Filmmaking
Category

  • NYFA Alum Janek Ambros’ Film Produced by Barbara De Fina

    New York Film Academy alumnus Janek Ambros, known for his work on “Valley of Bones,” “10,000 Saints,” and “Imminent Threat,” is working with Marin Scorsese’s long-time producing collaborator, Barbara De Fina.

    Ambros’ film, “May 15th in Paris,” retells the story of a large protest on the streets of Paris on May 15, 1848. Ambros uses a narrator to recount this historic date and juxtaposes that story with images of current controversial populist political wins across the globe.

    Ambrose did an email interview with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to talk about his experience making this film.

    15th of May Poster

    NYFA: How did you team up with Hollywood legend Barbara De Fina? 

    Ambros: Since I was a kid, Barbara De Fina and Irwin Winkler were two people I greatly admired. As a director, I dreamed I would one day have as supportive and creative producers as Martin Scorsese did. However, it wasn’t really my intention to have her produce my films. I originally wanted to see if she had any projects she needed funding for, because I dabble in film finance.

    But when I came back from Paris and showed her the footage, she had a lot of great notes on the narration, editing, and overall pacing. We ended up collaborating on it and in the end, she decided to come on board as a producer.  

    NYFA: What was it like working with such a giant in the producing field?

    Ambros: Someone who has produced for my favorite director of all time is now producing my films. It was obviously a little surreal. It truly is an honor to work with her. But when it’s all said and done, she simply made the film better and that is always the goal. It’s extremely important to listen to others who have experience and expertise greater than your own. You don’t want to be too rigid-minded in your thinking. Having a good creative producer on board is incredibly valuable.

    NYFA: Can you expand upon why you wanted to compare the incidences of 1848 with the recent U.S. presidential election and Brexit? 

    Ambros: I’m really into history. It’s really important to not just know your history, but also understand how it applies today. No situation is entirely unique. In the 1840s, those in power blatantly ignored the powerless. To me, their situation is similar to how today’s “corporate Democrats” failed a lot of the lower and middle class. People finally had enough. However, when they went to the ballot, citizens went in the wrong direction, similar to the French in the 1840s when they voted for Napoleon Bonaparte. 

    NYFA: How did all of these events affect you as a creator? 

    Ambros: Given Trump, the overall rejection of globalism by many in Western countries, and the rise of nationalism, my approach to how I create content has changed. I’ve always been into politics. I’ve done shorts on the military industrial complex, the bank bailouts, authoritarianism, etc. I’m just sticking to my original game plan.

    I see a lot of other writers pull an audible to make their work reflect what’s happening with Trump and that can be great. But, I’d be cautious against changing your entire approach. Things are always going to evolve, especially living in a world with a never-ending news cycle. So, if you keep trying to make everything “current,” it can be challenging. 

    I do think this political climate will spark a “New Wave” of more politically challenging films, which is great. Our company is trying to focus on filmmakers who are making movies that strive for greatness. We want to be like Zoetrope, who tackled challenging cinema in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you make this film? 

    Ambros: The most important element I learned from NYFA to help make this film was to just go out and make it. So many other film schools focus on academia, where NYFA really taught me how to go out and make a film and learn from doing. Although my ultimate aspirations are writing and directing, I went to NYFA for producing. I’m glad I did. I no longer have an excuse to not make a movie.

    NYFA: What did you learn while making this film? Would you change anything about your process? 

    Ambros: I learned a lot about taking in surroundings when making a film. My previous doc was a lot of talking heads and stock footage with mostly stylized editing. This one I couldn’t have any stock footage and didn’t want to do any interviews; I wanted to approach it more as an experimental film with each segment having its own style. So, I was forced to really push myself to look for interesting imagery and create a solid composition and shot design. 

    NYFA: What projects do you have coming up next?

    Ambros: My next film is “Arlington West.” I’ll, once again, be working with Barbara De Fina. The movie is about two Iraq War veterans who spend the night debating war and peace along the Santa Monica pier after attending the Arlington West memorial service.

    We have other projects in development as well that include an adaptation of the widely acclaimed ”Nixon’s Nixon,” penned by Russell Lees, about the night before Nixon gets impeached; an adaption of the timeless play “An Enemy of the People,” by Henrik Ibsen; and a VR sequel to “Mondo Hollywood,” the 1967 cult classic. Lastly, we’re developing a psychedelic comedy about the re-awakening of liberalism in America entitled “Mondo Oligarchy.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Ambros for his incredible success with “May 15th in Paris,” and thank him for taking the time to share his story.

