“Long Island Lights“ is a half hour comedy about a group of misfits at an amateur production company on Long Island who are hungry to become rich and famous.
“This is a story about millennials trying to find their way in life and the real issues they deal with from romance and success to redefining who you are in this age of hyper connectivity — where you can feel small and disconnected,” said Scordio. “What they are really chasing after is validation in a world where the “LIKE” button hails king. We watch them fail over and over again, but the real success comes in the bonds that they form with one another.”
It features similar romantic story lines and co-worker drama like the popular TV series “The Office,” the goofy family dysfunction of Mitch Hurwitz’s “Arrested Development,” and the dark and often raunchy humor of the hilarious “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
“The series came about after I quit my job at an investment bank in my early 20’s and decided to pursue my passion in filmmaking,” says Scordio. “There were a lot of growing pains and ridiculous people I met along the way — many of whom were in the industry for the reasons of becoming rich and famous. So I thought it would be funny to highlight that pursuit in a comedic way, but have a theme of friends and family at the core.”
The NYFA grad attended the 1-Year Producing Program at the New York Film Academy’s New York location, where he created the pilot for the series as his thesis project.
“NYFA’s training was crucial in being prepared to create the pilot,” he says. “It laid the foundation of skills that were necessary in order to pull it off, especially because we had over 150 actors and 50 crew members working on the pilot. I wouldn’t have been able to manage that without the education NYFA provided. Also, several of my collaborators are people I met directly or indirectly through NYFA.”
Scordio now runs a Long Island based production company, Scordio Productions, Inc. Scordio and his team are currently in pre-production for a Jon Bon Jovi music video that shoots at the end of October.
New York Film Academy was proud to welcome Producer Rob Cowan to the Los Angeles campus this past week. Cowan brought all the knowledge gained in his thirty-five years in the entertainment industry, as well as the pulse-pounding San Andreas. Denise Carlson, a Producing instructor, hosted the event.
Cowan’s lengthy career includes producing Life as a House, which netted Hayden Christensen and Kevin Kline a Golden Globe nomination. He also produced the Cole Porter musical bio-pic De-Lovely starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. From there he transitioned into horror and action films with Enough, starring Jennifer Lopez, and the Robert De Niro and Al Pacino led thriller, Righteous Kill. He next sought comedies with Tammy and The Boss, both starring Melissa McCarthy. His biggest win was in producing The Conjuring, the fourth highest grossing horror film of all time.
After the San Andreas screening, Cowan sat down for a Q & A with the students. The first thing they spoke of was the logistics of filming the scene. “Every big sequence that there is in there, even the smaller ones are a big challenge on many levels. How do you make something look like it’s shaking when it’s not shaking? So we had to sit down with all of the teams and ask, ‘Ok, what’s visual effects? What’s special effects? What’s a real part of the set we need to do?’ Normally when you’re doing a movie you have to dress an entire set but the CGI guys would tell us ‘just give us a little rubble and we’ll destroy the rest,’ so that was nice.”
“Even up to the day we were going to do the shot the special effects guy wasn’t sure it was going to sink.” It was moments like these that Cowan described as, “the most fun.” He also mentioned a complicated one take where the set would be completely destroyed after the take. They only had once chance to get it right.
They only had about seventeen weeks of prep. This may sound like a lot of time, but Cowan said, “I’m working on a similar film now and we have thirty-two weeks of prep.” Cowan was worried about getting the movie made so he sat down with the director, Brad Peyton, and asked, “Can you get this film done?” Peyton had a simple answer, “I’ll be decisive.” Instead of asking for multiple examples or tweaking last minute, Peyton trusted his team to give him the best options possible, then, he picked one and moved forward. This was key in finishing on time.
Denise Carlson asked about Cowan’s background as a writer and how it affected his producing work. Cowan divulged that initially San Andreas was written as an homage to Irwin Allen, who directed disaster movies like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno in the 1970’s. These films would cast A-list actors and give each a storyline. But Cowan felt that left the story a little flat. He brought in Chad and Carey Hayes, who wrote The Conjuring, to punch up the script. They cut some of the characters, instead choosing to focus the story on Dwayne Johnson’s character. Then, they layered in a heart-wrenching story of a lost child. Suddenly the film was more than just a disaster film, it was a story.
