Academic Programs
Category

  • NYFA Alum Janek Ambros’ Film Produced by Barbara De Fina

    New York Film Academy alumnus Janek Ambros, known for his work on “Valley of Bones,” “10,000 Saints,” and “Imminent Threat,” is working with Marin Scorsese’s long-time producing collaborator, Barbara De Fina.

    Ambros’ film, “May 15th in Paris,” retells the story of a large protest on the streets of Paris on May 15, 1848. Ambros uses a narrator to recount this historic date and juxtaposes that story with images of current controversial populist political wins across the globe.

    Ambrose did an email interview with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to talk about his experience making this film.

    15th of May Poster

    NYFA: How did you team up with Hollywood legend Barbara De Fina? 

    Ambros: Since I was a kid, Barbara De Fina and Irwin Winkler were two people I greatly admired. As a director, I dreamed I would one day have as supportive and creative producers as Martin Scorsese did. However, it wasn’t really my intention to have her produce my films. I originally wanted to see if she had any projects she needed funding for, because I dabble in film finance.

    But when I came back from Paris and showed her the footage, she had a lot of great notes on the narration, editing, and overall pacing. We ended up collaborating on it and in the end, she decided to come on board as a producer.  

    NYFA: What was it like working with such a giant in the producing field?

    Ambros: Someone who has produced for my favorite director of all time is now producing my films. It was obviously a little surreal. It truly is an honor to work with her. But when it’s all said and done, she simply made the film better and that is always the goal. It’s extremely important to listen to others who have experience and expertise greater than your own. You don’t want to be too rigid-minded in your thinking. Having a good creative producer on board is incredibly valuable.

    NYFA: Can you expand upon why you wanted to compare the incidences of 1848 with the recent U.S. presidential election and Brexit? 

    Ambros: I’m really into history. It’s really important to not just know your history, but also understand how it applies today. No situation is entirely unique. In the 1840s, those in power blatantly ignored the powerless. To me, their situation is similar to how today’s “corporate Democrats” failed a lot of the lower and middle class. People finally had enough. However, when they went to the ballot, citizens went in the wrong direction, similar to the French in the 1840s when they voted for Napoleon Bonaparte. 

    NYFA: How did all of these events affect you as a creator? 

    Ambros: Given Trump, the overall rejection of globalism by many in Western countries, and the rise of nationalism, my approach to how I create content has changed. I’ve always been into politics. I’ve done shorts on the military industrial complex, the bank bailouts, authoritarianism, etc. I’m just sticking to my original game plan.

    I see a lot of other writers pull an audible to make their work reflect what’s happening with Trump and that can be great. But, I’d be cautious against changing your entire approach. Things are always going to evolve, especially living in a world with a never-ending news cycle. So, if you keep trying to make everything “current,” it can be challenging. 

    I do think this political climate will spark a “New Wave” of more politically challenging films, which is great. Our company is trying to focus on filmmakers who are making movies that strive for greatness. We want to be like Zoetrope, who tackled challenging cinema in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you make this film? 

    Ambros: The most important element I learned from NYFA to help make this film was to just go out and make it. So many other film schools focus on academia, where NYFA really taught me how to go out and make a film and learn from doing. Although my ultimate aspirations are writing and directing, I went to NYFA for producing. I’m glad I did. I no longer have an excuse to not make a movie.

    NYFA: What did you learn while making this film? Would you change anything about your process? 

    Ambros: I learned a lot about taking in surroundings when making a film. My previous doc was a lot of talking heads and stock footage with mostly stylized editing. This one I couldn’t have any stock footage and didn’t want to do any interviews; I wanted to approach it more as an experimental film with each segment having its own style. So, I was forced to really push myself to look for interesting imagery and create a solid composition and shot design. 

    NYFA: What projects do you have coming up next?

    Ambros: My next film is “Arlington West.” I’ll, once again, be working with Barbara De Fina. The movie is about two Iraq War veterans who spend the night debating war and peace along the Santa Monica pier after attending the Arlington West memorial service.

    We have other projects in development as well that include an adaptation of the widely acclaimed ”Nixon’s Nixon,” penned by Russell Lees, about the night before Nixon gets impeached; an adaption of the timeless play “An Enemy of the People,” by Henrik Ibsen; and a VR sequel to “Mondo Hollywood,” the 1967 cult classic. Lastly, we’re developing a psychedelic comedy about the re-awakening of liberalism in America entitled “Mondo Oligarchy.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Ambros for his incredible success with “May 15th in Paris,” and thank him for taking the time to share his story.

