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  • Pete Hammond is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Deadline film critic and reporter, Pete Hammond, joined New York Film Academy (NYFA) students for a Q & A at the Los Angeles campus. NYFA Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Hammond has worked as a contributor for Variety, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

    Laiter began the evening by asking Hammond how he got his start in the industry.

    It turns out Hammond didn’t set out to be a journalist. He just knew he wanted to be in the film industry. As an NBC Page, Hammond began working his way up the ladder. From page, he was promoted to a children’s television writer. Soon after, he became a researcher at Entertainment Tonight. From there he moved to the The Arsenio Hall Show, worked on Access Hollywood, and finally, Hammond created the entertainment news program Extra.

    With the Oscars just around the corner, students were curious to know more about the inside politics of the Academy.  One student wanted to know about the possibility of a shake-up at this year’s Oscars. “Looking at the statistics,” he began, “No film has won Best Film without first being nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay.” Three Billboards hasn’t been nominated for Best Director, but it has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. The student wanted to know if Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri could take home the grand prize.   

    Hammond was impressed and jokingly asked the student if he was looking for work. “Your predictions are spot on. This is what I’ve been writing about for the past couple of years.”

    Hammond said that only three times in Oscar’s history has a film won Best Picture that had not been nominated for Best Director. Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Argo, though he did win the Director’s Guild Award later that year. Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford and Grand Hotel director Edmund Goulding were not nominated, either. “The odds are statistically against Three Billboards but I think it has a shot because of the preferential ballot.”

    Hammond explained that when voting for the Oscars, Academy members number all of the nominees from their favorite to their least favorite. That numbering system can have a huge impact on the final turnout. If enough members place Three Billboards as a three or higher, it could mean a win.

    Hammond also noted a new trend over the past five years: Four out of the five Best Picture winners didn’t see their director rewarded, but all of their scripts did win Best Picture. In looking at the history of the Oscars, this trend is very rare.  

    Of course, students also wanted to pick Hammond’s brain about his personal opinion on the 2017 lineup of films. Hammond was particularly impressed with the stamina of Get Out. A film released in February usually isn’t in contention for the Oscars a year after it’s release. In fact, the last Best Picture nominee to have a February release was another thriller film, Silence of the Lambs, in 1991.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Pete Hammond for taking the time to speak with our students. The Oscars air on Sunday, March 4, 2018, on NBC.  You can read Hammond’s film reviews here.

  • Tom Fontana Visits New York Film Academy as Special Guest Speaker

    This week, New York Film Academy welcomed producer Tom Fontana to its New York City campus as a part of the ongoing Producing Department Industry Speaker Series. As a part of the event, the full house of NYFA community attendees were treated to screenings of clips of Fontana’s work from police procedural Homicide: Life On the Street, HBO prison drama Oz, and BBC America drama Copper, a period piece set in the notorious 1860s New York City neighborhood of Five Points.

    During the talk, Fontana sat down with Producing Department instructor and Marcia Mule Productions founder Marcia Mule, each sharing their bond over the fact that they’re both from Buffalo, New York, with students. The producer went on to discuss his early career as a writer for theatre, which led to an opportunity to write for the influential medical drama St. Elsewhere. He wrote dozens of episodes between 1982-1988.

    Following St. Elsewhere, Fontana had a meandering path to his next job. Baltimore newspaper man David Simon (who would go on to create The Wire, The Corner, Treme, and The Deuce) sent his book Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets to fellow Baltimore-born director Barry Levinson, hoping it would become a film. Levinson suggested it was too dense with too many important characters, and instead pitched it as a TV show. This would ultimately become Homicide: Life on the Street, for which Fontana would go on to contribute to 67 episodes.

    While writing for Homicide, Fontana began to ponder what happened to the characters the writers would send off to prison. Fleshing out the stories for these forgotten offscreen characters became the inspiration for Oz, a master class in character building set in a fictional, experimental prison unit called Emerald City.

