• “Blue World Order” Produced by NYFA Australia Instructor Timothy Maddocks

    NYFA Australia instructor Timothy Maddocks has taken the philosophy of learning by doing a step farther: teaching by example, continuing to not only remain active in his industry, expanding his impressive list of producing credits with a new feature and festival award wins. “Blue World Order,” which Maddocks produced, is causing a stir on the festival circuit, screening at the prestigious Madrid International Film Festival and sweeping awards elsewhere including:

    Winner, Best Narrative Feature; Film Invasion Los Angeles

    Winner, Audience Choice; Canberra International Film Festival

    Winner Best Feature; Mindfield Los Angeles

    Official Selection: Sci-Fi London, Madrid International (Nominated for Best Film), Burbank International, Phoenix Comic Con

    “Blue World Order” also co-stars fellow NYFA instructor Stephen Hunter, perhaps best known for his turn as Bombur in “The Hobbit” films. NYFA had a chance to catch up with Mr. Maddocks to hear some of his insights on producing high quality films for the festival circuits, and how his students can continue learning by doing out in the industry.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    TM: My road to producing and teaching has been a long one. It started with working shooting sports and community TV, then studying a diploma of film and television at TAFE. After my studies I used sports cameras to shoot several short films with friends where we all honed our skills. Some of the films were OK, but many of them were just lessons for us. After about 10 shorts we got together and shot a low budget feature film called “Sum of Existence” that we eventually sold to the National Nine Network. I thought that having made something we would be able to get funding more easily, but in the end it still took a number of years.

    One night, while showing one of the last of the short films at an event, I was approached by another director who had a film screening there, Marc Furmie, and we went for funding on a short and got it.

    “Death’s Requiem” was the first film to have a decent budget — twice what we had for “Sum of Existence,” and it opened doors to many other places. Through networking I met people who funded our first full budget feature, “Terminus.”

    Along the way, one of the people I had met was Hunter McMahon and after he saw “Terminus” he invited me to come and speak to the students at NYFA as a one-off. The students asked a lot of questions, and as it happened, NYFA was looking for a teacher for production — so I joined the school.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time as an instructor with us?

    TM: My favourite moment at NYFA came when I was working on my third feature, “Out of the Shadows,” and some students came on a field trip to assist with shooting pick-ups. I know the students got a lot out of that day and it felt good to give them real hands-on experience, because NYFA is all about the experience of making things, rather than just classroom learning.

    NYFA: As a producer, what do you look for in a project?

    TM: The script is the guide. Firstly, you have to be able to read it from cover to cover without wanting to put it down. Then, you think about genre, market, and how you can get it made. As I’ve grown, so have my tastes, and while I have been known for producing horror and thrillers, “Blue World Order” was a sci-fi and a great story to start with.

    NYFA: What inspired your film “Blue World Order,” which you produced?

    TM: “Blue World Order” was written by Ché Baker, and he is also a published author as Scott Baker. I read both his script and novel ,and saw the enormous potential in the world that he had created because, like all of the best sci-fi, it is only a small stretch from the world we live in — and that is what makes it easy to relate to. Ché had met me back in the sports days and reached out to get my opinion of the script. I gave him notes and he could see how they helped with the story. From then on, we started talking about how to make the film.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your experience producing the film? Were there any surprises along the way?

    TM: Producing the film was a great experience. We had the challenges that most face: limited time, budget, and resources, however Ché had really made a great start in that he had many of the people of Canberra on his side and they welcomed us with open arms. Ché had also worked on several films in crew roles and had made some good connections in both cast and crew. I had also worked with some great people. We set up the schedule so that the first couple of days on set had Bruce Spence starring as Whippet — a very dark character. Bruce brought him to life and that really sparked our crew.

    Many of the crew were Canberra locals with little or no on-set experience. In the middle of the shoot we had Jack Thompson come and that gave everyone a fresh injection. And partly because I was still closing the deal with the Department of Immigration, and also his agent, but the last few days were with Billy Zane. Ché had met Billy in the U.S. when he was working as an on-set driver and the two had hit it off. Billy came along and helped us finish the main block of shooting. As is often the case, there were pick-ups done later, but at the end of five weeks we had the makings of a film.

    NYFA: “Blue World Order” has swept quite a few film festival awards. What advice would you offer to students interested in producing quality films and competing at renowned festivals?

    TM: “Blue World Order” has picked up several awards, and so did “Death’s Requiem, The New Life,” and it is always the same reason: Because when we get an opportunity to make a film it is our job to pour everything into it.

    No one gives you the opportunity. You earn it. Ché knew that and he poured everything he had into “Blue World Order,” and his passion was infectious. Our crew were drawn from film students to other people who just wanted to give it a go. A few of us had worked together before, like Production Designer Merryn Schofield who had been in the art department on “Terminus,” but being the designer was a big break for her and she had a great group of locals who are inseparable friends today.

    The thing anyone who has made a film knows, is that making it is only half the battle — getting it out there is the next part. You have to send it to festivals, research which ones are appropriate, and push, push, push. That’s the only way that industry buyers are going to notice your film, and from there, the real audience can discover it.

    NYFA: The film co-stars fellow NYFA Instructor Stephen Hunter. Can you tell us how that collaboration came about?

    TM: During his time on “The Hobbit” movies where he worked with Andrew Lesnie as his on-set colourist, Ché had made friends with Stephen Hunter, who played Bombur. Stephen read an early draft and gave Ché feedback and really brought the humour to the script. All of the best films are collaborations: Everyone brings something to the table, and the best directors and producers are the ones who know how to bring those ideas to the fore and make the film better each time. Stephen was full of ideas and willing to get in there and give things a go. It was a great opportunity for him to step into a role that had a lot more going on for his character too.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing you for your work on “Blue World Order”?

    TM: My time at NYFA was helpful in that every time I do anything I look for the learning experience in it. As someone who had come from sports and worked into film, I hadn’t really sat down and broken down the elements of what I do as a producer until I had to teach students.

    Teaching other people gives you structure, and structure is important when managing a large project like a feature film. As a teacher I always love the enthusiasm students bring, and the attitude is one of “just do it” and I encourage that, but then impart on students some of the lessons that I have learned along the way.

    You can spend just as much time and money making a terrible film as making a good one — the difference is in the planning.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on, or what’s next for “Blue World Order”?

    TM:  Since “Blue World Order” spent a long time in post-production because of the special effects involved in sci-fi, I was able to get on and make “Out of the Shadows” while Ché, as director/producer saw “Blue World Order” home. “Out of the Shadows” is also making its way into the world.

    I’ve also started working on IMAX documentaries and helped Jen Peedom on “Mountain,” which is releasing soon.

    “Blue World Order” is going through the screenings for the AACTA awards and has screened in Melbourne on Sept. 12, Sydney on the Sept. 16, and Brisbane on Sept. 19. Any AACTA members can head along and see the film and vote for it there.

    Then later in the year there are more screenings open to the public in Australia. It is being sold by Arclight worldwide and so we’ll have to see where they get traction for the release. If you’re a student who is curious, then sign up for updates here.

    NYFA: Is there anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?

    TM: I’d really just like to reinforce how important it is to be passionate about your career in film, as no one else is going to care as much as you. Every time you get an opportunity to work on a film in whatever role it is, if you give it your all, people will notice. Several cast and crew that I have worked with on small films have come on to larger ones, and usually in greater roles. I do it myself where I have helped people out and then found myself with work. NYFA students often have that passion and some of my students are already building careers for themselves. I really enjoy working with people who seize the opportunities and then go on to create more.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Timothy Maddocks for taking the time to share his experience producing “Blue World Order” with our community.


  • NYFA Gold Coast Celebrates Jan ’17 Acting for Film End of Year Screenings

    In early September 2017, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus held the January 2017 Acting for Film end of year screenings at Event Cinemas in Pacific Fair.

    As a part of the New York Film Academy Australia’s commitment to hands-on education, the event was a glamorous and festive occasion that allowed the students to share their hard work in class projects with an invited audience of friends and family along with teachers and classmates.

    The opportunity to celebrate their school accomplishments and experience a formal screening was not to be missed.

    “It has been a pleasure seeing the students of January 2017 grow and develop into wonderful actors, which was portrayed through their screening tonight,” said NYFA Australia Acting Chair Stuart Lumsden. “On behalf of all the staff and lecturers at the New York Film Academy, Gold Coast, we would like to give our sincerest congratulations for all you have achieved throughout the year.”

  • Special Screening of Netflix’s “Death Note” With NYFA Alumnus Jason Liles

    This September, New York Film Academy alumnus Jason Liles was the second guest for the Alumni Screenings taking place the first Thursday of every month. After a screening of Liles’ latest work, Netflix’s “Death Note,” there was a Q and A. The creature actor is playing the indomitable Ryuk, who was voiced by Willem Dafoe.

    This is Liles’ first major motion picture and his enthusiasm for the craft of acting was tangible. He even stayed late, past the school closing, to speak with students about how to break into the industry.

    Chair of Alumni Affairs Gabriela Egito and Chair of Animation Craig Caton hosted the evening. They kicked off with the question on everyone’s mind, “What was it like in the Ryuk costume?”

    The outfit is skin tight leather, covered in sharp quills, and topped with bold purple hair. The costume came with a lot of restrictions. For one thing, common set etiquette requires crew yell, “Points!” when walking around with tripods, c-stands, or any object that could potentially impale another person. A common joke when Liles arrived on set was to yell, “Quills!”

    According to Liles, the quills were the heaviest part of the costume, but not the most challenging part. “Death Note” was filmed over the summer in Toronto. This was not exactly ideal weather in which to be covered head to toe in tight black leather.

    One student asked, “How do you, as an actor, take care of your health when you’re in the suit?” Liles gave a lot of credit to the makeup and wardrobe team, who he lovingly called “Team Ryuk.” At one point, a cooling suit was implemented: a system of tubes that run underneath the costume. The idea is that ice-cold water can be shot through the tubes to cool the performer down without taking off the costume.

    Keeping on the costume is vital to the filmmaking process. When they first began filming it took about an hour and a half to turn Liles into the god-spirit Ryuk. Before the end of production, Team Ryuk was able to get the costume and makeup done in about 30 minutes, according to Liles. Unfortunately, the cooling suit only worked once for five minutes.

    So, Liles was forced to manage his body temperature. The crew was helpful, setting up a cooling tent which was an air-conditioned reprieve from the summer heat. Cold packs were occasionally inserted into the suit between takes to help bring his body temperature down, which could reach over a hundred degrees. But it was staying hydrated that was the most important part.

    Getting the right amount of water was tricky. Since taking on and putting on the suit was a complicated affair, Liles had to strike a balance between staying hydrated enough not to die, but not so hydrated that he has to use the restroom every 15 minutes.

    But the suit wasn’t the only thing the NYFA community wanted to know about. Many were curious about how an actor can project through big costumes and pounds of makeup. Liles said in order to prepare for Ryuk, he watched the anime series and read the manga created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. But this was just the jumping off point.

    David Bowie and Prince were both wanted to perform the role of Ryuk before they passed, and director Adam Wingard wanted to use these musical geniuses as inspiration for the characters movements.

    The audition was a simultaneously grueling and joyous process. See, the audition was a movement audition. The single camera was mounted with a wide-angle lens. The script described movements such as popping in and out of the scene in poofs of smoke. “At first I thought, this is impossible,” Liles said.

    But he persevered, experimenting with different animal movements and eventually landing on a snake. He used his height to control the space. Sometimes he’d be crouching or slithering across the floor and then he’d stand up, his lanky body creating this skeleton-like creature. Liles even wore an all black leotard, employing his brief training as a mime, hoping the dark clothing would help him look more like liquid.

    The casting director was so impressed she told him immediately that he had done a great job and that she hoped he would be cast. Even so, he wasn’t sure he’d land the role. He recalled he had been close to being cast as the titular “Krampus” a few years earlier.

    “I was always so close,” he said, but his agent assured him he earned the part. “He told me the only way I wasn’t going to get the part is if I turned it down.”

    Liles had quite a lot of wisdom to dispense. He encouraged students to, “…be the CEO of your life. I stopped waiting for somebody to do something.” He told stories of making international calls to Australia to figure out who was casting “Alien V. Predator” because he wanted to be a xenomorph, and walking into casting agents office in Canada and asking for a part.

    “I never thought I would do this,” he shared. But Liles wouldn’t let fear stop him from pursuing his goal. “Just try stuff,” he encouraged the students. “There’s only so much prep you can do. When you get on set everything is going to be changing.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Liles for taking the time to speak with our students. Watch Liles in the movie “Death Note” on Netflix, and performing with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Rampage” as his best friend, an albino gorilla named George.

  • NYFA Alumna Meghan Modrovsky is Arya in “Game of Thrones: The Musical”

    NYFA acting alumna Meghan Modrovsky is on her way to Broadway as one of the most popular characters in America: Arya Stark, the littlest assassin on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is now a rapping, singing assassin in “Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical.”

    Modrovsky was interviewed via email by NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to talk about the monumental task of playing Arya and what it’s like to be a part of something with such a large fanbase.

    NYFA: Can you talk a little about the audition process? Did you go in for Arya or were you surprised by the casting decision? 

    Modrovsky: I applied for the part of Arya via Actor’s Access in October of 2016. The audition itself was the same as any other. I had to prepare 16 bars and a scene, but there was one big exception.

    The role of Arya required the actor the rap. While I’m a fan of the genre, I had never rapped for anyone other than my cats. I prepped my song, my sides, and my 60 seconds of rap and went into the audition that day fully expecting to make an *ss out of myself.

    As I was sitting in the waiting area about to implode from anxiety, a wave of calm washed over me and I just started smiling. I’m sitting here about to rap a frickin’ Eminem song so I can hopefully play Arya Stark in a “Game of Thrones” parody musical. As soon as I accepted how ridiculous the whole situation was, I was ready to go. This was a rare audition. I felt really, really good afterward, so I was just elated when they called to offer me the part.

    NYFA: Are you a fan of the book or the show? Who is your favorite character? 

    Modrovsky: At this point in time, I prefer the books to the show. Once the show ran out of George R. R. Martin’s source material and started bending towards fan fiction, the carefully constructed character logic started getting sacrificed for sake of the plot and the show has suffered as a result. Yes, I’m that person.

    My favorite character has always been Cersei. She is vile, vindictive, power-hungry, murderous, and her blowing up the Sept is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on television. What’s not to love?

    NYFA: Did you base your characterization off of the book, the show, a mixture of both, or just use the script you had? Why?

    Modrovsky: I stuck to the script we were given almost exclusively for Arya’s portrayal. Our show’s plot focuses on season one of “Game of Thrones,” with some well-placed spoilers, and Arya wasn’t a big player in the story yet. We are first and foremost a parody musical, so the writer decided to play with Arya’s arc and make it a running gag. I don’t want to give too much away, but in our show, you see Arya go through hilarious phases and stages of adolescence as she tries to figure out who she is.

    NYFA: What was it like performing at Comic Con? Do you have a favorite memory from this performance? 

    Modrovsky: San Diego Comic Con was an absolute madhouse in the best possible way. We had eight shows over four days and we were all sick and exhausted by the end. The audiences loved it though. My favorite memory happened after our final show.

    We went out into the lobby to take photos with people and after some time, I headed backstage to change out of my sweaty costume. As I rounded the corner to the entrance of the theatre, I heard someone shriek, “Arya!”

    It was a group of audience members from the last performance. They rattled off how much they loved the show, how much they loved what I did with Arya, how much they loved my rap sequence and a slew of other incredibly kind words. We all hugged and they went on their merry way, but man, that was a truly amazing way to end a crazy week. That alone is one of the coolest things that have ever happened to me.

    NYFA:  Is there any fan interaction with the show? What has that been like? 

    Modrovsky: There is! Not so much with famous lines, but during the transition from the opening number to scene one, we normally start singing “Peter Dinklage” to the tune of  “The Game of Thrones” theme song.  It always gets a good laugh. At Comic Con the crowds participated loudly and enthusiastically. They loved booing Joffrey and even started singing the chorus with us for “Things I Do For Love.”

    NYFA: What’s the most exciting part about taking the show to NY? 

    Modrovsky: The most exciting part is being taken to NY as an off-Broadway production. This is not the normal fate of most theatre productions, and we are very fortunate to have this opportunity. I’ve been doing theatre since I was 13 and the notion that in one short month I’ll be playing several doors down from some of the biggest names on Broadway is mind-boggling.

    NYFA: Has the cast and crew watched this season of “Game of Thrones” together?

    Modrovsky: Yes! Several cast members would regularly organize screenings and good portions of the cast would get together to watch. Sadly, I don’t know about any fun reactions. I haven’t been present for any of the viewings for two reasons. One, my fiancé would be very upset if I watched it without him. “Game of Thrones” runs deep in our relationship. Two, I am incapable of shutting the heck up during an episode. I didn’t want to inflict that on my friends.

    NYFA: What’s your favorite song to sing in the musical? 

    Modrovsky: Definitely “Stronger.” “Stronger” is our feminist power ballad where all the women of Westeros including Daenerys, Sansa, Arya, Catelyn, and Cersei come together to say, “Yes, our current circumstances suck, but we possess the strength to rise above and conquer.” The song is about empowerment and overcoming the odds of your situation. We’re a parody show, so this number is particularly special as it’s our one serious moment.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you with this role? 

    Modrovsky: It wasn’t specifically something that helped me with the role; rather it helped me land the role. I learned to never make the casting director’s choice for them. I was so nervous the morning of the audition that I seriously considered canceling my time slot. I’m so glad the logical side of my brain told the emotional side to shut up.

    It’s not your place as an actor to decide if you’re right for the part. That’s the casting director’s job, and your speculation on the whys and why not’s are irrelevant and a waste of your energy. Focus on being prompt, prepared, likable, and leaving a good impression in the room.

    NYFA: Why do you think fans have flocked to the show? 

    Modrovsky: “Game of Thrones” has a ravenously devoted fanbase. People have flocked to ”Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical” for the same reasons they flocked to ”A Very Potter Musical.” They love these characters and story so much and they want to share their love of it with their fellow nerds.

    You can watch “Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical” at The Jerry Orbach Theater on 50th and Broadway in midtown Manhattan. The show runs from October 13 – 29. Click here for ticket information.


  • NYFA Acting Instructor Miguel Cruz Inks Deal with FOX International Productions

    NYFA’s Acting Department Senior Instructor and Director of Fulbright Initiatives Miguel Cruz recently signed a development deal with FOX International Productions to supervise the Spanish adaptation of the Argentinian rom-com hit “Permitidos” (“That’s Not Cheating”).
    Cruz will direct and produce the adaptation, and will be working with top Spanish scriptwriters Marta Sanchez (“Thi Mai”) and Antonio and David Sanchez Olivas (“Villaviciosa de Al Lado,” “Off Course”). Production is expected to receive the green light for shooting this spring in Spain, with Madrid and the Canary Islands as its main locations. This will mark Cruz’s return to comedy, as well as his first project for a U.S. studio after a long career in the Spanish TV industry.
    Cruz’s relationship with the American film industry dates back to 2006, when he attended the Filmmaking program at The New York Film Academy on a Fulbright Scholarship. After his graduation, he went back to Spain to direct the sitcom “Aida.” The show was  Spain’s most popular show at that time and aired for over 10 years.
    His experience and hands-on training at NYFA helped inspire him to write, direct and produce his first feature length film, “Vulnerables,” a psychological thriller starring the popular Spanish actress Paula Echevarria. This independent film was released internationally and later broadcast on Sundance Channel. He is currently developing an English language daptation of “Vulnerables.”

    In 2013, Cruz came back to Los Angeles to launch his career in the American industry. Since then he has combined his professional and academic careers: while pitching his next projects to major studios, Cruz has taught at NYFA in Los Angeles and held lectures abroad in places like Argentina, Colombia, and Senegal.
    In his words, “There is a great opportunity in Hollywood right now for international filmmakers that aim to produce projects in local language with an universal narrative and Hollywood production standards. Each day more, local movies get greenlit in Hollywood, and knowing the industry and its ways, has been crucial for me in the development of a global career.”
  • NYFA Gold Coast Hosts Advanced April ’17 Actors Mid Year Screening

    This August, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast Campus held the Advanced April 2017 Acting for Film mid-year screening showcase. As a part of NYFA Gold Coast’s continued commitment to hands-on learning, the screening showcase provides acting for film students with the experience and opportunity to share their work with invited guests.

    Directed by Senior Acting Lecturer, Adam Couper, the students screened their 30-minute TV pilot “Eternity” in the Southport Campus theatre.

    Mr. Adam Couper states, “It’s one thing for student actors to work on existing scenes from film and television, but part of the purpose of this pilot exercise was to involve them in creating their characters from the ground up. And they all embraced the process with great verve, to populate the pilot with truly unique characters telling a story they made their own.”

    August 31, 2017 • Academic Programs, Acting, Community Highlights, Film School • Views: 788

  • NYFA Gold Coast May ’17 Actors Shine in Mid-Year Performance

    This August, New York Film Academy Gold Coast Campus held the May 2017 Acting for Film mid-year performance showcase.

    As a part of the New York Film Academy Australia’s commitment to hands-on learning, the mid-year performance showcase allows students to put what they have learned throughout the semester into practice and gain real-world experience performing curated material for an invited audience.

    Directed by Acting Lecturer Veronica Neave, acting for film students performed scenes from “Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” by award-winning playwright Daniel Evans, in the Creative Space at the purpose-built Southport campus of the New York Film Academy Gold Coast. The play re-imagines Sophocles’ infamous tragedy in modern Australia, in a darkly comic tale of modern community.

    “I chose this particular script for this group because they are all really adventurous,” said acting instructor Veronica Neave.

    Senior Acting Lecturer Adam Couper stated, “It’s always exciting to see young actors take that step from the classroom to the stage, when all the practice becomes real and for a magical night we get a glimpse of the actors they’ll become.”

  • NYFA Screenwriting & Filmmaking Alumna Jaclyn S. Powell Finalist at NY Film & TV Festival

    New York Film Academy screenwriting and filmmaking alumna Jaclyn S. Powell adventured through previous careers as a ski instructor and a paralegal before making the decision to return to school at the New York Film Academy to pursue her dream of writing. Recently, Powell’s short film script “The Last Shred of Daylight” was selected as a finalist this summer at the New York Film & TV Festival, and went on to win the award for Best Short Script. We had a chance to catch up with Jaclyn to hear about her time at the festival, her time at NYFA, and how she approaches her screenplays.

    NYFA: First can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    JP: After college I enjoyed a fun career as a ski instructor at Deer Valley Utah, then went back to school and got an associate degree as a paralegal in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I had attended college as an English major. As a paralegal in Las Vegas for the law firm representing the police department, I handled some of the exciting cases that the show CSI was made of, one of which I would like to turn into a psychological thriller script…

    I moved to Puerto Rico and took the job of litigation/trial coordinator for a large law firm … As the economy crashed and work slowed down in Puerto Rico, I realized I was missing a creative outlet and I started taking photographs and drawing again, to stimulate my creativity. That led to short story writing and I got the idea for a book, a conspiracy thriller, “Kill Switch.” When I outlined the plot for one of the attorneys he said: forget a book, turn that into a movie.

    …After doing an internet search, I found the New York Film Academy and was just in time for the 8-week intensive, the last screenwriting group at the Union Square facility. (Heart of my hearts! I’m sure I was there in a past life!) After the screenwriting class ended I joined a writing group, but drifted into Improv at UCB and struggled with disappointment about not getting “Kill Switch” on the market and my screenwriting not going anywhere. I decided I would be a better screenwriter if I understood more about how films are made, so I took NYFA’s filmmaking program — and that’s where I fell in love with films, filmmaking, and screenwriting. To take a vision you see in your mind and be able to convey it on screen, there’s nothing that equals that feeling.

    NYFA: What was your inspiration for your short script “The Last Shred of Daylight”?

    JP: “The Last Shred of Daylight” came out of a short story I wrote for a three-minute fiction contest. The prompt was: when one door closes, another one opens. It stems from that moment of despair when you think all is lost and can’t see beyond your present moment of misery. As I repeated the words of the prompt to myself, I heard the voice of the narrator saying those words and the first few sentences of the story in a slow, southern drawl, and story began to write itself.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little about the process of becoming a finalist at the New York Film & TV Festival?

    JP: Jameson Whiskey had a contest and Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in the winner’s screenplay. I heard about that a day or two before the end of the contest and in four hours had changed the story to a six page script, the maximum page limit. I had the date of the contest wrong and missed it by a day! I wanted to find out if my writing was worth pursuing, and entered the script into a couple of other festivals.

    Cinequest wrote back that they really liked the script, said that it reminded them of John Grisholm’s “A Painted House,” but that the ending was too deus ex machina. I agreed with their assessment and reworked the script several times until everyone I shared it with liked it and, more importantly, I liked it. I entered the new script into a few festivals and that’s when I started making the finals, with the NY Film and TV Festival being my first win.

    NYFA: You had the chance to attend the festival where your script was a finalist — what was that experience like?

    JP: When I first got the notice that I was a finalist in the NY Film and TV Festival I was so surprised I thought it wasn’t real. I’ve seen the lists of finalists in some contests and they number in the dozens, but here I was in the top five for short scripts. Then a week later I got the notice that I was a finalist in the AT&T and Warner Brothers screenplay contest and realized that maybe it was all real. That’s when I decided to attend the festival.

    I was skeptical all the way to the festival until I met the winners of the other categories and they were from Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, Maine. It was a small festival which gave me the benefit of meeting all the other writers and hearing their stories and it was an honor to be among such dedicated writers.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing you for your experience with the New York Film & TV Festival?

    JP: At the table read for my final filmmaking script, “Storme the Toad Crusher” as well as the table read for “The Last Shred of Daylight,” the feedback I was getting from the actors is that they like my writing because they understand what I expect from the character. I think the training I got from NYFA in filmmaking — directing actors, lighting, editing and cinematography — combined to help me make a script that is both readable and easy to visualize.

    …I wouldn’t be in this position at all if it weren’t for my wonderful time as a NYFA student. And I sure am an avid advocate for the school!

    NYFA: What advice would you give to your fellow screenwriters who are looking to create festival-worthy scripts?

    JP: I would advise fellow screenwriters who want to enter festivals to focus on short scripts, share your work with other writers and actors for feedback, and be open to revisions. I would also suggest caution when entering festivals, and look for those that offer feedback. And I would definitely recommend taking filmmaking and making a few films to get an idea of what’s possible and what’s not possible for a short script.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jaclyn S. Powell for taking the time to share a bit of her story with the NYFA community. “The Last Shred of Daylight” begins production in September, and you can follow the fim on Facebook and GoFundMe.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jaclyn S. Powell for taking the time to share a bit of her story with our community.


    August 24, 2017 • Acting • Views: 1231

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumna Esther Van Zyl Stars in “Life After Her”

    From South Africa to New York to the Madrid International Film Festival to promote “Life After Her,” it’s been a busy year for NYFA Acting for Film alumna Esther Van Zyl — and she shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Since co-writing and creating “Life After Her” with fellow NYFA alumnus Guilherme Festa, Van Zyl has been been juggling travel with production and acting work (including two upcoming episodes on Netflix’s “Killer Instincts with Chris Hansen”).

    We had a chance to catch up with busy alumna to hear some of her insights on life after NYFA, from producing original work to inhabiting characters.

    Life After Her – Trailer Legendado from Gui Festa on Vimeo.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    EVZ: I grew up in a small fishing town called Gordon’s Bay about an hour outside Cape Town, South Africa. I discovered performing in preschool, when I sang my first solo, “Silent Night,” as a four-year-old in a Christmas revue. I became addicted, and did everything I could to be onstage … By 5th grade I was writing, directing and starring in my own plays.

    I had always, since those childhood days, had this very vivid dream of moving to New York to become a world-class actress in film and theatre. I’ve also always wanted to study in a New York acting school … I first did a BA in Dramatic Arts and Psychology at Stellenbosch University, where I trained primarily in theatre, and towards the end of my last year I heard that the world-famous New York Film Academy were hosting auditions in Cape Town — and offering talent-based scholarships.

    I jumped at the chance, and heard very soon afterwards that I had received a scholarship to do the conservatory 1-Year Acting for Film Program. Three months later (on 21 January 2015) I was on a plane to New York, and I started in their class of winter 2015. The whole thing was quite literally a dream come true.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us?

    EVZ: There are so many. I was very lucky to be placed in the most fantastic class I could have asked for — by the end of the first week, we already felt like a close-knit family. Our class was Winter A, and we very cheekily called ourselves “The A-Team.”  We also had fantastic teachers, and I have moments from each class that will always stick with me, especially ones that turned out to be personal acting breakthroughs for me that I recall on set/stage to this day.

    One such moment that really stands out was in an Acting for Film class with Zachary Spicer. It was a day we were filming scenes, and I was dreading mine — it was a monologue by a slightly unhinged writer who gets thrown out of a café because she can’t stop talking to herself. I had no idea how to play the character, or the scene…

    I remember calling Zach over and saying to him, “I don’t think I can do it, Zach. I feel totally out of control.” And he said, “Well, how do you think your character feels?”

    And that’s when I realized that acting wasn’t about doing something, “performing” a set of behaviors a certain way — it was more about truly letting go and allowing yourself to exist exactly as you are in a moment, not caring about what it looks like. Being in control of being out of control. I did the scene and told Zach afterwards, “I don’t even know what I just did. I feel like it was just a mess, it can’t possibly be good.” He told me to watch it back and tell me if I still felt that way. Punch-line to the story: that’s the only scene I filmed at NYFA that is in my current acting reel. You can see it online, here.

    NYFA: Coming from South Africa, what surprised you most about studying at NYFA in the U.S.?

    EVZ: The very international diversity of the student body. In my class, we were four South Africans, two Brits, four Brazilians, one Scotswoman, two Swedes, one Canadian and only one New Yorker. The other classes, including the other programs — directing, writing, photography, musical theatre — were the same.

    And what I loved about the structure of the system at NYFA was the cross-pollination between these programs. The directing students cast the acting students in their films, and actors could team up with photographers to build their mutual portfolios, etc. This in-built pre-industry networking was actually what I feel helped me get the material I needed to prepare me for the industry once I left school …

    Also, the film that I co-wrote and starred in that is this year doing so well at festivals, “Life After Her,” started out as a passion project for me and one of the directing students I started working with regularly, Guilherme Festa. It became his final film project, and we filmed it the week after I graduated from NYFA.

    NYFA: What advice can you offer to fellow international students preparing to study at NYFA?

    EVZ: Make the most of the time you have at NYFA to build your network within the school. The students studying acting, directing, writing, cinematography alongside you will also enter the industry alongside you as professionals, and you will most likely work with them. If you’ve built strong relationships, that’s the beginning of your oh-so-important network in your career.

    NYFA: Your film “Life After Her” features an emotionally intense story and was accepted to some major festivals. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

    EVZ: It took eight days to shoot the 28-minute short film, which was done in locations all over New York and Brooklyn, ranging from Coney Island to Central Park. We all got very little sleep, sometimes shooting until late into the night and having very early call-times. The exhaustion made things harder, but funnily that actually helped me — most of the time — to drop into the emotional spaces the story required. When I’m that tired, I care less, and that usually makes me feel freer and more spontaneous. We also had the most amazing gift of an acting coach on set: Anna Cianculli, one of the best teachers I had at NYFA (she taught Meisner), who became a mentor to me …

    It was one of the most intense and challenging weeks of my life. But it was also one of the best weeks of my life. Playing the lead character in a film I had helped write the story for, shooting with an incredible crew (Gui had arranged to bring a professional crew he knew and trusted to work with on the film from Brazil) in my City of Dreams.

    One of the most poignant moments for me was standing on the edge of the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park at sunset, filming the scene where Rachel scatters her best friend’s ashes into the East River and dances off into the sunset with her new boyfriend. I remember looking at the New York skyline and thinking, “You’ve made it. This is the dream. You’re actually living it.” And I don’t think you get to feel that kind of high unless you are prepared to go through the really scratchy, difficult, chaos-moments, so a part of me feels strangely but truly grateful for the rough parts as well.

    NYFA: What advice can you give to our acting students for preparing for intense roles, and intense festival tours?

    EVZ: “You can never spend enough time thinking about your character,” Rachelle Greeff, a wonderful South African playwright, once told me during rehearsals for a play back home. And I think that’s what really made me secure in this role, at the end of the day … It also helped me to stop trying to think of Rachel as “transforming into someone else” — but rather, trying to find my own essence in her life story — what would “Esther” be like in Rachel’s set of life circumstances? I believe that way of thinking can help make one’s performance more personalized and authentic.

    [The film’s director, Gui Festa] has attended more of the 2017 festivals than I have (I think “Life After Her” has screened at 7 so far), and he was at Cannes Short Film Corner with it before it went to the Madrid International Film Festival, which is where I went, as I’d been invited to the awards night with a nomination for “Best Actress in a Short Film” (and as a co-writer with Guilherme Festa and Anna Cianculli for “Best Original Script”).

    Being at an international film festival of that caliber was an incredible experience. You meet so many surprisingly like-minded creatives from all over the world and get to inspire one another and build your network of potential future working relationships. The whole thing is quite tiring, and you have to make sure you plan your sleep hours in between the schedule of films you want to see, as well as sight-seeing, and then still have some stamina left for all the parties! I wished afterwards that I had planned better in advance so that I could have had a better balance of everything. I was quite exhausted afterwards, so my first week back in New York I spent knocked out in bed!

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for your current work?

    EVZ: My time at NYFA taught me so much. Not just about acting as a craft, but also the actor’s lifestyle, which can be the more difficult part. I had never had any experience in film acting before NYFA, and being in such an intense course where you are acting on screen and watching yourself back more days than not really stimulated me to grow and hone my on-camera technique quickly. And funnily enough, my best teachers were the ones that started teaching me how to let go of my ideas about techniques and all the work I thought had to go into acting; on camera, it’s all about being very real and present, working with whatever is happening with you at that moment. It totally transformed my entire way of thinking about acting, and the lessons I learnt there — many of them very profound life lessons — are the ones I know I draw from in auditions, on sets, whenever I work.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on?

    My experience with “Life After Her,” which I co-wrote and was very involved in developing in the early stages especially, and the success it is garnering, has shown me how possible and wonderful it is to create your own work. So one of my main focuses right now is writing and developing a few upcoming projects with other amazing filmmaking folk I’ve grown to know and love working with, to produce film content — short films, short series, leading up to bigger projects like features. My dream is to be developing and producing beautiful, well-told stories with a trusted team of like-minded creatives and good-hearted people. It’s amazing to get to act in someone else’s stories, but there is something extra special and fulfilling about getting to bring your own stories and visions to life.

    NYFA: Is there anything I missed you’d like to talk about?

    Some of the other work I’ve been doing since graduating from NYFA has included working with a theatre company called BrickaBrack, of which I became one of the core ensemble members of the New York branch soon after graduating. We got together once a week to “jam” and workshop productions, which we performed in the city. One of our plays, “On the Flip Side,” was part of the HERE Arts Festival in 2016. I had recurring appearances as a variety of characters on a comedy web series, “Neem’s Themes,” which has won several awards at major international film festivals this year. I also appeared on two episodes of the third season of the Netflix series, “Killer Instincts with Chris Hansen.” I believe it is set to come out in October 2017.

    I spent some time in South Africa at the beginning of this year and tried my hand at producing: I was the lead producer on a popular reality TV show, “Sê Net Ja” (“Just Say Yes”) about romantic partners proposing to their significant others in dramatic and unforgettable ways. It was a lot of fun, but very challenging, and I quickly realized I could never be a producer full-time: acting is simply my core passion. I also started dabbling in voice-over work, and for a while I was voicing the lead character on a Bollywood TV Show, dubbing English over the Hindi text for international audiences. I loved it, and hope to start doing more voice-work here in New York soon as well.

    The New York Film Academy would like to than Esther Van Zyl for taking the time to share a bit of her story with the NYFA community.

    August 23, 2017 • Acting • Views: 924

  • NYFA Alumnus Dr. Mukesh Hariawala’s Journey from Heart Surgeon to Bollywood Actor

    While many adults around the world return to school to change careers, you don’t often hear about heart surgeons who decide to leave medicine to pursue acting — and then go on to find success in one of the world’s largest film industries. Yet that is exactly what happened in the curious case of New York Film Academy acting for film alumnus, Dr. Mukesh Hariawala, whose recent slew of Bollywood roles and unique backstory has caused a bit of a stir in Sify News, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and Yahoo News.

    If you’re a fellow career-changer or are simply looking for acting inspiration stories, Dr. Hariawala recently took the time to catch up with us via an email interview to share about his incredible journey from Harvard-educated surgeon to busy Bollywood actor in Mumbai, India.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    MH : In 2014, I became eligible for taking a sabbatical from my 25-year cardiac surgical work in India, the U.K. and the U.S. I wanted to do something unrelated to medicine. Since I had a modelling background from undergrad college days and recollect enjoying it, I chose to try my hand at becoming an actor in mainstream cinema. I interviewed at NYFA in the summer of 2014 and, much to my surprise and delight, got accepted. I took up boarding and lodging at a negotiated rate at nearby Hotel Marriott and moved to New York. I continued to return home to Boston over the weekends.

    NYFA: What inspired you to change careers, from a renowned heart surgeon to Bollywood actor?

    MH: Although I have become a reasonably busy actor in Bollywood, I have not completely disconnected myself from the clinical world of cardiac surgery. I continue to maintain my hospital affiliation and privileges in Mumbai. The single most inspiring thought was the challenge of not to be afraid of failure, and to prove to myself that I was capable of succeeding in another profession too, apart from medicine.

    NYFA: What was the greatest challenge for you in shifting careers?

    MH: It was the mental acclimatization to accept the new social status of being a student again at age 50+. I was fortunate to be warmly accommodated by my much younger classmate peers and teachers, who never reminded me of my age. They very much encouraged me about the potential I displayed in class.

    My wife and kids have been most supportive throughout the process. They used to visit NYFA campus during my student days to keep me motivated.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

    MH: The acting for film class shoot with classmate co-stars of my outdoor scenes in Union Square. It gave me a nostalgic feeling of being a star, particularly since we were filming surrounded by tourist onlookers from all over the world … wow.

    NYFA: Coming from your medical background, what surprised you the most about your acting training at New York Film Academy?

    MH: Unlike surgery, acting was relatively stress-free and enjoyable. I realized during the course that although we can pretend at times in real life, the camera doesn’t let you lie. The camera will almost always pick up a pretense and unmask you. If the actor is not in the portrayed character, it would spell disaster for the actor and damage the scene. Also, following filming, it takes time coming out of a character back to normal life, and this has been a major surprise working in this new profession.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little about the Bollywood film “102 Not Out,” and how you became attached to the project?

    MH: The film “102 Not Out” has superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor as the lead characters. I met the director, Umesh Shukla, while filming for another movie, “Exit,” in Ladakh. He liked my sincerity to the art of acting and promised me a role in a future project. I did get a call from him, one year later. Honestly, I was plain lucky and feel fortunate to share screen space with legends. Since learning acting is an ongoing process, I am getting the benefit of interactions with the best in the profession.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all helpful in preparing you for what you are accomplishing now?

    MH: An overwhelming 100 percent. Without my NYFA training I could not have mustered the necessary skills to comprehend the complete process of filmmaking. My performances, which again reflect NYFA training, are appreciated by directors and they tend to repeat cast me in their future projects.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to fellow career-changing NYFA students who, like you, wish to pursue an entertainment career after being out in the workforce for awhile in other industries?

    MH: Age should never be a barrier to crossover from an established career to an completely insecure new industry. Additionally, all previous other industry work experiences become an asset in one’s toolkit to play a fortitude of characters, particularly while filming an emotionally charged recall scene. However, training in a good program is paramount in pursuing an long-term acting career. If not, it would surmount to driving a car without wheels.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about other projects you have coming up?

    MH: I have few more films currently undergoing post-production and due for release in late 2017 and early 2018. These include “Exit,” “Genius,” “Chicken Curry Law,” and “Aksar 2.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Dr. Mukesh Hariawala for taking the time to share a bit of his story with our community.