• Hollywood Mogul Brett Ratner Visits NYFA


    Brett Ratner at NYFA LA

    New York Film Academy students enthusiastically lined up at the Warner Bros. lot doors to participate in a Q&A with one of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers. His diverse films resonate with audiences worldwide and have grossed over $2 billion at the global box office. He’s known all over for his infectious positivity, tenacity for his work and intense passion for films and filmmaking. The man we are referring to, of course, is director and producer Brett Ratner. The discussion followed a screening of X-Men: The Last Stand and was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and Dean of Students Eric Conner.

    Brett Ratner eagerly took the stage and immediately began dispersing meaningful advice to the students. The first point he made was regarding the importance of a mentor. Brett recounted how founder of the New York Film Academy Jerry Sherlock was a vital mentor to him as he was just starting out in his career. He has remained a close friend of Mr. Sherlock and NYFA ever since, regularly visiting and reconnecting with students at the school’s various campuses.

    ratner los angeles

    Eric Conner, Tova Laiter and Brett Ratner

    In addition to his undeniable talent, the trait that becomes apparent within seconds of meeting him is his unending confidence. In regards to this, Brett relayed a very entertaining and downright baffling story about something that happened to him as a young man. While attending college in New York, Brett sent his short film and a letter to 40 of the biggest filmmakers in Hollywood and received 39 rejection letters. Later he was called into the Dean of his college’s office, and was informed that Steven Spielberg called the school and would like talk to him. Brett assumed it was a prank being played on him by his mother or fellow classmates. However, Kathleen Kennedy, the producer of all of Spielberg’s films, later called him on behalf of the legendary director. Brett went on-and-on over the phone to Kathleen about how he was going to be a big director just like Steven Spielberg. Later, Ratner received a check in the mail from Spielberg for his next student film. He took the check to Kinkos and made a gigantic copy of it that he posted in the halls of his dormitory.

    Ratner told a fascinating story to students that conveyed the importance of a film school education. A filmmaking professor, who Brett perceived as obstinate and overly hard on him while he was in school, once made him stay up all night rewriting a comedy script that he felt wasn’t funny before shooting it at 6am the next day. Years later Brett was hired at the age of 26 to direct his first feature Money Talks. He was challenged with shooting the biggest and most important scene, the movie’s climax, on the first day of shooting. Ratner had set up the first shot and was ready for the film’s two stars, Chris Tucker and Charlie Sheen, however he was informed that both actors had refused to leave their trailer. Panicked, Brett visited Sheen and Tucker who explained to the newbie director that they would not shoot the scene because it wasn’t funny. Although he was under a huge time constraint, Ratner proceeded to rewrite the scene with Sheen and Tucker for the next two and a half hours while producers banged on the trailer door insisting they all come out. Brett Ratner understood that the story and his lead actors’ trust in him took precedent over everything else and if he hadn’t have stopped to address these things, he would have probably soon been fired from the movie. And it wasn’t until all those years later that Brett realized his stubborn filmmaking instructor was preparing him for that exact moment which allowed him to continue on a path to unimagined success.

    brett ratner at nyfa

    Brett stayed late into the night answering all the students questions. Afterwards, he took pictures with students and his staff handed out trucker hats with his RatPac company logo. We sincerely thank Brett Ratner for visiting the New York Film Academy and being such a generous friend to the school’s students.

    BIOGRAPHY: Brett Ratner began his career directing music videos before making his feature directorial debut with Money Talks, starring Charlie Sheen and Chris Tucker. He followed with the blockbuster Rush Hour and its successful sequels. Brett also directed The Family Man, Red Dragon, After the Sunset, X-Men: The Last Stand, Tower Heist and Hercules. Ratner has also enjoyed success as a producer. His recent films include the smash hit comedy Horrible Bosses and its sequel, and the re-imagined Snow White tale Mirror Mirror. He also served as an executive producer on Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp. Upcoming RatPac projects include Truth, starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett; I Saw the Light, starring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen; an as-yet-untitled Howard Hughes project, written and to be directed and produced by Warren Beatty; and the much-anticipated drama The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. His additional producing credits include the documentaries Catfish, the Emmy-nominated Woody Allen – A Documentary, Helmut by June, and I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale. He also executive produced the Golden Globe-nominated FOX series Prison Break, and is currently executive producing the television series Rush Hour, based on his hit films. Brett, along with his business partner James Packer, formed RatPac Entertainment, a film finance production and media company, in 2013. RatPac has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. and joined with Dune Capital to co-finance over 75 films including Gravity, The Lego Movie, and American Sniper. Internationally, Warner Bros. and RatPac have formed a joint venture content fund with China’s Shanghai Media Group to finance local Chinese content. In partnership with New Regency, RatPac also finances the development and production of Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.

