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  • NYFA Welcomes Academy Award Nominated Actor Don Murray

    Historic actor and activist Don Murray presented his classic film Bus Stop — his first film starring opposite Marilyn Monroe — to the New York Film Academy. After the screening, students watched highlights of Murray’s forthcoming documentary, Unsung Hero, which was followed by a Q & A.

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    Don Murray graduated from The American Academy in 1948. He studied method acting in New York City through the 1950’s, the same time as the greats: James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen. After graduating, Murray auditioned for legendary director, Joshua Logan, for Picnic, but instead of taking the role, Murray decided to take some time off to volunteer overseas.

    When he returned he was cast in a play called The Skin of Our Teeth. Logan was in the audience saw him and decided to hire Murray a week before Bus Stop was to begin filming. Murray, a New York native who had never been on a horse, found himself in a rodeo scene on his very fist day on set.

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    Aside from some television programs in Los Angeles, and his theater studies, Murray didn’t have a lot of Hollywood experience. Because he’s been overseas, he didn’t even think of Monroe as a big star. Initially, Murray continuously turned down the lead role of Bus Stop down because the studio wanted him to sign an exclusive contract. Something, Murray was unwilling to do and called a “slave contract.” They eventually agreed on two pictures a year for five years and every other year he could go to Broadway.

    Murray described his first love as musical comedy, of which he says Monroe was the best. “I never saw a straight play until I was out of high school. My mother was a Ziegfeld girl and my father managed stage musicals.” He took on his next role, Charlie Samson, in the Bachelor Party because it was an ensemble film. “It was like being in a jazz band,” Murray said. That year both Bachelor Party and Hatful of Rain took the second and third place in Time Magazine’s “Movie of the Year” list.

    “I really didn’t appreciate films until I made my own, The Cross and the Switchblade, which I directed. Then I fell in love with movies. Because (before) I hated that there was no continuity (in filming). Always stop and go. I also didn’t like the star system. What (studios) would put up with someone because they were a ‘star’.”

    During the Q & A, a student asked, “What is the one thing that acting didn’t teach you that you wish you knew?” Murray responded, “Your performance comes not only from the text in the script but the eyes of the director. I didn’t join the Actors Studio when I was invited because there was too much business. An actor would get a cigarette in their hands and suddenly the scene becomes about the cigarette.”

    Murray’s most controversial role was in Advise & Consent where he played a closeted Secretary of State who comes under Senate investigation. The film was released in 1962 decades before its time. A student asked if he worried for his career when he took on the role. Murray responded with, “It was an acting role. It never occurred to me to wonder whether or not people would consider me a homosexual. It was an acting role and a wonderful script. It’s probably the best political film ever made. No, excuse me, All The President’s Men is of the same caliber.”

    Another student asked, “Who did you admire coming up?”

    “Well, of course, when I got out of the academy in ‘48, Marlon was on Broadway in A Street Car Named Desire and I’d never seen anything like that. In the audience, you could feel the heat of New Orleans. I was standing in back totally mesmerized by the whole play but specifically Brando. In films, I liked Clift Montgomery… And, also (I liked) James Dean. Not so much Rebel Without a Cause. But I thought East of Eden was fantastic. That was really Cain in the bible. Whose father, God, rejects his gift of wheat, but accepts Abel’s gift of slaughtered lamb. So he was playing Cain, and that was my part in Skin of Our Teeth. So we were basically playing the same part thematically. But that scene where he is confessing to his father really tears at your heart.”

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    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Murray for taking the time to come speak with our students and wish him luck on his next project, the Twin Peaks revival on Showtime.

    August 4, 2016 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1316

  • NYFA Alumni Form Kaleidocircle Productions

    A group of recent New York Film Academy alumni have teamed together to create a production company called Kaleidocircle Productions. Established as fifteen eager actors looking to continue their journey together, they are now a solid group of 12; Aleigha Spinks, Will Parker, Max Turner, Esther Van Zyl, Cesar Brandi, Vitoria Mattos, Laika Lalonde, Victoria Ruud, Natalia Garcez, Ana Paula Marques, Litha Bam and Jen Theophilus.

    Kaleidocircle Productions

    Kaleidocircle Productions

    The production team, a multi-cultural film ensemble, collaborates with actors, filmmakers, writers, photographers, and musicians. They are working to provide high quality entertainment on a global platform while maintaining a level of intimacy and magnitude with their audience. Kaleidocircle strives to provoke, spark, and affect every walk of life the best way possible.

    “Our team thrives on creativity and success from every corner of the globe,” said Aleigha K. Spinks, Managing Director.

    Working within the LGBTQ community is very important to the company, with many of its founding members being a part of the community. Providing opportunities for not just young creatives, but minorities, alike. No matter the level of experience, Kaleidocircle is always willing to assist in the development of creative individuals.

