nyfa alumni

A Q&A With New York Film Academy Filmmaking Alum Jacob Hayek

New York Film Academy Filmmaking alumnus Jacob Hayek decided to use his NYFA thesis project as an opportunity not only to tackle tough contemporary issues, but also as an opportunity to take the international film festival community by storm.

So far this year, Hayek’s film “The Jim Crow Holocaust” received a fantastic collection of accolades from international festivals. The nominations and wins include Best Short Screenplay, Best Rising Star, and Best Ensemble Cast at the Monaco International Film Festival; 2nd Best of the Fest, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Actor at Feel the Reel in Glasgow; Best Short Film, Best Short Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress at WIND International Film Festival, Los Angeles; the Golden Palm Award at Mexico International Film Festival; and more at the Transylvania Cinema Awards in Romania, the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in the U.S., the Bucharest Shortcut Cinefest, and the Sochi International Film Festival in Russia. Whew!

Hayek found time in his busy festival schedule to chat with the NYFA blog about his film and his recipe for success after film school.

 

The Jim Crow Holocaust

The Jim Crow Holocaust

NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

JH: Well, believe it or not, the last thing I wanted to be before I chose to become a filmmaker was a professional wrestler. When I graduated high school, I was sort of discovering what I wanted to do with my life. I got a job at McDonald’s, which taught me a lot about what I didn’t want to do. I was going back and forth between being a pro wrestler and a filmmaker. One day I thought back to my childhood and realized I love telling and creating stories, particularly movies. For fun, I decided to write a short screenplay to see if I was good at making a movie. I absolutely loved the experience, and that’s when I decided to become a filmmaker.

I searched for a ton of film schools in the New York area; I thought it’d be a good way to start. What drew me most to NYFA was that it threw you right into filmmaking. Whenever I set my mind to something, and my Dad can confirm this for sure, I’m like a bulldog: When I get my jaws on something, I never let go. I wanted a school that didn’t linger on, but made us work under that pressure and realism that you only get on a set. That’s what I love about NYFA. It’s for those who are really driven and committed to their craft, and who will get the type of education that won’t drag on like others. It’s shock and awe. Only the best can make it.

NYFA: Why filmmaking?

JH: I love the idea of making an incredible story and bringing it to life for all to see. Making an amazing film requires the most vigorous of research and knowledge. It’s one of the best ways to learn.

NYFA: For our current filmmaking students, can you tell us about navigating your transition out of school? Any advice?

JH: My advice to them would have to be, just keep jumping into it. The more experience you gain, the better you become. Make as many connections as you can, make as many movies as you can to master your craft, and yes it’s going to kill you knowing this might not be your best work, that you made mistakes that could’ve been avoided, but never let it get you down. The reason we fall is so we can learn how to get back up. And if your ideas don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.

NYFA: What inspired “The Jim Crow Holocaust” and how did you go about bringing this film to life?

JH: It was originally a very short film about a little girl sewing a scarf back together for a little boy who was bullied. I was coming up with ideas for a thesis film before I officially enrolled in NYFA. One day my Mom said to me that I was the product of an Arab and a Jew: My father being Lebanese and my mother being born a Jew. In light of all the recent events happening in the Middle East, it hit me that that’s a rare combination today. I decided to make the boy a Syrian Muslim and the girl Jewish. As the election here happened, I added the events of a future with Trump as president and the mass hate encompassing America.

In comparison to many thesis films, mine was beyond ambitious. I co-produced the film with my father. We had actors come from Virginia all the way to Alaska to be in this film. That, and we had to have a ton of extra actors. The one thing that kept this film going was the amazing people who helped us make it, from crew to actors, and the need to create a story about the issues going on today.

NYFA: Your film has inspired an amazing response at film festivals internationally. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and how you found the right festivals for this film?

JH: It came as quite a shock to be honest. We sent the film to multiple festivals to see where it could go. The very first festival we applied to (Monaco International) nominated us and we ended up winning. From then on, we were on a streak. We were both nominated and won awards in countries like the U.K., Mexico, Romania, Russia, Japan, and here in the U.S.

