• NYFA Acting, Screenwriting, Documentary and Producing MFA, BFA, & AFA Graduates Receive Degrees

    Saturday, September 19th was a big day for New York Film Academy Los Angeles Acting, Screenwriting, Documentary, and Producing students who received their MFA, BFA, and AFA degrees in the morning at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood. The graduates processed into the commencement ceremony dressed in cap and gown as family and friends, filling the 400-seat house, proudly looked on. Speaking and presenting diplomas as they presided over the graduation were Chair of Screenwriting Nunzio DeFilippis, Chair of Acting Lynda Goodfriend, Chair of Producing Tony Schwartz, Dean of Students Eric Conner, Chair of Documentary Barbara Multer-Wellin, and Associate Chair of Screenwriting Adam Finer.

    adele lim

    Adele Lim, Guest Speaker

    Adele Lim, the ceremony’s commencement speaker, known for writing and producing TV series such as One Tree Hill, Reign, Private Practice, and Life Unexpected among many others, delivered an extremely inspirational and often humorous speech that primed graduates to get out and conquer the entertainment industry. That evening the graduates and their guests enjoyed a chic after party at the Andaz Hotel’s Riot House Restaurant on the Sunset Strip.

    MFA in Acting

    • Tamara Bunker
    • Patrice Driver
    • Jasmine Harris
    • Charlotte Makala
    • Maria Luisa Martins
    • Anthony McBride
    • Phuthi Ngwenya
    • Lucia O’Brien
    • Amber Nicole Rivette
    • Sheila Robinson
    • Paul Romero
    • Chiffon Valentine
    • Norhanne Yessayan

    BFA in Acting

    • Victor Akintunde
    • Luis Alberto Alvarez Medrano
    • Sean Babapulle
    • Conner Blake
    • Lynn Braem
    • Rosaria Cianciulli
    • Gunner Coulter
    • Ricardo Cruz
    • Mehdi Dumartin
    • Julia Eckert
    • Patrick Ferroni
    • Selina Fraga
    • James Gaines
    • Chanelle Garrett
    • Madigan Haggerty
    • Jean-Baptiste Hakim
    • John Hardisty
    • Christopher Huff
    • Ayse Kirca
    • Michael Kunselman
    • Andrea Guillianna Martinez
    • Rene Rose Nault
    • Queenian Nneka Okagu
    • Maija Ozolina
    • Eleanor Patrikios
    • Christopher Pineiro
    • Kimberly Romano
    • Victor Daniel Rosas Martinez
    • Chandler Smith
    • Sean Spencer
    • Yulia Yusupova
    AFA in Acting

    • Guy Bailey
    • Olivia Ekelund
    • Ignacia Quappe
    • Ian Sanphy
    • James Turpin

    MFA in Screenwriting

    • Heather Hult
    • Vijayasarathy Mayalagu
    • John Russo
    • Daniel Wayne Smith

    BFA in Screenwriting

    • Lucas Snoey

    AFA in Screenwriting

    • Markel Hill
    • Daniel James Hunt
    • Jinghui Jia
    • Christopher Kühne

    MFA in Documentary

    • Mohammed Basurah
    • Xiao Chen
    • Kai Lu
    • Ivoree Myles
    • Seojong Park
    • Ma. Abigail Prieto
    • Tiffany Toulze

    MFA in Producing

    • Anishka Alles
    • Talal Alshehail
    • Ignacio Campos
    • Natasha Pineda
    • Fernanda Rouchou Malta
    • Chuhan Wang
    • Li Xia



    September 28, 2015 • Acting, Documentary Filmmaking, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 1312

  • Student Spotlight: Connor Williams

    connor williams

    Connor Williams with Terry Kiser from “Weekend at Bernie’s”

    While many of our incoming degree program students have had some level of experience in film and acting, rarely do we come across a student with 20 movies under his or her belt. Incoming BFA Acting for Film Freshman Connor Williams directed his first short film at the very young age of 10 years old. The movie screened at festivals in the U.S. as well as Athens, Greece. After winning 50 bucks and a karaoke machine for his first film, Williams was hooked.

    As a Freshman in high school, Williams won first place in a statewide video contest. The contest earned him $1,000 and another $1,000 went toward his school, which would come in handy two years later.

