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  • The Scapegoat Screens at Dubai International Film Festival & Young Saudi Film Festival

    With award season upon us, we’re always excited to hear from our alumni around the world as they find success screening their work. New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking graduates Talha (“B.”) Bin Abdulrahman and Maan Bin Abdulrahman have already seen their NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, celebrated at the Middle East’s leading film festival, the 14th Dubai International Film Festival. There, it was an official selection. 

    The short was an official selection at the following other festivals:

    • The Irvine International Film Festival
    • Orlando Film Festival
    • San Antonio Film Festival
    • Chandler Film Festival

    The Scapegoat continues its momentum as an official selection at the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, screening at NYFA Los Angeles Feb. 18.

    Talha B. was able to take some time during his busy festival schedule to tell the NYFA Blog a bit more about his experience directing The Scapegoat.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey in filmmaking and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    TBA: Let me just start this by saying that I feel incredibly fortunate to be a filmmaker. After graduating from high school almost nine years ago, I have gone through several academic paths before I found out that my real passion is filmmaking, which is how I ended up at NYFA — a decision that changed the course of my life, for the better.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most about the medium?

    TBA: Ever since I was a kid, I was a big fan of watching and talking about films. I believe filmmaking is a format that contains a beautiful package of many different art forms, to tell stories that provoke emotional responses from viewers from all over the world. I always found that inspiring and compelling.

    NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film The Scapegoat? What is the story, and what about the project grabbed you?  

    TBA: The Scapegoat is a 22-minute short I directed as my thesis project for the New York Film Academy’s BFA filmmaking program. The Scapegoat is about Paul Dugan, a former best-selling author who is in search of his next novel. Feeling the pressure to live up to his earlier success, he shelters himself in an isolated cabin in the woods to confront his internal demons.

    Every creative person goes through some [form of] writer’s block, so the story was appealing to me, to represent that visually by telling this story. A creative mind can be its own worst critic, because it is continuously working — especially when there is too much pressure and a lot at stake.

    To not do a project that deals with this topic would be madness.

    NYFA: Were there any surprises or challenges along the way during production, and how did you adapt?

    TBA: I’ve never directed a project that involved a single actor playing multiple roles all at once. In this case it was four distinct characters.

    It was quite the brain teaser to think of all the factors in each scene we shot, from camera blocking to hair and makeup. It required an extra level of planning and coordination between every single person working on set.

    I believe the biggest challenge I faced was when I learned that my actor’s body double refused to shave his facial hair to match the lead actor changing between character looks. Luckily enough, two talented performers stepped in to save the day.

    The critical lesson overall for me was to believe in your crew, because it takes a village to make a film — no matter how big, or small.

    NYFA: Congratulations on screening The Scapegoat at the Dubai International Film Festival! What was this experience like?

    TBA: Thank you, it was a pleasant experience. My producer Maan B. attended on behalf of myself and the team. The film was positively received by the audience, which is something I was delighted to hear.

    NYFA: What advice can you share with our students when it comes to applying to a major festival like the Dubai International Film Fest?  

    TBA: Just one piece of advice that one of my instructors had shared with me, which is to be one of the first people who apply to the festival. Sometimes it’s good to be early, for your film to be noticed.

    NYFA: What is next for The Scapegoat?

    TBA: More festivals will pick it up, hopefully.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

    TBA: Excited about directing a feature with a working title of The Alien.

    It is a stylized dramedy following the story of an unworldly immigrant who dares to go after his dream as an artist, despite the harsh reality he faces. It will be a collaboration with the same talented writers and producer behind The Scapegoat.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Talha, Maan and The Scapegoat team on their success! To see The Scapegoat (along with seven other excellent selections) at the Young Saudi Film Festival Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.

     

  • Pete Hammond is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Deadline film critic and reporter, Pete Hammond, joined New York Film Academy (NYFA) students for a Q & A at the Los Angeles campus. NYFA Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Hammond has worked as a contributor for Variety, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

    Laiter began the evening by asking Hammond how he got his start in the industry.

