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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) 1-Week Animation Workshop Concludes With Special Chinese Tea Performance

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    Twenty students from the Chinese GMFZ High School joined a 1-Week Animation Workshop from July 30th to August 3rd at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. At the end of the course, the students prepared a special Tea Performance to show their appreciation to the New York Film Academy (NYFA).

    During the week-long animation workshop, the students learned about Paper Puppets, Stop Motion Animation, Visual Story, VFX, and Editing. In addition, they had the opportunity to film on the Universal Studios Backlot, Hollywood’s world-famous lot where movies such as American Beauty, Back to the Future, and Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds have been filmed. NYFA has a special relationship with Universal Studios, where students have the unique opportunity to spectate the importance of “studio life” to the Los Angeles area up close and first-hand, while also getting the one-of-a-kind experience of shooting on the lot themselves.

    The location shooting went very well as students were taught hands-on skills in storytelling. The GMFZ students showed satisfaction with this learning experience upon getting their certificate at the end of the week.

    The program was concluded with the Chinese GMFZ School performing a unique tea performance, a cultural exchange that was greatly appreciated by NYFA staff and faculty. The performance demonstrated the traditional Chinese art of tea tasting as a show of gratitude to NYFA for arranging their Animation Workshop. 

    During the ceremony, students explained the history and procedures involved in the art of tea-making with a recital and performance. A sample of 10 kinds of teas from various provinces in China were brought to the Chair of Animation, Craig Caton-Largent, who happened to be an ardent fan of Chinese tea.

    The New York Film Academy proudly holds a special relationship with Chinese filmmaking students. In 2017, President of NYFA Michael Young visited multiple schools in China, and the Academy has offered local workshops in Shanghai and Beijing. The New York Film Academy congratulates the Chinese GMFZ High School students on their completion of the 1-Week Animation Workshop, and warmly extends their gratitude for their exquisite Tea Ceremony!

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    August 9, 2018 • 3D Animation, International Diversity • Views: 350

  • A Peek Behind The VFX of “Avengers: Infinity War” with New York Film Academy Alum Francesco Panzieri

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    Francesco Infinity War

    A shot from The Avengers: Infinity War

    Francesco Panzieri is no stranger to big hits, both in television and film. Panzieri’s name has been included in the credits for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Men, True Detective, Westworld, and many others.

    Still, the New York Film Academy alum’s most recent work on Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War may be the biggest film he has worked on to date. The superhero blockbuster raked in $630 million on its opening weekend, which is the biggest opening of all time.

    The digital effects compositor sat down with us to discuss Avengers, his upcoming projects, and how his time at NYFA helped prepare him for career.

    NYFA: How did your experience on Infinity War compare to the other Marvel films you’ve worked on?
    Francesco Panzieri: On my first Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, I was actually working in-house within Marvel Studios, where I was tasked with 2D live-action visual effects. As such, my work scope was compositing actors from green screen onto photographed backgrounds, monitor insert, wire removal, plate re-timing, re-positioning, scale-up and split-screen.

    On Thor: Ragnarok and eventually Avengers: Infinity War, the team at Digital Domain had to deal with some intricate compositing of CG characters onto live-action plates. I came aboard late in the game on Thor, yet I was still lucky to get some cool looking shots, including the composite of a blue-screen take of Chris Hemsworth over a fully-CG environment in the Sakaar chase sequence, where Thor smashes the engine of a spaceship barehanded.

    On Avengers, stakes got higher. Almost every one of our shots in the sequence featured Thanos versus an Avenger; I was very lucky to get him in each of my five shots and by getting to work on one of the trailer shots released to the public two months before the movie came out. Captain America and Thor were the other two characters in my shots, so I also focused on locking down their hands onto Thanos’ gauntlet and head, to make sure that the audience would really perceive that rock solid hold as the Avengers attempt to save half the universe.

    DD had developed a technique to color-grade Thanos in a photo-realistic yet nonhuman way while adding some splash of purple on selected areas of his face and body. We also made a great use of the subsurface scattering render-layer to fine-tune his color and deep ID’s for his stubble and hair. Thanos was fully rendered in VRay with many proprietary skin shaders that DD has been continually refining for years; all the compositing was done in Nuke.

    NYFA: Was it harder to deal with mo-cap and completely CG characters like Thanos, Groot, and Rocket, or easier to incorporate VFX in their scenes?
    Francesco: The photo-realism that Digital Domain was trying to achieve on this feature definitely pushed the CG characters to be the most-challenging part. The team really cared about giving them a perfect fitting in the scene under every point of view. We made sure that black levels matched accurately to the live-action plate and brainstormed every possible interactive light from the environment onto the characters and vice versa.

    Ultimately, during every session of dailies, the supervisors kept asking, “How can we make the shot look spectacular?” or ‘What is this shot missing from looking memorable?” For Thanos, we had some great rigging work done to enhance all the muscle tension from Josh Brolin’s performance onto his digital character to help perceive the struggle during the fight scenes, as well as the weight he is bringing in the game to fight the Avengers.

