• Screening of ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ with Casting Director David Rubin

    David Rubin

    Casting director David Rubin visited New York Film Academy Los Angeles to screen the classic film The Talented Mr. Ripley, which he cast, and participate in a Q&A session with students. David is chairman of the Casting Directors Branch at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and is also the casting consultant for HBO, working on their upcoming series, movies and miniseries. He cast such films as the upcoming Wild with Reese Witherspoon and Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes film. He also cast other acclaimed films like The Addams Family, The War of the Roses, My Cousin Vinny, The Firm, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Get Shorty, The English Patient, Men in Black, and My Best Friend’s Wedding. David won an Emmy for casting Game Changer for HBO and received the Hollywood Film Festival Award for Outstanding Career Achievement, as well as an honorary Career Achievement Award from the Casting Society of America presented to him by Baz Luhrmann. Producer Tova Laiter and NYFA acting instructor Michael Zelniker moderated the discussion.

    Mr. Rubin has been a fan of live theater all of his life and admits to being a complete “theater geek.” In fact, he’s kept a program from every show he’s attended since he was a boy in a plastic sealed scrapbook. As a young man in New York, the encyclopedia-like knowledge of the city’s pool of acting talent and enormous vocabulary David acquired from seeing so many plays, and also directing his own, unconsciously prepared him in a perfect manner for a career in casting. It wasn’t until he took on a job as a casting assistant that he realized how well suited for casting he was and the deep-rooted passion he had for the profession.

    david and tova

    David has a unique approach to casting that has led him to immense success. When he first receives a script, he crosses all of the writer’s character descriptions out. David knows that these labels are obvious, surface interpretations of the character and he’s going for something much deeper. He lets the character’s story arch clue him in to the type of actor appropriate for the role. And instead of bringing in a bunch of actors that all look and sound the same, which is the norm the casting world, he auditions actors of all shapes, sizes, races, and personality types. In this way, David uses the casting process to further investigate the right kind of person he’s looking for.

    Mr. Rubin’s best advice to actors in the audience was this: “Be yourself.” Many actors fail in attempting to conform themselves to what they believe the role is and the result is always inauthentic. Expressing yourself fully is your most valuable commodity by far as an actor because there is no one else exactly like you. What David always looks for in auditions is the “Actor’s essence” and he then determines whether that matches what he has determined the “character’s essence” to be.

    Hearing how David Rubin rose to success as a casting director and the invaluable advice he acquired along the way was an incredible gift to NYFA students. We sincerely thank David for his time and look forward to seeing all of his amazing casting work to come.

    January 2, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1473

  • Robert Pucci: From Law School to Hollywood

    Robert PucciNew York Film Academy Los Angeles Critical Film Art and Intro To Film Instructor Robert Pucci took a rather interesting turn in his career after passing the bar exams for both New York and New Jersey — a difficult feat in itself. What could be a more challenging career path than passing law school and two bar exams? Acting. Robert’s passion for the craft sent him on his way to Los Angeles to become an actor. However, while playing a recurring role on The Young and the Restless, he realized that, at heart, he is a writer.

    Robert has sold over twenty-five screenplays to major Hollywood studios and worked with, among others, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, Jan Debont, James Foley, Mark Wahlberg and Roland Joffe. Recently, Robert’s artistic endeavors are focused on books and not screenplays. In his first novel, In Harlem’s Way, Robert continues telling stories and creating characters that examine the complexities of the human heart. Touching on themes of innocence, guilt, forgiveness and ultimately love, the book tells the inspiring story of the unlikely relationship forged between a damaged white youth lost in Harlem, and the first African American man he’s ever met, a bond that heals and forever changes them both.

    With tremendous experience in the industry, in addition to his grasp on the law, Robert provides invaluable insight to his students on the world ahead of them. “I feel any instructor who has been in the trenches, (and I’ve been in them as an actor, and to a far greater extent, as a writer) offers something worthwhile to young artists,” says Mr. Pucci. “That said, my aim is to make this experience about them and not me, but when I can impart lessons learned by way of trial by fire, I share them.”

    Robert currently teaches two courses at the Film Academy that provide an overview of the history of cinema with a look at the many movements and techniques which shape film as they experience it today. In so doing, Robert aims to connect the past to the present and show the students that the filmmakers, actors and writers they currently admire are well-versed in the work of the artists who came before and incorporate what they’ve learned in their own work.

    “I find the enthusiasm of the students infectious. I also enjoy interacting with the international student body at NYFA as in each class I learn something new about cultures from around the world.”
    Robert’s advice to young screenwriters is the same advice he was given when starting out. “There is much in the entertainment industry that is out of your control, so work diligently and focus on the things which you can control, and the main one is your work output. Always be writing. When you finish one script, immediately start the next one.”