    It turns out Hammond didn’t set out to be a journalist. He just knew he wanted to be in the film industry. As an NBC Page, Hammond began working his way up the ladder. From page, he was promoted to a children’s television writer. Soon after, he became a researcher at Entertainment Tonight. From there he moved to the The Arsenio Hall Show, worked on Access Hollywood, and finally, Hammond created the entertainment news program Extra.

    With the Oscars just around the corner, students were curious to know more about the inside politics of the Academy.  One student wanted to know about the possibility of a shake-up at this year’s Oscars. “Looking at the statistics,” he began, “No film has won Best Film without first being nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay.” Three Billboards hasn’t been nominated for Best Director, but it has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. The student wanted to know if Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri could take home the grand prize.   

    Hammond was impressed and jokingly asked the student if he was looking for work. “Your predictions are spot on. This is what I’ve been writing about for the past couple of years.”

    Hammond said that only three times in Oscar’s history has a film won Best Picture that had not been nominated for Best Director. Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Argo, though he did win the Director’s Guild Award later that year. Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford and Grand Hotel director Edmund Goulding were not nominated, either. “The odds are statistically against Three Billboards but I think it has a shot because of the preferential ballot.”

    Hammond explained that when voting for the Oscars, Academy members number all of the nominees from their favorite to their least favorite. That numbering system can have a huge impact on the final turnout. If enough members place Three Billboards as a three or higher, it could mean a win.

    Hammond also noted a new trend over the past five years: Four out of the five Best Picture winners didn’t see their director rewarded, but all of their scripts did win Best Picture. In looking at the history of the Oscars, this trend is very rare.  

    Of course, students also wanted to pick Hammond’s brain about his personal opinion on the 2017 lineup of films. Hammond was particularly impressed with the stamina of Get Out. A film released in February usually isn’t in contention for the Oscars a year after it’s release. In fact, the last Best Picture nominee to have a February release was another thriller film, Silence of the Lambs, in 1991.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Pete Hammond for taking the time to speak with our students. The Oscars air on Sunday, March 4, 2018, on NBC.  You can read Hammond’s film reviews here.

  • Wonder Woman Writer Allan Heinberg Joins New York Film Academy Guest Speaker Series

    The New York Film Academy was proud to welcome Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg to its Los Angeles Campus.

    Heinberg has written for Party of Five, Sex in the City, The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, and Gilmore Girls. He is also the creator and showrunner of The Catch. Outside of television, Heinberg has worked for DC comics, writing The Young Avengers, Justice League, and the 2005 reboot of Wonder Woman.

    Heinberg regaled students with the tale of how he was hired to write the Wonder Woman film. He first saw the character of Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, on an episode of Super Friends. He was seven. A few years later, when Linda Carter burst on television screens in the 1970s, Heinberg was hooked. The very first play he wrote after graduating college featured Wonder Woman. After that, Heinberg moved to Los Angeles and immediately began working in television.

    After years of working on Grey’s Anatomy, Heinberg began looking for a new project. There was a Wonder Woman feature in development but Heinberg did not consider applying. He explained, “Usually, there’s a big wall between movie writers and television writers … It is a big risk for a television writer to be asked to work a large tent-pole film. They just don’t do that.”

    Heinberg was happy to cheer on his friend (and President of DC Comics) Geoff Johns as he worked to develop the Wonder Woman film for Warner Brothers. After about a year, Johns called Heinberg and told him that his team had hit a wall in the writing process. Producer Zack Snyder wanted to start over from the beginning.

    Snyder and Johns brought their teams together to explore the fundamentals of Wonder Woman. When it came time to decide who would have a seat at the table, Johns said he didn’t want anyone except Heinberg. Snyder agreed and the brain trust that created the final screenplay was formed.

    Heinberg listened as Synder explained the finer details of the project. Snyder broke down what the team had been preparing. Heinberg knew what story he wanted to tell. He said, “For me, there’s really only one essential Wonder Woman story and that’s her origin story.”