  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Casting Director Nancy Nayor as Guest Speaker

    This month, New York Film Academy Summer program acting for film and filmmaking students were invited to a Q & A with casting directing extraordinaire, Nancy Nayor after watching “Before I Fall,” which she has cast. Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Nayor 001

    Nayor who served for 14 years of head of Universal Feature casting before striking on her own, is best known for her work with directors such as: Steven Spielberg Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Oliver Stone, John Hughes & Sam Raimi’s among many others.

    Her movies include the following: “Act of Valor,” “Ouija,” “Road Trip,” “The Whole Nine Yards,” “The Grudge,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “When a Stranger Calls,” “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” “Darkman,” “Casper,” and Wes Craven’s “Scream 4.”

    Nayor gave the students a strong list of do’s and don’t within the casting room. One that surprised many students was: do not shake hands, especially during germ season. Casting directors can meet with over 40 people in a day. They cannot afford to get sick.

    The biggest tip of the night was not to be too nervous and to not over-rehearse before going into an audition so the emotions can shine through. Prepare, yes, but Nayor shared that actors are not necessarily required to be off book, and should not be nervous about every flub. Directors are looking for multiple things, such as how well an actor works with a group or their ability to improvise. But most importantly, they want to know that an actor can be human on camera.

    Laiter asked Nayor about the difference between casting for comedy and drama. Nayor mentioned several differences: “I think it’s different in the sense that there’s a comic timing. People who have it are born with it. You can develop it, but in the end, you’re either born with it or you’re not. In dramatic casting people have to really go for it. Actors really have to commit.”  

    Nayor 008

    Nayor also advised dramatic actors to stick to the script more so than comedic actors who may improvise. “When I worked on ‘21 and Over,’ people came into the audition room idolizing these two great writers from ‘The Hang Over.’ But the writers were so tired of their own words. They wanted the actors to improvise… ”

    One student asked, “How do you get discovered?” Nayor responded, “There’s no way you can be undiscovered, technically, because there’s this thing called YouTube. I’m a big believer in self-tapes, whether that’s actors and writers coming together or you writing for yourself. You don’t have to wait for permission to be creative. That project can be a calling card for you.”

    Laiter shared that some of the people who work with Spielberg, whether a composer or cinematographer, had said in NYFA Q&As that he had found them by watching movies on TV late at night, so you never know who is going to see it.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Nancy Nayor for taking the time to speak with our students. Naylor has done casting for 12 films scheduled for release in 2017 including “Delirium” and “Scorched Earth.”

     

    July 27, 2017 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 480

  • NYFA Summer Camps on the Universal Studios Backlot

    Each summer, teens and tweens flock to the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy to learn the basics of filmmaking. No matter which program a student elects to take, one of the highlights is always getting to shoot a short film on the Universal Studios Backlot.

    These projects range from mise-en-scene to continuity exercises, montages, and short films. All of the one-week students go to the lot once during their time at camp. Students participating in the three-week, four-week, and six-week programs go to the lot every week they are here. 

    On their scheduled shoot days on the Universal Studios Backlot, summer camp students spend all day on the lot — from nine in the morning to five at night. After their full day on the backlot, students take their footage and edit it the next day of class. Then, campers screen their films in front of parents and friends at a special final screening at the end of their course.

    Since the students are working with professional equipment and on a real set, the responsibilities are huge. Even though this is a learning experience for all of the students and we have instructors and teaching assistants supervising the campers, students are completely responsible for making sure they get every shot they need. Campers learn to plan every angle to get enough coverage, make sure the light is right, direct their actors to hit their marks, and more.

    In class, directing instructors and camera instructors cover the different professional crew positions responsibilities, including how to properly handle equipment. Classes go over safety rules regarding equipment and safety rules regarding the backlot.

    On the last day of their program, students screen their films for invited guests in the Riverside Theatre at NYFA.

    Speaking about what the opportunity to shoot on a backlot means to the campers, Program Director Ale Salinas said, “The students at the NYFA camps in LA have the opportunity to learn their craft while shooting in places where movies like ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ were shot, and I think this is an amazing opportunity.”

    She continued, “It doesn’t matter what program the students are taking, whether it’s photography, acting, filmmaking, screenwriting, 3D animation, music video or game design. They’ll all go to the backlot and experience what is like to walk through a real outdoor set!”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate our campers on helping to ensure a productive and safe set environment.

