 

NYFA: How do you feel now that your first feature film has been accepted into the Scottsdale International Film Festival?

SK: I was happy with how the film turned out but was not sure how objective I could be, so I feel extremely glad that the film got accepted into the Scottsdale International Film Festival. It validates my initial thought that we made a good film. Oscar-winning composer, Mr. A.R Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire), even tweeted our trailer with congratulations.

NYFA: After initially completing your course at NYFA and before completing Freddie’s Piano, what did you work on?

SK: Just one project. During the course, a fellow student, Aakash Prabhakar (also director of Freddie’s Piano), pitched his idea for a film about two brothers. I liked it and agreed that I and my wife Lisa would produce the film. After the course, we started working on the script for Freddie’s Piano, then location hunting, casting, acting workshops, and producing. This year we began submitting to film festivals and now looking for a buyer.  While he was finishing the post his film, Aakash juggled a few plays including Visiting Mr. Green by Jeff Baron in different cities in India. Incidentally, M.K. Raina who plays the lead role in this play was also the lead in the film 27 Down, a film by Awtar Krishna Kaul that initially revealed to me the powerful nature of film when I was a teenager. 

Behind the scenes shooting “Freddie’s Piano”

NYFA: What kinds of projects do you want to get involved with in the future?  

SK: I would like to get involved with feature films with a good story to tell.  Hailing from a village in India and living in many cities around the world puts me in the fortunate position of having understanding and access to a wide range of locales, stories, talent,  and languages that I can choose from.   

NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects? 

SK: I am currently focused on the distribution of Freddie’s Piano, Aakash is working on writing his next film, and my two sons are excellent musicians from the Berklee College of Music. The thought of a film with creative use of music has crossed my mind but nothing concrete yet.

Lisa Kuvvari on set of “Freddie’s Piano” (Courtesy of Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri)

NYFA: Is there anything else you would like us to know? 

SK: I must say that the NYFA filmmaking course gave me a lot of confidence. The projects simulated real movie-making conditions (as I found out during the filming of Freddie’s Piano) and it was immensely helpful. The instructors are experts in their crafts too. While I benefited from many, I would like to thank the following teachers in particular: Andi Deliano, Ben Cohen, Austin Smoak, Till Neumann, Moebius Simmons, Shiek Bey, Kris Kato, Heng-Tatt Lim, and Davide Berardi.

New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA alum Somasekhar “Som” Kovvuri on Freddie’s Piano being selected to be part of the Scottsdale International Film Festival and looks forward to news on distribution and what’s next from the Filmmaking alum.

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 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.

Q&A With NYFA Alum & Game Designer Grettir Ólafsson on Life After NYFA

NYFA’s own Game Design instructor Scott Rogers caught up with Grettir Ólaffson, who recently graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Game Design program, to ask him about life after college and what he’s currently working on.

Scott Rogers (SR): Hey Grettir! I understand you are working in game development after graduating NYFA. Where are you working at these days? 

Grettir Ólafsson (GO): I am currently working for Reverge Studios, the creators of the 2D fighting game SkullGirls.

‘Skull Girls’ (Reverge Studios)

SR: How did your path lead you to working at Reverge Studios?

GO: The CEO of the company had been a teacher at NYFA and we had a great working relationship that eventually led to me joining the team.

SR: What are your current job responsibilities?

GO: I am currently working as a split between designer and programmer

Title Card for VR game ‘Covert’

SR: What game are you working on?

GO: I’m currently not at liberty to say what it is.

SR: Mysterious! What have you been working on since leaving NYFA?

GO: I was a game designer for a co-op VR game – Covert – that was initially released on the Oculus GO and later on the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. It was my first job after finishing NYFA and I joined development when they were perhaps about 15% of the way done.

SR: Covert looks pretty cool! How has what you’ve learned at NYFA helped you as a working game developer?

GO: For me, what I got most out of NYFA was how to work well in a team with many different disciplines. I came in with an undergraduate degree in Software Engineering, so it made the most sense to me to continue using that as much as I could. A lot of my work on Covert involved programming and not just design. So the combination of the two fields of study have benefited me greatly.

SR: It sounds like you got a well-rounded education at NYFA. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

GO: I have a pet project in the works but it’s nothing that I want/can talk about publicly at this moment.

SR: I look forward to seeing more about it when you can talk about it! Thank you for catching up with us! It sounds like your game development career is taking off! Congratulations!

GO: Thank you!

For more information on NYFA’s Game Design program offerings, click here

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 or

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.

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 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. 

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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.