It’s here. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is finally here.
After three years and four months campaigning against the theatrical release that was put out by Joss Whedon and Warner Bros., the fandom finally prevailed and the fabled Snyder Cut of the Justice League film was released on HBO Max on March 19, 2021.
Before diving into the four-plus hour epic, let’s rewind it back for some context as to why a new cut was necessary and shouted into existence by the fandom and Snyder himself.
After the tragic death of Snyder’s daughter Autumn, he departed Justice League to be with family. At this time, the film was pretty much completely shot and all that was left was digital effects, some reshoots, and editing. Enter Joss Whedon who was brought in to do the rest of the reshoots and rewrites, however, he was given more creative control. Thus, a film very different from Zack Snyder’s vision was put out into the world. This film was released on Nov 17, 2017. Then on Nov 19th, just two days later, the online campaign for the Snyder cut began.
The original release of Justice League was so poorly received that the campaign to release the Snyder caught traction from the cast and Snyder himself, who began to jump on the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement. Warner Bros. had no choice but to give the fans what they wanted.
(Left) Whedon’s opening cut with Superman and (Right) Snyder’s opening cut with Superman
Snyder was then given free rein (mostly) to put together his vision of Justice League as he intended it to be, and in 2020 it was announced that it would be released on HBO Max. That vision included a film presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, divided into multiple parts, and given an R rating. Not to mention, the film is over four hours long, so prepare to schedule plenty of bathroom breaks and an intermission stretch.
Let’s talk about the film.
It’s good. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. This version of the film could truly have been great had there been just a little less of it. A little less of…everything.
First off, while the story in parts was a great idea in place of the film that was already released and seen by the entire fandom, there could easily have been 30 seconds shaved off of nearly every scene. Did we really need the entire Norwegian song at the end of the first Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry scene? Do we need THAT much slo-mo? And while it was a cool sound effect the first few times, did we really need the wailing Amazon sound effect on every single Wonder Woman scene? Probably not.
Snyder is well known for being an overindulgent filmmaker as evidenced by his directorial style (300, Watchmen, Suckerpunch), with a penchant for highly extended versions of past films and an excess of every detail in some of the most mundane scenes. So it’s not entirely a surprise
Still from Snyder’s “Justice League” ending (HBO Max)
Next is the ending. This film would have had the most perfect ending had the film ended with the final scene of the entire justice league officially assembled for the first time post-victory. Instead, we get an epilogue that’s an additional 20 minutes in length which includes a dream sequence that is completely disconnected from the story told in this film. While the final scene, which was shot for the first time for this release, does indeed pertain to some events that have taken place within the Snyderverse, it would have been better served as a mid or post-credit scene. Placed where was, only serves to confuse the audience.
Important additions that needed to be made.
The most apparent change to the story comes with the inclusion of the storylines for people of color in the film. In the theatrical cut, the people of color who play a strong pivotal role in the story of the film, their scenes of character development, and the overall arcs of some of these characters were completely cut out by Whedon.
Joe Morton, who played Victor Stone a.k.a Cyborg’s father, played an immensely pivotal role in the entire film. Without understanding his relationship with his son, his desire to right his wrongs as a father, and his direct involvement with the Mother Box (an item of interest to the antagonist of the film), you do not have a compelling foundation for Ray Fisher’s Cyborg at all.
Whedon’s cut had Victor’s screentime cut down dramatically, along with the complete removal of scenes with Kiersey Clemmons, Harry Lennix, and Zheng Kai. Most notably, Snyder’s cut gave us more Cyborg, while in Whedon’s cut, the lack of Cyborg was an absolutely disrespectful and full-on disservice to Cyborg’s involvement in the storyline and his own character arc.
Fisher’s anger towards Warner Bros. and Whedon seems to be in full merit based on the performance showcased in the Snyder Cut. In fact, Cyborg is the heart of the film and is the reason this film’s narrative is so good. Cyborg’s story, coupled with Fisher’s performance, is the only reason you need to sit through this four-hour epic.
Cyborg, The Flash, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman (HBO Max)
Other improved elements include Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash, who all receive more fleshed-out storylines in Snyder’s cut. Steppenwolf also gets more on-screen time to cement him as a phenomenal villain with emotional range and purpose. In addition, Synder’s cut treated true DC fans to the reveal of Darkseid and a revived Superman donning a black suit and cape.
