New York Film Academy students received a special treat when Emmy award-winning TV director Mary Lou Belli taught her acclaimed sitcom directing and acting workshop at the school. Mary Lou has been directing television for over 20 years and the shows she’s worked on include NCIS New Orleans, Monk, Hart of Dixie, Wizards of Waverly Place, Sister Sister, Charles in Charge, Girlfriends, and The Game, to name a few. She has co-authored three books, “The NEW Sitcom Career Book,” “Acting for Young Actors,” and “Directors Tell the Story,” with fellow DGA member Bethany Rooney.
The theater was packed with filmmaking and acting students thrilled to learn more about the art of sitcom. Mary Lou first lectured, sharing crucial sitcom concepts and vocabulary, and then brought groups of volunteering students to the stage where she paired them off to run classic sitcom scenes. Mary Lou critiqued the students’ performances using the concepts and vocabulary she taught them, and had them run the scenes again and again until they perfectly popped like any comic gem you’d see on television. She also cycled in and out filmmaking students to shadow her as director and jump in with their own scene critique and reworking when called upon. The energy in the room was high and students raced to the stage to be the next to participate. The audience cheered and burst out in laughter at every scene iteration.
NYFA students were also happy to discover that the curriculum and experience that they received is very close to what they saw from a world-class sitcom director.
We sincerely thank Mary Lou Belli for imparting her wisdom on to us and look forward to the next wonderful TV show she directs!
Recently, the New York Film Academy welcomed Liz Manashil, who directed the award-winning indie, anti-romantic comedy Bread and Butter. The film stars Lauren Lapkus, SNL’s Bobby Moynihan and former NYFA guest speaker Micah Hauptman.
Manashil screened the trailer to our students and discussed the difficult process of crowdfunding and casting. Manashil wore multiple hats on the project, including writer, director, producer, and casting director. She even had to rewrite the script to make the project affordable and raise the money. Once the money was mostly in place, she was able to go after the cast she wanted for the film.
Manshil went on into detail on how she obtained VOD/digital distribution for the film and how that process worked. Afterward, students asked a variety of questions, ranging from what were the most popular perks on her Kickstarter (blueberry bread baked by her parents) to what did she learn from the project (to write something that’s even cheaper to produce next time).
After learning a few lessons about indie filmmaking, it’s no wonder Manashil is currently working on an indie sci-fi feature with one location.
Italy’s Pisa has always been a fascinating city and includes much more than just its famous leaning tower. That is why two former New York Film Academy students, brothers Andrea and Matteo Cossi, set out to produce the documentary The City of Miracles: The Leaning Towers of Pisa, which was intended to be one of a series of documentaries about the unknown monuments of Pisa. The Cossi brothers were co-producers, directors and filmmakers in collaboration with Archimedia Communication and Pisa is Movie (City of Pisa’s film commission).
Cossi brothers filming in Pisa
While the documentary describes how the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa was built, it also showcases the lesser known leaning towers of Pisa. The 18-minute film presents other architectural jewels of Pisa, including the Tower of St. Nicola, the Tower of San Michele degli Scalzi (the tower with the largest slope in the world), The Bell Tower of the Church of St. Francesco, and the famous Tower of Hunger of which Dante Alighieri wrote about in Dante’s Inferno.
“Thanks to NYFA we learned incredible tools and developed the skills that brought us to a career in filmmaking,” said Matteo Cossi. “Even though becoming a film director is a never ending process, the New York Film Academy really helped us in becoming better filmmakers.”
The filmmaking brothers are currently working on a fantasy, horror feature. Over the next few months they will be shooting a social drama series and a short movie while continuing to work as jury members at the Miami Independent Film Festival.
The New York Film Academy (NYFA), the world’s largest and most prestigious visual and performing arts private institution, is a certified and award-winning Military Friendly School committed to supporting this newest generation of veterans. NYFA is proud to serve military veterans and servicemembers in their pursuit of a world-class filmmaking education, through our Veterans Advancement ProgramChaired by Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient.
