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  • Randall Emmett Recounts His Journey to Mega-Producer Status

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    Producer Randall Emmett

    Last week, prolific film producer, Randall Emmett spoke to New York Film Academy students, providing them with some valuable insider Hollywood advice. Beforehand, Randall screened his most recently released film, Escape Plan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, which premiered only four days before. The film, with its mega-star personas and epic action scenes, was a good compliment to a larger than life producer like Randall Emmett.

    Randall has produced over seventy feature films and has at any time five films in different stages of production. With a reputation for packaging movies and getting them made, Emmett’s films have been both box office ‘hits’ and acclaimed works, debuting at Sundance, Berlin and Toronto, with many nominated for Independent Spirit Awards. Randall’s films include 2 Guns (starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg), End of Watch (starring Jake Gyllenhaal), Righteous Kill (starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro), 88 Minutes, The Amityville Horror, and Narc among many.

    As a kid, Randall was obsessed with acting and would make short films with the family’s home video camera on the weekends. After spending a summer in high school as a PA on a movie set, Randall realized he wanted to work behind the camera and decided to attend film school in New York for college. In a sea of aspiring directors, Randall was the only student who wanted to produce. At the time, producing didn’t really exist as a discipline or specialty, so Randall learned through “trail by fire.” Starting in his sophomore year, he produced an abundance of his senior classmates’ thesis projects, offering to deliver their films for five thousand dollars. Randall would go to extremes, far beyond the efforts of the average film student to get the best equipment rates, locations, and actors for his director. He would wear numerous hats to finish the film, acting as producer, AD, production manager, casting director, etc.

    Randall described the incredible amount of work he performed in school not as a burden, but a “magical experience,” because he was so in love with filmmaking. In his senior year, Randall took the highly unconventional route and chose to make a feature for his thesis. He wanted to leave school with what he believed would be a real product. Randall and his thesis team asked everyone for money, scraping together about twenty-five thousand dollars to make the film. Shooting a feature on 16mm film for such little money was a huge feat at the time, but Randall pulled it off. After moving to Los Angeles, he actually sold the film he made in college.

    The famous Aaron Spelling, a mentor of Randall’s, encouraged him to work at an agency. Although Randall was opposed to working in an office, he took this advice and worked at ICM. This proved to be invaluable experience as he learned how agencies, the center of Hollywood’s universe, operated. Meanwhile, he met Mark Wahlberg through an acquaintance. They hit it off and became friends, because they both shared a passion for movies. Later, Randall left ICM and took a job Mark Wahlberg offered him to be his personal assistant. The show Entourage, which Mark Wahlberg created, is based on his crazy life with Randall as he was a rising movie star in Hollywood.

    Randall had been trying to package movies throughout his time in Los Angeles. After he finished his assistant work with Mark Wahlberg, Randall found himself broke and sleeping on his friend’s couch in his late twenties. At this point he had been led astray countless times by “investors” that ended up never having a penny to their name. However, Randall didn’t give up, and finally met George Furla who ended up funding his first feature in Los Angeles. They have been producing partners ever since.

    Randall’s story is one of the underdog independent producers that now dominate Hollywood. His main message to students was to always believe in yourself no matter what level you’re at. This type of excitement attracts others and opens doors. It was Randall’s extreme positive energy that had students falling in love with him all evening as he told his story. Randall Emmett is just one of those people who you want to see succeed and we wish him continued success in the future.

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    October 30, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 28975

  • So You Want To Be A Producer?

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    You’ve seen him or her portrayed in the movies as often suave, well-groomed individuals and perhaps you have concocted your own idea of what a producer’s role is on a movie. But, what does a producer actually do? New York Film Academy’s Producing for TV & Film Program aims to break down exactly what it takes to produce a film or television series in today’s market. The program is geared toward students with little to no experience, as often is the case with up and coming producers. After all, you need to start somewhere. It is those students who are eager to control their own destiny in the world of film and television who will flourish in NYFA’s hands-on intensive Producing Program.