    HBO had never aired an original drama series and the timing for Oz — a gritty, realistic, brutal prison drama — was right.  Fontana told an interesting story about a discussion with Dick Wolf, who wanted to use the popular character John Munch (played by Richard Belzer) on his new show Law & Order. Fontana and the Homicide creators let Munch use the character for free and don’t get royalties for his presence in over 300 Law & Order episodes. He has also since appeared in The Wire and Arrested Development, among other shows.

    Oz premiered in 1997 and went on for six seasons, and ended up inspiring later-renowned HBO dramas such as The Wire, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire.

    Tom Fontana has written and produced many more groundbreaking television series, including The Philanthropist and Netflix’s Borgia. He has received, among other distinctions, three Emmy Awards, four Peabody Awards, three Writers’ Guild Awards, Four Television Critics Association Awards, the Cable Ace Award, the Humanitas Prize, a Special Edgar and the first prize at the Cinema Tout Ecran Festival in Geneva.

    Fontana co-founded the non-profit charity, Stockings with Care. He’s on the Boards of the WGAE Foundation, The NYPD Police Museum, The Creative Coalition, The Acting Company, The Williamstown Theatre Festival and The International Council of The Paley Media Center.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Tom Fontana for sharing his time and expertise with our student community.

  • A Look at Art Basel 2017 by New York Film Academy South Beach

    Miami: home of bikinis, sunshine, and Art Basel.  Sure, Art Basel happens in other cities around the world, but nothing beats the annual event that takes over the city of Miami each winter, drawing artists and visitors from around the world to explore new themes and cutting-edge creations in contemporary art. Up-and-coming artists, celebrities, and everyone in between make their way to Miami in order to take part in the numerous events, private showings and parties, the VIP after parties and more every December.

    This year New York Film Academy (NYFA) South Beach was proud to collaborate with two of the biggest Art Basel events, Spectrum and PULSE.

    During the Spectrum event, NYFA South Beach had the privilege to showcase some alumni and faculty work. We also hosted an incredible panel with featured artists Naomi White, Angelika Rinnhofer, and Jon Henry, which was lead by New York Film Academy Chair of Photography David Mager. The panel and photography showcase created a buzz throughout the Spectrum/Red Dot event for the rest of the week.

    NYFA South Beach also partnered with Pulse,  creating visual work for their Perspectives project, featuring private interviews with this year’s presenting artists Mindy Solomon (owner of the Mindy Solomon Gallery), Carolina García Jayaram (CEO of the National YoungArts Foundation) and Donna Ruff.

    NYFA South Beach’s Perspectives video spotlights were a part of an installment at the entrance of the Pulse VIP area. Viewers were able to enjoy the video one at a time, creating an exclusive experience while still channeling the fun and artwork that surrounded the venue.

    Celebrity sightings were another exciting feature of Art Basel this year, with Jonathan Cheban, Scott Disick, Alec Monopoly, and Owen Wilson winding their way through the exhibits. New York Film Academy’s very own Sally Nieves was also interviewed by a local television show called Vibes and Views Miami!

    Between Spectrum, Pulse, Art Basel and New York Film Academy, social media was buzzing all week long. If you missed out, make sure to stay tuned for next year’s Art Basel events, which we hope will be even bigger and better!

    NYFA South Beach is proud to participate in PULSE and Spectrum, and looks forward to next year’s Art Basel festivities.

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles Hosts Expert Film Festival Panel

    Last month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison Crickett Rumley brought an expert panel to the NYFA Los Angeles campus for an in-depth discussion on the process of getting a film into festivals.

    In her opening remarks, Rumley shared that while many NYFA students are interested in applying to film festivals, she found that not many had actually attended one. The panel of experts was formed to help demystify what can be an intimidating world for newcomers, and help answer their questions. “We need to start talking about film festivals,” Rumley said. “Los Angeles has a lot of festivals, so we have no excuse to not be attending and submitting.”

