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  • It’s Happy Hunting for New York Film Academy BFA Student Connor Williams

    Connor Williams has truly hit the ground running in Los Angeles, not only booking a lot of professional work as an actor but also keeping up with his studies in the intensive New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA program in Acting for Film. It’s a schedule that would certainly prove challenging for anyone, yet Williams shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

    With his strong supporting role in feature horror flick Happy Hunting newly released on Netflix — along with his supporting role in indie feature The UnMiracle — Williams found some time to tell the NYFA Blog some of the secrets behind the hard work, dedication, and talent that go into the blistering pace of his life in acting for film.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film BFA program?

    CW: I had made a feature film heading into my senior year of high school. Relativity Film School reached out to me and offered me a full tuition scholarship, which was great, but I turned it down. I was just really unsure what I wanted to do after high school, and college was not in the plans. I then informed my parents of my plan that I was going to work full time in Utah (where my agent was located) and audition for smaller parts when movies came to town. They thought maybe I was making a mistake, so they asked me to reconsider. I called the school back about two weeks later to see if the scholarship was still good. They said it was, but in the meantime I had a buddy that was in my feature film Spoilers move to LA, and his place was right across the street from NYFA. I looked into NYFA, filled out the app, sent them my reel, and overall just had a better vibe with everyone at NYFA, so I decided to go there.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to pursue this craft?

    CW: I booked a commercial as a baby. …When I watched the videotape of the commercial years later, I told my parents I always wanted to be a actor. My dad did some networking, and two weeks later I had booked a part in a feature film. I was two-for-two for auditions! …

    When I was 10 years old, my dad realized he was waiting for people to do projects, so he paid for a two-day film camp. My brother Aidan and I learned how to shoot, light, boom, and edit. My dad would write these two-minute scripts for us, and we would do the rest. We won some awards, money, and prizes, which kept us motivated. From then on, I knew I wanted to make movies or act.

    3 semesters down. 6 more to go 😎

    A post shared by Connor Williams (@the_connor_williams) on

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or classes from your time studying with us so far?

    CW: The very first semester our class was obviously all new, and we rented a limo bus and took it around LA. That was fun. And I really enjoyed shooting an episode from Friends [in class]. Not only is it my favorite show, but I also worked with Isabella Hoffman, who is a great director, and did this with a bunch of my NYFA friends. It was a real fun shoot.

    Regarding moments, I have really clicked with a couple of teachers that really care about my auditions and want to help and guide me. That’s been pretty cool. We will break down the sides and make choices.

    I’ve always lived with NYFA students and it’s been great meeting people from all across the U.S. and abroad. I just got done with my voice-over class and just made a VO reel, which I’m really happy with.

    One other thing about NYFA classes: before I came here I had never taken an acting class, so this has really helped me understand the process so much better.

    My favorite thing about NYFA is all the connections I’m making. My classmates will always be my friends forever. I actually call them family.

    NYFA: You’ve been working professionally while also balancing your full-time studies at NYFA Los Angeles. What does that look like for you?

    CW: … At the beginning I would get an audition and go. Now, my manager and agent have my schedule and I ask them not to schedule an audition during class time. I can’t afford to miss class for an audition. You only get so many missed days and then your grade is dropped. I need to save those days for when I book something.

    NYFA: What is your advice to your fellow students for finding a balance between the intensive schedule at NYFA, and beginning to build your resume in the wider industry?

    CW: I would do the opposite of me. Just come here, do your school work, get involved, and learn the craft. The gigs will be there when you graduate.

    I would suggest that on the days off, go do background work on film and television. While on those sets, watch and listen, and when you go back to NYFA it will make a little bit more sense. Take it slow.

    Just by coming here, you will have an awesome reel before you leave. The talent here is crazy. Your game will go up just by being here.

    NYFA: Tell us a bit about your work in Happy Hunting. How did that project come about for you, and what was that experience like?

    CW: It was weird how fast that happened. I drove in from Idaho and had an audition set up for Happy Hunting through Actors Access. We get to LA with the car jam packed with all my junk, and we don’t have time to go to my new apartment and chill. We went straight to the audition. I remember thinking, “This traffic is insane and I really wish I had time to clean up and not so be rushed!”

