The New York Film Academy recently welcomed distinguished ICM talent agent, Boaty Boatwright, who has been in the business for fifty years. Moderated by producer Tova Laiter, the gracious guest fielded questions from a packed theater of filmmaking, producing, and acting students at 17 Battery Place.
Producer Tova Laiter with ICM Agent Boaty Boatwright at NYFA
Boatwright began her career as a children’s casting assistant in New York for such iconic films as To Kill A Mockingbird and the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Boatwright also served as an executive for major film studios including MGM, Columbia, and Universal.
As a casting agent, Boatwright worked closely with legendary directors including Norman Jewison, John Huston, Sydney Pollack, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ridley Scott.
After moving into the role of a talent agent, Boatwright began representing directors such as Alan Pakula, Sidney Lumet, and notable actors, Joanne Woodward Paul Newman. Her current client list includes Stephen Frears (Academy Award Nomination), Tom Hooper (Academy Award Winner) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Academy Award Winner).
While acknowledging how difficult the business can be to break in, Boatwright stressed the importance of pushing work at the film festivals, especially Toronto and Sundance. It is often the writer/directors job to be his or her own producer before gaining the attention of an agent. Most agents need to see proven work under a young filmmaker’s belt before they considering signing them. “Finding an agent is the hardest and most important part of the business,” she said.
Tova Laiter and Boaty Boatwright
Several actors from the audience also inquired about being cast as foreigners in American films. Boatwright understood the challenges involved, but stressed the importance of owning your cultural background and finding roles that could highlight what it is that makes your audition different than what’s expected.
Another fascinating moment of the evening came when Boatwright touched on a time she had worked with Alfred Hithcock, recalling the posh London hotel suites and expensive wine that Hitchcock would enjoy at lunch. In a time when California wine was just becoming popular Hitchcock told Boatwright, “I’ll never drink California wine.”
Few can claim the amount of experience that Boatwright has had in the entertainment industry, which leaves us extremely thankful for the time she spent enlightening our students on the path ahead.
As the clock struck 7:00 at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles Campus the lobby began to fill with acting students and alumni. Agents from Abrams Artists Agency, Central Artists, Daniel Hoff Agency, DDO Artists Agency, Howard Talent West, Ideal Talent Agency, LA Management, McKeon-Myones Management, Media Artists Group, Prodigy Talent, Debra Manners Talent Management, sat perched behind desks ready to take the student’s head shots and discuss their future.
Frederico Mallet a recent MFA Acting graduate attended the recent looking for commercial and theatrical representation. “I think it’s fantastic that Barbara made this happen,” said Mallet. “Because she is really great. She’s one of the finest people at NYFA. She’s at it all the time. She cares so much about us and I’m really grateful that she did this.”
The event was organized and run by Barbara Weintraub, Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development. She wanted to give recent and soon to be graduates an opportunity not only to network and practice pitching themselves but hopefully to land an agent and secure work.
Spring 2015 graduate, Katisha Seargent, “I graduated in May and I’ve been trying to get out there. I was doing a lot of self-submissions. I was so grateful to the school put together a program to help us get that foot in the door because it’s something we’ve been trying to do since we graduated.”
“I watched the footage that they made us shoot on our very first week at NYfA and I just compare it to where I am now and the growth is just exponential. It’s ridiculous. I learned so many things. My interpersonal communication skills rose exponentially. My confidence…it just went through the roof. I’m playing roles now that I never thought that I would do, that I didn’t think I was good at. I found out I have a comedic side. I never thought I was funny. You find out so much about yourself through this process here at NYFA.”
Acting student Owen Rousu knew he only had two minutes to impress the agents, “I have a commercial agent already so I’m looking more for theatrical. My little spiel goes, ‘Hey, I’m Owen. This is my theatrical headshot. I’m looking for theatrical representation; either a manager or an agent. I’m SAG eligible. I think what sets me apart from other actors is I spent five years in the army. I deployed twice as a US Army Ranger. So, the roles that I would go up for are usually army, marines, cops, firefighters, or the bad guy, apparently. I get a lot of villains, which actually, I love.”
When all was said and done we had several students reach back to tell us about their experience.
The meet and greet was such a great event! I got an audition for commercial representation at Daniel Hoff! Which is an agency I’ve wanted to audition for so bad!
