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  • J.K. Simmons Finds a Navy SEALS Role More His Tempo

    jk simmons

    Fresh off his Oscar win for his incredible performance in Whiplash, J.K. Simmons is filling his dance card with an upcoming slate of high-profile movies. He’s already signed on for Skull Island, the epic sequel to Peter Jackson’s King Kong starring The Avengers’ Tom Hiddleston and Birdman’s Michael Keaton, set for release in 2017.

    This week, Simmons added another role, that of a Navy SEAL commanding officer giving his troops a hard time—a part he was seemingly born to play. The film is The Lake, a thriller about the aforementioned SEALs searching for sunken treasure in Serbia.

    The Lake is being co-written and produced by prolific French filmmaker Luc Besson, director of La Femme Nikita, León, The Fifth Element and Lucy and creator of The Transporter and Taken series. Steven Quale, director of Final Destination 5 and Into the Storm and a long-time collaborator of James Cameron, will be helming The Lake. Quale is a fitting choice, considering his work with Cameron on other water-based adventures The Abyss and the 3D IMAX documentary Aliens of the Deep.

    Simmons recently spoke with New York Film Academy students about his well-lauded roles in Spider-Man, Portal 2, The Legend of Korra, The Closer, and, of course, Whiplash. There’s no doubt he will bring his trademark talent and passion to The Lake.

    March 25, 2015 • Acting, Entertainment News, Guest Speakers • Views: 296

  • ‘X-Files’ Alumnus Paul Brown to Teach Workshop at NYFA South Beach

    Paul BrownAfter a thirteen year hiatus, Fox has officially let fans know that the popular 90s TV show, The X-Files, will be returning for a brand new season. Series creator Chris Carter says the series will pick up right where it left off with stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny all on board to reprise their roles.

    The six-episode season is set to begin production this summer.

    In the meantime, X-Files alumnus Paul Brown will be teaching a workshop at the New York Film Academy’s South Beach campus.

    The Secret of Great Stories
    Workshop Featuring award-winning writer, director and producer, Paul Brown
    SATURDAY, APRIL 11th, 2015 at 12pm

    If you’re interested in attending the workshop, email southbeach@nyfa.edu

    Instructor Paul Brown is an award-winning writer, director and producer, having worked in film and television for over twenty-five years. He has produced over one-hundred television dramas, pilots, and movies, working on such series at The X-Files, Quantum Leap, The New Twilight Zone, Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise.  He has received nominations for three “Emmy Awards” and three “Golden Globes” as well as winning the “Edgar Award” from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Drama. He has also received the “Genesis Animal Rights Award.”

    He co-created Disney’s world-wide smash hit Camp Rock.  Most recently, he directed and co-wrote the dramatic feature film Heaven’s Rain in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

    As a teacher for the New York Film Academy, he also gives lectures on writing, acting, and filmmaking throughout the year in Latin America, Europe, and Russia.

     

    March 25, 2015 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 413

  • New York Film Academy Photography Heats it Up!

    dr island

    © Maciej Stachowicz 2015

    This month, one-year students from the New York Film Academy Photography Department took to the skies for the first ever “photography expedition,” a new initiative by the Film Academy to provide its students with an international educational experience. For students of the visual arts—such as photography and filmmaking—exploring another culture is key to re-examining their perspective on the world while providing valuable new ways to inspire and shape their art-making. The program’s plan is for all students enrolled in the Photography and Documentary Filmmaking Departments, from all U.S. NYFA campuses (Los Angeles, Miami, and New York), to have the opportunity to travel, fully- financed by NYFA, to an exotic destination each year. At least six photography and documentary filmmaking expeditions per year are planned.

    The venue for the Photography Program this term was the Dominican Republic, while the Documentary Department journeyed to the Central American country of Belize. Occupying the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is the second largest country, after Cuba, in the West Indies.

    dominican republic
    Upon landing in Samana and traveling to the small town of Las Terrenas, student April Vidal stated, “I’m so excited,” and she, like all of the students, remained excited for the rest of the trip.