This is a new era; one in which the fans can strongarm major companies and bend them to their will with a simple keyboard stroke. With the success of Snyder’s Justice League, Warner Bros. would be hard-pressed to not turn their back on the fans and continue his vision for the rest of the DC Snyderverse. Do they turn back the hands of time and pick up where they left off or is this it?
Only time and fans will tell.
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Whether it’s long-form or short-form content, there are so many different ways to storyboard, direct, write, shoot, and experiment with film. But how does one exactly bring a concept to life from start to finish?
NYFA alum Dylan Mars Greenberg, who has been hailed as a cult filmmaker, explains that it’s all about surrounding yourself with the right people. Greenberg, known for feature films Dark Prism, ReAgitator, and the upcoming film Spirit Riser, recently directed a short for Adult Swim’s Smalls compilation called The Puppeteer’s Assistant, which required a skilled team to pull it off.
The short film, which was comprised of live-action and CGI elements, was an ambitious project that required a group effort to get the concept off the ground from paper to screen and shoot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Greenberg, along with collaborators Hannah Schilsky and Glitter Macabre, spoke with NYFA about how they were able to bring their short to life and create the magic and majesty of the live-action/CGI puppets.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did The Puppeteer’s Assistant come to be? How did it get picked up by Adult Swim?
Dylan Mars Greenberg (DG): At the encouragement of my friend Avi Ezor, I originally brought some of my ideas and past work to Development Meeting, an excellent streaming show which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. The format was that anyone can call in and pitch things to the hosts and, if they like it, they send you a few hundred dollars. They liked what I showed them and sent me some money, so that was a really wonderful way to get a foot in the door. Then, Avi encouraged me to reach out to Dave Hughes, who is in charge of the Adult Swim Smalls and creator of the show Off The Air, on Twitter. Dave was very friendly and cool and invited me to email him! So I pitched him a few ideas, which just didn’t exactly fit the bill of what they were looking for until I remembered a puppet story, which I had actually come up with a while ago. I sometimes would just tell people about how puppets can’t drink saltwater as a joke because my natural sense of humor is to make up facts about things that just obviously don’t make any sense. So I pitched that and it clicked!
New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did you get involved in The Puppeteer’s Assistant?
Hannah Schilsky (HS): Dylan called me up very excited one day saying she had a project she wanted me to work on. While she explained the premise of the story they had written, in my mind, I had already decided I was on board. All of the creepy but beautiful wooden puppets I would get to sculpt appealed to my aesthetic, and the story is so absurd, it’s hilarious!
Glitter Macabre (GM): A year or two ago Dylan told me and Matilda Sabal (who created the miniature set seen in the short) a bit about puppets who drank salt water and turned evil. The idea was very silly and ominous, so I loved it. Dylan and I collaborate often, and when the idea was picked up by Adult Swim we started talking makeup and styling. Dylan asked me to create concept sketches for the puppets.
Photos courtesy of Glitter Macabre
NYFA: When making this kind of short, what comes first: the concept or budget? How did you begin to envision the production as a whole?
DG: The concept definitely came first! I had actually thought about making it into a short earlier, just on my own, but making it for Adult Swim was a million times cooler! Once that came into place, I knew immediately for the live-action actors I wanted Jac Bernhard, who I met on the set of the movie Adam, and my friend and long-time collaborator Josafat Concepcion. I wanted to have a wide array of people with very distinctive voices do the puppets, so I got one of my closest collaborators, actor Amanda Flowers, to voice the princess puppet. Then, I reached out to my friend since elementary school Nicolai Gorden, who is now working as a voice actor professionally. I got Avi [Ezor], my friend Bonnie Bloomgarden from the band Death Valley Girls, who has a distinctive high voice, and I decided to voice the clown puppet myself. The next step was to figure out how to make the puppets actually come to life, which is where Hannah Schilsky and Glitter Macabre come in.
HS: My roles as both a producer and the 3D artist making all of the CGI put me in a position where I felt incredibly invested in this project and wanted to push it as far as I could. When Dylan sent me the script I knew right away how time-consuming of an endeavor this would be to pull off. I didn’t want to limit the story based on how much it would take to realistically hire a 3D artist. Having a producer title and seeing my time as an investment made a huge difference in the way I interacted with every aspect of the project. It motivated me to throw myself wholeheartedly into working on it every night after working a full-time day job. Ultimately, we ended up with a short film that included every frame of the original storyboards and that’s something I am really proud of.
