New York Film Academy AFA Filmmaking student Ozlem Altingoz’s most recent horror film, “Daughter of the Lake,” has received numerous awards at film festivals all around the world, including Best Horror Film and Best Film at Fastidious LA, Best Short Film at the Los Angeles Horror Competiton, and Best Original Story Award at the Los Angeles Film Awards, among others.
Buzz of the film has spread across her hometown of Istanbul, Turkey, where she was highlighted in “Vatan,” a popular Turkish daily newspaper.
“Daughter of the Lake” is about a group of friends who take a trip through the country, hoping to have a nice getaway for the weekend. However, their trip takes a dangerous turn when their tire mysteriously pops on an old stretch of road through the woods. From there, they stumble upon an older man’s home, who just so happens to be holding a deadly secret upstairs.
With some experience in acting and TV in Turkey, Ozlem Altingoz came to NYFA Los Angeles to pursue her professional aspirations of becoming a director and producer.
“NYFA has helped me a lot,” said Altingoz. “The NYFA instructors are really helpful. I’ve always wanted to shoot a horror film, and I was able to achieve my dream here. If you believe in yourself you can make your film great — trust me you can make amazing films.”
Altingoz is now working on her next film, which she says will also be horror film (with a lot of blood).
“I’m so excited to shoot my thesis,” she said. “I believe it is goıg to be another great film, and I’m already searching for locations, actors, and more.”
The New York Film Academy is proud to be a sponsor of upcoming top industry gathering IFP Week, in Brooklyn from Sept. 17-21. This year, NYFA faculty will be represented on an IFP panel — stay tuned for more details as they come!
“If you can go, go!” said NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Program Chair Andrea Swift.
NYFA Documentary Chair Andrea Swift and Producing Chair Neal Weisman explain that IFP Week is a critical industry gathering — whether you’re a producer, documentary filmmaker, screenwriter, director, or are involved in the industry in any way. It is as important for launching and maintaining careers as Sundance, and people fly in from all over the world to attend. Simply put, IFP Week is one of the most important events in the U.S. film industry.
NYFA is proud to help sponsor it and is very pleased to share that IFP has extended a 20% discount to our alumni with special code: NYFA20.
“IFP’s signature event, IFP Week, has expanded again this year to include numerous public screenings, talks, meet ups, and exhibitions centered on cutting-edge independent content for the big screen, small screen and Internet,” says IFP Deputy Director & Head of Programming Amy Dotson. “From our Filmmaker Magazine Talks, IFP Screen Forward Conference, Direct Access program, VR exhibitions from The Guardian, and more, our guests will have access to some of the most interesting, innovative and outspoken storytellers and leaders working today.”
NYFA Chair of the Producing Department Neal Weisman will represent as moderator of the “Direct Access” panel: “Finding the Sales.” Neal Weisman is an award-winning film and television producer with over 20 years of international experience. Producing credits include “The Politician’s Wife” (BAFTA and International Emmy Awards for Best Drama Serial, Peabody Award), “Seeing Red” (Christopher Award), and “My Kingdom,” which starred Richard Harris in his last leading role. “Let’s Talk About Sex,” a documentary about adolescent sex in America, broadcast on TLC, digital and DVD release through New Video. Vice President, Edward Pressman Film Corporation: Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” and “Talk Radio,” Barbet Schroeder’s “Reversal of Fortune,” Taviani Brothers’ “Good Morning Babylon,” Fred Schepisi’s “Plenty,” David Byrne’s “True Stories,” David Hare’s “Paris By Night,” Alex Cox’s “Walker,” Charles Burnett’s “To Sleep With Anger,” and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Blue Steel.”
NYFA VR Instructor Caitlin Burns will appear on the IFP Panel “(Virtual) Reality Check: Bringing Filmmakers into the 21st Century.” As a transmedia producer for over 15 years, Ms. Burns has developed storyworlds and sustainable multiplatform strategies for franchises ranging from global blockbuster feature films, award-winning television shows, AAA console games and Virtual Reality. She also works with international brands, and organizations to use new media technologies to reach audiences and create impact. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Producers Guild of America’s New Media Council and Lead Instructor for 360° Filmmaking and VR Gaming at the New York Film Academy.