    His first real big break came when he beat out hundreds of teen actors for one of the lead roles in The UnMiracle, co-starring Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin. He Skyped his audition and callback from his bedroom in Idaho. The film, which explores a suburban teen’s accidental drug overdose, comes out in 2016.

    From there, Williams played opposite Sam Rockwell in a couple of scenes in Napolean Dynamite director Jared Hess’ new comedy Don Verdean, which played at Sundance and was purchased by Lionsgate. This also comes out in 2016.

    At the age of 17, in the summer going into his senior year, Connor decided to invest every penny he had earned from acting into producing, directing and acting in his own feature film, Spoilers The Movie — a modern day version of The Breakfast Club. Using the $1,000 he earned for his school, Williams was able to rent the school for three weeks of shooting. He brought in teen actors from New York, Chicago, Texas and California. He negotiated the contract and hired Terry Kiser (Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s). The film was shot on a Sony FS 700 in 2k. The feature was made in 15 days over a 17 day period. It has since played in Florida, Texas, New York, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and California.

    Spoilers the Movie has been up for Best First Time Feature (no age limit) in two different festivals, winning Best Student Film at the Rendezvous Film Festival in Florida and Best Student Film at the Temecula Independent Film Festival. It also won The Award of Excellence at The San Francisco Film Awards. The biggest award came when Connor won $60,000 worth of rental equipment and supplies from the RXSM Self Medicated Film Festival in Victoria, Texas. Connor is also recognized as being the youngest producer ever of a SAG/AFTRA feature film, breaking the record of 18 year old Richard Switzer who was featured on Entertainment tonight.

    His film continues to propel his career in acting. From Spoilers, Williams was cast in American in Texas, starring Quinton Aaron, better known as “Big Mike” from The Blindside. Connor just spent six weeks in Utah playing the lead in the coming of age film American Nobody.

    If you would like to rent Spoilers, please go to

    Williams is currently looking to hire cast and crew from New York Film Academy to make his next feature film. If NYFA students would like to collaborate with Conner, he can be reached at

    Connor is looking forward to attending and learning at NYFA’s Acting for Film school. He has never taken an acting class…ever.

    September 21, 2015 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1653

  • NYFA Acting Students Network with Top Casting Directors

    meet and greet

    Ali Raizin looking at an actor’s headshot

    New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus hosted an evening specially designed for their acting alumni and graduating students to meet film and commercial casting directors in a personalized setting. At the meet & greet, students met one-on-one with top casting companies and casting directors to pitch their unique brand, hand out headshots, and get invaluable advice on how to successfully navigate the casting industry.

    In attendance were numerous casting companies including casting director Ronnie Yeskel (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Curb Your Enthusiasm); Fiorentino Casting (Wild Card with Jason Statham, The Big Wedding with Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace and Robin Williams, and High School with Adrian Brody); Ivy Isenberg, Owner of Isenberg Casting (Call of Duty video game series for Activision, Emmy-Winning Animated Series Robot Chicken and The Scorpion King and Chucky franchises for Universal); and casting director Josh Rappaport from Casting Brothers, with over 25 years’ experience casting commercials for Netflix, Adidas, E-Trade and Barbie, to name a few.

    casting directors

    Front row David Guglielmo (Matthew Lessall Casting), Lynda Goodfriend, Ivy Isenberg (her hands are on Lynda’s shoulder), Ali Raizin, Josh Rappaport (Casting Brothers), Steven Tyleo O’Connor (Barbara Fiorentino Casting)   Back row; Ronnie Yeskel, Barbara Weintraub, Anne Moore, Vanessa Knight (Dream Big Casting), David Seiden (Dream Big Casting)

    The event was organized by Barbara Weintraub, NYFA’s Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development. Lynda Goodfriend, Chair of Acting for Film, and Anne Moore, Associate Chair, guided the students throughout the invaluable evening of networking.

    Commenting on the night, Barbara said, “You could see on their faces how excited the NYFA students were to be there. The casting directors were so gracious, spending time getting to know them over a couple hours. Really great connections were made.”

    casting directors nyfa

    September 7, 2015 • Acting • Views: 2755

  • Spoken Word Open Mic at NYFA

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    The New York Film Academy is excited to host its first ever Spoken Word, Beats, Rhymes & Poetry Open Mic Night at its Union Square location on Thursday, September 10th.

