• Discussion with 20th Century Fox Chairman & CEO James N. Gianopulos

    New York Film Academy students were invited to a theatre on the 20th Century Fox Studios Lot in Beverly Hills for an amazing opportunity—a Q&A with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of 20th Century Fox Corp., James N. Gianopulos. The event was moderated by producer Tova Laiter.
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    Often, throughout the event, the subject of international filmmakers and more diversity in the industry came up. When asked if students from abroad who studied here should stay here or return home to start their careers, Mr. Gianopulos said,  If you’re [already] here, stay here…there’s so much talent here. It’s no accident that Hollywood is what it is.”

    He acknowledged, though, that “very few movies are filmed in Hollywood—it is too expensive,” but overall he still believed that students should remain here if they can, unless they want to return to live in their original country and make movies about their own culture.

    A student asked what would make Mr. Gianopulos want to work with an international filmmaker, and he told the student, “it’s not whether they are international or not, it’s whether they are a talented filmmaker with a good story to tell.”

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    Producer Tova Laiter with 20th Century Fox Chairman & CEO James N. Gianopulos

    “Culture is more diverse than ever and the studios are looking to match it both because it is the right thing and also because the movies will appeal more to the the diverse audience around the globe. He brought the example of The Martians in which the cast was very diverse. Ridley Scott chose them because they were best for the role.

    Where the industry is lacking is behind the camera. He expressed Fox’s support for “The Ghetto Film School,” which is a program for high schooler filmmakers in disadvantage areas of NYC and LA to learn without cost to them. In terms of gender, four out of the five top positions of the creative divisions at Fox are women (big applause here from NYFA females!).

    When asked where a young filmmaker should start in order to get the attention of the bigger studios, Mr. Gianopulos told the student that Fox doesn’t “take unsolicited material,” so the students should “keep making stuff and keep networking relentlessly until [they] get noticed by an agent who can submit for you.” He candidly told students “I worked my a– off in between the lucky breaks.”

    When asked what trait that he found most useful, he considered the question for a moment, and then said that “I’ve been trying to put humility to work.” He also said to “have trust in the people you work with.”

    After the Q&A, students were treated to a trailer for the film X-Men: Apocalypse on the big screen.

    March 25, 2016 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 718

  • NYFA Australia Student Works on Set of “The Nest 3D”

    Barry Havenga

    Part of the benefits of attending the New York Film Academy Australia is its accessibility to the Village Roadshow Studios. Over the past few months, NYFA Australia Filmmaking student, Barry Havenga, had the opportunity to work on-set of The Nest 3D, which just so happened to be filming at Village Roadshow Studios. The young filmmaker will be working as a stand-in for actor Kellan Lutz, known for his roles in the Twilight series as well as many other film and television productions.

    It just so happens that Barry was initially scouted by a casting agent at a café near the school who thought he had a suitable look for the role. Either way, it was certainly a case of being in the right place at the right time!

    From a filmmakers’ perspective, Barry feels that he now has a better understanding of what actors go through and what they require from their directors, as he was able to observe different approaches from the directors on set. Having been prepared for on-set experience at NYFA, Barry felt familiar and confident with the everyday protocol. Not only that, the experience has further fueled Barry’s interest in acting, and he’s now hoping to score a role on Thor, which is also shooting at Village Roadshow throughout 2016.

    His first day on set involved feeding lines to Kelsey Grammer, who Barry admits is quite “awesome.” From this, Barry developed a working relationship with both Grammer and Lutz, mentioning a vision board night with Lutz and fellow actors as his most memorable experience.

    We wish Barry the best of luck in pursuing both his filmmaking and acting passions! And perhaps we’ll be seeing him in the next Thor.

  • NYFA Industry Lab Creates Video for Che’Nelle’s Youtube Channel

    Che’Nelle, a Malaysian Australian recording artist, signed with Universal Music Japan with her 2015 hit single “Fierce,” and is now giving back to the community by working with the Nashville based organization Soles4Souls. The non-profit global social enterprise is committed to fighting poverty through the collection and distribution of shoes and clothing.


    Recently, the New York Film Academy’s Industry Lab filmed Che’Nelle’s charitable cause, donating from her own closet with the help of Los Angeles based celebrity stylist from NBC’s Fashion Star and Eva Longoria’s Ready for Love, Daniel Musto, a current member of E! Style Collective and the Costumer Designers Guild.