    Kaleidocircle Productions

    “I have managed to not only act, but, write, direct and produce original material of high quality thanks to our companies network of artists across 6 continents,” said Will Parker, Artistic Director.

    K-Circle, as they like to abbreviate sometimes, has created contemporary promotional material for the non-profit organization, Hetrick Martin Institute. They will also be producing their first professional short film in the fall — a story inspired by the true events of the gas explosions in New York City. They hope to touch their audience, evoking raw and honest emotions, while relaying a message of hope to each and every one of us.

    Be sure to check out and follow K-Circle on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    August 2, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3663

  • Kevin James, NYFA Alumnus Mike Soccio, and Producer Leo Severino Hold Panel at NYFA

    The King of Queens paid a visit to lower Manhattan this past Friday, as the New York Film Academy welcomed comedian and actor Kevin James. James began his career in stand up and eventually moved over to television where he rose to stardom playing the role of Doug Heffernan in the CBS comedy The King of Queens. James’ career moved over to film when he teamed up with Will Smith in Hitch, and then teamed up with friend Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. James would go on to star in several other comedic films, including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Zookeeper, and others.

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    NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James

    As an additional surprise, James brought with him writer and former NYFA student, Michael Soccio, as well as writer and producer Leo Severino. Soccio has written for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The King of Queens. He’s also done numerous re-writes and script doctoring for major motion pictures such as Hitch, The Karate Kid, and Men in Black 2 & 3. Severino produced Bella, which won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006, and is developing the film Mary, based on the biblical character.

    The panel was moderated by Acting for Film Chair, Glynis Rigsby.

    James opened by discussing how he broke into the business, which came about from stand up and performing. “It’s about getting out there and really getting comfortable in that space,” said James. He stressed the importance of humility, adding, “You are going to fail without a doubt.” The key is to continue to hone your craft until you are comfortable and confident enough to own it.

    As James looked around the full classroom of acting and filmmaking students, he said, “I wish I had this experience. If I could go back to school, I would learn every aspect of filmmaking.”

    Soccio added in the fact that his experience in the NYFA Filmmaking Program in 1997 is what truly elevated his craft as writer. “You can never learn too much,” Soccio said. “I went [to NYFA] for directing. That quite honestly is what made me a much better writer.”

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    NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James

    A key element that James kept coming back to was the idea of surrounding yourself with a great team. He admitted to his own faults of sometimes not seeing the full picture in a film or project and seeking the advice of his directors and writers, who “can see the whole landscape.”

    Another important piece of advice given by each guest was the notion that you can never stop learning. A student concluded the day by asking James, “When did you know you mastered your craft?” To this, James replied, “I’ll let you know when I get there.”

    NYFA thanks Kevin James, Michael Soccio, and Leo Severino for taking the time out to speak to our students in such a down-to-earth manner, and looks forward to their upcoming projects, including the new CBS series, Kevin Can Wait.

    July 27, 2016 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 3332

  • Highlights from NYFA Australia Sydney’s Acting Department

     

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    It’s been a busy few months for the Acting department at the New York Film Academy Australia – Sydney. We started with a bang at NYFA Australia Sydney’s ‘Big Night Out’ – our end of semester showcase for the January intake of actors. Loosely themed around food and drink, we turned one of our larger spaces in the campus at Fox Studios Australia, into a bar/restaurant and served up a collection of delicious tasting scenes.

    We had couples both making up and breaking up over dinner, scenes from Mystic Pizza and Pulp Fiction (This IS a tasty burger!) and not to forget our very own version of the last supper.

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    Peppered throughout the evening was also a collection of motley characters, with everything from surly waiters, pompous maître ds and a psychotic chef to an overzealous busboy. Running over three nights—to an audience of family, friends, students and faculty—a theatrical feast was had by all.

    Following that was our Advanced Diploma acting students with their graduation plays. In a NYFA Australia first, they performed over two weeks in the beautiful 236-seat Monkey Baa Theatre at Sydney’s premiere entertainment location, Darling Harbour. First up, was an Australian classic Don’s Party by David Williamson with guest director Travis McMahon. This was followed by an American classic Dark of the Moon by Howard Richardson and William Berney. Directed by our resident American Speech teacher, Paige Walker, who, as one of the most sought after Voice Over artists and dialect teachers in the country, we are proud to claim as our own.

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    Amidst all of the above activity, students have been busy shooting their show reel scenes both on campus and on location. We have also seen the launch of our graduating students’ first ever self-devised web series Actor’s Vs, which is rapidly gaining a cult following online. With a comedy/improvisation night and scenes from Chekov just around the corner, not to mention our next big showcase at the historic Australian Theatre For Young People in September, NYFA Australia Sydney is full steam ahead.