  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Casting Director Nancy Nayor as Guest Speaker

    This month, New York Film Academy Summer program acting for film and filmmaking students were invited to a Q & A with casting directing extraordinaire, Nancy Nayor after watching “Before I Fall,” which she has cast. Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Nayor 001

    Nayor who served for 14 years of head of Universal Feature casting before striking on her own, is best known for her work with directors such as: Steven Spielberg Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Oliver Stone, John Hughes & Sam Raimi’s among many others.

    Her movies include the following: “Act of Valor,” “Ouija,” “Road Trip,” “The Whole Nine Yards,” “The Grudge,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “When a Stranger Calls,” “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” “Darkman,” “Casper,” and Wes Craven’s “Scream 4.”

    Nayor gave the students a strong list of do’s and don’t within the casting room. One that surprised many students was: do not shake hands, especially during germ season. Casting directors can meet with over 40 people in a day. They cannot afford to get sick.

    The biggest tip of the night was not to be too nervous and to not over-rehearse before going into an audition so the emotions can shine through. Prepare, yes, but Nayor shared that actors are not necessarily required to be off book, and should not be nervous about every flub. Directors are looking for multiple things, such as how well an actor works with a group or their ability to improvise. But most importantly, they want to know that an actor can be human on camera.

    Laiter asked Nayor about the difference between casting for comedy and drama. Nayor mentioned several differences: “I think it’s different in the sense that there’s a comic timing. People who have it are born with it. You can develop it, but in the end, you’re either born with it or you’re not. In dramatic casting people have to really go for it. Actors really have to commit.”  

    Nayor 008

    Nayor also advised dramatic actors to stick to the script more so than comedic actors who may improvise. “When I worked on ‘21 and Over,’ people came into the audition room idolizing these two great writers from ‘The Hang Over.’ But the writers were so tired of their own words. They wanted the actors to improvise… ”

    One student asked, “How do you get discovered?” Nayor responded, “There’s no way you can be undiscovered, technically, because there’s this thing called YouTube. I’m a big believer in self-tapes, whether that’s actors and writers coming together or you writing for yourself. You don’t have to wait for permission to be creative. That project can be a calling card for you.”

    Laiter shared that some of the people who work with Spielberg, whether a composer or cinematographer, had said in NYFA Q&As that he had found them by watching movies on TV late at night, so you never know who is going to see it.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Nancy Nayor for taking the time to speak with our students. Naylor has done casting for 12 films scheduled for release in 2017 including “Delirium” and “Scorched Earth.”

     

    July 27, 2017 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 703

  • NYFA Summer Camps on the Universal Studios Backlot

    Each summer, teens and tweens flock to the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy to learn the basics of filmmaking. No matter which program a student elects to take, one of the highlights is always getting to shoot a short film on the Universal Studios Backlot.

    These projects range from mise-en-scene to continuity exercises, montages, and short films. All of the one-week students go to the lot once during their time at camp. Students participating in the three-week, four-week, and six-week programs go to the lot every week they are here. 

    On their scheduled shoot days on the Universal Studios Backlot, summer camp students spend all day on the lot — from nine in the morning to five at night. After their full day on the backlot, students take their footage and edit it the next day of class. Then, campers screen their films in front of parents and friends at a special final screening at the end of their course.

    Since the students are working with professional equipment and on a real set, the responsibilities are huge. Even though this is a learning experience for all of the students and we have instructors and teaching assistants supervising the campers, students are completely responsible for making sure they get every shot they need. Campers learn to plan every angle to get enough coverage, make sure the light is right, direct their actors to hit their marks, and more.

    In class, directing instructors and camera instructors cover the different professional crew positions responsibilities, including how to properly handle equipment. Classes go over safety rules regarding equipment and safety rules regarding the backlot.

    On the last day of their program, students screen their films for invited guests in the Riverside Theatre at NYFA.

    Speaking about what the opportunity to shoot on a backlot means to the campers, Program Director Ale Salinas said, “The students at the NYFA camps in LA have the opportunity to learn their craft while shooting in places where movies like ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ were shot, and I think this is an amazing opportunity.”

    She continued, “It doesn’t matter what program the students are taking, whether it’s photography, acting, filmmaking, screenwriting, 3D animation, music video or game design. They’ll all go to the backlot and experience what is like to walk through a real outdoor set!”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate our campers on helping to ensure a productive and safe set environment.

  • NYFA Los Angeles Holds Social Media Networking Night

    _DSC7452Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development Barbara Weintraub held a Social Media Networking Night at NYFA Los Angeles in late July. Over 220 students from the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus attended the event held in the Riverside Building.

    The lobby was filled with film companies like Film Independent and New Filmmakers LA. They were there to share opportunities for students, membership experiences, and career paths.

    A color-coded system helped students get in touch with other students. Small dots on name tags indicated whether the attending was an actor, filmmaker, photographer, or game designer.  

    “There are so many students that I hadn’t met,” said acting student An Phan. “I’m at the Barham building most of the time while the photography and filmmaking students are at Riverside. I never get to interact with them. I saw a lot of portfolios and I was blown away by how talented everyone was. It was great interaction. I had a lot of fun.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to wish all the students applying for professional memberships and those students teaming up to work on a project success on their next venture.

  • NYFA Australia Welcomes Cinematographer Toby Oliver as Guest Speaker

    Sydney students were fortunate to hear from native Australian, award-winning cinematographer Toby Oliver, who has forged a successful career in the U.S. and internationally. Moderated by NYFA Australia Dean of Faculty Art Helterbran Jr., it was an inspiring Guest Speaker event which centered on the topic of work ethic in the film industry.

    Some of Mr. Oliver’s recent credits include thriller “Get Out,” with Allison Williams and Daniel Kaluuya, filmed in the U.S. state of Alabama. According to IMDB, “Get Out” ranked #1 at the U.S. Box Office on its opening weekend in February 2017.

    NYFA Sydney student Charlie was particularly pleased to hear from a cinematographer with so much experience working in intense movies. “I love horror films,” Charlie shared after the event. “It was so amazing to hear from a DoP who has worked on films I really loved. It’s was the best talk ever.”

    An accredited member of the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS), and the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA), Toby’s credits also include the Australian WWI epic “Beneath Hill 60,” (Australian Academy nomination); TV movie “Beaconsfield” (Gold ACS Award and the ACS Best in Show); “Wolf Creek 2” (ACS Gold Award, Venice Film Festival); and “Carlotta” (Australian Academy nomination). In his uniquely international career, Toby has also created a prolific body of work in China, including the romantic Chinese-language “Waiting Alone” as well as the Australia/China co-production “33 Postcards.”

    Toby’s advice to the international student community of NYFA Australia centered on the importance of having a strong work ethic: “…(working in the film industry) is all about work ethic. If you want to do something, you got to do it properly…all the way through to the end.”

    He also pointed to having an awareness of the whole team on the film set as being essential to a film’s success, no matter the role. “Having actors who got that kind of skills to be aware of the filmmaking process, as well as their own performance, is not easy, but it can usually help make a better movie.”

    NYFA Australia students found Toby’s stories and insights particularly inspiring, given the cinematographer’s breadth and depth of experience. “Very inspiring to hear from a true Hollywood master,” said student Anthony. “This talk gave me a good idea how to work my way to success.”

    Fellow student Simon agreed. “Toby was generous with his time, sharing his insights and knowledge into the industry and his own creative and collaborative practice.”

    The New York Film Academy Australia would like to thank Toby Oliver for visiting our Sydney campus as a Guest Speaker.

  • NYFA Gold Coast Filmmaking Students Triumph at Final Film Screenings

    NYFA Gold Coast was pleased to celebrate with the Class of July 2016 Diploma of Screen and Media – Filmmaking students at their Final Film Screenings on the June 7-82017. The Final Film Screenings were held at Event Cinemas Pacific Fair.

    The screening was a huge success and showcased the diverse range of talent from NYFA Gold Coast’s filmmaking students.

    Congratulations to all of the graduating students for their success!

    #NYFAAUSTRALIA #NYFAJULY16SCREENING #NYFAGC

  • NYFA Welcomes Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway as Guest Speakers

    NYFA students at the Los Angeles campus were invited to an exclusive Q & A event featuring former Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing and Hollywood Reporter writer Stephen Galloway, who penned Sherry Lansing’s recent biography, “Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker.” Director of Q and A series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Lansing started her career as a script reader and worked her way up the ladder until she became president at 20th Century Fox in 1980. Lansing was the first woman in history to hold the position.

    LansingPhoto001

    Next, Lansing took on producing for such hits as “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Indecent Proposal” (1993). Later, Lansing became the chairman and CEO at Paramount where, for 12 years, she oversaw production and marketing on 200 movies — including blockbusters such as “Braveheart,” “Forrest Gump,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Titanic.”

    Lansing had a lot of advice for up-and-coming film creators. One large piece of advice was, “Returning every phone call is just good business. You never know were ideas come from.”

    ‘The executive’s job is to just find good talent,” she told students. “Every film that does poorly is my failure. Every film that does well is not my success.”

    Lansing left the entertainment industry at 60 to pursue an entirely new career in the non-profit industry, and created the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which focuses on cancer research and education. She sits on nine major profit and non-profit boards.

    LansingPhoto008

    Galloway centered the book on Lansing’s journey from an insecure young girl to her incredible ability to make a space for herself where previously there had been no women, saying, “There was no Churchill before Winston Churchill. There was no Sherry Lansing before Lansing.”  

    One of the questions asked was, “What advice do you have for screenwriters and working with a budget? We are always instructed to write from our imagination, but I’ve heard other people say you should write for the budget. What do you think?”

    Lansing responded, “You should always write from the heart. Our job in the studio is to keep the eye on the budget.”

    Lansing advised that striking a harmonious balance is in the best interest of the writer, particularly when working with a studio: They have bought the script and will eventually do with it as they please. If the writer wants to stay on the project they should find a way to work with the studio.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway for taking the time to speak with our students.  

  • NYFA Veterans Division Screens “Between Iraq and a Hard Place” With Special Guest Q&A

    This month, the New York Film Academy College of Visual and Performing Arts (NYFA) hosted a special screening of the military documentary, “Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” at its Los Angeles campus.

    Following the screening, NYFA Acting Instructor Michael Bershad moderated a Q&A with the film’s producer, Rex Pratt, and current MFA acting student, technical advisor and retired Navy/Marine Corps Chaplain Ron Ringo.

    (Left to Right) Moderator Michael Bershad discusses the process of making the film withProducer Rex Pratt and current MFA student and Technical Advisor Ron Ringo.

    The film takes a deep look at the impact that war has on members of our nation’s military when they return from home, and asks the question; Are we are really doing enough to help service members with this transition?

    Packed with raw and unfiltered footage from the war and personal interviews with the men that were there, the film helps the audience gain a valuable perspective on the issues that face our returning men and women who serve our country in the military.

    Marine Corps Veteran and BFA filmmaking student David Jimenez said:

    The film hit home. It captured the stress and fear of combat and how we still manage to have a sense of humor about things, and push through it all. The fact that they mention the difference between coming home on a ship and coming home on a plane is actually astonishing since no one normally thinks of that. I came home on a plane and I was literally on the I-5 freeway going home 25 hours after a mortar attack in the Middle East. The last scene in the film when they are being mortared was powerful. I remember being that scared when it happened to me. That is something that I don’t normally talk about with people.”

    For more information on “Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” please visit the film’s website

     

    by Michael Kunselman

  • NYFA Alumni interviewed for Brazilian TV Program “Planeta Globo”

    NYFA MFA filmmaking alumnus Rafael Nani recently found a unique venue to share his student NYFA experience — Brazilian TV juggernaut Globo’s program “Planeta Globo.” The program aims to show how Brazilian nationals live outside of their homeland, highlighting success stories as well as the inevitable struggles in foreign cultures. “Planeta Globo” came to interview Nani in Los Angeles while the then-student was hard at work on the set of his NYFA thesis film, “Bloody Eyes”.

    “Planeta Globo” spoke with Nani about his previous short film projects, including “Rose Garden,” which he filmed during his first year at the New York Film Academy. Nani, who recently completed NYFA’s MFA program at the Los Angeles campus, shared his perspective on some of the finer points of filmmaking and the complexities of directing a film.

    In addition, “Planeta Globo” seized the chance to shine the spotlight on five other NYFA Los Angeles grads and students: acting for film alumnae Sabrina Percario and Carolina Inoue; filmmaking student Iylia M. Idris; film and media production student Ricardo Mata; and NYFA New York filmmaking alumna Flavia Vieira. These five were showing the true community spirit of NYFA while working with Nani on the set of “Bloody Eyes.”

    Each discussed their different roles on set.

    Percario, the project’s supervising producer, discussed the challenges and advantages of working on a multicultural set. Inoue, who is in charge of production design, spoke about the importance of getting right look down for the film. Idris is both first and second assistant camera person for the film, and she explained the different responsibilities for each role. Vieira is lending her expertise to the picture as the lead makeup artist, and discussed the ways good (or bad) make up can effect the look of a film. Finally, Mata, the resident sound technician, explained the differences and similarities between working on short and feature length films.

    You can see the whole segment here, along with more interviews of the cast and crew.

    July 18, 2017 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1244

  • NYFA Community Outreach Program’s NEXT Big Venture

    MasonRichardsBlog005

    The New York Film Academy’s Community Outreach Program has been around since 2012, forging partnerships that have included The British Academy of Film and Television Arts – Los Angeles, HandsforHopeLA, AmeriCorps, Young Storytellers, and the Bill Duke Media Foundation. NYFA’s Community Outreach Program has managed to teach fundamentals of filmmaking to students in a Los Angels Unified school district, students who typically don’t have access and who are from underserved communities. What they have in store NEXT will elevate their already commendable level of service education.

    _M6B7236

    It is the goal of Community Outreach to not just educate, but to encourage students to tell their story from their perspective. This goal is achieved in a variety of ways. Here’s what’s been happening lately in NYFA’s Community Outreach Program:

    AmeriCorps

    With the AmeriCorps, Program Head of Outreach Mason Richards took NYFA Instructor Bart Mastrodoni and three cameras to a local high school. The challenge presented to the student was to write, direct, and edit a short film in a single day.

    Bill Duke Media Foundation

    Most teens have asked the question, “Who am I?” With the Bill Duke Media Foundation partnership and NYFA, students were asked this very question and challenged to create an answer on film. The goal was to help them get comfortable with telling their own stories. They made a short film exploring that query on the Universal Backlot that screened for their families at their graduation.

    Young Storytellers

    MasonRichards002

    Students involved in the Young Storytellers Program were given the opportunity to film on the Universal Backlot. Learning from instructors and teacher’s assistants, the kids formed teams and filmed several projects on the Western lot.

    HandsForHopeLA

    HandsForHopeLA is an after-school program for children living in a single parent home. They teamed with NYFA to create a PSA on texting and driving. Students involved with this program created an anti texting and driving PSA. Families of the students were able to see the final product.

    Through NYFA’s Community Outreach Program and partnerships, some students discover a future hobby and some discover a potential career. It is these career-minded students, the ones who arrive early and stay late, the ones excited to work on other peoples projects, the students eager to come back to NYFA for whom The NEXT Young Filmmaker Program was created.

    NYFA’s NEXT Young Filmmaker Program

    MasonRichardsBlog001 (1)

    The NEXT Young Filmmaker Program is the “advanced outreach” program offering hosted by the NYFA Office of Community Outreach. Select students who have already participated in one of our Community Outreach Partner programs have an opportunity to go a step further in learning the filmmaking process with the NEXT Young Filmmakers Outreach Program, and learn supporting roles and crew positions in the film industry beyond directing and acting.

    Head of Community Outreach Mason Richards said of the program, “We’ve found that most young filmmakers are only taught key positions in film production such as ‘director’ or ‘actor.’ We strive to show them what else is out there as far as careers in filmmaking.”

    He continued, “We at NYFA feel that there are multiple ways to prepare young people for a career in cinema, and being a part of a team, working on skills of collaboration, team-building and communication are integral to the craft of filmmaking.”

    The hope of the NEXT Young Filmmakers Outreach Program is to offer an opportunity for select LA high school students to receive a scholarship to participate in our advanced filmmaking program. Those selected will participate in a one-week workshop at the end of the summer when there are fewer opportunities for students from underserved communities until school is back in session.

    MasonRichards004

    In our week-long filmmaking program, we teach these talented young filmmakers advanced classes in lighting, production design, production sound, and assistant directing training. The aim is to keep the students who are engaged and serious about a career in filmmaking on a track to prepare them for college.

    This is also a way for them to develop their personal voices as storytellers and filmmakers. In the NEXT Young Filmmakers program, 12 outstanding students will have the opportunity to work with NYFA faculty to further explore their paths in filmmaking.

    The first NEXT Young Filmmaker’s Program will begin in August. The New York Film Academy would like to wish the students a successful semester.

    July 17, 2017 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 928