    So I go in there, sign in and take a seat, and I really wanted to focus. Right when I sat, they call me in. I do my lines and they ask me to do it again. To me, that’s always a good sign. I leave the room tell my parents it went great, they remind me this is LA, not Idaho or Utah, and not to stress about it.

    We were finally driving to my new apartment and my phone rings. It was the Happy Hunting gang and they asked if I would turn around and read for a bigger part. I did, and I got the gig!

    I’m not sure what the record is but I feel like I have it: I was literally in LA less than 10 minutes before I booked my first feature film! We shot in Barstow and the Salton Sea. My part shot for nine days. What I didn’t know at the time was that the co-writer/director is Mel Gibson’s son, Louie. He just wanted to be one of the guys. I respect him for that.

    NYFA: Happy Hunting has just released on  Netflix — congrats! How does that feel?

    CW: It feels pretty awesome. …

    The UnMiracle with Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin is also on Netflix. I got that part by skyping my audition and a callback from my bedroom in Idaho, and we shot that in Chicago. I actually shot that while in high school, but it was held up for whatever reason and got released about six months ago.

    NYFA: What have you learned that has surprised you the most in your NYFA studies?

    CW: First off, the teachers care about us. They want us to succeed. I have a teacher that helps me all the time with my auditions. It’s intensive but fun.

    NYFA: Are there any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about?

    CW: The feature film Regionrat, where I play the lead, is now hitting the festival circuit. So far so good, as we just won the Chandler Film Festival for Best Feature! I flew out there for that. It has also won Best Feature at Barcelona Planet Film Festival, Festigious Film Festival and Best Ensemble at Festigious.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    CW: With Regionrat I have won Best Actor at the London Independent Film Awards, Festigious Film Festival and Stars Hollywood Film Festival. I was up for a fourth but didn’t win.

    I’m also up for Breakout Performer and Best Actor in a Feature at the First Glance Film Festival. Regionrat plays at that festival March 10 at 8 p.m. in North Hollywood. I guess I’m seeing what happens to me and this film … but I really think 2018 is going to be a great year for me.

    Congratulations, Connor! Thank you for sharing some of your story with the NYFA Blog.

  • New York Film Academy Board Member Matthew Modine Opens Full Metal Diary Photo Exhibit at Axiom Contemporary

    NYFA Board member and award-winning actor Matthew Modine has opened a photography exhibit, Full Metal Diary, at Axiom Contemporary in Santa Monica.

    Fresh from a record-breaking showing at the 23rd Annual LA Art Show, Modine’s works share an extraordinary, nuanced, and intimate view into life on the set of renowned director Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

    Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the film is known as a classic, and Modine’s photography offers a behind-the-scenes experience of artistic collaboration.

    In black and white images captured in 1987, Modine’s Full Metal Diary shows the scale and also the intimacy of life on set, where he collaborated as a young actor with a true cinematic master for two years.

    In fact, it was Kubrick himself who suggested that Modine keep a “diary” of his experiences portraying the iconic role of Private Joker. Now the public can enjoy Modine’s intimate access to the famously private director as well as his unique perspective on Full Metal Jacket.

    Axiom Contemporary will hold an artist reception with Matthew Modine Friday, Feb. 23 from 6-9 p.m. For further info, contact: Mark Matkevich – mark@axiomcontemporary.com.

    February 21, 2018 • Acting, Community Highlights, Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights • Views: 707

  • Art LaFleur is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was thrilled to have actor Art LaFleur at the Los Angeles campus on Jan. 18, 2018, as a part of the Guest Speaker Series. LaFleur took part in a Q & A following a screening of “The Sandlot.” Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond, who was the cinematographer on the movie, was also in attendance. NYFA Senior Instructor Eric Conner hosted the evening.

    LaFleur is known as a prolific character actor whose career has spanned over 40 years. He’s shared the screen with Hollywood heavyweights like Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Costner, and played American heroes like Babe Ruth as well less heroic characters like Chick Gandil (first baseman for the infamous 1919 Chicago Whitesox).

