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  • Silicon Valley’s John Altschuler Speaks With New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On August 15, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of HBO’s Silicon Valley followed by a Q&A with creator and showrunner John Altschuler. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, moderated the event.

    As a student at University of North Carolina, Altschuler created the first comedy sketch show on the university student TV. He and his co-writer, looking to capitalize on their venture, sent written material in three boxes to three owners/editors of the National Lampoon magazine, adding a dollar to each to get their attention. It worked! He became a writer for the most iconic humor magazine of its time, until he moved to Hollywood.John Altschuler

    After moving to Los Angeles however, he realized that his previous work was not going to magically open doors in the industry, so he worked odd jobs until he started getting gigs as a production assistant. He was careful not to pitch himself, instead concentrating on the job at hand. He told students, “Whatever job you get, just do that well… make their lives easier and they will look out for you; they will want to help you because you made their day that much easier.”

    His first writing job, on HBO’s The High Life, led to his becoming an executive producer and showrunner on FOX’s King of the Hill for 12 years and the relaunch of Beavis and Butt-head for MTV. He then co-created Silicon Valley for HBO, and Lopez for TV Land, starring George Lopez. He’s also produced Mike Judge’s film, Extract (2009) starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis and Ben Affleck, and co-wrote Blades of Glory (2007) starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.

    A student asked Altschuler about his inspiration for Silicon Valley. He replied, “I was reading a biography of Steve Jobs and there was a quote in there where Bill Gates was ridiculing Steve Jobs: ‘The guy can’t even write code!’ Altschuler thought: “The guy created the biggest brand in the world and there’s somebody up in Silicon Valley sniping at him; I was like, “This is hilarious!'”

    To the question of whether the creators knew Silicon Valley culture or only did research when they wrote the pilot, the answer was, “Both.” Altschuler had family members who were engineers, but they also did further research:

    “We went up to Silicon Valley… and it was so funny, because… everybody kept talking about how they were making the world a better place… The sanctimony was so thick that I thought, ‘well this is something to make fun of.’ It’s… fun to take on the big guys and try to deflate them.”

    John AltschulerLaiter noted that sometimes it’s easier to make fun of something when you’re outside of it, and Altschuler concurred.

    One student asked about Altschuler’s tips for pitching a show or movie to a producer. Altschuler advised, “[When] you go in, have your story and try to start off with a topic sentence or a personal story… try to make it a conversation, not a laundry list of ‘first this happened and then that happened.'”

    Altschuler imparted to the students that no matter what, they have to like what they’re making or no one will want to consume it. And when they write, and a scene doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to let it go. “If it’s really great, it will get its way in back later.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank John Altschuler for sharing his industry expertise and advice for our film school students!

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    August 17, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 153

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Student Pablo C. Vergara Works on Feature Film “Adverse”

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) student Pablo C. Vergara recently worked on the independent feature film Adverse, a drama/thriller written and directed by Brian A. Metcalf. The film is being produced by the actor and musician Thomas Ian Nicholas, who previously starred in Rookie of the Year and the American Pie films, and who stars in Adverse as well.

    Vergara hails from Mexico City and works as a cinematographer, actor, and filmmaker, among other roles. He enrolled at the New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking program in New York in Fall 2016, before moving to Hollywood to work on completing his MFA at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus.

    Lou Diamond Phillips, Brian A. Metcalf, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Pablo C. Vergara

    Lou Diamond Phillips, Brian A. Metcalf, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Pablo C. Vergara

    In July, Vergara had the opportunity to work as a production assistant on the set of Adverse, a role into which the always hard-working and committed filmmaker threw himself with gusto. While on set, he got to work closely with Nicholas and Metcalf, as well as stars Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Stand and Deliver) and Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito’s Way, Kindergarten Cop). 

    Describing his experience, Vergara said, “I had the chance to watch Thomas and Lou work together on a scene and that was truly inspiring. We exchanged knowledge between takes about their craft and life in Los Angeles in general — Lou was a really cool guy and with an amazing personality, cracking jokes and talking to the rest of the crew regularly.” He continued, “The shoot went well and after wrap up, everyone’s spirits were high.”

    Pablo C. Vergara

    Pablo C. Vergara

    A friendly, energetic personality, Vergara also spoke with Nicholas about a possible on-camera role. He got to spend a lot of time with the producer and actor, driving alongside him to and from locations in a U-Haul full of film equipment for the independent shoot. They discussed film and music and their own careers, as well as Nicholas’s previous Q&A with the New York Film Academy. In 2017, Nicholas and Metcalf screened their previous film The Lost Treestarring Michael Madsen, Lacey Chabert, and Scott Grimes — for NYFA students, which preceded their guest panel.