GM: For me, the concept comes first-but both Dylan and I tend to start thinking about how to do something right away. Almost as soon as the idea was pitched she had created a storyboard. Those drawings inspired my designs for the characters. For example, she wanted The Boy to have a little ruffle around his neck and a curl painted on his forehead. We talked about the budget and supplies I would need early on while I was collecting pictures of suitably cute-and-creepy marionettes and rocking horses. Since the film was created in quarantine, we discussed filming the whole thing by ourselves.
At one point she [Greenberg] asked if I would put her in a big white beard and I would play the Boy. I am delighted he was instead played by Jac and that so many fabulous elements could be incorporated.
Photos courtesy of Hannah Schilsky
NYFA: With multiple elements involved (live-action/puppetry/animation), how did you and the crew juggle it all to combine seamlessly?
DG: I know this is such a cliché statement, but it was definitely a learning process. I had done a short film with Khloaris productions called The Bathtub, where we shot the actors on green screen and then composited them into miniatures. So, I had some experience with that concept and felt the best way to do it would be to once again shoot everyone on green screen. Believe it or not, I usually don’t do this, but in this instance, I did in fact storyboard each shot. I think that was essential for all the elements to blend together because that immediately puts us all on the same page in terms of what is happening where. I wanted the live actors and the animated characters to feel consistent which is where Glitter’s styling came in. Aside from the clown, which was fully designed by Hannah, Glitter drew each puppet character in detail, and then Hannah rendered them in three dimensions.
Then Glitter drew sketches of what we’d make the live actors look like, and actually made them look just as cartoonish with the power of makeup. That created a real consistency. Matilda Sabal also designed the set, which is a real miniature, and then I actually was tasked with photographing it from hundreds of different angles, sending it to Hannah, and then Hannah scanned those images and rebuilt the set on the computer. She’s a genius, I still can’t wrap my head around that. Then, there was basically the filming with the live actors, which took about four hours, and once the models were rendered, several sessions of essentially directing the animation like it was live-action. So, in real life, Adam Ninyo was the DP and in the animated world, Hannah is the DP, because she’s in control of the virtual camera, and in a way, she’s like a God. I say that because I’m asking her to make these creatures move in a certain way but she’s the one actually making them do that. It really felt close to directing living actors, I’d never experienced that before.
HS: The true ring leader behind that operation was Dylan. While I was in a work bubble only worrying about what I had to do they were herding the cats, myself included. She was personally involved with every aspect of the production, on top of tracking progress and dependencies, and that is how things ran so smoothly.
GM: Dylan was the center of communication between the production team. Once the script/storyboard was created, things were in motion. Hannah designed the clown puppet. It was perfect and told me how the marionettes should be proportioned, how they would move. I illustrated the other four puppets and sent ideas for textures, colors, fabrics. I looked at photos of the voice actors as references. The Fairy Princess puppet was directly inspired by Amanda Flowers. I believe the first time we met on one of Dylan’s music video shoots, she was wearing a giant fluffy pink dress! I also talked to Matilda about the set colors to make sure no one would be blending into the walls. It felt like a very smooth and positive process to me. I love the details that Hannah brought to life – like one of the King puppet’s eyes being a moving spiral. Everyone’s work came together really well, which speaks to the strength of Dylan’s vision and passion for this project.
Dylan Mars Greenberg (Left) shooting “The Puppeteer’s Assistant”
NYFA: What were some challenges you faced along the way? Is there anything you wish you would’ve known prior to working on the short?
DG: I think I was really lucky in that I had such a great team working with me, there were very few problems. We did however shoot this in a pandemic so we had to keep everything as COVID safe as possible. We had all the crew and myself wearing masks at all times. Glitter wore a mask while doing the actor’s makeup in the first location. However, they had to redo some makeup once we were on set because we had to transport the actors to the set in a car and we all wore masks in the car, so the masks smudged the makeup a bit. I also made sure the actors themselves were distanced from each other, and I shot one scene where Josafat leans in to tell Jac something in two separate shots because I didn’t want to risk Josafat possibly getting even a small amount of saliva on Jac’s face while speaking. So, we filmed Jac reacting, and then Josa leaning in, and combined both shots together in post. Also, I wanted to make sure we had everything perfect with the green screen because so often there are problems with keying and you get artifacts of green around the actors. So, I made sure there was enough in the budget for a really good green screen studio with proper lighting, which BC Studios provided. I had the editor on set to check each shot we did and during a break actually do some test shots, to make sure the green was keying out properly.