    NYFA student Mathew Williams reported, “We have been experiencing Dominican culture: the music, the food, the environment, the weather …that’s been really great!”

    Las Terrenas and its surroundings offer a wide variety of visual subject matter for students to photograph. While there, the assignment was to tell a visual story about the country. Students created a varied and large selection of works– everything from social documentary, to landscape, to portraits, to abstracts of the colors in Las Terrenas.

    “This trip is an amazing opportunity for students to put into practice everything they have learned in our program so far; to do so in a live shoot environment couldn’t be more exciting or challenging,” said NYFA Photography Co-Chair David Mager.

    nyfa dominican

    “The best part of this trip was the freedom to go out and shoot whatever we wanted to shoot… it’s so beautiful. Everyday when I wake up I feel like I am getting closer to my dreams, because this is what I want to do for my career. I want to be a photo journalist, so being out here, meeting all these people, learning about the culture is so inspiring for me,” said Courtnie Keith, a one-year student at NYFA.

    “This was an invaluable experience. I think I fell in love with photography a little more each day,” exclaimed Alexandra Schaede, a student from NYFA’s New York City campus.

    nyfa dr

    The College’s faculty is in the process of scouting locations for future programs. Locations under discussion include Cuba, Honduras and Costa Rica.

    The New York Film Academy is a proud member/partner of the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative.

    March 24, 2015 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 699

  • Oscar Winning Actor J.K. Simmons Visits NYFA

    jk simmons

    Academy-Award Winning Actor J.K. Simmons

    New York Film Academy students gathered in a theater at Warner Bros. Studios this past week for a special screening of Whiplash followed by a Q&A with this year’s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons. Jonathan Kimble (“J. K.” Simmons) is known for his roles as Dr. Emil Skoda on the NBC series Law & Order (and other Law & Order franchise series), neo-Nazi Vernon Schillinger on the HBO prison drama series Oz, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope on the TNT series The Closer, J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and the voices of Cave Johnson in the 2011 puzzle game Portal 2 and Tenzin in The Legend of Korra. Simmons’s performance as music instructor Terence Fletcher in Whiplash (2014) received universal acclaim and earned him more than 30 accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the discussion.

    To anyone who’s seen Whiplash, the memory of J.K. Simmons’ role as Fletcher, the music conservatory instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a promising young drummer’s potential, is burned into their memory. Soon after the credits finished rolling, and the man who had just captured the students’ attention so intensely on screen appeared in the flesh and took the stage, the whole theater immediately erupted into cheers and applause during a standing ovation. It was interesting to see how much of a contrast the terrifyingly sadistic Fletcher was to the real man behind the role. J.K. was upbeat, jovial, and having the students laughing in stitches with his endless stream of quips. He was as appreciative to be there as the student’s were to see him and even though the line of students waiting to ask questions stretched to the back of the theater and nearly out the door, J.K. stayed until every last question was answered.

    jk simmons

    Actor J.K. Simmons with Producer Tova Laiter

    J.K. talked about the incredibly fateful circumstances surrounding the Whiplash feature. Director Damien Chazelle wrote the part of the student drummer Andrew for Miles Teller not knowing at all the the actor had been a drummer since the age of 15. What’s more, when Damien first approached J.K. about playing the part of music instructor Fletcher, he assured him that there would be a music technical advisor on set and that they could use a body double for difficult orchestral scenes. As it turned out, however, Mr. Simmons studied music in college. “I thought I was going to be Leonard Bernstein when I grew up, but I took a few left turns…” J.K. jokingly said. “It was just all meant to be.”