    Sharing their insights and experiences with NYFA students were industry experts including producer and NYFA Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree, Senior Cinematography Instructor Matt Kohnen, Emmy Award nominee  Alexandra Chando, NYFA Senior Directing Instructor James Rowe, and NYFA alumnus Raphael Bittencourt. Each panelist has premiered a film at major festivals including Sundance, LA Shorts Film Fest, Shanghai Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival.

    Kickstarting the discussion, Crickett asked the panel, “Why should you attend a film festival, even if you don’t have a film?”

    Rowe began by sharing his reasons for attending the Toronto Film Festival as a non-participant. “I went as a scholar delegate for NYFA to kind of scout things out and see what the landscape is right now for short films in particular.”

    Chando, who represents the Mammoth Film Festival’s Women in Film Initiative and is perhaps best known for her work in “As the World Turns,” pointed out the need for diversity and representation in film festivals across the board. Attendees, filmmakers, and festival organizers all play a role in supporting diversity in the film industry. “Recently, within the last year, I have seriously begun working on the other side of the camera,” she explained. “Especially now, there has been a big push for diversity and, of course, women being behind the camera.“

    Encouraging diversity in film festival representation is a part of the reason why Chando was invited to be a part of the Women in Film initiative of the Mammoth Film Festival, which was founded by a NYFA alumna. 

    Rumley spoke about her experiences with Telluride, a renowned festival she began attending even before she had started making movies. She described the education as invaluable. “I was learning so much as a writer just by watching a ton of films,” she shared, “And I was able to watch them in a festival setting. I could figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be by exploring all of these international and independent domestic films.”

    New York Film Academy panelist Alexandra Chando.

    With thousands of film festivals worldwide, these dynamic events can serve as an essential launchpad for up-and-coming filmmakers. Genre film festivals provide an especially great environment for new cinema voices to be discovered.

    “The major festival will take everything; drama, narrative, documentary,” said Kohnen, “But then, there’s this whole other subset of festivals that are just genre.”

    Choosing to submit to a genre festival can help a film find a more specific audience and make valuable connections with likeminded people in the industry. Knowing his way around the festival circuit helped spark the chain-reaction of success that Kohnen enjoyed with his 2007 film “Wasting Away,” also known as “Aaah! Zombies!” The film won the audience award for Best Film at ScreamFest, and after that its sister festivals began seeking opportunities to screen the film, too.

    New York Film Academy panelist and Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree.

    For his part, Bittencourt said he used his time at film festivals as an opportunity to observe how different audiences connected with his film as well as to forge connections within the industry.

    “It gives me a sense of where I’m going,” he said. “It was part of my strategy to use two different kinds of film festivals to get more attention on my film. … It’s a huge chance to defend your film and get to know other filmmakers. You can also meet the organizers of the festival.” 

    Bittencourt encouraged students that even if they may not have been chosen to screen their film in a particular festival, they can still try to shake hands with those in charge. “[Festival organizers] tend to be really sympathetic to you if they know who you are,” he said.

    Ogletree agreed. She explained to students that film festivals provide opportunities not only for submitting work, but also for gaining direct access to creators from all walks of life. From her time behind the scenes in film festivals, she shared, “We were open to having discussions with students, with other executives, with producers and directors. At the time, folks would just bring their iPads up to speakers after the Q&A and show us their film. That was a way of getting their films out there without even being in the festival.”

    With these networking opportunities in mind, Ogletree went on to highlight the marketing opportunities students should prepare for when attending a festival. “There are certain things you need,” she said. “You need a business card. You need both a press kit and an electronic press kit. You need to have the bios of your key crew members. You need to have conversations, and that’s not something I see happening a lot anymore.”

    Ogletree suggests that when attending a festival with a family member or friend, students remember not to isolate themselves from what is going on. Instead, they should make sure to join outside conversations with members of the industry and to try and meet new people.