    December 16, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 2248

  • NYFA Sydney Holds First Inaugural Filmmaking Showcase at Event Cinemas

    NYFA Sydney Event

    The New York Film Academy Australia campus in Sydney held its first Inaugural Filmmaking Showcase at Event Cinemas, George Street in VMAX 2. The multiplex theater, which screens today’s top films, just so happens to be filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s favorite cinema in Australia!

    To kick off the event, filmmakers strutted the red carpet outside of the theater. After all, what would an award-ceremony be without a red carpet? Guests included our filmmakers and their families and friends, screen industry professionals, 2015 committed students, potential new students and NYFA Sydney alumni. NYFA Australia Director Simon Hunter and NYFA Australia Academic Manager Craig Proudley were also on hand for the night. NYFA is the first and only film school to have showcased thesis films in a VMAX cinema at Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney. We love being pioneers.

    The awards ceremony gave out 4 awards, including Outstanding Student, Best Cinematographer, Best Director and Best Film, which was chosen by a panel of screen industry professionals.

    nyfa sydney actors

    “It is an exciting partnership that Event Cinemas has with NYFA,” said Event Cinemas General Manager, Anthony Kierann. “Last night was a night of talented filmmakers and actors expressing their creative journey and discovering their voice within the magical process of storytelling in the art of filmmaking. There is a huge appetite within the film-going community to experience extraordinary stories with universal themes and social significance. Last night there was a range of styles, performances, screenwriting and visual bravery with astute detail and a willingness to explore all the nuanced options creatively available to tell a story — the films screened last night at the thesis screenings certainly were a testament to the talent pool at NYFA in Sydney. As an exhibitor, it is encouraging to see such a depth of talent. Events looks forward to furthering its support and partnership; to be in some small way a nurturing component that may allow these young filmmakers and actors wings to grow. Congratulations to everyone involved and a special congratulations to Ren Thackham for her audacious visionary film Lady Luck, which won the Best Film Award”

    Anthony and Event Cinemas were so pleased with the night that they have committed to playing one of our filmmakers thesis films, Wolf by Ethan Thomas before a feature film. Overall, it was not only an entertaining night, it was a whopping success. We look forward to our next Filmmaking Showcase at Event Cinemas!

    December 11, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Study Abroad • Views: 2280

  • A Look at Acting Instructor Michael Zelniker

    Red Rodney Zelniker

    Michael Zelniker as Red Rodney in “Bird”

    One of the more enticing factors of studying at the New York Film Academy is its commitment to staffing its teachers and instructors with those who have sound experience and success in the film industry. In some cases our instructors come from a versatile background, having worked extensively in many artistic areas, including acting, filmmaking and theatre. Such is the case with Acting for Film and Acting Technique Instructor Michael Zelniker. Having starred in more than 20 feature films and countless television productions, Zelniker is perhaps best known for his portrayal of trumpeter Red Rodney in Clint Eastwood’s award winning film Bird. If you’re from Canada, you may recognize him for his Canadian Academy Award (Genie Award) winning performance in The Terry Fox Story, which also starred Robert Duvall.

    “One of the reasons I love working at NYFA is — having spent my life learning how to do this work I love so much — getting to give it away to young people just beginning their creative journeys is an awesome privilege,” said Zelniker. “One of the great features to NYFA as an educational institution is it has a very large international student body. That unique mix of cultures, ideas and sensibilities makes for a powerfully dynamic artistic atmosphere.”

    Zelniker was born and raised in Montreal where he trained as an actor at Dawson College’s Conservatory Theatre School. After graduating, Zelniker moved to Toronto, where he began working in theaters all across Canada doing everything from Shakespeare to David Mamet, appearing in more than 20 Equity productions, including Amadeus, Henry V, Mother Courage and American Buffalo.


    Michael Zelniker as Martin in “Naked Lunch”

    Since moving to Los Angeles, where he currently teaches, Zelniker has worked in both movies and television. His long list of credits include co-starring in David Cronenberg’s acclaimed film Naked Lunch with Peter Weller; Queens Logic with John Malkovich and Kevin Bacon; Touch and Go with Michael Keaton; and Bird with Forest Whitaker.