Through the generosity of the New York Film Academy Foundation, on December 19 the College provided a free Master Class Workshop to military servicemembers and veterans at the School’s Los Angeles campus. The event featured veteran actor and director Matthew Modine.
Matthew Modine with Master Class attendees
The classes offered an exciting and unique opportunity for more than 50 military servicemembers and veterans to learn essential filmmaking and acting principles taught by members of NYFA’s esteemed faculty and Mr. Modine. Several NYFA veteran students served as technical assistants. Each branch of the military was represented including many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and the gathering proved to be an excellent environment for the attendees to network.
Mr. Modine spoke to the group about his 30 years of experience in the industry as an actor and a director. Among his many accomplishments, Modine is known for his portrayal as “Joker” in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Full Metal Jacket. Modine’s role in the military film Memphis Belle alsoearned him critical acclaim. He has directed a number of short films and is currently in pre-production on a feature called The Rocking Horseman.
NYFA staff demonstrating to veteran different features of the lighting system
The acting class, taught by NYFA faculty Christopher Cass, provided an overview of the Industry and what it takes to “make it” as an actor. The class went over basic principals of acting for the camera — shot sizes, set etiquette, listening and emotional choices for the camera. Actors then shot and played-back the scene for review and critique.
The Filmmaking class, taught by NYFA faculty David Newman, went over the film industry employment opportunities available in the entertainment field. This class also discussed the qualities and skill sets needed to be an effective director. Participants had the chance to act and fulfill key crew roles on set (including directing, camera operator, boom operator). The class then rehearsed and shot a two character scene.
Master Class Group Shot with Matthew Modine
Jon Garza, US Navy veteran who attended the Master Classes was thankful to have the opportunity attend. He stated that, “this event was a great opportunity to network with fellow veterans and learn from industry professionals.”
Having grown up with the desire to direct films, especially after first seeing Trainspotting, Paulo Costanzo first broke into the business through acting. His biggest break came about after an open audition in Canada got the attention of Todd Phillips and Ivan Reitman for the comedy, Road Trip. Beating the odds with hard work, talent and a little bit of luck, Costanzo landed the role of Rubin Carver in Road Trip and never looked back. “Had I not prepared and been that confident, I wouldn’t have nailed the audition,” said Costanzo.
After Road Trip, Costanzo landed several acting roles in both film and television, including the TV series Joey and, most recently, Royal Pains. Having the opportunity to work on set for twenty years as an actor allowed Costanzo to watch and learn from directors on set. It was through that learning process and his long desire to direct that Costanzo would get the job to direct a few episodes of the USA hit show Royal Pains, in which he also plays Evan Lawson.
Last week, while speaking to acting and filmmaking students at the New York Film Academy, Costanzo dissected several scenes of Royal Pains that he directed and explained the thought process that went behind each. Moderated by NYFA Short-term Filmmaking Chair Jonathan Whittaker and Acting Chair Glynis Rigsby, Costanzo spoke in depth about the mentality of being confident and prepared, whether it be for an audition or directing a film or TV show.
NYFA Short-term Chair Jonathan Whittaker, Acting Chair Glynis Rigsby and Paulo Costanzo
Costanzo says he can relate to our students in that he is currently in the process of transitioning to a career as a feature director, and so he feels like a beginner in the business. He’s in the middle of writing a dramatic comedy feature that he hopes to direct in the near future.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Costanzo for bringing us his refreshing sense of humor along with invaluable advice. We wish him the best of luck on developing his first feature film!
A proud Brooklynite, actor Tony LoBianco captured a full crowd of New York Film Academy acting students from the moment he stood in front of them until the standing ovation at the end—and even afterwards in a long line that formed to meet the brilliant and humble, motivational speaker. The career of actor Tony LoBianco is distinguished as much by its depth and variety, as by the skills and gifts Mr. Lo Bianco has brought to his work. Over the past 61 years, he has appeared in numerous films, television programs, and stage performances, both on-screen and off as a writer, director, and producer. Throughout his career, Mr. Lo Bianco has collaborated with many of the brightest creative minds in the performing arts, both past and present.
