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!
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!
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!
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!
The NYFA Los Angeles 3D Animation & VFX School also joined Instagram this year! Follow “nyfa_animation_gaming” and join the conversation!
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.
There have been a lot of special events to celebrate this year!
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 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.
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 atanimservo.com.
Matt Sheehan has been given directorship of the Media Lab and there is an exciting list of topics coming up … stay tuned!
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.
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.
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!
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 TheBreadwinner 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.
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:
MARCH 7 – Stand Up for Women Comedy Night
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.
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
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
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 VRfor giving our students an opportunity to glimpse the future of gaming.
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.
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.”
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.
On Wednesday, November 15th, students at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy were invited to a special animation presentation of “Coco” led by Character Shading Lead, Byron Bashforth. Chair of Animation, Craig Caton-Largent, played host for the evening.
Bashforth brought several clips from the film. Crowd favorites included an inspiring musical number and an overconfident child fighting with their family. Students were also able to view the stages of animation.
One of the main challenges of making “Coco” was how to make a convincing skeleton that wouldn’t scare the children in the audience. Creators went back and forth making a lot of little decisions such as should the skulls have eyes, what’s the best way to give a skull mouth shapes, and how to distinguish personalities out of the basic bone structure. All of these decisions added up to make for some pretty creative solutions.
The choice to add cloth to bone was one such challenge. The skeletal system is attached to ligaments and muscle tissue. Without them, there are large spaces between the bones. When the characters in “Coco” would walk around, their clothes would get caught in these notches. The animators were tasked with finding a way to keep the integrity of the look of the skeleton, but get the clothes to fit like they were on a flesh and blood body. The answer was to digitally sew cloth around the joints. It can’t be seen in the movie, but it works incredibly well.
From this idea, sprung another. Without any body fat, clothes just drape over the body. Belts, shoulder pads, and heavy fabrics were implemented to give shape to all of the exposed-bone characters.
The walking-test of the characters showed the way in which personalities are given to each person. The sway of their hips, how much their bones jiggle, and a pronounced and defined brow ridge truly helped distinguish one skeleton from another.
Bashforth seemed most excited about discovering a way to make authentic non-scary bones. Disney Studios is a treasure trove of the exotic. So he put the call out to everyone in the office that might have a piece of real animal bone. The best response was a whale vertebra, but they also received cow bones and other animals of varying shapes and sizes.
After each piece of bone was scanned into the computer they experimented with layering the different textures over one another until finding something that looked like bone, but not too much. Then, they created a program where they could control how fresh or deteriorated the bones looked. This ended up being massively helpful because the city of the dead has a lot of skeletons. It also has a lot of lights, “Some of the shots had well over a million lights,” Bashforth said.
One student asked, “How much of the animation is based on the performance the actors give and how much is based on the artist’s own imagination?”
Bashforth answered, “The voice recordings are done first and then the animators animate them as much as possible. The animation performances are really centered around the actors.” The animators would set up cameras in the recording booths and study the performances.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Disney and Byron Bashforth for taking the time to speak with our students. Go see “Coco,” now in theaters nationwide.
On Saturday, October 14th, 2017 Cartoon Network opened a gallery of stills from some of their most popular shows at the Paley Center for Media, in Beverly Hills. “25 Years of Drawing on Creativity” gallery featured images of some of the network’s best shows.
New York Film Academy student Tiffany Victor attended an early press viewing of the exhibit. “Incredible,” is the word she used to describe the two floors of photography, sketches, sculptures, and interactive art installations.
Rebecca Sugar’s “Steven Universe” took the first floor. The walls were lined with early character designs of the three aunts, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. There was even a visual layout describing the musical instruments that define each character. Many fans were excited to see some of their favorite ships (the romantic pairing of characters on the show) drawn by Sugar herself.