    Some notable television movie appearances include the Showtime mini-series The Neon Empire; Masterpiece Theatre’s Glory Enough For All for PBS; and the ABC mini-series Crossings with Christopher Plummer. Zelniker guest starred many times on series such as The Dead Zone, Chicago Hope, Millennium, Profiler, The Inside, Strong Medicine, Veritas the Quest, For the People, In the Heat of the Night and Murder She Wrote. Zelniker has starred in many independent features including, Snide and Prejudice, directed by Philippe Mora; Air Time, directed by Gary Fleder; and the Sundance Lab developed film, After Image.

    Zelniker’s theatre directing credits include the critically acclaimed Child’s Play, at the John Anson Ford Theatre, the sketch comedy show, White House Chicks at the HBO Workspace, Waiting for Lefty and Moonchildren at the Lillian Theater, and One Love and Love and Death and Other Trivial Matters at the Artworks Theatre.

    As a filmmaker, Zelniker co-wrote, produced, and played the title character in the critically acclaimed, festival award winning feature, Stuart Bliss. He also directed, co-wrote and produced the low budget, experimental feature, Falling… that premiered at Indie Fest USA International Film Festival in August 2012, winning their Best of Festival Award. The film is currently being distributed by Vanguard Cinema and Anderson Digital.

    We’re thrilled to have Michael Zelniker on our team and confident in his ability to share his invaluable insight to budding talent at the New York Film Academy.

    December 10, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 1998

  • Iconic Actor Al Pacino Speaks at New York Film Academy

    Al Pacino New York Film Academy

    New York Film Academy students received the rare opportunity to participate in an intimate Q&A with one of the greatest actors in film history Al Pacino this past Thursday, December 4th at the Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, CA. The discussion took place after a special advanced screening of Pacino’s new film The Humbling. In this, funny, observant, erotic comedy, Pacino plays an aging actor who feels he is losing his craft and after a breakdown becomes involved with a much younger woman but soon finds that it’s difficult to keep pace with her and makes the ultimate performance. The film was highly received by the students for its content and Mr. Pacino’s amazing performance in it. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the Q&A.

    Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winning Al Pacino took the stage to an uproar of applause and a standing ovation from students. The legendary actor, who’s entertained and inspired us with iconic performances in The Godfather, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Scent of a Woman, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Heat, to name just a few, was tremendously gracious for the warm reception. Pacino was all smiles and full of life, emanating that vivacious energy we’ve come to love him for.

    In a profound statement about the actor’s process, and artistic process in general, Pacino stated, “I love the line that Michelangelo said in a poem when he was doing the Sistine Chapel, he said, ‘Lord, free me of myself that I may please you.’ Meaning, get to that place in us where we’re not censoring ourselves or trying to do it good or right but rather connect with whatever it is we’re trying to say in our work. Become. Become it, absorb it and let it come out and let the unconscious free. And I strive for that. And I rarely, rarely get it. If I do it’s for a moment or two… Sometimes I’m given a role… Then I have to look at the empty canvas and I say, ‘Wow, I don’t know anything about acting. I don’t know anything about anything. What am I gonna do?’ And you start. And the hope is that instead of figuring it out, you find it.”

    Al Pacino and Tova Laiter

    Producer Tova Laiter with Al Pacino

    But it wasn’t all serious talk. Pacino revealed the origins of his “Hoo-ah!” line in Scent of a Woman in an amusing story: “That came because I was learning to assemble and disassemble a .45 in forty-five seconds. And that ain’t easy. And I worked literally weeks on that, months, just with this Lieutenant Col. who would say to me every once in a while when I did it well, he would just say to me (pointing) ‘Hoo-ha!’ And I finally said to him, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Well, you see that’s the way I talk to the troops. If they get in line and their suits are straight and their metals are straight, I just go up and I say ‘Hoo-ha!’ And that got into the movie. That wasn’t written.”

    In closing, to the question of what the most important thing acting has taught him, Pacino answered, “It taught me to love people more. I feel more a part of the world. And that we’re all actors. Only some of us can really do it. Some of us have the ability to do it…and the desire to do it. And it taught me that desire can sometimes trump talent. Think about that. So that you may not have as much talent as you think you have, but if you have the desire, your talent will find you.”

    When the Q&A ended, Al Pacino thanked and waved goodbye to students as they all stood and cheered once again. It was a wildly entertaining and inspiring night that was a special gift to NYFA. In a cosmic coincidence, Pacino’s daughter Julie Pacino, an alumna of NYFA, showed her movie to NYFA students at our Union Square square campus the same day!

    We thank Al Pacino for sharing his time with us and look forward to the success of The Humbling (which Mr. Pacino also produced), directed by Barry Levinson. The film opens in theaters in limited release for a week on December 5th and wide release January 23rd, 2015.

