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  • NYFA Alum Janek Ambros’ Film Produced by Barbara De Fina

    New York Film Academy alumnus Janek Ambros, known for his work on “Valley of Bones,” “10,000 Saints,” and “Imminent Threat,” is working with Marin Scorsese’s long-time producing collaborator, Barbara De Fina.

    Ambros’ film, “May 15th in Paris,” retells the story of a large protest on the streets of Paris on May 15, 1848. Ambros uses a narrator to recount this historic date and juxtaposes that story with images of current controversial populist political wins across the globe.

    Ambrose did an email interview with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to talk about his experience making this film.

    15th of May Poster

    NYFA: How did you team up with Hollywood legend Barbara De Fina? 

    Ambros: Since I was a kid, Barbara De Fina and Irwin Winkler were two people I greatly admired. As a director, I dreamed I would one day have as supportive and creative producers as Martin Scorsese did. However, it wasn’t really my intention to have her produce my films. I originally wanted to see if she had any projects she needed funding for, because I dabble in film finance.

    But when I came back from Paris and showed her the footage, she had a lot of great notes on the narration, editing, and overall pacing. We ended up collaborating on it and in the end, she decided to come on board as a producer.  

    NYFA: What was it like working with such a giant in the producing field?

    Ambros: Someone who has produced for my favorite director of all time is now producing my films. It was obviously a little surreal. It truly is an honor to work with her. But when it’s all said and done, she simply made the film better and that is always the goal. It’s extremely important to listen to others who have experience and expertise greater than your own. You don’t want to be too rigid-minded in your thinking. Having a good creative producer on board is incredibly valuable.

    NYFA: Can you expand upon why you wanted to compare the incidences of 1848 with the recent U.S. presidential election and Brexit? 

    Ambros: I’m really into history. It’s really important to not just know your history, but also understand how it applies today. No situation is entirely unique. In the 1840s, those in power blatantly ignored the powerless. To me, their situation is similar to how today’s “corporate Democrats” failed a lot of the lower and middle class. People finally had enough. However, when they went to the ballot, citizens went in the wrong direction, similar to the French in the 1840s when they voted for Napoleon Bonaparte. 

    NYFA: How did all of these events affect you as a creator? 

    Ambros: Given Trump, the overall rejection of globalism by many in Western countries, and the rise of nationalism, my approach to how I create content has changed. I’ve always been into politics. I’ve done shorts on the military industrial complex, the bank bailouts, authoritarianism, etc. I’m just sticking to my original game plan.

    I see a lot of other writers pull an audible to make their work reflect what’s happening with Trump and that can be great. But, I’d be cautious against changing your entire approach. Things are always going to evolve, especially living in a world with a never-ending news cycle. So, if you keep trying to make everything “current,” it can be challenging. 

    I do think this political climate will spark a “New Wave” of more politically challenging films, which is great. Our company is trying to focus on filmmakers who are making movies that strive for greatness. We want to be like Zoetrope, who tackled challenging cinema in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you make this film? 

    Ambros: The most important element I learned from NYFA to help make this film was to just go out and make it. So many other film schools focus on academia, where NYFA really taught me how to go out and make a film and learn from doing. Although my ultimate aspirations are writing and directing, I went to NYFA for producing. I’m glad I did. I no longer have an excuse to not make a movie.

    NYFA: What did you learn while making this film? Would you change anything about your process? 

    Ambros: I learned a lot about taking in surroundings when making a film. My previous doc was a lot of talking heads and stock footage with mostly stylized editing. This one I couldn’t have any stock footage and didn’t want to do any interviews; I wanted to approach it more as an experimental film with each segment having its own style. So, I was forced to really push myself to look for interesting imagery and create a solid composition and shot design. 

    NYFA: What projects do you have coming up next?

    Ambros: My next film is “Arlington West.” I’ll, once again, be working with Barbara De Fina. The movie is about two Iraq War veterans who spend the night debating war and peace along the Santa Monica pier after attending the Arlington West memorial service.