    When asked about his career and his first major role, LaFleur credited his face — literally — with helping him get a start in the industry. At the time of his first role as Ivan in the made for TV movie “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island,” LaFleur had been taking acting classes for a couple of years but says there was no trick or tip that helped him land the role. He simply had the right look: “There were people in my acting class who were really good. They were wonderful, but they wouldn’t get arrested, whereas I have this mug. I don’t know. I just have this face.”

    One of LaFleur’s most memorable roles is his portrayal of Babe Ruth in the modern classic, “The Sandlot.” To prepare for his audition he studied The Babe’s life and mannerisms by reading autobiographies and watching interviews. Most importantly, he studied old tapes of Babe Ruth playing baseball and practicing Ruth’s mannerisms. He took note of how the legend stood with a bat in his hands and how he would walk to first base. The research paid off when his portrayal won over the film’s casting director.

    It was during the filming of “The Sandlot” that LaFleur met NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond, who spoke fondly of their brief time on set together.

    “Occasionally, you get to meet incredible people like Art,” said Richmond. “Even though he was on set for only a brief time, his role gave the film credence.”

    LaFleur jumped in explaining, “I get recognized for this film more than any other. It’s the best one-day job I’ve ever had.”

    In speaking of “The Sandlot,” Richmond and LaFleur brought up an old film adage: “Never work with water, children, or animals.” Richmond explained that producers try to avoid these three elements because they can’t be controlled. “The Sandlot” featured all three. There were multiple children in the cast. Two large dogs were brought in to play the junkyard dog. There was the famous swimming pool scene, where Squints pretends to drown so he can get a kiss from Wendy Peppercorn.

    Richmond, a father himself, suggests filmmakers should simply talk to child actors as if they are adults. “Then,” says Richmond, “They’ll behave like adults.”

    One student asked, “What’s the most difficult part of working with children?” According to our guest, the most challenging aspect by far is the tighter shooting schedule. Due to child labor laws the children on “The Sandlot” could only work eight hours a day, and three of those hours had to be dedicated to their education. These regulations make scheduling challenging. It is particularly challenging when every scene has a child in it.

    Another student asked the veteran actor and cinematographer for any advice on how, as an international actor with an accent, he might be able to get ahead in the American film industry? Richmond and LaFleur agreed that success comes from collaboration and networking, which is why film schools like NYFA are the perfect place to meet future business partners and collaborators.

    Richmond said, “I love teaching at NYFA. When I was getting started, four cinematographers really helped me out. You can’t do it without help.”

    LaFleur ended the evening with some advice to the actors in the audience. “If you are lucky enough to be cast in a film or on a television series the most important thing is to be sharp. Be on your game with the dialogue and everything else. And if they don’t talk to you, you’re doing fine.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Tony Richmond and Art LaFleur for taking the time to speak with our students.

    January 30, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Guest Speakers • Views: 805

  • New York Film Academy Youth Program Grad Lily Buchanan in Syfy’s Happy!

    New York Film Academy kids Filmmaking camp grad and child actor Lily Buchanan recently had a starring turn in Syfy’s dark comedy series, Happy!

    Happy! stars acclaimed actor and New York Film Academy Guest Speaker Christopher Meloni as a degenerate ex-cop-turned-hit-man who, after flatlining in the line of duty, is brought back to life — only to discover he can now see and hear a child’s invisible friend, an animated blue unicorn named Happy. Needless to say, bizarre and thrilling antics ensue.

    The surprising, gritty, and hilarious show is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Darick Robertson and Grant Morrison.

    In Happy!, Lily Buchanan portrays the role of Jamie in not one, not two, but three episodes. We don’t want to give away any spoilers, so you’ll have to check out the show on Amazon Prime — just be aware that viewer discretion is advised, as the storyline of Happy! doesn’t shy away from violence or mature topics.

    Happy! is one in a string of recent successes for New York City-based child actor Lily Buchanan, who has also churned out scene-stealing performances in 2018’s Real Love and The After Party.

    Buchanan carved out time in her busy schedule over the last holiday season to take on the New York Film Academy’s intensive Holiday Filmmaking Camp for Kids. During her time at the Academy, she enjoyed a special opportunity to see Dominique Morisseau’s original play, PIPELINE, at the Lincoln Center Theater (LCT) — and got meet the play’s star, NYFA Instructor Jaime Lincoln Smith.

