nyfa alumni

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking Alum Ilya Rozhkov, Director of the Groundbreaking VR Film ‘Agent Emerson’

 Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

NYFA BFA Alum & Filmmaker Ilya Rozhkov

New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking alum Ilya Rozhkov moved to Los Angeles from Russia to follow his passion. He always knew he wanted to direct films, and he’s always been hungry to learn and expand his horizons, but it wasn’t until he experienced VR for the first time at a convention in Las Vegas that he realized the amazing potential virtual reality holds for the future of storytelling.

Rozhkov is putting that lesson to action, literally, with his new groundbreaking VR film, Agent Emerson. New York Film Academy spoke with Ilya Rozhkov about his film, the vast possibilities of virtual reality and VR filmmaking, and about how his studies at NYFA gave him the tools to evolve into a whole new kind of filmmaker:

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? 

Ilya Rozhkov (IR): I was born and raised in Moscow and all my life I wanted to direct films. In 2014 I was honored to be inducted into the Directors Guild of Russia as one of its youngest members. In 2013, after extensive research, I was excited to go and become a part of New York Film Academy in Los Angeles because of its intensive, practice-driven approach to studying film. LA has been my home since. 

While at NYFA I shot three short films (We Are Enemies, Dying to Live, and Sabre Dance, starring Greg Louganis as ‘Salvador Dalí’) which have been distributed worldwide, featured on NBC, and screened at over 50+ festivals winning numerous awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. 

I was also very fortunate to have met a lot of my collaborators at NYFA. I have been working with amazing alums—producers Radhika Womack and Jane Kapriss, and colorist Roy Sun—since my first short films. 

I have had the honor of being selected to participate in the coveted Oculus Launch Pad VR Bootcamp at Facebook headquarters and be a recurrent guest panelist at Digital Hollywood. 

In 2016, I set out to make on my first VR Film, Agent Emerson, and partnered with Academy Award-nominated veteran production studio CTB, along with The Rogue Initiative—a leading entertainment and technology studio driven by multi-award winning industry veterans.

Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

Lyndsy Fonseca & Ben Aycrigg filming ‘Agent Emerson’
Photo Credit: Billy Bennight

NYFA: Your background is in traditional filmmaking. Why have you decided to focus on virtual reality?

IR: VR is a creative challenge, a whole new way to experience cinematic storytelling. With my knowledge of film and passion for technology I was truly excited to take on this challenge. And this wonderful medium is just beginning to grow—the current state of VR content feels reminiscent of the early 1900s in the history of cinema: so many things yet to be discovered. 

The future is happening today and cinematic entertainment is evolving to be bigger than movies, both artistically and as a segment of the entertainment market. 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about Agent Emerson? 

IR: Agent Emerson is an immersive 360 degree first-person POV VR film. It utilizes breakthrough technology—the Identity Capture Camera®—and other proprietary innovations to drop the viewer into a visceral, action-packed 3D cinematic experience unlike anything the medium has yet offered. It is a cinematic experience we are used to seeing in movie theaters, only this time YOU are the action hero.

We follow CIA Operative David Emerson, who awakens to find himself a subject of an experimental program with his body under complete remote control of the imperious General. With the aid of a rogue operative named Alexandra, David has to retake charge of his own actions and fight his way through the top security facility inside the most complex live-action VR film ever made. 

Directed by me, Ilya Rozhkov, and starring Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass, How I Met Your Mother) and Tony Denison (Major Crimes, The Closer), Agent Emerson was shot in Los Angeles and in Louisiana.

 


NYFA:
What inspired you to make Agent Emerson? 

IR: Virtual Reality itself is quite an inspiration. When I studied at NYFA I visited NAB Convention in Las Vegas to explore the latest technology of cinema, and this was where I experienced VR for the first time. My mind was blown with its storytelling potential. The moment I received my first Oculus VR kit, I stepped inside the virtual reality and took off the headset only after exploring all the content available. 

I kept thinking, what makes VR different as a storytelling medium? A theatre performance shot on a film camera does not become a movie. And in exact same way a movie shot on VR camera doesn’t automatically become VR cinema. So what type of storytelling is possible only and exclusively in VR?

Agent Emerson was one of my answers to that question. And finding tools to direct the audience within VR Film was a challenge I was excited to take on. 

NYFA: What are some difficulties of shooting in VR as opposed to traditional filmmaking that you didn’t anticipate? 