    One of the major problems most writers run into when writing Wonder Woman is that her origin story does not typically contain the deeply personal, emotional hook — like a terrible crisis or loss to overcome — typical in a hero’s origin. For example, in contrast, Batman’s parents are murdered and, as he grows up, he is driven to protect his entire city from feeling that same pain. Similarly, Superman was orphaned and his home planet was destroyed, so he spends the rest of his life protecting his new home and the people in it. In the case of Wonder Woman, Diana Prince was molded from clay by her mother, Hippolyta, and grew up in a women-only utopian paradise, where the powerful Amazons live independently from the world and evils of mankind.

    Using references like Splash and The Little Mermaid, Heinberg described Diana’s origin myth, where she leaves Themyscira to save mankind. Heinberg referred to it as a fish-out-of-water story. The comparison resonated with Snyder. By the end of the first meeting, everyone agreed that Heinberg’s version of Wonder Woman’s origin was the right direction to take the film.

    Over the next three days, they constructed a story and broke down a script so Snyder could pitch it to the studio. It was green-lit on the fourth day. The film already had a release date. Now, Snyder wanted Heinberg to write the script.

    The only problem was that Heiberg had a job. He was still a part of the Shondaland family after moving from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal, and it was the middle of the season. Heiberg wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to do both the show and the film. So, he had to speak with Shonda Rhymes. He was convinced she would say no. With two more years on his contract, Heinberg fully expected to have to walk away from his dream job.

    When he walked into her office, Rhymes thought he was going to quit. When he told her the news, she said simply, “It’s Wonder Woman. You have to do it.”

    Heinberg was adamant that no other showrunner would have afforded him this opportunity, and says the moral of this tale is that none of this could have happened if it wasn’t for the relationships he’d previously built with his colleagues. He described Snyder as his hero for championing his vision of the film. It’s not a typical superhero film: Wonder Woman focuses on the human relationships, as opposed to the hero and villain aspect of the genre.

    During the Q & A portion of the Guest Speaker event, one NYFA student asked, “How do you think the success of Wonder Woman has changed the way people will write women in the future?”

    Heinberg gave a cheeky response, stating, “Well, Wonder Woman has made a lot of money.”

    One obvious change is that more women-centered films in the superhero genre are being green-lit this year. Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Captain Marvel will all be getting feature films soon.

    “There’s an audience we can serve,” said Heinberg. “I don’t think the formula that made Wonder Woman can be replicated. You need to come up with a compelling and emotional story that can stand up on its own.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Allan Heinberg for taking the time to speak with our students. Wonder Woman is now available on DVD.

  • Tom Fontana Visits New York Film Academy as Special Guest Speaker

    This week, New York Film Academy welcomed producer Tom Fontana to its New York City campus as a part of the ongoing Producing Department Industry Speaker Series. As a part of the event, the full house of NYFA community attendees were treated to screenings of clips of Fontana’s work from police procedural Homicide: Life On the Street, HBO prison drama Oz, and BBC America drama Copper, a period piece set in the notorious 1860s New York City neighborhood of Five Points.

    During the talk, Fontana sat down with Producing Department instructor and Marcia Mule Productions founder Marcia Mule, each sharing their bond over the fact that they’re both from Buffalo, New York, with students. The producer went on to discuss his early career as a writer for theatre, which led to an opportunity to write for the influential medical drama St. Elsewhere. He wrote dozens of episodes between 1982-1988.

    Following St. Elsewhere, Fontana had a meandering path to his next job. Baltimore newspaper man David Simon (who would go on to create The Wire, The Corner, Treme, and The Deuce) sent his book Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets to fellow Baltimore-born director Barry Levinson, hoping it would become a film. Levinson suggested it was too dense with too many important characters, and instead pitched it as a TV show. This would ultimately become Homicide: Life on the Street, for which Fontana would go on to contribute to 67 episodes.

    While writing for Homicide, Fontana began to ponder what happened to the characters the writers would send off to prison. Fleshing out the stories for these forgotten offscreen characters became the inspiration for Oz, a master class in character building set in a fictional, experimental prison unit called Emerald City.

