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.
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.
A very full theatre of NYFA students in Los Angeles welcomed Talent Agent Louise Ward to speak to them this past week. Her clients include Channing Tatum and Oscar Isaac. Producer Tova Laiter and Chair of Acting Lynda Goodfriend moderated this event.
Louise Ward spoke to NYFA students about her work as a talent agent, about starting out and skipping the usual first few steps to become an agent—becoming a manager rather than starting out in the mailroom and working her way up. At the time, being a manager was seen as being a “hand holder” for an actor.
Now she works as a talent agent. She said she “doesn’t do favor meetings”—she likes to get recommendations from directors who have worked with an actor, or have seen the actor in a play or a film at a festival. She even likes to call up casting directors and ask about the person who came in second for the role. All the other agents are swarming on the person who got the role, Ward said.
Louise Ward said that her job was to help actors and actresses to take their “aspirations and make them less lofty, more transactional…to give [their] career a trajectory.”
A student asked Ward about her advice for international actors. Ward said that they should stick with their own accent for auditions, otherwise the casting agents would spend more time focusing on the accent, rather than the acting choices made. But this doesn’t mean that actors shouldn’t work on their accent, in general, allowing them to have more options. Ward also said that the western entertainment industry was finally looking a little more globally, slowly.
Ward advised the students in the crowd to never stop working. “Even when you aren’t [acting], you should be working,” Ward said. “Work on accents, on cold reading, on forming relationships with people. Get your teeth cleaned.”
“You need to know your superpower,” Ward told the students about going into the industry.
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!
Last week, New York Film Academy students were invited to a theatre in the Warner Bros. lot to view the recently released, still in theaters, Dirty Grandpa, starring Robert De Niro, and Zac Efron, followed by a Q&A with Producer Barry Josephson. De Niro plays the titular “Dirty Grandpa,” a recent widower who convinces his straight-laced grandson (Zac Efron) to take him to Florida for Spring Break. The Q&A was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA instructor Stephanie Lindquist.
Josephson spoke to the importance of always hunting for new material to work with, saying, “I don’t create intellectual property, I find it.” He cited books as a common source, including for his hit television series Bones and AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies. He also told students that “a lot of it is going out there, talking to agents” to get new projects—not just waiting around for a great idea.
One student asked what Josephson had done to set himself apart early on. Josephson cited his attitude, advising students that “I think as a guppy in this business, you want to have good ideas. You want to have a positive attitude—[other people] have their own problems—always [be] a problem solver.” He said that people don’t like to work with others who are negative.
When asked about what it’s like to be asking for money for a project, Josephson talked about how important it is to have a lot of confidence for the project, and to not ask for money until you truly believe in it. He let the students know that they should “go in with as much confidence as possible…[you have to believe] you know better…[and] invest yourself.”
Last week, New York Film Academy welcomed Julio Macat, a cinematographer known for his work on comedies such as the Home Alone series, Wedding Crashers, and Pitch Perfect, for a Q&A after screening Horrible Bosses 2. Horrible Bosses 2 features an ensemble cast of Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Chris Pine. The discussion was moderated by Dean of Students Eric Conner and Associate Chair of the Cinematography Department Mike Williamson.
Macat arrived before the film started to introduce the film and let students know what to be watching for. He specifically talked about style when shooting comedy, saying that when he first started in the industry, “comedies were shot in kind of a bright way, less contrast. I’ve been able to do comedies that are less bright, more rich,” he added. He also talked about how it isn’t just music that affects the pace of a film, it’s “figuring out when the camera should be moving and when it should be static.”
After the film, Dean of Students Eric Conner introduced Macat, and started the Q&A. Macat opened up about his personal attitude toward filming, telling students that they should always be flexible and go with the flow when filming and that “the worst thing to do is to fix yourself, 100%, this is what you’re going to do—most of your best work is going to be happy accidents.”
Macat asked the students about themselves when they came up to ask questions, and when one student expressed a nervousness about lighting, Macat reassured them, saying that, “it took me years to get a hang of lighting. What helped me most about lighting [was] observing real light.”
His final word of advice to our students was to “work with something they’re passionate about.”