Don’t limit yourself at first, achieve all you can. You’d be surprised the kind of doors that can open for you.

NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for preparing you for your work on “The Jim Crow Holocaust”?

JH: Yes it was. It taught me just how hard it is to make a movie, and that it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I learned that you need to know the rules and the reasons for them if you’re ever going think outside of them.

NYFA: What is next for “The Jim Crow Holocaust”?

JH: Because of the amazing reception the film has received, we’ve decided to turn it into a feature film. We’re going to take our time, do everything right, and create a film for the whole world to see. The screenplay is complete and we’re getting ready to pitch it to studios.

NYFA: Are there any other projects you are currently working on that you’d like to tell us about?

JH: In addition to “The Jim Crow Holocaust,” I’m currently writing a short screenplay for Director/Cinematographer Earl Stepp of “Isomnija.” I’m also writing a few screenplays for other future projects, as wells as video promotions for well known companies and their products. My father and I started a production company together called Birds of Prey Films, and we intend to make it the best there is.

Interested in learning the art of filmmaking? Check out the hands-on programs the New York Film Academy has to offer here!

NYFA Community: 9 Great Alumni Films to Watch

The diverse, international NYFA community is made up not only of our hard working and hard dreaming students, but also of incredible alumni who have taken their skills and created awesome films. We are always excited and proud to see our alumni make strides in their careers. To celebrate some of the incredible work that’s been done recently, we’ve rounded up a list of great recent films made by NYFA alumni. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these films — and the alumni success stories that go along with them:

“Hellion” (alumnus Tanner Beard)

Since graduating from both the 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop and 4-Week Acting for Film Workshop, Tanner Beard has been busy building a lengthy list of credits. On top of directing, producing, and writing a Spaghetti Western titled “6 Bullets to Hell” through his production company Silver Sail Entertainment, Beard has produced the critically-acclaimed “Hellion,” starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis. Beard also served as executive producer of three films under iconic director Terrance Malick and producer Sarah Green.

“The Thinning” (alumnus Michael Gallagher)

Since attending NYFA Filmmaking Summer Camp at age 13, Michael Gallagher has started the YouTube channel TotallySketch, directed the television mini-series “Interns,” “How to Survive High School” and “The Station,” and produced three films; “Smiley,” “The Thinning,” and “Internet Famous.”

When it comes to advertising your work across the social media highway, Gallagher suggests that “you only get so many favors. I knew that the first thing I asked, I knew it had to count. I went in with my first video. I planned it out and made this attack plan and I just carpet bombed everyone I knew asking, ‘If you ever do one thing for me promote this video.’ ”

Yo soy un Politico” (alumni Susana Matos and Javier Colon)

New York Film Academy alumni Susana Matos and Javier Colon have just finished their latest film “Yo soy un Politico” (I am a Politician). The film follows an ex-convict who wants a job where he can make a lot of money without putting in a lot of work, so he decides to run as governor of Puerto Rico. Next, Matos and Colon are working together on getting the funding for “Who Cares?,” a road trip dramedy with the tone of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” Their goal is to begin pre-production at the end of this year.

“Hands of Stone” (alumnus Jonathan Jakubowicz)

After graduating from New York Film Academy nearly 20 years ago, Venezuelan-born director Jonathan Jakubowicz’s tackled the story of boxer Roberto Duran (played by Edgar Ramirez) and his legendary trainer, Ray Arcel (played by Oscar Winning actor Robert De Niro) in his new film “Hands of Stone.” Impressive! Jakubowicz’s advice to young filmmakers: “There are no excuses why you haven’t made your first film. If you feel you are ready, do it. And do a feature. You will learn more from a feature than from 30 shorts.”