So, thank you!
Thank you so much for yesterday the event was great! I was already contacted by two talent agencies!
So, thank you so much! Those events must keep on going! They are of great help.
Thanks for last night event!! I got contacted by DDO agency already for an interview next Thursday for possible representation!
The New York Film Academy would like to thank all the agencies that came to view our students and the current students and alumni who took advantage of this opportunity.
This week, director David Bowers brought his latest project, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, the third installment in the Wimpy Kid franchise, to screen at the New York Film Academy – Los Angeles Campus. Flanked by NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond and moderator Eric Conner, Bowers spoke about his long career in animation, working his way up the ladder, and navigating big Hollywood studios.
Students from the popular NYFA Summer High School Program were in attendance for the screening and were excited for the opportunity to speak with him about his successful career. Bowers had an illustrious career that began as a kid making Super 8 Claymation films. When he was twenty he began working as an animation artist on Who Framed Rodger Rabbit. Bowers said in the Q & A he was only hired because, “…they were desperate for anyone who could hold a pencil.” He went on to explain that this stroke of luck set him on a challenging and rewarding career path. Since the work on Rodger Rabbit was so new and complicated he was learning as the technology was being created. With the knowledge gained he was able to launch his career.
Bowers continued to ascend the ladder as an animator in American Tale: Fievel Goes West and the 90’s revival of Danger Mouse. Other works include FernGully: The Last Rainforest, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (produced by Steven Spielberg), and The Prince of Egypt.
But it wasn’t until he began work at the legendary production company, Aardman, that Bowers began his foray into storyboarding. First he worked on Balto and then The Road to Eldorado. Bowers recommended every film professional practice storyboarding, stating, “It’s an opportunity to make mistakes before you shoot.“
When Aardman and DreamWorks teamed up to do joint features Bowers was the obvious choice to direct. Students erupted when Flushed Away, Bowers directorial debut, was brought up. The director broke down his time on the nearly four-and-a- half-year project.
After the massive success of Shrek, DreamWorks’ first tentpole project, the expectations of Flushed Away skyrocketed. The American based DreamWorks wanted to push for a universal project. They wanted less British and more standard American English. However, Aardman, the UK based company, felt the cultural touches made the film distinct. In the end, the British cultural touches gave the film a certain truth of character that made it a favorite of children on both sides of the Atlantic.
Through the trying process of filming Flushed Away, Bowers learned what he liked and what he didn’t like about the animation process. The yearlong wait between storyboarding and viewable animation always felt too long. The teamwork and collaboration, on the other hand, were invigorating. Bowers shot one final animated feature film, Astro Boy, before moving to live-action properties.
When asked if there was one thing he could go back and change about his career, Bowers stated, “I’d launch into live-action sooner.” Later adding, “Live action is thrilling because you’re making things all the time.” Within just 8 months Bowers had shot and released the second Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules. “Even on your worst day when everything’s gone wrong… it (film) is still fun.”
Richmond, who shot the film, remarked at the onset movie magic they were able to create as a team. The luxurious country club is actually a very old community pool. Richmond described it as being “…rather dirty.” But with fabulous set dressing and a carefully placed camera they were able to convince the audience they were at a ritzy club.
A student asked the pair if they ever had trouble working with a director or cinematographer. Tony stated that a cinematographer’s job is to make the director’s vision come to life. He’s never had a problem working with a director.
Bowers said his greatest challenge was learning that there are times when your confidence will be knocked or you believe in yourself and other don’t. “Astonishingly,” he added with a laugh. “It’s not that you get knocked down. It’s that you get back up.”
New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Bowers for taking time out of his schedule to sit down and discuss his cinematic career with student. He did inform the audience that he was working on a fourth film in Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. We look forward to seeing where Greg Heffley’s adventures take him next.
Mike Judge’s HBO comedy, Silicon Valley, which surrounds the lives of young computer programmers who head out to Northern California to succeed in technology, has been a wild success thus far. Now in its third season, those of us at the New York Film Academy may recognize Acting for Film Instructor Ken Lerner in a few episodes.
Ken Lerner, left, and T.J. Miller in “Silicon Valley.” Credit John P. Johnson/HBO
Lerner has been playing the character of Arthur, who is Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti’s Business Manager.
