Filmmaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC’s FanDome Event of Blockbuster Reveals – The Batman, Wonder Woman 1984, and More

“United.”

Ben Afflecks’ Batman in the trailer for Justice League: The Snyder Cut uttered this word and it could not ring truer for the feeling fans have come away with DC’s FanDome event this past weekend. 

2020 has upended every single industry in the world and the film industry is no exception. Theaters shuttered, productions postponed and film releases delayed; some until next year. Most large scale live events have been canceled for the year as the whole world takes a mulligan and push plans for the following year hoping 2021 returns a bit more normalcy to live events however some have found innovative ways to bring large scale events to screens across the world such as DC’s FanDome streamed convention. 

This past weekend, DC put on a digital showcase of all the most exciting news and trailers of upcoming films and projects that is normally reserved for the largest comic book conventions of the year, usually the San Diego and New York Comic Con events. Accessible to all who registered online for free to the event, the streams began at 1pm ET showcasing panel after panel with a live performance by Daughtry and going off without a hitch. Each panel was different, big names and big reveals were had and the excitement for DC is at an all time high. 

Here were the biggest announcements of the day.

The Batman
Directed by Matt Reeves

We’re going to start with the hottest thing to come out of FanDome, Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Set to Nirvana’s “Something in The Way,” the trailer gives us our first real glimpse into the director’s vision for the world’s greatest detective’s new world. 

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Matt Reeves’ ‘The Batman’

The new iteration of the Caped Crusader will not be an origin story per se but, as Reeves puts it. follow his “second year” of fighting crime. A gritty fusion of Zack Snyder’s hues with David Fincher’s melodramatic tones, we get our introduction to all that is expected from a new entry into the Batman franchise. Robert Pattinson in the suit, his portrayal as a young Bruce Wayne, quick shots of Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, Colin Farrell as The Penguin, NYFA Filmmaking alum Paul Dano as The Riddler, and…the Batmobile. 

Fans are always craving to see the latest iteration of the iconic car and, whether you’re a fan of the new look or not, one thing is for sure, visceral fast paced action will be on display. And if you were wondering how the former Twilight star might fare in a fight, the clip of “Battinson” brutally taking down a thug should put the whole world on notice that he is up to the challenge of filling into the cowl of his predecessors. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Directed by Zack Snyder

After years of social media fervor, hashtags, emails, petitions and practical groveling from fans around the world, Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have finally answered those prayers. 

Zack Snyder, who after the tragic death of his daughter, had to leave the project during principle photography on Justice League has finally come back to finish his director’s cut. An ask that fans have been begging for after the debacle that-was the official release helmed by Joss Whedon. 

Film poster for Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’

It is only fitting that Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was the track chosen for the most anticipated trailer for a movie that was released three years ago as fans all over the world awaited for the second coming of the film they so desperately wanted. During the panel, Snyder took fan questions from around the world that were asked by most of the Justice League cast members through pre recorded videos before releasing the trailer to the world that gave a glimpse into what his vision for the film was supposed to be. 

At one point, when asked about Ray Fisher’s character Cyborg, he noted that his role will be one of the most expanded parts of the film as he is “the heart of the movie.” The film will be released as a 4 part series broken up into hour long episodes on HBO’s Max service, however no release date was given. 

Wonder Woman 1984
Directed by Patty Jenkins

Another exciting release was a more in depth trailer for the follow up to Patty Jenkins 2017 blockbuster Wonder Woman. The cast and crew spent time talking about the making of the film, the fans, and the relationships between the cast’s characters before revealing the trailer. 

Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ (Directed by Patty Jenkins)

In the trailer we got to see Kristen Wiig’s Barbara who seems to be the film antagonist, “The Cheetah,” after undertaking a transformation. In the bits we’ve seen from Wiig, it will be exciting to see what she brings to arguably the biggest role of her life which is at the same time a departure from her usual comedic roles. Chris Pine will reprise his role as Steve Trevor while Pedro Pascal plays Max Lord. The film was slated for release on June 5, 2020, however due to the Coronavirus pandemic it was then delayed to August 15, 2020, which has now been pushed back to October 2, 2020.

It is clear that DC is capable of adapting to an ever changing landscape in film while battling their direct competitors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well the COVID-109 global pandemic. While they have had some great products in Aquaman, Wonder Woman and the many Batman Franchises, they have sorely lacked in many other areas on all fronts whether it’d be the big screen or the little screen, and even in their source medium, the comic book industry. This event, however, the first of its kind, really has given us a recalibration, or a “righting the ship,” of the many issues facing the DC house and all of its properties over the last few years. It has shown us that when DC can take the time to be “united” that they can become an unstoppable force in cinema once again. 

Other panels appearing during the FanDome event:

  • Warner Bros. Games Montreal Announcement Gotham Knights
  • The Sandman Universe: Enter The Dreaming
  • Multiverse 101 panel
  • Introducing the Flash
  • Beyond Batman
  • The Suicide Squad
  • BAWSE Females of Color Within the DC Universe
  • Legacy of the Bat
  • Chris Daughtry Performance
  • The Joker: Put on a Happy Face
  • Jim Lee Portfolio Review
  • I’m Batman: The Voices Behind the Cowl
  • The Flash TV 
  • Black Adam
  • CNN Heroes: Real-Life Heroes in the Age of Coronavirus
  • Titans TV
  • Aquaman
  • “Ask Harley Quinn”
  • Wonder Woman 80th Celebration
  • SHAZAM!
  • Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Game 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film poster for ‘Dari Ji Mi’

NYFA: What inspired you to make Dari Ji Mi?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum Valéria Costa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film poster for ‘Sergio’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valéria Costa (Second from Left) prepping for a production

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Open Letter to NYFA Students From Peter Rainer – You Can Make This Your Opportunity

Here in Los Angeles, where I live and work, the word is out that Hollywood film production will gradually be returning to a semblance of normalcy. But what does that mean exactly? What is normal? And what does this mean for you as film students hoping to enter a profession that, even with the lifting of restrictions, seems so fraught?

I am more hopeful than pessimistic about your prospects. Here’s why: My basic premise is that, going forward, the Hollywood studios will be much more wary of making big-budget movies with large casts. Why? First of all, there is the unavoidable COVID-19 reality that movies, involving hundreds of cast and crew, will be physically challenging to execute. This means that the era of the big blockbuster, at least for the time being, will likely be winding down. The logistics involved with creating a film, which were always difficult, will become much more so. And much more expensive, too.

Many big Hollywood movies nowadays cost upwards of $150 million dollars. The majority, even before COVID, did not return their investment. The fraught new situation means that even fewer movies will make a profit, let alone a mega-profit. Not only will costs go up but – and here’s a large new development – the prospect of reaping rewards from big-screen revenues is quickly diminishing.