IR: It’s hard to anticipate every challenge when talking about a territory as uncharted and unexplored as VR from both creative and technological point of view. Before shooting the film on set with our amazing cast and crew, the majority of the film was shot and tested in a lab. We prepared and primed everything and were ready when unexpected challenges presented themselves. 

The biggest challenges were definitely in post-production. Every aspect of post was affected: CGI, editing, sound, color, and even music. A lot of the techniques and the toolkit used in traditional film were not enough. My team had to think bigger and beyond, creating new solutions which would allow us to make a better film.

To achieve the artistic goals of the film and the highest possible level of quality, many tools and workflows had to be created by us from scratch. It was like creating a painting and inventing a paintbrush at the same time. 

Not only does VR make the complexities of film more challenging, but also it introduces entirely new challenges, some of them from the world of game design. It’s an adventure which makes me thrilled to be a modern filmmaker. 

Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

NYFA BFA Alum & Filmmaker Ilya Rozhkov

NYFA: Did anything surprise you when putting together Agent Emerson? 

IR: From the many discoveries and surprises there is a clear “top three” list:

1. VR can be considerably more intimate than film, especially when it comes to acting.

2. Understanding game engines and software optimization plays a big part, even though it is a film, not a game.

3. There is a saying that sound is 50% of the film. When it comes to VR and making a convincing Virtual World, sound might be even more than that. 

NYFA: What do you see for the future of VR in entertainment? 

IR: The potential of VR in entertainment is enormous and the medium will evolve in many ways we can’t even dream of today. It is the fastest growing segment of the entertainment market. 

We’re dealing with something completely unprecedented—humans as a species have been telling stories on a flat surface since cave paintings. But VR allows us for the first time to tell stories through worlds which are seemingly real. AND this is mass-accessible. 

Think about it—looking at a flat surface with moving images is amazing , it’s a great art form, a fun entertainment, and it is here to stay. But it’s not a natural way to perceive information. In VR we perceive information the same way we do in real life: it’s set in space around us, it is three dimensional, and we can navigate through it. Considering this, I believe VR will become a normal way to consume new forms of entertainment content, both interactive and non-interactive. 

Moreover, I believe that VR and AR are going to affect not only entertainment but a great many things. We might be looking at the new age of computing here. 

NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on? Are you looking to stick to VR-only content? 

IR: Under my Serein banner we have several VR titles in the works. My focus in storytelling is modern cinema which incorporates traditional mediums like film and TV, and cutting-edge technology like VR and beyond. 

I believe that to become a market leader one must bring impactful storytelling together with innovative technology. And that is the key to the future of cinematic entertainment. 

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

IR: Shooting on 16mm and 35mm film at NYFA was a phenomenal experience and, ironically, working with this wonderful and more-then-a-century old technology affected my work with a less-then-a-decade old generation of VR. 

Not only does working with film introduce one to a proper filming discipline, it also taught me that live playback is not a necessity. It gave me the ability to see the shot by seeing the blocking, the camera positioning, the lighting in the scene and knowing the lens specifics. That came in extremely handy when working with virtual reality where we had no technology for a live VR playback. 

Ilya Rozhkov Agent Emerson

Ilya Rozhkov directs stuntman Ben Aycrigg for ‘Agent Emerson’
Photo Credit: Billy Bennight

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

IR: BE CURIOUS. Enjoy learning, because learning doesn’t stop after graduation. Keep reading, follow the directors, producers, and content creators you admire. Always be expanding your knowledge on film industry, technology and beyond. You are as valuable to the industry as what you know and can accomplish. Grow your value all the time. 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPLORE. Film school is the safest possible environment for that and NYFA will be there for you to lean on and learn from. Exploring is the only way to prepare and be ready for everything when it comes to the constantly-evolving landscape of cinematic storytelling. 

NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on? 

IR: With all its challenging complexities and unprecedented potential, I find it mesmerizing that VR is just a certain number of still images creating an illusion of motion. 

New York Film Academy thanks BFA Filmmaking alum Ilya Rozhkov for taking the time to speak with us, and encourages everyone to check out Agent Emerson when it is released on Oculus Rift (Go and Quest), HTC Vive and Cosmos, and PSVR on November 22.