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    – Jacki Mison

    July 25, 2016 • Acting, Entertainment Australia • Views: 1109

  • Legendary ICM Agent Boaty Boatwright Speaks at NYFA NYC

    The New York Film Academy recently welcomed distinguished ICM talent agent, Boaty Boatwright, who has been in the business for fifty years. Moderated by producer Tova Laiter, the gracious guest fielded questions from a packed theater of filmmaking, producing, and acting students at 17 Battery Place.

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    Producer Tova Laiter with ICM Agent Boaty Boatwright at NYFA

    Boatwright began her career as a children’s casting assistant in New York for such iconic films as To Kill A Mockingbird and the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Boatwright also served as an executive for major film studios including MGM, Columbia, and Universal.

    As a casting agent, Boatwright worked closely with legendary directors including Norman Jewison, John Huston, Sydney Pollack, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ridley Scott.

    After moving into the role of a talent agent, Boatwright began representing directors such as Alan Pakula, Sidney Lumet, and notable actors, Joanne Woodward Paul Newman. Her current client list includes Stephen Frears (Academy Award Nomination), Tom Hooper (Academy Award Winner) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Academy Award Winner).

    While acknowledging how difficult the business can be to break in, Boatwright stressed the importance of pushing work at the film festivals, especially Toronto and Sundance. It is often the writer/directors job to be his or her own producer before gaining the attention of an agent. Most agents need to see proven work under a young filmmaker’s belt before they considering signing them. “Finding an agent is the hardest and most important part of the business,” she said.

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    Tova Laiter and Boaty Boatwright

    Several actors from the audience also inquired about being cast as foreigners in American films. Boatwright understood the challenges involved, but stressed the importance of owning your cultural background and finding roles that could highlight what it is that makes your audition different than what’s expected.

    Another fascinating moment of the evening came when Boatwright touched on a time she had worked with Alfred Hithcock, recalling the posh London hotel suites and expensive wine that Hitchcock would enjoy at lunch. In a time when California wine was just becoming popular Hitchcock told Boatwright, “I’ll never drink California wine.”

    Few can claim the amount of experience that Boatwright has had in the entertainment industry, which leaves us extremely thankful for the time she spent enlightening our students on the path ahead.

    July 22, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 3066

  • Students and Alumni Meet with Agents

    As the clock struck 7:00 at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles Campus the lobby began to fill with acting students and alumni. Agents from Abrams Artists Agency, Central Artists, Daniel Hoff Agency, DDO Artists Agency, Howard Talent West, Ideal Talent Agency, LA Management, McKeon-Myones Management, Media Artists Group, Prodigy Talent, Debra Manners Talent Management, sat perched behind desks ready to take the student’s head shots and discuss their future.

    Frederico Mallet a recent MFA Acting graduate attended the recent looking for commercial and theatrical representation. “I think it’s fantastic that Barbara made this happen,” said Mallet. “Because she is really great. She’s one of the finest people at NYFA. She’s at it all the time. She cares so much about us and I’m really grateful that she did this.”

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    The event was organized and run by Barbara Weintraub, Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development. She wanted to give recent and soon to be graduates an opportunity not only to network and practice pitching themselves but hopefully to land an agent and secure work.

    Spring 2015 graduate, Katisha Seargent, “I graduated in May and I’ve been trying to get out there. I was doing a lot of self-submissions. I was so grateful to the school put together a program to help us get that foot in the door because it’s something we’ve been trying to do since we graduated.”

    “I watched the footage that they made us shoot on our very first week at NYfA and I just compare it to where I am now and the growth is just exponential. It’s ridiculous. I learned so many things. My interpersonal communication skills rose exponentially. My confidence…it just went through the roof. I’m playing roles now that I never thought that I would do, that I didn’t think I was good at. I found out I have a comedic side. I never thought I was funny. You find out so much about yourself through this process here at NYFA.”

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    Acting student Owen Rousu knew he only had two minutes to impress the agents, “I have a commercial agent already so I’m looking more for theatrical. My little spiel goes, ‘Hey, I’m Owen. This is my theatrical headshot. I’m looking for theatrical representation; either a manager or an agent. I’m SAG eligible. I think what sets me apart from other actors is I spent five years in the army. I deployed twice as a US Army Ranger. So, the roles that I would go up for are usually army, marines, cops, firefighters, or the bad guy, apparently. I get a lot of villains, which actually, I love.”

    When all was said and done we had several students reach back to tell us about their experience.

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    The meet and greet was such a great event! I got an audition for commercial representation at Daniel Hoff! Which is an agency I’ve wanted to audition for so bad!

    So, thank you!

