This week, Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby welcomed back her former student Caitlin Cooke for an Industry Trends Series discussion. Aside from her acting career, Cooke is a Casting Associate at Donna Grossman Casting, a full service boutique casting company based in Manhattan. Donna Grossman Casting cast commercials, print, beauty, editorial, TV, film, theater, web series, live events and special projects.
photo by Alejandra Arias
Cooke began the talk by saying, “This school to me, it kind of makes me emotional,” said Cooke. “It brought me a lot of friends and a lot of opportunities and I met a lot of people in the industry. Everything I learned here was helpful. I learned a lot of the business side. Also the access to the equipment I had here is insane. Access to the industry here was way better than other places. And the advice that Glynis [Rigsby] and other instructors offer is invaluable.”
Facing the competitive field of actors after graduating, Cooke landed notable TV series and feature films such as Emmy-winning NBC series, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and the star-studded comedy blockbuster, “Grown Ups 2.” Most recently, she had the chance to guest star in an episode of “Tough Love,” a web series created by her friend Steven Bell. To further her and her friends career, she created an original series, “Rules of Cool,” which she was able to sell.
“Creating your own work is very important,” she said. “When you get out of school you’re not sure what to do next. We decided to take control and create our own opportunities.”
Cooke provided invaluable insight into the casting process, breaking down the process and providing tips and suggestions to improve NYFA Acting for Film students’ auditions.
“Auditions are like a first date,” said Cooke. “Act natural, but if it doesn’t work out there’s always someone else. Always take a chance and always listen to what they have to say. Always be appropriate for what the role is. Look appropriate for what you’re doing.”
NYFA would like to thank Ms Cooke for taking the time to speak to our students, and we wish her the best of luck on her blossoming career!
With the every-growing popularity and tremendous interest in cinema in India, the New York Film Academy is thrilled to announce its newest Mumbai location, which welcomed its first group of filmmaking and acting students.
NYFA Kitty Koo with film and acting students at NYFA Mumbai
Located in the heart of the world’s largest film industry and the home of Bollywood, NYFA Mumbai offers both an 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop and a 4-Week Acting for Film Workshop. The workshops are held at the Urmi Estate (95 Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel [West] Mumbai, Maharashtra 400 013, India).
“The New York Film Academy turns 25 years old this year, and we’re thrilled to add this beautiful new location in Mumbai to the global NYFA family,” said Kitty Koo, NYFA Vice President – Mumbai, India. “There is no place better than Mumbai, India — the land of Bollywood.”
Similar to its core curriculum, the Mumbai Filmmaking Workshop focus on learning in a hands-on film environment, where students will have the opportunity to make a fully-realized final film. The Acting for Film Workshop provides students with a strong foundation of acting skills with a specific focus on the basic elements of the craft of acting using Stanislavski’s System, scene study, and monologue work as starting points. Students also participate in courses aimed specifically at training the actor for the technical requirements of acting on a film set.
NYFA Acting for Film Associate Chair Peter Stone with Acting for Film students at NYFA Mumbai
“We’re proud to bring our innovative film and acting for film programs to Mumbai, India, an epicenter for world cinema,” added NYFA President Michael Young. “We look forward to teaching a whole new generation of Indian filmmakers and actors.”
As those who have taken a workshop with NYFA know, the workload is intensive, meaning students must be prepared to live and breathe the program during their enrollment.
“Taking that experience from NYFA, I was able to act as a major supporting role in ‘Baahubali’,” said NYFA alumnus Rakesh Varre, who plays Setu Patti in “Baahubali: The Conclusion.” The film has become the highest grossest Indian film in history, and has even been impressive in the North American market.
For those interested in studying in Mumbai, please visit www.nyfa.edu/mumbai for more information.
On Thursday, May 4 Head of the Festivals Department at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, Myriam Frankel introduced the first edition of a new guest lecture series, Best of Fest, featuring Festival Programmers and Filmmakers. The panels covered the myths and realities of film festivals, from the most effective submission strategies, to the best ways to optimize networking events, and take advantage of the festival circuit to advance your filmmaking career.
The first panel included: Larry Laboe (PGA), Executive Director of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, NYFA alumnus Kevin Resnick along with his filmmaking partner Rebecca Norris who showcased their short film “On Becoming a Man” made at NYFA, and festival award-winning writer/director Tamar Halpern.
“Before you can start submitting to festivals you need to make sure you’re comfortable talking about your film,” Laboe told the students. “Research and a well thought out strategy are the keys to success. If you apply to ten film festivals you’re spending around a thousand dollars. You want to play it safe.”