“Money” (alumnus Martin Rosete)

After starting the 2-Year Filmmaking Program in 2007, Spanish director Martin Rosete is hot on the festival circuit with the release of his latest film “Money,” an elegant thriller that talks about human greed and how money (and the lack of it) can affect different individuals from different backgrounds.

Rosete says that his time spent at NYFA “helped me a lot in understanding the way things are in the industry, in the U.S.; and the fact that we were literally shooting every week also helped in having the opportunity to try different things without any fear of failing. That is really important to be prepared for the real world after your studies are over, and I am really happy to have had that opportunity.”

“Unsullied” (alumnus Simeon Rice)

In the 10 years since he last played in the NFL, Simeon Rice (also a New York Film Academy graduate) made tentative strides in the world of independent filmmaking. Rice says, “You can’t prepare for something like making a film. The hope is people connect with it, but that’s an abstract thing. You can be the best actor in the world, but you still might not get the part. You can make the best film in the world, but that doesn’t mean people are going to see it.”

“Billy Bates” (alumna Julie Pacino)

New York Film Academy Filmmaking graduate Julie Pacino, along with writer-director partner Jennifer DeLia, went on a cross-country tour with their feature film “Billy Bates,” a film that dives deep into the mind of an enigmatic artist and the arduous, psychological madness that goes into his creative approach. “It’s essential to know all aspects of filmmaking,” said Julie Pacino. “I learned that in the short I directed. It’s just as important to know the business side as it is to knowing your actors and crew.”

“Deadpool” (alumna Ashley Maltz)

NYFA Producing graduate Ashley Maltz is an Executive Assistant at 20th Century Fox. Moving over to Fox’s feature film division, Ashley’s first major project was working on the incredibly successful and critically acclaimed “Deadpool” as an executive producer.

“Birth of a Nation” (alumna Jane Oster)

Jane Oster has served as an executive producer on the Sundance favorite “Birth of a Nation.” Next she is producing “Brighton Beach” and “Serial Dater.”

Ready to learn more about filmmaking? There’s a program for you at NYFA’s Film School.

 

A Q&A With NYFA Alumnus Denis Kulikov

New York Film Academy alumni Denis Kulikov has been hard at work since graduating. With dozens of shorts, a new feature, and a comedy television show under his belt, in just four years Kulikov has amassed a sizable portfolio. New York Film Academy’s Joelle Smith sat down with Kulikov to chat about his experience as a producer. Here’s what he had to share:

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NYFA: Hi Denis, great to have a chance to catch up with you about your post-NYFA experiences! Let me ask, what originally drew you to producing? 

DK: When doing my own short films, I figured that I had more pleasure organizing my shoots rather than directing. I started out as an assistant director working for my classmates, helping them in pre-production and coordinating their sets. Even though being an AD is mostly managing productions, I had created a side to it where I was consulting my classmates on locations, story, cast etc. That’s how I de facto became a producer on many shorts. After that, I was able to produce more short films.

NYFA: Tell us about your current project, “Johnny Red.” What inspired the work? Who are you working with on the project? What is the goal of making this film? Who does this story speak to? 

DK: I started working on “Johnny Red” almost a year ago with my partner Alex Kahuam, who wrote the script and will be directing it. In the movie, we follow a drug lord who despite his criminal activity has a loving family just like everybody else. What we want to show is the contrast. Criminals are multifaceted people with passion, friendships, relationships, and families, just like everyone else. Alex and I have already produced a feature together, so this will be our second big project and with all the people that we are currently getting on board. We are now headed to theaters.

NYFA: Do you think your time in NYFA’s Industry Lab helped you when it came time to look for a job?

DK: I think it definitely did, especially considering that Industry Lab focuses on projects that are coming to NYFA outside of school. Those definitely have different, much tougher requirements. After all, when working on Industry Lab projects, we represent the elite of the school and work with industry people. All the experience and connections that I was able to get while being in IL have helped me in my career.

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NYFA: A lot of students grow nervous as graduation approaches. What did you do to prepare for life after NYFA? 