    Elaborating more on the making of the film that changed his life forever, Mr. Simmons explained that when he first met Damien Chazelle the director was only 26 years old. However, despite Damien’s lack of experience, the two immediately clicked as J.K. saw the genius within the young director. Within 10 minutes of working together on the Whiplash short film, Simmon’s and Chazella knew they would be working together on the feature version. Simmon’s also had a comfortable, creatively exciting relationship with actor Miles Teller on set. Even though the tension between them was high on screen, the two would joke around together between takes on set. This was also due to the relaxed environment Damien created on set which allowed for experimentation from the actors. An interesting fact about the young music students from the various college bands in the film was that, aside from a few, they were composed of real student musicians, not actors. And during the filming the bands were actually creating real music!

    jk at nyfa

    While reminiscing on the long road that took him to where he is now J.K. said, “When I look back it almost seems like I had a plan. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and doing what I really enjoy doing… When I was scrapping by and making ends meet, I didn’t have a wife and kids and any responsibilities… In my case, the level of success, acclaim, attention I’ve gotten more and more of in the last decade or so, if that had happened when I was 25 years old I would not have been prepared creatively, personally in any way.”

    March 23, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1121

  • NBC Visits NYFA in Search of Diverse Talent

    nbc diversity

    NBC’s Grace Moss presenting NBC’s Diversity Initiative Programs

    This past Thursday, March 19th at the New York Film Academy in Union Square, our students, alumni and faculty were treated to an informational session on NBC’s Entertainment Diversity Programs hosted by Grace Moss.

    The goal of their initiatives is to increase diversity on the network through programs like Writers on the Verge, the Directing Fellowship Program, NBCU Short Film Festival and Scene Showcase.

    Grace was able to break down each program with her informative presentation, and answered questions from the audience. She even answered specific one on one questions for students after the presentation.

    nbc diversity

    The New York Film Academy strongly recommends its students of diversity apply to these programs, as it is an amazing opportunity to break into the industry on a serious level.

    Below are just a handful of the programs Grace highlighted in her presentation:

    DIRECTING FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM The Directing Fellowship Program is designed to take directors accomplished in their respective fields (features, commercials and/or music videos) and give them the opportunity to work alongside episodic television directors. The selected directors will foster relationships and fine-tune their art to fit the television format.

    NBCUNIVERSAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL The Short Cuts Film Festival is an initiative to discover diverse voices both in front of and behind the camera. It provides creative individuals of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to get their materials in front of key decision makers from the entire NBCUniversal family, as well as agents, managers, producers, and other industry players.

    WRITERS ON THE VERGE Writers on the Verge is a 12-week program focused on polishing writers and readying them for a staff writer position on a television series. We are looking for writers who are “almost there,” but need that final bit of preparation with their writing and personal presentation skills.

    LATE NIGHT WRITERS WORKSHOP The NBCUniversal Late Night Writers Workshop is a program focused on exposing talented joke, sketch and comedy writers to NBCUniversal’s late-night & alternative lineup and readying them for a staff writer position.

    NBC SCENE SHOWCASE A 6-8 week workshop of original scenes by diverse writers, cast with up-and-coming actors and guided by directors of diverse backgrounds presented in a one-day showcase for executives, producers, casting directors, and other industry professionals.

     

    March 20, 2015 • Acting, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 805

  • NYFA Student Lucas Diercouff to Film “The Gael” in Paso Robles

    Lucas Diercouff filming The Gael

    Lucas Diercouff, a United States Army veteran and current BFA Filmmaking student at the New York Film Academy, has announced his intention to film his short, The Gael, in Paso Robles, California. To help him achieve the goal, he has launched a GoFundMe campaign 

    The film takes place in 200AD Scotland, in a time when the Romans were trying to take over the Caledonia region. The story follows as Caer (played by Rachel J. Clark, Miss Scotland 2014), attempts to save her husband (Paul Meixner, NYFA graduate and veteran).

    Diercouff chose the Paso Robles area of California to film because he had heard of its resemblance to Scotland. After a bit of investigation and visiting the vineyards in the area, the stage was set.

    In a statement given to the Paso Robles Daily News, Diercouff says:

    “It has always been my dream to tell the story of a challenged love amidst the struggle of war, the kind of story that suits historical period and is an honest portrait of the passion of ancient Scotland.”

    The cast and crew plan to begin filming in May to finish by August, just in time for Diercouff’s graduation. Members of the project include current and former NYFA students, and members from outside the school (along with several veterans that fall into both camps).