    October 14, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1461

  • NYFA Graduate Releases Children’s Book “B is for Brighton Beach”

    b is for brighton

    Former New York Film Academy Digital Filmmaking student and current pre-K teacher Michael Salita has recently released the children’s book B Is For Brighton Beach, which provides a loving tribute to Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. The pre-K level book includes illustrations by Elena Stekacheva, and cleverly engage students with the alphabet while preparing them to read.

    Similar to Salita’s life, the story is also about a Brooklyn resident who emigrated from Ukraine and has embraced his new home in Brighton Beach. In the book, every letter manages to tell a story. Given Salita’s filmmaking background, he wanted to create a book that looks just like the movies.

    “My book [is] an alphabetical journey of Brighton Beach with a social studies component. Children, parents, grandparents, teachers and others can learn about the beautiful, bustling, beachfront neighborhood of Brighton Beach from a young child’s point of view,” said Salita. “And tourists and visitors can take advantage of the map and explore Brighton Beach from A to Z.”

    Thus far, Salita’s book has already received wonderful reviews from the New York Post, Bay News, and Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

    Salita’s next project will be another alphabet book O is for Odessa, which will focus on the city where he was born and provide an introduction to that city for U.S. children and educators.

    If you’re interested in purchasing B is for Brighton Beach, please CLICK HERE.

    October 9, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 571

  • NYFA Australia Graduate to Screen 3 Films at Sydney Indie Film Festival

    It’s with great enthusiasm that we discover New York Film Academy Sydney graduate Ren Thackham has not one, not two, but three films screening in this year’s Sydney Indie Film Festival!

    Coming from a background in production design and having produced corporate videos for several years, Thackham returned to her hometown of Sydney to attend NYFA’s One Year Diploma of Screen and Media, in order to take her filmmaking skills to the next level.

    ren thackham

    “No matter how much experience you have flying solo, you’re miles behind anyone with a year of NYFA under their belt,” said Thackham. “The teachers are all industry, they’re speaking from experience not textbooks and they give real answers to real world questions. It provides the confidence to take on more ambitious projects. The training was definitely valuable and I miss it, but the post graduate support and the pride NYFA has in their graduates is worth the course fee alone.”

    The three films that Thackham will be screening at the Sydney Indie Film Festival, which runs from October 17-25, are:

    Lady Luck
    A film that follows one man through a game of poker where Lady Luck herself materializes and takes him to a fantasy world where he meets the characters at the table as they really are. This was Thackham’s NYFA graduation film.

    This short film throws a twist on the smartphone addiction debate by referring to it as an actual drug called Glow. Glow has been her most successful film thus far, as its been selected for nearly every online festival she has entered.
    brainless killers
    Brainless Killers
    This is by far her most ambitious project. It’s set in a world where zombies and humans coexist. Zombridge is the town where all the zombies reside and survive off donations of cerebral fluid. The story follows a couple of journalists into Zombridge where they uncover an illegal hunting and farming operation and have to blow the lid off the story before they become victims themselves. It’s a twist on the animal rights issue, but instead of showing how animals are treated, Thackham gives a new perspective of how humans would like it if they were treated similarly by someone else further up the food chain. “Starring Australian Comedian ‘Steve Hughes’ with ‘Odd Studio’ doing the make up (The artists behind Mad Max Fury Road), and the best production design I could muster, it’s going to be my best film yet.”
    on set ren

    Like most filmmakers, Thackham has a couple of feature scripts she’s currently writing. Her hopes are that her shorts will bring help her the attention and contacts needed to make her features a reality.

    “When you have a project, even at script stage, your perspective of the world becomes richer,” says Thackham. “Every place you visit is a potential location, every item a prop, every stranger you meet could inspire a character, every situation you’re in could be a scene. That’s what makes you want to do it forever; it’s way more fun than living in the real world!”

    If you’re in the Sydney area and would like to see Ren Thackham’s films, visit for more information.