In addition to his teaching at NYFA, Lerner has acted in many major film and television productions, including his most recent appearance on the FX’s mini-series The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. He’s also appeared in The Mentalist, NCIS, In Plain Sight, Two and a Half Men, Desperate Housewives, Castle, Weeds, CSI, Without a Trace and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He has had over 40 film roles, including Unlawful Entry, The Doctor, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Running Man, The Story of Us, Immediate Family, Irreconcilable Differences and Project X. In addition to film and television, Ken has starred in productions at The Pasadena Playhouse and Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theater and off-Broadway.
“My experience in the industry seems to be the biggest factor in my ability to be trusted that I know what I am teaching them, especially about auditions,” says Lerner. “I constantly use my acting jobs as reference for my students’ learning.”
Mr. Lerner is just one of the many examples of how our students have the privilege of working with current industry professionals who can provide unparalleled insight into the business.
The evening started with Hellion, starring Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad and produced by Tanner Beard’s production company, Silver Sail Entertainment. They also screened a trailer of an upcoming film from Silver Sail Entertainment. Filmmaking instructor Eric Conner moderated the Q&A that followed.
One of the first things the group focused on was the importance of being a positive person to work with, with Ryan Rottman saying, “In this town, the nicer you are, the more real you are…people appreciate that.” Rottman has acted in several TV series, including 90210, The Lying Game, and Happyland. He’ll be appearing with Kevin Spacey in the upcoming film, Billionaire Boys Club.
Steven Garcia, VP, Current Programing and Development at B17 Entertainment, added, “I’m thankful I’ve surrounded myself with good people. I’ve been a good enough teammate to have them keep me around.”
This went along with the question they were asked about how to network. The whole panel agreed when Rottman said to “talk to other people.” Beard added that students should “surround [themselves] with people who love what you love and do what you do. Once you get out of school you’re so hungry for it, you forget it’s going to take time.”
They did admit how difficult the business could be, but their hope was to show that it is possible to succeed. Beard said that “it never gets easier. It was something I wanted very badly. I took the glass half full approach.”
Rottman advised that students “not [let] it beat you down…just keep going. I know people who booked it…do your best.”
Ashley Eberbach, who works as a photographer and runs a multi-media production company in Los Angeles, chimed in, saying, “I think we all have war stories of like ‘I can’t believe that worked out.’ Make the best of it—the minute you break, that’s when you have a disaster. Making movies is supposed to be fun.”
They reminisced fondly about their time at NYFA, and Beard said that “it is so cool…we are so happy to be here.”
They concluded the evening with a movie trivia contest with prizes like Silver Sail Entertainment T-shirts and a signed event poster. We hope this will be the first of many visits back from these thriving, successful graduates.
Acting for Film graduate Mey Ferdinand, who came to NYFA from Brazil, has recently spent a week in Los Angeles to act in the Brazilian-American production called Thumbs Up, directed by NYFA alumnus Brian Visciglia. The LA based film was produced in partnership with local and international artists, and the production company Red Line Filmes.
Still from “Thumbs Up”
Thumbs Up surrounds Internet celebrity, Gabriel, a young Brazilian artist who becomes lost in his own fame. Dealing with his agent, personal problems, as well as his superficial and selfish decisions moves him into an entirely new lifestyle that is anything but “normal.”
With an international cast and crew, the movie focuses on the fact that today’s Internet stars are the new decision-makers in the entertainment world and, often times, are not prepared to handle the responsibilities. The goal of the film is to show how the Internet influences our youth not only in the US and South America, but in the entire world.
Still from “Thumbs Up”
The film is also an important lesson to all of our students, as we always encourage our graduates to work on projects with the people they hit it off with in school.
“NYFA was very important to my career,” said Ferdinand. “Not only for its acting lessons, but all of the networking I was able to do while attending.”
Upon her return to New York, Ferdinand will be acting in another short called Model Life, where she plays a fashion director of a magazine. The film will be released for cable in Manhattan.
Two-time champion of the Russian National Hip-Hop Dancing Championship among junior teams, Oksana Kuzychenko, has always wanted to dedicate her life to the preforming and visual arts. In her early childhood she took dancing and singing classes and lately she discovered her new passion for photography. Last summer Oksana spent 4 weeks in Los Angeles learning Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy High School Camp.
