Los Angeles, CA, Sept. 23, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is excited to congratulate four alumni whose films are official selections of the seventeenth annual HollyShorts Film Festival. Shorts by Nick Azzaro, Sofia Garza-Barba, Savannah Sivert, and Benjamin South will screen live at the prestigious TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood September 23rd through October 1st, 2021.
Each year, the Academy Awards® Qualifying festival brings together top creators, industry leaders and companies, as well as launches many filmmakers to the next stage of their careers. A regular on MovieMaker Magazine’s Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee list, HollyShorts also engages its community and spotlights short films year-round through monthly screenings, panels, and networking events.
“HollyShorts is such a tremendous festival, and they always deliver impressive programming,” says Crickett Rumley, the Director of NYFA’s Film Festival Department. “Given their array of awards, Oscar-qualifying Grand Prix, and ample networking opportunities, I consider it one of the best festivals in the world for short filmmakers. I’m confident our NYFA filmmakers will have a productive experience.”
The four alumni films will screen in a variety of programs during the festival.
Retrieval by NYFA Alum Nick Azzaro
Retrieval, Nick Azzaro’s science fiction thriller about a young woman who confronts her childhood trauma within a virtual reality therapy session only to discover her inner demons are real, was the thesis project for his BFA Filmmaking degree at NYFA. Most of the film takes place in a video game-like world for which Azzaro designed the visual effects. “Retrieval is my biggest project to date,” says the Italian filmmaker, who recently returned to NYFA to continue his studies in the MFA Cinematography program. “Operating the camera and directing simultaneously has been a fun challenge, and it has allowed me to have complete control over every aspect of the film.” The film has been an official selection of numerous festivals worldwide, including LA Shorts and Burbank International Film Festival. The film will screen at HollyShorts in the VFX program on Sunday, September 26, at 5 pm.
I’m a Vampire (Soy Un Vampiro) by NYFA Alum Sofia Garza-Barba
Sofia Garza-Barba’s whimsical I’m a Vampire (Soy Un Vampiro) is about an eight-year-old whose suspicion that she is turning into a vampire is reinforced by her Mexican family’s bewildering behavior during the pandemic lockdown. “I wanted to create that explosion of mixed feelings and genres that 2020 has sparked in us,” says Garza-Barba, who attended NYFA’s 1-Year Screenwriting program and now directs commercials and music videos in addition to short films. She says that during the pandemic “I got stuck in two worlds that quickly felt like limbo: the reality of the outer world and my home bubble. As weeks and months passed, I noticed my imagination kept reaching out to unexpected places, not knowing what to believe and what to ignore in order to keep me and my household afloat. I’m a Vampire is the result of reality and nonsense that goes through our minds when we desperately need to go back to “normal”.”
In the midst of a robust film festival run, I’m A Vampire has been an official selection of the Cleveland International Film Festival, Guanajuato, and Bentonville, to name a few, and will be part of the world-famous genre festival Sitges in Spain in October. Garza-Barba’s HollyShorts screening will occur on Tuesday, September 28, at 12 noon in the Animation and Family block. “I think it’s amazing that festivals want to introduce all types of genres to kids who dream of being filmmakers,” says Garza-Barba. “My film can be enjoyed by adults and kids as well. There might be blood, but it’s all part of the fun.”
The Tale of the Daughter by NYFA Alum Savannah Sivert
For her first film since graduating from NYFA’s MFA in Filmmaking program, Savannah Sivert partnered with writer-director Taylor Hinds to make The Tale of the Daughter. The film is based on an estranged daughter who is taking care of her stroke-ridden mother when a dangerous acquaintance arrives to collect on an old debt. The quirky western-themed allegory was shot in Northern California, twenty-five miles outside of Yosemite, in the historic Gold Rush town Groveland, and it was a labor of love among a group of filmmaker friends who have formed a production company called Moonshine Pictures.
“A month into the 2020 pandemic, Taylor and I were spending hours on FaceTime with our producing partners and now housemates Jazlyn and Chris,” says Sivert. “With nothing but time on our hands, we decided to make a movie. The story started as a mother and daughter finding their way back to each other and ended up becoming an origin story of the superhero we all needed.” Jazlyn's family offered their cabin as the primary location, and Jazlyn herself learned to throw axes for the role. “She began practicing a couple months before principal photography,” says Sivert. “In the film she is actually throwing the axe AND hitting the target. We are all still afraid of her to this day. The trick is to run away in a zig-zag formation.”
The Tale of the Daughter premiered at the 25th annual Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival, and is an official selection of the SENE (Rhode Island) and Bend (Oregon) film festivals in October. The HollyShorts screening is on Monday, September 27th, 2021, at 7:30 pm in the Crime Drama block.
The Ark by NYFA Alum Benjamin South
In March 2020, principal photography was set to start for NYFA BFA Filmmaking student Benjamin South’s sci-fi thriller thesis about two first time assassins who believe they’re fighting for a higher cause only to have a crisis of faith. “The Ark was originally scheduled to shoot in Los Angeles, but due to COVID-19, we moved the entire production to England and turned six months of pre-production into six weeks,” South says. “We shot over four very rainy, cold, bleak, harsh nights in England, but this was a silver lining as the film was enhanced infinitely by this change. The hotel location was out of this world, and I was so fortunate to work with so many friends in England that I never would’ve had the opportunity to work with otherwise.”
The script, an adaptation of a short story by A.M. Khalifa, was sent to South at a time when his grandfather had just passed. “He dedicated his career to science and it felt like the right time to make this film,” says South. “It was important to me to create a sci-fi film that felt grounded and to set it in a world we could all relate to.”
At the beginning of what promises to be an impressive film festival run, The Ark is an official selection of the Bolton, Norwich, Sioux City, and Valley film festivals as well as Cinegear Expo and NOLA Horror Fest. However,“HollyShorts is a special landmark festival for us, for the prestige of being at the Chinese Theatre and being an official selection in an Oscar-qualifying festival. Also, it marks our first in person screening.” The film is part of the VFX program at HollyShorts, screening at 5pm on Sunday, September 26.
"We are proud to get the opportunity to showcase four NYFA alumni films at this year's HollyShorts," stated HollyShorts Co-Founder Daniel Sol. "Having known the NYFA team and watching their films for 15+ years, it has been a pleasure witnessing the school's growth and commitment to excellent and diverse storytelling. All the more evident with this year's four selections. Sofia Garza-Barba's I'm a Vampire, The Tale of the Daughter from Savannah Sivert and Taylor Hinds, Ben South's The Ark, and Nicolo Azzaro's Retrieval showcase a great range in ideas and themes and genres that we feel resonate with the HollyShorts audience. We look forward to hosting these NYFA alumni and their films at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres this month!"