    HBO had never aired an original drama series and the timing for Oz — a gritty, realistic, brutal prison drama — was right.  Fontana told an interesting story about a discussion with Dick Wolf, who wanted to use the popular character John Munch (played by Richard Belzer) on his new show Law & Order. Fontana and the Homicide creators let Munch use the character for free and don’t get royalties for his presence in over 300 Law & Order episodes. He has also since appeared in The Wire and Arrested Development, among other shows.

    Oz premiered in 1997 and went on for six seasons, and ended up inspiring later-renowned HBO dramas such as The Wire, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire.

    Tom Fontana has written and produced many more groundbreaking television series, including The Philanthropist and Netflix’s Borgia. He has received, among other distinctions, three Emmy Awards, four Peabody Awards, three Writers’ Guild Awards, Four Television Critics Association Awards, the Cable Ace Award, the Humanitas Prize, a Special Edgar and the first prize at the Cinema Tout Ecran Festival in Geneva.

    Fontana co-founded the non-profit charity, Stockings with Care. He’s on the Boards of the WGAE Foundation, The NYPD Police Museum, The Creative Coalition, The Acting Company, The Williamstown Theatre Festival and The International Council of The Paley Media Center.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Tom Fontana for sharing his time and expertise with our student community.

  • WWF Features New York Film Academy Documentary Alum Valentine Rosado in Annual Report


    With 2017 the third hottest year on record, climate change and environmental conservation have become trending topics. Yet for conservationists like biologist and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking alum Valentine Rosado, the important work to protect the planet is an ongoing, lifelong commitment.

    After returning from his studies at NYFA New York City through a Professional Development Grant from World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program (EFN), Rosado recently launched environmental consulting firm Grassroots Belize with his wife Angie in his home country of Belize.

    Now, Rosado and his work are featured in WWF’s Russell E. Train Education for Nature Annual Report.

    “Guadalupe Valentine Rosado, a biologist from Belize, received a Professional Development Grant to attend a six-week documentary filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy,” the WWF Report states. “He is using the skills learned in the workshop to create impactful and educational films about environmental issues facing Belize, such as mangrove reforestation and restoration.”

    With the WWF’s annual membership reaching upwards of 5 million, it’s exciting to see that news of Rosado’s incredible conservation work for Belize has reached such a wide audience, and that what he’s learned at New York Film Academy’s Documentary School has contributed to his important work in Belize.

    “Conservation endures as a living discipline because it is inhabited by a magnificent collection of people,” WWF President & CEO Carter Roberts states on their website. “Only by working together can we create solutions to the most vexing problems we face.”

    We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations, Valentine! We look forward to seeing what’s next for Grassroots Belize. You can learn by connecting with Valentine and following Grassroots Belize on Facebook.

  • 2 New York Film Academy Grads Premier Films at 2018 Winter Film Awards

    New York City’s Winter Film Awards International Film Festival will feature the short films of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) grads in its seventh season, beginning Feb. 22. NYFA Los Angeles grad Tamara Ruppart screens Path of Dreams, a love story based on the life of Japanese poet Ono No Komachi, while NYFA New York grad Joseph Park premiers Inner Glow, a surreal journey of self-discovery and freedom following a troubled young woman in the clouds. More details from the Winter Film Awards, below:

    Path of Dreams

    Directed by NYFA Alum Tamara Ruppart

    Short, from Japan, in Japanese, 25 mins, 2017

    Screening Sunday Feb. 25, Block 10: 9:15 PM-11:45 PM     

    Path of Dreams TRAILER from Kotaro Mori on Vimeo.

     

    In poetic Japan, Komachi strikes a tantalizing bargain with suitor Shosho. If he agrees to write poetry with her for 99 nights, she promises they will create a love more beautiful than poetry. Every day he must ride to her home, and when the sun sets on the 99th night she will take him as her lover. For 98 nights, they journey through poetry, exploring their hearts and minds, as their love and desire grow in anticipation. On the 99th night, Komachi joyfully awaits her lover. But as she watches the sun set, Komachi moves from disappointment to anger, until a sense of mystery fills the stillness in the air, and heartbreak takes hold of her heart. In her grief, she will carry Shosho with her as she walks the path of dreams.