Q&A with Filmmaker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Alum Dr. Ariel Orama López

Dr. Ariel Orama LópezNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Dr. Ariel Orama López has been incredibly productive since graduating from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, and has the accolades to prove it. His latest film, One, revolves around the incredible devastation his homeland of Puerto Rico suffered from during and after Hurricane Maria. 

López has been and written about by VoyageLA and other publications, distinguished for his achievements. Here are just a few quotes about him and his work:

Denis McCourt (Director of Conservatory & Outreach Programming in Coachella Valley Repertory & Former NYFA-LA Associate Chair for Performance Studies): AG Orloz (Dr. Ariel Orama López) brings a very important voice to story telling through film. Especially at this time in American history. He’s a brave and truthful artist.”

“AG Orloz (Dr. Ariel Orama López) aporta una voz muy importante a la narración de historias a través del cine. Especialmente en este momento en la historia de Estados Unidos. Es un artista valiente y de gran verosimilitud.”

William Lurh (Author and Professor – Film & Gender – NYU Seminar): “An impressive filmmaker.”

“Un cineasta impresionante.”

José R. Pagán (Journalist Primera Hora/GFR Media): “Artist in many ways, Orama is a graduate student of New York Film Academy and was awarded a scholarship by NYU in New York in an intensive summer workshop (about Film and Gender). He was able to share his published book on creativity, neuroscience and virtuality with Lin Manuel on his visit to the Island … He not only directs, but also stars in his stories … The plot of One interweaves poetry and other elements of art with aesthetic value to carry a message about the constant battles that Puerto Ricans fought almost two years ago. Their motto responds to the idea that not all stories/lives have been told.”

“Artista en muchos sentidos, Orama es egresado de New York Film Academy y fue becado por NYU en Nueva York en un intensivo de verano. Recientemente, pudo compartir su libro publicado sobre creatividad, neurociencia y virtualidad con Lin Manuel en su visita a la Isla. La peculiaridad de Orama es que no solo dirige, sino que también protagoniza sus historias … La trama de One entreteje poesía y otros elementos del arte con valor estético para llevar un mensaje sobre las batallas constantes que libraron los boricuas hace casi dos años. Su lema responde a la idea de que “no todas las vidas han sido contadas.”

Damaria Hernádez Mercado (Journalist El Nuevo Día/GFR Media): “The short film One, made in a surrealist tone, has received international praise and awards.”

“El cortometraje One, realizado en un tono surrealista, ha recibido elogios y galardones a nivel internacional.” 

América TV/Puerto Rico: “A tribute to the lost lives and the battles won after the passage of Hurricane Maria through Puerto Rico knocks on the doors of the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

“Un tributo a las vidas perdidas y las batallas ganadas tras el paso del huracán María por puerto rico toca las puertas de la Academia de Artes y Ciencias cinematográficas de Hollywood.”

Nicole Chacón (Publicist/News Anchor/Social Media – WAPA TV/WAPA America): “Without a doubt, Orama is a talented young man who makes his way telling our stories in international cinema.”

“Sin duda, Orama es un talentoso joven que se abre camino contando nuestras historias en el cine internacional.”

 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

 

New York Film Academy spoke with Dr. Ariel Orama López about the film, as well his next project Ysla, his deep connection to Puerto Rico, and his advice for current and future NYFA students:

El alumno de Actuación para Cine de la New York Film Academy, Dr. Ariel Orama López, ha estado trabajando imparablemente desde su graduación en el campus de Los Ángeles, y sus premios así lo prueban. Su última película, One, trata sobre la increíble devastación que sufrió su tierra natal, Puerto Rico, durante y después del huracán María. 

La New York Film Academy habló con el Dr. Ariel Orama López sobre su película, y sobre su próximo proyecto, Ysla, su conexión más intensa con Puerto Rico, además de sus consejos para todos los alumnos de la NYFA:

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?

Dr. Ariel Orama López (AL): I am Dr. Ariel Orama López and AG Orloz is my artistic name. I have combined my formal studies in clinical psychology with additional training in film, literary creation, anatomy, media, paralegal studies and contemporary culture. Currently, I am a professor of psychology and acting, added to an extensive career of personal and professional achievements in different media and educational contexts, particularly as a writer, actor for commercials, television series and voiceovers, principal actor of independent movies and certified coach for artists. I have been an actor since 2001, professionally licensed, and started my duties as an independent film director in 2009. Recently, I was named as one of the Top Young Persons of Puerto Rico.