    All of the Thanos work you see in the movie, with the exception of the sequence on Titan, belongs to the tireless work of the artists at Digital Domain.

    NYFA: How much direction, or conversely, freedom, are you given by the directors when crafting VFX?
    Francesco: It can vary. As previously mentioned, with Marvel, if you’re tasked with something that has already been done in their previous movies, you can rest assured that they will ask you to stay on that same beaten path. Of course, your work might exceed their expectations in terms of presentation and integration, but they really care about keeping the continuity with their previous movies as the MCU is a big shared playground.

    On another note, if you’re being asked to introduce something new to the visual story, you can really push the limit of your creativity and submit different versions for their review, as long as you also keep in mind what your VFX supervisor asks you to do and that your work must look coherent with the storytelling.

    Infinity War Francesco

    A shot from The Avengers: Infinity War

    NYFA: Was it easier creating VFX taking place in NYC and the real world or easier creating them in the totally made-up space fantasy worlds?
    Francesco: It is always easier to work with a photographed plate as a reference for compositing anything over it. Trying to create a fully CG environment without any real photographic reference can really make things unfriendly, unless you know precisely what you’re aiming at and what you want it to look like. The flexibility that comes with it can very well be a double-edged weapon if you’re on a tight deadline, however it also gives you plenty of creative freedom to fully express the storytelling.

    NYFA: How did NYFA prepare you for this particular job?
    Francesco: NYFA trained me to work very hard and for long hours. I was able to grasp a solid knowledge of 2D and 3D during my time there, thanks to a very organic and inclusive approach to the art of filmmaking and storytelling. I was able to develop technical and artistic skills that could help me find a job once I graduated, and I had a fantastic time during my studies.

    NYFA is excited Francesco’s upcoming work following the tremendous success of Avengers: Infinity War. You can learn more about him and his credits on his website.

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    May 17, 2018 • 3D Animation, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 810

  • The Simpsons Director Mike Polcino Shares Special Master Class at New York Film Academy

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) 3D Animation & VFX and Filmmaking students packed the Riverside Theater at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus for a storyboarding master class from veteran The Simpsons director, Mike Polcino.

    The Simpsons just surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running scripted show in television history, and Mike Polcino has been with the Simpsons from the very beginning, directing 31 episodes in addition to episodes from the first season of Family Guy.

    Polcino started his career in animation doing all of the tedious work that goes into a massive production such as The Simpsons, such as animation timing and quality control.

    “Occasionally, we’d get the final animations back and Bart’s eyes would be looking in two different directions,” Polcino reminisced. “You’d be surprised what people miss.”

    His talent was unmistakable and, after a few short years, he moved up to become a director. Since then, Polcino has been a staple at Fox Television Animation, whose office is next door to the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus in Burbank, California.

    Polcino took the students through his process of breaking down an Emmy-winning script to put it on screen. Episode #593, Fland Canyon featured some of The Simpsons most cinematic sequences, such as great sweeping shots of the Grand Canyon. Polcino took the enraptured audience through a visualization process to find the key shots.

    “Part of the fun,” he said, “is coming up with shots that would be impossible without the animation.”

    He then melded the material for both the Animation and Filmmaking students by sharing his process for storyboarding The Simpsons and how it is more directing than animating. The students loved the class, asking for autographs and even taking selfies with the Homer Simpson drawing Polcino left on the whiteboard.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mike Polcino for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with our students.

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  • New York Film Academy Partners with AT&T SHAPE

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    We are excited to be working with AT&T this year on AT&T SHAPE being held at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles on June 2-3, 2018. SHAPE is an immersive event that explores the convergence of technology and entertainment. Discover how the future of content creation and distribution will usher in new audience experiences. Get inspired by visionary speakers, and experience interactive exhibits from promising start-ups and industry leaders at Warner Bros. Studios backlots.

    New York Film Academy will hold Interactive Demos led by NYFA award-winning instructors. You’ll be able to try out the latest full-body motion capture technology and create a live digital action scene with a fellow performer. See your emotions come to life on animatronics and robotics through the magic of facial motion-data conversion. Get some hands-on experience creating your own VFX video using green screens and the most popular visual effects programs. There will be live Twitch streaming for the gaming enthusiasts, and more.

    2018 AT&T SHAPE logo

    What Can You Explore at SHAPE 2018?