HS: This project was my first time attempting to render an entire short film using the cinematic tools inside of Unreal Engine. There was never an out-of-control moment where I felt like it wasn’t going to work, but I was definitely battling with a bunch of features before I took a step back and revisited the documentation. There will always be information that would have been very useful to know before starting a project, but it’s the sink or swim situations where I really level up.
GM: My only wish is that I had asked for some extra time on makeup! It was a crazy hot day, one of the hottest of the year, and we only had a few hours to shoot on green screen. Jac and Josa were sweating in full makeup and face masks on the way to the location, and I was quietly panicking. But I am very happy with how things came out.
Jac Bernhard behind the scenes in makeup as The Boy
NYFA: What are some other parts about making this project that you would like to share?/Is there anything else you would like to add?
GM: This is the first animated film I have worked on. I have been inspired by animation since childhood, particularly stop motion films like TheNightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride-I was very much thinking of those character designs while working on this project. Seeing my illustrations come to life in this way was very special.
HS: For anyone who has watched this I hope it brought you some joy in these crazy times.
DG: I’d like to thank everyone who helped me on this project. It truly was a collaborative effort and I couldn’t have done it without the incredible team of young brilliant artists who all made this a truly hilarious and beautiful short. I’d also like to encourage all filmmakers reading this to embrace weirdness, and if you have an idea floating around in your head that keeps making you laugh, or cry, or feel something, to write it down. Even if you don’t make it immediately, that idea could come in handy years from now.
New York Film Academy would like to thank director and alum Dylan Mars Greenberg, producer and animator Hannah Schilsky, and puppet artist and stylist Glitter Macabre for taking the time to share their experience making The Puppeteer’s Assistant for Adult Swim.
To watch the short, click the video below.
The Puppeteer’s Assistant
Created and directed by: Dylan Mars Greenberg Starring: Jac Bernhard, Josafat Concepcion, Amanda Flowers, Nicolai Gorden, Bonnie Bloomgarden, Avi Ezor, and Dylan Mars Greenberg Music by: Matt Ellin Produced and animated by: Hannah Schilsky _________
Director of photography: Adam Ninyo Edited by: Phill Skokos Model built by: Matilda Sabal Humans and puppets styled by: Glitter Macabre Associate producer Avi Ezor Makeup assistant: Leor Freedman Sound: James Boylan Additional animation: Ezra Pailer Color: Gene Rosati Jr. Shot at BC Studios Special thanks to Dave Hughes and Danya Levine
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Winter is awards season in Hollywood, the time of year when actors, directors, screenwriters, and other creatives are honored for their work by critics, trade guilds, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and most famously, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With Oscar nominations slated to be announced on March 15, 2021, the New York Film Academy is proud to announce that films by three alumni are currently qualified in the Best Live Action Short category.
According to the Academy’s official rules, there are three ways for a short film to qualify for an Oscar nomination. Continue reading to learn more about each one:
HOW TO QUALIFY FOR AN OSCAR AS A SHORT FILM
1) By winning a qualifying award at one of more than ninety film festivals officially recognized by the Academy.
Each year top festivals honor short live-action, documentary, and animated films which can then be submitted to the corresponding Oscars category. These festivals range the globe, from Hollyshorts in Los Angeles to the New York International Children’s Film Festival, from Cartagena to Bengaluru to Busan.
Film poster for “Arabian Alien”
The Atlanta Film Festival is where Arabian Alien, a filmbyBFA Screenwriting alum Meshal Aljaser, qualified by winning the best narrative short award. The festival’s jury called it, “a layered, suspenseful and powerfully strange tale of societal taboos and marital tension, told with emotional precision, silent-film-evoking visuals, cultural authenticity, and startling humor.”
NYFA alum Meshal Aljaser
2) By screening the film in a public movie theater for seven days in a row in one of these major US cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, or Miami.
This year two short films qualified by showing in cinemas.