    To help get the conversation started at film festivals, Ogletree noted that it’s important to think early and often about where the film will show and how best to promote it once it has aired. Gimmicks also don’t hurt, according to Ogletree, who says that it’s important to find ways to make your film stand out from the crowd at a festival. Hats, pins, and t-shirts are always great and inexpensive options. Budgeting for these products and preparing for film festival conversations should be something students bear in mind even in the pre-production stage of their film.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Matt Kohnen, Alex Chando, Kim Ogletree, James Rowe, Raphael Bittencourt, and Crickett Rumley for participating int his in-depth discussion on film festivals.

  • Academy Award Winner Ben Osmo is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Australia Gold Coast

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Australia welcomed Academy Award winner and former NYFA Australia instructor Ben Osmo to its Gold Coast campus for an exclusive event as a part of its continuing Guest Speaker Series last month.

    Osmo received the Academy Award for his work as production sound mixer on the critically acclaimed international Blockbuster hit “Max Mad: Fury Road,” a much-anticipated reimagining of the 1980s apocalyptic action thriller directed by George Miller and starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy.

    The veteran sound mixer and recorder also picked up a BAFFTA Nomination and ACCTA Award for his work on “Mad Max: Road Fury,” but these recent accolades are only a small part of his impressive resume. His other credits include Hollywood Blockbuster “Alien Covenant,” directed by Ridley Scott; family features “Babe” and “Happy Feet Two”; and beloved Australian films including “Strictly Ballroom” and “Dead Calm.”

    Hosted by Deputy Chair of Filmmaking Brian Vining, the Guest Speaker event commenced with a Q&A session followed by a special screening of Osmo’s documentary on the making of the sound for “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

    NYFA Gold Coast students and staff alike were thrilled at the opportunity to delve further into the realm of sound design and editing for film, an often under-appreciated yet integral component of a great movie masterpiece.

    Students described the event as “very informative,” with September Advanced Diploma acting for film student Tommie Thomas explaining, “As an actor, you don’t realize how much collaboration goes into making a film until you are able to hear it from someone of this caliber.”

    New York Film Academy Australia prides itself in offering students the opportunity to develop their own technical and creative abilities through continued mentoring and master classes with illustrious members of the film and entertainment industry.

  • New York Film Academy Student Veteran Awarded for Community Engagement

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was delighted to pass along some holiday cheer in the form of the T.  Douglas MacPherson Scholarship, which was graciously gifted from the New Jersey Association of Veteran Service Providers (NJAVSP), and awarded to a NYFA veteran student in recognition for outstanding service to the veteran community.     

    The recipient — professional actor, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and current NYFA Producing student Caleb Wells — was all smiles as he accepted the token of gratitude from NYFA’s President Michael Young and Senior Executive Vice President David Klein.

    @PaulaRey

    “Our student veterans are a well of talent waiting to be discovered,” remarked New York Film Academy’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jim Miller. “Caleb exemplifies a committed student of the arts in both words and deeds.”

    In addition to working his way through NYFA’s intensive Producing Conservatory at NYFA’s New York City campus, Caleb volunteered his time as a speaker and panelist in a recent event in collaboration with the NYC Mayor’s Department of Veteran Services: NYC’s Public Artist in Residence-Bryan Doerries’ Theater of War.

    The performance was hosted at the New York Film Academy Theater in October, to a packed house. Caleb spoke candidly about challenges and perceptions he encountered after returning home from the experience of combat and war. During a recent NYFA-hosted Hire Heroes USA professional development workshop for veterans in film and television, Caleb brought his experiences as an actor, director, and producer to service members aspiring to enter the industry.

    Caleb has teamed up with fellow military veterans to start Tomahawk Pictures, a production company formed through the values of shared military culture.

    New York Film Academy is honored to count Caleb among its diverse array of students and is proud to serve military veterans and service members in their pursuit of a world-class education in filmmaking — and related disciplines — through its Veterans Advancement Program, Chaired by Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient.