    Adverse’s locations included 4 Hearts Studios in Sylmar, CA, and a private home used for an entire day’s worth of shooting. Vergara got to see the newest RED 8K camera in action up close and personal. “Being a cinematographer myself, I was excited to see this fine piece of equipment operate, and the visuals it captured were fantastic!” he exclaimed. 

    Vergara added, “No doubt this film is going to turn out to be incredible and I was very fortunate to be able to be part of it for a few days. The entire team was very embracing and cordial, and it forged great friendships.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Pablo C. Vergara on his exciting experience, and looks forward to seeing him return to NYFA next Spring to complete his MFA thesis! 

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    August 14, 2018 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 245

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students Win At Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival

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    The theater lights dimmed, the first frames of film flickered across the screen, and the orchestra played their opening bars. Orchestra? Yes, orchestra, for this wasn’t just any film screening. This was the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival, a celebration of the relationship between film and music, and that was the Helix Collective playing live as the films screened. 

    Held on July 21, 2018 at the Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theatre, the festival featured the works of Los Angeles area film students, including five New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmakers. Festival director Sarah May Robinson paired each of them with a composer from the Academy of Scoring Arts who scored the shorts. 

    On the night of the event, host Brian Ralston of the SCOREcast interviewed each director/composer team, asking them to discuss the experience of being matched with a total stranger and what it was like to work together. Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival 2018

    Next, conductor Phil Popham picked up his baton and led the orchestra in a thrilling accompaniment for the films. Audiences were entertained by the films of NYFA directors Victoria Gagieva (Niara), Vicken Joulfayan (Liminal), Oliver Weinmann (The Pill), Nicolas Varela (Aphrodite), and Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou (Arrow and Oil). 

    But the excitement didn’t stop at the last “The End” because the audience was asked to vote for the Best Film and the Best Score. The tension was palpable as audience members texted in their choices. The winners for Best Film were Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou with Arrow and Oil, and their composer George Oldziey took Best Score. After their win, Zhang exclaimed, “I’m thrilled and excited! Now I have great expectations about launching into more film festivals!” 

    Zhou was also full of thanks, remarking, “I want to thank my parents. They supported me to come to the USA to study Filmmaking! Secondly, I want to thank my school. NYFA taught me so much knowledge about filmmaking and gave us this chance to represent the school in this festival. Especially, I want to thank my teachers Nick Sivakumaran, the Kohnen brothers — Matt Kohnen and Sean Kohnen — Carl Bartels, Sanora Bartels, Steve Morris. They are the best teachers, ever, ever!”

    Their prize was a free studio recording of the orchestra playing their composed score.

    All the filmmakers were winners, though, as each received a studio recording of their score for a nominal fee plus a free sound mix from Greenhouse Post.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates all the filmmakers and wishes them continued success in their film festival runs!

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    August 8, 2018 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 326

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Movie Magic Award Recipients Announced

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    New York Film Academy’s Katherin Hussein and Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez are the most recent recipients of Entertainment Partners’ Movie Magic Scholarship Producer Award. The scholarship is sponsored by Movie Magic, a software program for production professionals. Both students come from the Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking Feature Track.

    Katherin Hussein is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. Originally hailing from Venezuela, Katherin is currently in development on her first feature film, The Unfinished. The film is about a recently orphaned twelve-year-old who girl who must stop a monster before it destroys her mother’s legacy. The monster is from an unfinished painting.

    With this award, Katherin is recognized for her outstanding development effort on The Unfinished, including the creation of a beautifully crafted and visually powerful proof of concept to support her fundraising efforts.

    Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. A native of Wyoming, Bobby has an extensive background as both an actor and director on stage and in films. He is in development on his film directorial debut, Safe, about a death row inmate who relives his time spent with a wild young couple on a deadly crime spree across the badlands of Montana.

    Bobby is recognized for his outstanding development of the film’s script, adapted from a play by Ron Fitzgerald.  A consistently excellent and ambitious student, he is a very worthy recipient of this recognition.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Katherin and Bobby on their well-deserved awards and looks forward to the completion of their feature films and to all their future successes! 

    Interested in studying filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here.

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    August 3, 2018 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 907

  • Five New York Film Academy Los Angeles Students Selected as Finalists in LA Live Score Film Festival

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    Whether a director is choosing a song to play in an onscreen location or adding a composed score to the soundtrack to punctuate an emotion, music is a key element for a successful film.

    This May, the Film Festival Department of the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles selected five student and alumni filmmakers to participate in the 2018 Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival. For this unique event, each filmmaker was matched with a professional composer from The Academy of Scoring Arts who then wrote their score. Several filmmakers also worked with post-production sound professor Huch Platt to enhance their sound design. This Saturday, July 21, 2018, the films will be screened for the first time before a live audience while the orchestra Helix Collective plays the new music.