    Best,
    Linnea

    Thank you so much for yesterday the event was great! I was already contacted by two talent agencies!
     
    So, thank you so much! Those events must keep on going! They are of great help.
     Gonzalo
    Thanks for last night event!! I got contacted by DDO agency already for an interview next Thursday for possible representation!
    Thanks,
    Todd
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    The New York Film Academy would like to thank all the agencies that came to view our students and the current students and alumni who took advantage of this opportunity.

    July 21, 2016 • Acting, Community Highlights, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1955

  • David Bowers Speaks with Summer High School Students

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    This week, director David Bowers brought his latest project, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, the third installment in the Wimpy Kid franchise, to screen at the New York Film Academy – Los Angeles Campus. Flanked by NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond and moderator Eric Conner, Bowers spoke about his long career in animation, working his way up the ladder, and navigating big Hollywood studios.

    Students from the popular NYFA Summer High School Program were in attendance for the screening and were excited for the opportunity to speak with him about his successful career. Bowers had an illustrious career that began as a kid making Super 8 Claymation films. When he was twenty he began working as an animation artist on Who Framed Rodger Rabbit. Bowers said in the Q & A he was only hired because, “…they were desperate for anyone who could hold a pencil.” He went on to explain that this stroke of luck set him on a challenging and rewarding career path. Since the work on Rodger Rabbit was so new and complicated he was learning as the technology was being created. With the knowledge gained he was able to launch his career.

    Bowers continued to ascend the ladder as an animator in American Tale: Fievel Goes West and the 90’s revival of Danger Mouse. Other works include FernGully: The Last Rainforest, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (produced by Steven Spielberg), and The Prince of Egypt.

    But it wasn’t until he began work at the legendary production company, Aardman, that Bowers began his foray into storyboarding. First he worked on Balto and then The Road to Eldorado. Bowers recommended every film professional practice storyboarding, stating, “It’s an opportunity to make mistakes before you shoot.“

    WC3When Aardman and DreamWorks teamed up to do joint features Bowers was the obvious choice to direct. Students erupted when Flushed Away, Bowers directorial debut, was brought up. The director broke down his time on the nearly four-and-a- half-year project.

    After the massive success of Shrek, DreamWorks’ first tentpole project, the expectations of Flushed Away skyrocketed. The American based DreamWorks wanted to push for a universal project. They wanted less British and more standard American English. However, Aardman, the UK based company, felt the cultural touches made the film distinct. In the end, the British cultural touches gave the film a certain truth of character that made it a favorite of children on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Through the trying process of filming Flushed Away, Bowers learned what he liked and what he didn’t like about the animation process. The yearlong wait between storyboarding and viewable animation always felt too long. The teamwork and collaboration, on the other hand, were invigorating. Bowers shot one final animated feature film, Astro Boy, before moving to live-action properties.

    When asked if there was one thing he could go back and change about his career, Bowers stated, “I’d launch into live-action sooner.” Later adding, “Live action is thrilling because you’re making things all the time.” Within just 8 months Bowers had shot and released the second Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules. “Even on your worst day when everything’s gone wrong… it (film) is still fun.”

    Richmond, who shot the film, remarked at the onset movie magic they were able to create as a team. The luxurious country club is actually a very old community pool. Richmond described it as being “…rather dirty.” But with fabulous set dressing and a carefully placed camera they were able to convince the audience they were at a ritzy club.

    WC1A student asked the pair if they ever had trouble working with a director or cinematographer. Tony stated that a cinematographer’s job is to make the director’s vision come to life. He’s never had a problem working with a director.

    Bowers said his greatest challenge was learning that there are times when your confidence will be knocked or you believe in yourself and other don’t. “Astonishingly,” he added with a laugh. “It’s not that you get knocked down. It’s that you get back up.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Bowers for taking time out of his schedule to sit down and discuss his cinematic career with student. He did inform the audience that he was working on a fourth film in Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. We look forward to seeing where Greg Heffley’s adventures take him next.

    July 13, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2172

  • NYFA’s Ken Lerner Appears on HBO’s “Silicon Valley”

    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.

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    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 SightTwo 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.

    July 7, 2016 • Acting, Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 2551

  • NYFA Alumni Panel Talks Business, Networking and Movie Trivia Following Screening of “Hellion”

    New York Film Academy had the pleasure of welcoming back alumni Tanner Beard, Steven Garcia, Ashley Eberbach, and Ryan Rottman. These former students returned after over a decade, having attended NYFA Los Angeles when it was a small group of offices running out of the Universal backlot.

    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.

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    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.”

    6 Bullets to Hell – Video Game Doc from Ashley Eberbach on Vimeo.

    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.”

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    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.

  • NYFA Grads Team Up For “Thumbs Up”

    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"

    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.

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    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.

    June 29, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1341