Next, they spoke about the two largest challenges in filmmaking, money and time. Cowan relayed the story of Rocky. The scene at the ice skating rink was originally supposed to have multiple extras. The extras needed skates, prop food, a catered meal, all things that cost money the production no longer had. The producers went to Sylvester Stallone with the bad news. Stallone sent the extras home and decided that Rocky should just walk Adrienne around the rink. “It ended up being one of the best scenes in the movie. I always feel that story has value because you realize there’re different ways and better ways to do things when you’re challenged.”
“James Wan, the director of The Conjuring, is great at that. If I tell him, ‘ Look, we can’t do it this way’ he energizes the team and always comes up with something better.” Cowan said, “One of your biggest challenges is time and money. We sunk it all into the set. And it was something we weren’t sure if it’s something we could pull off. That’s a character in the movie and we’re going to invest in that character.”
The investment paid off. The Conjuring 2 was released nation wide in June 2016. New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Cowan for sharing his expertise with our students. Look for Cowan’s forthcoming films Aquaman and The Hollow Season.
Considered one of the most ideal festivals to premiere a film, the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) has launched the careers of many up and coming filmmakers. We have high hopes for New York Film Academy Producing alumnus Eric Janvier, who produced “Gods Acre,” which will have its world premiere at this year’s TIFF.
“Gods Acre,” which is Kelton Stepanowich’s directing debut, is about an older aboriginal man, Frank, struggling to adapt to a constantly changing world. Isolated in the wilderness, his roots are firmly planted in the customs passed on to him like his ancestors before. The everyday problems of the outside world creep closer to his doorstep. As water begins swallowing up the land his cabin stands on, Frank must grapple with the decision of abandoning his home or adapt to an impossible situation.
“I was able to use the skills I learned at NYFA after graduating,” said Janvier. “I want to thank the staff at NYFA for all the great things they’ve taught me, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the school.”
Since Janvier graduated from the producing program in 2008, he has started Broken Tree Productions and has worked for such musicians as Abandon All Hope, Hit or Miss, and Shantelle Davidson, to name a few.
Janvier has recently written, directed, produced, and edited his first feature film, which is scheduled to be released in the near future.
Actor, writer, producer, and director Seth Rogen dropped by the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus on Wednesday, August 17th to show his new R-animated movie Sausage Partyand talk about his long acting career. Hollywood Producer, NYFA Director of Industry Lecture Series, Tova Laiter, hosted the evening.
photo by Kristine Tomaro
The auditorium crescendoed into a roar when Rogen took the stage. And he didn’t disappoint, making the students laugh all throughout. Laiter began the conversation with Rogen’s beginnings: Rogen began his stand-up career at just thirteen. He had the usual plan: become a stand-up comedian, land a sitcom, and then make movies for forever. The goal was always to make movies.
From his stand up, Rogen was able to land an agent. He auditioned for, and landed a role in, Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks when he was just sixteen. Then he began writing and acting on Undeclared. Next, he was hired on The Ali G Show, for which he was nominated for an Emmy. After conquering film in The 40-Year-Old Virgin he continued for two pictures with Judd Apatow: Knocked Up and Funny People.
He then began working with his childhood friend and partner, Evan Goldberg. Their work includes This is the End, Superbad, Pineapple Express, and The Interview. He’s lent his voice to Horton Hears a Who!, Monsters vs. Aliens, Paul, and Kung Fu Panda. He’s recently turned his attention back to TV with AMC’s Preacher.
photo by Kristine Tomaro
Asked how the idea for the uniquely clever and funny Sausage Party came about he quoted two inspirations
“Honestly,” Rogen said, Home Alone is one of the movies that made me want to make movies. Seeing a kid just beat the shit out of adults- it was like an action movie for kids and I remember thinking I want to make movies like that.”
The second source: ‘When the Pixar movies started to come out I was just blown away by them. They weren’t just visually unlike anything I’d ever seen but the storytelling and the humor… It was completely a group of people working on another level. We were like, ‘Well, we’ll never be that good., so maybe we’ll do our own bastard version of that and we’ll get to take a sip from the well of glory for just a second.’”
But an R-rated animated comedy was not an easy pitch, even with Rogen’s popularity and success. “Getting it made was the hardest part. It took us literally years, and years, and years of going to meetings and being told ‘no’ by independent financing companies and by major studios. Then finally brave Megan Ellison agreed to do it.”
“So, that part was difficult. But we’d never made an animated movie. It was very different than anything we’ve ever done.”