Another piece of advice Laboe shared with NYFA is not to get mad if a film is not accepted. “A lot of times it’s not about the quality of your film. Sometimes the festival has too many comedies, or they want more LGBTQ filmmakers or more filmmakers of color. Tribeca has a wall of shame for people who’ve sent ugly notes in response to rejection letters. Don’t be one of those people.”
Never be afraid to be the squeaky wheel Halpern stressed. “Let them know your actress just got cast in something. Let them know that you have a name working on your project. There’s a fine line between being a squeaky wheel and being a pain, but you can certainly use this information to promote your work.”
Stony Brook Film Festival accepted Halpern’s first film and she strongly encouraged NYFA students to send their films there as well. It’s only twenty dollars to apply. They flew Halpern and her lead actress out, provided accommodation, and were very nurturing throughout the process.
Veterans in Film and Television helped Resnick get his film in front of Disney executives. He encouraged students to get their money in line for festivals upfront. For “On Becoming Man” and his feature “Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine,” he split his budget in half. Half went to pre-production, production, and post. The other half was for film festivals.
Here’s a quick tip for filmmakers at their first festival: pass around a clipboard during the Q & A to collect the emails of those in the audience. Having met the filmmaker in person and being personally invested in the film, the audience will most likely help build a strong fan base.
Another suggestion was to shop the film around to different regions. The Midwest has been incredibly kind to Resnick and Norris. There, the film festival is a huge annual event for the town. “It’s a really rewarding thing when people just love movies and they tell you they like your movie there’s no feeling like it.”
Additional quick tips included: Know who’s attending the festival. Don’t be afraid to ask the coordinators. Be clear and timely when communicating with organizers. Don’t make them hound you for information. Try to meet as many people as you can. Hustle to promote your screening. Know the journalists who’ve covered the film festival in the past and reach out to them.
At the end of the event, Frankel was elated with the turnout and the richness of the discussion, “It was practical and insightful and I felt it was very valuable,” Frankel said. “I hope students walk away with a more tangible and realistic outlook on festivals.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Resnick, Norris, Laboe, and Halpern for taking the time to speak with our students. Keep checking the NYFA calendar for more upcoming events, Q & A series, and networking opportunities at the New York Film Academy.
Growing up in Argentina, Gonzalo Maiztegui has been acting since drama club days in school. In fact, he recalls the moment he came to the realization that acting was going to be his lifelong passion and career. From there he says he fell in love with the New York Film Academy, where he attended the AFA Acting for Film program at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles.
After graduating, Maiztegui booked his first National Commercial for Kellogg’s Eggo in the famous “Leggo my Eggo” campaign.
“I auditioned for the part, like any other actor, but truthfully many things I learned at NYFA helped me a lot in that audition,” said Maiztegui. “I was simply myself, and not fake, and then I made strong decisions like my teachers taught me to. Later on the day of the shoot, on set, the owner of the spot came up to me and told me he had made the decision of picking me, and he chose me because I was myself and he liked that and the strong choices I made.”
Maiztegui recently finished shooting a project for BuzzFeed, which will actually be the first Web-series for Snapchat. He also booked an Apple Commercial for their most recent App, “Clips.”
Now in its seventh year, the Veterans Writing Project pairs military veterans who are interested in writing for film and television with mentors who are members of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). More than 75 veterans from all branches of the military and across the country— including 12 NYFA students and alumni — participated in the retreat.
The mentors included seasoned film and TV writers such as Peter Casey (“Frasier”), David Isaacs (“Frasier”), Ken Levine (“M*A*S*H*”), and Ashley Edward Miller (“X-Men: First Class”). The two-day retreat consisted of workshops on developing story, structure, characters and culminated with a presentation on the elements of screenwriting from noted film writer Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips,” “The Hunger Games”).
The Writers Guild Foundation (WGF), a 501(c)3 nonprofit is associated with the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and supports programs that positively impact and empower unique groups and communities of creative individuals who want to enter the entertainment industry as writers.
Veterans take part in a session about developing story, structure, and characters
“The Writers Guild Foundation retreat for Veterans was an informative and extremely positive experience for me. The mentors were all fantastic and forthcoming. The staff made us feel welcomed and comfortable. I am grateful I had the opportunity and would recommend it to any other aspiring veteran writers,” said Adam Teitelbaum, US Navy, MFA Screenwriting student (BFA Screenwriting alumnus)
The Veterans Advancement Program team at NYFA, which facilitated the production team tasked with filming the event, considered that aspect of the WGF event a huge success. Ed Gomez, MFA Documentary student exclaimed, “I had one of the greatest experiences and opportunities this past weekend at the New York Film Academy. As a Marine Corps Veteran and current NYFA Documentary student, I had the privilege of being part of the film crew responsible for filming the Writers Guild Foundation Veteran Writing Project. Not only did the experiences while taping this event reinforce what is being in taught in class, but more importantly I had the honor and prestige of meeting and hearing from some of greatest minds in the film industry. I hope to continue to be part of this experience next year.”