    December 8, 2014 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 3805

  • NYFA’s Blanche Baker Reunites with Molly Ringwald in “Wishin’ and Hopin'”

    Blanche Baker Molly Ringwald

    NYFA Acting Instructor Blanche Baker with actress Molly Ringwald

    One of our beloved Acting Instructors, Blanche Baker, is getting us into the holiday spirit, as she will be starring in Lifetime’s Wishin’ and Hopin’ alongside Chevy Chase, Molly Ringwald, Annabella Sciorra, Meatloaf and more. The story is based on the New York Time’s best-selling Christmas novel from Wally Lamb, which tells the tale of young boy growing up in the 60’s, dreading his upcoming school Christmas pageant.

    The young fifth-grader, Felix Funicello attends a Parochial School, and you know what that means — nuns. In the holiday film, Blanche has the honor of playing Mother Superior at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School. “What actress doesn’t dream of playing a mother superior?” says Baker. “They put a lot of effort into the casting, looking all across the country to find an amazing group of young actors. They were great to work with and I’m sure you’ll be seeing some of them again.”

    In addition to working with a group of new young actors, Blanche worked with a number of well known names, including former co-star Molly Ringwald, whom Blanche played the older sister of in the 1984 John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles.

    “What I especially like about the producers is that they recognize the value of keeping a core team together from film to film. It’s hard work but we know we can trust and count on each other to come up with something we can be proud of.”

    You’ll have a chance to see Blanche and this star-studded cast on December 8th, where it will have its television world premiere on Lifetime at 8pm EST.

    December 3, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 1944

  • Kellen Gibbs Wins “Best Student Film” at the Los Angeles Thriller Festival


    Psychological thrillers have been a part of American culture for some time now. With legendary films like Se7en, The Machinist, and The Shining, it’s no wonder why audiences love submerging themselves into an alternate reality where they must question what is real, what isn’t, and what will happen next.

    Second-year New York Film Academy student, Kellen Gibbs, has done just that in his intermediate film, The Sky Won’t Fall and has earned himself the award of Best Student Film in the Los Angeles Thriller Festival by touching on the frightening side of encountering extra-terrestrial life.

    “I grew up with a father who would tell me wild alien stories that really fed [extra-terrestrial] intrigue,” says Gibbs. “For a while now I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a story like this and this just seemed like the time to do it.”

    The mind-boggling film follows Dale Richardson as his life suddenly begins to spiral downward after experiencing what he believes is an alien encounter. As the story progresses, not only do the loved ones around him begin to think he’s losing his sanity, but Dale himself begins to question his own thoughts and must choose between what he truly believes happened, or risk losing those closest to him.


    Currently studying in the AFA Filmmaking Program in Los Angeles, Gibbs was asked about his experience with NYFA thus far. ”I’ve loved every minute of it and I wouldn’t change my decision to come here,” he said. “Prior to NYFA I was making films with no formal training. I would do things that I thought were right, not understanding why. Now I know the ‘why’ and my filmmaking toolkit is a lot bigger now.”

    Gibbs also took full advantage of utilizing his fellow classmates by assembling a crew that was comprised mostly of NYFA students and took on a 4-day shoot in Los Angeles. “Knowing each other for the year and being able to communicate made the set really organized and easy to manage,” he said.

    With his award for Best Student Film already secure, Gibbs expects to see The Sky Won’t Fall screen in numerous other festivals, but for now its festival premiere is slated to debut in the first block at the Los Angeles Thriller Festival on December 12. Watch the trailer below and find out more information here on tickets to its screening.

    The Sky Won’t Fall Trailer from Kellen Gibbs on Vimeo.

  • NYFA Basketball Kicks off in NYC

    nyfa basketball

    photo by Paola Nazario

    Due to the success of our basketball team in Los Angeles, the New York Film Academy in New York City started a league of its own. The league was established to promote healthiness and well-being, as well as growing teamwork that is necessary in filmmaking, and socializing with students from other departments. We thought, why not network on the court as well!

    This past Friday night was the first intramural New York Film Academy NYC basketball game at Dwight School on Central Park West. We kicked off the season with three half-court games and one 15 minute 5-on-5 full court exhibition game.  Thus far, we have four teams from all different departments playing the league. The program is being run by NYFA faculty members, Sarah Choi and Jack Picone.

    The next game is at Dwight School this Friday at 8pm. If you’re late you won’t be guaranteed to play — so be on time!

    Any current students and faculty can sign up with their own team or request to be added to one. If we continue to have a positive response to our games, we will be setting up playoffs or a tournament after the first few weeks. Please email Sarah Choi if you’d like to join as a player or start your own team.