    The concept for the video was written by New York Film Academy alumnus Todd Lien and directed by alumna and Director of Les Femmes du Ciné (New York Film Academy’s Women’s Club) Mariana Thome.


    Other notable crew members from New York Film Academy’s Industry Lab are alumnus producer, Davin Tjen, cinematographer Alejandro Talens, and sound mixer Steve Johnson. Along with current students, gaffer Jiaqing “Vince” Ge and sound mixer Anastasia Reinhard.

    Be on the look out for the video, which should be going live soon on Che’Nelle’s Youtube Channel.

    March 22, 2016 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 607

  • Matt Kohnen Wins Best Director at LA Indie Festival

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    Matt Kohnen awarded Best Director at LA Indie Film Festival

    Most of us aren’t too fond of attending funerals, but in the case of New York Film Academy instructor Matt Kohnen’s film, The Funeral Guest, the main character, Emily, feels a connection to mourners in the emotionally raw atmosphere. Produced and co-written with his brother, Sean, Kohnen’s dark comedy has been getting terrific responses from the festival circuit. Coming off its premiere at the Shanghai Film Festival and screening at festivals in Carmel and Bahamas, The Funeral Guest recently won both Best Actress for Julianna Robinson and Best Director for Kohnen at the LA Indie Festival.

    “Initially, The Funeral Guest was not written, just a vague idea,” said Kohnen. “But we hustled up and wrote a draft in a month and helped get it financed through the Eyde company, which does real estate in Lansing, MI, where we shot. It was a small budget, and a quick prep time, but we did it; and premiered at the Shanghai Film Festival, where I went and did some work with NYFA, talking to student groups.”

    Kohnen’s first feature as a director, Wasting Away/Aaah! Zombies!! was a horror/comedy that won the Audience Award at Screamfest LA, Best Picture Midnight Extreme at Sitge International SciFi/Horror Fest, Audience Award/Best Screenplay/Best Comedy at the Zompire Genre Fest, Best Picture at the Festivus Film Festival, and has been the hit of a host of other film festivals including the well-regarded London Sci Fi Festival and Lund Fantastik Film Festival, gaining Worldwide distribution.

    Repped by Verve Agency and Writ Large Management, Kohnen has also written for producers such as the aforementioned Rob Fried and developed with a wide array of companies such as Gold Circle Films (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Spring Creek Productions (Blood Diamond), and Dark Horse Comics (Hellboy).

    With his brother Sean, he is currently working with Producer Michael Shamberg (Django Unchained, Erin Brockovich, Pulp Fiction) on a TV pilot set in the world of illegal arms, and has recently sold a pilot about money laundering to Universal Studios, with Omar Epps (House, Resurrection) attached.

    Next on the festival circuits for The Funeral Guest is the Capitol City Film Festival (Lansing, MI) and the Julian Dubuque Film Festival, and more to come!

    March 17, 2016 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 631

  • NYFA Moderates Talk with Sacha Baron Cohen at “The Brothers Grimsby” NY Event

    As a man who has built a career on shocking his audience, Sacha Baron Cohen continues to push the envelope with his new comedy, The Brothers Grimsby. In celebration of his new release, Sony invited New York Film Academy students to a special New York City screening, which was moderated by NYFA Instructor Ben Cohen.

    Adorned in some sort of hipster, cowboy attire, the always hilarious Sacha Baron Cohen took the time to chat and take photos with our students. Before screening the film, Sacha showed us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at some of the production behind Bruno, which gave insight into the delicate and creative planning that goes into each bit. It’s actually more complicated and dangerous than one would think.

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    NYFA Instructor Ben Cohen with Sacha Baron Cohen

    The Brothers Grimsby, which also stars actors Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson and others, revolves around a football hooligan who winds up teaming up with his long lost brother, a top spy, in order to ultimately save the world from a deadly virus outbreak. As expected, the film delivers outrageous moments that would only fly in Cohen’s world, and one can’t help but laugh.

    Following the screening at the Regal Union Square in New York, Ben Cohen opened up a discussion with Sacha Baron Cohen that focused on the character and story development that went into the pre-production of the film. Sacha explained how he sees his rowdy, family-oriented character as a sort of “everyman” thrown into the high-tech world of a spy where the stakes are extremely high.

