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  • Producing Grad Inks TV Series Deal From NYFA Guest Speaker

    Heidi Segal Recent Producing graduate from the New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, Heidi Segal, is a shining example of how it’s never too late to change your career and pursue an endeavor that is much more fulfilling. The former government contractor of 25 years rediscovered her creativity and hit the ground running while learning the craft of producing. She’s been busy working on several projects since graduating from the program, and was able to catch us up with her new career in a recent interview.

    What made you decide to transition from government contractor to producing for film and TV?

    After escaping an abusive marriage in early 2015, I relocated from Annapolis to Baltimore, MD to be closer to my client base. That summer I discovered “House of Cards” season 4 was shooting in the city and was curious about what it’s like being on set. So I signed up to be an extra and ended up working on the show 9 days over the next couple of months, to include being Robin Wright’s stand-in for a day. Since my industry had become so standardized, there was no longer anything creative about it, so I started crewing for friends on their first films or web series and taking acting classes. Quickly realizing that I preferred being behind the camera instead of in front of it, and enjoying the creative process of filmmaking, I decided to take a couple months off work and attend the 8-week Filmmaking program at NYFA with the intention of returning to Baltimore and my career. However, halfway through the filmmaking course, I realized producing films and TV series was exactly what I should have been doing years ago. Between my natural creativity and 25+ years of directly-relevant business experience, I immediately signed up for NYFA’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, quit my consulting business, moved to NYC, started Mixed Sygnls Productions, LLC, and went back to school. I’m glad I did.

    Would you say the producing school at NYFA was useful in terms of what you’re currently working on?

    Absolutely. There is no way I could have executed this career transition as completely and efficiently as I have. Without the formal training and networking opportunities provided by the program, it would take me years to figure out I’m doing. I would not have been able to quit my career and focus solely on creating films and TV series.

    Can you tell me a little bit about your short film, “Matthew’s Monsters”? 

    The logline is: Happy-go-lucky by day, a young boy is haunted by the sounds of monsters stomping around his room when the lights go out…until he discovers the source of the monsters’ footsteps.

    I adapted “Matthew’s Monsters” from a story in the book “Icarus of Brooklyn” by Matthew Alper. I wrote the screenplay, cast the two characters (a 4 year-old boy and his mother), directed, and edited the film. I also optioned “Icarus of Brooklyn” for my thesis project and am now developing it into a feature film.

    “Matthew’s Monsters” will be screening at the Cannes Short Film Corner and is being considered for 35 other film festivals worldwide.

    matthews monsters

    “Matthew’s Monsters”

    Can you talk a little bit about your series, “Rough Cut”? Where did the idea come from and what is the status of the project?

    We had a reality TV sizzle reel assignment in the Producing Conservatory 2nd quarter. Each student had to come up with their own concept and pitch to the Producing Department Chair, Neal Weisman. I came up with an entertainment industry-related competition/reality series. I apparently went overboard on my assignment and produced a full pitch package. Neil and Richard D’Angelo suggested I take the project out of the school and find an experienced reality TV Showrunner to attach as a Co-Producer and start marketing the series. I pitched the project to Eric Leemon after he came in for a guest lecture. He loved it, we inked a deal, and he handed it off to his agent at William Morris Endeavor (WME) to shop around for a buyer.

    You’ve recently been working with ID/Discovery. Can you tell me what your position is at the network?

    We had an internship requirement in the Producing Conservatory 4th quarter. Eric Leemon facilitated getting me onboard with HudSun Media here in NYC to work on the development team on the Discovery ID Channel crime reality show Bad Blood season 2. I worked as a researcher to identify murder cases that met the show’s concept for episode consideration. After graduating from NYFA, HudSun Media hired me on an as-needed basis to continue episode research support and to help the production team prepare to shoot and produce episode 5. All 6 episodes are in post production – so my work there is complete.

    What do you hope to achieve at Cannes, especially with your involvement in the Cannes Film Business Program?