    From day one, students are treated as producers and this will last throughout the duration of the course. Students are encouraged to bring a piece of intellectual property, or original material, into the course to develop as their thesis project. Like the real world, the process is broken down into the various stages of production: pitch, treatment, script, talent search, budgeting, scheduling, and plans for marketing and distribution.

    In the past, NYFA has welcomed a number of well known producers to speak with students, providing valuable insight and the motivation needed to break into this exclusive industry. Past speakers have included: Steven Spielberg, Gary Marshall, Ron Howard, Al Ruddy, and many more.

    New York Film Academy degree programs in Producing are offered at all three of our domestic campuses: New York, Los Angeles, and South Beach, Miami.

    If you’d like to request information about New York Film Academy’s Producing Program, CLICK HERE

     

     

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    April 30, 2013 • Producing • Views: 6493

  • Producing Grad Tackles Gun Control

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    Films are and have always been an important way to make a difference. That is exactly why New York Film Academy One-Year Producing graduate, Ella Nuortila is producing a new short film called Six. The film is about a child who finds a hidden gun while playing alone on a rooftop. It is a story about a child’s imagination vs. reality; a child’s innocence vs. the power of guns; and a child’s vulnerability vs. the negligence of adults. “The number of firearms in the US is not in the millions, but in the hundreds of millions,” said Nuortila. “With all the talk about gun control, who can control over 300 million privately owned guns? We want to take part in the conversation as we best can: by making this film!”

    Six’s cast and crew are mainly comprised of New York Film Academy alumni, including director Frank Jerky and cinematographer Stefano Ferrari. Ella currently has a campaign on IndieGogo with the hopes of raising its production cost of fifteen thousand dollars.

    Click below if you’re interested in supporting our NYFA alumni raise funds for Six.

     

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    April 10, 2013 • #WomenOfNYFA, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5186

  • New York Film Academy Music Video Competition!

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    New York Film Academy is excited to announce a music video competition with Born Leaders Entertainment/Management artists Weston Coppola Cage, Christina Fulton, and Hassan Khaffaf. Students will compete for the chance to direct, shoot, and produce the singles for the artists’ upcoming singles.

    The competition is open to AFA, BFA, and MFA students in their second year, and alumni. Students will have the opportunity to meet the artists on Thursday, August 9 at 7 p.m. in the Welles room at the school’s Universal Studios campus. After the meet and greet, students will have a week to come up with their pitches for the music videos, and the winning concepts will be chosen by the artists.

    As the son of Nicolas Cage and Christina Fulton, actor and recording artist Weston Coppola Cage, carries on a rich artistic legacy. He released his first album with his band Eyes of Noctum, working with award-winning producer Jack Douglas, and top Swedish black metal producer Fredrik Nordstrom. He was asked to record a song for the major motion picture Drive Angry, and was asked back by the studio to record the monstrous evil voice in Ghost Rider. His much-anticipated solo album is due out at Christmas 2012, and will also star in the forthcoming film Sugar Rat in 2013.

    Shortly after coming to Hollywood, actress and recording artist Christina Fulton landed a part in Oliver Stone‘s critically acclaimed film, The Doors. Her portrayal of the enigmatic Nico launched an illustrious acting career that has included roles in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s DraculaBrian DePalma’s Snake EyesAbel Ferrara’s Dangerous Games and the award-winning independent film, Lucinda’s Spell. Her debut single, Thank You, premiered on MTV’s Jersey Shore earlier this year. She previewed her second single, Freeing My Mind, while opening for Lupe Fiasco, Rock Mafia, and Cobra Starship at Kodak Theater this year.

    Hassan Khaffaf is a Middle Eastern producer and recording artists, soaring off his successful world debut with last year’s number one song in Asia, co-produced by Kanye West. Now he is on his own journey to captivate the world with his unique production and extraordinary artistry.