We all like to see movies on the big screen, with an audience – especially blockbusters – but more of us are in the position now of having to see films at home, on the small screen. We are wary of venturing into movie theaters, and some may have become increasingly comfortable with home viewing.


A movie studio gets far less revenue from home streaming than from theatrical distribution. In the case of a blockbuster, distributing it as a non-theatrical release would be an invitation to disaster. Almost certainly it will never make its money back.

So where does this leave the major studios? If, for the foreseeable future, movie theaters, for the reasons I’ve cited, will not generate anything like the revenue they used to, what will fill the vacuum?

This is where I think you at NYFA, and your fellow colleagues, have a real opportunity. You already know, or will know, how to craft very low-budget independent films with small crews and casts. This is essentially what you would be doing anyway, before COVID, if not by choice than by necessity. As a result, you will become very attractive to a film industry that, in the current climate, is hungry for movie makers who know how to work fast and cheap and still come up with quality cinema, and the movies you make can likely be shown quite as comfortably on a small screen as a big one. Distributors can buy your films knowing the movies will have a fair shot at returning a profit even if they are only shown as VOD (video on demand).

Something similar to this situation occurred in Hollywood in the late sixties and early seventies. The big expensive blockbuster movies were not connecting with the young moviegoing audience. They were losing bales of money. (Ever see Doctor Doolittle with Rex Harrison?) So the studio bosses brought into the system young filmmakers who previously would never have had a chance otherwise. The bosses were looking for young, exploitable film talents who could make movies that clicked with new audiences and return huge profits à la Easy Rider. Young turks ranging from George Lucas and Francis Coppola to Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma – almost all of them film school grads – got their shot. That worked out pretty well, didn’t it?

Even if you don’t want to go the Hollywood route, the options before you are great, because there are so many more platforms now where your movies can be viewed and appreciated.

Out of great hardship comes great opportunity. It may not feel that way to you now, but I’m betting it soon will!

'All Rise' Season Finale Taps Ingenuity and Creativity For Its Final Episode

The whole world is on pause. Your local coffee shops. Recreational activities. Anything deemed non-essential has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic including film production.

Well. Maybe not all major film production. 

For the freshman CBS drama All Rise, putting their season finale on the back burner could have been the safest route for a show that has already gained many critical accolades despite being forced to cut production short due to the mandated lockdown of most of the country. Sure, at the time, they had not received a second season order, but all things pointed towards a guaranteed order for a new set of episodes. Kudos to showrunners Greg Spottiswood and Dee Harris-Lawrence for not taking the easy way out and giving fans an ending that reflects the struggles many face having to traverse life in quarantine.

The finale episode titled “Dancing at Los Angeles,” directed by Michael M. Robin, who also serves as executive producer, was a technical feat to bring together the cast to film their homes using production equipment that was sanitized and safely delivered. The cast members had to quickly ramp up their knowledge of behind the scenes camera work, gaffing, lighting, and even hair and make up, to do the job of an entire crew by themselves aside from learning and rehearsing their lines; and they only had 6 days to do it.

Script supervisor Elizabeth Ludwick-Bax (Patricia Rae/Ruth Ann Miles/CBS)

The episode was shot primarily using conference services such as Zoom and WebEx, with private networks being created for cast and crew to connect and have their video feeds isolated. CGI and other VFX were used to recreate backgrounds such as jail cells and a singular images of a barren Los Angeles county backdrop, shot by a single cinematographer, to give weight to the current state of the world. Lead actress in the series, Simone Missick (Judge Lola Carmichael), described the production as “shooting a very high-budget indie film with a skeleton crew of one.”

(Clockwise from top left) Ruthie Ann Miles as Sherri Kansky, Simone Missick as Lola Carmichael, Lindsay Mendez as Sara Castillo, Wilson Bethel as Mark Callan and Jessica Camacho as Emily Lopez

All of this amounted to a wonderfully crafted episode that still played with the fast paced nature of each character and the plot development, featuring all of the relevant challenges people are currently facing in these present times. Not just for the majority of the public, of which some are able to work from home while others are forced to make ends meet however they can, but for the many out of work individuals in the film industry with projects on hold and to those who are used to the conventional means of production. If anything, this is one of the best examples of how the industry can expand the role of visual effects artists and cinematographers, so long as they think outside the box and have fun with some creativity, to find new and inventive ways to tell meaningful stories. 

The finale episode debuted on May 4, 2020 on CBS and, two days later, on May 6, a second season was ordered. Hats off to them. We should “All Rise” and applaud their achievement.

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking Grad Alexia Garcia del Rio

The idea of studying film never even occurred to Alexia Garcia del Rio until she just happened to walk by New York Film Academy (NYFA) while visiting New York City from Argentina with her family.  Four years later, she was enrolling in the BFA Filmmaking program at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus.

Since then, Garcia del Rio has graduated and earned a job at Daily Wire, where she manages a team and produces a ton of content for the company. Garcia del Rio has also found time to work on her personal projects, including the short film A Land Where Children Play.

Alexia Garcia del Rio

NYFA BFA Filmmaking Alum Alexia Garcia del Rio

New York Film Academy spoke with BFA Filmmaking alum Alexia Garcia del Rio about her film, her responsibilities at Daily Wire, and what brought her from Argentina to producing films in the US:

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

Alexia Garcia del Rio (AG): I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I lived until I decided to attend New York Film Academy when I was 19 years old. I remember the first time I was in New York travelling with my family when I was fifteen, and as we casually walked around the breathtaking city, I stumbled across the NYFA building. I felt immediately drawn to it, something I still can’t explain, and ever since then I always knew that was the place where I wanted to study. I walked into the building right away and asked for all the information regarding all careers there, and funny enough, I had never even thought of studying film until then. 

I got emails and a handbook (which I think I still have with me), and saw it as an impossible dream. So impossible, that I started studying film in Argentina, sure it would never happen. In my family, and at that time, no one had really left to live abroad; in fact, we all lived pretty close to each other. But after a year in Argentina, I got an email from someone at NYFA, mentioning their programs, and immediately that spark of desire and fire came back to me–and half a year later, I was packing up my bags to go to and live something that seemed an utter distant dream since childhood. 

Alexia Garcia del Rio

NYFA: What drew you to filmmaking over the other NYFA programs? 

AG: I have always had a passion for films, from a very young age. At the same time, I shared the same passion with writing and storytelling in general. In Argentina, the circle in which I grew up in was more conservative, and studying something like film also seemed like one impossible dream. So at first I started to study psychology right after high school until, just like when I saw NYFA for the first time, lightning struck me and in one day all the fears went away and I got into film school. By far, the best decision I’ve ever made.