Film poster for “2ḦOOM”
2ḦOOM[Zoom] by Acting for Film Workshop alum Dr. Ariel Orama López is an experimental live-action and animation hybrid short film about two brothers from the Caribbean who discover what unifies them. Using the backdrop of the current pandemic and the all-too-familiar COVID communication platform of choice, Zoom, the film includes voices and talents from the Caribbean, Latin America, Spain, and Italy.
NYFA alum Dr. Ariel Orama López
This is Dr. Orama López’s second consecutive nod for Academy Award consideration with his previous short film, One, qualifying for an Oscar nomination in 2020. “I feel blessed by the opportunity to qualify for the Oscars two years in a row,” Dr. Orama López shared. “I believe that films more than entertain. They can heal us and represent who we are as humans.”
“Saving Chintu” Film Poster
Saving Chintu by Tushar Tyagi, an alum of NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program, qualified by showing in theaters as well. After a prolific festival run with official selections at over twenty film festivals — including the Oscar-qualifying Outfest and Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival — Tyagi’s Oscars campaign manager suggested they go for a theatrical run. They set one up at the Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles, only to see it canceled due to pandemic restrictions. Still, the Academy accepted a letter of intent to exhibit from the theater as a qualification, so the short is now officially in the running.
“When your film, which talks about basic human and LGBTQ rights, HIV and adoption, is being watched and celebrated at the top film festivals and praised by so many, it is a very blissful feeling,” said Tyagi. “Now that we are a part of the 2021 Oscars race, it’s almost unbelievable.”
3) By winning a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Medal in the Student Academy Awards.
Winning the Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards is what qualified NYFA Guest Speaker Asher Jelinsky’s film (Miller and Son). Starring Jesse James Keitel of the new David E. Kelley / ABC drama Big Sky, the film was shortlisted for the 2019 Oscars.
NYFA students in degree-bearing programs (AFA, BFA, MA, and MFA) are qualified to submit to the Student Academy Awards. Just this past year MFA Filmmaking alum Phyllis Tam’s stunning Fragile Moon was a finalist.
Once filmmakers qualified for the 93rd Oscars, they had to submit applications to the Academy by December 1, 2020. Now, they’re waiting as members of the Academy review the films before going through three rounds of voting. After the first round, a shortlist of ten finalists in each of the shorts categories — Live Action, Documentary, and Animated — will be announced on February 9, 2021. The second round of voting will trim the list down to the five finalists in each category, which will be announced on March 15, 2021. Finally, Academy members will vote for their favorites for the last time, with winners being announced live at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021.
NYFA congratulates Meshal Aljaser, Dr. Ariel Orama Lopez, and Tushar Tyagi on their Oscar qualifications and wishes them great luck. Watch this space to find out if they make the shortlist — we’ll know on February 9th.
Learning how to be a filmmaker isn’t just applicable to being a film director, writer, or working on a film set, it’s also about how you can tell a story and communicate with others. For NYFA Filmmaking alum Raquel Bordin, her skills she has developed over the years, coupled with her knowledge of the film industry, have equipped her with a successful career in film marketing and even starting her own company, Archetype Films.
From big-budget films like Avengers: Infinity War and It, to smaller films that have made a big splash like Ready or Not, Bordin has had a hand in creating how audiences are presented with a proof of concept or a teaser of what a film will bring prior to its release and when it’s ready for home viewing.
NYFA caught up with the Filmmaking alum to ask her more about her career in branded content, her past film screening at Cannes, and more about her experience at NYFA coming from Brazil.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What first got you interested in filmmaking?
Raquel Bordin (RB): I have always been a person with a voice and I always thought that the most efficient way to communicate and show people a different point of view, was through the art of storytelling. Make people think and question things that they have never before.
NYFA: What made you want to come to NYFA?
RB: NYFA was always a dream school for me. I have lots of art formation, and I have built a Very artistic way of looking at life, but I didn’t know how to use the filmmaking tools to do it. The school gave me the hands-on experience that I needed in my repertoire.
NYFA: Do you have any advice for any incoming students?
RB: I think the biggest advice I can give is: nobody is gonna make your dreams come true other than yourself. It’s all about dedication and hard work. If you don’t go knocking on doors, even if they are closed, nobody will open them for you. Focus is very important in a such competitive industry, and you need to be confident in your own skin. No idea is a bad idea; remember that one day someone said in a meeting “what about a tornado of sharks?,” and here we are with the Sharknado franchise.