La New York Film Academy (NYFA): Para empezar, cuéntanos un poco más sobre ti. ¿De dónde vienes, y qué te llevó a la New York Film Academy?

Dr. Ariel Orama López (AL): Soy el doctor Ariel Orama López y AG Orloz es mi nombre artístico: he combinado mis estudios formales en psicología clínica con formaciones adicionales en cine, creación literaria, medios, estudios paralegales y cultura contemporánea. Actualmente, soy profesor de psicología y actuación, sumado a una trayectoria de logros personales y profesionales en distintos medios del país y espacios educativos, en las facetas de escritor, actor para comerciales, series, “voice-overs”, protagonista de proyectos independientes y coach certificado para artistas. Ejerzo como actor desde el 2001, con licencia profesional y comencé mis funciones como director de cine independiente en el 2009. Recientemente, recibí uno de los Premios Juventud de Puerto Rico. 

NYFA: Can you tell us about your film One

AL: One is an experimental Puerto Rican short film with a surrealist tone that represents the strong voice of the thousands of lives lost and the battles won after the ravages of the historic Hurricane Category 5 Maria. Recently, the project celebrated its first year with a continental tour, and has already earned 36 international laurels, two special invitations (Los Angeles and Spain) and 10 international prizes. It is in the process of eligibility for the Oscars, after an invitation to participate in a collective of short films that will be exhibited in Los Angeles in a Premiére block: One is the only Puerto Rican film in the collective, a great reason for celebration for all the Island. One has been praised and awarded in distinguished contexts of the world. The news of its eligibility process at the Oscars has been reviewed in different news media of the country, two years after the arrival of the Hurricane and in full analysis of the weather changes that are projected, worldwide.

NYFA: ¿Nos puedes contar más sobre tu película, “One”?

AL: One es un cortometraje puertorriqueño experimental con un tono surrealista que representa la voz contundente de las miles de vidas perdidas y las batallas ganadas luego de los estragos del histórico huracán Categoría 5 María. Recientemente, el proyecto cumplió su primer año con un recorrido continental, ya, con 36 laureles internacionales, dos invitaciones especiales (Los Ángeles y España) y 10 premios del Mundo. Se encuentra en su proceso de elegibilidad para los Oscars, luego de una invitación a participar de un colectivo de cortometrajes que se expondrán en Los Ángeles en un bloque Premiére: One es el único proyecto de Puerto Rico en el colectivo, motivo de gran celebración para toda la Isla. Ha sido elogiado y galardonado en contextos distinguidos del Mundo. La noticia de su proceso de elegibilidad ha sido reseñada en distintos medios impresos y noticiosos del país, ya en la fecha de los dos años de la llegada del Huracán y en pleno análisis de los cambios climatológicos que se proyectan, a nivel Mundial. 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

NYFA: What inspired you to make One?

AL: I experienced the ravages of Hurricane Maria closely: I live in the Eastern zone of Puerto Rico, the most devastated, so I could closely experience the collective and individual needs of Puerto Ricans. As a media writer, I distinguished the efforts of artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda, whom I had the privilege of meeting recently: he received my published book on neuroscience and creativity and I have the opportunity of briefly telling him about my next project, my first complete film called Ysla. The biggest inspiration for One? The thousands of lives lost and, above all, the first person who died probably east, near the ocean and in a heartbreaking way: there was born the character of One.

NYFA: ¿Qué te inspiró a crear “One”?

AL: Viví los estragos del huracán María de cerca: resido en la zona Este de Puerto Rico, la más devastada, por lo cual, pude experimentar de cerca las necesidades colectivas e individuales de los puertorriqueños. Como escritor de medios, distinguí los esfuerzos de artistas como Lin-Manuel Miranda, a quien tuve el privilegio de conocer, regalarle mi libro sobre neurociencia y creatividad y platicarle brevemente de mi próximo proyecto, mi filme Ysla. ¿La mayor inspiración para One? Las miles de vidas que perdieron su vida y, sobre todo, la primera persona que murió que, en teoría, hipotetizo que fue en la zona este, cercano al océano y de una forma desgarradora: allí nació el personaje de One.

NYFA: What was it like filming One?