    The Teams and their Rosters:

    basketball game nyc

    photo by Paola Nazario

    Gucci: – Acting for Film
    Deshpyar Jasuja
    Steven Erazo
    Elijah Leighty

    October’s Very Own – Game Design & 3D Animation
    Carlos Lopez
    Tony Pommells
    Joshua Wong
    Matt Plotecher

    Cavs – Acting for Film
    Jay Cailos
    Avi Agarwal
    Marvin Scott III

    Legends – Acting for Film
    Brandon Williams
    Nate Steinburg
    Jonathan Tannehill

    November 19, 2014 • 3D Animation, Acting, Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Game Design, Sports • Views: 1460

  • NYFA Teams Up with R&B Star Banky W.



    The New York Film Academy has recently collaborated with R&B sensation, Banky W, on his latest music video for the upcoming single, “Unborn Child” featuring hip hop artist, Lynxxx.

    Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Banky enrolled in NYFA’s Union Square campus to study an 8-week Filmmaking course where he was able to develop his skills to co-produce and co-direct his largest music video to date alongside Jonathan Whittaker, Chair of Short-Term Filmmaking Program at The New York Film Academy. With a NYFA crew comprised of former students, assistants, and faculty, “Unborn Child” was shot on the stellar Red Epic at Gary’s Loft in Midtown and just off Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx in only 2 days. The video stars Banky, Lynxxx, and 8-week Acting for Film student Aminat Ayinde.

    Banky plays the role of an NYPD officer that finds out the unexpected news that his girlfriend, Ayinde, is now pregnant. As he departs for what he thinks will be just another day on the job, the mother of his unborn child will soon find out that Banky is injured in the line of duty and leaves Lynxxx, his fellow NYPD partner, to deliver an important letter of heartfelt words and lessons for his child to live by in this emotional song and video.

    The video is currently in post-production at the New York Film Academy and is pending information on the premiere. One thing we know for sure is that we are extremely proud to have had Banky join us as a student and collaborator on this project. Working with Banky firsthand, Jonathan Whittaker says, “For someone of Banky’s stature to trust me with their vision is a tremendous honor. There is no higher sense of accomplishment than collaborating with students who are putting into practice what they have learned in my classroom.”

    November 14, 2014 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1740

  • NYFA Veteran Students March in Veterans Day Parade

    veterans day parade
    Once again, the New York Film Academy and its veteran students marched in New York City’s Veterans Day Parade down 5th Avenue, which included over 600,000 spectators showing their full support. The annual event honored those who have fought for our freedom and included over 21,000 participants.

    NYFA Acting student Jessica Gordon with Actor, Ronald Ermey

    NYFA veteran students that participated in this year’s parade were:

    • Justin Ford: One Year Producing
    • Dean Torres: One Year Acting for Film
    • Tyric Jackson: Two Year Acting for Film
    • Maria Ortiz: One Year Screenwriting
    • Robert Johnson: One Year Filmmaking
    • Michael Thomas: One Year Filmmaking
    • Carlos Lobaina: One Year Filmmaking
    • Jessica Gordon: One Year Acting for Film
    • Shane Velez: Evening Acting for Film
    • Peter DeJesus: One Year Acting for Film
    • Alexis Maldonado: One Year Filmmaking
    • Justin Flemming: One Year Filmmaking
    • Brett Yuille: Two Year Acting for Film

    As film and acting connoisseurs, it was easy for our students to spot Ronald Lee Ermey, who brilliantly captured the character of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Ermey’s masterful improv was due in large part to the fact that he was actually a former Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps. A strength that Kubrick was able to take full advantage of.

    Aside from the celebrity sightings, the students had a wonderful time marching with their fellow students and military peers on one of Manhattan’s most famous avenues.

    “The parade was a great opportunity for our veteran students to honor those whom they served with and those who served generations before,” said NYFA NYC Director of Veterans Affairs, Joshua Birchfield. “It also gave them the opportunity to thank the community of New York City for their support. Our veteran students truly came out to show their appreciation and how NYFA is contributing to their life after military service in a positive and meaningful way.”

    The students finished the event feeling energized, supported and revitalized — which was the intent of the parade — mission accomplished.

    NYFA has been listed as a Top Military Friendly School by We work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and many of our programs are approved for post – 9/11 GI Bill benefits at both New York City and Los Angeles campuses. Our Los Angeles campus also participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. If you’re a veteran interested in studying one of our hands-on creative programs, please visit our Veterans Benefits page for more information.

    November 12, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 1642