IFP Week in Brooklyn, NYC Sept. 17-21,Programming to include (via official website):
Filmmaker Magazine Talks @ BRIC
This year’s IFP Week will kick off on Sunday, September 17th with Filmmaker Magazine Talks @ BRIC. In honor of the 100th issue of the iconic publication, programming will celebrate the creative talents and industry who have filled Filmmaker Magazine’s pages for a quarter of a century. The event will feature Editor-in-Chief Scott Macaulay in talks with 2017 Academy Award-winners Barry Jenkins & Adele Romanski (“Moonlight”), Emmy-nominated director Dee Rees (“Mudbound”), The Safdie Brothers (“Good Time”), Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”) as well as past and 2017 Filmmaker Magazine “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”
IFP Screen Forward Conference @ Made in NY Media Center by IFP
Featuring intimate conversations with some of the most interesting, innovative and outspoken storytellers and leaders today, the program runs Monday, September 18 through Wednesday, September 20 at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Speakers include Cenk Uygur (“The Young Turks”), Julie Klausner (“Difficult People”), Mark Douglas (“The Key of Awesome!”), Anjali Sud (Vimeo CEO), JennaWortham (“Still Processing”) and many more!
IFP Direct Access & Meet The Decision Makers @ Made in NY Media Center by IFP
IFP also offers aspiring artists and entrepreneurs – as well as working professionals in the media & tech industry – direct access to top industry leaders through its Meet the Decision Makers and Direct Access tracks.
Meet The Decision Makers
Get face-time with some of the most exciting organizations in indie entertainment today in small group meetings with company representatives from Amazon Studios, A&E, Bleecker Street, Cinetic, First Look Media, Field of Vision, HBO, IFC, Killer Films, POV, Oscilloscope, Sony Pictures Classics, Submarine, Vimeo, and more.
IFP Direct Access
NEW TO IFP WEEK 2017. Join top industry leaders for sage advice and time-saving information on how to launch your narrative feature, doc, serialized content, in intimate, small workshops with accomplished industry leaders whose expertise ranges from finding financing to digital distribution.
NYFA students and alumni are invited to attend the prestigious independent filmmaking event. As part of our partnership, IFP is offering 20% discount to students and alumni. To purchase your ticket(s), go to the website and use the Partner Code.
This August, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast held the May 2017 Filmmaking mid-year screening showcase for it’s May 2017 intake Filmmaking students at the new, purpose-built Southport campus theatre.
Filmmaking Lecturer Trevor Hawkins, stated, “It’s all about storytelling and turning good ideas into good films. And that’s what our May intake of student filmmakers are showcasing with their mid-year screening of their non-sync films.”
As a part of the New York Film Academy Australia’s commitment to hands-on education, the mid-year showcase provides students with the opportunity to screen their work from class for an invited audience of peers, friends, and family.
Mr. Hawkins continued, “With an impressive variety of story ideas, our new and emerging filmmakers have explored numerous genres including comedy, drama, action, science fiction, gangster and social comment.
“Each film has left a lasting impression which is a sign of good filmmaking and we congratulate all students on a job well done! And, as we all know, filmmaking is like learning a musical instrument, it’s all about practice, practice, practice. So we all look forward to their next films.”
Congratulations to our Filmmaking students for their successful mid-year screenings.
New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking master class professor Jeremy Xido’s newest documentary “The Angola Project: Detroit” was selected for this year’s Spotlight on Documentary at IFP Week in September.
“The Angola Project: Detroit” will feature alongside over 145 documentary projects at the IFP Week event in September in Brooklyn, with nonfiction media spanning formats from feature film to web and television series. As IndieWire notes, this year marks an impressive expansion in IFP Week’s programming, with additional slots for exhibitions, guest speakers, screenings, and more.
Jeremy Xido co-wrote and directed “The Angola Project: Detroit,” which draws on his live-performance piece “The Angola Project.” The film is centered around Xido’s return to Detroit for the first time in 20 years to perform, and, as Xido states on his official website, “The film will be a collision of the mythological Detroit in my artwork and the contemporary city currently undergoing another round of radical change. Having left as not much more than a boy, I return as a young father, hoping to find personal reconciliation and a sense of home for me and my family. But I arrive to a city engaged in a fierce battle over it’s identity. The fashionable hype around Detroit’s great turn-around is tempered by the United Nations’ citation of human rights abuses for denying citizens access to water. Bold construction projects are offset by an unprecedented number of evictions. It is a city suspended between hope and fear: the profound hope for a better future and the numbing fear that rewards reaped by some will just be the next cycle of suffering for others.”