On Tuesday, May 2 the Los Angeles Campus of the New York Film Academy welcomed a very special guest, actor Christopher Meloni, who is perhaps best known for playing NYPD Detective Elliot Stabler on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Meloni stunned audiences as Chris Keller on the gritty drama “Oz.” His vampire role as Roman Zimojic brought fresh blood to the horror opera “True Blood.” Not content with conquering the small screen, Meloni has given strong supporting performances in DC’s “Man of Steel,” the Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” and the cult classics comedies “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”
Meloni walked out to thunderous applause and a standing room only crowd. Tova Laiter, Director of the Q and A Series at NYFA, hosted the evening. She began the discussion by asking, “It seems like you have done every genre: drama, action, comedy. Was this by design or those were the breaks?”
Meloni responded, “It was by design. It was always by design. I’m a huge fan of physicality. I love really good action. I love Hong Kong Jackie Chan and I like early John Woo. I love the ballet of the motion and the beauty of the choreography.”
He continued, “I love comedy where you just get to blow out the pipes.” But comedy didn’t always come easy. Meloni described his first big studio comedy “Runaway Bride” with Julia Roberts was like “being at the big kid’s table.”
“I was on my best behavior and I was trying to be funny.” (Note to reader: he is very funny now!)
When asked about why he enjoyed studying the Meisner Technique, Meloni felt as though it forced away all the social niceties we have. Being reactive, whether it’s aggressively or subtly, is vital to the process. He described the repletion of the exercise as maddening but ultimately leading to truth and easier access to a range of emotions. “You have the ability to elevate moments and it makes working with the writer a more collaborative dance,” he said.
Student Justin Ardine said of the experience, “It was amazing to hear Meloni talk about all the jobs he worked, from waiting tables to bartending because I’ve done all those jobs, too.”
One NYFA student relayed a story of dismissive family and friends who thought his advanced age disqualified him from acting as a profession. Meloni didn’t think so. He recalled a friend question his choice to begin acting. “I don’t know if it’s cliché but it’s the God’s honest truth. It’s out of my hands. I had to act or I was going to die trying.”
NYFA would like to thank Mr. Meloni for his sage advice while grandly entertaining us at the same time! Meloni is currently starring in “Underground” as August Pullman, a morally conflicted man working as a slave catcher. He is also co–starring in big screen “Snatched” with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.
Ever After Parties provide multi-talented performers for not only children’s birthday parties, but also corporate events, weddings, schools and shopping mall displays, and were nominated for Best Party Entertainment in the What’s On 4 Kids Awards 2017.
Playing Sleeping Beauty, “Snow White and Ana (“Frozen”), to name a few, Jennings has been spreading joy and wonder throughout the South East Queensland area.
During her time at NYFA Australia, Jennings enjoyed “the amazing bonds made with the lecturers and endless opportunities that followed with those bonds.” She continues, “I also loved being in such a tight knit community with fellow actors and filmmakers.”
Jennings’ advice to aspiring performers is to “use the gifts you have been given to be a voice for those who don’t have one.” She believes that “hard work is silent, let your work be the words.”
Now signed with Williams Talent, Jennings has already auditioned for the Queensland Theatre Company and has been auditioning for various roles in film and theatre productions.
While many young artists flock to New York City from all around the world, few realize just how difficult it can be to break into the competitive world of “show business.” This personal and relatable struggle was the inspiration behind director Rodrigo Baumgartner Ayres’ film “Felices Acá En New York” (“Happy Here in New York”), which stars NYFA alumna Caroline Rosalino. Both Ayres and Rosalino met during their studies at the New York Film Academy and collaborated on the project soon after.
The film has been well received, having screened at eight film festivals and having been recognized with a “Best Actress Award Nomination” at the Queens World Film Festival. The film won a “Best Audience Award” at Indie Works and a “Best Actress Platinum” at NYC Indie Fest.
NYFA caught up with the two alumni to discuss more about the film and their blossoming careers since graduating.
Congrats on the success of your film! Can you tell us where you’re from, and what brought you to NYFA?