Also, “the releasing of the movie is always the most stressful time because it’s the part that one generally has the least control over. You never know how much they spent. You know how much the movie cost to make. You have a million conversations about that. But there’s literally never a conversation where a number is said in regards to the marketing budget. “But, in the end, the journey was worth it, if it helps the next person down the line, “I think there’s a distinct possibility that if someone was on the fence about making an R-rated animated movie maybe this might nudge them to the other side of it. We hope to make more R-rated animated movies and I really hope that, if anything, this inspires other people to take this and make something better”
Laiter wanted to know what made Canadian comedians so consistently successful. “I’ve worked with British comedians before and they’re hilarious” Rogen Said, “but they don’t quite understand American culture to the degree they need to, to really infiltrate it. But Canadians grow up with American culture, but it’s not our culture. So, we probably more objective about it and a little more inclined to make fun of it”.
Rogen has a reputation for working with his friends. “When you’re working, it’s really hard to do something that feels good a lot of the time. So when I’m on set I feel so much better if Jonah or Franco or Craig or Danny are there because they are just incredible at their jobs. Of the hundreds of things I have to worry about in my job as the director, producer, writer, that is not one of them. It’s just a stress relief. On top of that, we just like each other.”
One student asked Rogen about how he handled criticism. “Honestly, that’s gotten harder as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger I was really aggressive and confident. Over the years, as I’ve read thousands of articles just saying what an idiot I am… I look back and honestly marvel at how little I thought about whether or not other people thought I was funny. It was all, ‘I think I’m good at this and I think I can do something different in movies, so I’m just going to write them’. The more I didn’t succeed, the more I’d get angry and I’d just try even harder… You just have to make sure it’s a good idea. Surrounded yourself with people who will be honest with you and give you good constructive criticism. Just never stop.”
photo by Kristine Tomaro
Another student wanted to know if Rogen had advice for actors who were older and hadn’t hit yet. Rogen responded, “Ian McKellan became famous when he was like 80. There’re so many actors that just keep going and don’t quit. And there’re actors who don’t become famous until they’re in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and in the meantime they keep working in smaller roles. And if you’re only an actor and (you) can’t write or create material for yourself, then… become friends with a writer. They’re always looking for actors. Become friends with a director. They always need actors. Just link up with someone who has a job you can’t do.”
“What is the most important ingredient in comedy?” a student asked.
Rogen said, “Superbad is about two friends who don’t know how to tell one another they’re going to miss each other. That sweet center allowed us to have period blood on his leg and other crazy shit that would otherwise be appalling. So for us, we talk a lot about balance- emotion with crudeness, intelligence with stupidity, unpredictability with plausibility and sensibility. I think balance is the most important part of comedy, also between what genres you’re trying to mix- finding the exact mix of horror and comedy, of emotion and comedy. That’s what makes a movie unpredictable.”
And as parting words Rogen emphasized the ‘unpredictability’ of great movies and asked the students to surprise him with the kind of breakthrough movies that make him ask: ‘How the hell did they do that?’
That brought the house up to standing ovation.
New York Film Academy would like to thank Seth Rogen for his time. Sausage Party is now in theaters.
The New York Film Academy recently welcomed distinguished ICM talent agent, Boaty Boatwright, who has been in the business for fifty years. Moderated by producer Tova Laiter, the gracious guest fielded questions from a packed theater of filmmaking, producing, and acting students at 17 Battery Place.
Producer Tova Laiter with ICM Agent Boaty Boatwright at NYFA
Boatwright began her career as a children’s casting assistant in New York for such iconic films as To Kill A Mockingbird and the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Boatwright also served as an executive for major film studios including MGM, Columbia, and Universal.
As a casting agent, Boatwright worked closely with legendary directors including Norman Jewison, John Huston, Sydney Pollack, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ridley Scott.
After moving into the role of a talent agent, Boatwright began representing directors such as Alan Pakula, Sidney Lumet, and notable actors, Joanne Woodward Paul Newman. Her current client list includes Stephen Frears (Academy Award Nomination), Tom Hooper (Academy Award Winner) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Academy Award Winner).
While acknowledging how difficult the business can be to break in, Boatwright stressed the importance of pushing work at the film festivals, especially Toronto and Sundance. It is often the writer/directors job to be his or her own producer before gaining the attention of an agent. Most agents need to see proven work under a young filmmaker’s belt before they considering signing them. “Finding an agent is the hardest and most important part of the business,” she said.
Tova Laiter and Boaty Boatwright
Several actors from the audience also inquired about being cast as foreigners in American films. Boatwright understood the challenges involved, but stressed the importance of owning your cultural background and finding roles that could highlight what it is that makes your audition different than what’s expected.