    Congratulations on your role in Happy!, Lily — we look forward to seeing what’s next on the horizon!

  • New York Film Academy Veteran & Cinematography Alum’s Horror Feature Streaming on Amazon & iTunes

    NYFA veteran alum Alister Conway has found success with his first independently-produced feature film. The Doll takes the familiar horror trope of a haunted doll coming to violent life to new extremes, with this particular “doll” portrayed by Valeria Lukyanova. This is the screen debut for the model and viral internet sensation, known as the “The Human Barbie.” As The Los Angeles Times observes of this casting choice, “Turning a beauty into an inhuman monster is actually a clever premise.”

    Conway took the time to share some insights from his experience bringing The Doll to life with the NYFA Blog.

    NYFA: How did your project The Doll come about? What inspired the idea?

    AC: Through my many networking trails, one night I attended an event at the Soho House. I met an incredible psychologist, Susannah O’Brien, who shared many similar ideas and feelings on the rapidly changing climate of the film industry.

    At the time I had no idea she was also a director organizing a new team to produce a collection of scripts that she written … one of the scripts was The Doll project. It was wild how she had the entire project laid out in her mind with clear bold strokes, these crazy details that blew my mind, with the Human Barbie Doll starring in it all.

    … Long story short, by the end of the conversation she asked if I’d be willing to shoot the project. I can’t remember my exact response. But it was something along the lines of “Oh **** yes! I’d love to.”

    NYFA: For our students, can you tell us a little bit about your role as the cinematographer and co-producer? How did you juggle those responsibilities, and what surprised you the most?

    AC: Coming from a stern military background combined with the hustle mentality of a Brooklyn New Yorker, I’ve always motivated my mind to multitask at the drop of a dime. Originally, I was brought on as the cinematographer, a privilege I still can’t thank Sahara Vision Productions enough for. Then I approached the production team to bring me on as a producer to help manage the overall day-to-day process of pre-production.

    They were reluctant at first until they noticed a $8,000 deficit that wasn’t in the original budgeting. I moved around a few numbers, brought on a few associates at lower rate, made a few deals with equipment lenders, etc. and they were very impressed with what I accomplished. So they tried me out as a co-producer.

    Surprises? After two years overseas in Iraq, not too many things surprise me these days. I’ve learned to play along in the mindset: “Hope for the best. Plan for the worst. Live in the moment.”

    NYFA: Congratulations on your distribution for The Doll with Amazon Prime! Can you tell us a little bit about how you went about securing this deal?

    AC: Thank you. After talks with many distribution companies, we were fortunate to solidify a deal with Gravitas Ventures. We went with them because of their extensive media catalog and reputation of doing what they say they’re going to do — not easy to find distribution companies today with those standards: packaging the deliverables, going through media Q&C, press and social media handling. Gravitas was great throughout the process.

    NYFA: Anything we missed that you’d like to share with the NYFA community?

    AC: Prior to my move to LA from New York, my sole focus was shooting and editing projects for the best possible look. I never focused my attention on the business aspects of the world of content sales and producing. There was a rush that I never expected. It opened me up to a completely different mindset of the filmmaking process.

    Don’t be afraid to try something new on set. Pay close attention to the business mechanics of the world of creating contenting. There are so many avenues within this realm that not only help me keep my sanity during the harsh process of filmmaking but helped build a greater appreciation for the long term financial benefits and my personal growth.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Alister Conway for sharing a part of his story with the NYFA Blog. The Doll is available to stream on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

     

    January 12, 2018 • Acting • Views: 209

  • New York Film Academy Acting Alum Adrian Voo Talks Teen Comedy “Little Bitches”

    Not many of us wish that we could go back to high school, but for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Conservatory alumnus Adrian Voo, revisiting teen angst never looked better. This month, the world will see him co-star in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s “Little Bitches,” a raucous, R-rated teen comedy that will release digitally Jan. 23 on iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Xfinity, Verizon Fios, Microsoft Store, Play Station and Google Play.  

    Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Voo was bitten by the acting bug when he was a business major at San Francisco State University. Following his dream led him to NYFA Los Angeles campus for an intensive year of conservatory training before going on to snag mainstream attention in the Jason Biggs comedy “Amateur Night.” “Little Bitches” follows three former-best-friends-turned-frenemies who must find a way to make peace in their senior year of high school in what Sony Pictures describes as a “crazy, twisted, coming-of-age female-empowerment comedy.”

    The NYFA Blog had a chance to catch up with Voo to hear more about “Little Bitches,” what he loves about comedy, and what’s next.

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

    AV: My love for film has spanned my lifetime but I had never really given acting much thought until my final year of business school. I was auditioning for plays and became fascinated with the craft. After receiving my BS, I decided to explore acting and searched for an intensive film school, and that’s when I found NYFA!

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    AV: One of my earliest childhood memories was being in absolute awe while on a tram tour at Universal Studios. So the first time we had an on-camera class on New York Street was a little “magical” for me.

    NYFA: Congratulations on your role in Sony Pictures’ “Little Bitches”! How did this project come about for you?

    AV: Thank you! Long story short, I was pitched to Scott Aversano (producer). I was so excited to hear that he was assembling a teen comedy, knowing his previous success with “That Awkward Moment” and “Orange County,” among many others. We had a good meeting and he brought me in to read for Nick Kreiss (writer/director).

    NYFA: You’ve had a great streak of working in some big comedies. For our students, what do you find the most challenging about intensive comedy work? How do you prepare?

    AV: I’ve found the most challenging part to be forgetting that it’s a comedy — and not trying to be funny! I think comedy works best when you trust the script (the writers) and find the dialogue rhythm. Once you have the rhythm, you can add improv for color.

    NYFA: You recently served as an executive producer of “Dear Dictator” with Michael Caine and Katie Holmes, as well as appearing in the film. Tell us about that process, and why you felt drawn to this story?

    AV: I had worked with the writer/director’s on “Amateur Night,” which was their true life story, so I was thrilled when they invited me to be a part of “Dear Dictator.” The script is so inspired (it was featured in the Black List in 2006). It’s a satire but, ultimately, a story about a non-conventional family. There’s some familiar film moments but it’s truly a film like no other…

    It was also a full circle moment to work with Michael Caine since I studied his “Acting in Film” book at NYFA!

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you’re doing now?

    AV: Very much so! When I first walked through the doors, I had a little stage experience and almost no formal training; I dreaded speaking with fellow actors whenever I was in productions because they used jargon that I had never heard of. NYFA instilled technique and discipline, and molded my process today. I’ve also become a strong proponent for hands-on training and found it to be an essential element.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    AV: Let’s just say, for now it’s “Little Bitches” and “Dear Dictator” in March! I hope you guys will enjoy the films as much as we had making them. Cheers to everyone at NYFA!

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Adrian Voo on his work in “Little Bitches,” and looks forward to seeing “Dear Dictator” soon!

  • From the Olympics to “Vikings” with New York Film Academy Acting Alum Ragga Ragnars

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars has quite the resume: the two-time-Olympic-swimmer-turned-actress recently snagged a role on the hit show “Vikings.” NYFA had the chance to sit down and catch up with her via email in between her busy schedule filming in Ireland and Iceland, to discuss her transition from athlete to actress.
    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    RR: I have been a swimmer all my life and for about 15 years I was a professional swimmer. I swam at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and after sitting out the 2012 Olympics to have my son, I decided that it was time to pursue my other passion, acting.

    I have always loved California and, as a teenager, I swam in Mission Viejo, where I also attended high school for a while. I also swam in Ventura for a while in my 20s and always loved coming to California. It had always been like a second home to me. So when I was looking at acting schools, NYFA kept popping up.

    I had looked into NYFA a few times before and decided I would start with an 8-Week Acting for Film program to see if I liked it. I had my son and my family with me and needed to make sure it was the right choice before committing to a longer course. I, of course, loved the 8-week program and enrolled in a one-year program right away.

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

    RR: I made so many great friends while attending NYFA and got to know so many amazing teachers and instructors. There are so many moments that stand out for me and it’s hard to choose just one to mention. I do remember some great Q&A sessions with people from the industry that really taught me a lot. I also loved working on the backlot and getting to experience that aspect of the courses.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to shift gears in life to pursue your acting career?