I believe film is the perfect medium to convey all the thoughts of social awareness and deeper struggles I love to explore, that I would have done as a psychologist as well, but in large, it provided me with the platform to make a change at a larger scale. Argentina is a third world country, and as such, there are a lot of things I saw growing up around me that I would love to be able to improve, and film is that medium, resource, and tool to help me do so. I would love to have the opportunity to do a master’s in psychology and sociology if I get the chance to do so, and broaden my awareness and perception of the world. 

NYFA: How did first start working at Daily Wire?

AG: Well, I had just received my approved OPT in order to work after graduation, and I was applying to many jobs at the time–this one happened to be one of them. You could say I stumbled across this job, I didn’t know much about it before. I went to four interviews, and as weird as it may sound, the very first time I stepped foot in the building I knew I was going to see this place again, I could feel it. After the fourth interview, the CEO followed me to the elevator and asked me to send him my short film, A Land Where Children Play. I was very scared to do so, since the film covers a sensitive subject, and I wasn’t sure if it would be well received. But I got a call back immediately after saying that they were so impressed with my interviews and film that they wanted to offer me the position of associate producer at the company. 

Alexia Garcia del Rio

NYFA: What is your job like at Daily Wire? What are your responsibilities?

AG: I started as an associate producer, helping the producers in the managing of all the shows produced. After seven months they promoted me to be the manager of the post-production department, the role which I currently occupy. It was amazing–I could not believe it when they offered me the position. Now, I manage and lead the team of designers, illustrators, and animators for all Daily Wire productions and for third party contractors as well. I have a handle on all creative and technical aspects of the content, and make sure everything is on schedule and budget as well as meeting quality expectations. 

NYFA: Can you tell us about your film A Land Where Children Play

AG: My film is about a sick and old Israeli, conservative man whose values are put into question when he is forced to live with a Syrian refugee Muslim child.

NYFA: What inspired you to make A Land Where Children Play?

AG: I wanted to write a love poem for society, portraying the contrast and power of religion and culture, and how a belief system and the way we are raised can sometimes be blinding or conditioning. Exploring both cultures’ similarities and differences, the juxtaposition of innocence and ignorance, how ultimately we are all human beings–even though sometimes we forget.

I wanted to pass on a message that if we actually get to know one another, we might have more things in common than we believe. How senseless wars are taking over lives, destroying cities, and leaving children scared, humans scared. After all, we haven’t really evolved as much as we think we have. 

I also wanted to portray both sides of adopting an older child, with post-traumatic stress, showing both beauty and struggle, love and desperation in that situation–maybe in the hopes to raise awareness, since I would love to do it myself when I can support him/her.

NYFA: What are your plans for A Land Where Children Play?

AG: I would love to turn it into a feature film, and I would love for it to raise awareness of these issues and topics I touch upon.

A Land Where Children Play Alexia Garcia del Rio

NYFA: Has your work at Daily Wire had any impact on your personal filmmaking?

AG: Well, gladly, since Daily Wire is a production company, I get to do what I love every day. I create all animated shorts we produce and have creative freedom and decision making for every project we do. We shoot shows regularly and I get to be a part of that as well. Also, I am very glad that I can still write, direct, and produce smaller projects outside of work, such as music videos or short films on the weekends, and simultaneously continue to write my feature film project.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work?

AG: Well NYFA gave me all the tools to apply in the workplace, the experience and technicalities I needed in order to excel in my job from day one. I had already directed and produced so many projects thanks to NYFA and the hands-on workshops provided, that doing it regularly was a continuation of my studies. Everything I had to learn on the job in order to produce the live shows was facilitated due to the learnings from the instructors and programs offered. 

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

AG: Take advantage of every opportunity offered. Shoot as much as you can, network, make contacts, and always try to get onto sets–the more experience you gather the best results you’ll get after. Always strive for excellence, not for anyone else, but to excel and overcome your own personal expectations. Fail, make mistakes–but always learn from them. Be very observant of what things you like and you don’t from other fellow filmmakers, and take the classes seriously. If you do, by the time you graduate you’ll be fifty percent there. 

NYFA provides the great opportunity to be very hands on and shoot constantly, but filmmaking is a career that mostly will depend on you–so you are responsible for your own success or failure. Finally, people should take advantage of Barbara Weintraub, NYFA Director of Career Development and Industry Outreach, and her team that helps with training for interviews making your resume as strong as possible. I couldn’t have done it without her help.

Alexia Garcia del Rio

New York Film Academy thanks BFA Filmmaking alum Alexia Garcia del Rio for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of success with her film A Land Where Children Play and her work at Daily Wire.

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Cody Broadway

Last year was a great year for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Cody Broadway, who added two more trophies to his collection of regional Emmy awards. The first Lone Star Emmy Award he won in 2019 was for ELEVEN: Wall Hawks in the Best News Series category, while the second was in the Best special Feature category for his social experiment, titled Crossing the Line. Previously, Broadway has won 5 regional Emmys in Colorado.

Broadway first attended NYFA in 2009, enrolling in the 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory at our New York campus. He credits NYFA for pushing him to “be a better storyteller. They gave me the tools I needed to succeed in the industry.”

Cody Broadway

Since then, Broadway has seen a series of ups and downs in his life and career, and has learned that for most people, your personal journey is rarely a flat, straight line. He recently started a new job with NBCUniversal in Los Angeles as a Visual Storyteller for NBCLX, and will be working on several new stories.

New York Film Academy spoke with Filmmaking alum Cody Broadway about his journey from a small town in Texas to New York City to Los Angeles, and all the ups, downs, rejections, and Emmy wins in between: 

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

Cody Broadway (CB): I’m from the great town of San Angelo, Texas. A small town in West Texas. The population is a little over 100,000 people. When I started my TV/Film career at KLST TV in San Angelo, I was a production assistant (moving cameras around during a newscast for $5/hour). A position I cried about when I was hired. I met a gentleman at the station who told me to leave town and to chase my dream. 

At the time, I had no clue what my dream was, to be honest. I just knew I wanted to be creative and I wanted to impact people. He suggested finding a film school, so that is where my search started. NYFA was high on my list for schooling, because of the opportunity to have a hands-on approach. I can sit in a classroom anywhere, but there is something special about going out and doing it yourself in NYC. My family couldn’t afford the trip to NYC at the time, so we booked a one-way flight and packed one large suitcase and I headed to New York City alone—going from a town of 100K people to a city of 8 million. A huge risk at the time, but one that eventually would pay off.

NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on filmmaking?

CB: Filmmaking and storytelling have had an impact on me since I was young. Some people turn to music for answers, I turn to film. It’s always been a dream to create something that has an impact on people. Something that moves people to think or do. If I do that in my projects then I’ve done my job.