    To kick things off, our first event will feature Bronx living legend, La Bruja, who is considered one of America’s leading spoken word poets. In 2014 she was awarded Comité Noviembre’s Puerto Rican Women Legacy Award. In 2013, she earned The Edgar Allan Poe Award for excellence in writing from The Bronx Historical Society, and was honored as A Bronx Living Legend by The Bronx Music Heritage Center.

    Also hosting this star-studded night will be Brooklyn’s own Manny Lavan, with music by Flip the Script Radio’s DJ C-Reality and the band Sunny Daze. To top it off, our special guests include El Da Sensei, Ren Thomas, Emskee & Saint of the Good People.

    If you’d like the opportunity to perform alongside these New York City spoken word elites, open mic signs up begin at 7PM, with performances starting at 8PM.

    September 4, 2015 • Acting • Views: 1139

  • Daughter of Legendary Actor Burt Lancaster Shares Stories of Her Father

    Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the New York Film Academy Theater to attend an evening centered on the life and work of legendary actor-producer Burt Lancaster. The event opened with a presentation introducing Lancaster to those not yet familiar with his work. Following this was a showing of The Professionals (1966, Richard Brooks), a Western adventure from the “American gunfighters in Mexico” subgenre, which starred Lancaster, along with Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Robert Ryan, and Claudia Cardinale.

    Joanna Lancaster

    Joanna Lancaster

    Finally, students participated in a Q&A with Lancaster’s daughter, Joanna Lancaster, a successful film and television producer in her own right—her credits include Little Treasure (1985), the classic comedy Ruthless People (1986), and the reality TV series COPS(1989)—as she gave unique insight into her legendary father. NYFA Film Studies instructor Paul Laverack, currently teaching a course on Burt Lancaster, conducted the opening presentation and moderated the discussion with Joanna Lancaster.

    Burt Lancaster grew up in the slums of East Harlem, left home to pursue a career as a circus acrobat, and served in WW2 as an entertainment specialist in the Italian campaign. After the war, a chance meeting in an elevator in New York led to the audition, which soon launched his movie career with The Killers (1946), the crime thriller that rocketed him to international stardom at age thirty-three. His film career stretched across the next half-century, and includes a number of iconic performances, such as the role of Sgt. Warden in the Best Picture Oscar-winner From Here to Eternity (1953), which includes Hollywood’s most famous love scene—Lancaster and Deborah Kerr embracing on the sand as waves crash over them.

    Lancaster also memorably headlined Criss Cross (1949), The Crimson Pirate (1952), Trapeze(1956), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Train (1964), and Atlantic City (1980), among many others. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar four times, and took home the golden statuette for the title role in Elmer Gantry (1960). In addition, Lancaster was foremost among the pioneering crop of star-producers in the 1950s, with his Hecht-Lancaster company producing several successful films, most notably Marty (1955), the Best Picture Oscar-winner, and the first American film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

    “My father thought Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando were the pre-eminent actors of their generation,” Joanna Lancaster said during the discussion after the film. “They were the only two men whose talent intimidated him.” In response to a question from acting student Daniel Pareja about Marlon Brando—whose career intersected with her father’s at several points—Ms. Lancaster said, “Dad really liked Brando, on a personal level. They were both bleeding-heart liberals, and they were often involved in the same political causes. Brando called the house a couple of times when I was a kid, but I had no idea who he was, at the time.”

    When discussing her dawning awareness of her father’s status as a movie star, Ms. Lancaster said, “Whatever circumstance you grow up in, that’s normal to you. My parents made sure that all of us kids went to the same school throughout our elementary years, and we had a normal family life, as much as possible. It was really in the way other people reacted to my dad that I saw what he meant to them. I remember one time, we were all out at dinner, and a woman approached our table. She was trembling. She knelt beside my dad and told him, ‘I worship you.’ When the woman got up and left, my dad looked at us and wondered aloud what the hell had just happened.” She added with a knowing chuckle, “My dad had a healthy ego, and he certainly liked the attention much of the time, but he tried to stay grounded.”