    We have other projects in development as well that include an adaptation of the widely acclaimed ”Nixon’s Nixon,” penned by Russell Lees, about the night before Nixon gets impeached; an adaption of the timeless play “An Enemy of the People,” by Henrik Ibsen; and a VR sequel to “Mondo Hollywood,” the 1967 cult classic. Lastly, we’re developing a psychedelic comedy about the re-awakening of liberalism in America entitled “Mondo Oligarchy.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Ambros for his incredible success with “May 15th in Paris,” and thank him for taking the time to share his story.

  • NYFA Los Angeles Holds Social Media Networking Night

    _DSC7452Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development Barbara Weintraub held a Social Media Networking Night at NYFA Los Angeles in late July. Over 220 students from the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus attended the event held in the Riverside Building.

    The lobby was filled with film companies like Film Independent and New Filmmakers LA. They were there to share opportunities for students, membership experiences, and career paths.

    A color-coded system helped students get in touch with other students. Small dots on name tags indicated whether the attending was an actor, filmmaker, photographer, or game designer.  

    “There are so many students that I hadn’t met,” said acting student An Phan. “I’m at the Barham building most of the time while the photography and filmmaking students are at Riverside. I never get to interact with them. I saw a lot of portfolios and I was blown away by how talented everyone was. It was great interaction. I had a lot of fun.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to wish all the students applying for professional memberships and those students teaming up to work on a project success on their next venture.

  • NYFA Welcomes Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway as Guest Speakers

    NYFA students at the Los Angeles campus were invited to an exclusive Q & A event featuring former Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing and Hollywood Reporter writer Stephen Galloway, who penned Sherry Lansing’s recent biography, “Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker.” Director of Q and A series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Lansing started her career as a script reader and worked her way up the ladder until she became president at 20th Century Fox in 1980. Lansing was the first woman in history to hold the position.

    LansingPhoto001

    Next, Lansing took on producing for such hits as “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Indecent Proposal” (1993). Later, Lansing became the chairman and CEO at Paramount where, for 12 years, she oversaw production and marketing on 200 movies — including blockbusters such as “Braveheart,” “Forrest Gump,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Titanic.”

    Lansing had a lot of advice for up-and-coming film creators. One large piece of advice was, “Returning every phone call is just good business. You never know were ideas come from.”

    ‘The executive’s job is to just find good talent,” she told students. “Every film that does poorly is my failure. Every film that does well is not my success.”

    Lansing left the entertainment industry at 60 to pursue an entirely new career in the non-profit industry, and created the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which focuses on cancer research and education. She sits on nine major profit and non-profit boards.

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    Galloway centered the book on Lansing’s journey from an insecure young girl to her incredible ability to make a space for herself where previously there had been no women, saying, “There was no Churchill before Winston Churchill. There was no Sherry Lansing before Lansing.”  

    One of the questions asked was, “What advice do you have for screenwriters and working with a budget? We are always instructed to write from our imagination, but I’ve heard other people say you should write for the budget. What do you think?”

    Lansing responded, “You should always write from the heart. Our job in the studio is to keep the eye on the budget.”

    Lansing advised that striking a harmonious balance is in the best interest of the writer, particularly when working with a studio: They have bought the script and will eventually do with it as they please. If the writer wants to stay on the project they should find a way to work with the studio.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway for taking the time to speak with our students.  

  • NYFA Veterans Division Screens “Between Iraq and a Hard Place” With Special Guest Q&A

    This month, the New York Film Academy College of Visual and Performing Arts (NYFA) hosted a special screening of the military documentary, “Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” at its Los Angeles campus.

    Following the screening, NYFA Acting Instructor Michael Bershad moderated a Q&A with the film’s producer, Rex Pratt, and current MFA acting student, technical advisor and retired Navy/Marine Corps Chaplain Ron Ringo.