    The networking opportunity at Cannes is my primary focus. I’m hoping to find financing and distribution deals for my upcoming feature films and possibly for “Rough Cut” and the other TV series I am creating.

    What else are you currently working on?

    Under my company, Mixed Sygnls Productions, LLC, I have optioned four feature films. I am currently developing and preparing to produce two of the smaller budget features — “My Name is Velouria,” a $2M action thriller that I plan to shoot in upstate NY this fall, and “Icarus of Brooklyn,” a $3M coming-of-age drama set in Brooklyn in the late 70s, early 80s that I plan to shoot in NYC next spring.

    The other two features will be in the $15-25M range with production planned for late 2018 into 2019. I am also producing a teaser for Michael C. Bryan’s book “Creepy Kid” that will be published later this year. We plan to co-produce a feature film and TV series based on the book. In addition to “Rough Cut,” I am also creating a comedy reality TV series called “Kinda Sketchy” and two narrative TV series. I am creating “Bad Wolff”as a limited series about domestic abuse and domestic violence with the plan to launch a follow-on drama series called “Closure.”

    April 20, 2017 • Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2354

  • Roadside Attractions’ Eric d’Arbeloff Screens “Manchester by the Sea” at NYFA LA

    Students packed the Riverside Theater in Los Angeles to see one of last year’s most critically acclaimed films, “Manchester by the Sea,” and hear from one of the men who made the film possible, Co-Founder of Roadside Attractions, Eric d’Arbeloff. Roadside Attractions has released over 130 films including “Winter’s Bone,” “Love & Friendship,” “Southside with You,” “Mr. Holmes,” “Love & Mercy,” “The Cove,” “Margin Call,” “Arbitrage,” “Hello My Name is Doris,” The September Issue,” and “Mud.” Tova Laiter, Director of the New York Film Academy’s Guest Speakers Series, hosted the evening alongside NYFA Instructor Shaun Conan.

    Eric d’Arbeloff

    D’Arbeloff started by giving a little history on his company. “We are a small company focused on theatrical releasing. We’re kind of like a specialty boutique production company. We don’t do VOD releases or direct to video. We have a relatively small slate compared to some of our competitors. Typically, an IFC or Sony Picture Classics will do thirty or forty films a year. We’re more like ten or twelve films a year. From the get go the company was always designed for partnerships.”

    It was that spirit of partnership that brought Roadside Attraction to Amazon. Their first film together, “Chi-Raq,” opened to great critical acclaim. Thinking bigger has always been part of their DNA.

    Exhibition community is still establishing the rules with the rise of streaming services. Netflix, for example, likes to release everything on the same day. If you can watch it in theaters you can watch it on the app. But d’Arbeloff and Roadside believe that films like “Manchester by the Sea” wouldn’t exist without a theatrical release and critical discussion. Neither model is better, d’Arbeloff stressed. But he’s in the camp of traditional releasing.

    He explained the different aspects of his job, which include curating the right types of film. Prints and advertising budgets are a difficult challenge. One of the largest challenges is picking the right release date. Holidays, elections, award season and other film release dates all play a key factor in when a movie comes out. D’Arbeloff described this process as “reading the tea leaves.”

    During the Q and A portion one student, Theresa, asked, “Is there any advice to young filmmakers who get their shorts into festivals and are rewarded? How do we manage to transition to features from shorts? Should we wait for feedback or start on a new project?”

    Eric d’Arbeloff at NYFA LA

    “The great thing is there are multiple avenues to make a name for yourself,” d’Arbeloff replied. “I think it certainly helps if you’re a writer or someone who likes to read and is good at developing material. There was a time when I was a producer. I would go to Sundance and keep tabs on all the filmmakers. When I first started you really had to decide, ‘are you going to be in television or film? Are you interested in business or are you interested in creative?’ That’s not the case anymore. I really want to encourage you guys to try everything. There are no boundaries.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. d’Arbeloff for taking the time to speak with our students. Roadside’s latest picture by Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona) entitled “Love & Friendship” starring Kate Beckinsale is currently available on Amazon.