DK: During my years at NYFA, I knew that once I was out, I would be on my own, therefore I focused on developing skills that would be in demand in the industry as well as throughout my life in general. I focused on assistant directing and producing student films, as it would develop needed skills for my career. I like creating something out of nothing, therefore being an assistant director or a producer was something that I was passionate about. Considering that most of my classmates did not like any of those positions, I had perfect opportunities to volunteer and build up my resume. By being proactive and opportunistic, I had the network and experience needed for myself by the time I graduated.

NYFA: You’re also working as a line producer on a new Adult Swim project, how did this come about? 

DK: The show I am working on is called “Bite Me!” I met its showrunner Frankie back in September and we started working on making the whole new season happen. He had already completed the first season for the web series. After we showed it to Cartoon Network, they signed a contract that upon delivery of another season, they will air the show on Adult Swim in 2017. As of right now, the shoot is almost over and we are excited for people to see it.

NYFA: Any advice to students looking to begin their careers as producers? 

DK: My biggest advice is in order to begin careers in Hollywood in general, you have to be an opportunist. Most of the time people tend to hire and work with people that they already know, so it is hard to break in when you don’t know anybody.

The way I built up my resume and network, is while being at NYFA, I was raising my hand and volunteering to be an AD and producer on projects that nobody else wanted to.

In addition, I tried to be involved in various activities outside of school during my free time volunteering for film festivals and other organizations. Being proactive is what a good career is based on in any industry.

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Kulikov for taking the time to speak with us. You can learn more about Denis Kulikov by clicking here. Also, be sure to check out NYFA’s Filmmaking School to kickstart your own creative journey.

NYFA Looks Forward to the 2017 Golden Globes

The American film and television community awaits the Golden Globes 2017 with bated breath. This year, the awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, Jan. 8 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California starting at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern. “Red Carpet Live,” hosted by Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest, will air on E! at 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific, while the “Golden Globes Arrival Special” will air on NBC at 7 p.m. Eastern/4 p.m. Pacific. The 74th Annual Golden Globes Awards will start at 6 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific on NBC. And don’t worry if you don’t have a television set — TV Guide suggests borrowing a friend’s cable log-in and watching at NBC.com.

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Though the news of Jimmy Fallon hosting and Meryl Streep earning the Cecil B. DeMille Achievement Award are exciting, the New York Film Academy family has its own cause for celebration. One is an alumna’s inspiring accomplishment, while the other is a titillating opportunity given to current students.

Here are two special NYFA connections to this year’s Golden Globes:

Early “La La Land” screening

In December 2016, students on the NYFA Los Angeles campus had the chance to watch an early screening of Golden Globe nominated musical, “La La Land.” The film opened nationwide on Christmas Day.

Prior to the screening, student Sarah Holmberg told NYFA, “I’ve been watching this movie as it goes from festival to festival. I’ve wanted to see it for a long time. I’m really excited.”

The film, which was written and directed by Damien Chazelle (known for “Whiplash” and “10 Cloverfield Lane”), has been recognized by the Oscars, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Toronto International Film Festival, and other noteworthy festivals and organizations. It stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who play out the story of two lovers who want both their relationship and careers to flourish.

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After the screening, which was organized by Lionsgate, student Miriam Sanchez said, “I’m rushing home to tell everyone to buy a ticket. This is my favorite movie of the year.”

Alumnae Issa Rae’s nomination

NYFA grad Issa Rae struck out on her own to make the webseries, “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl,” because she wanted to defy on-screen stereotypes of people of color.

“I knew if I didn’t shoot it myself, it was never going to get done,” Rae told NYFA in Sept. 2011.

That webseries eventually gave to way to “Insecure,” which Rae co-created and stars in on HBO. Rae has been nominated for best performance by an actress in a television series. That puts her in the same Golden Globes category as Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Julie Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”), Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), Sarah Jessica Parker (“Divorce”), and Tracee Ellis Ross (“Blackish”).