Perhaps most known for his performance as Sal Boca in the five-time Academy Award winning film The French Connection with Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, LoBianco starred in the cult classic The Honeymoon Killers; The Seven-Ups with Roy Scheider; starred with Richard Gere and Paul Sorvino in Bloodbrothers; City Heat with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds; Director Oliver Stone’s Nixon with the great Anthony Hopkins; The Juror with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore; F.I.S.T. with Sylvester Stallone and Rod Steiger; Boiling Point with Wesley Snipes and Dennis Hopper; the cult classic God Told Me To; and Kill the Irishman with Val Kilmer, Vincent D’onofrio, and Christopher Walken; and La Romana with Gina Lollabrigida.
On stage, Mr. Lo Bianco won an Obie Award for Best Actor in Jonathan Reynold’s Yanks-3, Detroit-0, Top of the 7th. Following his memorable performance as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge on Broadway, he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor, and won the Outer Critics Circle Award. He also won a New York Area Television Academy Award and daytime Emmy for Hizzoner! The Life of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
On television, Mr. Lo Bianco starred as Rocky Marciano, the only undefeated heavy weight champ of the world, in Marciano. He appeared in the mini-series Marco Polo and Jesus of Nazareth directed by the great Franco Zeffirelli. He also starred in The Last Tenant with legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg. He has appeared over the years in several Law & Order episodes; Police Story; Jessie with Lindsay Wagner; Another Woman’s Child with Linda Lavin; among many others. As a director, Mr. Lo Bianco directed several episodes of television, including Police Story; The Duke; Cliffhangers; When the Whistle Blows; Kaz; and the feature film Too Scared to Scream.
In 1963, Mr. Lo Bianco co-founded the Triangle Theater in New York City and served as artistic director for six years, during which time lighting designer Jules Fisher, playwright Jason Miller, and actor Roy Scheider, passed through its doors. Mr. Lo Bianco himself directed eight productions and produced twenty-five others.
His long-lasting and successful career sprang from a confident, street-fighting man in Brooklyn, who caught the attention of his teacher and eventually his entire neighborhood by winning a monologue contest. It would be from that point on that LoBianco’s confidence would have him booking audition after audition. He stresses, “Take courage. Be sure of yourself.”
Tony LoBianco with NYFA Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby
While admitting this is “the most difficult business to get into,” LoBianco says, “actors must be strong enough to understand rejection. All the mistakes that you make are just part of the education.”
He insists that actors and people in general find their foundation—find out who you are. From that point, you will exude confidence and others will respond in a positive way. “Always dare yourself to be wrong.”
Above it all, the humbling LoBianco understands and preaches that we’re all human beings and should treat each other with respect. It is a privilege to be an actor and, in no way, does it give the right to be rude or conceited. Always be chivalrous toward those around, and never take your gift for granted.
It was truly an honor to watch Mr. LoBianco speak with such passion and sincerity. His wisdom and insight made for a truly remarkable evening and we can’t thank him enough.
There’s nothing that makes the New York Film Academy family happier than welcoming back a former student who has gone on to major success. Thus far in her young career, former summer camp student Eve Hewson has had the privilege of working with some of the finest actors and filmmakers including the late James Gandolfini, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Sean Penn.
Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby with Eve Hewson
This Wednesday evening, December 3rd at New York Film Academy’s Battery Park location, Hewson returned to screen The Knick, in which she plays Lucy Elkins. Directed by Stephen Soderbergh and starring Clive Owen, the Cinemax series provides us with a look at the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century. Based on Hewson’s conversation with NYFA Acting Chair Glynis Rigsby, working with Soderbergh is both challenging and awarding. Often times he will only give his cast one take, so each actor must be extremely well prepared. Unlike other episodic shows, Soderbergh directs, D.P’s and edits every show. He’s very hands-on, to say the least. At the end of the day she says, “I trust Stephen so much. I love working with him.”