    For more information on Roadside Attractions, you can click here.

    April 19, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1906

  • NYFA Producing Dept. Hosts Evening with Producer Carla Singer

    Last week, the Producing Department at the New York Film Academy hosted an evening with producer Carla Singer. The event was moderated by NYFA NY Chair of Producing Neal Weisman.

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    Singer is president and executive producer of Carla Singer Productions, an independent production company that has produced over 30 television movies as well as documentaries and reality series. Her credits include “Freshman Father,” a Hallmark Channel movie, and Disney Channel films “T*witches,” and “T*witches Too.” For TNT, the company executive produced “The Portrait” starring Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall, as well as “Forgotten Prisoners: The Amnesty Files.” At TBS Ms. Singer produced a documentary “The Black West,” which was nominated for a Cable Ace award. She also produced “A Refusenik’s Diary” for PBS, for which she received an Emmy.

    Her extensive credits include the made-for-television movies “A Marriage of Convenience” starring Jane Seymour, “Indefensible: The Truth About Edward Brannigan” starring Brian Dennehy, “Taken Away,” “Angel Flight Down” and “Cold Heart of a Killer.”

    Singer became vice president of drama programming for CBS Television at a time when hardly any women were accepted into upper management at the networks. As a female pioneer for the network, and the industry in general, Singer helped create the extremely successful drama series, “Murder She Wrote,” as well as “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” and “The Equalizer.”

    carla singer with neal weisman

    Producer Carla Singer with NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman

    However, Singer’s career certainly wasn’t handed to her. Beginning her career in Israeli TV, Singer recalled working as an assistant director, but was credited and paid for the role of a PA due to the fact that she was a woman. Her career would continue to be an uphill climb due to her gender, but Singer kept one foot in front of the other and pressed on to tremendous success. While she feels there is still gender inequality in film and TV, Singer does acknowledge the progress since her beginnings.

    “You have to be very persistent,” said Singer. “You have to be risk tolerant. You have to take that risk — even if it’s scary.” Singer recalled two times in her life where she took a pay cut in order to work in a position that could propel her career into the direction she was confident would lead her on the right path.

    Singer advised students to appreciate and take advantage of the creative talent around them. After all, the people you’re working with now are going to be your network, and are going to climb the proverbial latter with you.

    While many of us get caught up in the creative aspect of filmmaking, Singer did advise producing students that, “It’s a business, and you need to make money. Even though that’s a bit crass. You should keep that in your head.” 

    “Carla Singer proved to be an inspiration to the cross section of NYFA Producers, Screenwriters, and Actors who attended the event,” said Weisman. “Emphasizing the need to take career risks and seek mentors, her wisdom gained from decades of television experience was both informative and motivating.”

    April 17, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1193

  • Writer / Creator Matthew Arnold Gives NYFA Students Advice on How to Pitch for TV

    The writer and creator of “Siberia,” “Emerald City,” and “Shadow People,” Matthew Arnold, visited the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy on Monday, February 27, 2017. Students from several writing classes attended the event.

    matthew arnold

    Arnold read pitches for each of his most recent projects and gave students advice on how to refine their pitches. “I like to do a little research (before a pitch), so I have something to talk to the executives about….

    But for ‘Siberia,’ I did something different. I went in and said, ‘Have you seen this new thing going around YouTube? There’s this reality show in Russia and people are being killed. They think it’s Chechen rebels.”

    Arnold said this pitch would often get Executives to call in their assistants and request to see the videos. When he revealed that this was not a real occurrence, but the pitch for “Siberia” they were already vested in the project. The end of that pitch was this: “We’re going to do for TV what ‘The Blair Witch Project’ did for film.”

    One student asked, “There’s a long established relationship with the world of ‘Oz’ for most of your audience. How did you create something new and not damage the source material?”

    matthew arnold nyfa

    “I think that’s the big challenge. To be honest, I didn’t have this thought when I first sat down to write it. I was just excited to write. But when we got into production, I realized there was a huge responsibility on me. People have a certain feeling about the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ They have childhood memories and beliefs about the story. It really irks me when someone takes the source material and go left, keeping only the names. What’s the point of that?