Last week, students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus spent an evening with the creators of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, one of the most celebrated films of the English rock music scene of the 1960s. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Cinematographer (and NYFA LA Cinematography Chair) Tony Richmond regaled the students with tales of a wild 30-hour shoot that took place in December, 1968.
Featuring performances by The Who, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones themselves, The Rock and Roll Circus was a one-time event staged by the Stones to offer local fans an intimate concert experience set in a tawdry European traveling circus tent. The idea was to celebrate the music and not the trappings of the glamorous rock and roll life. The attendees of the concert were witness to music history as they watched a gathering of rock superstars playing for the fun of it to a crowd of about 300 people. The students at the film screening witnessed a document of one of the most creative and influential musical scenes—namely, London in the late ‘60s.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the film, is a music video and documentary pioneer. He made (with Tony Richmond), the Beatles’ final feature film, Let It Be, as well as Simon and Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park; Paul Simon, Graceland; and Neil Young in Berlin, among many others. Michael also directed many seminal music videos including videos for the Stones’ songs “Start Me Up,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Angie,” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Michael also directed many Beatles music videos, including “Paperback Writer,” “Hey Jude,” and “Revolution.” All this, in addition to directing many critically acclaimed feature films including Master Harold and the Boys, Nasty Habits, and Frankie Starlight, and television series such as “Ready Steady Go” and “Brideshead Revisited (for which he won the BAFTA award).”
Anthony Richmond was a camera assistant on Dr. Zhivago, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, From Russia With Love, and Francois Truffaut’s Farenheit 451. Tony then went on the be the cinematographer of dozens of films, including The Man Who Fell To Earth, Don’t Look Now (for which he won the BAFTA award), The Sandlot, Stardust, Legally Blonde, and Ravenous. Tony was also responsible for lensing many seminal rock and roll films, including Sympathy for the Devil (for director Jean-Luc Goddard), The Who’s The Kids Are Alright, and Glastonbury Faire.
NYFA Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon, who moderated the evening’s Q&A, encouraged the students in attendance to take Michael and Tony’s lead and do what they love. “After speaking with these two legends, I was impressed by just how much they love telling stories. They cannot imagine a life where they weren’t constantly creating films, videos, and shows, and they do it for the love of sharing stories.”
When asked what he hoped NYFA students would take away from the screening, Tony responded “We were veritable kids when we filmed the show. We were inventing techniques as we went along in order to accomplish our vision. We even engaged a French camera company to fashion a system for us that enabled Michael to direct the film like a live show, thus preserving the energy of the performance. These cameras were regular TV studio cameras but had beam splitters installed into them so that 50% of the light coming in through the lens would be funneled to Michael in the control room, and 50% went to a built-in 16mm camera that served as our image capture medium. Michael was cutting on the fly like a live TV show in a control truck, calling the shots to the various camera operators. To my knowledge, this was the first time film had been used for a live show in this way.”
About the screening, Michael says “Under Sonny Calderon’s alert questioning, Tony and I were able to re-create for the students the making of ‘TRSRNRC’ and also about those times, the middle 1960s, when the world was changing under our feet and before our eyes. London then was a terrific place when all these extraordinary musicians were exploding and sending their shards of brilliance around the globe. But we hoped the students didn’t just see this as a trip to Lake Nostalgia, but also as something made by a group of people who were passionately involved with what they were doing, and wished to encourage them to find their own heroes and heroines and projects to go for and things which may seem at first daunting but with application and wit, will soon be theirs.”
Many of the insights shared by Michael Lindsay-Hogg can be found in his recently-published memoir, “Luck and Circumstance,” which details his fascinating life growing up and working with many of Hollywood’s greatest talents.
New York Film Academy thanks Michael Lindsay-Hogg for speaking with our students, and we very much look forward to more conversations with him to come.
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.
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.
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.”
Veteran students from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) were again invited to film New York City’s Veteran Advisory Board (VAB) quarterly meetings, the first of 2016, by the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs. The VAB meeting heralded the historic creation of New York City’s Department of Veteran Affairs. Commissioner Loree Sutton, MD. (BGen Rt.), thanked the New York Film Academy and the veteran-student filmmakers and cinematographers that worked to capture the evening’s meeting for web-broadcast, before giving the floor to those wishing to address the board and those in attendance.