On Jan. 5, the alumna tweeted, “Remember watching the Golden Globes last year wishing like, ‘One day…’ Now a nomination? Four more days…”

Yes, now a nomination. Congratulations, Issa Rae!

Here’s more about Rae and her brave (and resourceful) leap into the industry:

Awkward Is the New Black ( ISSA RAE DOCUMENTARY) from Dylan Valley on Vimeo.

What do you most look forward to in the 2017 Golden Globes? Let us know in the comments below!

Q&A with NYFA Alumnus: Adrian Rodriguez

 

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New York Film Academy alumnus Adrian Rodriguez has been hitting the festival pavement with three new films, “Princess,” “43,” and “New Dawn.” He took some time off from collecting awards to sit down with NYFA correspondent, Joelle Smith, to discuss how he’s building his career, his art, and what’s next on his to-do list.

Joelle: Tell us about your latest projects.

Rodriguez: I have directed three award-winning short films in the last two years:

“New Dawn,” won Best Director at To the Point Short Film Festival and at the Direct Online Film Festival. It won Best Short Film at WorldFest International Film Festival:  “Short Film narrating the mystical time-traveling journey of Ocelot, the Aztec Jaguar Warrior.”

“43” won an award at Feel the Reel Film Festival. It was an Official Selection at Move Me Production Film Festival and London Rolling Film Festival: “Julian and Marcos are part of the 43 students that have gone missing in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. Gonzalez, leader of thepolice, threatens their lives”.

“Princess” won an award at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, Hollywood International Film Festival, Los Angeles Cine Fests, and the Move Me Productions Film Festival. Recently, “Princess” was a strong nominee for the “Best of the Best” at Fest Forums Film Festival in Santa Barbara, CA: “Princess is a young good-looking prostitute who works for a man who cares dearly for her. Princess, however, plans to kill him and leave the street business for good.”

Joelle: What was your process for applying to film festivals? Were you surprised by the outcome?

Rodriguez: The process wasn’t about just applying, it was selecting the most adequate film festivals for each of the short films. Target the right market. Platforms such as FilmFreeway and Without a Box are the best for submitting. I was certainly surprised by the outcome. Never expected for my films to win awards.

Joelle: What have you learned in the process of making these three films?

Rodriguez:  Filmmaking is a beautifully complicated process from concept development to post-production. However, the one thing that I have learned is that a great film can be done with a small budget. All it takes is a great narrative, highly talented filmmakers, and a dedicated cast.

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Joelle: Where does your inspiration come from?

Rodriguez:  Life experiences. Traveling. Understanding where do you come from and more importantly what do you want to communicate to those who see your films. Cinema is a language, and such language must have an aftermath meaning — a prestige.

Joelle: What are you hoping to achieve in the next five years?

Rodriguez: My aim is to finish my first feature film. Consolidate a financial deal to acquire the necessary resources and finally initiate the pre-production process. Plus, I hope that one of my films, if not all, get recognized internationally winning a strong award in film festivals such as Venice Film Festival, Cannes or Sundance.

We at the New York Film Academy would like to thank Adrian for sitting down to talk with us, and congratulate him on all of his success!

NYFA Around the World: Latest Industry News from Our Film School Alumni

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Just as the hearts of parents swell with pride and a little bit of heartbreak as they watch their children head off to film school, we too get a little teary-eyed when watching our students graduate before going off to make waves in the working world!

Successfully completing one of the most intense film school programs in the world is a feat worth celebrating in and of itself, so we’re doubly proud whenever we see headlines featuring our alumni’s names.

Here’s a round-up of just a few of the feature films and shows our alumni have been working on that have either just hit the screen or are coming up imminently this fall.

“Kevin Can Wait” – Michael Soccio

Comedian and actor Kevin James (who you’ll recognize from his hit show “The King of Queens” and feature film “Grown Ups”) recently took to the stage for an informative and delightful talk as part of our Guest Speaker Series, and in tow was NYFA’s very own directing alumnus Michael Soccio.