    Lancaster was famous for doing virtually all of his own stunts across a long list of action-adventure films, and his daughter spoke about the importance physicality played in his life. “He ran every day, at the track at UCLA.” Her father also “had this twenty-foot rope connected to the ceiling of his office, and he would scramble up the rope whenever he felt like it,” to keep his upper body strong. Ms. Lancaster smiled as she remembered her father once using that rope as a test for her would-be boyfriend, challenging the young man to climb to the top if he wanted to go on a date with Joanna. Though the boy was “clearly on downers,” Ms. Lancaster recalled, “somehow he did it; got right up to the ceiling.” When the boy came back down, her father gave his blessing to their relationship. “Getting my dad’s approval,” Ms. Lancaster concluded with a laugh, “completely squashed my desire to date the guy after that.”

    joanna lancaster

    Paul Laverack with Joanna Lancaster

    When the evening’s discussion was over, several students approached Ms. Lancaster and her sister Sighle—who was key to putting the event together, and who helped jog Joanna’s memory from the audience—to express appreciation for their father’s work.

    Acting student Pete Gomes told the sisters that The Swimmer (1968) was his favorite of all the Burt Lancaster movies his class had watched this semester. Joanna expressed some surprise at this, as she found the mysterious, modernist film often connects most strongly with men in their forties who are experiencing a midlife crisis. “I’m getting mine out of the way early,” Pete replied. “Now when I hit my forties, I’ll just Burt my way through it.”

    September 3, 2015 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2712

  • Joanne Horowitz, Talent Manager to Kevin Spacey & Scott Eastwood, Speaks at NYFA

    Students gathered in the Welles Screening Room at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus to participate in a Q&A with renowned talent manager Joanne Horowitz, whose clients include former NYFA guest speaker, Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and up and comer Scott Eastwood. The discussion was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA acting instructor Melissa Sullivan.

    joanne horowitz

    Talent Manager, Joanne Horowitz

    The room was packed with NYFA actors eager to hear some tricks of the talent trade from one of the industry’s top managers (she was just honored as Manager of the Year by her peers), and Joanne was eager to share her wealth of knowledge with the students. One of the most resonating bits of advice for aspiring actors was to relish the audition process. Forget thinking of auditions as simply a means to an end, but rather take joy in it as an opportunity to act. Success will eventually only come to the actor who loves acting—not focusing on landing the role. Joanne also stressed the importance of keeping your spirits high in between auditions and during inevitable dry spells of work. She said having another passion in life, whether it be photography, playing an instrument, supporting a cause, etc., is essential. Acting is a difficult career path; be easy on yourself, and take a break from it if you have to.


    Melissa Sullivan, Tova Laiter and Joanne Horowitz

    Joanne spoke at length about her time representing Kevin Spacey and Scott Eastwood, and her unlikely foray into management. Earlier in her career, Joanne worked at Studio 54 and was VP of publicity and marketing for Universal film studio doing PR for Alec Baldwin, Christopher Reeve and briefly Robert Downey Jr. One day, Kevin Spacey, then a struggling actor in off-off-Broadway theater, asked her to be his manager. Joanne took a leap of faith because she believed in his talent and never took no for an answer.

    It’s been quite a job negotiating for the two-time Oscar winner and now Netflix series star, but Joanne has concentrated just as much energy on fostering young, up-and-coming talent Scott Eastwood, whom she met while he was living in Hawaii, years before he decided to act. She stayed in contact with Scott and, when he eventually moved to LA, Joanne put him in acting classes, insisting that nobody talk about his association with his famous father. Now Scott has made his way onto the A-list roster, having landed roles in movies like Fury and The Longest Ride. Some of Joanne’s other budding stars include Gavin Stenhouse (Allegiance) and Claudia Lee (Hart of Dixie, Kick-Ass 2).


    In addition to managing, Joanne’s other passion is animals. A tireless advocate and organizer for animal rights, Joanne specifically focuses her efforts on protecting African elephants and rhinos from poaching. She received a standing ovation from like minded animal lovers.

    We sincerely thank Joanne Horowitz for visiting NYFA and we wish her the best of luck in all of her management and animal rights endeavors!

    August 26, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 2195

  • South African Actress Donnalee Roberts is an All Around Superstar

    Coming off the success of the popular South African television series, 7de Laan, and the feature film Klein Karoo, New York Film Academy 8-Week Acting for Film graduate Donnalee Roberts has greatly expanded her role in the South African entertainment business. Not only does the hard-working South African enjoy the artistic gratification of acting for the camera, she also loves running a business and exploring the integrated marketing and networking that goes on behind the scenes of her films.

    Her critically and commercially successful romantic adventure, Pad na jou Hart (Road to your Heart), in which Roberts played the lead actress and was co-producer and co-writer along with Ivan Botha, has been seen by over one million people thus far!

