SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE
by Christina DiMartino
The New York Film Academy lineup of camp programs accommodates kids as young as 10 to teens and young adults, and in virtually every sector of the film and acting industry. Besides an extensive selection of summer programs, NYFA offers weekend programs of various lengths for kids ages 10-13 during the school year. The numerous tween programs are packed with the same high standards that apply to high school and university level programs.
If it’s not convenient to get your child to New York City—don’t fret. The academy also offers programs at several other locations: Universal Studios in Hollywood, California; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Disney Studios in Orlando, Florida—not to mention Florence, Italy; Paris, France; and Lugano, Switzerland.
And, if your parenting style means that you believe a passion for learning starts at the educator level, the NYFA camp faculty includes a repertoire of producers, professors, directors, actors, screenwriters, visual effects experts, cinematographers, writers and other seasoned professionals, all of whom administer under the guidance of NYFA staff members like Michael Sandoval, co-chair of one-year filmmaking, director of cultural programs, and director of the summer program in New York City.
“NYFA’s camp programs are a wonderful opportunity for young people who have an interest in these fields because they otherwise don’t have access to the material we introduce them to until they are in their third or fourth year of college,” says Sandoval. “We do a good job of letting parents know that this is a program for kids who have already expressed an interest in these areas. They don’t need extensive experience, but they should have an interest because we really work them, sourcing that work straight from the heart.”
Sandoval says the camp programs provide technical skills, which are the foundation of what these arts are about—not just film acting, but also screenwriting, broadcast journalism, theater and much more.
Teamwork is key
“Here kids learn about the basic craft,” says Sandoval. “They engage in exercises, debates and field work. They work with their hands continually, learning and fine tuning their skills. We provide a forum for them to do a lot of practice together as a group, and that always results in strong camaraderie and teamwork.”
There is absolutely no room or tolerance for bullying at NYFA. Sandoval says no hierarchy is permitted, and a lid is put on mistreatment of any kind. Students come from around the world, so they form friendships in more intense ways. They are dependent on each other for both their individual success and the group’s success, and that dependency helps to polish their human relationship skills.
“It’s either sink or swim in our programs,” he says. “The kids succeed or they fail—but they do it together.”
Programs, accommodations and supervision
“We run a tight ship at NYFA campuses,” says Sandoval. “Students have good supervision, and their instructors and caretakers give them constant feedback. We’re serious about their welfare and safety, so we’re on top of them 24/7. Nor do we tolerate inappropriate behavior, including drug or alcohol use. If there is just one incident, that student is out.”
The NYFA guest speaker list reads like a Who’s Who stroll down the Academy Awards’ red carpet. Previous speakers have included Kevin Spacey, Ben Stiller, Ron Howard, Glenn Close, Philip Seymour Hoffman and too many more to list.
Program dates, details and tuition vary depending on the NYFA camp program. But all offer a variety of options. Depending on the topic, sessions are available in one, two, three, four, six and 12-week programs. Students can commute or be in residency during the sessions. Tuitions range from about $1,000 to $7,250, respectively.
Kids’ camps—for 10- to 13-year-olds—include film, acting and animation programs. The teen camp lineup is film, acting, musical theater, broadcast journalism, 3-D animation, screenwriting, video game design and music video programs.
Accommodations also vary depending on the NYFA campus location and program. In New York City, as an example, double and triple furnished rooms offer twin beds with storage, flat-screen TV with DVD player, high-speed internet, refrigerator, microwave, desks, large windows, and a private bathroom. A “quiet” lounge provides students with a place to study together, while a more activities-based lounge features a pool table and large flat-screen TV. A fully equipped fitness center is available as well as communal kitchen facilities and a computer lounge.
At the Harvard University NYFA campus, students reside in dormitories on campus. In Los Angeles, campers stay in plush, boutique-style apartments with swimming pools and gyms.
Every camper walks away a success
Sandoval says that while not all campers end up making a career in the film or acting industries, they all walk away with great craft skills and with a better knowledge of teamwork.
“Some of the groups form such strong bonds that they cry when their session ends,” he says. “They share a tremendous amount of creative and physical labor. The 14- and 15-year-olds are up at 7 a.m. and are out filming all day. They are made responsible for technical issues, schedules and creative aspects that would tax a graduate student. The strength of each student lies on the shoulders of fellow students.”
Some students leave a NYFA camp session wanting to commit to the industry for the rest of their lives.
“It is life-changing for some kids,” says Sandoval. “Some of our former students are now in their late 20s and are working professionally in these fields. One of our students went on to graduate from New York University and is now making documentaries. Another formed his own documentary company, and others are working actors.”
Even NYFA students who go into other, unrelated fields, gain a great deal from the programs.
“Parents often tell me things like their child was very shy before he attended NYFA, and it really helped him to open up socially,” says Sandoval. “Every NYFA camper leaves their program a success.”
Christina DiMartino has been a freelance and assignment writer since 1985. She is a researcher, interviewer, writer, editor, and manuscript collaborator with a repertoire of clients from around the world.
Photos courtesy of New York Film Academy