    Today, Christina Fulton released a statement saying, “New York Film Academy has long been a respected and renowned institution for students seeking training in the creative arts, acting, film, and photography. For many years I’ve wished to collaborate with them and I am very excited by the uniqueness and promise of the program we have designed that combines the excellent training NYFA has long been known for with premier exposure of the student’s work and most importantly, an opportunity for them to work with established artists that can greatly assist in their fretful transition from school to real world that every student must face. What I, and the wonderful NYFA executives who’ve embraced my idea, have done is to combine training with opportunity.”

     

     

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    August 7, 2012 • Academic Programs, Cinematography, Film School, Filmmaking, Producing • Views: 4250

  • Sal’s Guide to Being An Independent Producer

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    Sal Irizarry is making a splash with his debut comedy feature film, Bert and Arnie’s Guide to Friendship. Sal met his producing partners, Jane Basina and Waj Arshad, while attending NYFA. After graduation, they decided to work together under Sal’s company banner, Justified Ends Entertainment.  From there, they ran a nation wide script contest through indieWIRE.com, raised private equity, and produced the film in 2011.

    So, where did his passion for the industry begin?

    “I was looking to go to film school and I didn’t want to spend three years on theory before learning the process hands-on. After looking into several programs and seeking the advice of several of my friends who were already in the industry, I decided to attend NYFA because of its intensive, hands-on program, from day one.  Just as I had hoped, in the first week of school we were working on our first short film. The Producing Program taught me real world skills and industry practices that were relevant throughout the entire process of production; from development to festival screenings and everything in between.  Let’s be clear though, there are some things you can’t learn in a classroom, but the education I received at NYFA was the perfect foundation to get me through the process.”

    What drives you as an artist?

    “As a creative producer, I enjoy the process of finding a story worth telling as much as I enjoy the wheeling and dealing side of the business.  Though my primary responsibility on set is to support the director, I have a responsibility to my investors to finish the movie on time, on budget and to get it out for the world to see.  Maintaining the balance between art and commerce, managing expectations, finding creative solutions to problems that will come up both on and off set is just the beginning.  After all, if your investors don’t recoup, you don’t get to keep making movies!”

    What is your perspective on screening at film festivals? Advice on the process?

    “You feel this sense of validation for all your hard work when you get into a fest and yet you can’t help but feel disappointed when you’re not accepted.  The fact of the matter is that navigating the festival circuit takes a lot of time and energy.  What I mean is, not every festival is a good fit for every movie and submitting to every upcoming fest can get really expensive really fast.  I’ll research what movies played in a particular festival the prior year to get an idea if they’re truly indie friendly and support first time and up and coming filmmakers, or if it’s geared towards screening Hollywood Tentpoles.

    At the end of the day, film festivals are great for exposure and buzz, but the ultimate goal for a producer is to get the movie sold.  Have a web presence.  Make sure your press kit and marketing materials are in order.  Lastly, don’t forget about the deliverables you’ll need in order to get a distribution deal! If your plan is to DIY your film’s release, make sure you’ve built a community around your movie that you’ve cultivated and nurtured throughout the process.  Keeping your fans updated as well as supporting other filmmakers in their efforts as best you can, will go a long way in this day and age.”

    Final words of advice to  NYFA students dreaming to succeed?

    “Persistence, patience, 100% dedication, tons of hard work, long hours and a lot of luck.  I cannot tell you how much I have sacrificed to realize my dream of being a producer.  The commitment necessary to see a project through to the end is not for everyone.  But hey, somebody’s gotta do it and I figure, why not me!”

    Click here to learn more about our Producing program.

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    May 11, 2012 • Producing • Views: 5421

  • The Importance of Learning Your Audience

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    Ron Tippe is the department chair of the Producing department at the New York Film Academy. He is best known as the animation producer for the smash hit Space Jam. He managed the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Paris, France while producing the short film Runaway Brain which was nominated for an Academy award. He was also responsible for pre-production on Shrek and worked with George Lucas in collaboration with Universal Studios on Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. 

