New York Film Academy 1 Year Documentary Student

I moved to New York from Canada in 2010 to study Documentary Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.  After graduating from university with a Biology degree, I had a difficult time deciding whether I should pursue teaching, public health or film – something that I’ve never thought would be possible. Since I was young, I worked towards becoming a health professional like my father, so I tried to find an outlet for my creativity in high school art classes or English projects. While I enjoyed the arts, I never saw myself as artsy enough to fully dive into it and felt the pressure to find a career that was more “stable.” It was only after my 4-month internship in Bangladesh in 2009 that I mustered the courage to make that transition from Biology to film. At the end of my internship , I put together a short 16-minute documentary about my research there and it was one of the most exciting things I had ever done.

Sarah’s documentary film “Newtown Creek”

The 1-year Documentary Program I took at NYFA was intense, but exhilarating.  As someone who enjoys both in-class and practical training, I think I took the most out of the program by being committed to my coursework, investing in my film projects, while taking the full advantage of studying in New York City by attending outside film screenings in my spare time. I learned a great deal from my instructors as they shared their wisdom from years of personal experience in the industry, as well as the guest lecturers who came in for our Master classes. The fact that we started filming our projects within the first month of the program and worked together in small crews of 4 helped me to learn the craft of filmmaking in its true collaborative nature. Through trial-and-errors, I learned firsthand how to produce, shoot, and edit better while, critique sessions with my classmates and instructors enabled me to take my films to the next level.

I would definitely recommend NYFA to those looking to pursue filmmaking – documentary or narrative. This school has equipped me to become the filmmaker that I am today and has set me on the path to grow as a documentarian when I did not know anything about filmmaking only two years ago. I have met many mentors and friends that I still collaborate with at this school and was able to produce two short documentaries that have been screened at film festivals. I am grateful for my experience at NYFA and stand as a proud alumnus of the school.

-Sarah Choi

New York Film Academy Documentary Student

I enrolled in the New York Film Academy Documentary program in September 2011, because it was the most intense hands-on program I could find. I think it was a great choice! The program is structured around 6 film projects (two video logs and 4 shorts) in 11 months, which kept us extremely busy (often meaning more than 10 hours per day at school). I had the steepest learning curve in my life and have learned from some of the best in their field – professors who are also very productive film professionals. We had a lot of masterclasses where award-winning documentaries were presented by their producers, directors and cinematographers. I met some amazing young filmmakers. When our class started, we were 20 people from 18 different countries, which is a great experience on its own. In addition, doing a documentary program in a city like New York was a chance to quickly get to know the city in its endless diversity.

After graduating, I decided to take the opportunity to stay for an extra year of practical training (OPT). As of 1 November 1st, I will be interning at Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning producer, Alex Gibney’s, Jigsaw Productions ( I will be assiting as an AVID intern on their latest Fela Kuti project ( As a big fan of Fela, and someone who spent part of their childhood in Nigeria, I am really looking forward to it :)

I cannot thank New York Film Academy enough for the fantastic year! A special thanks goes to our production professor, Alexandra Johnes (a kick-ass producer but also Neverending Story’s magical princess) for recommending me at Jigsaw!

Best to New York Film Academy :)

-Maria Stanisheva