    Take a stroll through interactive exhibits that will demonstrate how technology is revolutionizing entertainment. There will be a variety of demos on display that feature a visual effects studio, full body and facial motion capture, drone and filming tech, virtual and augmented reality and 5G. Here are just a few that you can explore at SHAPE:

    • Full Dome Pro: Take a step into our 360 projection dome and get transported to the next level in immersive experiences. This is VR made social. No headsets, no goggles, no limits- just breathtaking shared virtual reality. Experience VR you will never forget.
    • Open the Portal: –Mirror Rorrom, Electronic Countermeasure, and Open the Portal teamed up to create a hall of mirrors unlike any other. A stop motion character will guide you through an experience that transforms your image before your eyes and facilitates a thought-provoking journey for you to consider your own feelings about the future that technology is facilitating and your place within it.
    • KUKA: See how robotics can enhance the motion picture capture process. KUKA Robotics, in cooperation with their integration partner Motorized Precision, are demonstrating the KIRA 2.0 cinema robotic automation system.
    • Red: Sample games, movies, and other content on the RED Hydrogen One smartphone before it is released to the public.

    Visionary Speakers at SHAPE

    Be inspired by visionary speakers as they discuss how new technologies like mixed reality, interactive storytelling, emerging tech in networking, blockchain are transforming digital media, film, television, and gaming. A few of our featured speakers and sessions include the following:

    • Ava DuVernay: A writer, producer, director, and distributor of independent film, DuVernay will co-host our AT&T Film Awards finals and discuss her experience as an aspiring filmmaker. She is the director of Selma, which chronicles the historic 1965 voting rights campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Her most recent work includes her 2018 film, A Wrinkle in Time. and screening. Join her as we screen the finalists’ films in front of a live audience. Attend this session to vote for your favorite short and help determine who will take home a share of $60,000 in prizes.
    • Issa Rae: With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Issa Rae’s content has garnered million of views online and she has received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress for her hit show, HBO’s Insecure. Issa’s web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl was the recipient of the coveted Shorty Award for Best Web Show and her first book, a collection of essays, is a New York Times Best Seller. Rae has graced the cover and pages of major national media outlets including Essence, The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, CNN, VOGUE and TIME with appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning America, The View and more. She’ll join us at SHAPE for an intimate conversation about her experience in getting to mainstream broadcast.
    • Brian Krzanich: The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Intel, Krzanich was elected CEO in May 2013 after serving in a variety of technical and leadership roles in manufacturing and as the company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). As CEO, Krzanich is transforming Intel from a PC-centric to a data-centric company. Under his leadership, Intel has expanded in markets like memory, modems, and programmable solutions while investing in emerging areas such as AI, 5G, and autonomous driving. Hear Krzanich talk about the new ways content will be delivered and monetized through immersive experiences, including how data and investments in 5G will transform networks to meet the growing demand for new entertainment experiences.
    • Brian McLean: In 2016, McLean was awarded a Scientific and Engineering Oscar® plaque for pioneering the use of 3D printers in stop-motion animated characters. In 2017, he received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Visual Effects for his contributions to Kubo and the Two Strings. In 2009, McLean won an Annie Award for Special Achievement in Animation for his work on Following the release of ParaNorman, he was named by Variety as one of 2012’s “Animation Elite.” Prior to LAIKA, Brian worked as a traditionally trained sculptor and model maker for print and TV ads.
    • Steve Emerson: An Oscar®-nominated visual effects supervisor and longtime LAIKA collaborator, he has contributed to all four award-winning films: Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, and Coraline. Prior to joining LAIKA, Steve spent nearly twenty years working in visual effects as an artist and technical director. He has worked on many feature films and television series including The Matrix Reloaded, Transformers, The Dark Knight, and Sliders for Universal Television. In 2017, he received the Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature for Kubo and the Two Strings.
    • Brent Bushnell: An entrepreneur, electrical engineer, software developer, and an authority in immersive entertainment, VR, MR, and AR, Bushnell also serves as CEO of experiential entertainment company, Two Bit Circus. Brent is an expert in the art of engagement and passionate about using immersive technologies to create new ways to capture people’s hearts and minds. The interdisciplinary team strives to create immersive, social fun and is currently building a network of micro-amusement parks featuring free-roaming VR, robot bartenders, an interactive supper club, and more.
    • Jess Fuselier: A community outreach, marketing, and data specialist, Fuselier pioneered a community outreach program to connect film sets across the U.S. with the communities in which they operate. An experienced coder, she co-founded Young Women Who Code, teaching elementary-age girls the building blocks of STEM education. As Manager of Research and Education at Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative, Fuselier works to cultivate meaningful insights rooted in data transparency, in order to create resources that impact the sustainability of the independent film community.
    • Liz Manashil: In addition to her work at Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative, Manashil is also a feature writer and film director. She earned her B.A. in Film & Media Studies at Washington University, and her M.F.A. from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Manashil spent several years as a film critic for the PBS/Hulu series Just Seen It and has worked with distribution guru Peter Broderick. Her debut feature, Bread and Butter, was called “an absolute must-watch for women everywhere” by HelloGiggles. Liz is currently in pre-production on her next film, Speed of Life.
    • Ross Goodwin: Artist, creative technologist, hacker, gonzo data scientist, and former White House ghostwriter, Goodwin employs machine learning, natural language processing, and other computational tools to realize new forms and interfaces for written language. Ross’s projects—from word.camera, a camera that expressively narrates photographs in real-time using artificial neural networks, to Sunspring (with Oscar Sharp), the world’s first film created from an A.I.-written screenplay—have earned international acclaim.
    • Oscar Sharp: A BAFTA-nominated British filmmaker, Sharp is best known for short films The Kármán Line, Sign Language, and Sunspring, and upcoming feature Woolly for 20th Century Fox. In 2016, Sharp teamed up with Ross Goodwin and actor Thomas Middleditch to create Sunspring, the first film to be entirely scripted by artificial intelligence and produced widespread international discussion. Sharp and Goodwin followed Sunspring in 2017 with It’s No Game starring David Hasselhoff, in which the actor performs dialogue generated by an AI from a large collection of his past performances.