AL: One is a project with an intensity aura and bright in images. One year after Maria, in our Eastern coastal areas, the ravages still perpetuated, visible in ocean waters and vegetation. Within all this revitalization process, the sargassum emanated a golden color when exposed to the sun: it was there that I thought that, in so much darkness, our surroundings always shone, despite all that has happened. Just at that moment, the mass media began to present the reality of the thousands of lives lost on the Island; I did not hesitate a second to create the story, become a spokesperson for this overwhelming message worldwide and join forces with actors and singers from the Island recognized in the international scope, combined with new blood on acting and producing. 

It is important to point out that I direct and star in my stories: it is a double challenge. Thank God, all the independent films in which I have worked in both roles have been awarded and recognized worldwide. I find it very difficult to define my line of protagonist and director: my commitment is complete, in both roles. And so it has been evidenced by all the beautiful acknowledgment we have received.

NYFA: ¿Cómo fue para ti grabar “One”?

AL: One es un proyecto con un aura de intensidad. A un año de María, en nuestras zonas costeras del Este aún se perpetuaban los estragos, visible operacionalmente en las aguas del océano y en la vegetación. Me llamó la atención que, dentro de todo ese proceso de revitalización, el color del sargazo emanaba un color dorado al exponerse al sol: fue allí donde pensé que, dentro de tanta oscuridad, siempre brillaba nuestro entorno, pese a todo lo vivido. Justo en ese instante, los medios masivos comenzaron a presentar la realidad de las miles de vidas perdidas en la Isla: no dudé un segundo en crear la historia, convertirme en portavoz de este mensaje contundente a nivel mundial y aunar esfuerzos con actores y cantantes de la Isla reconocidos en el ámbito internacional, sumado con sangre nueva en actuación y producción. Es importante precisar que yo dirijo y protagonizo mis historias: es un doble reto. Gracias a Dios, todos los filmes en los que he fungido en ambos roles han sido galardonados y reconocidos a nivel mundial. Me resulta muy difícil definir mi línea de protagonista y director: mi compromiso es cabal, en ambos roles. Y así ha sido evidenciado.

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

AL: I am in the postproduction phase of a movie titled Ysla (Ysland) (2020). The film aims to present the stories of a current Puerto Rican in his look towards 2020. It is a collaboration of Puerto Rico, the United States, Colombia, and Spain that takes the Christmas season as its starting point. It is a project of great conceptual aesthetics, musicality, poetry and national sense, without ignoring our universality.

 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

 

NYFA: ¿Tienes otros proyectos en los que has estado trabajando o que estás preparando?

AL: En estos momentos, me encuentro en la fase de postproducción de la película completa titulada Isla (Ysland) (2020). El filme pretende presentar las historias del puertorriqueño actual en su mirada hacia el 2020. Es una colaboración de Puerto Rico, Estados Unidos, Colombia y España que toma como partida la temporada de la Navidad. Es un proyecto de gran estética conceptual, musicalidad, poesía y sentido patrio, sin ignorar nuestra universalidad.

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

AL: I remember my experiences in NYFA with great enthusiasm. The opportunity to create short films on the Universal Studios backlot in Los Angeles and the learning acquired to work the acting process for cinema, from the verisimilitude and the internal search, were fundamental to create, through the direction and starring roles. Thank God, I already have more than 60 laurels in my career—and have worked on more than 200 creative projects—adding to awards in acting, production, direction, composition, and script. Being Puerto Rican, in times of political transition to situations that had such a worldwide impact and after a such predominant devastation with a Category 5 hurricane, is a heroic event. 

Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón inspire me; the ability to love his homeland enough to develop a project as wonderful as Roma (Cuarón), with such aesthetics and love for its roots is admirable—Mexico has always been close to my heart. I had the opportunity to share physical space with immigrants friends and they were the first ones who supported me while I was traveling through the streets of Los Angeles, on my way to NYFA, inspired by faith and a precise dream: to be part of the history of cinema in Puerto Rico, from a nontraditional perspective and with a different prism. I feel that I have already done it and I thank God for it.

NYFA: De todo lo que aprendiste en NYFA ¿Que ha sido lo que más te ha ayudado creando One, o en tu trabajo en general?

AL: Recuerdo mis experiencias en NYFA con sumo entusiasmo. La oportunidad de crear cortometrajes en los estudios universales y el aprendizaje adquirido para trabajar el proceso actoral para cine, desde la verosimilitud y la búsqueda interior, fueron fundamentales para crear, a través de la dirección y la actuación principal. Gracias a Dios, ya poseo más de 50 laureles en mi trayectoria -con más de 200 proyectos creativos-, sumado a premios en actuación principal, producción, dirección, composición y guion: ser puertorriqueño, en tiempos de transición política ante situaciones que tuvieron tanta repercusión a nivel mundial y luego de una devastación tan predominante, luego de un huracán tan impresionante, es un hecho heroico. 