    (Left to Right) Moderator Michael Bershad discusses the process of making the film withProducer Rex Pratt and current MFA student and Technical Advisor Ron Ringo.

    The film takes a deep look at the impact that war has on members of our nation’s military when they return from home, and asks the question; Are we are really doing enough to help service members with this transition?

    Packed with raw and unfiltered footage from the war and personal interviews with the men that were there, the film helps the audience gain a valuable perspective on the issues that face our returning men and women who serve our country in the military.

    Marine Corps Veteran and BFA filmmaking student David Jimenez said:

    The film hit home. It captured the stress and fear of combat and how we still manage to have a sense of humor about things, and push through it all. The fact that they mention the difference between coming home on a ship and coming home on a plane is actually astonishing since no one normally thinks of that. I came home on a plane and I was literally on the I-5 freeway going home 25 hours after a mortar attack in the Middle East. The last scene in the film when they are being mortared was powerful. I remember being that scared when it happened to me. That is something that I don’t normally talk about with people.”

    For more information on “Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” please visit the film’s website

     

    by Michael Kunselman

  • Highlights from Disney’s D23 Expo 2017

    This week, Disney held its bi-annual fan expo, D23, in Anaheim, CA. Marvel, Pixar, Disney Animation, Disney Interactive Studios, and Walt Disney Productions rolled out major announcements this weekend, while fans and industry insiders were treated to sneak-peek teasers, celebrity appearances, exclusive merchandise, incredible cosplay, and more. Here are some highlights.

    Screenshot 2017-07-17 13.31.00

    A New “Star Wars” Park?

    Disney took the opportunity at D23 to reveal new details about its plans for a new themed-land called “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.” The project is shaping up to be one the company’s most immersive fan experiences.

    The Verge quoted Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek as explaining: “We are working on our most experiential concept ever … It combines a luxury resort with immersion in an authentic environment.” Basically, the goal will be for guests to live out their own “Star Wars” adventure throughout the course of their stay, complete with windows that look into outer space and a hotel designed like a spaceship.

    Celebrity Appearances

    Directors, stars, animators, and Disney giants were all present throughout the D23 Expo, and fans able to enjoy exclusive panels, talk-backs, and sneak-peeks presented by their favorite Disney stars. As Nerdist reported, “We saw the cast of ‘Descendants 2,’ ran into Mark Hamill and Stan Lee as Grand Marshalls of the Ultimate Fan Street Party, and saw ‘Black Panther’sChadwick Boseman running to his meet and greet. It was always good to keep an eye on the D23 app for surprise appearances.”

    Live-Action Films

    This year’s D23 Expo saw two jam-packed presentations, for animated and live-action films, respectively. Trailers, teasers, and A-list stars were in attendance to promote upcoming Disney live-action films.

    Slated for 2018 is “A Wrinkle in Time,” and director Ava DuVernay was there with stars Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling to screen the trailer. Audiences were also treated to a talks and teasers for upcoming mega projects, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

    But that wasn’t all in the live-action arena. The expo also promoted upcoming live-action adaptations of Disney classics slated to be directed by industry giants: “The Lion King” (Jon Favreau), “Dumbo” (Tim Burton), and “Aladdin” (Guy Ritchie). You’ll be able to catch Disney’s n live action adventure, “Dumbo,” on March 29, 2019. “Aladdin” has been cast. Earlier this month rumors circulated online that Disney was having trouble casting the film. Will Smith has been tapped to play the Genie. “Power Rangers” break-out star Naomi Scott will play Jasmine, and jumping on the magic carpet as Aladdin is Mena Massoud.

    Animated Films

    In the animation category, Disney screened a short film called “The Speed Test,” and hosted panels and teasers for major upcoming releases including “Toy Story 4,” Pixar’s “Coco,” “The Incredibles 2,” “Frozen 2,” “Wreck it Ralph Breaks the Internet,” and an upcoming feature from Dan Scanlon, yet to be titled.