    We caught up with the filmmakers as they looked forward to the event and asked them about their experiences.

    Nicolas Varela

    Film: Aphrodite

    Composer: Drum & Lace

    Logline: A frustrated career in singing drives Aphrodite to pay with her own flesh and identity for an uncertain opportunity in the industry.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Working with Sofia has been such an amazing experience. I think the directors of the festival made a really good match by putting us together. She really understands my visuals and knows how to translate that in music. We are really communicative with each other, and we are always working for feedback. Beyond the festival, Sofia and I are creating an artistic relationship of mutual support and networking. 

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I learned how important music is. Film is born when music and motion picture meet each other. My film is more powerful than before just because the music is able to highlight emotions and thoughts in an underneath level. Music is not explicit, music works through sensations. 

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    I hope the orchestra can make justice of Sofia’s work and that the people in the audience can just enjoy this very unique experience of watching a movie with an orchestra playing live. 

    What was it like working on your sound design?

    Huch is such an amazing professional and teacher. I never had classes with him, but when we worked together he was teaching me a lot in the process. Sound design is really underrated among amateur filmmakers. After working with Huch, I realized the big difference a good sound design makes to your film. Sound design is atmosphere, it’s mood, it’s subtle but very important. 

     

    Lanyue Zhang

    Film: Arrow and Oil

    Composer: George Oldziey

    Logline: Around 1010 A.D. during the Northern Song Dynasty, Chen YaoZi, a civil officer from the imperial court with superb archery skills starts questioning the relationship between his archery and his work after he meets an old oil seller.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    We did a spotting session at our first meeting, and I gave George some references. He did two versions of music, then my co-director (Majik Jingwei Zhou) and I gave him some notes. He changed some parts, and although we had some different ideas, we accepted each other idea in the end.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    We learned how to communicate with our composer. To make sure our composer can get our story, we let him watch our film and talk about his first idea, then we explained our story and the metaphor in our film. I learned communication is very important in this process. On the other hand, because this is a festival event, we didn’t hire him as our composer. Our collaboration is not like the normal process between director and composer, so we gave George more freedom to do the music.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    We are looking forward to bringing our crew to the festival, and also we are looking forward to the live performances.

     

    Vicken Joulfayan

    Film: Liminal

    Composer: Shaun Chasin

    Logline: Nadim tries to escape his own reality but soon realizes that he is being forced to confront it more than ever.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    I was not sure in the beginning how the composer would approach my movie after explaining the mood and what genre of music is needed. Then he sent me a first rough and it was way too different from what I wanted. We spoke about it in more detail, and I gave him a deeper explanation of each part. He blew my mind with the updated version.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I learned to wait and let the composer do his thing, and start tweaking from there, because I did not expect the music to be what it is now, and I love it. That was mainly the composer’s personal touch on the film after understanding the beats of the story.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    Actually watching the movie and seeing the live orchestra play the music in front of us is the most exciting part for me!

    Victoria Gagieva

    Film: Niara

    Composer: Steph Kowal

    Logline: A lonely child soldier trapped in the horror of an African militant group experiences a simple act of humanity from a person she is about to condemn to death.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Working with Steph has been great! We met once in person to watch the film together and discuss/dissect it to find a strategy and approach for the music. We were talking about characters, their situations and intentions and also discussing examples of best practices from different films. It was so productive that the first try was exactly what “Niara” needed music-wise.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    The whole experience taught me to be prepared thoroughly for such conversations. I had characters’ back stories ready for Steph, I could explain and reason about the story, ideas and intentions. I was also very open to what she as a professional was bringing to the table, and overall, our collaboration turned out to be perfect.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    This will be my first festival experience, so I’m excited about it and open to it. 

    What was it like working on your sound design?

    This was my first time working with a professional sound mixer, and that was extremely interesting and useful. Besides working on the film, Huch explained lots of nuances and practices for future projects. How you organize the tracks for the sound mixer, deliver elements. He was very impressed with my work on the sound design and basically he went off of it. He didn’t have to do any sound design. He just had to mix it and level everything up, distinguish dialogue from the background, things like that. We did two sessions of a couple of hours each.

    Oliver Weinmann

    Film: The Pill

    Composer: Jonathan Keith

    Logline: A dark comedy about a woman who is trapped in a relationship, and the only way she is able to go on is by taking a pill.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Being able to work with Jonathan has been an incredible experience. We are both so passionate about the craft of filmmaking. Yet we view films so differently. I focus on the picture whereas Jonathan follows the film by the music and sounds. When I was able to rewatch the film I made with the soundtrack Jonathan created, it evoked emotions that I could not have created with imagery. 