CR: I’m from Brazil, but I also lived in Argentina for five years where I did my BFA in Acting, as well as working in their “off-Broadway theater circle.” I came to the US for the first time for a three month work intership, and I walked past NYFA the very first day I was in New York City. I even have a picture of myself in front of NYFA saying, “Mom, I don’t think I am coming back,” and the funny thing is, it became true. I started researching about NYFA and I found it was exactly what I was missing in my work — since at that point my focus was mainly theatre and soap opera acting.
RA: I am from Porto Alegre, Brazil. I decided to come to NYFA during my last year of adversing & marketing school in Brazil. I wasn’t excited about pursuing that career, I felt there was somehitng missing and it was one of my instructors Anny Baggiotto who had attended NYFA a few years earlier the recommended the school to me.
Caroline, can you tell us how you met Rodrigo?
CR: While at NYFA, I saw him working everyday at our computer lab, but we never had the opportunty to work together during school time. During my OPT time after NYFA, I invited Rodrigo to direct this film and luckily he dedicated himself entirely to the project.
Rodrigo, in your own words, can you tell us what this film is about?
RA: It’s about me, and Caroline’s, and a whole bunch of other foreigner artists’ lives. People who come to NYC with a dream to make it in show business, but soon realize that life here is harder than it looks. It’s about the idealized image that people in our home countries have of us because of the fact that we are living in New York City, supposedly the city of dreams. They don’t know what it means to be a foreigner in this country: working day jobs, struggling with money, having a constant fear of failure, which will culminate into us having no other option besides going back to our home countries with a feeling of defeat. It’s also about friendship. Sol’s character is sacrificing a long lasting friendship with Vicky in order to fulfill her dreams. And these ‘breaking apart’ situations happen no matter how hard you try to keep in touch with friends and family because your life in NYC is very intense; you can’t take a breath between working day jobs and pursing your career as an artist.
How did this film come about?
RA: This film was a nine day pre-production process: one day of shooting and over six months of editing, which I did myself. Caroline sent me a story written by Alejandro Escaño, a writer and theatre performer from Argentina, and she told me she wanted me to DP it. She thought I had a camera and equipment, which I didn’t, and she had another director lined up for the shoot. I told her I didn’t have a camera, but I might be able to put the production together. Apparently, the other director wasn’t showing much interest, so I took over and brought my friend Daniel Rey Lozano to DP and operate the camera, borrowed sound equipment from an indie company called ‘Gradient Films’, whom I worked with before, and Caroline called Andrei Costanzi Posse to operate the sound, a Brazilian actor who lives in NYC, which I had also previously met in another project.
We were only five people on set and shooting guerrilla style. Months later, in the later stages of editing, I brought in my cousin from Brazil, Saulo Baumgartner Mosna, to compose the music for us.
The biggest challenge was adapting the story that was sent to us by Alejandro, which was a great story with a lot of heart, but also not written in a standard script format. It was a story written in Word, which required a lot of changes if we wanted to have any hopes of executing it as a film. The original story involved a higher budget, at least three or four days of shooting, and more time of pre-production. So with nine days until the shooting date, Caroline and I were re-writing the story and adapting it into our ‘one day’ schedule.
One day of shooting seems like a lot to handle. Can you tell me how you were able to pull off a one day shoot?
RA: We got a crew of reliable people who are in it for the art rather than money, and that’s why we were able to shoot for some 16 hours. It was definitely exhausting, but when you have people like that, you know are going to see it through to the end. When Carolyn and I were writing the script I was careful with how I was shaping the scenes. Like I said, the original story was quite different — more places, different style — so I tried to make it logistically viable, so that we could travel quickly between locations.
What did you see in Caroline that made her a perfect fit for the role of Sol?
RA: Caroline is a great actress, seasoned, reliable and she really fit the role, because just like her character Sol, Caroline is also an immigrant who is struggling to make a living here in NYC. Except maybe for the ‘killing’ visions and day dreaming, Sol and Caroline are quite similar. But the fact was that Caroline reached me with the story first. Knowing her for her professionalism and talent, I had no doubts that we could make this project work.
Caroline, can you tell us a little bit about Sol and who she is as a character?
CR: Sol is a struggling actress that has been living in NY for three years. She wants to sustain the image of a successful life, but deep down she is not completely proud of all her choices. The truth comes to surface when her best friend from Argentina comes to visit her.
Would you two say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being prepared for this film?