Recently, we spoke with Oksana to catch up on her life after NYFA summer camp.
Can you please share with us what you’ve been up to since graduating from our summer program?
Currently, I’m finishing my senior year of high school, teaching stretching classes, and dancing. Last December our team won junior league in the Cheer-Hip-Hop Competition at the International Forum of Contemporary Dance and Cheersport. At the same competition, my sister and I took second place among junior duos.
Also, in May, our team finished fifth at the 13th World Dance Olympiad in the “Teams Show” category among adults. For us it is a great achievement, because we moved into the adult league only last year and had to compete against teams who have danced in the adult league for more than 3-5 years.
Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of your dancing performances?
It helped me to become less shy and fearless. Now, when I perform on stage, I feel more confident. Also, when I teach stretching I use breathing exercises, which we practiced in my NYFA Voice & Movement class.
In addition, I learned at NYFA how to make short videos and now I often film different school events.
What was most memorable about your time at NYFA?
Acting in short student films on the Universal Studios backlot. Never in my life have I been so close to the real world of cinema.
Did you have any favorite instructors?
Andrew Bloch! He is very kind, cheerful and thoughtful. He cared about every single student and constantly encouraged us. My English wasn’t very good at that time and Andrew Bloch treated me with understanding and support.
In the future, do you plan on building a professional career in dancing or is it something you consider more of a hobby?
Since childhood, my dream was to become an actress—act in the theatre and movies. And of course, as an actress, it is a huge plus to be flexible and rhythmic. But if my acting dream does not come true, I will open my own dance school and will raise new champions!
This Monday afternoon, May 23rd, at the New York City campus of the New York Film Academy, Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby hosted a special Guest Speaker Series with long-time actor, Bruce Altman.
Altman has had a successful career in acting for film, theatre, and television. Beginning his career on the stage, the Bronx native acted in such off-off-Broadway shows as The Brick and the Rose, Liverpool Fantasy, Romeo and Juliet and The Sea Gull in the early 80s. From there, Altman moved on to numerous films such as Glengarry Glen Ross, Rookie of the Year, Matchstick Men, and many others. His TV credits are just as vast, including The Sopranos, Suits, Damages, and numerous others. He is currently appearing in the television series Mr. Robot and Odd Mom Out.
Despite having over ninety major credits to his name, Altman says that each time he lands a role is like a miracle. Even for an actor who has established himself in his field, the business never gets any easier.
“Life is hard,” said Altman. “And we’re not all giving up. That’s not a choice.”
Altman recommends actors try to curve their anxieties and nerves into a more positive direction. It’s all energy; it’s just a matter of how you’re able to channel it.
When asked what not to do, or how an actor could potentially back themselves into an unwanted position, Altman, says, “Never think you know what someone else is thinking.” The truth is: one can never really know what another person is thinking, so don’t act as if you know what the casting director or director is thinking. Be confident, but not over confident.
Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby with Bruce Altman
While he admits he’s not one hundred percent sure what the drive is behind his long-sustaining career, Altman does appreciate and value the experiences acting as a profession has brought to his life.
His love for the craft shined in his anecdotes and advice throughout the evening.
Ending on a particularly powerful note, Altman said, “Characters are dead souls; and when you play them, they come alive.”
Already with an extensive list of noteworthy credits in producing, writing, directing and acting, 8-Week Filmmaking and 4-Week Acting for Film graduate Tanner Beard has recently released his newest feature, 6 Bullets to Hell, which Tanner stars in, co-wrote, co-directed and is Executive Producer of through his production company Silver Sail Entertainment. His film is a Grindhouse style Spaghetti Western shot and made to look like the classic European Westerns of the 1960s and 1970s. 6 Bullets to Hell is loyal to its predecessors as it even stays true to the form of how these were filmed in the late 1960s, all the way down to the dubbing of the audio. In the film, Beard plays a bandit, Bobby Durango, who heads up a ruthless gang in the West.
Aside from Tanner paying homage to Sergio Leone, his company is actively producing projects including: a travel show, award-winning short films, award-winning documentaries, commercials, music videos, two seasons of a web-based television series and feature films such as the critically acclaimed Hellion starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis. Established during the 2008 writers’ strike, the company set out to create professional media content, and exploded from there.