NYFA: Your thesis film Tip Toe was a critical success. What did it feel like to have your film recognized and even having it shown at Cannes Film Festival?
RB: It was an honor to have my first little short receive so much recognition. Even though I wasn’t totally happy with the movie due to some problems, I felt that I was able to accomplish what I came here for and to be able to become someone in this industry. It worked as an incentive to keep on going.
NYFA: You’ve worked on branded content for some big-name films from It to Avengers: Infinity War. For those unfamiliar, what is branded content and what was it like to get to work on projects like that where you have to work closely with top film studios?
RB: So branded content is the content we make to promote the movie. It’s like marketing packages that I have been designing along with some producers on how we are going to sell the film. I have done that for A LOT of films, and it’s amazing because we are able to watch the films even before they come out in the theaters.
I always apply for this type of job and sometimes I get the honor to make these packages. Prior to this, I worked for Google for two years which helped me a lot in understanding how we are able to capture an audience’s attention and seek our product.
NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
RB: For now I’m focused on working with these big studios, and I have lots of new things going on in that department but, for now, I can’t speak about it due to NDA contracts.
New York Film Academy wishes Filmmaking alum Raquel Bordin all the best on her upcoming studio projects and looks forward to seeing branded content created by the Bordin for some of the entertainment industry’s top films in the future.
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New York Film Academy (NYFA) recently enjoyed virtually sitting down with two of its esteemed colleagues, Eric Brown and Michael Kunselman, to learn more about their military experience, how they were attracted to the film industry, and the visual and performing arts education that NYFA provides. Both Brown and Kunselman also discussed their roles as members of the NYFA Division of Veteran Services (DVS).
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What branch did you serve in, and what were your primary responsibilities?
Eric Brown (EB): I served in the United States Navy and my primary responsibilities consisted of but not limited fulfillment of the roles of a Gas Turbine Technician mechanical, craftsman/maintenance man, and shipboard firefighter. However, in the Navy as an engineer, there are multiple collateral duties that are assigned and must be treated with the same initiative as your primary function.
Michael Kunselman (MK): I was an Air Traffic Controller in the U.S. Navy for seven years.
NYFA: What was your transition like when separating from the military and entering into civilian life? When did you plan to pursue higher education and why?
EB: I think each veterans’ transition is unique, as each journey is unique to the person on it. So, I would classify it as such. It was a hard road filled with a lot of mistakes and misplaced trust but holding tight to Navy core values and the training helped me land on my feet. It took me about a year before pursuing an education and I’m truly glad I did.
MK: I knew that I wanted to segway right into school after the military but was unsure of what I wanted to study. I attended a local community college after the military for a couple of years and knocked out my general ed classes before learning about NYFA.
Eric Brown onboard USS Stethem DDG-63
NYFA: How did you initially learn about New York Film Academy? What were the major reasons that led you to choose NYFA for your education?
EB: I learned about the New York Film Academy through my brother, in which we were supposed to embark on this journey together in filmmaking & screenwriting. However, he decided to continue to serve instead. What led me to choose the New York Film Academy was the hands-on instruction I heard about and I had recently started doing some acting, so I wanted to see if I could really harness such a skillset.
MK: A fellow Navy Veteran that I had met on a film set let me know about the New York Film Academy. I found the admissions process and getting into the classroom rather seamless when I first attended NYFA. The pre-set curriculums were great in that I didn’t have to worry about selecting the appropriate classes in my degree program and worry about being at full time.
NYFA: What programs did you attend at NYFA? What were your favorite elements in the discipline of your study? What was your biggest challenge?
EB: My primary focus was learning as much as I could through taking the Associates of Fine Arts in Acting for Film and then applying what I learned to the industry. So, for me, my favorite discipline was and will always be acting. However, nothing comes easy and there were some challenges. In Acting you have to be open to vulnerability, to emotions, to chaos almost; so, it would seem. These are none of my favorite things and I never really knew much about emotions growing up. I’m from Miami Florida, it’s really not in our DNA but it was a challenge, so I accepted it and went there.
MK: I graduated from the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting for Film program. I really enjoyed that the core classes were throughout the duration of the program and that I didn’t have to take a number of semesters of only General Ed and Liberal Arts and Sciences classes before taking acting classes.