Xido’s work on “The Angola Project” has also inspired his TEDx Talk:
The film also features NYFA documentary graduate Amy Wright as an associate producer. Wright is an award-winning documentarian in her own right: her film “Legacy” won Best Short at the March on Washington Film Festival, which was held at the White House in Washington D.C.
Quoted in Filmmaker Magazine of their feature film programming, IFP Executive Director Joana Vicente says, “This year’s feature film program doesn’t shy away from tackling the controversial and key issues of our time. Art often reflects the times we live in, and this slate certainly represents a multitude of points of view and perspectives on America today. Through the lens of race, religious expression, disability, female empowerment, immigration, truth, political correctness, radical inclusion and disenfranchisement, our artists pull no punches sharing their stories, demanding attention for the visions they share.”
For more information on the IFP Week Screenings, click here.
“Between Oil and Water” is the latest VICE on HBO piece to benefit from the inestimable talents of New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking grad and associate producer Andrea Blake.
Along with VICE on HBO’s documentary series, Andrea Blake’s growing roster of credits includes “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: a Short Film by Spike Jonze,” “Black Market with Michael K. Williams,” and the acclaimed documentary series “Chicagoland.” Yet VICE’s “Between Oil and Water” provides a uniquely intimate look at the surprising source of a cultural and political movement that grew into one of the nation’s largest and most talked-about protests: Standing Rock, South Dakota.
“You can’t drink oil! You can’t drink oil!” the crowd chants in “Between Oil and Water.” The film profiles some of the youth who behind the start of the national movement: 13-year-olds Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer and Alice Brown Otter — classmates at Standing Rock Community Middle School in Fort Yates, North Dakota. It was in a culture class that a teacher asked them to write to the Army Corps of Engineers about their opinion on the pipeline, which had be rerouted to go through their reservation after the community of Bismarck, North Dakota — a predominantly white population — had cited safety concerns, and the pipeline’s trajectory was moved.
As VICE News shows, Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer recalls thinking, “If it’s not safe for them why do they put it on our reservation? It’s like they think our lives are more expendable.” After writing for class, both students joined 30 fellow indigenous youth on an incredible 2000 mile run from North Dakota to Washington D.C. in July 2016 to hand-deliver their letters to the Army Corps of Engineers.
This was the spark of the Standing Rock movement. According to “Between Oil and Water,” the Standing Rock protests evolved into the largest Native American protest movement in history, with 10,000 participants at its peak. Though the plans for the pipeline have not been changed, the film shows how the movement played an essential role in national debate and also had a transformative effect on the young students who played such a central part.
Alice Brown Otter concludes that while she is disappointed that the government is moving forward with the pipeline, she tries to maintain a positive outlook. “We fight with our words, we fight with kindness, and we’re just strong.”
There are many ways students can spend their breaks from school, but Braulio Jatar took a leave of absence from his studies in the 1-Year Documentary Filmmaking Program at the New York Film Academy to put his training to work in the field by documenting the current, violent protests in Venezuela.
Currently, Jatar is one of a dedicated group of documentary filmmakers, journalists and photographers who brave daily danger to be on the scene, documenting the upheaval and protests in his native Venezuela. The young filmmaker and activist’s work has caught the attention of VICE, who have spotlighted Jatar in an in-depth interview that shares some of the filmmaker’s powerful photographs.
Photo by Braulio Jatar
Jatar, who hails from the Venezuela’s capital of Caracas, told VICE, “I came back to Venezuela because I felt it was a very important moment in the history of my country, and, as a documentary filmmaker, it was essential that I was here.”
Venezuela is in turmoil, with violent clashes occurring between the government of Nicolás Maduro and citizen demonstrators, who demand the president step down from power. There have been violent clashes between the police and the protesters, some resulting in casualties.
VICE reports that Jatar wears a bulletproof vest, anti-gas mask, helmet, and press credentials daily when he leaves his home — where his father, a prominent journalist, is on house arrest.
Photo by Horacio Siciliano
Jatar ventures into the streets of Caracas to document what he sees and shares his photos and videos daily to his nearly 150,000 Instagram followers, providing a chilling inside glimpse into the chaotic situation in Venezuela, as it happens.
Of recent violence and deaths, Jatar told VICE, “We need to take into account that the majority of those killed are young people between the ages of 15 and 18. Who is not saddened to learn that the young men facing the police and the National Guard, who are adults and have guns, are dying for simply demanding a better country?”
Jatar’s VICE interview in its entirety is available here, and there is a translation function for those not fluent in Portuguese. While there, Jatar is also shooting a set of documentaries, one of which he plans to cut as his NYFA thesis when he returns from his leave.
At the New York Film Academy, it is not uncommon to see actors and directors who have already made great strides in their career seek a focused short-term learning experience in order to brush up on a rusty skill or even learn an aspect of the movie-making business in which they have never participated.
Already successful in their native Colombia, NYFA graduates Valentina Rendón and Haik Gazarian have attended the New York Film Academy a combined 10 times and are self-described evangelists for the school. In Colombia, Rendón has worked as a pop star, soap-opera actress, and scriptwriter, and Gazarian has managed actors and written and directed features. The couple returns to NYFA before almost every project.
Gazarian grew up in Venezuela shooting on an 8 mm camera. He worked for a television station where he saw how newsreels were made. He was fascinated. While there, Gazarian began meeting actors. As those connections grew he built a career out of those relationships. For the next 15 years he managed actors, but his dream to make feature films never faded.
As his connections multiplied, Gazarian began to figure out how to make that desire a reality. He began writing and sought out fundraising opportunities. Gazarian is practical in everything he does. Despite his years in the entertainment industry and the incredible talent he was surrounded by, Gazarian wanted to go back to school.
He wanted to make sure that the work he produced would be of a professional quality and he wanted to do it himself. In 1996 he found the New York Film Academy and enrolled in the eight-week filmmaking course. By the time he had completed the course he had the first draft of his script, “Venezzia.”
He would spend the next eight years re-writing, workshopping and developing the script. During that time Gazarian kept an open mind about his work and was willing to hear suggestions on how to better it.
One day while on set while visiting a client, Gazarian was taking photos as his client rehearsed a scene. Through a camera lens, he spotted Valentina Rendón. This would be an encouter that changed his life.
Columbian actress Rendón is perhaps best known for winning “Bailando por un Sueño.” Her work includes appearances in television shows like “Copas Amargas,” “Tabú,” and “Allá Te Espero.” She was also one-fourth of the pop group Luna Verde in the mid-’90s. Now, Rendón has started to center her attention behind the camera. She came to NYFA to study editing.
Rendón began her career in industrial design, when she was awarded a music scholarship at the age of 18. “Since I was a little kid, I was driven by the creative process,” Rendón said. She would write songs and poems, practice ballet, play guitar and paint. When the opportunity arose to go to the Acting School of the National Theater of Colombia via a scholarship, she found the perfect way to combine all of her talents and jumped at the challenge.
As she settled into acting, she found herself curious about the work happening on the other side of the camera. “I was always asking the DPs about how the camera worked,” Rendón said. When she first started dating Gazarian she would give him notes on the script for “Venezzia.” Gazarian brought Rendón in for re-writes, and she wound up writing the final draft of the script.
In addition to the filmmaking, directing, and screenwriting courses they have already taken, the couple is now taking on the NYFA’s 4-Week Digital Editing Workshop. They are working on their next feature and, while they will not be editing the project themselves, they thought it important to know the language and styles of editing before they began post-production.
There are two reasons the couple keeps coming back to attend NYFA programs in between projects: it is a a process they compare to training for sports. “We’re about to start pre-production,” Gazarian said. “It’s like a fine-tune-up before going into battle. You want to keep pushing yourself. It gives you a version of the orchestra you’re conducting. You should know the limitations of each position.”
“Learning new skills will give you more information. This is what NYFA’s short programs are made for. You get to practice what you’re learning,” Rendón said. Gazarian added, “All of the information you learn here is meant to be applicable.”
The other thing that keeps them coming back is NYFA’s global community. “Hanging out with people outside of your purview helps you pick up on little things,” Gazarian said. Rendón said that in one of her classes there wasn’t a single student from the same country. She even learned the Bollywood style of filmmaking from a classmate.
The couple was tight-lipped about their upcoming project, but said that there was already a major studio interested in producing it.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Valentina Rendón and Haik Gazarian for taking the time to share their experience.
The prestigious Excellence in Documentary Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA) has been awarded to “Romeo, Romeo,” a documentary feature directed by New York Film Academy documentary faculty member Lizzie Gottlieb, who produced the film together with Eden Wurmfeld and NYFA President Michael J. Young. NYFA documentary alumna Eliana Álvarez Martínez was a camera operator.
“Romeo Romeo” follows a married lesbian couple, Lexy and Jessica, throughout their poignant struggles with infertility as they navigate the heavy costs, medical procedures, and reproductive technology to pursue their dream of growing their family. The film aired on PBS’s “America Reframed.” World Channel, which hosts the show, notes that more than 6.5 million American women struggle with fertility issues.
The NLGJA’s Excellence in Journalism Awards have recognized and promoted fantastic excellent coverage of issues related to the LGBTQ+ community since 1993.
NLGJA President Jen Christensen has said, “We are thrilled each year by the work that is nominated for NLGJA’s Excellence in Journalism Awards, and this year was no different. All of the award recipients are doing their fair share to advance NLGJA’s mission of promoting fair and accurate LGBTQ coverage, and it is our privilege to recognize their outstanding work.”
The Excellence in Documentary Award will be presented at the NLGJA convention this September in Philadelphia. “Romeo Romeo” will air again Oct. 24, 2017.
This September, New York Film Academy Instructors Zachary Spicer and John Robert Armstrong’s independent feature “The Good Catholic” will release in more than 20 cities across the U.S. and 15 countries worldwide, thanks to distribution deals with Broadgreen Pictures and Gravitas Ventures.
Spicer and Armstrong created “The Good Catholic” with their production company Pigasus Pictures, and have just finished an incredible won on the festival circuit that saw them snag the Panavision Spirit Award for Best Feature Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the DaVinci’s Horse Award for Best Screenplay at the Milan International Film Festival, Best Picture at the Grove Film Festival, and more.
We had a chance to catch up with Zachary Spicer via email to talk about “The Good Catholic” and his production company, Pigasus Pictures.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to NYFA?
ZS: I grew up in small town Indiana, went to Indiana University where I studied archaeology — until I realized that Indiana Jones was much more fiction than fact. I was cast in a show my senior year by a visiting director who told me I should go to NYC to study to become and actor. I studied at Circle in the Square theater school, where I fell in love with theater.
After graduation I began working a number of jobs while I beat the pavement trying to land auditions. I’ve been very fortunate in my career ever since. My first Broadway gig was with Cynthia Nixon in the Tony Award-nominated revival of “Wit,” followed by Kenneth Branagh’s “Macbeth” at the Park Avenue Armory. I began working on TV shows like “Law & Order: SVU,” “Blue Bloods,” “Gotham,” “Louie,” and “Master of None,” before I was approached by my old IU colleague John Robert Armstrong, who was an instructor at NYFA. They needed someone to come in and teach a substitute acting for film class, so I volunteered and fell in love with the place. I started teaching as many classes as I could get my hands on: Meisner, audition technique, acting technique, and so on.
It was in the halls of NYFA that John and I developed our idea to start our film company Pigasus Pictures. Inspired by the students we taught each day and the talent and dedication of the instructors, we formed a game-plan to fully fund and produce our very first feature film, “The Good Catholic.”
NYFA: Do you have any favorite moments as a NYFA instructor?
ZA: My favorite moments at NYFA were in my acting for film class late on in the semester, seeing students who had been writing down these “theories” and “practices” of working on film, seeing them tool it over and over again, and then finally see the light bulb come on, seeing that moment of practical recognition of their craft and the power it gave them. How they could use it and seeing them begin to really gain confidence and believe in themselves.
NYFA: Can you tell us more about what role NYFA played in the making of “The Good Catholic,” and about your collaboration with John?
ZS: John and I met everyday in between classes and before and after classes, and started to try to figure out how we were going to pull this miracle off. We weren’t rich kids with money to spare and we didn’t have deep ties to the industry, so we really had to work from the ground up.
I had this vision of a film company and what we could do, and John was the nuts and bolts guy of figuring out exactly how we could get it done. We would workshop scenes that were in the movie in our classes with students, seeing what would work and what wouldn’t, starting to map out shots and seeing character arcs explored with our students, and discussing the storytelling elements of one scene leading into another and what was significant about each moment in the script. Seeing how the film was playing in class really motivated us to continue our efforts to produce.
NYFA: What inspired the idea for “The Good Catholic”?
ZS: The story itself was inspired from writer/director Paul Shoulberg’s actual parents. Paul’s dad was a small town priest and his mother was a nun who had met in church, eventually fell in love, and left, married, and made Paul and his sister. Paul’s dad passed away a few years ago and Paul really wanted to write a story that was testament to his father. He wasn’t only writing what he knew, he was writing what he had to write.
NYFA: You’ve mentioned that some of your former NYFA students were involved in “The Good Catholic” and other productions at Pigasus Pictures — can you tell us a bit about those collaborations?
ZS: I was very lucky to be teaching some incredibly inspiring students while I was there at NYFA. The students there just blew me away with their passion, curiosity, and commitment. One class in particular formed a production company immediately upon graduating NYFA, and I work with several of those members today.
Two former students from NYFA made the trip with us to Indiana to work on the film itself: Max Turner and Alice Deussant. They came on board in the beginning as assistants to the producer. However, by the end of the film they had ingrained themselves in almost every department of production. They learned the very first lesson in this business which is: make yourself invaluable. They would run off at a moment’s notice to do anything, volunteer for any work, and were just generally a pleasure to be around all day and night on set. On top of that they got to know and work with Paul, who sat down and watched their reels and their former work and said, “They’ve really got talent. I’d love to put them in something in the future.”
With our next film “Ms. White Light” shooting this fall, we are looking to hire them and three or four more former students to come on board the adventure with us.
NYFA: Speaking of “Ms. White Light,” can you tell us more about upcoming projects at Pigasus Pictures?
ZS: At the same time of distributing “The Good Catholic,” Pigasus Pictures is currently financing a slate of six projects to be produced in the next three years: four feature films and two television pilots, all to be filmed in our home state in Indiana. The next production will be the dark comedy feature film written and directed again by Paul Shoulberg called “Ms. White Light,” the story of a young woman who works in the world of hospice that has a unique ability to connect with the dying … it’s just everyone else she has a problem with.
The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Pigasus Pictures on their recent success with “The Good Catholic.”
This August, Head of Animation for Walt Disney Studios Amy Lawson Smeed gave a rousing Q and A at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy, after a screening of her latest work “Moana.” Smeed’s work includes “Treasure Planet,” “Paperman,” “Frozen,” “Tangled,” and “Moana.” The event was moderated by NYFA Chair of Animation Craig Caton.
Students were excited to hear from one of the few leading women in animation. A recurring theme of the night was how much animation is accomplished by private performances no one ever sees. Smeed described working in an isolated room trying to capture the feelings and actions of a character. “I don’t ever want the character to look like me.”
The performance is less about being the character and more about finding the truth and nuance in the scene. As an example, Smeed spoke about the scene in “Tangled” when Rapunzel sings over a dying Flynn Rider. Smeed drew on a personal family loss and her favorite tearjerkers to study how the throat gets tight when a person cries and how their eyes widen and tear.
Smeed explained to the screenwriters in attendance that as an animator she does not often see a script. The collaborative nature and time intensive work requires a lot of planning up front. The workflow generally begins with a polished script, that is then storyboarded and screened (an animatic) for the entire studio. Everyone then has an opportunity to give notes on what they saw.
Those notes are considered, a new draft is written, and the new and improved animatic is screened. Scenes that work are then given to the voice actors to record the dialogue. The recording sessions are filmed as a reference for animators. Finally, the recorded dialogue is given to the animators and they go to work making their character walk and talk.
The reference tapes can be used to help define the character. Dwayne Johnson’s character in “Moana,” Maui, maintained “the people’s eyebrow” made famous during Johnson’s wrestling days. Smeed says the performance aspect is her favorite part of the job. Animating her first Disney kiss in “Tangled Ever After” was a particular highlight.
Smeed was asked to give the best advice to students getting started in the industry. She said the reel is the animator’s key to getting into the exclusive club of working creators. She highlighted three key elements to improve a reel. The first is to flip images of characters. If a something seems off about a pose, reverse the image. If it still seems off or if the pose becomes worse, it means something is wrong — perhaps the weight is distributed oddly or an angle of the limbs slightly askew.
Smeed also shared that incorporating entertainment value is vital to impressing a veteran reviewing your work. “This can be something funny, a line or a gag, or it can be a moment that moves you,” Smeed said. What matters most is that an emotional reaction is elicited out of the viewer.
Finally, students were encouraged to make sure the animated scenes in their portfolio include texture. Smeed defined texture as the way characters react to objects, tasks, and people when they are not speaking. Giving their hands and face definition is vital to making the character feel like a living being.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Amy Smeed for taking the time to speak to our students. Smeed’s next project is “Wreck-It Ralph 2,” and she noted that she’s excited to be animating the reunion of all the living Disney Princesses.