    SHAPE Competitions

    Every year at SHAPE, a few competitions are held to inspire aspiring filmmakers and creators.

    • AT&T Create-a-thon:Watch or participate in the AT&T Create-a-thon where you can shoot your short film at Warner Bros. Studios using select iconic cityscapes and backlots. You’ll have a chance to win a $10,000* cash prize for the best, completed film in a number of categories.
    • AT&T Film Awards: Come see the finals of the AT&T Film Awards, a short film competition for aspiring creators who are using emerging filmmaking technologies to tell their stories. Vote for your favorite short and help determine who will take home a share of $60,000 in prizes, as we screen the finalists’ films in front of a live audience and esteemed panel of judges.

    Take the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and explore outdoor sets and soundstages used to create productions such as Gilmore Girls, The Big Bang Theory, and Argo. Visit the DC Universe and walk through the DC Comics Exhibit, the real Central Perk Friends set, original Batman Museum, where you’ll see the Batmobile Collection, and so much more.

    Continue to check the schedule on the registration website to give you the most recent information about SHAPE. We hope to see you in Los Angeles in June!

     

    *No purchase necessary, U.S. resident, age of majority. Enter by 4/27/17. Void where prohibited. See Official Rules.

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  • Boy Scouts of America Earn Special Merit Badges at New York Film Academy

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) celebrated the third year of its partnership with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), with a special event offering scouts the chance to earn merit badges in the visual and performing arts.

    Through NYFA, boys and girls from local scouting dens were given the opportunity for special merit badges in Game Design, Filmmaking, Photography, or 3D Animation, through one day of hands-on intensive training at the New York Film Academy. In the morning, scouts attended classes with NYFA instructors, where they learned the basic rules of their selected craft and began to formulate the stories they wanted to tell. By the end of the day, each scout had completed a project and earned a new badge.

    The partnership between BSA and NYFA began with NYFA Service Learning Manager Paul McKenna. A native of Burbank, CA, McKenna got the idea for the partnership after reading about a similar program at Harvard. As a father and a scout leader, McKenna explained that many titans of the entertainment industry got their start in programs like the Boy Scouts.

    “Both David Lynch and Michael Moore began making films when they were in the scouts,” McKenna said. “Giving these kids an opportunity today could lead to a life-long passion.”

    Throughout the day, local scout leaders worked with NYFA instructors to help guide the scouts through the process. Assistant Scout Leader Paul Chiaravalle remarked, “The scouts are really enjoying this. … In scouting, we try to balance both outdoor and technical skills. It’s really nice of NYFA to provide this opportunity.”

    Scouts who chose the Filmmaking or Photography tracks at NYFA were taken to the Universal Backlot, where they shot a short film or learned to take portraits against a world-famous backdrop: the European set, which included storefronts, old houses, and even a train station.

    The student filmmakers were ultimately responsible for making a three-minute silent film. In teams of four or five, scouts took turns acting, directing, and filming their movies. Photography students learned how to work with light and shadow and were encouraged to explore the dynamic range of natural light. Framing was also heavily emphasized.

    At the end of the day, parents were invited to attend an award ceremony. Each scout received a certificate with his or her name on it in addition to their badges, which would be received at a later date. The scouts cheered for one another as they received their awards and celebrated their full day of storytelling through the visual and performing arts.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Universal Studios, The Boy Scouts of America, and our instructors, who helped make this event possible. Congratulations, scouts!

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  • Celebrating Craig Caton-Largent’s 1st Anniversary as Chair of 3D Animation & VFX at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    Craig Caton-Largent has just marked his first anniversary as Chair of 3D Animation & VFX at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Campus. Caton is renowned in the film industry for his groundbreaking VFX work on beloved blockbusters including Jurassic Park, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Big Trouble in Little China, Edward Scissorhands,  Apollo 13, Tangled, and more.

    To celebrate Craig’s anniversary, we’re sharing some highlights from his first year as chair of the Animation School at NYFA Los Angeles. Here’s looking forward to another great year!