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I have learned to take more of a backseat. As a director, it is easy to over-direct. After meeting Jonathan and talking to him about the vision of my film, I knew that I had to let go of the reigns and let him do what he is best at doing. 

    What are you looking forward to in the live screening?  

    I look forward to an evening filled with music, storytelling, and the people who put it all together. 

     

    We could not have put it better ourselves, and we wish the best of luck to all the filmmakers!

     

    The New York Film Academy community is invited to attend the LA Live Score Film Festival this Saturday, July 21, 2018, from 6-10 pm at Barnsdall Art Park. To purchase tickets, please follow this link and use promo code FilmScoresRock to receive a discount.

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  • NYFA Alumni (& Brothers) Maan & Talha Bin Abdulrahman Are Saudi Film Trailblazers

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    Five of the nine films premiered by Saudi Arabia at Cannes this year featured the work of NYFA students and alumni, including brothers and fellow BFA Filmmaking graduates Maan Bin Abdulrahman, producer, and Talha Bin Abdulrahman, director. Together, the brothers founded Prince of Arabia Entertainment, and have helmed an impressive series of award-winning projects.


    Talha’s NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, screened at the 14th Dubai International Film Festival as well as the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, Irvine International Film Festival, Orlando Film Festival, San Antonio Film Festival, and Chandler Film Festival.

    At Cannes, the brothers presented Film School Musical, which they co-directed. Winning over critics and audiences alike, the musical short won the Best Shorts Competition at the Hollywood Comedy Shorts Film Festival as well as the Jury Prize for Best Musical and Best Cinematography, garnering numerous festival award nominations along the way.

    Additional film credits include Under the Concrete (Winner: Qomrah 2), Served Cold (ShortsTV, Winner: 2014 Student Filmmaker Awards Film Festival), and Not This Way (Winner – Golden palm in Dammam Film festival).

    We’re exciting to see the next steps these brothers take in both the Saudi and international film industry.

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  • Eurasia International Film Festival (EIFF) Welcomes the New York Film Academy

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to participate in the Eurasia International Film Festival this July in Astana, Kazakhstan, as a VIP guest on the red carpet and beyond.

    Established in 1998 and accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers (FIAPF), the Eurasia International Film Festival is Central Asia’s most prestigious film forum. The event focuses on fostering and celebrating collaborations between European and Asian film industries, all while supporting Kazakhstan’s current and future filmmakers.

    As a distinguished guest, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Jim Miller represented NYFA in the prestigious event’s competitive Project Market program, as well as heading the PitchFest jury.

    To support the development of new works, Eurasia International Film Festival’s Project Market offers filmmakers, producers, distributors, and production companies an opportunity to form partnerships, shop films, and do business. This year’s Project Market was a smashing success, connecting filmmakers with diverse international institutions including Syndicado (Canada), Film Republic (Great Britain), Alpha Violet (France), Filmotor (Czech Republic), Juben Pictures (China), IRIB MEDIA TRADE (Iran), Festagent (Russia); and Kazakh film companies Kazakhfilm, Sataifilm, Nurtas Production, Bissembin Film and MG Production, for presentations, panels, master classes, and more,

    A crowning jewel of 2018’s Project Market was the PitchFest competition. Out of 31 project submissions, 10 films from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan were selected to compete for four top prizes. The most sought-after prize? Two full tuition scholarships to the New York Film Academy.

    NYFA Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Jim Miller spearheaded the PitchFest jury, working alongside premiere filmmakers, writers, directors, film critics, editors, journalists, documentarians, distribution executives, and producers. These industry experts hailed from the film industries of Kazakhstan, Russia, Singapore, Israel, and the U.S. Together, they selected four winners, with the two grand prize winners receiving scholarships to the New York Film Academy’s New York and Los Angeles campuses.

    The NYFA scholarships were awarded to Kazakh filmmaker Amir Amenov (Ystyk kun, salkyn sira/Hot Nights, Cold Beer), and Kyrgyz filmmaker Dalmira Tilepbergen (Lonely Pine).

    Celebrities from around the world, including César Award-winning actor Vincent Cassel (France) and two-time Palme d’Or-winning director Emir Kusturica (Serbia), attended the Eurasia International Film Festival’s climactic red carpet event and award ceremony, along with many special VIP guests. The award ceremony featured world-class performances for an enthusiastic audience of over 5,000.

    The New York Film Academy thanks the Eurasia International Film Festival, and its President Aiman Massakhajayeva, for the honor of participating.