    RR: Acting has always been a passion I have had. While I was swimming, acting was always in the back of my head. I don’t think it’s something I decided. I just always knew I would be an actress. Since I can remember, I knew that it was something I had to do.

    NYFA: You came back for the 1-Year Acting for Film program after finishing a short-term program with us — what made you decide to go to our conservatory?

    RR: I had such an amazing time in the 8-week program that I knew I wanted to keep going. I wanted to see how it would work out having a family and a young son with me so far away from the rest of my family. It was easier than I expected and my son loved the California sunshine, so it was a no-brainer. I also knew I had more to learn from the great teachers and instructors at NYFA.

    NYFA: Many of our students can relate to your experience of coming to learn the arts in a foreign country. What was it like for you as an international student, coming to study at NYFA Los Angeles? Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

    RR: Because California has always been like a second home to me, I almost felt like I was not an international student and more of a local. I knew LA pretty well and while at NYFA I got to know the city better.

    The only thing that I can remember being a difficult aspect of being an international student was to make sure that all of the paperwork was correct and that I had everything in order. With great help from NYFA it wasn’t too hard, but with getting a Visa, applying for an OPT and all of that, it was definitely a challenge. It was all worth it and I am so happy I decided to give it a try.

    NYFA: You’ve competed in the Olympics as a swimmer, and now you are working as an actor on “Vikings.” As a career-changer, what would you say was the most challenging and the most surprising part of going from one intense career to another?

    RR: The most surprising thing is how similar my life is, from when I was a competitive swimmer. Working on a big production is hard work, I want to stay in good shape and get ready for a day of work similar to when I was competing. I work out, warm up before big scenes, meditate and take care of what I eat in the same way I did when I was preparing for the World Championships or competing at the Olympics. There is so much time spent in preparing for scenes, learning dialogue and text, working on a character and getting ready. I am happy that I have years of experience as a swimmer in being focused, determined and knowing that nothing comes for free.

    It takes hard work for a long time to achieve goals and you have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience working on “Vikings” — are there any surprises or challenges you’ve encountered in working internationally in Ireland and Iceland?

    RR: Ireland and Iceland are quite similar places. I feel like Irish people have a lot in common with the Icelandic — very welcoming and have a bit of a small town vibe to them, just like in Iceland. It has been difficult to be away from my son who attends school in Iceland, but I travel back and forth quite a bit and he comes to Ireland every time we can manage that. I have loved the process so far and I am looking forward to continuing working internationally and broadening my horizon even more in this field.

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for our current students in transitioning from our conservatory training to the real world?

    RR: My advice is to set goals with everything you do and want to do in life and enjoy the process, the good and the bad.

    Rejection from one place is not the end of the road.

    Also, there is not one way to achieve success in this business. I signed with an agent before I even finished NYFA, I had a few agents who wanted to sign me and I thought that was the only way to get ahead. Then when I realized that the partnership was not working, I decided to do it on my own and that proved to be the right way for me at the time.

    But I learned from every failed audition and self tape, from every production I worked on while on my OPT, and I always kept up a positive attitude towards my goals.

    NYFA: Would you say your time studying at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing today?

    RR: Absolutely. I learned so much while attending NYFA. So many things were new to me as an actor before I attended NYFA. I feel like I got a very extensive overview of techniques and tools to choose from while working. Not everything that I learned works for me and some things I learned I have kept on learning after NYFA. I keep in touch with some of my teachers in NYFA and I feel like all of them took a real interest in teaching us and even as a former student, being able to send a quick line to a former teacher and still getting help with something is amazing.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ragga for taking the time to share a part of her journey with our community.

  • “The Truth” About New York Film Academy Acting Alum Fahad Olayan

    Since he was just a teenager, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumnus Fahad Olayan has had a solid plan for his life. Through hard work and determination, he has already achieved a lot of his dreams.

    He began his acting career in his native country of Saudi Arabia with the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash” in 2013, before going on to book several more television shows. He found success in America when he was offered a role on National Geographic Channel’s “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” where he played King Hussain in the episode “Proof of God” in 2017. Olayan’s latest project, “The Truth,” has been raking up awards. And now, he’s taken the time to catch up with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to discuss the role festivals play in the success of a film and what it was like to find most of his crew here at NYFA.