    Building Community

    At Home

    This year, the NYFA Los Angeles 3D Animation School created an art wall and added a display cabinet to show off student work. The wall was a wonderful encouragement and inspiration for 3D Animation & VFX students as they worked on their showcase projects, creating a great talking point in the community and sharing their work with others. It was a great to share all their hard work with the rest of the NYFA community!

    Numbers

    It’s been a big year at the NYfA Los Angeles Animation School — this year we’ve seen a 283% increase in student enrollment in our 3D Animation & VFX programs!

    On Social

    The NYFA Los Angeles 3D Animation & VFX School also joined Instagram this year! Follow “nyfa_animation_gaming” and join the conversation!

    Alumni News & Credits

    It’s been a great year for our NYFA Los Angeles 3D Animation &VFX alumni! Here are some inspiring stories:

    • BFA grad Jessica Chung is the Winner of the LA Livescore Film Festival for Best Original Score for her animation short, Sushi Man.
    • 1-Year Conservatory grad Alex LoRusso isurrently working as an FX Artist at Scanline. Her 2017 major film credits Include Justice League, Pirates 5, & Alien Covenant. She also recently worked on Suicide Squad and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
    • 1-Year Conservatory grad Soraia Malaquias is working as a 3D Generalist at TNF Visual Effects. Her impressive list of 2017 film credits Include: American Gods and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
    • 1-Year Conservatory grad Gabriel Fernandez currently works as a Production Assistant at Eight VFX.
    • 1-Year Conservatory alum Ujala Saini is a VFX/Post Production at Electric Theatre Collective.

    Events

    There have been a lot of special events to celebrate this year!

    Monsterpalooza

    Chair Craig Caton’s new animation software Animservo was announced, and NYFA conducted the test phase. The announcement was broadcast live, then received over 20K views in the first hour.

    Siggraph

    SIGGRAPH is the world’s largest, most influential annual conference and exhibition in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Chair Craig Caton gave demonstrations during the course of the convention at the Faceware Technologies booth.

    Motion capture data from Faceware’s Analyzer and Retargeter software was output to an animatronic goblin using Caton’s new animation software, AnimServo.

    Media Lab

    This year also saw NYFA Los Angeles’ launch of the the Media Lab, to create opportunities for students and instructors to collaborate on research projects.

    The first project was testing Chair Craig Caton’s animation software Animservo. With testing successfully completed, Animservo has now be become available at animservo.com.  

    Matt Sheehan has been given directorship of the Media Lab and there is an exciting list of topics coming up … stay tuned!

    Industry Guests

    The New York Film Academy’s Guest Speaker Series saw a number of incredible animation and visual effects artists visit to share their insights with NYFA Los Angeles Animation School students.

    Amy Lawson Smeed, lead character animator of Disney’s Moana, came for a special screening and talk with Chair Craig Caton. That’s not all — NYFA alum Hanna Johansson then had a chance to meet with Amy personally to discuss her reel!

    Amy Lawson Smeed

    Byron Bashforth, character shading lead of Disney’s Coco, revealed more Disney magic in an intimate Q&A with Chair Craig Caton.

    Byron Bashforth answers questions about Disney's Coco at NYFA LA

    Byron Bashforth

    Head of Research and Development of DreamWorks Animation, Jeff Wike, was another honored guest, who treated Animation School students to a remarkable industry insider perspective on the innovation and inspiration behind much of today’s most cutting-edge animation.

    Jeff Wike atNew York Film Academy Los Angeles

    Chair Craig Caton-Largent and Jeff Wikes at NYFA Los Angeles

    Jason Liles, the Lead Actor in Netflix’s DeathNote, gave Animation School students an inside perspective of what it’s like for the actors working on the other side of motion capture technology.

    There are many exciting projects as we move into Chair Craig Caton’s second year of leadership — stay tuned for more. Congratulations, Craig, on a remarkable 1st anniversary!

     

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  • Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-nominated The Breadwinner Screened at New York Film Academy With Producers Mimi Polk Gitlin & Anthony Leo

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    On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) 3D Animation & VFX students were excited to welcome Oscar-nominated producers Mimi Polk Gitlin and Anthony Leo of The Breadwinner, a feature animation executive-produced by Angelina Jolie.

    Leo has produced Justin Bieber’s Believe, the Bruno & Boots Series, and television series Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. Polk Gitlin is perhaps best known for producing Thelma & Louise, and her work with Director Ridley Scott.

    NYFA animation students watched the duo’s latest film, The Breadwinner, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Director of the Q&A Series at NYFA Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Leo first encountered The Breadwinner, based upon by the book of the same name written by Deborah Ellis, while on vacation. One of his daughters had a friend who loved the book. One night, when the girl’s mother was reading the book aloud, everyone, no matter his or her, age stopped to listen. By the end of the vacation, the two families had both completed the book.

    Leo didn’t immediately purchase the rights to the book. He was a young producer and unsure if he was ready to dive headfirst into such an important property. But, he and the book continued to cross paths. Finally, years after that fateful trip, when he was at Groundwood Books looking for properties to develop, The Breadwinner was revealed as an option. He jumped at the opportunity.