One of the challenges, in general, is that you have people that are trying to get into the industry and in school for the wrong reasons. People who just want the stardom and to walk the red carpet and that don’t have a true love for the craft that goes into being a successful visual and performing artist.
Michael Kunselman onboard the USS Kitty-Hawk CV-63
NYFA: Tell us how your military experience and your NYFA education have impacted your goals in the industry as actors?
EB: The level of training and discipline I received from the military created the spear sharp enough to break through any barrier (i.e. the entertainment industry) and I would say, NYFA (through Acting) helped create a powerful thrust for proper execution. So, my advice to vets who may be interested in NYFA. Take a look at what it has to offer, the community of veterans that whole-heartedly love what they are doing, sharpening their skillsets, and telling the stories we’ve waited so long to tell.
MK: The discipline I learned while in the military and the education from NYFA sets you up with the tools to succeed in an industry as brutal and competitive as the film industry. It’s an industry where you have to be on the grind and constantly be working at your craft and getting yourself out there.
NYFA: How has your experience in the military helped you in your current position within the DVS?
EB: My mindset from the military was and still is that I can do anything that I set my mind to accomplishing. That’s what they prepare you for if you’re paying attention. It’s hardening your mind for a less than gentle reality that there may come a time where you have to do this job or that job and have all of these responsibilities, atop of your full course meal. The military helped prepare me for whatever may come my way, which is now assisting my fellow veterans who are interested in studying at NYFA — as well as those who enroll –with their transition into education
MK: My experience having served in the military; it really helps with connecting with veteran students at NYFA and understanding their needs. Being able to be as transparent as possible with the information on the school helps in that development of trust and chemistry building. Do your research on the film industry and the different schools first and foremost. The New York Film Academy has a hands-on approach to teaching visual and performing arts. You will be on your feet and have your hands on a camera in no time and will get that on set experience in your production workshops. Being able to shoot on the Universal Studios Backlot at the Los Angeles Campus is a unique experience that is exclusive to the New York Film Academy.
Eric Brown & Michael Kunselman with NYFA Veteran-students at the screening of the Documentary Film, “The Unknowns”
NYFA: Please tell us about the services that the NYFA Division of Veterans Services provides to veterans and how it supports them?
EB: The DVS provides an abundance of resources to all veterans, dependents, and their spouses. NYFA’s DVS has a full-service mission to help the veteran community with transitioning out of the military, support through the admissions process, connecting veterans with counseling services resources within the community, special events including Master Classes and VA benefits briefings, and industry resources. While students focus on the classroom, we create an environment of supportive resources such as internships, networking events, scheduled outings, or guest speakers, through the NYFA Veterans Advancement Program, which is Chaired by the honorable Colonel Jack Jacobs, an American hero and recipient of the Medal of Honor.
MK:The NYFA DVS has a number of resources and contacts available to help veterans in many different ways, including post-graduation employment. The DVS is constantly looking to grow its resource and contacts network. The DVS has worked with the local Vet Centers, VA, and a number of veteran non-profit organizations to provide a number of workshops and benefit information sessions. Lionsgate, Paramount, Disney, Casting Society of America (CSA), Warner Brothers, Hire Heroes USA, and many others have visited our campus to help our veteran students on ways to enhance their careers and take them to the next level. We have been proud to have helped NYFA veteran-students find employment and internships at top companies in the industry including Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, and CBS.
The entire New York Film Academy community expresses appreciation to Mr. Eric Brown and Mr. Michael Kunselman for their service to our nation, and for their support of veteran-students at NYFA. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about NYFA’s Division of Veteran Services (DVS), click here.
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Njoki Muhoho is a lover of growing organizations to support people and takes pleasure in scripting and producing films, so don’t ask her to choose one career over the other. The Kenyan native is a member of the International Emmys, the Academy Director of MultiChoice Talent Factory East Africa, runs her own production company, was profiled by Business Daily Africa this year, and was named by the Women in Film Awards as the ‘Most Influential Women Personality’ in the Kenyan film industry.
Earlier this year, NYFA had the opportunity to ask the MultiChoice East Africa Academy Director about her career behind the camera, studying at NYFA, and advice for aspiring filmmakers and creatives.
Njoki Muhoho during MultiChoice Networking Portal
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us more about yourself and what brought you to study at New York Film Academy back in the early 2000s?