    I must be a lucky guy. After 27 years in Hollywood with a successful career in the film business, I’m now the Chair of Producing for NYFA. First off, I get to work with some very special people. My fellow colleagues come from various countries which offer different perspectives from a variety of cultures around the world. That said, the commonality is their love of cinema. Almost to a person, the level of passion is infectious and energizing. This attitude towards the art of filmmaking is what constitutes success as a film producer.

    • KNOW WHO YOUR AUDIENCE IS. In the entertainment business, nothing is decided at the studio level these days. At least not without going through marketing, branding and PR first. The goal for a studio is to maximize financial gain and stem any losses. Focus groups are de rigeur. In the independent world, film festivals and smaller theatrical releases often depend on word-of-mouth in addition to ever-expanding social media campaigns.
    • GRAB THEM IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES. When looking for a film to produce, make sure that the first 10 pages of the script are compelling. Introduce the main characters and make sure we understand what the protagonist wants. And then how the antagonist prevents that from happening. Comedy or drama, action or fantasy, a great story is imperative to grab the audience. The sooner the better!
    • WE ARE GLOBAL. The box office is increasingly getting two-thirds of their money  internationally. Producers, it’s a global marketplace. Know it. Own it.
    • WORD OF MOUTH IS A MOVIE’S BEST FRIEND. If an audience is satisfied, he or she will tell others. Facebook, Twitter, Email. You name it, they will use it.  Social media is where it’s at.
    • AUDIENCES ARE NOT STUPID. They are very culturally savvy, increasingly educated and obviously fickle. They know what they like and dislike.

    A producer is someone who works insane hours under very difficult conditions. You’re always inside the pressure cooker. You’re constantly nudged by studio executives with their myriad of concerns—most of which are related to budgets and finance. How is this related to being a teacher of film? Passion is absolutely essential in the making a film, or at least in providing a great experience during the making of that film. The same is true in the classroom. A passionate teacher is infectious, and that passion often manifests itself in motivated and inspired students. A great producer can make or break that wonderful experience. After all, the producer is who a crew looks to for leadership. It’s a high standard. The same is true in the classroom here at NYFA. We aim to attain the highest standards and “shoot” for it every single day.

    I’m proud of my teachers and students. We are motivated and inquisitive. Most importantly, we work hard. The students will become great producers for the next generation of moviegoers. Because producers have a strong hand in the filmmaking process, we should be proud of the education that the students are getting here at NYFA. Frankly, we should let the world know how good we are. Time to get the word out. Producer. Teacher. Leader. Motivator. I must be a very lucky guy. Stand by to roll.

    Action!

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    April 24, 2012 • Producing • Views: 7179

  • The Power of Pitchfest

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    Pitchfest are events at New York Film Academy are held shortly after graduation for MFA and AFA students in Screenwriting and Producing. A culmination of their studies, graduates pitch their thesis projects, usually a TV pilot or feature screenplay, to television and film professionals. It’s a great opportunity for students to start developing relationships in the industry. About 15 producing students held their event on campus in March, pitching their projects to industry professionals including guests from HBO and Network Television, and even George Gallo, writer of Midnight RunBad Boys, and The Whole Ten Yards. Twelve screenwriting students held their event at West Hollywood’s luxurious Andaz Hotel. By the end of the evening, each student had pitched to about 20 companies.

    Since the event, a number of students from both departments have gotten interest from companies. Congratulations to our recent Screenwriting and Producing graduates!

    NYFA PitchFest

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    April 5, 2012 • Acting, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 4973

  • Rob Reiner Visits the New York Film Academy

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    Legendary director Rob Reiner visited New York Film Academy and shared an advance screening of his upcoming film, The Magic of Belle Isle, a comedy-drama starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen. He also sat with students to watch the film before spending over 2 hours answering their questions!

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    Rob found fame as an actor in the landmark television series All In the Family, but went on to become the acclaimed director of influential films, ranging from the pure comedy of This Is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride to the intense drama of Stand By Me, Misery, A Few Good Men, and Ghosts of Mississippi; from the romantic comedy of When Harry Met Sally, The American President, and Flipped to the poignant comedy-drama, The Bucket List.