Hewson is a strong believer in jumping right into the audition process. She recalls going to auditions and bombing, even before and after her formal training at NYFA and other acting schools. “Try to do as much preparation as you can, so they’ll [casting directors] really like you. And try not to worry,” said Hewson.
She also recommends students tape themselves, even on their iPhones. Hewson landed many of her major roles through audition tapes, but it didn’t come easily. She says she often tapes herself doing monologues or acting out scenes, then dissects each and everyone of them to look for flaws or areas of potential improvement.
“I remember one teacher told me, when I was here at NYFA summer camp,” Hewson recalls. “She said ‘Be as rebellious as you want with your acting’. If someone tells you this is how you do it and it doesn’t work for you, say that doesn’t work for me. I don’t think that anyone has a set process. You have to find what works for you and what makes you excited because sometimes if you’re in this school—which I’ve been in and other acting schools—you can feel like if I don’t do what my teacher tells me to do, it becomes a labor. So, do the work that makes you feel confident because there are no rules.”
And last but not least, she believes its best to go into auditions without the sides—memorize the lines!
Thanks so much to Eve Hewson for coming back to NYFA and speaking to our acting students. As always it’s a proud moment to reconnect with our blossoming young talent.
This week, the New York Film Academy at Battery Park welcomed creative power couple, Piper Perabo and Stephen Kay. Their conversation with Short-term Filmmaking Chair Jonathan Whittaker was as authentic and inspirational as it gets. The only heated discrepancy amongst them was that Perabo is a Dallas Cowboys fan and Kay and Whittaker are Philadelphia Eagles fans. But all relationships require work, and work is indeed what the two of them have been doing in all aspects of the entertainment business for well over a decade now.
Stephen Kay and Piper Perabo and NYFA
Currently starring in Lost Girls on Broadway, the Golden Globe nominated actress Perabo is one of the most talented and versatile actresses working today. Her first big break came in the Jerry Bruckheimer produced film Coyote Ugly, where she played the leading role of Violet Sanford. In 2007, she was seen in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, in Because I Said So with Diane Keaton and Lauren Graham and in First Snow, a film directed by Mark Fergus, costarring Guy Pearce and Adam Scott. In May 2009, she made her stage debut in Neil Labute’s controversial play Reasons to Be Pretty directed by Terry Kinney. The list of credits goes on and on.
One of Perabo’s biggest pet peeves is when an actor breaks character and stops acting before the director yells cut. She stresses to all actors, “Never stop until somebody says cut! Just keep going.”
As for her husband Stephen Kay—who directed Get Carter, as well as episodes of the TV series Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Friday Night Lights and many others—his start came about with his film The Last Time I Committed Suicide. As luck with have it, Kay was discussing his idea while playing hockey with Keanu Reeves. Reeves, who was playing goalie at the time, overheard the idea and immediately wanted to get involved. Through Reeves’ support and attachment to the project, Kay was able to get funding and springboard what would become a successful career in the business.
NYFA Short-term Filmmaking Chair Jonathan Whittaker with Stephen Kay and Piper Perabo
Most recently, Kay has been the executive producer and director of ABC’s Quantico, USA’s Covert Affairs and The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, for Lifetime Television. Along with his wife, he is currently working on The Flight, a television drama about conflict journalists, for Fremantle Television, Corona Pictures and Capa Drama.
One of the many notable pieces of advice Kay had for our acting students was, “Every time you walk in the door to an audition, the person on the other side of the table wants you to be the right person.” Don’t go in the room thinking that they’re against you succeeding—be confident! Even if you’re not right for that specific part, if they like you, you may get the call for a project months later that’ll be your big break.