Another fascinating moment of the evening came when Boatwright touched on a time she had worked with Alfred Hithcock, recalling the posh London hotel suites and expensive wine that Hitchcock would enjoy at lunch. In a time when California wine was just becoming popular Hitchcock told Boatwright, “I’ll never drink California wine.”
Few can claim the amount of experience that Boatwright has had in the entertainment industry, which leaves us extremely thankful for the time she spent enlightening our students on the path ahead.
Lynton leads SPE’s global operations, including motion pictures, television and digital content production and distribution, as well as home entertainment acquisition and distribution, operation of studio facilities, and the development of new entertainment products, services and technologies.
Under the leadership of Lynton, The Sony Motion Pictures Group has garnered Best Picture nominations for American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Social Network, Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty in addition to blockbuster franchises such as The Amazing Spider-Man and James Bond.
Lynton also oversees Sony Pictures Television (SPT), which produces and distributes award-winning programs such as Breaking Bad, Justified, and The Blacklist.
At the Q&A event, moderated by producer Tova Laiter, Lynton provided invaluable insight into the business, especially from a studio standpoint. His overall look on the current state of Hollywood and the business was very positive, especially for our theatre full of filmmakers and actors.
“I think the studio model at moment is in pretty good shape,” said Lynton. “We are hungrier than ever for talent and new projects. This is a better time than ever to get a movie made and seen.”
Lynton says that more than anything, it is a persons hustle, wits, and ability to make things happen that gets them in the door and climbing the ladder faster than others. As for how to get started, he says, “Get a job any place you can on the outset. You want to get noticed very quickly.”
As for our acting students in the audience, Lynton said, “Go out on auditions as often as you can and have a thick skin. And don’t be particular about your first few jobs.”
After an hour conversation, students left the theatre motivated and felt very encouraged about the outlook on their future careers. We’d like to thank Mr. Lynton for taking the time out of his incredibly busy schedule to let our students and recent graduates pick his brain on the many subjects of the entertainment business.
Every semester New York Film Academy Los Angeles gathers young aspiring professionals together to provide them with an opportunity to establish new connections and share their ideas and projects while building a strong list of professional contacts. It was a huge turn out for Student Networking Night on June 24th, which was hosted by NYFA’s Chair of Industry Outreach, Barbara Weintraub.
“This is my second networking event at NYFA and it’s very helpful,” remarked MA Filmmaking Student, Daniel Peres Morel. “Here I’m getting all type of connections—meeting producers, cinematographers, people who I become friends with, collaborate with—and I’m very grateful for that opportunity.”
In the creative spirit of “meet & greet,” non-profit organization NewFilmmakers LA (NFMLA) joined the event to share information about all the wonderful showcases and screenings they organize monthly to support emerging filmmakers. NFMLA provides a forum where filmmakers can be recognized for their contributions, have open audience discussions about their projects and connect with industry professionals for insight on distribution, production, acquisition and representation.
“This event is really important, because connections you make here could bring you on further when you go into your life after school,” commented One-Year Acting for Film student Stephanie Weise.
Business cards were exchanged, filmmakers crewed up and lots of pizza was eaten!
“It was a great event to meet actors, actresses, directors, and filmmakers all under one roof,” added One-Year Cinematography student Zachary Haussmann.
NYFA is very excited that students from different programs were able to find collaborators with shared interests.
New York Film Academy Producing and Screenwriting Alumni Justin Ford and Mark DeBarr spoke with current students last night about collaborations and their first feature film Lemons. Set in New York’s Lower East Side, the low budget film charts the breakup of a relationship between two Millenials.
NYFA alumni Justin Ford and Mike DeBarr with NYFA Producing Chair, Neil Weisman
Written and directed by Mike DeBarr, produced by Justin Ford, and shot by fellow NYFA Producing graduate Heikki Herlin, the film is currently in post-production. Mike and Heikki also share producing credit.
Having met at NYFA, Justin and Mike spoke about the development, financing, and production of the project, and shared their marketing and distribution plans in a conversation moderated by Producing Department Chair Neal Weisman.
The team hopes to launch Lemons at a prominent film festival in early 2017. A mixer followed, encouraging current Producing and Screenwriting students to start their own NYFA collaborations.
Many young people who are dreaming of being able to enroll in a higher education institution in the United States often give up this idea because of high tuition costs. But for those who really want to achieve their goals, the financial barrier is not an issue.
Today we spoke with New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) graduate student, Elena Kulikova, whose story is truly fascinating and inspiring. In 2008, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship that completely covered her two-year master’s degree tuition at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, as well as living and traveling expenses.