     

     

    March 17, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 361

  • Shakespeare Competition at New York Film Academy

    louis fantasia

    photo by Scott Hanlon

    On Sunday, March 9, the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy played host to the LA Branch of the English Speaking Union for its 28th annual high school Shakespeare competition. Six finalists competed before a panel of distinguished film and theatre professionals in the Academy’s Riverside theatre before a cheering audience of family, friends, teachers and patrons, for a chance to perform at the ESU National finals at New York’s Lincoln Center in April.

    The six finalists were Carlos Camacho (Ramon C. Cortines School for Visual & Performing Arts); Clement Dexter (St. Monica Academy); Avery Girion (The Marlborough School); Kathleen Glynn (Los Angeles Senior High School); Emma Rothenberg (Westridge School); and Alex Thorland (New Roads School). They were chosen from 23 participants from the greater Los Angeles area two weeks earlier in a semi-final competition held at the Marlborough School in Hancock Park.

    shakespeare festival

    photo by Scott Hanlon

    Winning top prize was Emma Rothenberg from the Westridge School in Pasadena (shown I photo with drama teacher Laurie Riffe). Runner up Avery Girion, from the Marlborough School, was awarded a tuition scholarship to NYFA’s Advanced Acting summer camp for High School students this July.

    Judges for the Finals competition included Tony-nominated actress Roxanne Hart; actor, director and Golden Globe nominee Philip Casnoff (who teaches acting at the New York Film Academy); actress, director and Manhattan Marymount College Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Swain; and actress and ESU-LA Board member Kara Hume.

    fantasia

    photo by Scott Hanlon

    Shakespeare scholar Louis Fantasia, Dean of the Faculty at NYFA/LA, serves as President of the Board of the LA Branch of the English Speaking Union, which is part of a network of 68 branches throughout the US dedicated to global understanding and educational out-reach.

    Said Fantasia, “I was very happy to wear both my NYFA and ESU hats at the same time to help make this wonderful competition a success. I’m thrilled that we could show NYFA’s world class facilities to the participating students, teachers and patrons of the ESU, and equally thrilled that NYFA could help spread the word not only about Shakespeare in schools, but also about the wonderful work the ESU does in education in Los Angeles and across the US.”

  • NYFA Filmmakers Making ‘Waves’ in the Philippines

    waves

    It’s no secret that networking is one of the most essential parts of becoming a successful filmmaker. At the New York Film Academy, we encourage students to find like-minded individuals who want to collaborate and are truly passionate about their craft. After all, you can’t create a film entirely by yourself. It’s a team effort.

    Recently, a team of NYFA students put their efforts together and filmed the feature film Waves. The film was written by Scott Acornley, directed by Don Frasco, edited by Adrian Morales Ramos, and produced by Anna Skrypka and Don Frasco, all of whom graduated from NYFA.

    “NYFA’s intensive hands-on approach worked well for me,” says producer and MFA Filmmaking alumna Anna Skrypka. “We were pushed to wear so many hats that we had no choice but to learn fast and figure our way out.”

    waves still

    The film, which will be Waverly Pictures first feature film, is about intimate friendship, love and heartbreak, revolving around two old friends who test their boundaries on a secluded island in the Philippines.

    Waves is mainly about a man in his later 20s, drowning in his own life, in his own indecision, in his own lack of focus,” says screenwriter and MFA Filmmaking alumnus Scott Graham. “The ocean is a great metaphor for the human subconscious, so I always thought that the main character should be consumed by it, overwhelmed by it. But with the appearance of the whale shark, he kind of starts finding his way. There is beautiful potential inside all of our minds, and sometimes we need to drown and struggle a little bit to find that potential.”

    Waves is now available on Vimeo on Demand, and will be theatrically released this June in the Philippines by the Distribution Company Viva. The team is also in the process of getting US and worldwide distribution.

    waverly pictures

    Frasco and Skrypka are currently working on a number of other projects, including a feature that they intend to shoot early 2016. Through the film, Frasco hopes to explore Cebu youth culture from the perspective of two fresh medical representatives tasked to introduce family planning products to rural towns.

    “I hope to make films that have a sincere impact on society and its culture,” says director and cinematographer Don Frasco. “I believe that principles can be influenced and shaped through cinema in ways that ignite passion and a resilient interest in contributing to the world.”