    Though he was asked questions about many of his films, Rob named Stand By Me as one of his favorite film projects. When asked about working with the film’s young cast, Rob said, “You can teach them craft, but you can’t teach them talent,” and went on to speak glowingly of the film’s young stars. He continued, “It was turned down by all of the studio heads. I thought, ‘I don’t know if anyone will see it, but I like it.’”

    Rob told stories about growing up with his talented father, writer/actor/director Carl Reiner, saying, “My father was on television before we owned a television! We bought a television so we could see him on television.” Rob said he learned the art of storytelling on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show, where his father was the writer. He also said he learned from his films’ stars, praising Kathy Bates, Morgan Freeman, and Jack Nicholson (complete with a spot-on Nicholson impression!).

    Rob also thanked the students for their intriguing questions about the art of filmmaking, saying, “Usually I turn up at these events and I just get asked how to get an agent!”

    -Joe Hui

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    March 22, 2012 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 3604

  • Producer Chris Brigham and His Road to "Inception"

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    Chris Brigham NYFAChris Brigham isn’t your typical “Hollywood” producer, which comes as a surprise, considering he produced global blockbusters such as Inception, The Aviator, and Analyze This. He doesn’t even live in Hollywood.“New York is a great place for a producer right now, especially with the tax breaks. There are more shows here now, which means more jobs.” Aspiring filmmakers looking to develop stories, however, should still consider Los Angeles. Everyone’s path will be different. It’s up to each individual to recognize which is one’s true calling.“Not everyone will have the chops for this business.”

    As the guest speaker for our Q&A on Thursday, Chris shared with us his journey from a P.A. in New York to the Hollywood powerhouse he is today. Hustling his way to the top, there was much to be learned in terms of film production. Most importantly, he learned quite a bit about dealing with people, which is something he credits to the Teamsters.The motto? “Money talks. Bullshit walks.” New York is a ‘show me’ city where you have to back up what you’re saying. Chris realized his ability in handling people and their problems was a valuable skill in the industry. Soon he began finding steady work as a line producer.

    So what is a line producer? “It’s a critical job. You are the eyes and the ears managing the movie. Being a line producer demands entrepreneurial skills.”Highlighting some of the details of his job, one learns it’s not your typical 9 to 5. Being a freelance line producer requires a lot of travel, networking, and wisdom to find the right project. “It’s better to work on quality projects but it’s a lot of hard work.”

    His recommendation for filmmaking success? “Get your foot in the door. Make phone calls and start out as a P.A. on set.” Eventually you’ll build a reputation and, who knows, you may end up waking up one day with a call from Christopher Nolan’s team to work on Inception. Luck may play a part, however, this game is a foot-race and the last person standing is the one who makes it in this business. Whether it’s writing, directing, acting or producing, there are thousands of people trying to do the same thing you want to do. The key is not losing sight of your dreams.

    What about maintaining a family and some sort of normalcy? Chris recounted some of his struggles balancing career and family. He recalled a shoot in Montreal where he drove six hours to see his wife and kids on the weekends. Character is indispensable. It seems kindness, too, can pay off in a business with a bad reputation for its conceited personalities.

    Twitter was abuzz for Brigham’s appearance. Irrefutably, the most submitted question of the night was “Is film school worth it?” In response, Chris cited his very first film class in college learning about Fellini and Kurosawa. It sparked his passion for the craft. He encouraged our students to collaborate, build bonds, and sustain a network. In this industry, it’s crucial to meet the right people. Create a foundation for yourself. Film school is what you make of it.

    After the Q&A, Chris handled individual students with personal questions, ranging from “Can I meet Christopher Nolan?” to “How do I get my screenplay funded?” Chris stayed for a good 45 minutes afterwards, patiently handling questions and proving to us how integrity can go a long way.

    Chris Brigham Q&A at NYFA

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    March 5, 2012 • Producing • Views: 7812