Elena, how did your Fulbright Scholarship come about?
I really love studying, in general. I need constant development, constant stimulus, and training is the best motivator. Previously, I had received my degrees from Lomonosov Moscow State University and VGIK, and I then wanted to get my Masters Degree abroad.
At that time, I was working with a wonderful film producer Roman Borisevich. We attended various international festivals and film markets together and I realized that I want to study co-production — an area of filmmaking that wasn’t widely known, and taught in Russia at that time.
Visual Arts education in the United States was a natural logical solution, but I could not afford it financially, and began to look for grants options. As a result, I learned about the Fulbright program, which is on a competitive basis, providing grants for education, research, and training in any US university for citizens of Russia and many other countries.
Can you describe the competition process?
The first step required submitting translated diploma of higher education, two letters of recommendation, two motivational essay (personal statement, study objective), as well as to pass the pre-TOEFL test. Then I passed the TOEFL iBT and GRE General official exams. The final step was the interview.
Who conducts the interview and what questions should candidates be prepared for?
Every interview begins with a self-presentation. This part should be prepared in advance. Preparation will give you self-confidence, which is very important. The members of the Commission are teachers from different US universities participating in the Fulbright program. There might be representatives of Harvard, the University of Utah, professors from Texas, etc. But this does not mean that you go to those universities. Their goal is to assess your motivation to study in the chosen area, see if you have “sparkling eyes,” that your English is good and academic goals are serious.
You should keep in mind that Fulbright provides scholarship for more than 40 disciplines. And the commission chooses one or two candidates from each field. I can’t tell exactly how many applications were in my stream, but at the first stage, we were told that there are 10 candidates for one spot.
Be confident, positive, friendly and prepare a few questions to the Commission. Ask them for advice. Keep the dialogue.
Tell us about your interview experience?
This is a very funny story. A specific time of the interview was scheduled for each candidate. Of course I was very nervous, because it was the final step. When I entered into the room and saw six American teachers, my heart dropped down.
They asked me to introduce myself and talk about my education and work experience. I was prepared for this question and spoke enthusiastically about how lucky I was to study in two of the best Russian Universities, and how grateful I am to my destiny.
Suddenly, the professors started talking to each other, and then one of them interrupted me. He asked me to wait outside because of “technical issues.”
I did not understand anything, but went out obediently, thinking I had failed.
Ten minutes later, I was invited back and explained that there was confusion with my documents. Instead of my portfolio they had documents of another Elena Kulikova from Tula (also a member of the competition), who studied the biology of invertebrates.
The professors apologized and asked me to come for a new interview the next day. We laughed together, and next day I wasn’t scared anymore. The professors seemed almost like family.
How did you prepare for the TOEFL and GRE exams?
I did it on my own and most of my energy was spent for GRE preparation. This exam is more difficult. In addition to language skills it required a refresher in algebra and geometry memory. Even if it’s just a high school level, it’s been 10 years since I graduated the school. After all, my GRE result was “passing,” but with the TOEFL I “flunked” the speaking section.
I did not have enough time to formulate my thoughts. The timer counted five seconds, and I fell into a stupor. Due to the low results in this section my overall score went down. Instead of the required 100 I scored 97.
I would advise students who are planning to apply to try several times before the exam to pass the training tests (from books or online) and watch video tutorials on the passage of each section (a lot of them are on YouTube), to avoid the situation that happened to me.
Any tips for recommendation letters and motivation essays? What should you pay attention to?
Letters of recommendation have to be written by teachers (who know the academic performance of the candidate), or colleagues, including managers from work. They should really know you and your abilities very well.
Motivation letter: Try to imagine your future in three years. What would you like to achieve? Now think about how a Masters Degree from a United States university can help you realize your goals. This should be the main idea of your essay. Describe your experience up to date. What achievements have you already made? At the end, add about how you plan to apply the knowledge when you return to Russia.
Please share with us the most vivid memories of studying producing at NYFA.
At the New York Film Academy I started adding practical skills and techniques to the theory background I had and I was able to produce more than 10 projects in two years.
Most of them were short films for students from the Filmmaking Department, but still it was a major operation, which required my producer’s knowledge to count the number of shooting days and break down a budget on paper. We received official permission to shoot along with major production companies in Film LA, scouted locations, organized and conducted auditions, signed contracts with actors and crew, and organized catering. In short, with each new project I was gaining new real producing experience.