    Her more recent award-winning film, Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling (Ballad for a Stranger), which stars Roberts as Carina, had its premiere in Australia and New Zealand and had a nationwide release in South Africa. Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling is a romantic thriller based on the popular South African television series from the eighties. Not only did the series have South Africans nailed to their televisions, the film was highly acclaimed and was both a critic and box office hit, earning Tempo awards for South African Film of the Year. Donnalee also won Best Actress of the Year for both Pad na jou Hart and Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling.

    Roberts’ goal is to continue to provide original content to her native country, which has recently seen a resurgence in its film industry.

    “We have a wonderful supporting audience in South Africa that is extremely loyal to local content,” said Roberts. “I would love to have this audience grow and also keep on motivating our existing audience. As a filmmaker and storyteller, my goal is to not only make South Africans proud of the films and stories that originate in our country but to also make films that are so universal in their themes that they transcend language barriers and move people from all over the world.”
    As an independent filmmaker one knows the importance of marketing your film correctly in order to reach its full potential. That is why Roberts and her team started a marketing division within their production company which specializes in making marketing personal and creating a need for people to want to see their film.
    “In a country where we speak 11 official different languages and where we are at all times directly competing against international blockbusters, marketing has become essential. The South African film industry, specifically the Afrikaans language market films, is literally bursting out of its seams, and as a young filmmaker it is so exciting to be on the forefront of this endeavor!”

    vir altydHer upcoming film, Vir Altyd (Forever), which Roberts stars and also co-wrote and co-produced with Ivan Botha, was shot half in South Africa and half in Mauritius. Vir Altyd is a romantic adventure film that takes us on a journey through the seasons of love and the true meaning of what ‘forever’ means. Roberts and her team are currently busy with post-production and the feature film releases nationwide on February 12th, 2016.

    Roberts advice to those who are pursuing acting, especially current students is to CREATE. “In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”

    She strongly encourages actors to involve themselves more with writing and producing their own material.

    “You should never stop learning and growing,” Roberts added. “Always have a spirit of growing.”

    blake and donnalee

    Donnalee Roberts and Blake Babbitt

    Donnalee Roberts will be joining Blake Babbitt at the New York Film Academy’s audition and portfolio review event at the Davinci Hotel and Suites on Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg on September 5th at 18:00.

    The Film Academy will also be holding auditions and portfolio reviews in Cape Town on Tuesday, September 8th.

    For more information on either of these events, please email or CLICK HERE to sign up.

    August 25, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights, Road Show, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6643

  • NYFA Student Rekha Rana Stars in Hit Bollywood Film

    Rekha Rana

    Rekha Rana

    Students gathered in New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles theater to screen the hit Bollywood film Tara: The Journey of Love and Passion and participate in a Q&A with the movie’s star, Rekha Rana—who is currently studying acting at the New York Film Academy—and director/producer Kumar Raj. The discussion was moderated by NYFA LA’s Events Manager and directing instructor Robert Cosnahan.

    Tara: The Journey of Love and Passion is an epic saga about an illiterate Indian gypsy woman, brewing liquor illegally to survive, who after being accused of adultery by her husband when she becomes pregnant, is faced with a choice — be a victim of patriarchal society or take her life into her own hands. The film has a strong, positive, and refreshing message of female empowerment. The movie paints a gut-wrenching portrait of life’s hardships, especially for women, in the poorest areas of Indian. The film played for an astounding 52 weeks in a 650 seat theater in India and has received over 40 awards worldwide in many International Film Festivals.

    Rekha Rana holds nothing back in her portrayal of Tara, a woman forced to deal with life’s most trying of circumstances. It’s impossible to not feel her anguish as despair thunders through her, or to feel hope when her radiant smile lights up the screen. She was rewarded recently for her outstanding performance in Tara when she received the Best Actress award at San Francisco’s Festival of Globe Film Festival.

    Rekha gave alot of praise for NYFA’s acting program, stating that it has improved her performance skills immensely. She can’t wait to apply what she’s learned here in future Bollywood and U.S. films. Rekha said that NYFA is “one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

    After the event, director/producer Kumar Raj graciously donated a copy of Tara to NYFA’s library. Rekha is currently working on her upcoming film Yahan Ameena Bikti Hai also produced and directed by Kumar Raj.