    Inner Glow

    Directed by NYFA Alum Joseph Park

    Short, from United States in English, 11 mins, 2017, World Premiere

    Screening Saturday Feb 24, Block 4: 3:45 PM-6:15 PM /Wednesday Feb 28, Matinee: 2:00 PM-5:00 PM    

    Skye, a troubled young woman trapped amidst the dark clouds with nothing but a window, struggles to access her power to illuminate light bulbs. After much despair and failure, Skye discovers a calling from outside, which turns out to be her clone. This encounter allows her to draw more power, and therefore, the bulbs begin to glow. However, she finds that her clone disappears, which causes the light bulbs to fade away. Skye’s only hope of freedom lies in seeking her true self and acceptance in order to bring in light again.

    The Winter Film Awards lineup will include a total of 93 films at Cinema Village in Greenwich Village, and this year the festival has reported their selected filmmakers come from 31 countries; 40% of the films were created by women, 43% were created by people of color. The New York Film Academy applauds the continued work to promote diversity in the entertainment industry, and congratulates Tamara Ruppart and Joseph Park. If you’re in the city, tickets are on sale now — check out our alumni films at the Winter Film Awards. 

  • New York Film Academy Co-Presents Stranger Than Fiction in its 14th Year at IFC Center

    The New York Film Academy returns to its partnership with IFC Center to present Stranger Than Fiction. For its 2018 winter season, Stranger Than Fiction is hosted by film producer and Toronto International Film Festival documentary programmer Thom Powers, and Oscar-nominated documentarian and New York Film Academy alum Raphaela Neihausen.

    “If you crave documentaries that generate passionate discussion, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from this lineup,” STF Artistic Director Thom Powers said in IFC’s press release.

    Now in its 14th year, Stranger Than Fiction is a weekly documentary film series that will now present nine seminal documentaries in keeping with its tradition of screening cutting-edge documentaries. After each screening, a Q&A will be held with each film’s director or another special guest, providing audiences with a truly exclusive and unforgettable experience. Stranger Than Fiction is sponsored by the New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking Department and presented by IFC Center.

    Stranger Than Fiction’s Opening Night festivities will commence with a screening of Sundance smash Seeing Allred, before exploring a lineup that will include serials and a Netflix original, and reflects the dynamically changing, cutting-edge documentary industry.

    Here is this year’s full Stranger Than Fiction lineup, co-presented by the New York Film Academy:

    Feb 6: Seeing Allred (2018, 96 min, dir Roberta Grossman & Sophie Sartain)

    + guest TBA

    Feb 13: Control Room (2004, 84 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Jehane Noujaim

    Feb 20: This is Congo (2017, 91 min)

    + Q&A w/  dir Daniel McCabe

    Feb 27: Flint Town (2018, two episodes totaling 90 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs. Zackary Canepari, Jessica Dimmock, Drea Cooper

    March 1: Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death (2017, 125 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Helen Whitney

    March 6: Oh, Rick! (2017, 78 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs Dustin Sussman, Aaron Rosenbloom & subject Rick Crom

    March 13: Wild, Wild Country (2018, two episodes totaling 120 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs Chapman Way, Maclain Way & exec prod Mark Duplass

    March 20: Occupation: Dreamland (2005, 78 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Ian Olds

    March 27: Closing Night: The China Hustle (2018, 84 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Jed Rothstein

    Screenings are held 7 p.m. Tuesdays (& one Thursday) at IFC Center, February 6 – March 27. The general public is welcome to attend Stranger Than Fiction screenings for $17, while IFC Center members enjoy a discounted ticket price of $14. Season Passes are available for $99 ($80 for IFC members), and cover admission to all 9 screenings. For more information, visit Stranger Than Fiction or IFC Center.