    Perhaps the biggest news on the floor was the fact that all of the living Disney Princesses would make an appearance in “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2.”  The cast includes Auli‘i Cravalho from “Moana,” Kristen Bell from “Frozen,” Kelly MacDonald as “Merida,” Mandy Moore from “Tangled,” Anika Noni Rose from “The Princess and the Frog,” Irene Bedard from “Pocahontas,” Linda Larkin from “Aladdin,” Paige O’Hara from “Beauty and the Beast,” and Jodi Benson from “The Little Mermaid.”

    More details were also released for “The Incredibles 2.” Holly Hunter shared that her character, Mrs. Incredible, will be doing more of the heavy lifting this time around: “Bob’s actually home with the kids this time…”

    “Tangled: The Animated Series” amassed the original cast in the same place for the first time. Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi shared their enthusiasm for the characters. “Disney said they didn’t want to do the show without us,” Levi said.

    Video Games & VR

    The long-awaited third installment of the Kingdom Hearts series revealed a new playable world. Andy’s room from “Toy Story” will be a playable space in “Kingdom Hearts 3,” coming out in 2018.

    Marvel will be releasing a new VR game in 2018 titled “Powers United VR.” The game will allow the player to become their favorite hero, including Hulk, Rocket Raccoon, and Captain Marvel and will be exclusive to the Oculus Rift.

    Free Treats

    It wouldn’t be Disney if magic wasn’t present in every detail. At this year’s D23 Expo, the free swag was cold brew coffee with foam designs of iconic Disney characters — including Darth Vader. Shoppers were treated to exclusive merchandise launches not yet available anywhere else, from limited edition figurines to clothing lines.

    To see NYFA’s behind-the-scenes coverage of live events, follow us on #Snapchat @NYFilmAcademy.

  • NYFA Summer Camp Students Enjoy Special Screening of “Top Gun”

    _A4A1610On Saturday, July 1, teens and tweens participating in the New York Film Academy Summer Camp in Los Angeles took a break from the hard work of filmmaking to see a summer blockbuster classic. “Top Gun” was screening in the field at the Autry Museum.  

    Usually, the students are hard at work developing their film projects. Most days, they are learning the difference between camera lens sizes, rehearsing a new acting technique, experimenting with the latest 3D technology, revising a script or shooting on a professional backlot. On this night, however, their hard work was rewarded with a special screening.

     

    _A4A1611This screening was unique because it was surrounded by some of the top food trucks in Los Angeles. For many of the students, this was the first time they had seen a movie under the stars. The combination of live music and multicultural food trucks made the night an event.

    The head of Summer Camps, Ale Salinas said, “This is a unique and fun experience.
    We’re doing this for the students to bond and watch fun movies in a Hollywood way.”_A4A1582

    The New York Film Academy is proud of the great strides out Summer Camp students are making and hope their night off was a fun one.  

     

  • NYFA Welcomes Hire Heroes USA

    On June 24, The New York Film Academy College of Visual and Performing Arts (NYFA) Veteran Services Department was fortunate to collaborate with Hire Heroes USA (HHUSA) to host a daylong exclusive employment workshop for NYFA’s veteran students. The NYFA military students also benefited from one-on-one time with the Transition Specialists from HHUSA.

    Hire Heroes and New York Film Academy

    Hire Heroes visits the New York Film Academy

     

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    Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members.

     

    Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members, assisting veterans and spouses with finding employment.

    The first half of the eight-hour workshop was a practicum related to resume theory, networking techniques, and how to affectively prepare for an interview. Representatives from Hire Heroes USA, Jamie Rimphanli and Walter Serrano, coached veteran students on how to properly format their resumes and discussed, in-depth, the importance of networking and how to prepare for a job interview.

    For the second half of the workshop, industry professionals from Disney Studios, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Legendary Entertainment, and Plan A Locations joined the workshop for a moderated Q&A panel discussion. Panelists discussed how they began their careers in the entertainment industry and how they’ve navigated their careers for success.