NYFA: The past few months for you have had some major ups and downs – can you go into what’s been happening in your life recently?

CB: Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions. There are few things in my career that will always stand out, and these past three months is one of them. In November, I was blessed to receive my eighth Regional Emmy award for storytelling. This was the first Emmy at the establishment I was working for at the time. It was a special one, and will always be. Not because it was the first for that organization, but because of what would happen next. In the coming days, I would find myself out of a job and unsure of myself and my journey. It was right before the holidays and I was the only one working and providing for my family. All I could think about was my wife Cassandra and two boys, Caine and Corbin. The day I was let go, I sat in silence in my car unsure how to tell my wife that I had lost my job. I believe it was more of a pride thing if anything. A feeling of embarrassment. At one moment you’re on top of the world, winning awards and “living your dream,” and the next you’re jobless and having to explain to your kids why you’re always home. Little did I know this was all part of the journey.

Two hours before I received word that my services were no longer needed, I was sitting in my car in tears in front of that establishment. I was having trouble breathing and had a massive headache. I remember reading an article that morning about praying straight to the heart of a problem. I knew it was something much larger than a headache. I closed my eyes and said, “Lord, let your will be done. If something is not for me, take it away.” At that moment I had surrendered. I then got out of my car and walked inside. Two hours later, I was walking out of the same door, jobless.

I spent the next few months focusing on family, myself, and my relationship with God. I put my career in the backseat and put other things before it. I got back into storytelling for myself. Going after the stories I wanted to share. Filming videos that people could relate to. Sharing my story with people with the hope of impacting someone. The more I did this, the more I fell back in love with the process. To be honest, there was a moment I was considering leaving the industry as a whole.

Then I got a call…

NBCUniversal! I was in contact with them for a few months, but I was unsure where or if it was going to happen. So, on January 1, 2020, I was offered a Visual Storyteller job for NBCLX in Los Angeles! A dream job. One that took me 13 years to land! All of the “NO’s” and rejections had finally paid off. Just when I felt like giving up, the door was finally opened.

Cody Broadway

NYFA: Eventually, you learned that hearing no and getting rejected is part of the process, but how did you deal with all those rejections before doors finally started opening for you?

CB: It took me a while to fully understand rejection. In my eyes, I was going to film school and then I would make Hollywood blockbusters right away. I guess you can say wishful thinking, haha. Rejection started early in my career. From jobs to film festivals, I have a mailbox full of “Thank you for your interest, BUT…”

I always knew with each, “NO” I was closer to a, “YES”. Even if that first yes was directing a weekend newscast back in West Texas in my hometown right out of film school. Over the years, I realized that opportunities come and they go. They are meant for us to learn and grow from. Rejection hurts. It sucks. I don’t know anyone personally that loves the sound of rejection, BUT it’s so important for us to go through. When a door closes look for a crack in the glass. There is always a way.

NYFA: What has facing adversity and rejection in your career taught you?

CB: This industry is all about perseverance and facing adversity. Overcoming the “no’s,” film festival rejections, firings, etc. is key time your success. The odds are against us as filmmakers and creators. Not everyone gets into Sundance or TriBeCa, and that is okay. Be real with people. Life isn’t sunshine and rainbows. It’s easy to put that image out there on social media. People want you! And your story! Once I realized that my career started to excel to greater highest I could never imagine.

NYFA: Do you have any advice for students starting out at NYFA who haven’t faced these adversities yet?

CB: Believe in yourself and your own ability. Be your biggest advocate, because at times it may only be you. Know that some doors may never open, while others may slam in your face, but you have to continue pushing forward. Those that continue fighting are the ones who end up on top. Believe. Believe. Believe. It’s possible—I’m a living example of that.

New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Cody Broadway for taking the time to open up and speak about his own personal journey and for his advice to his fellow filmmakers and NYFA alumni.

The 6 Black Filmmakers Nominated for Academy Award for Best Director

In its 92-year history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has only ever nominated six filmmakers of color for the Best Director Oscar, with half of the nominations occurring in just the last five years. As the Academy, and the industry as a whole, pushes harder than ever to become more inclusive to writers, cinematographers, producers, and directors of color—as well as women and LGBTQIA+ filmmakers—New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a brief look at the first six black visual artists to be nominated for Best Director. To date, no black filmmaker has won the prize.

John Singleton

In 1991—not even 30 years ago—John Singleton became the first ever African American to be nominated by the Academy for Best Director, for his work on the seminal South Central, LA drama Boyz N the Hood. With the nod, the then 24-year-old Singleton also became the youngest nominee ever in the category—a record still unbroken today. In 2019, Singleton went on to direct films like Poetic Justice and Rosewood, as well television series including Empire, American Crime Story, and Snowfall. Singleton died tragically as a result from a stroke at the age of 51.

Lee Daniels

It was nearly two decades until another African American was nominated for a Best Director Oscar; Lee Daniels broke the streak by earning a nod for his work on Precious, the 2009 gritty study of an overweight young woman who endured years of poverty and abuse. Daniels followed Precious with the critically-acclaimed drama The Paperboy, and created the hit television series Star and Empire, both of which featured predominantly black casts. 

Steve McQueen

British filmmaker Steve McQueen had already made a name for himself on the indie scene with dramas like Hunger and Shame before landing a mainstream hit with the harrowing true drama 12 Years a Slave in 2013. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Director, and won three, including Best Picture. Since his Best Picture win, McQueen has directed and produced the star-studded Widows, and the British miniseries Small Axe.

Barry Jenkins

Like 12 Years a Slave three years prior, the 2016 drama Moonlight by Barry Jenkins also secured several Oscar nominations while still not earning a Best Director win despite earning Best Picture. Director Barry Jenkins did pick up an award for Best Adapted Screenplay however, and has since made the Oscar-winning film If Beale Street Could Talk and the period dramatic series The Underground Railroad.

Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele started out as an actor and comedian on sketch series MadTV and Key & Peele before pivoting to producing, screenwriting, and directing, making a huge splash with his debut film, the horror-thriller Get Out, which combined genre filmmaking with a thoughtful exploration of race relations in America. Peele lost Best Director and Best Picture for the film but won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and has since become a major force in the industry, producing numerous films and television projects, including BlacKkKlansman and the latest reboot of The Twilight Zone. Additionally, Peele sat in the director’s chair again for the haunting horror film Us, starring Lupita Nyong’o.