     

  • Dare to Be Remarkable: New York Film Academy Alumna Adriana Ledesma on Film, Family and Future

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    Latina filmmaker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Masters of Screen and Media graduate Adriana Ledesma is hard at work, applying her remarkable skill set as a writer, director, editor, cinematographer, producer, production manager — and more — to tell distinctive stories. In an industry focused on better promoting diversity and women in film while also creating opportunity for individuals with unique voices, this rising filmmaker is intent on creating engaging stories and touching audience’s hearts, and we are excited to watch her blaze a unique path.

    In the past few years NYFA alumnus Adriana Ledesma has premiered her work at numerous film festivals, including her films “Departure,” “Karma,” “A Choice,” and “Empathize.” In 2016, “Departure” won the Bronze Award for Short Film at the Fameus International Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Best Short Drama Jury Award at the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival and the Best Short Film Hollywood Cinefest award at the Hollywood Cinfast. Adriana’s passion, experience, and unending love of mankind lend a unique perspective to her films, helping to create an experience audiences won’t soon forget.

    Recently, the busy filmmaker took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog and share some of her thoughts with our international community.

    NYFA: Some of your films have been honored with multiple awards. How did that feel? 

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    AL: Of course it’s always a great satisfaction that someone external, in this case some real experts, value the work you do and that you put so much effort into accomplishing. I don’t do things to receive something in return, but I am very passionate and I believe you should put more than 100 percent on everything you do — or else, what’s the point in doing it at all? So it has been an honor for me.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the film industry since graduating from the New York Film Academy?

    AL: Well, it certainty hasn’t been an easy road. There have been many obstacles and many sacrifices involved, but when you set your mind towards what you truly want, there’s nothing that can stop you.

    What you need to do is take the risk, forget about all the complications you might find on the way, and step out of your comfort zone. Don’t limit yourself, and dare to be remarkable.  

    I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do what I love, to wake up and go to set every day. I feel blessed.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: You are from Mexico originally and left home to pursue your dream, which is something that many members of our international NYFA community can relate to. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and how your home and family have inspired your work?

    AL: I am a person who values family immensely and thank God I come from a family where love, affection and support are key. Even though I know they miss me as much as I miss them, the fact that they are always there for me, giving me advice and encouragement, pushes me to continue. …

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    … I have countless memories of my childhood, climbing trees, riding bikes with my neighbors, playing soccer, going to the park with my siblings and my parents, etc., but there is one that stands out from when I was around nine years old. I was with some cousins and friends at my cousin’s house, and all of our parents no longer knew what to do to entertain us anymore, so they came up with the idea of all of us creating a whole episode of a TV program. We were very young at that time but I remember, knowing nothing, we pulled together a very decent project with nothing but one camera. Some of us took care of crew-type activities, some of them were acting in it, we had production design involved and even visual effects with some blood. That moment, at that age, felt magical for me.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: Who are your influences? And how would you define your style as a filmmaker?

    AL: I am mostly inspired by Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg. The way they portray their stories, the approach they have when it comes to every single element involved, the importance they give to movement, acting, and framing while doing a film, is also how I love doing mine.

    For me, making a film is like putting a duet dance piece together: it’s all choreography. First you do the research — you gather all the elements you might use, then you explore styles and steps and you make your creativity shine.

    Once you have planned all the moves, you have to spend time rehearsing so it goes as well as possible. But when you’re actually shooting, you have to deal with unpredictability and uncertainty, because even when you’ve been working on it for a long time, the music might take you to different places.

    Then it becomes about timing. Each of the puzzle pieces have a detailed purpose, a precise time where they are needed, a specific meaning — so at the end, if everything flows as it was supposed to, the unified project gives you goose bumps.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Adriana for taking the time to share a part of her story with our community. Keep an eye out for many of her exciting new projects in development, including “Growing Up,” “Once in a Life time,” “Los Elegidos,” and “Until the End,” among others.