    Highlights from the day included an exercise that had all of the participants do a speed networking session. Also, HHUSA brought a photographer who took professional head shots for the veteran students’ LinkedIn pages.

    “We felt that this training and these types of vet student-centric activities are increasingly important because they help prepare our students to meet with HR/Talent Acquisition teams from the major studios,” explained NYFA Director of Veterans Services Department John Powers.  

    Retired Army veteran and MFA cinematography student Bryan Hudson stated, “The Hire Heroes USA workshop was a fantastic forum to introduce veterans with industry insiders and provide the opportunity to learn from them. The event was beneficial to everyone involved about learning the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the interview process and how to break into the entertainment industry. One thing that I learned from the workshop is to establish relationships that will be beneficial to both parties. Thank you to the NYFA Veterans Department for putting on this marvelous event, and I hope that this will be the first of many events with Hire Heroes USA.”

    The NYFA Veteran Services Department is extremely grateful to Hire Heroes USA for partnering with us to bring this wonderful opportunity to NYFA veteran students.

  • NYFA LA Welcomes Writer & Producer Neal Baer as Guest Speaker

    On Wednesday, June 21, Neal Baer came to the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus to talk about his illustrious career in television. Baer has the distinction of being a key figure in two groundbreaking series. He was a writer and producer on both “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “ER.”  Director of the Q and A series, Tova Laiter, hosted the evening.

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    Students filled the Riverside Theater to hear Baer speak about the history of the television industry. Many of the students were surprised to learn that “ER” once enjoyed an incredible share of the market. “There’s no drama airing today that comes close to having 40 million viewers. Not even ‘Game of Thrones.’”  

    Of course, a huge portion of the show’s success was the wildly talented and relatively unknown cast, including George Clooney. Baer recalled the excited fan reaction to seeing Clooney in a tuxedo. So mad was the fury, that Baer made sure to include a scene with him in a tuxedo in “Hell or High Water.” The episode went on to be the show’s highest-rated and even earned Clooney an Emmy nomination.

    “I’ve had a very different career than my friends. I’ve only ever been on four shows,” Baer said after being asked about his incredible trajectory. “I started in 1994. That’s twenty-three years. I don’t know anybody else who has done four shows straight through.”

    Whether it was talent, luck, or a combination of both that kept Baer on top, he always made sure to use the best of the time he had. “I loved SVU because every week I got to explore. You had to get into the story through a murder or assault but then I could do a show about teen access to abortion. They let us do amazing things with guns, homeschooling, HIV deniers, euthanasia, everything I was interested in was put into the show.” 

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    That inspiration translated into his hiring practices as a showrunner. Baer was fond of calling obscure actors from childhood favorites to come on the show. Carol Burnett chastised him when he called to ask her on the show: “You used to watch me with your parents on weeknights, didn’t you?” Once, Debbie Reynolds even shared a saucy story about Ava Gardner with Baer.

    “How could you not want to bring these people on your show,” Baer said. “I’ve been very blessed to work with incredible people.”

    One student asked if Baer had any advice for students looking to break into the industry. Baer responded, “They’ve made it very difficult to be a director. I think what you have to do if you want to work, as a director, is shadow. You attach to a director and you just become their shadow. You’ll go to casting meetings, location scouts, anything the director does, you’ll be there.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Baer for taking the time to speak with our students.

  • NYFA Alumnus Anthony James Faure Releases “Kids With Guns”

    Anthony James Faure worked in the film industry for five years before coming to the New York Film Academy. When he started the 1-Year Filmmaking Program he was also starting the post-production process on his latest film, “Kids with Guns.”

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    Using Paris, France, as a backdrop, he shot the feature film over the summer of 2014. The story follows Arno and Mo, two unimportant drug dealers who happen upon a bag filled with MDMA. They decide to sell the trendy drug to the Parisian Golden Youth. Soon they’re forced to navigate the dangerous territory between the real owner of the bag and an overzealous cop that swore to stop him.