Spike Lee

In 1989, there was some expectation that filmmaker Spike Lee would be the first African American to earn a Best Director nomination for his work on Do the Right Thing, but that didn’t come to pass. Despite earning an honorary Oscar in 2016, Lee didn’t earn a nod in that category until 2019, when he was finally recognized for his film BlackKlansman, starring John David Washington and Adam Driver. A Hollywood icon who many filmmakers and especially those of color have cited as an influence, Lee has earned multiple nominations over the years, but it was for BlackKlansman that he finally earned his first non-honorary Oscar—for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Gino Santos

Philippines native Gino M. Santos only attended New York Film Academy (NYFA) for one week, at the Digital Filmmaking workshop in Kyoto, Japan in the summer of 2010, but his short time at the Academy has left a lasting impression.

Since graduating the 1-Week workshop, Santos has returned to the Philippines and built a successful career as a professional filmmaker, working on numerous commercials and feature films. New York Film Academy spoke with Gino M. Santos soon after he attended an alumni reunion in Manila.

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

Gino M. Santos (GS): My name is Gino Santos and I’m a filmmaker here in the Philippines. I’ve been in the industry for almost eight years now, directing mainstream films and TV commercials. 

I first found out about NYFA through my college friends who were planning a trip to Kyoto to take the 2-Week workshop—we were all film majors in our sophomore year at that time. I told my folks about it and they asked me, “Aren’t you going?” I was surprised! So I packed my bags end embarked on a fun learning adventure with my friends in Kyoto, Japan.

NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on filmmaking?

GS: As a kid I’ve always been a moviegoer, and when I was growing up I used to play with my dad’s video camera and cameraphones, while making my brothers act for me. I didn’t know I was already directing. When I was 15, my mom introduced me to a local basic film workshop which sparked my interest and soon made it my college course and my NYFA adventure.

NYFA: What has been the most challenging film you’ve worked on so far, and why?

GS: I did a movie for Star Cinema, the biggest film studio in the Philippines, called Love Me Tomorrow. It was about a DJ in his 30s who fell in love with a woman turning 50. It was a coming-of-age love story filled with club scenes and music festivals. I had to recreate and make my own outdoor music festival, including hundreds of background talents. It wad pretty epic! Until now, I look back at it and wonder how I was able to get everyone grooving in the shot. We shot that scene for three days.

Gino M. Santos

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

GS: I’m doing an international project with Black Sheep and ABS-CBN this January. I cannot disclose the details yet, but it will be a period piece focused on the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

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

GS: When I went to NYFA, it was a different kind of learning for me, which was the standard Hollywood knowledge elevating my prior knowledge from here. I got used to the particular film terms from foreign production houses and agencies. Also the learning process of working with your peers and friends. 

Until today, I still work on projects with the same people I went to NYFA with.

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

GS: Maybe more to the parents who are scared of sending their kids to another country for a workshop, I say just do it! My time at NYFA was one of the most memorable moments of my life—I got to meet people who are just like me, and passionate about film from all parts of the world. We all learned together and experienced new things in the classroom and in a foreign country. It was worth every penny.

New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Gino M. Santos for taking the time to speak with us and looks forward to following his continued success as a filmmaker!

11 Amazingly Acted Monologues on Films

Whether on stage, television, or film, a great monologue is one of the best gifts a performer can be given. It allows the performer to showcase themselves and focus all their talent and stamina into a page or more of lines and emotion. Many techniques can be used depending on the material and scene, as well as the direction given prior to the take. One thing is for sure, having an objective is key for making your monologue stand out (An action verb or adverb can be helpful, for example). 

Great inspiration can be found in some of the best acted monologues ever recorded on film, including the following:

Katharine Hepburn in Adam’s Rib
Director George Cukor directs this classic poignant romantic comedy, released in 1949, which tells the story of Amanda and Adam Bonner (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) working as opposite lawyers on the case of a woman who shot her husband. Every word in this key monologue delivered by Hepburn is imbued with meaning, leaving audiences stunned even after the scene has moved on. The adverbs could be: to advise, to enlighten, to educate, to guide.

Cate Blanchett in The Lords of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Enter Middle-earth with Galadriel’s intriguing voice over monologue. In The Lords of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, this installment speech sets the tone of the adventurous trilogy. Versatile actress Cate Blanchett both wears the hats of the character elf and narrator with brio. All done with regality, the lecture of the premises of the story is told with empowerment and voice specificity. Here, Blanchett engages, hypnotizes, spellbinds and entrances.

Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin is best known as a silent film star, but in 1940, Chaplin gave a powerful spoken performance in The Great Dictator, a dramatic comedy that takes on the Nazi government in the midst of the Second World War. The film ends with an incredibly written and gripping speech, where Chaplin’s Jewish Barber speaks in front of national television with tremendous passion and truth that was clearly being directed not just to the audience within the film, but also the one watching it from without. To awaken, to push, to fire, to motivate are some of many striking verbs used by the unique actor. The following link showcases the clip and its script below.

Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road
Exactly ten years after Titanic, star duo Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were back together as a couple aspiring for a better life in this mid-50s drama from visionary director Sam Mendes. Their chemistry was as strong as ever, despite being a totally different beast from the melodramatic blockbuster. Winslet is a bundle of raw nerves in a powerful monologue where her vulnerability works not just as a shield but as a weapon. The film earned five nominations at the Academy Awards including ‘Best Screenplay’ and ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role.’ Here, Winslet seeks to awaken, to push, to fire, to motivate are some of many striking verbs used by the unique actor. 

Peter Finch in Network
Winner of four Oscars in 1977, Sydney Lumet’s Network is regarded as one of Hollywood’s greatest films, and contains the memorable line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Peter Finch’s character Howard Beale is a mentally ill network TV anchor who, instead of struggling privately, is doing so on camera for all the world to see. As a performer, Finch needed to make sure his character’s monologues would move audiences within the movie, so it’s no surprise the audiences watching were moved and riveted. Here, Finch provokes, activates, incites, and triggers the audience.

Viola Davis in Fences
The adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Fences directed by and starring Denzel Washington showed movie audiences that theatre-goers had already known when they saw Washington and Davis play the lead couple on Broadway. Both won Tony Awards for their performance, and Davis won the Academy Award for the film adaptation. Her character Rose Maxson is both a specific person and the embodiment of an entire generation of women of color struggling to take care of their families in the mid-20th century. Listen up to what Rose Maxson has to uncover, unleash, liberate, unchain in this monologue. 

Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac
Every actor should know about ‘the nose speech’ from Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, written in 1897. It is poetic and dazzling, rejecting conventional notions on physical looks. A superb and acclaimed performance by French star Gerard Depardieu imbues the monologue with subtlety and nuance, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Here, Depardieu aims to tutor, to harangue, to diminish, and to teach.