CR: I was truly blessed to have a great group at NYFA. From my colleagues that had so much potential — not even mentioning the unforgettable time we had together — but also our teachers were excellent and always open to work as well. NYFA prepared me not only to shift my theatre acting experience into film format and understand the professional filmmaking process, but essentially to understand acting as a business and how the film industry works in the US.
RA: NYFA played an absolutely fundamental role in my career as a filmmaker. I had no previous background in film before — coming from advertising and marketing — so everything I learned was at NYFA. I did the One-Year Filmmaking Conservatory, which was very intense and an incredible learning experience. Kudos to my directing instructor Paul Warner; he was my main source of inspiration and I follow his teachings blindingly. I definitely learned a lot from him. NYFA cultivated my passion for the art and set me on track for a career that I can no longer live without. NYFA’s program is complete. I graduated the school feeling confident about my talent and what I could accomplish in the future.
Tell us what’s next for the two of you.
CR: I have a few jobs lined up. I might be traveling around the country for that. One of them is a virtual reality film. I can’t wait for the experience of shooting in 360. And for certain the feature of “Felices Acá en New York.”
RA: I am shooting two new short films in May – June, 2017. One is a comedy that pays tribute to NYC as a romantic and also productive environment. The other one is a drama about loss and grief that criticizes America’s support program to veterans of war. Besides that, I also work as 1st Assistant Director, so I am involved in a sci-fi short film to be shot in September, 2017. I am also constantly writing. I have six scripts in the works that are dialogue pieces primarily made for the stage and that I also intend to turn into films.
NYFA Veterans who showcased their talents gather together after the event”
On Friday, April 21, the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) of the New York Film Academy hosted an Open Mic night at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Ship 8103 in Burbank, CA. The Open Mic night provided an excellent opportunity for veterans to more deeply develop camaraderie and fellowship.
The VFW eagerly supported the NYFA SVO event, which brought many younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to the VFW. The NYFA SVO President Vincent Cugno, who is a BFA Acting student at the College, hosted the evening and brought together current fellow NYFA veteran students, and alumni, who wanted to showcase their talents. Gino Filiponi, NYFA Acting for Film student, stated “It was great to share some laughs with fellow veterans.”
Seasoned comic Travis Frazee—who has showcased at local comedy clubs—was the headliner for the evening. Frazee, currently a student in NYFA’s BFA Program, has performed routines at venues including the “Ha Ha Comedy Club,” “Flappers,” and “The Comedy Store.”
This was the first of many events that the NYFA Student Veteran Organization will be organizing. Other activities include community service engagement, BBQ’s, sports nights, and more that are all designed to bring veteran students together.
The New York Film Academy was thrilled to have Talent Manager Carol Bodie speak with the Acting for Film Department in Los Angeles this past week. Tova Laiter, Director of the Guest Speakers Series, hosted the evening along side NYFA Instructor Anne Moore.
Bodie is responsible for helping guide the careers of many Hollywood elites including Jon Hamm, Jada Pinkett Smith, Joel Edgerton, Jim Sturgess, David Oyelowo, Kim Cattrall, Winona Ryder, Hailee Steinfeld, Rosie Perez, Calista Flockhart, and many others. Bodie has also produced “Girl Interrupted” and is working with many of Hollywood’s rising stars including Ruby Rose.
Bodie kicked off the Q and A by welcoming all of her “future clients.” Bodie started her career when she moved to LA in her early twenties. She hadn’t expected to get in the entertainment industry, but all of her acting friends encouraged her to get work at an agency. When she finally found an agent she wanted to work with she realized she didn’t know what she was doing. “I literally answered the phone, ‘Hello.”
Despite being told assistants do not get promoted it didn’t take long for Bodie to rise through the ranks. “I literally worked harder than anyone else,” she said. “I would get there at seven in the morning. Then I’d work all day. Stephen (her boss) would leave for a screening or event. He’d come back after and leave post-it notes all over my desk. So, I was working Saturdays and Sundays.”
Bodie had a lot of advice for her students. One insider tip is to find moments to surprise the casting director. “You have to remember Casting Directors are people too. We have bad days. We get bored.” Bodie suggests that if you’re given two scenes to read, read the second piece first. You’ll instantly have the director’s attention.
“For actors the only thing to do is act. Do a play even if it is a small production,” Bodie suggests. “It’s all about relationships. Become friends with assistants and managers.” This way you’ll be the first to hear about all of the auditions.
“Get out of your own head,” Bodie told the students. “Make it about the other person. By focusing on other people it relaxes you. Go to IMDb and look at what they’ve cast. They’re a person, too. They’ll want to tell you about their experience.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ms. Bodie for taking the time to speak with our students.