    Rekha Rana is a Bollywood actress, theater artist, and winner of the Miss Delhi, Photogenic Face and Beautiful Smile title in 2007. She is the brand ambassador for a South African NGO, ‘Star NGO,’ and the ‘Save Our Women’ Campaign.’ Her first movie, Ab Hoga Dharna Unlimited, which is inspired by Anna Hazare’s Dharna, was released on April 13th, 2012. Rekha won the Best Actress Award at the Singapore Film Festival in 2010 for her performance in a short film called Take Care. She has performed over 200 stage shows worldwide. As she is interested in humanity work, she has joined women’s helmet promotion, started on March 8th, 2010, at International Women’s Day to make awareness among women wearing helmets.

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    Rekha Rana with director/producer Kumar Raj (photo by Drew Hughes)

    Kumar Raj started his career in the shipping industry and is an arbitrator in the India and London Council of Arbitration. He was inspired to begin working in the Indian Film Industry (also known as Bollywood) 6 years ago because his intense passion and love for cinema. In these 6 years, he has made four films, his latest being Tara.

    We sincerely thank Rekha Rana and Kumar Raj for screening their wonderful film at the New York Film Academy and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors!

    August 19, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3040

  • NYFA Alumna Aubrey Plaza from ‘Parks & Recreation’ Revisits Her Alma Mater

    aubrey plaza

    Aubrey Plaza

    New York Film Academy students gathered in a theater on the Warner Bros. studios lot in Los Angeles to watch a special screening of the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, and participate in a Q&A with the film’s star actress, Aubrey Plaza. The discussion was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA acting instructor Anne Moore.

    Aubrey is most widely known for playing the deadpan employee April Ludgate in the hit TV series Parks and Recreation. She has appeared in Funny People—directed by Judd Apatow—as Seth Rogan’s love interest, as well as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Portlandia, Derrick Comedy’s Mystery Team, a CollegeHumor short alongside Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, the Sundance hit Life After Beth, and the speaking voice of Grumpy Cat in their upcoming original movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Her first starring role alongside Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed, directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurrassic World), was critically acclaimed. Aubrey loves performing improv and stand up comedy and has appeared regularly at The Upright Citizens Brigade, Laugh Factory, and The Improv.

    Aubrey, having attended NYFA’s high school summer camp for filmmaking in 2001, was enthusiastic about returning to her alma mater and talking to students who are journeying down the same road she took not to long ago. She had fond memories of her experience at the New York Film Academy and even said that she learned more practical knowledge about filmmaking in those weeks she spent at NYFA than in the first two years of undergraduate film school. She was also very adamant that the short films she made at NYFA were integral in making her college application package successful. Aubrey established a sincere connection with the over 150 high school NYFA students in attendance and they were eager to ask her questions.

    Plaza discussed how she managed to foray into the mainstream. In 2007 she appeared in a web series called The Jeannie Tate Show — a mock talk show about a soccer mom who interviews celebrities in her van while running errands. Aubrey played Jeannie Tate’s delinquent junkie daughter who harasses the show’s guests. This got the attention of an agent who contacted her. Plaza called and emailed the agent regularly checking on whether any roles appropriate for her had come across his desk. Finally, in 2009, the agent recommended Aubrey try out for Seth Rogen’s love interest, Daisy, in Judd Apatow’s Funny People. Since stand up comedy is a focus of the show and the character Daisy is a stand up comic, Aubrey began signing herself up for open mic nights at comedy clubs and bars all across New York City. It was extremely terrifying for her at first but she became more and more confident in doing it. She had her friend film her during the stand up routines and she sent the tapes in to Judd Apatow and his casting director and they loved her. Instead of just auditioning and hoping she got the part, Aubrey took initiative and took her destiny into her own hands.

    Aubrey reminisced about her time on the wildly successful series Parks and Recreation, noting that the relaxed environment of a TV series allowed her and comedian co-stars like Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari to try different things and improv. This contrasts for her with the more stringent environment of a movie set which demands that actors say their exact line, precisely hit marks and find their light just right — however, Aubrey loves both challenges. When talking about what it was like to work with Chris Pratt, Aubrey admitted that she absolutely adores him and says he’s like a smart “giant puppy,” but that she was not as obsessed as her character.