  • Veteran Film Producer Tom Sternberg Joins Enthusiastic NYFA Students for Screening and Q&A

    On September 15, New York Film Academy in Los Angeles hosted veteran film producer Tom Sternberg, where he joined students for a screening of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman, which Mr. Sternberg produced. A lively Q&A, moderated by Lydia Cedrone, Interim Chair of Producing and Head of MFA Feature Productions in LA, followed the screening.

    Tom Sternberg

    Mr. Sternberg gave an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film and of working with the highly respected director and stellar cast, including the discovery of Jude Law in his star-making role. He shared his experience working with Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein and Paramount’s Sherry Lansing as heads of the companies distributing the film.

    He spoke of his collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola at Coppola’s American Zoetrope, where he produced the Academy Award-winning film “Apocalypse Now,” “The Black Stallion,” and “The Black Stallion Returns.” His conversation provided students with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the much-publicized, volatile set of “Apocalypse Now.” Sternberg also fielded several questions from the audience, and discussed his work with acclaimed director David Lynch, as producer of Lynch’s “Lost Highway.”


    NYFA’s Lydia Cedrone with Tom Sternberg

    In addition to his work with Coppola and Lynch, Mr. Sternberg’s credits as producer include Wayne Wang’s “Dim Sum” and “Eat A Bowl Of Tea”; Audrey Wells’ “Under the Tuscan Sun” starring Diane Lane; Hossein Amini’s “The Two Faces of January” starring Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst; and Kenneth Branagh’s “Sleuth” from a script by Harold Pinter and starring Jude Law and Michael Caine. Mr. Sternberg expressed his delight in working closely with the renowned Pinter on the development of the script for “Sleuth.”

    From there, Sternberg spoke candidly about the changes in the business of filmmaking from the 1970’s to the present day, and how several producers and production companies become attached to films. He spoke with much enthusiasm on his current project in development, and his own efforts in seeking funding and distribution in the modern landscape of the industry. He advised students to be passionate about each film he or she develops, and not to take personally the many rejections he or she will face on the journey of getting his or her film made.


    An inspiration to the many students in the audience, Mr. Sternberg has served as the American representative for many notable foreign film producers, selling the North American distribution rights to several important foreign-language films, including “Il Postino,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Mediterraneo,” “Europa Europa,” “Indochine,” “Jean de Florette,” “Manon des Sources,” “To Live,” “The Story of Qiu Ju” and many of the films of Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer.

    A most gracious and inspirational guest, Mr. Sternberg was met with much applause and gratitude at the end of the Q&A, as he took time to pose for several photos with students. We sincerely thank him for his visit and wish him much success with his next film.

    October 7, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 468

  • NYFA Hosts PGA Event with Award-Winning Director Alex Gibney

    alex gibney

    Alex Gibney

    Last week, the New York Film Academy hosted a Producer’s Guild of America East Documentary Committee’s special Q&A event with director Alex Gibney. Moderated by TV executive producer Mark Marabella, Gibney highlighted the obstacles that he’s faced as a director and producer of some of his films. Having produced and directed dozens of acclaimed documentaries (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), Gibney “is becoming the most important documentarian of our time.” The statement from Esquire is no exaggeration, as the director has won an Academy Award, an Emmy, Grammy, Peabody, the DuPont-Columbia, the Independent Spirit, and Writers Guild of America Award, to name a few.

    alex gibney

    Alex Gibney with Mark Marabella at NYFA Battery Place

    As it is rare for everything to run perfectly smooth during the production of a film, Gibney shared some personal stories and anecdotes as to how he managed to address, manage and circumvent these issues, and in some cases, thrive in them. His detailed stories and anecdotes were not only fascinating from the point of a view of a film enthusiast, but inspiring in terms of knowing there are ways to escape disaster situations on set and turn them into something positive.

    We’re excited to see Gibney’s upcoming producing projects, which include Return to Timbuktu and The Penny Black. NYFA would also like to thank the PGA for arranging this wonderful evening, and we look forward to more insightful events in the future!

