NYFA alumna

NYFA Alumna Niki Landella: In Her Own Words

By Niki Landella

My experience at the NYFA was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done for myself, for my spirit, for my artistic process and for my personal and professional development.

I only spent four weeks there and I am an entirely different woman as a result.

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Photo provided by Niki Landella.

Picture this:

Picture perfect facilities, the Statue of Liberty in the distance and an amazing view; state-of-the-art equipment, people from all over the world in one building studying with you, every single teacher with credentials which, when mentioned, could easily be mistaken for name dropping — but none of that is what really makes NYFA special.

For me, the best part about NYFA was the souls I encountered and the depth of the humans with whom I had the privilege of interacting. My experience was one of absolute respect and dignity.

Each and every teacher encouraged me to trust myself more, and I think this has something to do with the success that they have already experienced in their lives. There is something about people who have already experienced legitimate success in their careers — they don’t need to put you down in order to get a sense of significance. I think because they had already experienced professional fulfillment, their teaching process was free of the subconscious agendas I find many teachers in the arts have. I speak as an individual who has grown up in the arts and has been in the arts for 15 years.

No NYFA teacher ever motivated me through shame. I found myself doing things I had struggled with for years, just because my NYFA teachers had the necessary patience with me. I absolutely blossomed under their nurturing.

In improv class I was taught to listen to my own inner compass.

In Meisner I was taught to listen to others.

In dance I was taught to give myself the dignity of my process in getting to know my body. In singing I learned to trust my own voice.

In lab classes I also learned to respond to my own inner stimuli.

Music teachers all gave me the comfort of knowing that, with enough patience, I am capable of understanding what I once thought of as a complex art; to trust that there is music inside of me, and that they would be willing to help me unlock it.

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Photo provided by Niki Landella.

There’s something indescribably beautiful and empowering about the culture of respect under which I found the New York Film Academy to operate.

Then there are the classmates. I know it may sound like a luxury to have global classmates, but picture this: You’re sitting in music theory, and an Italian word like “Acapella” comes up. Your actual Italian friend from actual Italy who is sitting next to you says, “In my language that word means ‘in the chapel,’ because acapella music was first sung at church,” and then the music teacher responds and gives you all the historical data on that.

Now imagine how many of these little serendipitous moments you have every day, which add so much to your store of knowledge and such depth of calibre to your education in a way that few schools are able to provide on this globe. And I say that as someone who has lived on three continents.

Then there is just something about New York. In the arts at least, New York is where the best of the best go to refine themselves. When you are in New York you are swimming with the big fish and you have an unparalleled wealth of resources at your fingertips.

My short time at the New York Film Academy was worth every penny, every drop of sweat that went into getting there — and then some. I would recommend a course at the New York Film Academy, at any of their campuses, to any individual who considers themselves serious about being a storyteller in any field. They source the best of the best, they give you their absolute best every day, and all they ask for in return is that you give your best. There is a culture of excellence coupled with a culture of respect. There is absolutely no way one can walk away from such an experience without being deeply enriched.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Niki Landella for taking the time to share her story about her wonderful experience in our musical theatre program. We are so glad to have you in our community, and can’t wait to hear about your next adventures!

 

A Q&A With NYFA Producing Alumna Yuxiao Wang

New York Film Academy Alumna Yuxiao Wang had a long road to get to NYFA. After three countries, two degrees, and a ton of work, she’s well on her way to becoming an outstanding producer. Wang spent some time speaking to NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith about her amazing journey.

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Photo provided by Yuxiao Wang.

Joelle Smith: Can you tell me a little about the project you’re working on and your role within the project?

Yuxiao Wang: I just finished producing a 75-minute web feature five days ago. I have two more features coming up in November, where I am both the line producer and associate producer. Two of these three films will be distributed online and the other is seeking theater distribution.

JS: Can you give me a little more detail about your journey from China, to Japan, to the U.S.?

YW: I learned Japanese literature in China and exchanged to Japan for a year in 2013. While there I majored in animation. I always wanted to learn film or work in the film industry, but during that time I didn’t have any knowledge about film. Then my parents agreed to support me while I worked on my master’s degree in America. I chose NYFA because it focuses on hands-on practice, and the producing program will cover a lot of secrets of how to make a film. Soon I was working as a producer in LA.

JS: What were some of the challenges you faced?

YW: The biggest challenge for me is language. As a foreigner, I am not able to read the scripts as quickly as native speakers do, and because of this reason, I think I missed a lot of job opportunities. I am very confident with my skills but when I submit my resume I know they’re often looking to hire fluent speakers.

The other challenge is my visa. I am currently at my OPT and not a lot of companies want to sponsor a foreign student for a work visa. That’s why it is hard for us to find a job here. So, I am working freelance now.

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Photo provided by Yuxiao Wang.

JS: What were some of the greatest joys you experienced throughout your journey?

YW: I am really happy I finally choose to work in the film industry even though it is very hard. In my country if you choose to learn acting, directing, or producing as your major in your college, not a lot of parents will support you because they think this industry is very dangerous. I finally got a chance to learn my major and started my career as a producer. I met a lot of cool people here, and they are very creative, passionate and trying to make something to change the world. I don’t like a boring life of sitting in the office. That’s why even though this job is very hard, I still keep doing it, because every second I am working on the things I am interested in, I feel like I am alive.

JS: What do you like best about attending the New York Film Academy?

YW: They are very friendly to all the students from all over the world and won’t force you to have a film related major in your undergraduate — which is very important to me, as my major was Japanese education. I think that was the initial attraction.

JS: What did you learn here that’s helped you the most in your latest filmmaking project?

YW: I think entertainment law is very important. We learned to go over all the paperwork, including documents and contracts, to make sure everything goes well. We were trained in our class to pay attention to details and developed great knowledge of the possible disputes and infringements during a production. The last feature I worked on had a 50-person crew and around 100 actors. We shot for 24 days and on 30 locations, but using the knowledge I learned, we didn’t have any problems.

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Photo provided by Yuxiao Wang.

JS: What projects are you working on now and where can people interested in your work find you?

YW: I am in the distribution stage of a feature I produced called “Talentik.” It will be released in Chinese major streaming media platform “Sohu Video” on February 24.

And I am also shooting a major Chinese TV show in Hawaii now, starring A-list stars, and it will be on the major network and TV. This is the second series of this show, and the first series was the highest-rated drama of 2016 with an average national viewership rating of 2.63 percent. It had a 5.47 billion hit amount online and 379,000 related comments, and also aired on a major TV network, Hunan TV, in China.

I have two additional features I’m currently working on. One is romantic, and the other is a drama we’re developing and will be shot on the West Coast this year.

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ms. Wang for taking the time to share her story. You can find more of Yuxiao Wang’s work by clicking here. Interested in learning more about film production? Check out New York Film Academy’s Producing School!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYFA: Favorite NYFA moment?

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

NYFA: What’s inspiring you right now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Q&A with NYFA alumna Jessica Myhill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you discover any new artistic inspirations from other cultures?

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

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

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

What’s inspiring you right now?

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

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What’s your favorite film?

“American Beauty”!

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

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

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

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

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