Guillermo del Toro y Alfonso Cuarón me inspiran: la capacidad de amar a su patria para gestar un proyecto tan maravilloso como Roma (Cuarón), con tanta estética y amor a sus raíces es admirable: México siempre ha estado cercano a mi corazón: tuve la oportunidad de compartir espacio físico con amigos inmigrantes y ellos fueron los primeros que me apoyaron mientras transitaba por las calles de Los Ángeles, de camino a NYFA, inspirado por la fe y un sueño preciso: ser parte de la historia del cine en Puerto Rico, desde la mirada no tradicional y con un prisma diferente. Siento que ya lo he logrado y le agradezco a Dios por ello.

 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

 

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

AL: For students who start at NYFA—enjoy the process, every moment. Be open to work with colleagues from different parts of the world. May they open themselves to the experience of converting their art into their mission of life and that they understand the immeasurable value of the seventh art as a vehicle for healing. As a powerful tool to create new paradigms. As an ingenious space to realize dreams and great purposes. As a great alternative to understand the environment and to create new horizons. As a free and eternal space to dream an immense universe and an optimal world.

NYFA: ¿Qué consejo le darías a los estudiantes que acaban de comenzar sus estudios en NYFA?

AL: A los estudiantes que inician en NYFA, disfruten del proceso, en cada instante. Que estén abiertos a trabajar con colegas de distintas partes del Mundo. Que se abran a la experiencia de convertir su arte en su misión de vida y que entiendan el valor inconmensurable del séptimo arte como vehículo para sanar. Como una herramienta poderosa para crear nuevos paradigmas. Como un espacio ingenioso para materializar sueños y grandes propósitos. Como una gran alternativa para entender el entorno y para crear nuevos horizontes. Como un espacio libre y eterno para soñar un Universo inmenso y un Mundo óptimo.  

NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

AL: Thank you very much for always appreciating my experiences in fine arts: tons of blessings for my colleagues and friends from my alma Mater, NYFA. And let’s pray for the Oscars nomination for Puerto Rico!

NYFA: ¿Hay algo más que te gustaría comentar?

AL: Muchísimas gracias por siempre apreciar mis experiencias en las bellas artes. Muchísimas bendiciones para todos mis colegas y amigos de mi Alma Mater, NYFA. ¡Y recemos por la nominación para el Óscar para Puerto Rico! 

New York Film Academy thanks Acting for Film alum Dr. Ariel Orama López for taking the time to speak with us and encourages everyone to check out his socially and culturally important work!

La New York Film Academy agradece al alumno de ‘Actuación para Cine’ Dr. Ariel Orama López por su colaboración y por su tiempo contestando nuestra preguntas, y anima a todos nuestros lectores a revisar su trabajo, que es muy muy importante a nivel social y cultural. 

New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Alum Ludovic Coutaud is a ‘Lunatic Clown’


ludovic coutaud hdFrench actor Ludovic Coutaud knew within minutes of stepping into New York Film Academy (NYFA) that he was destined to study acting at the school. He did just that, and now the Acting for Film alum is back in Marseille, France, and writing, producing, and starring in the unique abstract series showcasing the art of clowning, Lunatic Clown in Colors.

The multi-talented actor is also a writer for New York Film Academy’s Student Resources page, and is currently at work on another season for his webseries. New York Film Academy spoke with Acting for Film alum Ludovic Coutaud about his time at NYFA, the art of clowning, and what advice he has for current and future acting students of New York Film Academy:

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?

Ludovic Coutaud (LC): Hello there! I am from the land of cheeses, I mean France, the south in Marseille. I visited New York with my parents during the tough winter of 2010 and never had in mind to come live here. I remember we were walking past the former main campus in Union Square; we entered the building and right away the welcome was wonderful! We went upstairs and met with the Director of Admissions. After a few minutes, I already felt absolutely right at home. 

The same evening we returned to our rented apartment and I recalled having one of the most relaxed sleep of my life, already dreaming of applying to the school. When I landed back in Marseille, still in contact with the staff, I started the application to join the Acting for Film program in March 2011.