    So, I wanted to dig into the source material more and kind of translate it. If you read those books they are very vague. You have to infer that this would be a problem and hence there would be a conflict. That’s where you get the complexity without necessarily tampering with the source material.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Arnold for taking the time to speak with our students. You can watch “Emerald City” Fridays on NBC.

    March 13, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 1872

  • A Talk with Producer Darryl Marshak at New York Film Academy LA

    Legendary Producer and Talent Manager Darryl Marshak gave a rousing Q and A during the New York Film Academy’s Guest Lecture Series, run by Tova Laiter, at the Los Angeles campus. Students packed the theater to hear advice, stories, and anecdotes from the man who has represented such actors as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ernie Hudson, Phil Hartman, and Ray Liotta among many.

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    The Chair of the Acting for Film Department, Lynda Goodfriend, hosted the evening. Marshak brought memorabilia from his life’s journeys, including a hundred dollar bill signed by Leonardo DiCaprio and a dozen GoPros he handed out to students to film the event.

    Marshak was asked about his early years as an agent and he had this to say before the Internet, you had your feet and you had dimes. You could use the pay phones on the back lot to do business throughout the day. You had to know not just the casting agents, but their assistants, too. Casting directors are like Elephants. They never forget. “

    As for producing now: “It’s really hard to do this without a trust fund, guys. I was shooting on 16 mm and spending all the money I earned for the week on making the next film.”

    marshak

    When asked about transitioning from an agent to manager Marshak said: “It was harder to be a manager because I wanted to run it like an agency.” As a manager, Marshak helped both Hilary Swank, who was living in her car, and James Franco, who hadn’t yet joined SAG, get their start in the business.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Marshak for taking the time to speak with our students. You can learn more about the illustrious career of Marshak here.

    March 2, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1716

  • NYFA Welcomes a Group of Enthusiastic Italian Students

    An exceptional group of Italian students recently graduated from the 4-Week Producing Program at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. The students, all from the Lazio Region of Italy—most whom reside in Rome—attended NYFA as a result of being awarded special fellowships from the Roma Lazio Film Commission’s Torno Subito (“Be Right Back”) program. The Torno Subito program was created to fund projects submitted by Italian university students or graduates, aged 18 to 35 years, with the interest in taking advanced training courses, and upon completion, return home to use their newfound skills in the workplace. Also involved in this educational initiative is AssForSeo, an Italian employment guidance organization.

    nyfa italian students

    In addition to the students enrolled in the Producing Department at NYFA New York’s campus were dozens of students in the Filmmaking, Documentary Filmmaking, Animation, Broadcast Journalism, Screenwriting, Digital Editing, and Acting for Film programs. Both the New York and Los Angeles campuses of NYFA hosted this wonderful group of talented young Italians.

    NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman declared, “It was a pleasure having this group in our 4-Week Intensive producing workshop. They were very engaged, enthusiastic, and curious – of course they were, they’re Italian!”

    nyfa italian students

    After graduating from the NYFA program, the students are headed back to Rome where they will work at various industry internships. Most positions are with prominent Italian film production companies, where they will assist in the creation of a wide variety of film projects. The NYFA LA Campus Director, Dan Mackler, was effusive in his praise for the visiting students and stated, “Integrating seamlessly with our large international student community—currently representing nearly 80 countries—the Torno Subito students brought wonderful energy to our school. We expect great film industry success stories to come from these special NYFA alums.”

    NYFA is proud to participate in this program and looks forward to future collaboration with a variety of international partners.

    February 7, 2017 • Community Highlights, Producing • Views: 2061

  • Producing Couple Finds Love and Distribution From NYFA Thesis Film

    With students coming from all areas of the world, it’s inevitable that a student will partner up with somebody from an entirely different culture than their own. It’s even possible that the working relationship could extend in personal areas of life beyond the set. At least this was the case with two former students, Rudi and Radhika Womack, who met at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, collaborated on Rudi’s thesis project, and are now married!

    Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 5.11.37 PM

    Rudi came to NYFA from the hills of Cheyenne, Wyoming while Radhika came all the way from New Delhi, India.

    Rudi’s thesis, “Call of the Wolf,” was produced by Radhika, and now, as a much deserving added bonus, the couple’s film was picked up for worldwide rights by Gravitas Ventures.

    Gravitas has set a Feb. 7 VOD/DVD release date for their film, which is about two kidnapped and trapped strangers who must survive the brutal onslaught of winter and are forced to play a deadly game of survival to outsmart their kidnapper — a sniper calling himself “Wolf.”

    “‘Call of The Wolf’ really stood out to us among a sea of submissions,” said Dan Fisher, director of acquisitions for Gravitas. “We really appreciated the quality of the filmmaking and the gradual reveal of the story, and we are excited to release across our multiple platform partners.”

    We spoke to the newly married couple and filmmaking partners before their upcoming release tomorrow.

    Congratulations on having your thesis film picked up by Gravitas! Can you tell us how this film first came about?

    Rudi: I have always wanted to tell a story of survival; of a character who is ripped from their element and forced into a hostile environment. As I developed the story I knew there wouldn’t be a chance of it getting picked up unless the film had some more “traditional” elements. Over seven drafts Call of the Wolf took shape; evolving from a story of pure survival in the wilderness, into a cat-and-mouse game with a man hunting the protagonist.

    How would each of you pitch this film in your own words?

    Rudi: There’s plot and story. The plot is simple: Madman kidnaps two strangers and forces them into the wilderness for a deadly game of survival. But the story, the meat and bones of the film, is all about Lester. He’s a rich kid who has never had responsibility, risk, or any real challenge. Over the course of the film he slowly evolves into a much stronger, self-reliant person.

    Radhika: The film is about survival. It is about overcoming difficulties, rising to the occasion to learning to fight for what is important to you.

    How did you get your thesis film into the hands of Gravitas, your distributor? Were you surprised when they picked up your film for distribution?

    Rudi: We avoided the festival circuit and went straight to distributors with the film. I guess it turned some heads because we had 3 positive responses in the span of a week. Gravitas Ventures was our best choice because of the care and consideration they had towards the integrity of the story. Gravitas Ventures has taken great care of us and I’m very lucky to be working with them.

    Radhika: We were surprised and thrilled when Gravitas Ventures picked up Call of the Wolf for distribution. They have a great line up of films and Call of the Wolf fits right in. We are looking forward to the great things we can do together with them.

    What were some of the challenges of shooting a film on location in the mountains of Wyoming? How did you overcome them?

    Rudi: Wyoming is my home, so I know how unpredictable it can be, especially on the mountain. The weather was really tough for sure. It dropped far below 0 many, many times. But the hardest part for me was the limitations of budget. There were so many things I wanted to do that simply were not possible with the constraints we had. Even simple things like dolly shots were mostly unachievable for us. It also makes it really hard to set up a shot in the snow, because you can’t leave any tracks. You end up walking a long way so the shot is clear. I knew the limitations of budget and equipment were going to hurt us, so very early on I started designing the look of the film around static wide shots. I think the mountain, trees, and snow offered a multitude of opportunities for beautifully framed wide shots. So that’s what we did; we trekked into the trees, set up the camera, and let it roll for a bit. This also helped with the slower pace of the film I was trying to achieve.

    Radhika: The biggest challenge we experienced was the weather. It was very cold and at that temperature and elevation, everyone’s efficiency level goes down. We had planned for it to the best of our ability by scheduling easier scenes at the beginning of the shoot, slower and shorter days than we would normally have if we shot in sunny Los Angeles. Kudos to the cast and crew to have powered through the month and for bringing their A-game on even in such difficult conditions!

    call of wolf

    Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of being able to create this film?