In particular, I would like to mention the Head Producer of the program – Lydia Cedrone. She is an incredibly strong woman and an excellent professional. She knows how to motivate and is always ready to work with each student who needs her advice or consultation. We have developed wonderful friendships.
Also, my favorite NYFA instructor became Brian Udovich, who led the NYFA Industry “Pitching” course. Being an extremely shy person by nature, I was shaking like a leaf. He coached us how to speak in front of an audience. But the adrenaline from his lessons, plus the practical tips and friendly atmosphere, made me free from the fear of public speaking. Now I am happy and completely free to participate in the pitches and give presentations and provide lectures.
Also, I’ve never thought that, as a producer, I can independently write a full-length screenplay. NYFA proved to me that it is possible! During training, I wrote two features and a pilot for a television series in English. My thanks goes to Sharon Hoffman for her patience, professional comments, edits, as well as the delicious brownies that she fed the exhausted students who were not sleeping night after night writing the next 20 pages of their script.
What were some of your achievements while studying in the US?
It is difficult to write about the achievements. Rather, I have received a huge number of possibilities: the ability to learn from real professionals working in Los Angeles; the ability to have trained in the production company of Mark Cuban (“Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Road,” “Jacket”); the ability to live in the heart of the film industry and attend guest speakers events with Steven Spielberg, Janusz Kaminski, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, and J.J. Abrams; attend screening previews of films and join meetings with writers and directors nominated for an Oscar. Additionally, I worked as a volunteer at the AFI Festival.
How do you motivate yourself?
I just believe in my dreams. In fact, if you really want something, everything in life is possible.
What helps you make the right decision in difficult situations?
Confidence in my beliefs, colleagues support, and experience.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I prefer not to build plans for a career. I prefer harmony in my personal and professional life. Only then do I feel happy and full of energy for the realization of the boldest creative ideas. If something starts to outweigh—work or family—the problems begin. The only thing I’m sure about the future: I will keep studying and I would like to get a PhD.
In your opinion how in today’s world does the success of a creative person depend on the level of education received?
In my opinion creative success does not directly depend on the education received. And success itself is generally an ephemeral substance. Like luck. But education makes life more interesting and opens up new horizons, awakens imagination, and gives emotions and experiences that are not available to uneducated people.
Last week, Academy Award-winning producer James Skotchdopole held a Master Class at the New York Film Academy New York with Short-term Filmmaking Chair Jonathan Whittaker. Skotchdopole has worked alongside some of Hollywood’s leading directors, including Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, with whom he won Best Picture for Birdman. His filmography includes many memorable and award-winning films like Django Unchained, The Revenant, True Romance, and dozens of others.
Producer James Skotchdopole with NYFA Short-term Filmmaking Chair Jonathan Whittaker
Skotchdopole broke down his path to becoming an Academy Award-winning producer, which developed over time from being an Assistant Director to Line Producer. As a Line Producer he is heavily involved with the day-to-day responsibilities of production. His hard work and problem solving skills have been noticed and appreciated in the industry and, due to his integral involvement with each project, he is now well respected in the business.
Since climbing the ranks, Skotchdopole has had the privilege of choosing his own projects wisely. “For me it’s about keeping a connection to the creative process,” said Skotchdopole.
During the Master Class, Skotchdopole went through several of his projects and explained how he and his team overcame some major obstacles to create some of film history’s most memorable scenes. He recalled a time during the middle of production on Django Unchained when Tarantino came to him and said he has an idea for an epic hero moment for his main character, Django, played by Jamie Foxx. Tarantino had hand-written an eleven page scene at the estate where Django blows away dozens of men — a scene that is now a staple in the film. It was up to Skotchdopole and his team to make that scene happen, no matter what. So, he immediately took action calling in favors, extras, special effects teams and, most importantly, more money.
Another incredible scene that required a tremendous amount of preparation and time was the bear attack in The Revenant. The team spent days researching bear attacks and needed the choreography to be perfect between Leo DiCaprio and the stunt man (who is one of the tallest stuntmen in the business). With the choreography between the two perfected and shot over a few weeks, a special effects team was able to come in create the bear, which is practically indiscernible from a real one.
Some final general advice that Skotchdopole provided the NYFA students was to keep their expenses as low as possible, so that they can take risks in life. If you burden yourself with a great deal of overhead, it’s difficult to take on some of the entry level jobs that enable you to break into the business and climb the ranks — just like he was able to do.
Be sure to look out for Skotchdopole’s most recent film with Brad Pitt, War Machine.