NYFA: Can you tell us about your webseries Lunatic Clown in Colors?

LC: Of course! It is an original abstract show, filmed in Marseille and showcasing all the unique colors the company represent. Indeed, I value expressions, eccentricity, and folly—all through vibrant colors. Each episode of Season One introduces a spontaneous and yet structured Lunatic Clown in a real location. It is for all, and a way to escape into other codes of communication and through physicality. The mission is to “transport the audience in an imaginary box”—hear their thoughts and minds.

NYFA: What inspired you to make Lunatic Clown in Colors?

LC: My crazy mind, like my friends say. I would say the audiences in general, and their feedback maybe, who felt particularly interested in knowing more about these likable clowns. When I returned to France, I wanted to keep creating in a new medium, involve the style and work with all that I learned at NYFA mixing other works—my own technique in this brand new show. When I did finish the first episode, I remember thinking of my very first Acting for Film class and the fun we had. Clowning is a very loud, active, misunderstood art but it is absolutely narrowed down like any other through film.

NYFA: What are your plans for Lunatic Clown?

LC: I am currently filming Season Two with the same crew and some new members. This time I intend to release nine episodes. I also have the Lunatic Clown Classes that I will teach in partnership with one company in Marseille starting September, and privately as well. The Lunatic Clown travels, always, and five new cities are set for release on social media, starting with Brussels, then Lisbon, a passage in Madrid, then Moscow and St. Petersburg for their own series. Each city has their own hashtags and can be seen daily on Instagram.

NYFA: You write, act, and produce this webseries. Do you have a preference for any particular discipline? If so, why?

LC: I honestly love the struggle—each discipline represents a great challenge. I say ‘struggle’ because I do all of it myself and it can be hard at times… or a lonely ride. Nonetheless, I never get bored and always can bounce back with a new hat.

Creating a new show on paper is a small percentage of it, then comes the producing game that I like to call ‘team hunting’, gathering the ideal team for a special project. The clowning part is actually the most relaxed or the one that happens the least, which is funny when I think of it. 

It is worth every moment when I put on the makeup—I know it is happening for real and with the people I love.

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

LC: My love went directly for the Voice and Movement classes naturally, yet all the classes have in time helped me improve in front of the camera, including text analysis or even going ‘simple’. Like I said above, the different techniques that the faculty taught me for TV and film mainly had a strong impact in the making of Lunatic Clown in Colors. 

After graduating, during my OPT and while on an artist visa, I had the chance to experiment, work, try, fail, and find my stamp onto the artistic world. NYFA embraced my energetic Frenchness and was very open to see where it was going throughout the program. I will never, ever forget the memorable human creative voyage NYFA was for me. Hooray Acting for Film March 2011 Section B!

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

LC: Make the most of it! Listen to everything everyone tells you, especially the teachers. They are there for a reason and have done it themselves. 

Go audition for every possible student film, even if they are very short or unpaid. The program is there for you to practice while your acting muscle grows. Your craft will never be perfect but it will be sharp if you keep learning. Go listen to the Q&As even if you don’t know the panel and the person—every department is very important in the making of a project and you need to be aware of it. 

Be on time and finally have fun in class. After all, it is acting!

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

LC: I also write in French for the Londres Mag, a magazine for the French community in London, and I am part of the creative team for the production company Vuelven en Vida, based in Merida (Mexico). By the way, they did experience the Lunatic Clown technique too! I also teach English and self-development classes as well. All my work and contact info can be found on this fresh and vibrant website: http://ludoviccoutaud.com/

I also keep in touch with all my New York City contacts, theatre companies for future theatre productions, and workshops involving clowning. I plan on developing the clown with Season Two and Season Three. There are endless beautiful simple stories to tell and I aim to produce as much for now. Three seasons seems enough content to broadcast the work abroad.

NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

LC: I look forward to introduce Lunatic Clown to New York Film Academy one day, that would be such a delightful moment for me! Thank you NYFA and enjoy Lunatic Clown in Colors on YouTube! Find me on all other social medias and remember clowns aren’t just serial killers or freaky folks or work in a circus—they also have a heart full of love!

New York Film Academy thanks Acting for Film alum Ludovic Coutaud and encourages everyone to check out his YouTube webseries Lunatic Clown in Colors!

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.

 

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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

Tom Machell

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!