    The French thriller was produced with a budget of just €30,000, or around $35,000 in U.S. dollars. He earned the majority of the money via crowd-funding sites, personal savings, and a few grants. Then entire cast and crew worked on a volunteer basis.

    Faure attributes much of that success to his friend and producing partner Antony Renault. Faure said of the experience, “We were trying to get a short film produced in France for a long time. During that time, we wrote ‘Kids with Guns.’ Once the script was done we thought we should just shoot it. It’s that spontaneity that makes the essence of our film: we wanted to shoot now.”

    Faure’s scrappy nature had earned him great footage, but turning it into a film would be an entirely different process. “NYFA helped me in my rewriting process during postproduction. Indeed, after the course I took at NYFA, my understanding of film had evolved, and I managed to use that new knowledge in the editing.”

    The visual effects artist, postproduction manager, and sound mixer for “Kids with Guns” were all students Faure met at NYFA. He enjoyed his experience at NYFA so much he’ll be returning next semester: “I will never stop learning. I have a few feature film ideas and treatments I’ve been working on for a while, going back to NYFA in the screenwriting course will hopefully give me that little push I need to execute them.”

    TEASER KIDS WITH GUNS from Les Films de l’Ours on Vimeo.

    Faure’s next project is a superhero story. “Super Zeroes” is the story of superheroes forced into retirement by a world tired of the destruction their crime fighting causes. They retire to Trinidad-and-Tobago but a crime committed on the island will force them to work together, even if their powers are a bit rusty. NYFA alumni Jolene Mendes and Chloe Na will work with Faure as producers, Sashank Sana is the director of photography, Carolina Lara will do production design, and Daniel Techy is editing.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Faure’s success. To learn more about Faure click here.

  • Thomas Ian Nicholas & Brian Metcalf Screen “The Lost Tree” at NYFA LA

    On Monday, March 12, New York Film Academy students at the Los Angeles campus were treated to a screening of “The Lost Tree” followed by a Q&A with writer and director Brian A. Metcalf and producer Thomas Ian Nicholas.

    “The Lost Tree” follows a man who, after surviving a terrible accident, abandons his old life for a secluded cabin in the woods. Soon enough he learns that the area isn’t safe. The suspenseful thriller stars Michael Madsen (“Reservoir Dogs,” “Kill Bill: Vol 1,” and “The Hateful 8”), Lacey Chabert (“Mean Girls,” “The Wild Thornberrys” and “Party of Five”), Scott Grimes (“American Dad,” “ER,” and “Party of 5”), and Thomas Ian Nicholas (“Rookie of the Year” and “American Pie”).

    thomas and brian

    NYFA Instructor Tim Fallon moderated the Q&A. He started off the evening by asking Metcalf and Nicholas about how they started working together. Nicholas answered, “Initially, Brian called me and asked me if I wanted to start working on something.” When Nicholas asked what the movie would be about Metcalf didn’t have a clue: “We’ll figure it out as we go along.”

    “It’s a funny thing,” Metcalf said. “This is not what this [script] was intended to be. We just wanted to work on something together.” Nicholas knew of an incredible cabin in the woods. They decided to make that the center focus of the script and the film blossomed from there.

    “The cabin isn’t anything like we portray it in the film. Now, I’ll never be able to go back there again. So, thanks, Brian,” Nicholas joked. “This gave us the ability to work with what we had. You have to get creative when you work with a tight budget.”

    Metcalf chimed in, “We might have wished to have more actors for certain days or more time to shoot, but, at the end of the day, you have to use what you have.”

    One student asked, “What is the best advice you have ever received?” Metcalf had a simple answer: “The first attempt you will fail. You have to get to work to get to the point where you’re consistently making good art. If you can’t take rejection than this industry isn’t for you.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Metcalf and Mr. Nicholas for taking the time to speak with our students. To learn more about their production company, Red Compass Media, click here.

    June 15, 2017 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1362