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Ledger famously won an Academy Award posthumously for his iconic performance as Batman’s arch-nemesis, The Joker. Ledger embodied the role like no other, with even the most subtle facial expressions speaking a thousand words. However, when he was given time to give full speeches, Ledger really shines, especially in his final monologue delivered upside down; his grand scheme may have been thwarted but Ledger’s Joker doesn’t feel like he’s lost–he’s merely playing his part in an eternal struggle between good and evil, reveling in the chaos as he hangs helplessly stories above the ground. See how Ledger frightens, bullies, terrorizes or savors.

Glenn Close in Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Glenn Close is considered one of the greatest actresses of her generation, if not ever, and that talent is on full display in a monologue delivered in Stephen Frears’s adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, co-starring John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman, and Keanu Reeves. Close’s mastery of vulnerability, femininity, sexuality, and emotional manipulation make for one of the most incredible monologues ever delivered. Here, Close wants to strip, to eradicate, and to abolish.

Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting made a star out of writer and actor Matt Damon, who plays an emotionally tortured, working-class genius alongside a career-defining performance from Robin Williams. Damon. His “NSA” monologue is a smooth piece of editing as it continues from one scene to another, and showed movie audiences just how talented a performer Matt Damon truly was and continues to be today. In this scene, Damon wants to release, to unfasten, to relieve, and to free.

Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard
Gloria Swanson gave the performance of a lifetime in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, playing a faded silent movie star in the Golden Era of Hollywood sound films. Swanson herself was a silent film star, nominated for Best Actress at the very first Academy Awards, and had a lot of real life experience to draw upon for the role. While on its surface her character can be seen as a cartoonish version of her real life self, there is a great deal of dimension and subtlety to the performance, all on display in her final monologue near the end of the film. Now, gather around to enter the captivating world of Norma Desmond as she venerates, denies, favors, and reveres.

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

The History of ‘Star Wars’ on TV

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

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

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

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

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

 


The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour (1985)

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

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

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

 


Star Wars: Rebels (2014)

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

Star Wars: Resistance (2018)

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

The Mandalorian (2019)

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

 


Untitled Cassian Andor series (upcoming)

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

Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi series (upcoming)

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

It’s a Good Time To Be a Comics Fan

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

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

The different incarnatoions of Hulk

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

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

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

Gal Gadot

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Gabriel Marte

7 Must-See Films of Pedro Almodóvar

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

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

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

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

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

 

All About My Mother (1999)

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

Talk to Her (2002)

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

Bad Education (2004)

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

 

 

Volver (2006)

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

The Skin I Live In (2011)

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

Pain and Glory (2019)

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

 

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

7 Great Live Action & School Shows TV Series  

It’s been said most television sitcoms can fall into three categories–shows about friends, shows about a family, or shows about a workplace. Many dramas typically fall under one of these categories as well. One location that’s seen it’s fair share of television series is the school, which can be a mixture of all three.

Here are some of the classic live action television series about school:

Community

Dan Harmon’s show about a group of misanthropes who form a study group at a community college quickly became a cult favorite, and lasted five seasons on NBC before getting cancelled and renewed for a sixth season by Yahoo! Screen. The show, which revelled in both referencing and subverting all things pop culture, launched and boosted several careers, including comedy veteran Chevy Chase, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino.

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks, a period drama about high school outcasts in 1980, also launched multiple careers, including Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, producer Judd Apatow, and creator Paul Feig. No wonder the one-season wonder picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Casting in a Comedy. The show had the hallmarks of Apatow’s and Feig’s future work–pop culture-referencing humor with a ton of heart.

Glee

The memorable pilot for Glee launched a new wave of musicals on television, including Smash, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and live performances of famous musicals. The show worked with high school stereotypes like jocks, cheerleaders, and nerds, but over six seasons it shaded its characters with a ton of depth. Glee covered nearly every social issue a high schooler might encounter, as well as covered hundreds of famous pop, rock, and musical numbers. The show, which included NYFA alumni Chord Overstreet and Naya Rivera–the latter as the deviously talented Santana Lopez–also wore its progressive heart on its sleeve, and was praised for its three-dimensional LGBTQIA+ and other diverse characters.

Friday Night Lights

Adapted from the 2004 film by Peter Berg, itself adapted from the nonfiction book by H.G.Bissinger, this NBC drama ran for five seasons, earning critical acclaim throughout its run. Like its source material, the show was based around a Texas town’s obsession with high school football, but quickly transcended that material to become a grounded, fully-realized portrayal of working class families. The show, and its characters, wasn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, and from time to time punctuated its character drama with breathtaking football action and laugh-out-loud comedic beats.

Saved by the Bell

Originally a workplace vehicle for Hayley Mills about middle school called Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the show was renamed Saved by the Bell in season two and re-tooled to be about the students, now in high school, led by the charismatic Zack Morris. The show became both a syndication and Saturday morning staple for an entire generation, and has persisted in pop culture through TV movies and spin-offs like The College Years and The New Class.

My So-Called Life

In 1994, ABC aired this teen drama that lasted for only a season but dealt with several major issues for teens in the 90s in its short time, from drug use to alcoholism to school violence. The show launched the careers of Jared Leto and Claire Danes; the latter winning a Golden Globe for her lead role. 

Veronica Mars

The first season of Veronica Mars was a murder mystery whodunnit with a clever gimmick–what if the hard-boiled private eye was a teenage girl? Suspects and witnesses came from every clique in high school as the title character navigated a murder investigation with her homework and dating life. Kristen Bell’s winning performance as well the show’s shocking twists and clever, snappy dialogue, made the show a cult hit. It lasted another two seasons before being cancelled, but was brought back to life as a feature film and most recently with another season of TV.

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

9 Great Pirates Movies That Beat Walking the Plank

Pirate films aren’t as ubiquitous as westerns, but they’ve been a key part of Hollywood adventure films for just as long. Between the high seas action and swashbuckling anti-heros, audiences can’t resist a good pirate movie. 

Whether you’re celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day or just looking for a fun popcorn adventure, here are some of the best pirate films Hollywood has to offer:

Muppet Treasure Island

When Robert Louis Stevenson published his novel Treasure Island in 1883, he practically invented the entire pirate genre, including such staples as treasure maps, buried treasure, peglegs, parrots, and “X marks the spot.” The novel has been adapted countless times and in nearly every medium, so it was natural for Jim Henson’s Muppets to tell the story in their own charming way. Brian Henson, Jim’s son, directed this musical adventure comedy, which featured live-action stars Jennifer Saunders, Billy Connolly, and Tim Curry as Long John Silver.


Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney executives weren’t sure what to make of Johnny Depp’s one-of-a-kind performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in a movie adapted from a theme park ride, but once the original Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl became a monster hit in 2003, what they thought didn’t really matter. Depp’s performance instantly minted a new iconic character, and earned him an Academy Award nomination. The film and its four sequels set a high standard for incredible special effects and epic filmmaking, and have earned several Oscar nominations in addition to Depp’s.