  • NYFA Los Angeles Holds Social Media Networking Night

    _DSC7452Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development Barbara Weintraub held a Social Media Networking Night at NYFA Los Angeles in late July. Over 220 students from the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus attended the event held in the Riverside Building.

    The lobby was filled with film companies like Film Independent and New Filmmakers LA. They were there to share opportunities for students, membership experiences, and career paths.

    A color-coded system helped students get in touch with other students. Small dots on name tags indicated whether the attending was an actor, filmmaker, photographer, or game designer.  

    “There are so many students that I hadn’t met,” said acting student An Phan. “I’m at the Barham building most of the time while the photography and filmmaking students are at Riverside. I never get to interact with them. I saw a lot of portfolios and I was blown away by how talented everyone was. It was great interaction. I had a lot of fun.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to wish all the students applying for professional memberships and those students teaming up to work on a project success on their next venture.

  • Gold Coast Q&A with Advanced Diploma Acting Alumnus Will Allen 

    On Wednesday, July 19, New York Film Academy alumnus Will Allen gave a Q&A at the NYFA Gold Coast campus. Since graduating in January 2017 from the Advanced Diploma of Acting program, Will has burst onto the acting scene, having already received credits on feature films such as, “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Australia Day” and “In Like Flynn.”

    Copy of NU4A6344

    Students at the Gold Coast campus were given an invaluable insight into how Will used the opportunities and training provided to him by NYFA Australia to establish an acting career. Will explained how NYFA-run Q&A’s and master classes with industry professionals helped Copy of NU4A6298him prepare to break into the industry.

    Will was approached by Talent Manager Gael McDonald, of Williams Management, after an on-campus Q & A session about the industry. He subsequently signed with the agency and had his first audition within a matter of weeks. Will went on to get a featured extra role on “Thor: Ragnarok,” which was filmed at the Village Road Show Studio, where NYFA’s campus is located.

    As the floor opened up for questions from the students, one current acting student asked about his audition process and if he’s made any mistakes. Will responded, “There is no such thing as bad acting, there’s bad choices. Make sure your choices are on point and you’ll be fine … Everyone gets nervous. Every audition, I get nervous — but I prepare so well that when I walk into the room it’s controlled nerves so I use it to my advantage, as I would have more energy going into the room than I would if I did a self test.”

    Having graduated the from the Advanced Acting program in early 2017, Will explained the benefits of doing the second year of training at NYFA and how it’s helped him with his career: “The Advanced program is more business focused by informing you how to market yourself and how you get gigs out in the industry. In your first year you’re learning about yourself as an actor. You’re learning how to find you. In Advanced it’s business time and preparing you in how to put everything you learnt in action.”

    Copy of NU4A6320Will gave the students the following advice, “NYFA is a safe zone where you can explore and don’t feel embarrassed. Don’t pull back. Do the stuff you feel like you shouldn’t do.”

    On the feature film set of “In Like Flynn,” Will became good friends with Clive Standen, from “Vikings,” who took Will under his wing and became an ongoing mentor to him. In October 2017 Will is relocating to Canada with the aim to build and establish an acting career in American and Canada.

    July 2017 Acting Diploma student David Cook shared he appreciated this guest speaker, saying: “I liked Will’s honest approach and how he talked about always being truthful to yourself as an actor”

    May 2017 Acting Diploma student Ilia Valdez agreed, “It was wonderful to see that the lessons learned at NYFA have practical applications in the real world.”

  • NYFA Gold Coast Filmmaking Students Triumph at Final Film Screenings

    NYFA Gold Coast was pleased to celebrate with the Class of July 2016 Diploma of Screen and Media – Filmmaking students at their Final Film Screenings on the June 7-82017. The Final Film Screenings were held at Event Cinemas Pacific Fair.

    The screening was a huge success and showcased the diverse range of talent from NYFA Gold Coast’s filmmaking students.

    Congratulations to all of the graduating students for their success!

    #NYFAAUSTRALIA #NYFAJULY16SCREENING #NYFAGC

  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Dreamworks’ Jeff Wike as Guest Speaker

    NYFA college, conservatory, and summer camp students gathered at the Riverside Theater at the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus for a Q&A with DreamWorks chief technology officer, Jeff Wike. Mr. Wike has been with DreamWorks since before the renowned production company ventured into 3D animation. NYFA Chair of 3D Animation Craig Caton conducted hosted the event.