Njoki Muhoho (NM): I am from Nairobi Kenya and I am the Academy Director for Multichoice Talent Factory EA. (MTF). MTF is the film academy for Multichoice Africa Group. We have 4 hubs. South Africa- Johannesburg, Southern Africa – Lusaka, East Africa – Nairobi, and West Africa – Lagos.
In East Africa, our Hub caters to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. I’m also the founder of – Zebra Productions Kenya Ltd where I am the Executive Producer. I have been in the film industry for about 18 years and I have a dual career in Management Consultancy, including a Pricewaterhouse background with 30 years of experience in Organisation Development.
From my school days, I always enjoyed, creative writing. In 1996, while busy with my consulting career, Multichoice/Mnet launched a scriptwriting competition and I had never seen a film script let alone know a filmmaker. But I was confident in my ability to tell a story, so I entered the competition and ended up becoming the national winner. I remember thinking, ’This is a fluke or I might have innate talent.’ I then promised myself that one day, I would take at least a six-month sabbatical and go away to learn filmmaking. I also promised myself that I would have to learn with the experts, no matter how much it cost.
For over two years, I quietly researched. I wrote to institutions and finally decided on NYFA. I choose Los Angeles based on the weather. I did not want to experience a cold winter in New York!
NYFA: After finishing your studies, what was that transition like coming back to Kenya?
NM: There was fear that I may not get opportunities to apply the highest level of sophisticated skills that I had learned and I worried about how I would fund my productions. In the middle of planning for upcoming productions, I also needed to go back to consultancy just to make ends meet.
NYFA:Can you tell us a bit about your current positions (MultiChoice, Zebra Productions, Emmy’s) and what it’s like juggling all of them? What keeps you inspired?
NM: Multichoice Talent Factory – Academy Director: This was an advertised and competitive job, but I got it. I run the academy of 20 students. The academy is a practical film immersion for adult students who already have a maximum of 2 years of experience in filmmaking.
Zebra Productions Kenya Ltd: I am the founder of this company. I was commissioned to produce the first high-end drama series in E.A by Mnet (Multichoice), I was also Co-Executive Producer for 75 made-for-tv, feature films for Multichoice channels. My first fully owned drama series, Mama Duka, won the prestigious Best Indigenous Film/TV Series East Africa 2014. It later went on to win four more awards.
International Emmys: I am a Member of the International Emmys. The only East and Central African.; a situation I am working hard to change. I have just endorsed 12 of my colleagues in the industry to join the International Emmys. I have also done Jury work for the International Emmys for the last four years. I find the experience very enriching and it provides a benchmark of the quality of content. I attended the International Emmys Festival and Gala last year. It was very educational with fantastic networking opportunities.
NYFA:What are your goals and what’s next for you?
NM: To ensure I streamline MTF and find a successor. Then, I will put full-time work in my production company. I want to produce proudly and authenticate African content for International and local audiences. I need to produce more.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you are applying or plan to apply directly to your work?
NM: Plenty. Set standards in your work and stick to them. Let it be your brand. Tell your stories. Understand why others tell their stories in their own way (e.g. the Hollywood template), but not to copycat but, instead, benchmark and tailor. At the time, I was the only non-American student in my class. I constantly insisted on translating skills learned into Africa content. Not always easy, but I feel I stayed true to who I am, and learning from practicing filmmakers was an amazing experience.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
NM: Be truthful to yourself and your background. Learn everything and then learn more. There is more to learn at NYFA than just what is in your super busy schedule. Have curiosity. Talk to other students in other departments. Be open-minded. Accept criticism of your work as a means to grow. Don’t waste time defending yourself. Even when you do not agree, still learn how to do it differently. Criticism of work comes hard-hitting at NYFA. Have a thick skin and a light attitude. Keep the contacts; they will come in handy later in your career.
New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA alum Njoki Muhoho for taking the time to share about her life, experiences in the industry, and the importance of staying truthful when creating.
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.
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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.
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 Heraldand 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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
CNN Heroes: Real-Life Heroes in the Age of Coronavirus
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.
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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 filmMinha 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 Brazilor 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.
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!
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 of a stroke at the age of 51.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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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.
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!
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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, Blanchettengages, hypnotizes, spellbinds, and entrances.
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.
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 the 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.
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.
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 makes 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.
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 planetKashyyyk 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 shortanimated 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, 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 nearlynothing 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.
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