Commissioner Loree Sutton, M.D. (Brig. Gen. Rt.) addresses the attendees of the first Veteran Advisory Board Meeting of 2016
“Being adaptable as a filmmaker is key to success early on,” says Tarrell Childs. “While I am busy working on creative ventures as a filmmaker, I like take time to stay connected to the veteran community by putting the skills I learned at the New York Film Academy to use for practical events, like community outreach programs and engagement.”
The New York Film Academy is proud of its continuing commitment to support those that served in the U.S. armed forces and also their dependents. As just one example, veteran students and alumni from the New York Film Academy have most recently partnered with the United Veteran War Council, a veteran advocacy organization, but may be best known for their yearly production of the NYC’s Veterans Day Parade. Veteran film students from NYFA worked on the production crew throughout the lead-up and execution of the parade. Taping interviews and segments, as well as the live production, the experience was a rewarding way to break into professional production and camerawork for all the students that participated.
NYFA Veteran student, Wally Colon, filming the Veteran Advisory Board Meeting of NYC
The New York Film Academy, the world’s largest and most prestigious visual and performing arts private institution, is a certified and award-winning Military Friendly School committed to supporting this newest generation of veterans. NYFA is proud to serve military veterans and service members in their pursuit of a world-class education in filmmaking—and related disciplines—through its Veterans Advancement Program Chaired by Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient.
New York Film Academy students were treated to a special screening of the groundbreaking, and box office record making, indie horror film Saw and participated in a Q&A with the film’s producer Oren Koules and cinematographer / NYFA instructor David Armstrong. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the discussion.
In 2003, Koules made an almost one million dollar investment with partner Mark Burg to produce Saw. By 2011 the Saw franchise had earned roughly 870 million at the box office. The movie, shot in a mere 18 days, was a very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience according to Oren and David Armstrong (cinematographer of Saw I through VI). The luxuries of a studio movie were nowhere to be seen on this film set. They would often have to get a shot in one take because of time or resource restrictions. However, the run-and-gun nature of making the film, coupled with the fact that Oren was betting everything on an idea he simply believed very strongly in, was an exhilarating experience that made him feel alive.
Producer Oren Koules
Oren Koules’ story is one that defies Hollywood logic. At the age of thirty-one Oren decided to become a Hollywood producer and he moved to Los Angeles. He tried to get a job as an assistant, but without any industry-related experience, nobody would hire him. However, Oren let none of that deter him and decided instead to just go straight for his goal. Koules was introduced to former Los Angeles Times reporter, Dale Pollock, and the two formed Peak Productions soon after. Together, they packaged films that began getting studio attention for their undeniably good and cutting-edge taste. After landing deals they began producing films like Mrs. Winterbourne and Set It Off. The early success of Peak Productions led Koules to a job as the Senior Vice President of Production at Paramount Pictures. In 1998, Koules and Mark Burg founded management / production company Evolution Entertainment. They produced the Denzel Washington-led thriller film, John Q, which was released in 2002.
Evolution Entertainment was also responsible for the production of Two and a Half Men starting in 2003. At this time Oren forged a relationship with Charlie Sheen. Having starred in a string of B-movies, Sheen’s Hollywood value had dropped. Oren saw a new future for Charlie—as a TV star. He convinced Sheen to stop making movies for six months to neutralize his image and until his former representation contracted ended. After that, Koules signed him to Evolution Entertainment and he maneuvered Sheen onto his iconic role as Charlie Harper on Chuck Lorre’s Two and a Half Men and became an executive producer on the show. Not bad for Oren having only arrived to Hollywood a little more than a decade before!
Producer Tova Laiter, Oren Koules, and David Armstrong
When asked what advice Oren had for filmmakers just starting out in the entertainment industry, his message was simple: “Just believe in yourself.” This wraps up the experience of meeting Oren Koules in so many ways. The man exudes the calm, confidence of a do-er. Oren’s journey through Hollywood has been a steady, determined march as he manifests his goals. His example helps one to truly believe that the key to success is found in believing.
We sincerely thank Oren Koules and David Armstrong for speaking at the New York Film Academy and wish them continued success in their careers!