    October 6, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 728

  • Celebrity Photographer Indrani Speaks at NYFA’s Photography School

    This Wednesday, September 30th, Paul Sunday’s Photography class welcomed celebrity photographer and film director, Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri. Indrani’s vast experience and unique sensibility makes her one of the most sought after professional visual artists in the world. Where do we begin…

    Originally from Calcutta, India, Indrani’s photography career began while working with Markus Klinko in New York City. Indrani’s work was soon discovered by David Bowie, who commissioned her for his album cover. As one can imagine, Indrani was ecstatic to work with him, even mentioning she thought it was a prank at first.


    Indrani lecturing at New York Film Academy

    From there, Indrani’s celebrity clients grew to the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Eva Mendes, Katie Holmes, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Keanu Reeves, Jay-Z, Usher, Kanye West, Val Kilmer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Will Smith, Jaden and Willow Smith. She has collaborated with KAWS and Richard Phillips, among others.

    Her advertising clients have included Barney’s New York, LVMH, Lancome, Elizabeth Arden, L’Oreal Paris, Shiseido, Pantene, Head & Shoulders Herbal Essences, Remy Martin, Sky Blue, Lolita Lempika, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Wolford, Girard Perregaux, Anna Sui, MAC, Baume et Mercier, De Beers, Epson, Mattel Broncolor, Hello Kitty, Jaguar, Nike, Pepsi and others.

    Her work has been featured in the top tier publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, GQ, The New York Times, The London Sunday Times, In Style and Time.

    From strategies for collaborating with celebrities, to practical guidance on balancing technique and creativity, she broke it all down and delivered a memorable masterclass for us. According to Indrani, a lot of her success has come from being a great diplomat as well as being original and pushing the boundaries.

    Often times, a photographer only has four to five solid minutes to work with a celebrity client, which can be a challenge within itself. “So much of photography is the talent you work with,” says Indrani. “Some actors are uncomfortable being themselves, and so sometimes you need to give them a role to play.”

    Unlike some of other photography guests, Indrani shoots digitally only. Though, while she feels the tools are much easier to work with, she insists photographers continually challenge themselves.

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    Indrani with NYFA Photography Co-Chair, Paul Sunday

    “Indrani moves through the world with diplomacy and grace and it is no surprise that celebrities the world over have trusted her with their images,” said New York Film Academy Photography Co-Chair, Paul Sunday. “She is a fine role model for emerging artists, balancing the glamour and gloss of her professional life with philanthropy as a persistent advocate for young women, education and environmental sustainability.”

    Moving forward in her career, Indrani has taken to her original passion of filmmaking. Indrani’s film and stills for Digital Death won two Gold Lions at Cannes Festival of Creativity for TBWA/Keep A Child Alive and raised millions to fight AIDS in India and Africa. She has also directed music videos for David Bowie and Alicia Keys.

    indrani lecture

    “It has been a joy to watch Indrani’s continued success as an image-maker, and a great honor to introduce her to our students,” added Sunday. “I was deeply touched by her advice to them regarding thinking and dreaming big. She firmly believes in the power of aspiration to greatly increase our chances of success and surprising ourselves. She counseled photographers to challenge themselves. She also encouraged all of us to hone our technical skills and keep pace with the changes in this ever expanding world of photographic possibilities.”

    We wish Indrani the best of luck moving forward in her already incredible career, and sincerely thank her for enlightening our young visual artists.

    October 1, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Photography • Views: 1001

  • NYFA Filmmakers Graduate in MFA, MA, and BFA Programs

    Filmmaking students from New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus gathered with family and friends at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood on Saturday, September 19th to receive their MFA, MA, and BFA degrees. There were two commencement ceremonies that occurred at 2pm and 6pm, each completely filling the 400-seat venue. Presiding over the ceremony, speaking, and presenting degrees from the Filmmaking Department were Chair Art Helterbran, Associate Chair David Newman, and Associate Chair Ed Timpe, as well as Dean of Students Eric Conner, and Dean of Academic Advising Mike Civille.

    graduation los angeles

    Commencement Speakers Erik Bork and Peter Strauss gave words of inspiration and advice for the future. Erick Bork is best known for his work on the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon, for which he wrote multiple episodes and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team, and his blog Flying Wrestler for which he was named one of the “Top 10 Most Influential Screenwriting Bloggers” in 2014.

    Since 2001, Peter Strauss has served as Executive Vice President of Mandalay Pictures (Sleepy Hollow, Donnie Brasco, I Know What You Did Last Summer). Before that he presided as EVP and Director at Allied Artists Pictures Corporation (Cabaret, Papillion, and The Man Who Would Be King), EVP at Rastar Films, President of Panache Productions Inc., and President, CEO and Chairman of the Board at International Movie Group Inc.

    graduation nyfa la

    The graduates and their guests celebrated afterwards in the stylish party atmosphere of the Andaz Hotel’s Riot House Restaurant on the Sunset Strip.

    Congratulations to New York Film Academy’s MFA, MA, and BFA Filmmaking Graduates!

    2:00PM CEREMONYMFA in Filmmaking

    Abdullah Abuljadail
    Amal Aljohani
    Daryl Anderson
    Jared Carlson
    Zenana Coombs
    Kraig Dane
    Xiao Guo
    Seung Hoon Han
    Amber Darlene Hayden-Gardenhire
    Luis Henriquez
    Ishani Jayamaha
    Xiaochen Jiang
    Jalon Johnson
    Jun Kuang
    Chantal Le Hunte
    Chenxi Li
    Guo Li
    Xinyi Li
    Yi Li
    Kah Kai Liew
    Simone Loudd
    Binbin Ma
    Runyu Ma
    Allyson Manno
    Luka Mgeladze
    Andrey Milyayev
    Brian Nkosi
    Oliver Ernesto Olivo Batista
    Alvaro Ortega Sanahuja
    Stjepan Ostoic Papic
    Tomer Preis
    Catherine Rand
    Eeshaan Roy
    Martin Ruiz
    Javier Salvago Escalera
    Juan Sebastián Sarmiento Bazzani
    Ke Shi
    Shrunal Tembhurne
    Leila Viera
    Mariana Wahrhaftig
    Sheng Wang
    Meghan Weinstein
    Yifan Xiao
    Wei Xin
    Fanting Xu
    Kang Xu
    Yunyi Zeng
    Mimi Zhang
    Jinming Zhao
    Lin Zhao

    BFA in Filmmaking

    Daniel Brizuela
    Casey Daniel
    Georgy Gorshunov
    Brian Hayes
    Casey Hempel
    Richard Jacob
    Gary Kent
    Timothy Kirkpatrick
    Carolina Mejia Lartilleux
    Brian Melo
    Sean Miyakawa
    Andrey Nuzhnyy
    Mariana Robles Thome
    Brittney Sugar

    AFA in Filmmaking

    Federico Bartolucci
    Jose Guilherme Correia Jr.
    Kellen Gibbs
    Rochel Goldsmith
    Fernando de Oliveira Haddad
    Brooke Marshal Hagen
    Oscar Ferid Hasbun Alcala
    Johannes Hochgatterer
    Sergey Korchinskiy
    Edward Orozco
    Thomas Personeni
    Hans Stjernswaerd
    Robert Styles
    Siyu Wang


    6:00PM CEREMONYMA in Film & Media Production

    Zhirayr Avetisyan
    Pierre Beaufrand Mendoza
    Grigory Borodavkin
    Ecenaz Bulat
    Yiqi Cao
    Junnian Cheng
    Kamala Khanna Chittoor
    Ifeoma Chukwuogo
    Shiyuan Dai
    Daniel Frank Demenezes
    Iaroslav Denisov
    Joaquin Fernandez Martin
    Shan Gao
    Markel Goikoetxea Markaida
    Zhuoying Han
    Yuzhe Huang
    Stephen Johnson
    Varun Kalyanasundaram
    Dhrunad Gautambhai
    Lyndall Eileen Klinkert
    Yan Li
    Binyue Liu
    Lishuo Liu
    Ye Luo
    Wanlin Ma
    Ioannis Marinopoulos
    Huan Mo
    Vasha Narace
    Adesola Ibrahim Omidina
    Shiyao Peng
    Raja Pothineni
    Otbah Rayess
    Kevin Robert
    Carla Roda Gomez
    Jainardhan Sathyan
    Shobi Nadeesha Chamini Seneviratne
    Leqi Tao
    Sophie Ellen Taylor
    Liang Xie
    Yunrui Yang
    Ying Ye
    Qianwei Zhang

    BFA in Filmmaking

    Mohamed Alaali
    Mohammed Alhiniah
    Madina Altynbayeva
    Pedro Paulo Araujo
    Matthew Beilinson
    Sanzhar Bekzhanov
    Ahmed Bhabhrawala
    Pedro Borges
    Maria Gabriela Cardenas
    Yu-Ning Chen
    Napoleon Cheung
    Adrian Cicerone
    Alisson Fhal
    Louisa Grams
    Alejandro Ibarra
    Huibing Jiang
    Bud Jones Jr.
    Chi Shun Lee
    Linxuan Li
    Kwok Yaw Loh
    Teng Ma
    Mzonke Maloney
    Diego Mejia Lartilleux
    Karolina Mikolajczak
    Aditya Mohan
    Noan Ribeiro
    Marcelo Rodrigues Barbosa
    Omar Said
    Zichen Song
    Brianna Flores Stanton
    Kang Yang
    Victoria Yang
    Zhikun Yu
    Yi Zhang
    Yimo Zhao
    Yinpeng Zheng




    September 28, 2015 • Filmmaking • Views: 718

  • MFA Producing Grad’s Political Documentary Available on Amazon

    When we last spoke with MFA Producing graduate Janek Ambros, he had just premiered his film Ten Thousand Saints (which he co-produced) at Sundance. He briefly mentioned his upcoming directorial debut film, Imminent Threat, which has now come to fruition. The documentary film, produced by Academy Award nominee James Cromwell, focuses on the War on Terror’s impact on civil liberties — certainly a hot topic in our currently heated presidential race for 2016.

    The documentary examines the 2001 AUMF days after 9/11, foreign entanglements abroad, the war on journalism, and the NSA. With interviews from prominent liberals (ACLU, CodePink) and conservatives (Cato Institute, R Congressmen), the film shows the unusual coalition being formed to challenge the two-party system and strike a better balance between security and liberty.

    “The film also tackles a larger issue: the fact that these issues aren’t conservative versus liberal, they’re instead about basic rights that are enshrined in the bill of rights and the basis of the United States and the rule of law,” says Ambros. “The film gives the issues context by discussing the war on terror abroad, the use of target killings by drones, and the NSA’s mass surveillance program.”

    Ambros said he was originally drawn to the project because he noticed that a “massive encroachment on civil liberties” was coming from the very same political party that criticized the Bush administration.

    “It showed a massive hypocrisy of the democratic establishment, and I felt a documentary should be made about how liberal democrats and libertarian republicans can work together to strike a better balance between security and liberty,” said Ambros.


    Janek Ambros at the LA premiere of Imminent Threat

    What has certainly helped give the film notoriety, including a recent write up in Deadline, is having James Cromwell attached as producer of the film.

    “James loved the film and he was willing to put his name on it as a political endorsement,” recalled Ambros. “He’s one of the great character actors of all time. I really admire him as an outspoken individual and activist, so I was extremely lucky and fortunate.”

    You can now rent or purchase Imminent Threat on Amazon.

    In three weeks, Ambros will be shooting his next film, Valley of Bones, starring Autumn Reeser.

    September 10, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1178

  • Daughter of Legendary Actor Burt Lancaster Shares Stories of Her Father

    Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the New York Film Academy Theater to attend an evening centered on the life and work of legendary actor-producer Burt Lancaster. The event opened with a presentation introducing Lancaster to those not yet familiar with his work. Following this was a showing of The Professionals (1966, Richard Brooks), a Western adventure from the “American gunfighters in Mexico” subgenre, which starred Lancaster, along with Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Robert Ryan, and Claudia Cardinale.

    Joanna Lancaster

    Joanna Lancaster

    Finally, students participated in a Q&A with Lancaster’s daughter, Joanna Lancaster, a successful film and television producer in her own right—her credits include Little Treasure (1985), the classic comedy Ruthless People (1986), and the reality TV series COPS(1989)—as she gave unique insight into her legendary father. NYFA Film Studies instructor Paul Laverack, currently teaching a course on Burt Lancaster, conducted the opening presentation and moderated the discussion with Joanna Lancaster.

    Burt Lancaster grew up in the slums of East Harlem, left home to pursue a career as a circus acrobat, and served in WW2 as an entertainment specialist in the Italian campaign. After the war, a chance meeting in an elevator in New York led to the audition, which soon launched his movie career with The Killers (1946), the crime thriller that rocketed him to international stardom at age thirty-three. His film career stretched across the next half-century, and includes a number of iconic performances, such as the role of Sgt. Warden in the Best Picture Oscar-winner From Here to Eternity (1953), which includes Hollywood’s most famous love scene—Lancaster and Deborah Kerr embracing on the sand as waves crash over them.

    Lancaster also memorably headlined Criss Cross (1949), The Crimson Pirate (1952), Trapeze(1956), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Train (1964), and Atlantic City (1980), among many others. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar four times, and took home the golden statuette for the title role in Elmer Gantry (1960). In addition, Lancaster was foremost among the pioneering crop of star-producers in the 1950s, with his Hecht-Lancaster company producing several successful films, most notably Marty (1955), the Best Picture Oscar-winner, and the first American film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

    “My father thought Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando were the pre-eminent actors of their generation,” Joanna Lancaster said during the discussion after the film. “They were the only two men whose talent intimidated him.” In response to a question from acting student Daniel Pareja about Marlon Brando—whose career intersected with her father’s at several points—Ms. Lancaster said, “Dad really liked Brando, on a personal level. They were both bleeding-heart liberals, and they were often involved in the same political causes. Brando called the house a couple of times when I was a kid, but I had no idea who he was, at the time.”

    When discussing her dawning awareness of her father’s status as a movie star, Ms. Lancaster said, “Whatever circumstance you grow up in, that’s normal to you. My parents made sure that all of us kids went to the same school throughout our elementary years, and we had a normal family life, as much as possible. It was really in the way other people reacted to my dad that I saw what he meant to them. I remember one time, we were all out at dinner, and a woman approached our table. She was trembling. She knelt beside my dad and told him, ‘I worship you.’ When the woman got up and left, my dad looked at us and wondered aloud what the hell had just happened.” She added with a knowing chuckle, “My dad had a healthy ego, and he certainly liked the attention much of the time, but he tried to stay grounded.”

    Lancaster was famous for doing virtually all of his own stunts across a long list of action-adventure films, and his daughter spoke about the importance physicality played in his life. “He ran every day, at the track at UCLA.” Her father also “had this twenty-foot rope connected to the ceiling of his office, and he would scramble up the rope whenever he felt like it,” to keep his upper body strong. Ms. Lancaster smiled as she remembered her father once using that rope as a test for her would-be boyfriend, challenging the young man to climb to the top if he wanted to go on a date with Joanna. Though the boy was “clearly on downers,” Ms. Lancaster recalled, “somehow he did it; got right up to the ceiling.” When the boy came back down, her father gave his blessing to their relationship. “Getting my dad’s approval,” Ms. Lancaster concluded with a laugh, “completely squashed my desire to date the guy after that.”

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    Paul Laverack with Joanna Lancaster

    When the evening’s discussion was over, several students approached Ms. Lancaster and her sister Sighle—who was key to putting the event together, and who helped jog Joanna’s memory from the audience—to express appreciation for their father’s work.

    Acting student Pete Gomes told the sisters that The Swimmer (1968) was his favorite of all the Burt Lancaster movies his class had watched this semester. Joanna expressed some surprise at this, as she found the mysterious, modernist film often connects most strongly with men in their forties who are experiencing a midlife crisis. “I’m getting mine out of the way early,” Pete replied. “Now when I hit my forties, I’ll just Burt my way through it.”

    September 3, 2015 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1207

  • ‘Everybody Stand Up’ for NYFA Australia Gold Coast Alumni

    Popular Australian musical duo Bombs Away’s most recent music video, “Everybody Stand Up,” featuring Luciana, was directed by New York Film Academy Australia Gold Coast alumni and a current student. The video has been gaining buzz with over 100,000 views on Youtube in just about a month.

    everybody stand up

    on set of “Everybody Stand Up”

    Produced by Joel Thomas from Voyageur Productions, “Everybody Stand Up” was directed by Gold Coast alumnus Damian Lang, who says he and his crew thought the Bombs Away guys were a pleasure to work with. In addition to Lang, the crew consisted of current student, Harrison Scholes, as well as alumni Matt Robinson, Melissa King and Shawn Chapman.

    “My experience from NYFA was critical to my performance,” says Lang. “It has also helped me present myself professionally as a director and a business.”

    Lang is currently working on two music videos and just finished wrapping his short film, The First Step. His hope is to eventually direct his first feature film.

    For now, enjoy this music video from Lang and his NYFA crew.

    September 1, 2015 • Entertainment Australia, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1425