Photo by Imeh Bryant/The Paley Center
Upstairs, “OK KO!” and “The PowerPuff Girls” had life-size statues of the main characters from the show on display. There was even a model of the girls’ Townsville home. The walls were lined with artist’s interpretations of themselves as PowerPuff girls. On the opposite wall were dramatic photographs of the claymation episode of Adventure Time! The exhibit even included several of the faces used to animate the character of Finn.
Also included in the exhibit were interactive games and videos. Victor was able to play one of the “Ben 10” games on an iPad. Face-tracking software followed her face and turned her into one of the aliens from the show.
The interactive and eye-opening experience is a fun way to spend an afternoon. This weekend, Tiffany Victor will be going back to the Paley Center to hear Rebecca Sugar and other show creators discuss their process and the upcoming seasons of their shows.
Photo by Imeh Bryant/The Paley Center
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Cartoon Network for giving us a sneak peek at this incredible exhibit and photographer Imeh Bryant of The Paley Center for providing us with the photos used for this article. “25 Years of Drawing on Creativity” runs through October 22nd, 2017 at the Paley Center for Media.
It seems that while earning his MFA in Filmmaking at NYFA Los Angeles, Anthony Falleroni took one of the New York Film Academy’s most cherished values to heart: the commitment to learning by doing. With his background in filmmaking, Falleroni had no formal training or experience in animation, yet that didn’t stop him from creating his own original animated short, “Jumpy” — a beautifully executed story that recently snagged the attention of Vimeo Staffers to become Short of the Week, and was also featured by Vice Creators, Gizmodo, Riot Nerd, Digg, and more.
We had a chance to catch up with Falleroni to hear about what inspired “Jumpy,” and how he mastered his doubts to take on the challenge of learning by doing in the real world.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?
AF: From a very young age, I’ve always been attracted to storytelling, especially visual storytelling. I was always drawing, playing video games, or wearing out VHS tapes from constant use. When I reached high school and the question of “what do you want to do with your life” really starts being presented to you, filmmaking really seemed like the only right answer — and my mom and stepdad and family were always completely supportive. I decided to study history and psychology at Carnegie Mellon as an undergrad because a) those topics interest me and b) I felt they were important back-bones to better telling stories about being human. When I neared the end of the undergraduate study, moving to Los Angeles and pursuing an actual course of study in film was the natural next step … which lead me to NYFA.
NYFA: Why animation?
AF: All through my study and NYFA and for many years after that, I was always focused on live-action. As much as I’ve always loved animation and loved to draw, making animated films never really entered my mind because I didn’t have any training (or any concept of how to go about it). I certainly didn’t think of animation as something I could just “do.”
Then, in around 2013, I had an idea for a story that was all about imagination, that seemed best suited to animation. So I decided to just give it a try and taught myself as I went, along with watching old documentaries of Walt Disney explaining their process, and eventually my short “Blurry” was complete.
In the process I realized that animation allows for a direct translation of my ideas to the screen. There’s no excuse to be made if the story isn’t told in the absolute best, most efficient, and most engaging way because anything is possible — it can’t be blamed on camera issues or inclement weather, etc. And I like that because it forces me to execute, both technically and conceptually, at the highest level I can. Also, paper and pens are cheap.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your film “Jumpy,” what inspired it, and how you worked on it?
AF: “Jumpy” was inspired by many complex emotions, which I tried to convey in the short. Ideas of feeling unsuccessful, of comparing yourself to others, of determination, etc. And so, in thinking about these ideas, the concept of a frustrating video game came to mind. It seemed to be a fun and unique way to explore those themes … and I’m a nerd, so I was excited to create something in a world that I’ve loved since I was two years old (which is when I got my first NES). I had never designed a whole video game world from scratch and the thought of that challenge excited me.
NYFA: Is Vimeo your primary platform? Can you tell us about your process in distributing your work?
AF: Vimeo is my primary platform, but I also release my work in waves on other platforms. Being primarily on Vimeo also allows me to have “premieres” on other platforms with bigger brands — for example, Vice Creators premiered “Jumpy” directly on their Facebook, which has over a million subscribers and got a much larger audience on Facebook than if I had just uploaded it directly to my own page.