The Pirate

If you’re looking for a romance from Hollywood’s Golden era, this is the pirate film you want. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly teamed up for Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical romance, which tells the tale of a woman who dreams about the legendary pirate Macoco. A traveling singer falls in love with her and poses as the pirate to win her heart.

Waterworld

Waterworld, the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release in 1995, takes place in a dystopian future when the ice caps have melted and all of Earth is covered in ocean. The villains of Kevin Costner’s action epic are a mix between classic pirates and apocalyptic oil-slicked Mad Max villains, raiding what little remains of civilization from weaponized jet skis and the Exxon Valdez to pirate and plunder food, gas, and fresh water. Hopper relishes his role as a futuristic pirate, giving maximum intensity in his performance and even sporting an eyepatch.


Captain Blood

Errol Flynn is the definitive Robin Hood for many cinephiles, but for many he’s also the definitive pirate. In fact, Captain Blood, directed by Michael Curtiz, was Flynn’s first Hollywood role. Captain Blood is one of several adaptations of the 1922 novel of the same name, and tells the story of an enslaved doctor and his fellow prisoners who escape imprisonment and become pirates in the West Indies. The 1935 film made stars of Flynn and his then-unknown romantic lead, Olivia de Havilland, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The Goonies

Produced and based on a story by Steven Spielberg; director/producer Richard Donner and screenwriter Chris Columbus paired for this family adventure comedy, now a modern classic and launching pad for familiar faces like Josh Brolin, Sean Astin, and Martha Plimpton. The story focuses on poor kids from Oregon who attempt to save their homes from foreclosure with an old treasure map that takes them on an adventure to unearth the long-lost fortune of One-Eyed Willy, a legendary 17th-century pirate.

Hook

Master director Steven Spielberg was also able to indulge in the pirate genre through the meta sequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Hook’s plot concerns a middle-aged Pan (Robin Williams), who is forced back to Neverland to rescue his two children from the clutches of stereotypical pirates led by Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. Bob Hoskins makes a memorable impression as Hook’s first mate, Smee, and the film includes numerous high-profile cameos, including Glenn Close as the bearded pirate, Gutless. Everyone delights in chewing as much scenery as possible, which made the pirate antics all the more fun.

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is most certainly not a popcorn movie, but rather the harrowing true story of real-life pirates who, to this day, prey on tankers containing millions of dollars of cargo. Paul Greengrass directs Tom Hanks as the captain of the Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage for days along with his crew. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Barkhad Abdi, who in his first role ever, improvised the now-infamous line, “I’m the Captain, now.”

Treasure Island (1934)

Since this list began with a Treasure Island adaptation, it might as well end with one, and a great one at that. The black-and-white film was directed by Oscar-winner Victor Fleming (Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz) and starred Jackie Cooper, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore. While the special effects aren’t quite as sharp as today’s CGI, you’ll still find all the thrills that come along with a solid pirate adventures.

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

Phase 4: What’s Next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

[warning: SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home]


This summer saw the end of an epic run of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), that began in 2008 with Iron Man, and finished with the epic crossover Avengers: Endgame and its follow-up, Spider-Man: Far From Home. The 22 MCU films ended with a goodbye to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, coming full circle.

But of course, like any good comic book storyline, the end is never really the end. While for the first time in a very long time Disney’s Marvel Studios currently doesn’t have another movie in the can and ready to go, it does have multiple projects in pre-production. It won’t be long before Phase 4 and Marvel dominate the box office once again, with both brand new characters as well as some familiar faces…

Black Widow

The long-rumored solo film for Scarlett Johansson’s original Avenger, Black Widow, is finally coming to pass. A key difference between Phase 4 and the first three MCU phases (besides a lack of Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans) will be the clear push to bring more diversity to a franchise that saw 20 out of 22 (that’s 91%) of its films helmed by and starring white men. Black Widow was one of the major casualties of the war against Thanos in Endgame, but it’s presumed this film, co-starring David Harbour (Stranger Things), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite), and Florence Pugh (Midsommar), will be a prequel about how Black Widow was originally trained as a Russian spy and first earned all that red in her ledger. The film will be one of the first for Phase 4, expected to release sometime next year and continue a streak the MCU hasn’t broken since 2009.

Eternals

Another of Phase 4’s earliest projects is Eternals, which is based on one of Marvel’s more obscure cosmic, space-based properties. The last time the MCU announced they were making a big budget adaptation of weird space creatures no one ever heard of, many assumed it would end in dismal failure—however Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be one of Disney’s greatest hits. This film may prove the same, and fills the star power vacuum left by Robert Downey, Jr. by putting Angelina Jolie front and center. Jolie will be joined in the cast by Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, and Kumail Nanjiani. The lineup isn’t just racially diverse and full of women—rumor has it the film will also feature the MCU’s first openly gay superhero.

Thor: Love and Thunder

One of the most beloved films of the first three phases was Thor: Ragnarok, written and directed by New Zealander Taika Waititi. Waititi will return for Thor 4, along with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Natalie Portman, who hasn’t prominently featured in the MCU since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. Portman is rumored to be playing the Jane Foster female version of Thor, wielding Mjölnir in a plotline from the comics. And while, because of confusing rights issues with Universal, there’s still no second solo Hulk film in the works, here’s hoping Mark Ruffalo and Professor Hulk will return to the MCU to re-form The Revengers with his old pals Thor and Valkyrie.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

That’s one kooky title but we’ve come expect the unexpected from one of the MCU’s trippiest franchises, Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumerbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme had a great run in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame arguably saving the day by saving Tony and showing him how to beat Thanos, so it’s no surprise Doctor Strange 2 is a priority for Marvel. He won’t be alone either—Elizabeth Olsen will be joining him as the Scarlet Witch, another powerful superhero whose powers defy conventional science. As for the Multiverse in the title? That opens up a lot of possibilities—Mysterio’s claims of a multiverse turned out to be a ruse in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but if parallel universes do exist in the MCU, maybe we’ll even get to see an alternate Earth where Tony Stark still lives and breathes…

What If…?

Speaking of a multiverse… While the Netflix MCU-adjacent shows have all come to an end, you’ll still be able to find Marvel on the small screen when the release of Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, comes out later this year. One of these shows will be anthology series What If…?, which will show one-off alternate versions of the MCU. It’s not yet known if the animated series will simply be “what if” fantasies or if they will be actual alternate dimensions that co-exist within the MCU—but with Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) voicing the all-seeing Watcher, the latter is certainly a possibility. So far the series has lined up many familiar names to reprise their roles in alternate versions; the pilot will feature Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter and ask, “What if Peggy had taken the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers?”