Outside of the company, Tanner has been the Executive Producer of three films under the iconic director Terrance Malick and producer Sarah Green, starring some of Hollywood’s most well-known actors like Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Cate Blanchett, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman. The third of which is a documentary, Voyage of Time, executive produced by Brad Pitt, who also narrates the film.
Tanner’s next two projects are an animated feature entitled Fridgeport, which he co-created with Paul Khoury and is producing alongside Liam Hemsworth and Ashley Greene. His latest passion project is a Christmas comedy Just Be Claus, which he co-wrote with director Tim Skousen and is producing with Jeff Kalligheri and Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite.
We caught up with the extremely busy actor / filmmaker following his recent trip to Cannes.
Congrats on all of your success thus far! Can you bring us back to your time at NYFA. What stood out for you the most?
I remember how incredible it was filming on the [Universal] backlot (and with actual film in the cameras). Even though that is obsolete these days it gave me a great appreciation for all the moving parts that go into each and every shot, each and every frame. I hope NYFA still has students shoot on film—it can train you for anything. I also did the 4-Week Acting for Film program immediately after. That was the first real “acting for film” study I had, as I came from theater studies in London.
Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of what you’re doing now: writing, acting, producing, directing, etc. ?
Absolutely. The requirements of the week-to-week assignments prep you well for the intense competition of the film/tv workforce. You have to stay creatively sharp to write, direct, and shot list your own projects, and the editing courses helped me immensely. It also shows you the importance of doing your best for someone else’s project because you would want them to work hard on yours. I’ve always loved that design of the 4 to 5 person teams.
How did your working relationship with Terrence Malick begin?
I produced a movie with Aaron Paul called Hellion and I met and worked with Sarah Green who has produced almost all of Mr. Malick’s films over the last couple of years. They had already been working on these projects I was involved in but there was still work to be done; and after we had seen Hellion through to the finish line, we continued to work together and she brought me in on the Malick films. And that’s another interesting thing about NYFA — I still work with three people who went there the same time I did.
You started your production company during the writer’s strike. Did you get any backlash for that or do you think that it actually helped jumpstart the company?
Well, during the strike, we were all out-of-work actors living on the same street. One other NYFA student—Phil Donohue and some other friends—just said, well, we own some cameras. People are talking about making these “series” and putting them on the “web.” It was the “Wild West” of web series and we just starting shooting on our street, really for something to do, or just to feel like we were working/acting. Once we started seeing what the results were, and we were also flying so far under the radar, no one was going to stop “a couple of kids with cameras.” It turned into something more lucrative than we thought and I never looked back with Silver Sail Entertainment which is now a company with credits I’m very proud of.
Indeed the company is something to be very proud of. Anything else you’d like to share, specifically about your most recent film, 6 Bullets to Hell?
I’d like to share something that’s new to us. Silver Sail has created a mobile app video game as the films advertisement. It’s an arcade or “duck hunt” style shoot ’em game based on the movie, with direct links to buy or rent the film. Kinda of an experiment competing in the indie world of the 2016 market!
We hope you get a chance to check out 6 Bullets to Hell, which also comes in a “Drive-in Style’ version with two Grindhouse trailers before the film begins.
MFA Producing graduate Robert Pallatina’s directorial feature debut, Fortune Cookie, co-produced by Sony and The Asylum, aired on the Fuse network this past weekend.
His film is a horror/thriller set in present day Los Angeles about eight friends who fall victim to an ancient curse after receiving mysterious black fortunes at an Old Chinese restaurant. The movie stars James Hong (Big Trouble In Little China), Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers) and Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3).
James Hong in “Fortune Cookie”
Pallatina initially developed the script after being offered an already greenlit feature project from The Asylum, a production company that he frequently works with.
“My intensive studies [at NYFA] from conceptual scriptwriting to technical on-set production really helped prepare me for what I was getting myself into,” said Pallatina. “I researched Chinese folklore to intertwine real mythology into a modern day supernatural thriller and wanted to create a common threat for the characters, which was unpredictable and unstoppable.”
Thus far, 2016 has been very busy for Pallatina as he’s currently editing a number of features, developing scripts, as well as pitching himself to direct another film.
Fortune Cookie will continue to air on Fuse this upcoming Wednesday, May 18th and Thursday, May 19th.