    Radhika: Yes. This was Rudi’s thesis film for his MFA in Filmmaking program. We had support and guidance from the teachers at every step of production. There were times we felt they were being too harsh or difficult but in the end it was always for our benefit.

    Where will we be able to see your film?

    Radhika: Just about anywhere that you would see most movies! It will be released on DVD and Blue Ray, and will be available on most major VOD platforms. We’re also hoping to secure a limited release in theaters across Colorado and Wyoming.

    Are you currently working on another project that you’d like to tell us about?

    Radhika: Rudi and I are currently in principal photography on our next untitled feature film. Additionally I am working on a documentary with an Academy Award nominated director as well as Line Producing a soon-to-be announced Virtual Reality series

    Rudi: We’re currently in production on our next feature film, which is still untitled. It follows the story of a young man who robs a pawnshop to help support his girlfriend. The robbery goes wrong and he barricades himself in a truck stop bathroom, which triggers an intense standoff with the police. Radhika and I also recently made a short film called “Chippy” about a dog who bites a little girl, and the repercussions it has on a single mother and her family. It’s just finishing up its festival run.

    February 6, 2017 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2469

  • Shanghai Theatre Academy Studies Producing at NYFA NY and LA

    Given China’s rapidly growing movie business, students from the Shanghai Theatre Academy traveled to New York Film Academy for a Producing Workshop, which consisted of one week at the New York campus and one week at the Los Angeles campus.

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    The producer is the spark of the creativity in filmmaking,” said NYFA Senior Executive Vice President, David Klein while introducing the students to NYFA’s Producing Workshop. “If you don’t have a strong concept of how the story will be told, budgeting and preparing the numbers for the project will become extremely challenging.” 

    shangahi la

    The workshop provided an overview of what role the producer plays on a given production, with a strong emphasis on budgeting and scheduling in Movie Magic. Classes within the workshop also included Film Financing, as well as a Directing Class in order to have a filmmaker’s perspective on the process of filmmaking. “I always look to my director as my partner,” said NYFA NYC Producing Chair, Neal Weisman. “It’s my job as a producer to put the director’s vision up on the screen.”

    shanghai

    Students also learned best practices for how to pitch their projects and, very importantly, where to find the money and how to control the project’s risk.

    “We have learned much and experienced the well developed producing system in Hollywood, said Shanghai student Hongyu Liu. “Thank you very much!”

    January 27, 2017 • Community Highlights, Producing • Views: 1461

  • NYFA Alumnus Jean de Meuron’s “La Femme et le TGV” Nominated for Academy Award

    la femme et la tgvBack in 2009, the New York Film Academy offered a Brett Ratner Tuition Grant, which was awarded to a passionate young filmmaker from Switzerland, Jean de Meuron. While at NYFA, de Meuron got a full scope of the movie-making landscape, studying filmmaking, screenwriting, and cinematography at both the New York and Los Angeles campuses.

    Now residing in Los Angeles, de Meuron was recently Executive Producer on the short film “La femme et le TGV,” directed by Timo von Gunten and starring César Award nominee Jane Birkin. The short film, which was inspired by true events, was nominated for a 2016 Academy Award in the Best Live Action Short Category!

    We had a chance to speak to our former student before his big day at the Academy Awards this upcoming Feb. 26th, 2017.

    Congratulations on your film’s Academy Award nomination! In your own words, what is “La femme et le TGV” about?

    “La femme et le TGV” is a charming tale about a lonely woman who, through poetic and thoughtful letters, connects and builds a close relationship with a TGV train driver that passes her house at 190 mph every single day. As the two anonymous souls share their worlds by writing to each other, one fateful day the train does not pass her house, leading her to embark on a journey away from the place she calls home in search of that lost connection.

    How did this film come about and how did you become involved with the project?

    Our director, Timo von Gunten, read this incredible true story in a Swiss tabloid about a woman who’s been waving at the passing TGV train for many years from her balcony. He immediately fell in love with the whimsical nature and tone of this true story: A woman and a man writing letters to one another without ever meeting in person — or at least for the first couple of interactions. A huge inspiration for Timo has always been “Amélie” — and I think this is quite apparent in his work, as far as the visuals and camera blocking are concerned. However, Timo has such a strong style and visual sense on his own, so he puts his own stamp as a director, infused with elements from the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Wes Anderson.