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The first MCU series debuting on Disney+ will be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, who have become close buddies since the events of Captain America: Civil War. The question is if this show be taking place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, when—just like in the comics—Steve Rogers retired and gave Sam Wilson, the Falcon, the mantle of Captain America, along with his vibranium shield. One thing we do know is that supervillain Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) will be returning from Civil War in one form or another.

Loki

Another returning character getting his own Disney+ series will be Tom Hiddleston’s fan favorite Loki. The trickster god and brother of Thor has alternated from good to bad several times within his several appearances in the MCU, so it remains to be seen what exactly the series will be about, especially considering Thanos strangled Loki to death in the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. But considering the time travel shenanigans in Endgame led to Loki escaping with the Tesseract Space Stone, there’s a good chance an alternate Loki is still alive, and, if set photos are to be believed, possibly living in the 1970s!

WandaVision

WandaVision is perhaps the most perplexing of the announced Phase 4 titles. We know Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), will be appearing in Doctor Strange 2, but her artificial lifeform lover Vision was one of the major casualties of Avengers: Infinity War, and was never resurrected by the end of Avengers: Endgame. So what will this show about the pair be about? The title, a very weird pun with a 50s style logo, gives nothing away.

Blade

1998’s Blade, starring Wesley Snipes as the half-vampire, half-human swordsman, is considered the first modern superhero movie and which kicked off the Hollywood comic book fascination that is still burning strong today. So it was a big surprise at this year’s Comic Con when Marvel head Kevin Feige announced that a rebooted Blade will be joining the MCU, with Oscar winner Mahershala Ali as the title Daywalker. Ali is no stranger to the MCU—he played the villain Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage. But when you have an actor as good as Ali, you can’t blame Marvel for using him as much as they can.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi is a lesser known Marvel superhero, but that’s about to change. The film will be the first from the MCU to be directed by an Asian American and star a mostly Asian and Asian American cast, including Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and Tony Leung. Leung will be playing the Mandarin, a supervillain teased since the very beginning of the MCU when a terrorist with ten rings first imprisoned Tony Stark and inspired him to become Iron Man, and who Ben Kingsley very famously turned out not to be in Iron Man 3.

Hawkeye

Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye came back from the brink as the murderous Ronin by the end of Avengers: Endgame, but he may not be the focus of this Disney+ series. Lila Barton, his daughter, became Hawkeye in the comics, and as the MCU pushes to bring in more diverse and female superheroes, she may end up taking the mantle of her father. The very first scene of Avengers: Endgame shows Lila’s amazing archery skills, no doubt inherited from her dad, before she was snapped out of existence for five years by Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.

And then what?

These have all been announced and are all in some form of pre-production or production, but there’s other projects we can safely assume Disney will produce as long as Marvel keeps making them billions and billions of dollars. These include sequels to smash hits Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain Marvel. And since Disney recently bought Fox and most of its properties, eventually we may see the Fantastic Four and even a new version of the X-Men join the Franchise That Tony Built.

MCU Phase 4

8 Things We’ll Never Forget From Alien Invasion Blockbuster ‘Independence Day’

independence day
Epic adventure film
Independence Day was a very big deal when it was released in the summer of 1996, with an emphasis on big. The alien invasion film, a modern take on a classic War of the Worlds scenario, featured city-sized spaceships laying waste to famous American landmarks. One of the last mega-sized films before CGI began to dominate Hollywood special effects, the destructive use of exploding miniatures—including the White House and the Empire State Building—were perhaps the epitome of the art form. 

 

 


“Welcome to Earth” Will Smith

Rapper and Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Will Smith had a few film credits under his belt, including a lead role in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, but it was Independence Day that made Smith a household name, putting him at the top of an A-List he still dominates to this day. His charismatic personality was perfected in the quippy, frenetic role as fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The precise moment Smith became a superstar might have been when he greeted one of the invading aliens with a punch to the face and the line, “Welcome to Earth.”

“We will not vanish without a fight!”

Bill Pullman’s young President Whitmore decides to fly along with the last of his fighter pilots in a last-ditch attempt to defeat the aliens before all hope is lost, but not before giving a rousing impromptu speech as dawn breaks. That speech, simple and corny, has since become legend, played frequently by numerous media outlets every Fourth of July. Pullman has even been requested to recite the speech in full on multiple occasions.

The arrival of the ships

The design of the invading spaceships are brilliant—a colossal, ominous, 90s modern stainless steel take on the classic flying saucer UFO. When they first show up over the coastlines of several major cities, they arrive in miles of flame and smoke, violently shaking the ground underneath and resulting in millions of strained necks as innocent bystanders can do nothing but look up in fearful awe. What an entrance.

“Is this glass bulletproof?”

Midway through the film, the surviving heroes visit Area 51, where an escaped alien takes out a group of scientists and reveals the secret plan of his species behind a wall of laboratory glass. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) hears enough and asks his military guard if the glass is bulletproof. Major Mitchell, played by Adam Baldwin, promptly replies “No, sir!” and opens fire on the creature in a hailstorm of bullets and broken glass.

Judd Hirsch

Oscar-nominated Judd Hirsch stole the show as comic relief in a film where nearly every single character provides comic relief. Only a few years off a multi-decade run as a sitcom star, Hirsch was old enough now to play the cranky father to Jeff Goldblum’s neurotic genius David Levinson. Hirsch’s character wasn’t just funny—he was smart, discovering the government’s secret base Area 51. “You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?” 

The canyon chase

After the massive destructive set pieces that saw Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York City laid to waste, the United States strikes back with several fighter jets. The aliens surprisingly have smaller fighting ships themselves, defended by impenetrable shields. The pilots are quickly laid to waste, including Captain Hiller’s best friend played by Harry Connick, Jr. Hiller (Will Smith) is the last man flying, and leads one ship into the desert and a deep canyon where he’s able to out-maneuver and crash the alien ship in one of the most exciting chase sequences of the 1990s.


“Hello boys!”

In a film filled with memorable character actors, Oscar-nominated Randy Quaid (Vacation, Kingpin) makes his mark as a Vietnam vet traumatized by his previous abduction by aliens. In the end, he sacrifices his life to save his family and finally gets his revenge, but not before getting out not one but two quips before he goes. The first, and more crude of the two as he flies up the bottom of the ship to destroy it from the inside, is “Up yours!” (Remember this film came out right in the middle of the 90s.) The second, with a glorious grin on his face is: “Hello boys, I’m baaaaaaaaack.”

Jeff Goldblum

Oh yeah, and Jeff Goldblum stars in this movie right smack in the middle of transitioning from idiosyncratic and mysterious actor Jeff Goldblum to walking self-aware personality “Jeff Goldblum.” It’s glorious. He gives the aliens a cold. Need we say more?