    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with acting?

    Olayan: I started when I was 13 years old. I attended school for theater. I was the supporting character in many different roles. In 2007 I began applying for jobs at production companies as an actor. I remember one of the directors was impressed by my audition. From that audition, I managed to book more than 10 TV series. In 2011, I considered moving my career to LA to pursue my dream. I studied English for two years and then went to NYFA to study acting and filmmaking. Once I graduated I immediately planned on making a movie.

    NYFA:  What was your first performance?

    Olayan: In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a production for a big channel in Dubai. It’s called MBC. It is the biggest channel in the Middle East.

    NYFA:  How did you end up at NYFA?

    Olayan: I wanted to learn how to perfect my acting skills and learn more about editing, writing, and filmmaking. It was great because it also gave me the opportunity to learn from professional people, who have been in the industry for a long time.

    NYFA: What was your favorite part of the education experience? Did you have a favorite class? Which one?

    Olayan: I got to collaborate with many new artists who are excited about making it in the industry. Each one had a fresh perspective on the craft. I also enjoyed the classes that were offered. My favorites were stunt training and sitcom. I also had the privilege of learning from Michael Zelniker. He is a mentor to me. He is an exceptionally talented individual and advisor at NYFA.

    NYFA: Why is an intensive program vital to your development as an actor?

    Olayan: It is vital because so much goes into acting. You take classes that help you learn about voice, movement, script analysis, observation, and how everything connects to each other. As an actor you need to learn about the different elements that go into the craft of acting. It broadens your horizons and makes you appreciate the art.

    Fahad Olayan With Alejandro Gonzalez

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your project, “The Truth”?

    Olayan: “The Truth” is an important project for me. It really touches home. I thought long and hard about this project for a few months because it has a very important message for the world: It focuses on racial profiling.

    Once I was ready to work on the project I met Nicolas Jung, a unique and exceptionally talented person who helped with co-writing, was the assistant director, and was one of the main actors as well. I strongly believe that this film wouldn’t be what it is without him. His outstanding writing skills and authentic acting skills took this project to a whole new level. The other actor, Dave Belvederi, and the cinematographer, Joseph Hamilton, also contributed to the success of this project. It is important to be smart and to choose a good team to work with so that there is a good collaborative environment on set.

    Once the project was completed, I submitted it to many different film festivals around the world. However, the most important festival that took notice of my film was in Saudi Arabia, where it won the award for best film out of hundreds of other projects.

    The best part was that it was awarded and announced by the King of Saudi Arabia’s son, which was a huge privilege, and it went on national news.

    NYFA: How did you prepare for this role?

    Olayan: I poured myself into the character that I played. I made the circumstance real to me. There was a lot of stunt training involved and intense rehearsal to achieve my goal.

    NYFA: Any chance for a sequel?

    Olayan: Yes, there will be a second part, I will refrain from giving too much detail to leave everyone in suspense.

    NYFA: What did you learn from making this film?

    Olayan: I learned that making a movie is not just about the name or title, it is an art. A lot of passion, imagination, and commitment goes into it. The most important thing that I learned was how to communicate with the audience. Once you get that, there is a feeling of having reached a huge accomplishment.

    NYFA: What’s up next for you?

    Olayan: Nicolas and I have written and acted together in two short films. Our first film was “Losing Life,” which won over 10 awards across the globe. In addition to all that, we have currently written two feature films and will produce one in 2018. We are currently in the preproduction process with one of the scripts and the other is in rewrites. When I am not working on these projects I am finding other ways to get ahead in my career.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Fahad Olayan for speaking with us about his work. 

    January 2, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 837

  • New York Film Academy Master Class With Lyle Kessler Wraps With Impressive Performances

    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    This December, students from the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film 2-Year Conservatory performed scenes written and directed by renowned actor/playwright Lyle Kessler. The performances were the culmination of an 8-Week Master Class taught by Kessler, who has been an icon in the world of theatre for several decades.

    Kessler studied acting under industry legend Lee Strasberg and has been a longtime member of the famed Actor’s Studio. Kessler had the opportunity to play Strasberg in the 2001 biopic “James Dean.”