  • New York Film Academy Australia Alum Premieres and Wins Big With Mockumentary

    Digital Athletes: The Road to Seat League

    The list of sports films and sports comedies are endless, but not many movies have been about the burgeoning E-Sports wave, the billion-dollar industry of competitive video games. New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA AU) Gold Coast alumnus and California native Josh Hale sought to change that, and it’s starting to pay off for the filmmaker.

    His mockumentary film “Digital Athletes: The Road to Seat League” just had its North American premiere at the Historic Bay Theatre on November 3, and has already picked up multiple awards and official selections to festivals around the world. “I am on cloud nine,” Hale told NYFA while in California showcasing his film.

    Hale’s most recent win was the Best Comedy Film Award from the San Francisco International New Concept Film Festival. The Festival bills itself as an “international platform for film lovers, new filmmakers and film/media students who love filmmaking to stand out,” with a specific mission of “discovering and selecting potential talents with new concepts to accelerate the prosperous development of the film industry.”

    Hale told The San Leandro Times that his mockumentary style was inspired by comedy classics like “This is Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show.” He continued, “I find E-Sports fascinating.” Hale shot the entire feature-length film on Australia’s Gold Coast on a tiny budget of $5000, using local actors.

    Hale graduated from the Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media in Filmmaking at NYFA AU Gold Coast. Skills he developed during his time at NYFA AU, including producing and budgeting, were the fundamental skills he utilized during the production. Hale is still a part of the NYFA AU family, and is now passing on his experience and knowledge at the campus as a Teaching Assistant.

    Josh utlitzed his hands-on training with NYFA Gold Coast to go make a feature film right out of college,” noted NYFA Gold Coast Director Tasha Cooper. “He’s one of our success stories and we’re very proud of his recent achievements.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Josh Hale on his success, and looks forward to seeing what further accomplishments his hard work and dedication will bring!

  • NYFA Mumbai Hosts Master Class With Co-Chair of Filmmaking and Virtual Reality Jonathan Whittaker

    With an eye to the increasing opportunities for collaboration between major international film markets, the New York Film Academy Mumbai held a three-hour master class bridging the filmmaking styles of the American and Bollywood industries. The Foundations of Filmmaking Master Class was led by filmmaker, producer, director, and NYFA Co-Chair of Filmmaking and Virtual Reality Jonathan Whittaker.

    Jonathan Whittaker is an educator and media production professional whose credits include “In the Loop,” “Louie,” “Trophy Wife,” and a four-piece Venus by Gillette campaign with Chrissy Teigan. He has created a 3D special for Sony Pictures, directed commercials for Nissan and Hyundai, and produced two feature films: “My Name is David” and “America Here We Come.” His collaborators and clients include Nissan, Sony Pictures, FILM.UA, DirecTV, MiSK, Gillette, Hyundai and Sports Illustrated. 

    In describing the workshop, Mr. Whittaker explained, “Students explore new skills for directors, actors, cinematographers, screenwriters, and producers, expanding their vocabulary for collaboration and storytelling. This is a wonderful way to learn more about American-style filmmaking and open new possibilities for collaboration between the U.S. and Indian film industries.”

    Opportunities for cooperation and exchanges between the Indian and U.S. film industries are now at an unprecedented level, with Bollywood films like “Baahubali: The Conclusion” breaking international box office records and Paramount announcing that it will distribute a Bollywood film for the first time. (“Padmavati,” will be released worldwide alongside the film’s Dec. 1 opening in India.)

    NYFA alumnus Rakesh Varre, who played Setu Patti in “Baahubali: The Conclusion,” has given credit to his education at NYFA for his recent acting success: “Taking that experience from NYFA, I was able to act as a major supporting role in ‘Baahubali.’”

    While the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has held workshops in India for many years, it opened its doors to a permanent location in Mumbai, India, in May 2017, bridging two of the world’s largest filmmaking industries.