As explained on the panel, Soccio channeled everything he learned about directing into becoming a better writer, and has collaborated with James on a number of projects including the aforementioned smash successes “King of Queens” and “Hitch.”

But the successes don’t stop there. As of this week, Soccio and James have been commissioned by CBS for a full a full 22-episode season of their newest comedy “Kevin Can Wait.”

Kevin might be able to, but we sure can’t!

“Insecure” – Issa Rae

Following her graduation from NYFA, the hugely talented Issa Rae went on to establish the hit YouTube series “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.” It garnered her a quarter of a million subscribers (with the individual episode view counts numbering in the multiple millions), leading her to be recognized with a Shorty Award for the series.

It also caught the attention of HBO, who admired her sheer grit and determination in producing the show almost singlehandedly. A two-year deal followed, and as of this month we’ll be seeing the first of Rae’s HBO work with the release of “Insecure.”

There’ll be eight episodes in total (which began airing Oct. 9) and we applaud HBO’s decision to focus on diversity within its programming.

They definitely hired the right girl for the job.

“The Magnificent Seven” – Manuel García-Rulfo

Mexican-born García-Rulfo originally majored in communications and went on to pursue a career in that industry, but he couldn’t shake off a nagging thought: his real passion was acting.

In a brave move, he ditched everything he’d worked towards and decided to go back to studying, this time at NYFA. It was a move that was to pay off — big time.

Since 2006, García-Rulfo has starred in a slew of features and shorts. What could be considered as his “big” break, however, was a role in the brilliant “From Dusk Till Dawn” TV series between 2014-2015. He’s using that momentum to go from strength to strength, having received prominent screen time as The Outlaw in the this fall’s “The Magnificent Seven,” now in theaters.

“Amanat” – Sanzhar Madiyev

It’s with great honor and privilege that we’re able to report that alumnus Sanzhar Madiyev has appeared in a movie that has been nominated (and is looking like a strong contender to win) the 2017 Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

“Amanat” was screened in May in Madiyev’s native Kazakhstan to great reception, and NYFA will be reporting on its wider international successes in the coming months.

And Madiyev is not the only NYFA graduate involved in an Oscar nominated film…

“Sparrows” – Atli Fjalarsson

“Sparrows” is a dramatic, endearing coming-of-age story set in Iceland, and is the country’s own entry into next year’s Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film.

A celebration of both Icelandic culture and an intricate tale of the 16-year-old Ari (played by Fjalarsson), “Sparrows” is already gaining traction ahead of the Oscars thanks to two critically-acclaimed screenings at TIFF and the San Sebastian Film Festival this year.

We pay a huge debt of gratitude to all our alumni who fly the NYFA flag into their successful careers. Share your NYFA success story in the comments below — we love hearing from you all!

An Interview With Musical Theatre Alumnus Jaspal Binning

As any professional of the musical theatre will tell you, your career can take you in a variety of different directions—from the theatre to commercials, from film to guest starring on a TV show—all in a single day. In the above video, Jaspal Binning, a graduate of NYFA’s Two-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory Program, talks about how the integrated curriculum and professional faculty of the Musical Theatre School not only taught him how to act, but how to handle himself on a film a set using professional equipment, skills that have come in handy as he pursues his professional goals in New York City. Binning has gone from starring on stage at NYFA to guest starring on The Newsroom and being directed by famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. But as he is quick to emphasize, succeeding as an actor in New York City takes persistence and, above all, honesty.

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Jaspal Binning and I studied in the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre and Acting for Film Two-Year Conservatory. I felt I got an incredibly comprehensive training at the New York Film Academy because of the array of classes offered. And now, specifically using those techniques for my daily life as an actor in New York, going from commercials to TV to film to theatre on the same day was definitely provided by my teachers here. The connections I’ve made at the New York Film Academy have helped me incredibly as I still keep in touch with many of my colleagues and teachers. My teachers are still working as Broadway professionals right now. Deidre Goodwin, for example, just finished a run of Chicago. Michelle Potterf was the Dance Captain for that show and Chad Austin is still dancing at the Met. An incredible array of talent and they’re still working professionally.