    I met Timo while I was a Jury Member at the Basel Gässli Film Festival, where I saw his short film that he had directed. I was immensely impressed with his visual flair, mise-en-scènesensitivity with which he directed actors and staged scenes, as well as the color palette, soundtrack and edit. There was a filmmaker at work, who I considered a true artist that caught my attention. During the festival, I approached him, complementing his work and saying that I would like to work with him very much. The rest, so they say, is history.

    How did you attach Jane Birkin to the project? And what was it like to work with her?

    Timo tells this story best, so I extend the courtesy of having him share his thoughts here, as he as the director, worked most closely with her:

    “First of all, I had to write a screenplay that was emotional, touching. I have a very good friend, a casting director and acting coach in London, who helped me to pass on the script to Jane’s agent. What I didn’t know, of course, and I was quite lucky — I have to admit that — the topic of solitude resonates so much with her. She just fell in love with the story. She called me up and said wants to do it. However, the funny thing was, first she said, “I want to do it, but I can’t because I’m not supposed to ride bicycles anymore.” And as you know, the film has loads of biking scenes… Working with Jane was quite an extraordinary experience because she has this inner beauty still kept alive. She’s quite fragile but very, very truthful. That’s what’s really great about her.” — from Timo von Gunten’s interview with ScreenPicks (Alfonso Espina) – Interview: Timo von Gunten Talks About ‘La Femme et le TGV’

    I would add that Jane has this incredible generosity and gentle kindness that I witnessed while we were attending the Locarno Film Festival, where she was awarded the Golden Leopard for her Life Achievement.

    Can you tell us how you found out about NYFA and the Brett Ratner Tuition Grant?

    While I was a student at the New York Film Academy, NYFA founder Jerry Sherlock, who had always been very supportive of me, suggested that I should apply for the Brett Ratner Tuition Grant — as I had done several short films during my studies that did the festival circuit. While applying, I put all of my passion and dedication into my application materials, meaning I went above and beyond by presenting a strong package. When I was awarded the Brett Ratner Tuition Grant I was very proud, as Brett’s impressive career has inspired me very much and continues to do so. His journey from having Steven Spielberg support his student short film, “Whatever Happened to Mason Reese” (1990), to becoming a Hollywood movie mogul (co-financing the slate of Warner Bros. with his company RatPac) is immensely awe-inspiring.

    Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to produce this film?

    Certainly. I always liked the New York Film Academy’s philosophy and educational approach of “learning by doing.” The practical experience enabled me to gain a very sophisticated understanding of physical production, and all its challenges that come with it. As my favorite filmmaker of all time, Steven Spielberg, once noted, “Filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” That being said, with director Timo von Gunten and my producing partners Giacun Caduff and Bela Böke, we had a wonderful synergy of complementing components, as we each could rely on each other’s strengths and interests.

    Jean (on the right) attending the Golden Globes

    Jean (on the right) attending the Golden Globes

    What has been the reaction of your team, knowing you have a one in five chance of winning an Academy Award for this short?

    I think every filmmaker aspires for his or her work to be critically acclaimed — some more than others of course — but in the end, storytelling is also entertainment, and as such we thrive to speak to, emotionally engage and captivate an audience. The reaction has obviously been overwhelming, however, we won’t define the success of our film solely on awards, but also on how the story resonates with our audience and how we are able to touch and move people. It is a tremendous honor and privilege to be considered for Academy Award consideration and we are infinitely grateful.

    Why do you feel your film deserves to win the Academy Award? What makes it so unique?