    The decision to adapt the story as an animated film instead of a live-action film was not made lightly. The book was crafted for children ages 10-13 as a part of an educational curriculum. Even so, some of the themes in the book can be challenging to discuss.

    “We thought, if we did a live-action film like The Kite Runner, our concern was that we would lose that 10-13 year-old audience the book was meant for,” Leo said. “Through animation, we could help make those harder scenes more palpable for kids and adults.”

    From there, the producers looked at which animation studios were making this kind of content. Films like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells had paved the way for animated films with serious content aimed at children. Leo pitched The Breadwinner to Cartoon Saloon and they eagerly agreed to work on the project. Soon, Polk Gitlin joined the team to help with financing and Nora Twomey decided to direct.

    The Breadwinner is Polk Gitlin’s first formal introduction to animation. “I’ve always loved movies with strong female protagonists,” she said. “Not only is The Breadwinner about a strong, young, female protagonist, but it also had great substance. It was an inspirational and helpful film that I thought could educate people about what was going on in this part of the world. I hoped this film would inspire people to get up and help make a difference.”

    Polk Gitlin knows how to pick winners. When she and Ridley Scott were producing Alien, she encouraged Ridley to direct. “They’re not going to think of you for this kind of film,” she advised the young filmmaker. “You should take advantage of the fact that we own it and control it.”

    When it came time for the Q&A portion of the evening, one student wanted to know what advice the two had for students just beginning their careers in animation.

    “You should watch all of the animated shorts nominated for the Oscars,” Polk Gitlin told students. “It showcases multiple styles and all of these filmmakers worked on a very tight budget. It helps shape the way you think about your film. Most of those nominees are students.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Leo and Polk Gitlin for taking the time to speak with our students. The Breadwinner is now available to stream on Netflix in the United States.

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  • Celebrate Women’s History Month at the New York Film Academy

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    This Women’s History Month, which also includes International Women’s Day on March 8, the New York Film Academy joins the conversation on gender inclusivity with an updated Gender Inequality in Film Infographic as well as a full slate of events across its campus locations.

    From International Women’s Day industry panel events to film screenings and raffles, check out NYFA’s calendar of Women’s History Month activities, below, and join us on campus in Los Angeles, New York City, South Beach, and NYFA Australia, Gold Coast. And on social media, we’ll be shouting out to many of the Women of NYFA — alums who are doing incredible work in the community, in the entertainment industry, and beyond.

    New York Film Academy Women’s History Month events will include:

    Los Angeles

    MARCH 7 – Stand Up for Women Comedy Night

    Host:

    • Lisa deLarios – Lisa has toured the country featuring for Zach Galifianakis, Paul F. Tompkins, Anthony Jeselnik, and Maria Bamford among others. She was showcased on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham and has been a frequent guest on Doug Loves Movies.  

    Featured Comedians:

    • Laura House – Laura is a headlining comedian who has performed on HBO, Comedy Central, NBC, and starred in MTV’s Austin Stories. She written on the Emmy-winning shows Mom and Samantha Who, BAFTA-winning Secret Lives of Boys, as well as Nicole Byer’s Loosely, Exactly, Nicole, The George Lopez Show, Mad Love, Blue Collar TV & more.
    • Jackie Kashian – Jackie is a comic whose new album, I Am Not The Hero Of This Story, was the #1 comedy album on iTunes and Amazon. She is in the 12th year of her podcast The Dark Forest and has a new podcast on the Nerdist Network called The Jackie and Laurie Show.
    • Jena Friedman – Jena is a comedian, writer, filmmaker and political satirist who recently appeared on Conan. Her Adult Swim special Soft Focus with Jena Friedman aired in February. She has been a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has written for Late Show with David Letterman. ​
    • Annie Lederman – Annie was the co-host of We Have Issues on E! and has been a cast member on Chelsea Lately, Girl Code, @midnight, and Impractical Jokers.
    • Kate Willett Kate tours nationally and internationally, has been featured on Viceland’s Flophouse and Comedy Central’s This is Not Happening, and recently taped a Netflix special.
    • Vanessa Gonzalez – Vanessa was recently voted “Best Stand-up Comic” in the Austin Chronicle readers’ poll, and created and stars in the Mas Mejor web series Ms. Vanessa.
    • Jessica Sele– Jessica is a stand-up comedian who tours across the country, and has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and SF Sketchfest. She was written about in HuffPost.
    • Ellington Wells – Ellington is a filmmaker and comedian who hosts the monthly stand-up show Blackberry Jam, and has worked on television shows such as Insecure, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Baskets.