    After Aubrey was asked, “If you could be in any movie franchise, what would it be?” she immediately burst out with, “Catwoman!” Yes that’s right, she would love to reinvent the DC Comics character and add her own Aubrey Plaza brand of charm and wit much like what was done with Guardians of the Galaxy. Everyone in the audience cheered, she sold us on it and now we too want to see Aubrey play Catwoman on the silver screen.

    We sincerely thank Aubrey for returning to the New York Film Academy and we wish her continued success in her exciting career!

    August 10, 2015 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3311

  • Star of “Laverne & Shirley” Actress Cindy Williams Makes NYFA Laugh

    New York Film Academy students came together in our Los Angeles campus theater to watch a compilation of scenes featuring actress Cindy Williams and then participate in a Q&A with the cultural icon. Moderating the Q&A were producer Tova Laiter and NYFA LA’s acting department chair Lynda Goodfriend, who co-starred on Happy Days with Williams as Lori Beth Cunningham, Ron Howard’s girlfriend then wife on the TV sitcom.

    After college, Williams began her professional career by doing theater, waiting tables and landing important film roles early in her career including Ron Howard’s high school sweetheart in George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). In 1975, Williams was cast as a fun-loving brewery worker, Shirley Feeney, in an episode of Happy Days, alongside Penny Marshall, who played her best friend and roommate Laverne De Fazio. The characters proved so popular that a spin-off featuring the characters, Laverne & Shirley was created and aired from 1976 until 1982. In 1990, Williams returned to series TV on CBS sitcom Normal Life and family sitcom Getting By (1993–94). She has guest starred on several television shows including, including two episodes of 8 Simple Rules, performed onstage including the national tours of Grease, and was originator/ a co-producer on the Steve Martin comedy film Father of the Bride and its sequel. Most recently, Cindy has authored the book “Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life,” an autobiographical recount of her funny and heartfelt journey from blue collar roots to unexpected stardom.

    cindy williams

    Lynda Goodfriend, Tova Laiter and Cindy Williams

    Cindy reminisced on her career, describing first how she fell in love first with the American theater in acting school. She had the incredible experience of working with legendary directors Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas early in her career. Williams went into great details describing the extremely different styles of each director but how they are geniuses in their own right–Francis Ford Coppola LOVES actors and eager to ask for their opinion and praise them while George Lucas is shy and laconic, rarely saying more to an actor than “Terrific,” after a take. Williams’ career path was unorthodox as she initially landed major film roles before transitioning into television. In the past, an actor was branded in either film or television and transitioning was rare. She even recalled being turned down for a particular film role by a director who recognized her from the Laverne and Shirley and dismissed her upon entering the room. Today, it is much more flexible as actors want to follow the good material.

    As she applied for a director’s lab instead of acting, the program director put her in touch with an upcoming talent agent, Gary Marshall, who at the time was running a talent agency with Fred Roos, a casting director who went on to produce Francis Coppola films and cast her and client Harrison Ford in Lucas and Coppola movies. Then, Gary Marshall became the creator of many hit TV sitcoms including Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. This was the twist of fate that would change Cindy’s life forever. Cindy told the audience, “This is how things in life happen, and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different. One day something will just plop right down in front of you.”

    Williams gave extensive insight into the traditional TV sitcom multi-camera process from her experience on Laverne & Shirley. The cast, director, writers and producers would arrive to set on Monday to do a table read of the script and perhaps block a scene or two. On Tuesday, they were given a new script based on notes the writers made during the table read and they would rough out the blocking of all the scenes on stage. On Wednesday, they were given another script with changes from the previous day’s notes, and the actors would begin setting the blocking in stone by laying marks for themselves. On Thursday, the cast and crew received yet another script and the cameramen were included this time to learn the blocking and lay marks for camera. On Friday, yes one final version of the script arrived, and the actors would perform the episode with cameras rolling in front of a live studio audience. Cindy loved this form of TV because its process is so closely linked to acting in plays, particularly the fact that she feeds off the live audience’s reaction.

    Cindy Williams was so entertaining and funny as she recounted her amazing career. In fact, she had the audience in stitches most of the time. Not only is she an incredible actress but a top-notch storyteller. Her new autobiographical book “Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life” is sure to be a fun ride.

    We sincerely thank Cindy Williams for visiting the New York Film Academy and wish her luck on whatever exciting step she takes next on her adventure.

    July 31, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 2112