    Tough question. I think every film that has been nominated is there for a reason and deserving of such an accomplishment. What makes “La femme et le TGV” unique — at least as far as I am concerned — is its fairytale element that makes this story not only very charming and uplifting, but also relevant and meaningful. Our story, more than ever, is timeless because of the fact that although developed between written letters, most people of several generations (young and adult) can relate to our protagonist’s journey where, in the digital realm of things, loneliness and longing for something, are huge components of our daily lives.

    Where would we be able to see this film?

    “La femme et le TGV” is currently available on iTunes.

    Are you currently working on any other projects you’d like to discuss?

    Yes, I am currently developing a feature film with Timo and my producing partner Chady Eli Mattar, who, like myself, worked for prolific and immensely gifted producer Scott Rudin — a true industry icon. The film is called “The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower” and tells the true and epic tale of a charismatic con-artist, Victor Lustig, whose journey culminates in pulling off the biggest scam in the history of mankind — selling the Eiffel Tower — ensuing in a manhunt across the world that threatens to tear apart his beloved family.

    January 24, 2017 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3160

  • NYFA Alumna Produces Six Feature Films in Three Years

    Producing six features in three years since graduating from film school sounds impossible. However, New York Film Academy graduate, Mariietta Volynska, proved that you can do it as long as you have the true desire to set that goal and accomplish it.

    Her first notable break into the industry was when she won the Best Commercial at the Tribeca Festival with her NYFA thesis project, an American Express Spec Commercial.

    Since graduating in 2013 she has produced numerous shorts, music videos, commercials and several feature films including “El Freeman” directed by Eljazz Rakhimbekov and Antonio Chavez Trejo, “Summer of 8” and “Still Life” directed by Ryan Schwartz, “Bornless Ones” directed by Alexander Babaev, starring Michael Johnston, and most recently the independent thriller “Culture of Fear” starring Malcolm McDowell, Steven Bauer, Edoardo Costa and Kayla Tabish.

    We recently spoke with Mariietta Volynska and asked her what she thought helps her start and keep the ball rolling on so many projects.

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    1% talent and 99% hard work will get you there. The competition is huge, pure talent is not enough. Don’t be lazy.” Every day Volynska wakes up at 6am and goes to bed around midnight. This schedule allows her to have more working hours.

    Experience. “You learn while you are doing and NYFA provides you with all of the opportunities to get solid experience. Be on set while in school as much as you can, do not avoid participating in a project, because there is only a PA position left or no budget. Work for free. Work as a PA. Just be on set, observe! Get valuable, strong experience.” Before producing her first feature Volynska already had about 30 shorts under her belt.

    Reputation. “Start building your reputation from the first day of classes. You have to click together with your peers. You see who you will work with in the future.” Half of Volynska’s crew are NYFA alumni. They help each other. They recommend each other and always try to get hired as a team. But it’s not only the New York Film Academy that they have in common; all of them are hardworking, trustworthy, and passionate.

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    Broad knowledge. “I’m very happy that I got my BFA in Filmmaking,” said Volynska. “During this program I studied every aspect of filmmaking. I know the equipment and how to use the equipment. I know how to work with actors. I know editing and I know the responsibilities of each crew position on set. All of this knowledge helps me tremendously in line producing and saves a lot of time on all stages of production.”

    Be prepared. If you take a look in the trunk of Volynska’s car you will find everything that could possibly be missed or forgotten on set. Her experience has helped her build a kit, so that no production will be stopped and no set will ever be missing the tools needed to keep working.

    And of course communications. “As a producer you have to know how to deal with every personality to make it work. You need to know how to make your crew a team.”

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    “In another life I probably would be a car racer,” said Volynska with a smile on her face. “But in this one I am the producer and I love every moment of producing, every single problem, every hour I didn’t sleep — everything!”

    Mariietta Volynska goes far and beyond with her passion of being a line producer. As a true problem solver she recently launched a new locations website, which certainly looks to be an asset for many people in the industry. All locations have special rates for students and independent filmmakers.

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    NYFA would like to thank Mariietta Volynska for sharing her experience and wish her luck with the launch of her new website. We hope to see more of her movies on screen very soon.

    January 19, 2017 • Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2577