    Massakhajayeva is the National Artist of the Republic of Kazakhstan, an honorary UNESCO Artist of Peace, and the Rector of Kazakh National University of Arts (KazNUA) — with whom NYFA recently established a partnership. This fall, the NYFA Los Angeles campus will welcome six KazNUA students through this cooperative agreement.

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  • Q&A with Filmmaker Ned Dougherty

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    It’s often said that family members should never work together. This certainly is not the case for Ned and Michael Dougherty, a father and son filmmaking duo who’ve been successfully working on films together for the past few years. They have just recently finished a feature film titled Love & Everything in Between. “I can’t stress this enough,” Michael shared, “it’s all because of my parents that this is even on screen. That’s the truth.”

    The New York Film Academy invited Ned and Michael Dougherty to do a special Q&A with students following a screening of their film, where they shared with the audience how the movie came to be, from the writing process to the marketing of the film. The film has already earned several awards and nominations from the festival circuit, including wins for Dramatic Original Feature and Best Feature Film – Romance from WorldFest Houston.

    One student asked what it was like to screen the movie in the Hamptons, where the movie is set. “It was a great turn out,” Michael answered.

    His father Ned added, “That was our quiet, low-key premiere at the Southampton United Artists Theatre last July, to a standing room of more than 300 friends.” Another student, Roberto, approached the microphone, and Ned immediately recognized him — they both attended a producing workshop together a couple years back, and Roberto had helped to create the thesis for Love And Everything in Between.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Robert shared, “We were classmates… as a matter of fact, we actually shot a short film, a thesis for this movie… it was actually the dinner scene…. it was so fun.” Roberto continued, “I don’t really have a question, I just want to say congratulations because I know… I was kind of a witness to how much work you put into this project. And I think that it’s a big motivation for me, because I can see closely how dreams actually become true.” According to Ned,  that statement made his night.

    Prior to the screening, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had an opportunity to ask Ned Dougherty a number of questions pertaining to Love and Everything in Between (LEIB), concerning the struggles he and his son faced, his experience as a producer, and any insight he could give to aspiring filmmakers:

     

    NYFA: How did you get involved with this film?

    Ned Dougherty: Following [his] high school graduation, my son Michael Dougherty studied acting for two years at Stella Adler in New York City and then came to Los Angeles in late 2012 to pursue an acting career. After several years of “pounding the pavements” in L.A., Michael decided to promote his career by creating his own projects through his own production company, Hampton Filmworks.” Michael’s first project is Love & Everything in Between, written primarily in 2015.

    Here is the key: Michael’s mother Ginnie and I both fully supported Michael’s decision to pursue his dream, including our financial support. We are both co-producers with Michael and I have been actively involved as a full-time creative filmmaker and business-end producer. Initially, we hired a line producer in January 2016 who prepared a $250k budget. In February 2016, I completed the NYFA Los Angeles Producing Program. The principal cinematography was completed over six weeks in Fall 2016 with pick-up scenes filmed in May 2017.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about this film’s success?

    ND: When Michael initially wrote the screenplay in 2015 without ever attending a screenwriting course, I read it and said: “Son, you have written The Graduate for the Millennial Generation.” Michael had never heard of or seen The Graduate (1967) at that time. Both films feature a recent college graduate trying to find himself, complimented by a beautiful music score, but the similarities end there. Michael was passionate about writing Love & Everything in Between and his passion for the story, as well as the location settings, is evident in his storytelling.

    Michael grew up in the Hamptons and I taught him to swim and surf at the same beach which is the opening scene location. Michael created a “Romeo & Juliet” in the Hamptons story and his knowledge of the Hamptons provided him with the beautiful Hampton scenery as well as the inspiration for a compelling Romance/Drama which morphs into a Romance/Thriller.

    NYFA: What has been the hardest part of completing this film?

    ND: We are currently marketing the film, attending film festivals, seeking distribution opportunities, etc., to successfully monetize the project. Finding a successful route to making the film financially viable seems to be the greatest hurdle for first-time filmmakers.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty


    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with cinema?

    ND: In my youth, I read classic American novels (by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, and James Michener) and developed an appreciation for great storytelling that morphed into my interest in great films. Among my favorites: Casablanca, It’s A Wonderful Life, To Kill A Mockingbird, Dr. Strangelove, Rocky, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Forrest Gump, and ironically The Graduate.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about producing?

    ND: I prefer to introduce myself these days as a “filmmaker,” rather than as a “producer.” I am more passionate about the creative side (filmmaking) as opposed to the business side (producing). Michael has allowed me to creatively participate in his project, and I have really cherished that opportunity to work alongside my son from creation to distribution. I have been primarily a businessman for most of my life, so I had that experience to offer Michael, but both Michael and I have had to learn the business by trial and error.

    NYFA: What advice do you have for young producers?

    ND: As trite as it sounds, follow your dream! If you are not “passionate” about your project, take a pass! Optimally, strive to balance your energies between your dual responsibilities as a creative filmmaker and as a business-oriented producer. While Michael was pursuing his acting career, I encouraged him to take college business courses to develop a business sense and an understanding of basic business principles.

    NYFA: Why should people see Love & Everything in Between?

    First of all: Location! Location! Location! The Hamptons has a global appeal to moviegoers and LEIB is a cinematic treat for the eyes with spectacular drone shots and scenery of the Hamptons and Montauk that — and I say this with all humility — has never been achieved before in previous Hamptons’ films. At our World Premiere, the Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, the judges agreed; we garnered the “Best Cinematography” award (Thank you Red Dragon!)

    While your eyes are being dazzled by the scenery, story, and character development, the romance/drama unfolds unexpectedly into a romance/thriller that never stops moving while accompanied by an outstanding musical score that appeals to all generations.

    Secondly, LEIB is a socially relevant story. In writing LEIB, Michael never intended to create a controversial film, but so it is — much to our surprise. The controversial aspect of the film, which deals with sexual assault, became obvious in test screenings that we held at several Hampton libraries. At these events, college students wanted to know if they could bring LEIB to their campuses as a teaching or learning tool for students. As a result, we have developed a program to provide public service screenings for colleges and universities, particularly during “April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” utilizing TUGG.com and TUGG.edu.

    There is one word that continuously surfaces from viewers: “Amazing!” A sure sign that LEIB made a significant effect on viewers was the consistent feedback from many viewers that the story and the music stayed with them days later. I often heard “I can’t get the music (or the story) out of my head!”

    As a matter of fact, LEIB was selected and screened at the Socially Relevant Film Festival NYC in March 2018. In February 2018, LEIB received The Grand Prize – Best Feature Film at the Silicon Beach Miami Film Festival and has already been nominated as a finalist for a REMI Award as Best Feature Film at Houston Worldfest in April 2018.

    NYFA: What projects are you working on next?

    ND: We have a number of projects and several episodic series in various stages of development to be filmed primarily in the Hamptons and Los Angeles. Michael’s personal next feature film preference is The Butterfly & the Butcher, a colorful character crime drama to be filmed primarily in the Los Angeles Artist and Warehouse Districts. Followed by a paranormal love story to be shot on location on Shelter Island, New York. The Marakesh Story is my personal true story of my experiences as a nightclub owner (played by Michael) in the Hamptons and Palm Beach during the champagne/cocaine-fueled disco era of the 1970s-80s,  with additional shooting locations in New York City, Washington D.C., the Cayman Islands, Central America, and other locations.  TV episodic series include South Beach Spirit and an untitled Hamptons project Michael is developing. However, film financing and future producer/partner relationships may determine the scheduling of our next projects.

    NYFA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I could not have effectively assisted my son as a producer without the NYFA Producing Program and have great respect for the professionalism of the administration, staff, and faculty at NYFA L.A. I view this opportunity to screen LEIB at NYFA as a way of “giving back” by sharing more details of what it is like to be a first-time filmmaker. I am developing a “Dos & Dont’s” list for the Q&A Session on June 7, 2018, following the NYFA L.A. screening of LEIB.

     

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ned and Michael Dougherty for graciously attending this Q&A and sharing their story with our students. They are a true example of teamwork and great minds coming together to collaborate on a project for which they hold a great deal of passion. We look forward to continuing to follow their journey and watching the rise of their success that undoubtedly awaits them in the future! 

    If you are interested in attending a NYFA program, you can find more information here

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

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    July 11, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 499

  • Insomnia on STARZ Executive Produced by New York Film Academy Alum Slava N. Jakovleff

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    Many artists dream of creating something entirely original, but to realize that dream on prime-time television is extra special. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Filmmaking grad Slava N. Jakovleff has done just that, distributing not one but two of his original series to major networks; Siberia, to NBC, and Insomnia, now seen worldwide on STARZ.

    Here, Slava shares some of the amazing story behind producing his hit series with the NYFA Blog.

    *Please note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    INSOMNIA | TV SERIES | TRAILER 1 [HD] | STARZ from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit your journey, and what brought you to NYFA?

    Slava: I wanted to be an actor — this is my passion. I graduated as an actor after four years at one of the best and most famous Russian acting schools in Saint Petersburg, and then got a PhD as an acting and voice teacher. I always thought about directing and producing. I figured out that the knowledge of acting and directing was not enough to make my dream happen. I needed to study filmmaking. And where is the best place to do it? Of course in Los Angeles, the global center of the film industry.

    I checked online resources and found that New York Film Academy had Filmmaking courses at Universal Studios. So, I joined the school at 36. Yes! At 36. It’s never too late to learn.

    NYFA: You wear many hats, as an actor, director, and producer. What inspires you about these various roles, and how does changing between them inform your work?

    Slava: It’s great that now I know something more about acting, directing, and producing. I know how to play, how to be an actor on the set or on the stage. For me, acting is an absolutely phenomenal state of mind. To me, it’s not a job! It’s a state of mind, of soul. Acting is a study of the human soul. This is the first and inner circle.

    Acting really helps me to direct. I’m more an actor’s director than just a director; I love actors and love to work with them. Directing makes it possible to not only deliver the story and actors’ emotions to the audience, but also to make the audience think, laugh, or cry — in short, feel something — while watching a screen or a stage. This is the second circle, a bit wider.

    Producing is the third, wide circle, and gives me the opportunity to care for the first two circles and bring all of these three circles to the audience.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    Slava: I loved how the learning process was organized at the Academy. I got so much professional information in such a short time.

    NYFA: Before establishing yourself in Hollywood, you worked as an actor in Russia. How did you navigate that transition from one industry to another, including acting in another language?

    Slava: Yes, I was a pretty established actor at that time in Russia. When I moved to LA for business reasons, only one thing was important to me: I wanted to establish myself in Hollywood as a producer and director. … But regarding acting as a whole, if you are a professional, educated actor, it doesn’t matter in which language you act. It’s only about the professionalism.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your company, Welldone Production?

    Slava: I founded Welldone Production as my own company in 2004, during my time at NYFA, as a filmmaking company.

    The first project I did in LA was a stage play called The Last Night of The Last Tsar, a mysterious story about the last night of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II Romanov and his family — and what happened with the lead executioner, Yurovsky, exactly 20 years after the execution. We played 6 weeks at the Stella Adler Theater in 2005. It was a successful run, and I told myself, “Let’s start to write the script for my own feature film.” We are now in pre-production. I rewrote the script many times since the start, researching historical information and studying archives. And now I am completely happy with the script I have, titled Swampy Roads. It seems like a very long journey just for one project, but I am completely satisfied and proud of that.

    At the same time, my company and I did many projects in Russia and the U.S. One of them was my first TV project here in Hollywood, Siberia (2013), where I was an executive producer and director of some episodes. Siberia was completely independently financed, and afterward the show was bought by NBC for prime-time airing. It was the first time that a Russian producer sold his own independent TV show to NBC. I am very proud of that.

    Siberia TV Series_NBC_ Official Trailer from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

    NYFA: As executive producer and director for STARZ series Insomnia, what inspired you to take on this project? 

    Slava: Insomnia was also a completely independently financed TV series, and when the show was completely ready it was picked up by STARZ.

    My Russian friend, a producer, showed me a story on which he was working at that time. I loved the concept, because I thought this could work for any audience around the globe. I bought the license from him to make an English version, and invited an American-Canadian writing team to rework the story. At the end we got a deep, very edgy psychological thriller, an action story with sci-fi elements.

    I knew that not everyone would like this story, and some networks and streaming platforms would be afraid to put it on the air, saying that the story is too extreme for them. My team and I tried to show the truth that human life costs nothing in modern life. My entire team, cast, and crew members — including one of the best directors of cinematography, Primetime Emmy winner John S. Bartley (LOST, X-Files, Bites Motel), and one of the best casting directors, Primetime Emmy winner Stephanie Gorin (Fargo) — tried to make it happen. I understood that many of us would not like to hear the truth. I really do not like it either, but I needed to say this about it to sort it out myself. I needed to say it without any “politeness” and “polishing.” I wanted to make the viewer think and draw conclusions.

    After the show was done, STARZ picked up the series for worldwide distribution. I am very proud of that.

    NYFA: Were there any challenges along the way in bringing Insomnia to Starz?

    Slava: Bringing any projects to any network or distributor is a big challenge for every team, and this project was no exception.

    The story of Insomnia was set for filming in Washington D.C., but when I was scouting locations there I realized it was impossible. I took a week-long break and announced to my team that the show would be filmed in Moscow, Russia, and the first day of filming should be June 1. This was a real challenge: the team was booked for principal filming starting on April 15 in D.C.

    We had only six weeks for making changes in the script, finding a local Russian production company, organizing to bring the entire American-Canadian team to Moscow, rescheduling the production, new location scouting, language problems (as we had two teams), etc. But we went through all these incredible difficulties (just imagine the problem with visas or understanding between two different languages and mentalities on set) and began to shoot exactly as planned, on June 1.

    Then we figured out that Insomnia is not just the title of this series, but actually what became a way of life for the cast and crew! Filming for all eight episodes took place over 68 working days, 2/3 of which were night shoots. We needed to shoot everything by the end of August, as the story takes place during four consecutive summer days. Management of the production was critical, as filming night scenes during the summer in Moscow was challenging — some nights only had around 2-3 hours of darkness, and the weather is unstable: the sun, clouds, and storms.

    The entire show was filmed in Moscow, with scenes set in New York and Cambodia being filmed on sets. We were able to film in unique locations, such as Red Square and near the Kremlin, Bolshoi Theatre, the Federal Assembly of Russian Federation, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the Four Seasons, and the Ritz Carlton Presidential Suite with its authentic view of the Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre — no other foreign production companies have been allowed to film in this location before. By the way, Insomnia’s production company, Welldone Production, is the only foreign production company in the last 20 years to be able to film in the highly secure Red Square.

    All explosions, car crashes, gunshots, and underwater scenes were filmed without CGI, and all action scenes were filmed by the main unit team (we didn’t have second unit).

    Then, we spent months editing the series here in Los Angeles in one of the best post-production facilities in town: Burnish Creative. They’re such a talented, professional, and passionate young team. When the show was picked by STARZ, we entered the delivery process and had to go through quality control. It was such a great challenge and big experience.

    The series employed 720 people from nine countries and filmed around 750 total scenes. And I want to again say thank you to my entire team and the people who worked for Insomnia.

    NYFA: What is your best advice for NYFA students who are interested in following your footsteps and founding their own production companies, in Hollywood or elsewhere?

    Slava: In short I can say: break the rules (which is very tough sometimes), and never give up.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing now?

    Slava: No doubt!

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you would like to speak on?

    Slava: Many years ago, when we were young, my army friend, on the day when we finished our service in the tank troops, gave me a simple drawing of our tank with the inscription, “Follow your star!” Here I am, still following.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Slava N. Jakovleff for his generous interview.

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  • Christina Beck Brings Perfection to New York Film Academy Los Angeles Guest Speaker Series

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    In February, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles welcomed writer, director, and actor Christina Beck as a Guest Speaker to the Q&A stage, following a screening of her award-winning film Perfection.

    The film, which tells the story of a young woman who struggles with self-harm, and her relationship with her mother, was screened in honor of Self-Injury Awareness Day, a global event dedicated to removing the stigma surrounding self-harm, and spreading awareness so that those who suffer do not have to suffer in silence.

    Beck began by discussing the script’s origins, which, unsurprisingly, initially sprang from her own experiences. “I wasn’t a cutter, but in my 20s I used to pick at my skin a lot, and I had a lot of self hatred,” she shared. “I grew up in LA, I had a very beautiful mother, and there was a lot of emphasis on exterior beauty and trying to be perfect. And trying to fit in and finding my way as a young woman, I felt like I wasn’t enough … so I started writing that character, and then later it morphed into a bigger story.”

    NYFA Los Angeles Producing Department Co-Chair Roberta Colangelo, who moderated the event, followed up with a question about what the medium of film can do, or what kind of opportunities it can bring to the subject of self harm.

    “I think even if you’re not someone who cuts yourself you can relate, hopefully, to the feelings,” said Beck. “For me, I always think that filmmaking is such a powerful medium, that we can observe behavior, follow a story, hopefully, and connect with a protagonist, and go on that journey.”

    Beck went on to talk about the process of making the film, which took two and a half years — and in true micro-budget fashion, the journey was full of ups and downs. They started out with no financing, cast the film out of Beck’s living room, and on one occasion, had only a half-hour at a location to film an entire scene.

    “So that’s a little stressful, for sure,” Beck admitted. “And there were quite a few moments like that, honestly … but you just kind of have to make it work, because the bigger picture is more important than the stress of the moment.”

    The bigger picture, in the case of Perfection, is an opportunity to positively impact the people sitting in the audience.

    “It leaves you with a strange sense of empowerment,” Colangelo noted. “Not by showing a very powerful female figure that has heroically overcome everything, but someone that is working her way [through it]. It’s a very powerful message.”

    Perfection is by no means a comprehensive guide to healing, but it was never intended to be. As Beck stated, the intention behind the film was, if nothing else, to be truthful.

    “In 85 minutes, it’s really hard to wrap up someone’s whole recovery,” said Beck. “It just wouldn’t be truthful. And so we kind of modified that journey to leave with a sense of hope.”

    Perfection is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.

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