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.
Three years ago famous Brazilian actress Franciely Freduzeski, known from her work on O Clone, América,Zorra Total and Malhação for Globo TVas well as the Brazilian Version of Desperate Housewives for RedeTV and A Fazenda for Rede Record amongst many other credits in Film, Theatre and TV, came to Los Angeles to attend an 8-Week Acting for Film Workshop at the New York Film Academy. After that program she made a very brave decision to start a new career in the entertainment capital of the world.
In a friendly conversation with NYFA, Franciely Freduzeski shared some useful tips for newcomers to Hollywood based on her personal experience:
Learn English and take accent reduction classes! Know that language will stop you a lot. My English wasn’t good when I came here and because of that I was denied for some roles. Scene study and Monologue classes helped me a lot to improve my English. When you do scenes or monologues you are not only practicing language, you are also learning how to act in this language and how to add emotions to what you are saying.
Different country, different rules. Before jumping into the industry, study very hard, every day. Not just acting, but how Americans work here—learn about culture. There is a lot of competition here. Be prepared to miss family, friends and hear a lot of no’s.
Be sure you have the right headshots and know the general auditions rules. At the beginning I didn’t know what pictures I should submit for auditions, what the requirements were, or what the right headshot for different castings should be. Also, I never did cold readings before coming to Hollywood. We don’t have them in Brazil, so I wasn’t prepared for that. At NYFA we had special class where we practiced cold reading technique and it helped.
After all, it is Hollywood and, as they say, you have to be in the right place at the right time. So always be prepared. You never know when that “right moment” will come. In Brazil actors are usually notified about upcoming auditions at least a week in advance and are provided with lines. In Hollywood you might be called and asked to come for the audition 2 hours before the actual casting. Now I am always ready for that: I always have high heels in my bag and a makeup set, just in case.
Know that it won’t be easy. You have to really dedicate yourself. Sometimes you might feel lonely and desperate. To be honest there were moments when I was crying and wanted to give up, but, as Coco Chanel said, “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
Franciely Freduzeski is very thankful for the great support of her son, her boyfriend and her family. With time she managed to find balance between living and working in both countries: Brazil and the United States. Her latest projects in Brazil were a television series called Mascara and a stage play, Exilados, where she played Bertha — a woman with a strong personality who comes to challenge the ideals defended by her husband.
There was a big shake-up at CBS News, with the network opting to run their digital news service—called CBSN—on the broadcast network on weekends, instead of producing a separate evening news program. It is typical of how major networks are adapting to a changing media landscape. CBSN is aimed squarely at younger viewers, individuals who relate better to their phones than to a TV set.
Over at NBC Sports, they have a new deal with Snapchat. The arrangement calls for Olympic highlights, based on NBC generated material, to be distributed on Snapchat. This is a play to attract millennial viewers who do not watch conventional television. Since NBC bought the American video rights to the Olympics, they can distribute that footage any way they like. We live in a cross-platform world, and a program that is confined to a single platform is likely to fail.
Not to be left behind, cable giant ESPN is the latest media company to make a deal with Vice. Vice World of Sports is a new series that will air on ESPN. Once again, it is the need to attract millennial viewers that is driving this collaboration. While ESPN has lots of sports programming already, it wants to attract new viewers through the bold first-person narrative style of program that Vice has perfected. (Current NYFA 1-year Broadcast Journalism students learn these techniques in our Personal Journalism course.)
In yet another related event, Twitter’s Periscope streaming video service has hired an editor-in-chief. At first, this sounds bizarre. But it makes sense when you realize that it is almost impossible to separate the really interesting video on Periscope from the so/so and the simply awful. This means Periscope is in line to be curated. Periscope is also allowing users to permanently save their feeds. However, they will need to add the hashtag #save to the stream’s title.
In “local news,” some of the NYFA 1-Year Broadcast Journalism students went out to cover the Holi Hai NYC Festival last week. This “festival of colors” is always popular, if only for the fact that it is the one day out of the year when you are encouraged to make an absolute mess of yourself, your friends, total strangers, inanimate objects and anything else you happen to encounter.
From the picture above, you can see that this story generated a high degree of “reporter involvement.” To see how the actual story turned out, follow this link. And don’t worry, they protected the camera…
Finally, the Broadcast Journalism program’s lead camera instructor, Trish Gillespie, was invited to pitch her latest documentary project at the prestigious Hot-Docs Film Festival in Toronto. Before the pitch for this non-fiction crime thriller, American Monster, the audience was told that Morgan Spurlock’s production company Warrior Poets had signed onto the project as a backer just two days prior, and would make the film into a multi-part doc series. Trish has worked long and hard on this, and will no doubt continue to do so in the months to come. (In fact, I think she was shooting in North Carolina this past weekend.) Congratulations, Trish!
The New York Film Academy enjoyed a special evening with Bryan Cranston, the star of Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle and, more recently, the movie Trumbo, a historical film about one of the most successful screenwriters of the 1950’s-70’s, Dalton Trumbo, who endured more than a decade of hardship (blacklisting and prison) for standing up to the American anti-communist movement that tried unsuccessfully to force him to name communist party members within the film industry.
The capacity crowd filled the 550-seat Ross Theater on the grounds of Warner Bros. Studios to watch the movie Trumbo, and afterward to listen to the life lessons of the veteran actor, hoping to gain some unique insight into the craft and its impact on their own lives and careers. Bryan did not disappoint.
Following the screening, Bryan Cranston entered the theater to a standing ovation, and was accompanied by producer Tova Laiter, who moderated the event. Cranston spoke of the journey to becoming an actor, specifically the commitment and perseverance that one must have in order to succeed. He also talked about the arbitrary deadline that many of us set, saying, ‘I’ll give it two years.” He disagreed with that sentiment, saying that “You’re either in or you’re out.” Using the poker reference, he said, “It means you’re all in.” He added later in the address that “not trying is failing.”
Regarding obtaining work, Cranston spoke at length about shifting the paradigm when walking into an audition (or any meeting for that matter). We should be thinking about how we can offer our talent to that project, and not be thinking about getting the job.
He counseled the audience, composed of students from all disciplines, “Don’t put yourself in a position of need. You’re there to give them something.” The same goes with not getting the role — believe that something better is going to come your way and you are lucky you didn’t get the other job (as happened to him throughout his career).
Cranston responded to questions from audience members, some of whom asked about the character Walter White from Breaking Bad. He said that his ability to visualize the character came from the quality of the writing, which he called brilliant. He answered another student question by saying that an actor’s home life should be clean and strong so they can then go out and put the variety and excitement into the roles they choose. He counseled the young actors to “put in the hours,” and show up to jobs on time and prepared.
New York Film Academy thanks Bryan Cranston for taking the time to share his wisdom and inspire our students. It was truly an unforgettable night.