    March 8 – International Women’s Day: A Perspective on Women in Entertainment: Industry Panel Discussion

    Moderators:

    • Mike Civille
    • Lydia Cedrone

    Panelists

    • Dea Lawrence – CMO of Variety
    • Kelly Gilmore – Sr. VP Marketing at Warner Bros.
    • Barbara Bain – 3 time Emmy Winning Actress
    • Jeanette Collins – Producer/Writer: Big Love, Drop Dead Diva, Suddenly Susan
    • Winship Cook – Producer: K-19: The Widowmaker, Sound the Crossing,Family Plan
    • Valorie Massalas – Casting Director/Producer: Back to the Future 2 & 3, Indiana Jones, Total Recall
    • Ronnie Yeskel – Casting Director: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Curb Your Enthusiasm  
    • Elvi Cano – Executive Director EGEDA U.S.
    • Lisa Guerriero – Camera operator: Suicide Squad, Mad Men, Mission Impossible, Fight Club

    New York City

    FEB. 28,  6:30 PM EST – Heroin(e) SCREENING & Guest Speaker Event

    • Exclusive screening of Oscar-nominated Netflix short documentary Heroin(e) with the film’s editor and special guest lecturer Kristen Nutile.

    MARCH 5-6 – Women’s International Film Festival Raffle

    TBD – NYFA Women in Film Screening Series

    • Further details coming soon.

    MARCH 21 – Women in VR: Chat with Vice Chair of the Producers’ Guild of America New Media Council & NYFA Instructor Caitlin Burns 

    • Further details coming soon.

    Vice Chair of the Producers’ Guild of America New Media Council & NYFA Instructor Caitlin Burns

    South Beach

    March 21 – NYFA Women in Film Screening and Q&A

    • A screening of the 2016 drama Hidden Figures
    • A Q&A led by South Beach Filmmaking chair Maylen Dominguez

    March 21 – NYFA Women in Film Industry Panel

    • An all-woman panel featuring Rhonda Mitrani, Susie Taylor, Maha McCain, Elli Ventouras, and Giorgia Lo Savio

    NYFA Australia, Gold Coast

    March 8 – International Women’s Day Film Series

    • A screening series of films focused on female protagonists, including The Color Purple, Joy, Thelma & Louise, and Whip It.

    For updates on Women’s History Month events at the New York Film Academy, and to join us for International Women’s Day, be sure to follow us on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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  • New York Film Academy Narrative Theory Students Explore IMAX VR Centre

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    The Narrative Theory Course is a part of the New York Film Academy’s Game Design curriculum. The class focuses on storytelling methods in gaming. Virtual Reality (VR) provides an entirely new way of looking at how to tell stories. Without the control limits of a two-dimensional screen the ability to direct a player’s eye-line is no longer an option. A whole new set of rules has to be developed. This new frontier of technology brought NYFA students to the IMAX VR Centre in Hollywood, CA.

    For many students, this was their first experience with VR. “I had a really great time at the VR Center,” said student Kamen Marinov. “The moment I put those Oculus ‘goggles’ on my head I felt this strange feeling — that I was inside someone else. It was like I was seeing through another person’s eyes. It felt odd at first, but when I got used to the visuals and the game mechanics I had an amazing experience.”

    Students were able to experience a ton of games that are new to the market. The new “Justice League” game based on the Warner Brother’s film allows players to drive the Batmobile or take out Steppenwolf’s lackeys with Cyborg’s arm cannon. This is just one of the many games currently on display. Set up in an arcade style, students can could jump into several cinematic worlds including “John Wick,” “The Mummy,” “Deadwood,” and the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises.

    Some students choose to play two first-person shooters “Raw Data” and “John Wick.” Jeffery Lay found the experience both taxing and informative: “In ‘John Wick,’ I was hiding behind a bar, watching my six, as enemies come from everywhere. A big vase covering an area of my view-making forced me to me lean around it, or jump to shoot over it, even though in reality, nothing is there.” 

    “VR had a lot more movement than I expected,” said Lay. “I probably changed between standing and crouching about 50 to 100 times in a row.” 

    Nathan Hales wasn’t just having fun. He learned a lot. “The level of immersion offered by virtual reality is really something that one cannot explain but must be experienced,” said Hales. “I felt like I was living within these virtual spaces. I was cutting down robots in ‘Raw Data,’ instead of the usual extra degree of separation offered from a traditional TV or computer monitor setup. Moving forward with the knowledge I gained from experiencing the capabilities and limitations of virtual reality, I can now envision games for the medium.”

    This is important because VR is a hot commodity in the entertainment industry. Since Nonny de la Pena’s VR project in immersive journalism entitled “Hunger in Los Angeles” premiered at Sundance 2012, there’s been a lot of buzz around the future of VR, yet there were many unanswered questions about the possibilities the new technology held at the time. Facebook set a new precedent when it acquired Oculus Rift in 2014. Since then, we’ve seen the development of both VR recording technologies and creative endeavors rapidly accelerate.

    Overall, the day was a rousing success. The New York Film Academy would like to thank IMAX VR for giving our students an opportunity to glimpse the future of gaming.