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    Several NYFA students were given the opportunity to ask questions as Ben opened the discussion up to the sold out Regal theatre. In fact, at one point, the crowd seemed as though they were on a comedy audition of their own as the discussion included a bit of hilarity in itself.

    “I had an amazing night with other NYFA students and also got to meet one of my heroes, Sacha Baron Cohen,” said NYFA student and U.S. veteran, Corporal Michael J. Lynch.

    Sacha Baron Cohen reached a somewhat touching conclusion to the evening by stating, “I know it sounds cheesy, but I had a moment when I heard the crowd going wild and I had this realization that I’m doing this all for the fans.”

    The Brothers Grimsby is now playing in theaters.

    March 10, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1997

  • Screening of 2016 Oscar Nominated “Room” with Oscar Nominated Director Lenny Abrahamson Q&A

    New York Film Academy students gathered in a Warner Bros. theater to watch the 2016 Oscar nominee Room followed by a Q&A with Director Lenny Abrahamson. The students were blown away by the film, which was released last September to rave reviews and recently awarded actress Brie Larson with Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Lenny Abrahamson inspired and enlightened the students with the discussion that followed. The event was moderated by producer Tova Laiter.
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    Lenny emphasized the importance of students networking with each other. He has a longstanding, deep relationship with his producer, composer and writer—which has been a key factor in his projects being realized. When it’s more than just you, it helps in believing what you’re doing is actually real. In an industry where it’s easy to start feeling like your dreams are impossible, the support from the nucleus group is vital. Therefore, NYFA students’ greatest resource is their fellow students.

    Since a large part of the film took place in a single room, one NYFA student asked whether blocking actors in such a limited space proved to be difficult. Lenny said that initially this was a concern of his. He was challenged to take inventory of all the director’s resources—shot size, varying backgrounds, etc.

    Once he got into the thick of it, Lenny found that the story fueled him with enough variations to have the tiny space not be a limitation, except for the difficulty of squeezing the crew. Perhaps the best art comes not from the freedom but from limitations imposed on us.

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    Tova Laiter with Lenny Abrahamson

    Another question was about directing a seven-year-old boy, Jacob, to an especially praised performance. Mr. Abrahmson said that some of the technique was mimic, some improv; and toward the end Jacob was really on point and flowing. Having a child on set also helped lead actress Brie Larson—when things got too depressing, Jacob was on set to lighten the mood. Lenny also made sure Brie and Jacob had time to bond before the movie started.

    Lenny finally discussed his famous pitch letter to the author of the bestseller book and how it helped him get the job that so many other directors wanted. Most other directors just said how wonderful the book was, but he wrote a five-page letter about his vision while telling her why the other approaches she might have had would not work. Clever, productive and got the job done! (You can read the letter on the Internet or IndieWire blog.)

    March 1, 2016 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1852

  • NYFA Australia Sydney’s Ben Osmo Wins Oscar for Best Sound Mixing

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    Coming in with a “technical” knockout in last night’s 88th Academy Awards was Mad Max: Fury Road, winning six behind-the-scenes Oscars. The groundbreaking visuals and sound from the production paved the way for its momentous evening, which included New York Film Academy Australia, Sydney Instructor Ben Osmo, who won an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing.

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    The acclaimed film, shot in both Namibia and parts of Australia, is about a woman who rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post-apocalyptic Australia in search for her home-land with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshipper, and a drifter named Max. Director George Miller put together quite an impressive cast and crew in this critically and financially successful sci-fi adventure.

    Passing on that successful production experience to our students will be none other than Instructor Osmo, who teaches hands-on production and sound workshops, which take our students out of the classroom and directly onto a real set environment.

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    We’re so proud of Mr. Osmo and would like to congratulate him on his Oscar win!

    February 29, 2016 • Community Highlights, Entertainment Australia, Filmmaking • Views: 4153

  • NYFA Grad Starts ‘Live it Soul Records’

    Following his graduation from New York Film Academy’s One-Year Acting for Film Conservatory, Mickael Zieben began his acting and music producing career in Paris, France, even starting his own record label Live it Soul Records.