Vimeo also gives you the chance to be selected as a Staff Pick, which I am grateful/lucky that “Jumpy” was selected for — and that brings in a significantly larger audience. In terms of broader distribution, it’s all about messaging people and blogs that would be interested.
With something like “Jumpy,” the video game aspect allows for a really large pool of potential sites that tend to feature gaming-culture stories. So I submitted to many of those outlets (places like Gizmodo and Film School Rejects), and thankfully many of them are responding positively and are featuring “Jumpy.” I also made a BTS video explaining some of the broader concepts I used to make “Jumpy,” and that’s also a really smart strategy to make your content more shareable.
NYFA: Was there any particular challenge in making this short that you overcame?
AF: As I mentioned, I’m not a trained animator, so anytime I start a new animated project it’s a challenge. And again, since having not done a video game-styled animation before, that medium in and of itself was an obstacle.
My main concern was achieving a balance between feeling authentic as a video game and also being emotionally engaging. It can be hard to illicit a connection between the audience and a character made up of a small number of pixels (and who thus can only be so expressive). Overcoming it was just trial and error — playing around with Jumpy’s design until I felt the character worked the way I needed it to and then trusting that instinct.
Animation allows for constant perfecting and you can get stuck never completing something because it can always be better … at a certain point, you just have to trust it and get going.
NYFA: How did you find out that you had been selected as the Vimeo Short of the Week?
AF: When the Vimeo Staff start liking your video, following your profile, and one or more of them comments positively on your video, it’s a pretty good indicator that a staff pick is coming. I noticed all those checkpoints occurring in the morning, so I just kept refreshing Vimeo during the day, suspecting that it was coming and sure enough, it eventually popped up. It’s definitely a rewarding feeling because you know it means more people will see your work, and that’s what it’s all about.
NYFA: What advice can you offer to fellow NYFA animation students aspiring to bring their concept for a short to full realization?
AF: I’m not sure I’m the best person to give advice on animation since I just make it up as I go every time. I’m confident there’s far more I could learn from the NYFA animation students than they can learn from me. If I could say anything to them, it would just be to trust their instincts, make content and not worry about failing. I have done all the animation for my shorts myself thus far and I have no idea what I’m doing — so if they have a story/concept they want to realize, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t just go after it. And if it comes out horrible, then learn from that — examine what worked and what didn’t and start the next idea fresh. I am not endorsed by Nike, but seriously the best advice is just do it.
NYFA: What’s next for you — any projects or next steps you’d like to tell us about?
AF: I always have a million ideas swirling in my head, so simply picking what’s next is a challenge in and of itself. That said, my goal is to one day create an animated feature film. I’ve written a script that I’m very happy with, so my next project may actually be to animate a trailer from that script to give visuals and life to the words on the page — and potentially raise some interest/money/whatever to eventually bring that full story to life.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Anthony Falleroni for sharing a part of his story with our community.
NYFA instructor Craig Caton joined the NYFA Games team on an episode of “Schooled!” and held a crash course on Maya…and dragon physics. The key points of takes us through the steps of animating a dragon, putting it through a flight cycle and running it through Unity for a final polish.
Using a dragon rig from Skyrim, Craig animated an 18 frame loopable flight cycle. One of the keys to making the animation look natural is understanding how a dragon moves and the basic laws of physics. For example, when the dragon is flapping its wings upwards the outer wings would actually be pointed downward (dragon physics!). The technical term for this movement in animation is “overlapping animation” and becomes a fundamental element in making even basic animation look realistic.
Another useful tip we learned was that we shouldn’t be too concerned with symmetry when it comes to animating flapping wings. A common, novice mistake is to try to make the wings move in perfect symmetry when, in nature, birds do not flap their wings in perfect symmetry. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that nature is rarely perfectly symmetrical.
You can learn more tricks of the trade by viewing the episode in its entirety here: