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  • Joanne Horowitz, Talent Manager to Kevin Spacey & Scott Eastwood, Speaks at NYFA

    Students gathered in the Welles Screening Room at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus to participate in a Q&A with renowned talent manager Joanne Horowitz, whose clients include former NYFA guest speaker, Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and up and comer Scott Eastwood. The discussion was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA acting instructor Melissa Sullivan.

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    Talent Manager, Joanne Horowitz

    The room was packed with NYFA actors eager to hear some tricks of the talent trade from one of the industry’s top managers (she was just honored as Manager of the Year by her peers), and Joanne was eager to share her wealth of knowledge with the students. One of the most resonating bits of advice for aspiring actors was to relish the audition process. Forget thinking of auditions as simply a means to an end, but rather take joy in it as an opportunity to act. Success will eventually only come to the actor who loves acting—not focusing on landing the role. Joanne also stressed the importance of keeping your spirits high in between auditions and during inevitable dry spells of work. She said having another passion in life, whether it be photography, playing an instrument, supporting a cause, etc., is essential. Acting is a difficult career path; be easy on yourself, and take a break from it if you have to.

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    Melissa Sullivan, Tova Laiter and Joanne Horowitz

    Joanne spoke at length about her time representing Kevin Spacey and Scott Eastwood, and her unlikely foray into management. Earlier in her career, Joanne worked at Studio 54 and was VP of publicity and marketing for Universal film studio doing PR for Alec Baldwin, Christopher Reeve and briefly Robert Downey Jr. One day, Kevin Spacey, then a struggling actor in off-off-Broadway theater, asked her to be his manager. Joanne took a leap of faith because she believed in his talent and never took no for an answer.

    It’s been quite a job negotiating for the two-time Oscar winner and now Netflix series star, but Joanne has concentrated just as much energy on fostering young, up-and-coming talent Scott Eastwood, whom she met while he was living in Hawaii, years before he decided to act. She stayed in contact with Scott and, when he eventually moved to LA, Joanne put him in acting classes, insisting that nobody talk about his association with his famous father. Now Scott has made his way onto the A-list roster, having landed roles in movies like Fury and The Longest Ride. Some of Joanne’s other budding stars include Gavin Stenhouse (Allegiance) and Claudia Lee (Hart of Dixie, Kick-Ass 2).

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    In addition to managing, Joanne’s other passion is animals. A tireless advocate and organizer for animal rights, Joanne specifically focuses her efforts on protecting African elephants and rhinos from poaching. She received a standing ovation from like minded animal lovers.

    We sincerely thank Joanne Horowitz for visiting NYFA and we wish her the best of luck in all of her management and animal rights endeavors!

    August 26, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 428

  • South African Actress Donnalee Roberts is an All Around Superstar

    Coming off the success of the popular South African television series, 7de Laan, and the feature film Klein Karoo, New York Film Academy 8-Week Acting for Film graduate Donnalee Roberts has greatly expanded her role in the South African entertainment business. Not only does the hard-working South African enjoy the artistic gratification of acting for the camera, she also loves running a business and exploring the integrated marketing and networking that goes on behind the scenes of her films.


    Her critically and commercially successful romantic adventure, Pad na jou Hart (Road to your Heart), in which Roberts played the lead actress and was co-producer and co-writer along with Ivan Botha, has been seen by over one million people thus far!

    Her more recent award-winning film, Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling (Ballad for a Stranger), which stars Roberts as Carina, had its premiere in Australia and New Zealand and had a nationwide release in South Africa. Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling is a romantic thriller based on the popular South African television series from the eighties. Not only did the series have South Africans nailed to their televisions, the film was highly acclaimed and was both a critic and box office hit, earning Tempo awards for South African Film of the Year. Donnalee also won Best Actress of the Year for both Pad na jou Hart and Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling.

    Roberts’ goal is to continue to provide original content to her native country, which has recently seen a resurgence in its film industry.

    “We have a wonderful supporting audience in South Africa that is extremely loyal to local content,” said Roberts. “I would love to have this audience grow and also keep on motivating our existing audience. As a filmmaker and storyteller, my goal is to not only make South Africans proud of the films and stories that originate in our country but to also make films that are so universal in their themes that they transcend language barriers and move people from all over the world.”
    As an independent filmmaker one knows the importance of marketing your film correctly in order to reach its full potential. That is why Roberts and her team started a marketing division within their production company which specializes in making marketing personal and creating a need for people to want to see their film.
    “In a country where we speak 11 official different languages and where we are at all times directly competing against international blockbusters, marketing has become essential. The South African film industry, specifically the Afrikaans language market films, is literally bursting out of its seams, and as a young filmmaker it is so exciting to be on the forefront of this endeavor!”

    vir altydHer upcoming film, Vir Altyd (Forever), which Roberts stars and also co-wrote and co-produced with Ivan Botha, was shot half in South Africa and half in Mauritius. Vir Altyd is a romantic adventure film that takes us on a journey through the seasons of love and the true meaning of what ‘forever’ means. Roberts and her team are currently busy with post-production and the feature film releases nationwide on February 12th, 2016.

    Roberts advice to those who are pursuing acting, especially current students is to CREATE. “In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”

    She strongly encourages actors to involve themselves more with writing and producing their own material.

    “You should never stop learning and growing,” Roberts added. “Always have a spirit of growing.”

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    Donnalee Roberts and Blake Babbitt

    Donnalee Roberts will be joining Blake Babbitt at the New York Film Academy’s audition and portfolio review event at the Davinci Hotel and Suites on Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg on September 5th at 18:00.

    The Film Academy will also be holding auditions and portfolio reviews in Cape Town on Tuesday, September 8th.

    For more information on either of these events, please email southafrica@nyfa.edu or CLICK HERE to sign up.

    August 25, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights, Road Show, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1542

  • NYFA Student Rekha Rana Stars in Hit Bollywood Film

    Rekha Rana

    Rekha Rana

    Students gathered in New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles theater to screen the hit Bollywood film Tara: The Journey of Love and Passion and participate in a Q&A with the movie’s star, Rekha Rana—who is currently studying acting at the New York Film Academy—and director/producer Kumar Raj. The discussion was moderated by NYFA LA’s Events Manager and directing instructor Robert Cosnahan.

    Tara: The Journey of Love and Passion is an epic saga about an illiterate Indian gypsy woman, brewing liquor illegally to survive, who after being accused of adultery by her husband when she becomes pregnant, is faced with a choice — be a victim of patriarchal society or take her life into her own hands. The film has a strong, positive, and refreshing message of female empowerment. The movie paints a gut-wrenching portrait of life’s hardships, especially for women, in the poorest areas of Indian. The film played for an astounding 52 weeks in a 650 seat theater in India and has received over 40 awards worldwide in many International Film Festivals.

    Rekha Rana holds nothing back in her portrayal of Tara, a woman forced to deal with life’s most trying of circumstances. It’s impossible to not feel her anguish as despair thunders through her, or to feel hope when her radiant smile lights up the screen. She was rewarded recently for her outstanding performance in Tara when she received the Best Actress award at San Francisco’s Festival of Globe Film Festival.

    Rekha gave alot of praise for NYFA’s acting program, stating that it has improved her performance skills immensely. She can’t wait to apply what she’s learned here in future Bollywood and U.S. films. Rekha said that NYFA is “one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

    After the event, director/producer Kumar Raj graciously donated a copy of Tara to NYFA’s library. Rekha is currently working on her upcoming film Yahan Ameena Bikti Hai also produced and directed by Kumar Raj.

    Rekha Rana is a Bollywood actress, theater artist, and winner of the Miss Delhi, Photogenic Face and Beautiful Smile title in 2007. She is the brand ambassador for a South African NGO, ‘Star NGO,’ and the ‘Save Our Women’ Campaign.’ Her first movie, Ab Hoga Dharna Unlimited, which is inspired by Anna Hazare’s Dharna, was released on April 13th, 2012. Rekha won the Best Actress Award at the Singapore Film Festival in 2010 for her performance in a short film called Take Care. She has performed over 200 stage shows worldwide. As she is interested in humanity work, she has joined women’s helmet promotion, started on March 8th, 2010, at International Women’s Day to make awareness among women wearing helmets.

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    Rekha Rana with director/producer Kumar Raj (photo by Drew Hughes)

    Kumar Raj started his career in the shipping industry and is an arbitrator in the India and London Council of Arbitration. He was inspired to begin working in the Indian Film Industry (also known as Bollywood) 6 years ago because his intense passion and love for cinema. In these 6 years, he has made four films, his latest being Tara.

    We sincerely thank Rekha Rana and Kumar Raj for screening their wonderful film at the New York Film Academy and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors!

    August 19, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1067

  • NYFA Alumna Aubrey Plaza from ‘Parks & Recreation’ Revisits Her Alma Mater

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    Aubrey Plaza

    New York Film Academy students gathered in a theater on the Warner Bros. studios lot in Los Angeles to watch a special screening of the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, and participate in a Q&A with the film’s star actress, Aubrey Plaza. The discussion was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA acting instructor Anne Moore.

    Aubrey is most widely known for playing the deadpan employee April Ludgate in the hit TV series Parks and Recreation. She has appeared in Funny People—directed by Judd Apatow—as Seth Rogan’s love interest, as well as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Portlandia, Derrick Comedy’s Mystery Team, a CollegeHumor short alongside Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, the Sundance hit Life After Beth, and the speaking voice of Grumpy Cat in their upcoming original movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Her first starring role alongside Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed, directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurrassic World), was critically acclaimed. Aubrey loves performing improv and stand up comedy and has appeared regularly at The Upright Citizens Brigade, Laugh Factory, and The Improv.

    Aubrey, having attended NYFA’s high school summer camp for filmmaking in 2001, was enthusiastic about returning to her alma mater and talking to students who are journeying down the same road she took not to long ago. She had fond memories of her experience at the New York Film Academy and even said that she learned more practical knowledge about filmmaking in those weeks she spent at NYFA than in the first two years of undergraduate film school. She was also very adamant that the short films she made at NYFA were integral in making her college application package successful. Aubrey established a sincere connection with the over 150 high school NYFA students in attendance and they were eager to ask her questions.

    Plaza discussed how she managed to foray into the mainstream. In 2007 she appeared in a web series called The Jeannie Tate Show — a mock talk show about a soccer mom who interviews celebrities in her van while running errands. Aubrey played Jeannie Tate’s delinquent junkie daughter who harasses the show’s guests. This got the attention of an agent who contacted her. Plaza called and emailed the agent regularly checking on whether any roles appropriate for her had come across his desk. Finally, in 2009, the agent recommended Aubrey try out for Seth Rogen’s love interest, Daisy, in Judd Apatow’s Funny People. Since stand up comedy is a focus of the show and the character Daisy is a stand up comic, Aubrey began signing herself up for open mic nights at comedy clubs and bars all across New York City. It was extremely terrifying for her at first but she became more and more confident in doing it. She had her friend film her during the stand up routines and she sent the tapes in to Judd Apatow and his casting director and they loved her. Instead of just auditioning and hoping she got the part, Aubrey took initiative and took her destiny into her own hands.

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    Anne Moore, Tova Laiter and Aubrey Plaza

    Aubrey reminisced about her time on the wildly successful series Parks and Recreation, noting that the relaxed environment of a TV series allowed her and comedian co-stars like Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari to try different things and improv. This contrasts for her with the more stringent environment of a movie set which demands that actors say their exact line, precisely hit marks and find their light just right — however, Aubrey loves both challenges. When talking about what it was like to work with Chris Pratt, Aubrey admitted that she absolutely adores him and says he’s like a smart “giant puppy,” but that she was not as obsessed as her character.

    After Aubrey was asked, “If you could be in any movie franchise, what would it be?” she immediately burst out with, “Catwoman!” Yes that’s right, she would love to reinvent the DC Comics character and add her own Aubrey Plaza brand of charm and wit much like what was done with Guardians of the Galaxy. Everyone in the audience cheered, she sold us on it and now we too want to see Aubrey play Catwoman on the silver screen.

    We sincerely thank Aubrey for returning to the New York Film Academy and we wish her continued success in her exciting career!

    August 10, 2015 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1107

  • Star of “Laverne & Shirley” Actress Cindy Williams Makes NYFA Laugh

    New York Film Academy students came together in our Los Angeles campus theater to watch a compilation of scenes featuring actress Cindy Williams and then participate in a Q&A with the cultural icon. Moderating the Q&A were producer Tova Laiter and NYFA LA’s acting department chair Lynda Goodfriend, who co-starred on Happy Days with Williams as Lori Beth Cunningham, Ron Howard’s girlfriend then wife on the TV sitcom.

    After college, Williams began her professional career by doing theater, waiting tables and landing important film roles early in her career including Ron Howard’s high school sweetheart in George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). In 1975, Williams was cast as a fun-loving brewery worker, Shirley Feeney, in an episode of Happy Days, alongside Penny Marshall, who played her best friend and roommate Laverne De Fazio. The characters proved so popular that a spin-off featuring the characters, Laverne & Shirley was created and aired from 1976 until 1982. In 1990, Williams returned to series TV on CBS sitcom Normal Life and family sitcom Getting By (1993–94). She has guest starred on several television shows including, including two episodes of 8 Simple Rules, performed onstage including the national tours of Grease, and was originator/ a co-producer on the Steve Martin comedy film Father of the Bride and its sequel. Most recently, Cindy has authored the book “Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life,” an autobiographical recount of her funny and heartfelt journey from blue collar roots to unexpected stardom.

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    Lynda Goodfriend, Tova Laiter and Cindy Williams

    Cindy reminisced on her career, describing first how she fell in love first with the American theater in acting school. She had the incredible experience of working with legendary directors Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas early in her career. Williams went into great details describing the extremely different styles of each director but how they are geniuses in their own right–Francis Ford Coppola LOVES actors and eager to ask for their opinion and praise them while George Lucas is shy and laconic, rarely saying more to an actor than “Terrific,” after a take. Williams’ career path was unorthodox as she initially landed major film roles before transitioning into television. In the past, an actor was branded in either film or television and transitioning was rare. She even recalled being turned down for a particular film role by a director who recognized her from the Laverne and Shirley and dismissed her upon entering the room. Today, it is much more flexible as actors want to follow the good material.

    As she applied for a director’s lab instead of acting, the program director put her in touch with an upcoming talent agent, Gary Marshall, who at the time was running a talent agency with Fred Roos, a casting director who went on to produce Francis Coppola films and cast her and client Harrison Ford in Lucas and Coppola movies. Then, Gary Marshall became the creator of many hit TV sitcoms including Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. This was the twist of fate that would change Cindy’s life forever. Cindy told the audience, “This is how things in life happen, and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different. One day something will just plop right down in front of you.”

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    Cindy Williams speaks to a theater full of NYFA students

    Williams gave extensive insight into the traditional TV sitcom multi-camera process from her experience on Laverne & Shirley. The cast, director, writers and producers would arrive to set on Monday to do a table read of the script and perhaps block a scene or two. On Tuesday, they were given a new script based on notes the writers made during the table read and they would rough out the blocking of all the scenes on stage. On Wednesday, they were given another script with changes from the previous day’s notes, and the actors would begin setting the blocking in stone by laying marks for themselves. On Thursday, the cast and crew received yet another script and the cameramen were included this time to learn the blocking and lay marks for camera. On Friday, yes one final version of the script arrived, and the actors would perform the episode with cameras rolling in front of a live studio audience. Cindy loved this form of TV because its process is so closely linked to acting in plays, particularly the fact that she feeds off the live audience’s reaction.

    Cindy Williams was so entertaining and funny as she recounted her amazing career. In fact, she had the audience in stitches most of the time. Not only is she an incredible actress but a top-notch storyteller. Her new autobiographical book “Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life” is sure to be a fun ride.

    We sincerely thank Cindy Williams for visiting the New York Film Academy and wish her luck on whatever exciting step she takes next on her adventure.

    July 31, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1188

  • Russian Student Shoots Video Spot for Nike

    Recently, one of our Russian filmmaking students, Sergei Frante, was asked to shoot a video spot for Nike in Moscow (seen above).

    “To be honest, this was one of the coolest projects I’ve ever worked on,” said Frante. “Once again, I realized how important the vibe is on set. With the right vibe, we can really produce magic.”

    Frante says getting to know the inside scoop on how Hollywood operates has been extremely helpful during his time at the New York Film Academy. “When you know how things should be done from directors’ and producers’ points of view, you can really accomplish a lot on set and be more dedicated to the creative aspects of the project.”

    Frante is currently developing a television series with his friend and collaborator Alexander Babaev. The two are hoping to launch the series in Los Angeles by the end of 2015.

    “As for my filmmaking career, I want to get on the level that Tarkovsky and Kubrick were on. I’m a big fan of old movies— without digital technology— when filmmaking was truly magical. I want to touch the hearts of the people, make them think and inspire them. Filmmaking is a form of art and has its own instruments to let the director speak, so I just want to keep on talking.”

    July 7, 2015 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights, Study Abroad • Views: 778

  • NYFA Los Angeles Hosts 3-Week Workshop for NYFA Australian Acting Students

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    NYFA Australia acting students attending the Groundlings Comedy Improv show

    On Monday the 8th of June, four students from the New York Film Academy’s Gold Coast location, three students from NYFA Sydney, and acting instructor Hunter McMahon departed Australia and headed to the New York Film Academy campus in Los Angeles, California. The acting students participated in an intensive three week program which encompassed classes such as; Meisner technique, Voice and Movement, Combat, Comedy, Psychology of Performance, Audition technique and Production Workshops, which were shot on the backlot of Universal Studios.

    The students’ first week of training began on Tuesday the 9th of June with three classes a day, plus plenty of work to keep them busy outside of school hours. The first shoot on the Universal backlot took place on the “Western Set,” with scenes authored by the students. “It was a unique experience, and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” said NYFA Sydney Acting Instructor, Hunter McMahon.

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    On Saturday afternoon, the acting students attended the Los Angeles Film Festival for a screening of Be Here Now: The Andy Whitfield Story. “It was one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. When the lights came up we were all visibly moved and glad that we had shared the experience together,” said McMahon.

    On Sunday the group took some time out with a large portion of the day spent lounging at the pool of the Oakwood Apartments and enjoying the famous Los Angeles sun—after all, it is currently wintertime back in Australia.

    During the second week, the intensity of the program increased as the teachers began to demand more of the students, and as we’re accustomed to at NYFA, the students picked up the challenge.

    Friday night saw the students shuttled from NYFA to attend The Groundlings Theatre Show. “The show was hilarious, the students had a ball, and some were even lucky enough to meet the performers afterwards and have their picture taken with them,” recalled McMahon.

    Over the course of the rest of the weekend, the students spent time shopping, and exploring Disneyland. Any spare time leftover, students worked on the course material for the final week.

    The last week was spent filming the scenes, monologues and learning as much as possible about the industry in Los Angeles. During the week, students were shuttled to The Matrix theatre to watch The Australian Theatre Company’s rehearsed play reading of Ruben Guthrie. “The show was fantastic and a great networking opportunity… the play has been recently been adapted into a feature film, which opened the Sydney Film Festival this year,” said McMahon.

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    On the Friday night of their final week, the students’ work was showcased in the screening room of NYFA LA’s Riverside Building. “It was a fitting end to the three-week course and we were overawed by the experience,” said McMahon.

    Monday the 29th of June marked the conclusion of the three-week excursion.

    “From this experience, my Australian acting students have grown remarkably, and will certainly cherish these memories dearly. The teachers we’ve had have been fantastic, experienced and very knowledgeable. We have made industry connections that will benefit both parties in the years to come. I’m grateful that I have been able to share this experience with the students, and the NYFA staff in LA. I have learned so much in my time here, and I can’t wait to share it all upon my return to Sydney. This journey has been invaluable, and I would like to share my gratitude and warm thanks to the New York Film Academy, its teachers and the students who journeyed with me to Los Angeles,” concluded McMahon.

    As for the students who took part in this incredible three-week Los Angeles trip, this is what they had to say:

    “I have been deeply touched by the passion, dedication and immense desire every teacher has had to share their experience and, install in our hearts, deep respect for our craft and the industry. I am now more committed to the ingenuity, creativity, skill and professionalism that has gone before me.”

    Sharde Anne (Gold Coast Graduate)

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    NYFA Australian actors attend the Australian Theatre Company’s Evening of “Stage to Screen” at the Matrix Theatre in Hollywood

    “This has been an incredible experience. I’m so grateful I was given this opportunity to explore the LA industry that I one day intend to be a part of. We were taken to The Groundlings, which was phenomenal and hilarious. We were also taken to see the Australian Theatre Company’s reading of ‘Ruben Guthrie’ at the Matrix theatre. We filmed on the Universal backlot twice. I have learned and grown so much in the past three weeks. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of it!”

    Tiahni Wilton (Gold Coast Graduate)

    “The wisdom and experience of the industry that was shared with us from the lecturers at NYFA was invaluable; and now I’m going home to Australia more confident with my craft. Thank you to all the lecturers from NYFA across Australia and LA. You all inspire me daily.”

    Krystal Shuttleworth (Gold Coast Graduate)

    “I look forward to the future in acting. I feel my passion gets stronger as I keep learning. It’s been an amazing experience!”

    Tareesha Argus (Gold Coast Graduate)

    “Coming to Los Angeles has been a fantastic and an uplifting experience for me. I’m eternally grateful for all that I have learned at my time at NYFA.”

    Abel Kollie (Sydney Graduate)

    “We have had incredible classes and teachers, who are all so passionate about the craft. I’ve learned so much about acting and the exciting business over here. The classes have been intense, and definitely worthwhile. Experiencing the American audition process and running it with a real agent was an invaluable experience. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone.”

    Kiara Williams (Sydney Graduate)

    “The experience and knowledge I’ve gained from doing this program is without a doubt the best decision and opportunity that was given to me by NYFA. I’ve learned so much more than I could have imagined about the LA market, auditioning and character work in the past 3 weeks. Though the days were long, I wouldn’t change any of it. The teachers were fantastic; they were so knowledgeable and passionate about the industry. I am eternally grateful to NYFA Sydney for this experience and can’t wait to start my career.”

    Ismael Nunez Moreno (Sydney Graduate)

  • Director Mel Rodriguez and Actor Micah Hauptman Screen ‘In Stereo’

    Actor Micah Hauptman with Director Mel Rodriguez

    Actor Micah Hauptman with Director Mel Rodriguez at NYFA Union Square

    This past Monday, June 23rd, the New York Film Academy in Union Square played host to an early screening of the upcoming New York indie, In Stereo, which was directed by first time director Mel Rodriguez and stars Micah Hauptman. Both Rodriguez and Hauptman joined us after the screening for an intimate conversation with NYFA Instructor Randall Dottin about the production of their film, as well as their triumphs and struggles in this competitive industry.

    The film initially started out as a short film, which writer / director Rodriguez said, “came out of frustration and necessity.” It was at a festival screening in Austin where producers were hooked and made the feature version of his short a reality.

    Shot entirely in New York City, the entire feature was filmed over only fifteen days! In addition to our gracious guest, Micah Hauptman, In Stereo stars Beau Garrett, Aimee Mullins, Mario Cantone, Maggie Geha, and Melissa Bolona. The story surrounds David (Micah Hauptman) and Brenda (Beau Garrett), who are perfect for each other, and everyone knows it…except David and Brenda. After their painful break-up, they each endure an individual purgatory (for David, a self-destructive artistic endeavor, and a relationship with an immature beauty who has taken to sleeping with his best friend – for Brenda, a failing acting career, an eviction notice, and a boyfriend who just doesn’t do it for her for Brenda) until chance brings them together on the streets of New York at the worst possible time. David invites Brenda to the opening of his first photography exhibit and it sets the stage for a night of drinking, flirting and truth-telling, leading to an untraditional and risky proposal of how they can be together… without getting back together.

    in stereo

    A sharply observed, un-romantic comedy by writer/director/editor Mel Rodriguez, In Stereo is a stylish and striking first feature. With an innovative structure and bold performances, it offers an unflinching look at the complexity of modern relationships.

    Both Rodriguez and Hauptman humbly recalled their roots in the industry, Hauptman admitting he’d been working as an actor for twelve years until he really considered himself having a career. In fact, it was a student film that really propelled his career to the next level. “Always be focusing on the work,” he advised.

    As for Rodriguez, his directing career really blossomed from his work as an editor, in which he says, “Editing is film school. Editors tend to make the best directors.” While he had established himself as a premier editor in film and television, his true passion was to be a director. With the upcoming release of In Stereo, Rodriguez has made that dream a reality. Now, he intends to move further into larger projects — an action, thriller set on the Mexican border is what he hopes to shoot next.

    In the meantime, be sure to check out this very realistic New York City relationship film, which opens in theaters starting July 3rd, 2015!

    June 24, 2015 • Acting, Digital Editing, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1029

  • Matthew Jennison on Starting His Screenwriting Career from a ‘Wonder Woman’ Spec

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    Matthew Jennison

    This past semester, screenwriter Matthew Jennison visited with our Business of Screenwriting students to regale his improbable story about how he literally sold his first project to Warner Bros.—without any representation whatsoever—before going on to become a rising film and TV writer.

    Jennison, who is six-foot-six, had at first considered being an actor when he originally moved to Los Angeles from Albuquerque. He recalled, “They told me I was too tall, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.” Jennison always loved storytelling, and soon he discovered that he wanted to explore different sides, including the writing side. So, he partnered up with actor/writer Brent Strickland, who he met in an acting class. They read some scripts and a few books, and they started writing projects together.

    The problem was they had no representation and didn’t really know how to get people to read them. They wanted to write something that would garner them some attention, maybe even based off something people knew… “Wonder Woman seemed like the perfect property and character to write a spec script about. Many people had tried to crack a Wonder Woman movie, but it had lingered in development, and it’d been a very long time since the TV series. She was powerful and alluring. We thought we’d give it a shot…”

    They figured if done right, it was a good way to get noticed, a good sample, by building a story around a character people knew. So they wrote their ‘Wonder Woman’ script, an ambitious take set against the backdrop of WWII. “At the time, doing a period comic book was a pretty novel idea and was one we were really excited by.”

    When it was done, Jennison got his friend Kristian Harloff (now of ‘Schmoes Know’ fame, then an assistant at Silver Pictures) to give it a read. “I knew Kristian from my time interning at Village Roadshow Pictures, and since he worked at the production company who was producing the real Wonder Woman movie, I figured, who better?”

    Harloff liked the script and it trickled up the chain fast, as everyone at Silver Pictures grew more and more excited about it. Then, the studio Warner Bros. got their hands on it, and they liked it too. “It was one of those Tuesday-to-Friday stories we rarely hear about anymore, where people read it at the start of the week and you have a deal by the close of the week. “It was crazy,” Jennison recalled.

    wonder woman

    With a studio deal under his belt, reps came calling and Jennison and Strickland signed with ICM and Underground Management. They began what’s known as ‘the water-bottle” tour, “This is where you meet a lot of people—execs and producers—in a short amount of time. Lots and lots of general meetings.”

    Universal was interested in adapting the graphic novel Villians from Viper Comics into a feature, and they hired the writing duo to adapt it with Sean Bailey’s Ideology producing. “What was great about this project, is we got to have some fun with a group of bad guys with super-powers and tell a story through the lens of someone who wants to learn the fine art of super-crime.”

    Jennison offered a variety of advice for the screenwriting students with adapting pre-existing properties. “The source material is never just what they want. They want your own unique spin on it. They want you to take it somewhere they haven’t thought of… But you as a writer also need to find your own emotional connection to the material, if you strip the fantasy and sci-fi away, what’s the story about for you on a primal human level?”

    Jennison warned that it can be a difficult business, especially when company politics that you have no control of play a role. “Companies merge or an executive leaves and projects linger. Outside forces are constantly altering the landscape of your projects, which is why you have to keep writing, keep coming up with new ideas.”

    Jennison also advised that writers get a day job in the business when they get out of school. One of Jennison’s first jobs was working for the comedy troupe Broken Lizard as an assistant to actor Kevin Heffernan on the movie Beerfest. “It was a great experience working on set and working for an actor. I learned a lot.”

    Jennison shared a few more nuggets, “Play ball. That’s an expression to remember as a writer. Always try and make it work and be collaborative,” Jennison advised. “It’s not for me.” That’s another expression you’ll hear a lot. It’s the soft pass and may be unfortunately all you get sometimes.”

    Joining a writer’s group and working with a writing partner who keeps you to deadlines were two other strategies Jennison suggested when starting out. Jennison now writes his projects himself but got his professional start with a partner.

    “And always remember ‘that was then’ with executives notes,” Jennison closed, “In other words, their opinions can change. What they thought a few months ago or even a week ago, may not be how they feel now. But you need to be flexible and adapt to their changes. And always be searching for where the notes are really coming from. Not the solutions, but the problems”.

    Matthew Jennison currently lives in Los Angeles and works as a Film and TV writer. He is currently developing a variety of TV and film projects around town and repped by Matt Bass at Chemical Imbalance.

    June 23, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 943

  • Actor Stephen Lang Visits NYFA for Q&A After Screening of “Beyond Glory”

    Stephen Lang

    Actor Stephen Lang

    On Thursday, June 18th students, many of whom were veterans, gathered in the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles Theater and were treated to a special early preview of the documentary, Beyond Glory, followed by a Q&A with actor Stephen Lang. In early May, Lang screened the film to NYFA students at the New York City campus where he joined Colonel Jack Jacobs, Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program, and himself a Medal of Honor recipient.

    Beyond Glory is a blending of footage from Lang’s one-man show, cutting across multiple performance venues and incorporating original material shot for the film. In it, the seasoned actor interprets interviews with a number of Metal of Honor Recipients. The result is a moving journey through the experiences of those who have survived some of war’s harshest of circumstances.

    “Beyond Glory allows the voices of servicemen to be heard without the filter of the conventions of drama or the prerogatives of deadline-driven journalism. Its sobriety, simplicity and lack of histrionics are the show’s signal strengths.” — Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

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    The discussion with Stephen Lang and Larry Brand was moderated by NYFA LA’s Veteran Outreach Coordinator, NYFA AFA Acting alumnus, and Navy Veteran Eric Brown.

    As a stage actor of great recognition, Stephen Lang has shaped a formidable career on and off the various stages of the United States and abroad. Though he is arguably most well-known for his acclaimed performance in James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), Lang began his career in theater. Broadway roles include his Tony-nominated performance as Lou in The Speed of Darkness, Happy in the Dustin Hoffman revival of Death of a Salesman, Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men, and Mike Tallman alongside Quentin Tarantino and Marisa Tomei in Wait Until Dark. The film’s director, Larry Brand, was also on stage to answer questions. NYFA LA’s Veteran Outreach Coordinator, NYFA AFA Acting alumnus, and Navy Veteran Eric Brown moderated the discussion.

    The 100-seat theater was overflowing with attendees when Stephen Lang and Larry Brand took the stage to an uproar of applause. It was obvious that Lang was greatly appreciative of the warm reception. He talked with zeal about his experience performing for military and civilian crowds domestically and overseas for almost ten years now. He discussed the differences between performing with a cast of actors versus working in a solo show and jokingly said: “The good part of doing a solo show is I don’t have to rely on the other actor … but then again, the cast parties aren’t as fun!”

    stephen lang

    Stephen Lang, with director Larry Brand, discusses the acting techniques he utilized in “Beyond Glory.”

    There were many acting students in attendance who were curious about techniques Stephen Lang utilized in the film. Lang admitted that he spent most of his time shaping the performances in an audition room at the Actors Studio, which he affectionately calls his “home” in New York. Stephen never relies on one technique, but rather tries something different for each project. Sometimes he’ll find that an approach consistently serves him. The more experience he’s gained, the more basic his approach to acting has become.

    During the discussion, the similarities between an actor and a soldier were discussed. Both play a “role.” A soldier’s role includes his or her branch, job, rank, etc. while realizing elements of honor, integrity, and service. Through theater there is the opportunity for healing from the traumas of war, in which the soldier learns to tell his or her story instead of repressing the memory. This seems to be much of the idea behind Beyond Glory—humanizing the hero and helping us to imagine their incredible tales of selfishness and valor.

    “As a former US Marine, I thought both Stephen and Larry brought so much truth to the reality of each Medal of Honor Recipient’s experiences,” said Tyler Williams, a NYFA BFA acting student and a veteran. “The Medal of Honor is the pinnacle of one’s military career or existence while at the same time a pebble or ripple in the pond that is their life.”

    The New York Film Academy sincerely thanks Stephen Lang and Larry Brand for visiting the College and sharing their experience of creating this tremendous film and piece of American History with NYFA students.

    stephen lang

    Stephen Lang poses in a picture with NYFA veterans.

    To learn more about Beyond Glory, please CLICK HERE.

    June 23, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 963