    Most recently, Zieben produced a new song and visual entitled Love You Like This, which is a brand new single from Ambition The Kid, a rising star from Pennsylvania.

    Zieben says he decided to pursue music video production because it incorporates my two of his main passions in life: music and visuals. Have a look at his work below:

    “I would definitely say that my NYFA education was useful in terms of producing video content in general,” said Zieben. “Since my time at NYFA, my vision of the film industry and artistic acknowledgement have improved in many ways. Consequently, my self confidence truly got boosted, making me aspire for music video producing.”

    Zieben aims to gain even more credibility in the music industry by working with many more talented artists.

    At this time, Zieben is working on a beautiful acoustic wedding record entitled I Do.

    “In everyday life, I like to face new intellectual challenges—to outdo myself,” added Zieben. That literally is a way to grow as a person.”

    February 22, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1069

  • NYFA Welcomes Acclaimed Photographer and Cinematographer Carter Smith

    On February 17, the fashion and celebrity photographer, and NYFA Alumnus, Carter Smith, provided the New York Film Academy Photography Department’s latest guest lecture at NYFA’s New York Campus at 17 Battery Place.

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    Carter is an award-winning film director and fashion photographer who has been working in the industry for over 15 years. His fashion images have appeared in magazines all over the world, including Vogue, GQ, Elle, W, i-D, Allure, Visionaire and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked with commercial clients such as Vera Wang, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Lancôme, DKNY, Lacoste, Banana Republic, and Hermes – often shooting both stills and directing commercials.

    Smith’s first short film “BUGCRUSH,” adapted from a short story by Scott Treleaven, won the Grand Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. In 2008, “BUGCRUSH” caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, who handpicked Smith to direct the feature film “The Ruins” for DreamWorks Entertainment. In addition to the film’s commercial success, “The Ruins” received critical acclaim and was chosen as one of Stephen King’s top ten movies of the year.

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    Carter walked NYFA photography students through his childhood in Maine and his early interest in fashion and photography. He spoke passionately about his early career decisions, including his reasons for choosing attending NYFA over New York University and the Fashion Institute of Technology, so that he could obtain a hands-on education. He talked about the importance of learning how to instantly build a rapport with your subjects, and the need to network all the time and maintain those relationships. Students walked away with a great message from Carter; never stop working, testing, and exploring your own vision. “Show the work you love to create, and it will find a niche,” Carter told the NYFA students.

    February 19, 2016 • Filmmaking, Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2043

  • NYFA Collaborates with WGA Veterans Writing Project

    The New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) had the great privilege of collaborating with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and their Veterans Writing Project to support a number of veteran students in the NYFA filmmaking and screenwriting programs.

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    Daniel Smith (US Army, NYFA MFA Screenwriting Alumnus, standing far right) and David Dasilma (US Army, NYFA MFA Acting Alumnus, kneeling front left) among other participants in the WGA Veterans Writing Project

    The WGA’s Veterans Writing Project held a two-day retreat loaded with opportunities to bend the ears of professionals in the screenwriting industry. On a fall weekend, the WGA welcomed 64 veterans from across all branches of the military. Veterans traveled from states as far as Florida for the chance to learn and write with seasoned TV and film writers. Through their willingness to give back to veterans, individual veterans were assigned WGA member mentors who were very forthcoming with their experience and knowledge in the craft of writing. Veterans were able to workshop ideas and engage in writing exercises that were key lessons in getting ideas on the page.

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    Mentors (far left) Michael Jann (THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON) and (far right) Saul Turteltaub (THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW) flank participant Michael Williams. Photo Credit: Glen Golightly

    Along with sessions focusing on the craft of screenwriting, the weekend also included a powerful full-cast table reading of Ken LaZebnik’s screenplay, Sterling. On Sunday, WGF President and program mentor Larry Andries moderated an industry panel, which included executive producer Brannon Braga, Gersh Agency agent Eric Garfinkel, producer Brad Kervoy and Disney Channel development executive Sheila Walcott.

    The weekend retreat was only the beginning of the yearlong program that includes a 10-week session of intensive workshops. With the minds of accomplished writers, attendees benefited from a knowledge base that comes from those who have succeeded in the business. It was a wealth of information for the NYFA students and all the veterans that attended.