    Caton, also a veteran of DreamWorks, reminisced with Wike on what it was like to work in a space where the employees were provided a free lunch: a seemingly simple gesture from one of the largest animation companies in the world means a lot more than just a nice meal.

    Jeff Wike visits 3D Animation Students at New York Film Academy

    “One thing that’s unique about DreamWorks is the artists and technicians work together,” said Wike. “We work together, we eat together; breakfast and lunch everyday. Which is brilliant, by the way. Let me talk about free lunch. If you think about it, it cost about $10 a day to feed an employee. You’re sitting with the people you work with. I eat lunch every day with my director of boards. Not just because I like them, but also I get to catch up with them. Yeah, we talk about what we did last night or this and that, but a lot of what we talk about is work.”


    “It’s kind of a village and building a family,” Caton said, agreeing that eating lunch on campus fosters a sense of community. At DreamWorks, animators are hired to the company — not for a project. This means teams are working together for years, and every day they foster stronger relationships.

    Jeff Wike atNew York Film Academy Los Angeles

    One student asked which operating systems should be mastered to help garner professional success in animation.

    “We do use Maya for layouts,” said Wike, spotlighting the Oscar-winning software taught in NYFA 3D animation programs. “We have a system we built on top of it called the Tiber. It allows us to do really interactive set dressing. It does a lot of lazy coding. We do use it in some character effect systems. Mostly we’ve been migrating a lot of that stuff to Houdini over the past six or seven years.”

    For rendering systems, DreamWorks has created their own rendering software, Moonray, used for feature films. A look at their logo might give insight to the inspiration for such a name. For TV the company employs Vray, while Maya is a go-to tool for a variety of other projects.

    The takeaway, according to Wike, is that animators need to know a little bit of everything. “You want to constantly explore,” Wike said as he explained that DreamWorks has a license for nearly every type of animation software on the market.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jeff Wike for taking the time to speak to our students and the kids participating in teen and tween camps. DreamWorks’ “Captain Underpants” is in theaters now, while “Dawn of the Croods” and “Spirit” are currently streaming on Netflix.

    July 25, 2017 • 3D Animation, Guest Speakers • Views: 126

  • NYFA Gold Coast Acting Student is Finalist in the Queensland Training Awards 2017

    IMG_2681NYFAA Gold Coast May ’17 Acting Diploma student Abeer Salem was given the outstanding achievement of being one of three finalists for 2017’s Queensland Training Awards.

    Out of 800 applicants, the Queensland Training Awards selected Abeer as a South East Queensland Regional finalist, recognizing her achievement as a vocational student. Abeer accepted her certificate at the 56th Queensland Training Awards State Gala Dinner on July 21.

    Born and raised in Egypt, Abeer found her way to the sunny Gold Coast in 2012 and has been determined to further an education in business. To date, she has completed over 15 Diplomas.

    Abeer states, “The quest for knowledge is never ending. No one is ever too good to learn. Successful people live each day with a relentless desire to improve.”_H4A5891

    After years of studying and working in business, Abeer found her passion in acting. She says, “I quit my job to attend NYFA … I’m in love with acting and its craft. If I don’t become an actor I want to teach acting. It’s my new passion in life.”

    She further explains, “I love NYFA and have known about the Academy for years. The Academy has such a great history and a fantastic support system for its actors … In my short time at NYFA I’ve learnt so much and look forward to doing the Advanced Diploma.”

     