The most memorable role I played so far was as Joel in The Newsroom. I was fortunate enough to share the screen with Dev Patel and also Aaron Sorkin was directing us that day and it was an absolutely insane moment of my life that I could have only dreamed of before. The training at the New York Film Academy definitely helped me in terms of producing my own film as I learned at the New York Film Academy not only to act but how to hold a boom correctly, how to set up a light stand well, and how to actually aid the scene. It really informed a lot. And that was just being around the incredible equipment and also incredible film people as well. I’d say the best advice to give to future musical theatre students would be to never give up. I see this all the time, unfortunately, but New York City is a hard place to make it and it definitely will happen, but persistence is definitely the thing you need. The best thing I learned at the New York Film Academy, in terms of being an actor, was honesty. Being honest with yourself, being honest with other people, and definitely being honest in front of the camera or on stage.

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Tom Machell Discusses the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Life After NYFA

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photo by Blake Babbitt

The New York Film Academy had the privilege of attending the world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, conducting Acting for Film and Filmmaking workshops. While there, Roger Del Pozo, NYFA’s Director of Performing Arts Enrollment, ran into one of our esteemed alumni, Tom Machell, who was performing in his wildly popular and extraordinarily funny, surreal sketch comedy show, zazU. This was Tom’s third appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and Roger thought it’d be a good idea to chat a little bit about his experience both at Fringe and elsewhere in his career.

NYFA: What are you doing here at Fringe?

Tom Machell: I’m doing my own show this year, zazU. We are a parallel universe sketch comedy group. We’ve created this comedy group from a show we did in London called “News Review,” which is a satirical, political comedy show and we loved working with each other so we carried on. With zazU we’ve created a whole world, so the audience is taken in. You follow a bee through a map and you enter this world of zazU, and we play 40 characters in the hour and then you get taken back out again at the end.

NYFA: Is this your first time at Fringe?

TM: No, this is my third Fringe. I came here before I went to NYFA, when I wrote a play that premiered at Fringe. Immediately after graduating from NYFA, I came with the second show, which was about the first woman to be accepted to the magic circle, and now this is my third. So I’m a veteran of the Fringe.

NYFA: What’s the best thing about coming to Fringe?

TM: It’s the showcase opportunity more than anything. We’ve had a lot of interest in our show — from production companies and a lot of big casting directors. If you get an opportunity to get in a show here, you definitely should because it is great exposure.

NYFA: So what have you been doing beyond Fringe?

TM: I did a German film called Die Agentin, which just premiered in Munich along side actress Angela Winkler. I just shot a music video for the American band The Lighthouse and the Whaler, and I’m writing a film with Gary Morecombe, the son of comedy legend Eric Morecombe, called The Buckets, which we are shooting in October in Malta.

NYFA: Wow! So you’ve been busy!

TM: (laughs) Yes, very, very, very busy.

NYFA: So, Tom, how was your experience at New York Film Academy?

TM: I had an amazing time at New York Film Academy. First off, I met my best friends in my entire life there. I now have friends from all around the world. It was a great place to not only learn the craft but also how to market yourself. I learned about the whole business side of this world, which the majority of drama schools seem to forget about. They just sort of cast you out and then you forget – I need to market myself, I need to update my headshots, I need to make short films with my friends. The Academy has a curriculum where I would go to class and then the next day I could be on set shooting a short film; and then go back to class on the following day. It was constantly working and studying, working and studying, which I feel was amazing preparation for the industry.

NYFA: So, will you be back at Fringe next year?

TM: Yes, we definitely are, with this show. We are currently in talks with BBC Radio for a radio show and that would be amazing! It has been just an incredible time.

NYFA: That’s great. Congratulations on your success, Tom.

TM: Thanks!