We wish the talented and warmhearted couple the best of luck with all of their upcoming projects, and sincerely thank them for candidness and refreshing take on an arduous business.
Founded by New York Film Academy acting alumnus Corey Scott Rutledge, The Shorts Show team has been doing consistently funny sketch comedy in New York for five years now and have been featured everywhere from The Huffington Post to Funny or Die.
Last year, the group began doing live scripted comedy at NYC’s The PIT, selling out almost every show. Their most recent show, Tourist Trap, was co-written by NYFA acting graduate Brooks Russell and includes the cast of NYFA grads Jae LaRoya and Dirk Otis, as well as NYFA Instructor Grant Lancaster. In fact, even the technical director is Luis Alercone, a NYFA filmmaking graduate.
Tourist Trap came about in an effort to make a New York-centric show,” said co-writer Brooks Russell. “We all live in the city and we all share the common love/hate relationship with the city— so we wanted to make a show that delved in to that.”
The team began throwing around ideas for a few of the sketches and then searched for a backbone to them all together. That’s when they stumbled upon On the Town, an old but fairly popular musical that just recently had a revival run on Broadway. The show is about three sailors who spend one night in NYC and go on ‘wild and crazy’ adventures, then meet up to share their adventure together.
“We started thinking what if you took that story but had the sailors just go through all of the obstacles that today’s New Yorker often faces: subway delays, catcalling, hipster-artisanal propaganda, the homeless, pigeons, Naked Cowboys, and so on,” said Russell. “We use the sailors as a vehicle to travel through this very weird, dark, and (hopefully) hilarious version of NYC that explores all of those experiences that really are unique to this city, and the musical element helps it keep an absurd, light-hearted tone in an otherwise bleak setting. Mostly because Dirk has the voice of an angel.”
Be sure to check out Tourist Trap at the PIT on 123 E. 24th St. on Friday, December 4th at 9:30pm. For tickets and times, please visit thepit-nyc.com/event/tourist-trap.
Recently, New York Film Academy students were invited to the Los Angeles premiere of the political campaign film Our Brand is Crisis. Students from all departments and programs attended the Hollywood event.
A narrative remake of the documentary by the same name, it stars Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton, directed by David Gordon Green and produced by George Clooney.
The film surrounds a Bolivian presidential candidate who is failing badly in the polls and enlists the firepower of an elite American management team, led by the deeply damaged but still brilliant strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Bullock). In self-imposed retirement following a scandal that earned her nickname and rocked her to her core, Jane is coaxed back into the game for the chance to beat her professional nemesis, the loathsome Pat Candy (Thornton), now coaching the opposition.
But as Candy zeroes in on every vulnerability – both on and off the campaign trail – Jane is plunged into a personal crisis as intense as the one her team exploits nationally to boost their numbers. Our Brand is Crisis reveals the cynical machinations and private battles of world-class political consultants for whom nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters.
NYFA acting student Christopher Rybka details his experience on the red carpet:
Have you ever been to a premiere before?
This was my first time! It was really exciting because I had never been to the TCL Chinese Theater. It was interesting to see the work that goes into the event—celebrities posing in different angles for photos and doing interview after interview with different news sources. They are still on the job even though the movie is done.
Did you go with anyone?
A lot of my classmates were there. I don’t have many occasions to wear a full three-piece suit, so it was great to suit up and see everyone else dressed to the nines. When I got the email saying I had tickets, I called my mom and she flew in from Texas to go with me. She loved it.
Did you see Sandra Bullock?
I saw her from a distance but I didn’t get a chance to say hello or anything. But I did say hi to George Clooney. And the director invited me to the after party, but I didn’t have a ticket. Still appreciated the offer though.
What did you think of the film?
The performances were amazing. As an actor, I was completely enraptured by Sandra Bullock as Jane, and she had great chemistry with Billy Bob. Their rivalry was fun to watch.