    Kessler is best known as a playwright though, with numerous works that have helped shape the modern era of American theatre. For Peter Allen Stone, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Acting for Film, Kessler was a vital part of his education. “I used to dig through his plays in my college library looking for monologues and scenes many years ago,” remarked Stone, “so it was something special for me to get to know him and come full circle.”

    Scene from "The Display Man"

    Scene from “The Display Man”

    The best known work written by Kessler is “Orphans,” which first debuted in 1983 at Chicago’s world-renowned Steppenwolf Theatre and was originally directed by Gary Sinise. It was later adapted into a feature film starring Matthew Modine and Albert Finney, and has been performed on Broadway as recently as 2013 with Alec Baldwin and Ben Foster.

    After running the playwriting division of the Actor’s Studio in Los Angeles for many years, Kessler is still active and working with the Actor’s Studio in New York City. The NYFA students attending Kessler’s Master Class were able to visit the Actor’s Studio as part of their course. Student Elizabeth Hopland reflected that “going to the Actor’s Studio was a highlight of my acting career so far, thanks to Lyle.”

    The NYFA students who were privileged to work with Kessler started in Fall 2016, and began their 2nd Year training in the summer of 2017. Each session of the 8-week Master Class focused on a specific aspect of the craft, like the inner anger of a particular character. The acting students worked on scenes from new works written by Kessler, who directed and worked closely with them throughout the course.

    Scene from "Prisoner"

    Scene from “Prisoner”

    The scenes were two-person dialogues, with the acting students performing multiple roles and plays. One of Kessler’s new works included “Prisoner,” about a privileged woman tied up during a burglary, who poked and prodded her captor while trying to learn more about him. Other new works included “The Display Man” and “The Great Divide,” the latter concerning two brothers dealing with a woman claiming to be pregnant with the older brother’s child.

    The final session of the Master Class included performances of the scenes for a small audience, including New York Film Academy president Michael Young. The final scenes of the evening were from another of Kessler’s new works—“Temptation”—about inappropriate sexual behavior between a psychiatrist and his patient, a story and theme that is especially relevant in today’s current Hollywood climate.

    Kessler Directing "Prisoner"

    Kessler Directing “Prisoner”

    One of the performers, student Agnes Hedwall Schmidt, remarked “What I liked most about working with Lyle was the way he made the work a collaboration. We give him our view of the text and the character, he gives his, and together we create a scene that is so much fun to act in, and allows me to keep growing and learning as an actor.” Schmidt added, “I had so much fun working with Lyle!”

    The appreciation was mutual—the performances ended with Kessler thanking the students for their strong, courageous work, and the students overwhelmingly thanking Kessler for his invaluable training and direction. Of the students, Kessler said he was “very impressed by the work and talent of the group of actors at NYFA who acted in my plays. They kept growing in their roles. A real commitment.”

    The Acting for Film students couldn’t ask for a better compliment from an artist of Kessler’s stature. The New York Film Academy thanks Lyle Kessler for giving our students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study and learn from one of the theatre world’s greats.

    December 22, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1951

  • New York Film Academy Gold Coast Holds September Acting for Film Mid Year Showcase

    In December 2017, the New York Film Academy Australia held the September 2017 Acting for Film student’s mid year performance showcase at its Gold Coast campus in bustling Southport.

    Featuring the work of the September 2017 cohort of Acting for Film candidates, the performance was entitled, “That American Vibe.” Senior Acting Lecturer Mr. Rob Horton directed the event. The performance was held at the Southport Campus Creative Space, an intimate setting where the audience were close enough to feel like it was a part of the the outstanding performances.

    “This showcase included some of the most famous scenes from popular American movies and TV series that influenced a generation of performing artists,” said the event’s director, Rob Horton. “Interpreting them in our own unique ways, there are some strong and memorable moments in this production we called ‘That American Vibe.’ For some of our diploma actors, this is their first time to create and perform on stage in front of a life audience. Bravo to every single one of them!”

    “That American Vibe” exhibited the versatile range of this group of diverse acting students. The New York Film Academy Australia would like to congratulate it’s September 2017 Acting for Film cohort on their wonderful work!