  • iTunes, Amazon & Sydney Screen Far From Here by New York Film Academy Grad James Pillion

    Making your first feature film is a challenge. Making your first feature film in a foreign country is an even bigger challenge. Yet rising Aussie director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking MFA graduate James Pillion did just that with his feature debut, Far From Here. Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, the film screens Feb. 5 in Sydney before a digital release later this month on iTunes and Amazon.

    Pillion’s successful debut is even more impressive when you hear the backstory. Overcoming many obstacles, including losing his visa and being refused entry to the U.S., Pillion and his writing partner/leading man Jonathan Ahmadi were able to convert a formidable crisis into a poignant work of art. The result is a lush coming-of-age story that follows a young couple navigating pressures that may sound familiar for many NYFA students — holding onto love, living in a foreign country, sacrifice, following a dream, and facing the tough decisions that define your life.

    “The more you surrender your ego and open your eyes and ears to everything around you, the stronger your chances are of ending up with a film greater than the sum of its parts,” the director wrote in Australia’s FilmLink.

    Now, Pillion takes some time during the busy week leading up to the film’s Sydney premier and digital distribution to share an exclusive peek into his process with the NYFA Blog.

    FAR FROM HERE TRAILER from Jim Pillion on Vimeo.

    NYFA: What program did you take at NYFA and when did you finish?

    JP: I graduated with honours from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus in 2013 after completing the two-year accelerated Masters in Filmmaking (MFA).

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Far From Here?

    JP: Far From Here follows a young couple, Grant and Sofia, struggling to keep their marriage afloat in a foreign country. When a family crisis pulls them apart, the physical and emotional distance forces the couple to take a hard honest look at their choices and to confront a decision that could alter their future forever.

    The script was conceived in the wake of a life-changing event. I’d lost my visa to the U.S. and had been forced apart from the love of my life in the process. The script was an attempt to examine my newfound circumstances and was written in a very fast four month window over Skype with my writing partner, Jonathan Ahmadi. Jonathan would also go on to play the lead role in the film.

    NYFA: What are your future plans for Far From Here and beyond?

    JP: Far From Here was shot on location in Bucharest and received a very generous distribution deal, with the film screening in 40 cinemas across Romania — an amazing feat for a $100,000 budget!

    To celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of the film on iTunes and Amazon this year, we’re holding the Australian premiere at the Ritz Cinema in Sydney this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Click here for more information — a few tickets are still available!

    I’m also in pre-production on my new feature Fire Island — a psychological drama — which is due to shoot in Australia towards the end of this year.

    NYFA: What if anything have you learned from your NYFA experience that has helped you with your professional career?

    JP: My time at NYFA was invaluable. It taught me the value of failure and gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment in a way that I’d never had the confidence to do. Embracing failure is such an important part of my creative mantra — it helps me to continually sharpen my voice as a storyteller.  

    Congratulations to James Pillion and the Far From Here team! Check out more of the behind-the-scenes story of Far From Here in Pillion’s four-part series on FilmLink. If you’re in Sydney, check out FanForce for screening information and tickets. If you can’t make it to the Sydney screening Feb. 5, watch Far From Here on iTunes and Amazon on Valentine’s Day.

  • Egyptian Star’s Music Video Directed by New York Film Academy Alum Moe Khalil

    Whether you’re a Spongebob Squarepants fan or your tastes run more towards the vein of A-list celebrities, fast cars, and epic pop music, chances are Egyptian superstar Hamada Helal has a hit for you. Right now the internet is buzzing for Helal’s newest music video Helm El Seneen, which dropped today on Youtube, a glamorous production directed by New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmaking alum Moe Khalil.

    Singer Hamada Helal is much loved in Egypt not only for his songs and performances in hit films like Hamati Bithibbeni and Mr and Mrs Oweis, but also for his reputation as a great guy: he’s rumored to be a good Samaritan who saved a girl from an assault in Cairo, and his hit “Spongebob” endeared him to a generation of children and Spongebob Squarepants of all ages.

    Helm El Seneen is no doubt his next great achievement in Egyptian popular culture. Fans can also see the full music video on Valentine’s Day, when it will be broadcast on TV in Egypt and the Middle East. In the meantime, check out these behind-the-scenes pics from the shoot.

    This is not the first music video venture for NYFA alum Moe Khalil, whose rise to prominence as a music video director began with Egyptian songstress Shahinaz’s music video for Asal Asal. The beautiful video was filmed in the historic and iconic King Mohamed Ali Palace along the banks of the Nile in Shubra, near Cairo.

    Congratulations, Khalil! Looking forward to our next behind-the-scenes sneak peek into movie video magic.

  • Art LaFleur is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was thrilled to have actor Art LaFleur at the Los Angeles campus on Jan. 18, 2018, as a part of the Guest Speaker Series. LaFleur took part in a Q & A following a screening of “The Sandlot.” Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond, who was the cinematographer on the movie, was also in attendance. NYFA Senior Instructor Eric Conner hosted the evening.

    LaFleur is known as a prolific character actor whose career has spanned over 40 years. He’s shared the screen with Hollywood heavyweights like Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Costner, and played American heroes like Babe Ruth as well less heroic characters like Chick Gandil (first baseman for the infamous 1919 Chicago Whitesox).

    When asked about his career and his first major role, LaFleur credited his face — literally — with helping him get a start in the industry. At the time of his first role as Ivan in the made for TV movie “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island,” LaFleur had been taking acting classes for a couple of years but says there was no trick or tip that helped him land the role. He simply had the right look: “There were people in my acting class who were really good. They were wonderful, but they wouldn’t get arrested, whereas I have this mug. I don’t know. I just have this face.”

    One of LaFleur’s most memorable roles is his portrayal of Babe Ruth in the modern classic, “The Sandlot.” To prepare for his audition he studied The Babe’s life and mannerisms by reading autobiographies and watching interviews. Most importantly, he studied old tapes of Babe Ruth playing baseball and practicing Ruth’s mannerisms. He took note of how the legend stood with a bat in his hands and how he would walk to first base. The research paid off when his portrayal won over the film’s casting director.

    It was during the filming of “The Sandlot” that LaFleur met NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond, who spoke fondly of their brief time on set together.

    “Occasionally, you get to meet incredible people like Art,” said Richmond. “Even though he was on set for only a brief time, his role gave the film credence.”

    LaFleur jumped in explaining, “I get recognized for this film more than any other. It’s the best one-day job I’ve ever had.”

    In speaking of “The Sandlot,” Richmond and LaFleur brought up an old film adage: “Never work with water, children, or animals.” Richmond explained that producers try to avoid these three elements because they can’t be controlled. “The Sandlot” featured all three. There were multiple children in the cast. Two large dogs were brought in to play the junkyard dog. There was the famous swimming pool scene, where Squints pretends to drown so he can get a kiss from Wendy Peppercorn.

    Richmond, a father himself, suggests filmmakers should simply talk to child actors as if they are adults. “Then,” says Richmond, “They’ll behave like adults.”

    One student asked, “What’s the most difficult part of working with children?” According to our guest, the most challenging aspect by far is the tighter shooting schedule. Due to child labor laws the children on “The Sandlot” could only work eight hours a day, and three of those hours had to be dedicated to their education. These regulations make scheduling challenging. It is particularly challenging when every scene has a child in it.

    Another student asked the veteran actor and cinematographer for any advice on how, as an international actor with an accent, he might be able to get ahead in the American film industry? Richmond and LaFleur agreed that success comes from collaboration and networking, which is why film schools like NYFA are the perfect place to meet future business partners and collaborators.

    Richmond said, “I love teaching at NYFA. When I was getting started, four cinematographers really helped me out. You can’t do it without help.”

    LaFleur ended the evening with some advice to the actors in the audience. “If you are lucky enough to be cast in a film or on a television series the most important thing is to be sharp. Be on your game with the dialogue and everything else. And if they don’t talk to you, you’re doing fine.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Tony Richmond and Art LaFleur for taking the time to speak with our students.

    January 30, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Guest Speakers • Views: 805