  • July 24 Broadcast Journalism Update

    One topic that goes around-and-around-and-around here in the United States is the toxic relationship between the administration of President Donald Trump and the American news media. I normally don’t include items on this subject, as they would crowd out everything else. But this week I am making an exception…
    ABC News is launching a new digital program called “Briefing Room.” It is a response to the Trump Administration’s decisions to hold daily audio-only press briefings off-camera, or invitation-only office briefings, or no briefings at all.  The show will stream live on ABCNews.com and the ABC News YouTube and Facebook pages. So even when the White House restricts access, or refuses to even hold formal briefings, there will be a “briefing” none-the-less.Screenshot 2017-07-25 15.41.02
    NBC News is gearing up a new digital daily news program called “Stay Tuned” that will be distributed via Snapchat’s Discover platform. Aimed squarely at folks who get their news on the phone, this four-minute program will air twice a day on weekdays, and once on weekends. Media reports say it will have a staff of 30, which makes it a substantial undertaking.
    Note that I saw this story on Refinery 29, another example of a platform where all different types of content are gathered. The pop-up ad on the page I grabbed had an ad for Nordstrom, which is an upmarket department store. (It was a fluke … I’m not really all that fashionable.)
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 15.41.18
    As my current and former students know, I love a good graphic. So, staying with the theme of digital distribution, Bloomberg has been working to speed up load times for its content. (Because a slow load often translates into a bored viewer leaving a site and looking for something else.) Note the graphic that accompanied an article on the subject in Digiday. Those of you of a certain age will recognize the American cartoon character Wile E. Coyote. Even if you don’t know the cultural context, it is still funny. (Isn’t it?) But if you do know, it says a lot about how even a generally straight-ahead news publisher sometimes decides to have some fun.
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 15.41.27
    I got so much feedback from the NYFA Viewbook galley proof I posted last week that I decided it made sense to post another. Current students and alumni will recognize the studio we use to produce “NYFA News.” We employ a green screen effect to insert the co-anchors into a “virtual set'” which is made up of only zeros and ones, but looks like a network control room. The two co-anchors come from Brooklyn and Kunming (China).
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 15.41.41
    NYFA grad Daniel Fideli is hard at work back home in Brazil, where he is working with the sports channel SPORTV. (The channel is owned by the Brazilian media giant Globo.) Daniel holds a special place in NYFA broadcast journalism history, thanks to an epic journey he and a classmate took through the New York subway system in order to retrace the footsteps of the heroes of the 1970s cult movie “The Warriors.” (The film takes place in a dystopian New York at some point in the not-so-distant future: 2016.) It was one of the most unique student projects I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of student projects.
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 15.41.55

    Former NYFA student Linda Zhang had the lead story recently on KION News in California. The station broadcasts to two separate cities on two different channels. (Plus cable, of course.) The story is about a seaside community where the beach sand was literally being “mined,” then sold. An agreement has been reached to end the mining, and save the beach.

    Nice work, Linda. And working “on deadline” too!
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 15.42.09
    And we end with a “postcard” from NYFA instructor Zack Baddorf, currently on sabbatical in the Central African Republic. For 90 seconds, join him as he goes “Flying Down the Chinko” in an ultralight aircraft.
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 15.42.22

    July 24, 2017 • Academic Programs, Broadcast Journalism, Entertainment News • Views: 208

  • NYFA Welcomes Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway as Guest Speakers

    NYFA students at the Los Angeles campus were invited to an exclusive Q & A event featuring former Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing and Hollywood Reporter writer Stephen Galloway, who penned Sherry Lansing’s recent biography, “Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker.” Director of Q and A series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Lansing started her career as a script reader and worked her way up the ladder until she became president at 20th Century Fox in 1980. Lansing was the first woman in history to hold the position.

    LansingPhoto001

    Next, Lansing took on producing for such hits as “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Indecent Proposal” (1993). Later, Lansing became the chairman and CEO at Paramount where, for 12 years, she oversaw production and marketing on 200 movies — including blockbusters such as “Braveheart,” “Forrest Gump,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Titanic.”

    Lansing had a lot of advice for up-and-coming film creators. One large piece of advice was, “Returning every phone call is just good business. You never know were ideas come from.”

    ‘The executive’s job is to just find good talent,” she told students. “Every film that does poorly is my failure. Every film that does well is not my success.”

    Lansing left the entertainment industry at 60 to pursue an entirely new career in the non-profit industry, and created the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which focuses on cancer research and education. She sits on nine major profit and non-profit boards.

    LansingPhoto008

    Galloway centered the book on Lansing’s journey from an insecure young girl to her incredible ability to make a space for herself where previously there had been no women, saying, “There was no Churchill before Winston Churchill. There was no Sherry Lansing before Lansing.”  

    One of the questions asked was, “What advice do you have for screenwriters and working with a budget? We are always instructed to write from our imagination, but I’ve heard other people say you should write for the budget. What do you think?”

    Lansing responded, “You should always write from the heart. Our job in the studio is to keep the eye on the budget.”

    Lansing advised that striking a harmonious balance is in the best interest of the writer, particularly when working with a studio: They have bought the script and will eventually do with it as they please. If the writer wants to stay on the project they should find a way to work with the studio.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway for taking the time to speak with our students.