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  • “Rick and Morty” Writer Mike McMahan Visits New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was excited to welcome one of the hottest writers on the animation scene, Mike McMahan. McMahan is currently one of the lead writers for “Rick and Morty” on Adult Swim. A funny kid from Chicago, he originally made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles to become a feature film comedy writer. Luckily, he fell into the world of animation, and television may never be the same. He spoke with NYFA Instructor, Eric Conner, about how to become a Writer’s Assistant, the secrets of the Rick and Morty writer’s room, and his journey from Chicago to Hollywood.

    Like the vast majority of comic writers and performers from Chicago, McMahan began his career at the Second City. While still in college studying drama, he would do basic things for the Second City Theater like help set up the stage before a show. From that experience, he was able to get a P.A. job at Scott Rubin Productions, which led to him being hired on Comedy Central’s “Drawn Together.” When the plug was pulled on the show one of his superiors was able to recommend him for “South Park.” From there he went to Fox Animation where he met Justin Roiland.

    "Rick and Morty" writer Mike McMahan answers questions from students at the New York Film Academy

    Roiland is now known as the voice of both Rick and Morty, but back then he was pitching pilots. “They were just as good as Rick and Morty,” McMahan said. He knew right away he wanted to work with Roiland in a professional capacity. “I know you’re going to have a hit show one day, like, you’re brilliant. ” he told Roiland, “Can I, please, just work on it in some capacity when you do?” A couple of years later, when Adult Swim picked up two scripts to prove it should be a series, Roiland asked him to come on as a writer’s assistant. The rest, as they say, is history.

    McMahan gave the students the skinny on working as an assistant in a writer’s room. “It’s kind of different depending on what room you’re in. It’s an insanely amazing job to get, particularly if you want to be a comedy writer.” A day breaks down like this: the assistant arrives about thirty minutes early. All day they sit on their laptop and take notes as the writers pitch ideas. The assistant is the keeper of all knowledge.

    In the “Rick and Morty” writer’s room, they use a program called Pear Notes, which records all the dialogue in the room. The recording is then sent to the writer assigned to that particular episode. This recording is vital because it doesn’t just serve as a reference for the writer. In a show that uses improvisation heavily, it captures those magic moments, like Dan rapping a song off the top of his head. The writer can add those lyrics verbatim to the script, but it might not capture the cadence or expression of a word. Luckily, the audio can also be played in the recording booth when an actor is doing their voiceover, too.

    At the end of the day, the assistant throws out all of the trash in the room and gets it ready for the next day. “You’re kind of like their babysitter. You’re going to spend the entire next day in that room.” The assistant then organizes all the notes and pulls clips from films and television that were referenced during the meeting. Traditionally, writer’s assistants work for a year and then they’re given an episode to write. “On an Adult Swim show, this is a chance to prove your voice as a writer.”

    Mike McMahan answers students questions about screenwriting

    McMahan got his first chance to write for Rick and Morty with season one episode nine, “Something Ricked This Way Comes.” This now iconic episode featured an ending where Summer and Rick get buff and beat up cruel people like a man who strangles his dog, and a Nazi. It earned him a new title in the show’s second season, Story Editor. By the third season, he had earned the position of Story Producer and written a total of four episodes for the show: “Rickshank Redemption,” “The ABC’s of Beth,” and “Total Rickall.”

    McMahan warned students that as incredible as these jobs are they are also difficult to come by. “They usually go to the assistants of the lit agents because they know the job exists in the first place. If the creator doesn’t have someone they’re already interested in usually the answer is yes because the agent’s assistant tends to be responsible. They set up meetings and manage the calendar so they should be able to handle the responsibility.” Another way to get in is to be the writer’s PA.

    Connor asked McMahan, “What do you think you learned as a Writer’s Assistant that you couldn’t have learned in a classroom?” McMahan responded, “I think you learn that every room is going to be different. There’s no manual you can read that is going to teach you how to be chill and do a good job.”

    He goes on to explain that nobody remembers the job that was done; they remember the person who did the job. “A lot of advice I give to first time writers who are moving out here is, it doesn’t matter what job you get, it matters that you’re the best at doing the job.” A writer’s room is like a family. Integrating one’s self into that family is how people stick around.

    One student, Nigel Robinson, asked, “What are some of the techniques you use to reverse audience expectations to make the show re-watchable.” McMahan contributed a large part of the show’s success in this area to Reddit. “If somebody guesses something we were planning to do on Reddit, we all get together and say ‘We’re not doing that anymore.’” If somebody tweets ideas at McMahan, he lets them know that they won’t use it.

    “If a thousand people guess an ending then that means a thousand people will watch and think that’s’ just an okay episode.” So they stretch themselves to come up with something completely different. “When I tell other writers how many weeks we spend on these shows they’re in awe.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Mike McMahan for taking time to speak with our students. There’s no word yet on whether the show has been picked up for a fourth season, but keep watching Adult Swim for more information.

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    November 30, 2017 • 3D Animation, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 952