    There will be a screening and Q&A with the filmmakers at NYFA Los Angeles on March 27th.

    Have a look at the trailer below, where you’ll also have the option of purchasing the film to view in its entirety.

     

    March 17, 2015 • Filmmaking, Producing, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1168

  • Vine Royalty King Bach is Going Hollywood

    king bach

    Hollywood and Vine means something a lot different now than it has to Los Angelinos. For them, it’s always been a famous L.A. cross-street. But these days, in a post-Facebook twenty-first century, it represents a new and fruitful relationship between two titans of culture.

    Since Vine’s launch in 2012, the Twitter-owned video app has been looping millions of six-second videos to a predominantly young demographic. And nobody’s six-second videos get looped more than King Bach, Vine’s most followed user. Bach, 26, has over eleven million followers and is truly the current King of Vine. He has bigger aspirations though, and is getting ready to conquer his next kingdom—Hollywood itself.

    It’s a long time coming. Even before he joined Vine in 2013 and earned his fanbase with his quirky six-second sketches, Andrew Bachelor studied at the New York Film Academy and The Groundlings. It was as a struggling actor laboring in the audition mines that Bachelor adopted the stage name King Bach.

    Since breaking out on Vine, Bach has already scored guest roles on The Mindy Project and Wild ‘N’ Out. It was a short jump from mobiles to TV and now a shorter jump from TV to movies as Bach has five upcoming movie projects in production. He’s even playing himself in the Zac Efron vehicle We Are Your Friends.

    Bach has no plans to retire from Vine, however, appreciating the network he’s building his empire from. He likens himself to Will Smith, who gained movie superstardom from his sitcom role as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. While the Fresh Prince can still dominate the box office, there’s a good chance he’ll be competing with a King someday very soon.

    March 16, 2015 • Acting, Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 20138

  • AFA Filmmaking Grad to Screen ‘Ticketed’ at Cannes

    ticketed

    It cannot be stressed enough how valuable social media and crowdfunding have become in terms of independent filmmaking. As a student filmmaker working on a strict budget, it’s often times an essential part of pre-production. AFA Filmmaking graduate Shantal Freedman took full advantage of this avenue, launching a successful crowdfunding campaign back in September 2014 which raised enough money to get her through the production of her film Ticketed. Freedman recently turned to fans to launch another crowdfunding campaign to raise $7,000 to finish her thesis film.

    This May, Freedman will premiere her film, Ticketed, at the Cannes Short Film Festival. The film focuses on a small town cop, Jackie, who spends most of her time writing out parking tickets. As a trained police officer, all Jackie wants is a little more action: to bust a bunch of bad guys like the cops on TV. When the opportunity knocks, a group of miscreants seize the chance to steal a winning lottery ticket worth $60,000,000.

    However, fate has other plans when the ticket falls into the safekeeping of Jackie. When the thugs attempt to reclaim the ticket by any means necessary, Jackie winds up on the run.

    “More than anything in the world, I want to make movies that as many people as possible can see,” said Freedman. “I also want to get some sort of enjoyment out of it by putting the audience in a better place after viewing the film than they were before viewing it.”

    Freedman also hopes to change the status quo in terms of females in the film industry. She hopes to bring more females in front of the camera with deeper characters and equal representation.

    ticketed set

    The writer, Andrew Freedman, and Shantal have developed Ticketed into a feature. They also have several other scripts that they are shopping around in the horror genre. Ultimately, Shantal hopes to direct action/adventure films.

    She is also busy working at several entertainment companies in Los Angeles. She interns for the renowned casting director, Risa Bramon Garcia, and will be helping her as she starts to cast the 3rd season of Masters of Sex. She works for the talent management company, The Robb Company, and the talent management company, Jump Start Talent, where she is on a track to becoming a manager.

    Freedman’s advice for current students currently working on short films: “You’ll be your best and your happiest if you go all in and commit 100% to the film. If you do that, you’ll tackle every challenge and you’ll be the most pleased with your work at the end.”

    March 16, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 859