    The New York Film Academy’s Mumbai, India location holds film and acting programs at the Urmi Estate, a modern 41 story skyscraper located in the heart of the city. 

  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Producer David Gale to Q&A Series

    This October, David Gale came to the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy. Director of Q&A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening alongside Veteran Coordinator Steven Padilla.

    Gale began his illustrious career in entertainment as a lawyer, but wanted to make movies. Without any experience, he had to settle for working at ICM as an Entertainment Lawyer.

    For 10 years he held this position until his firm began working with Ridley Scott’s production company. The two liked working together, and Scott offered Gale a job. It was not glamorous work, but Gale kept his nose to the grindstone and, just when he thought it wouldn’t work out, a friend phoned to tell him that Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of “The Terminator” and more recently “The Walking Dead,” was looking for someone to run her company.

    “I did that job for the next four years,” Mr. Gale said. “That’s where I really learned to produce movies. Gale is a tough one, but she’s fair and a wonderful person. If you did the work she really respected you.”

    Yet Gale still wasn’t doing the kind of work he truly wanted to be doing. Then, in 1995, MTV called. They were looking for someone to run their new feature film division. The first film on the docket was “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.”

    Gale remembered, “I loved it so I stayed there, running MTV Films, for 11 years.” His work included such cult classic hits as “Election,” “Varsity Blues” (with Tova Laiter), “Jackass: The Movie,” and “Pootie Tang.”

    Laiter wanted to know, what was the philosophy behind MTV Films’ and Gale’s success?

    Gale’s response: “When you have a great brand and you’re trying to make movies, or anything really, you can depend on that brand to help you understand and define what it is you want to make.”

    Gale did this by keeping the budget low and by hiring great independent voices. “Murderball,” Tupac documentaries, and indie voices helped define a youth-centered brand for the early 2000’s. When he had the idea to buy a manuscript called “Twilight and the studio passed, “Everyone thought I was crazy,” Gale said. He then decided it was time to move on.

    His boss gave him a new division as head of digital at MTV. In 2006, this move put Gale at the forefront of the next wave of media entertainment. Facebook and YouTube were brand new players on the scene. The rules for digital marketing, development, and content had not yet been created.

    While MTV ultimately elected not to go full blast into the digital world, they gave Gale the freedom to experiment and learn.

    After 18 years at MTV, Gale was looking for something new, only this time he wasn’t sure what the next step would be. So he quit. A few days later, someone sent him a video that led to the creation of We Are The Mighty, a digital media company focused on engaging the United States military community.

    “Somebody sent me a music video of a band I’d never heard of,” Gale recalled. “What was cool about it was it was all veterans in the band, and they had 150 million views on YouTube.”

    A couple of days later Gale received a documentary about five severely disabled veterans who were doing standup, called “Comedy Warriors.” He had a thought: “The military is a big giant audience and no one is serving it.”

    His second thought was, “Whatever I’m doing next I want to be positive in some way. Could I combine my skill set of 30 years and put that to work with a company that could make a difference?”

    Over the next year, Gale invested all of his time and energy into learning about the military and the lives of those who serve. What he learned is that one-third of Americans are directly or indirectly related to the military. Gale found that there were some entertainment companies with a military focus, “But without military personnel behind the camera it’s not going to be authentic. The entertainment industry says we have a lot of jobs for veterans — you can work in the mailroom or as an electrician. But we’re missing the creativity.”

    “There’s a lot of leadership skills not being put to use,” Gale commented. “The level of maturity, the ability to make decisions and adjust is so much higher than a 30-year-old who has been getting copy and delivering scripts for the past 10 years.”

    So Gale co-founded and is now CEO of We Are The Mighty. This organization hires veterans to create content and then helps pitch and launch the content on different platforms. There’s an internship program that turns young creators into professional filmmakers. He’s also partnered with Medal of Honor recipient and Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program Colonel Jack Jacobs to shoot a documentary about the first 10 weeks of basic training.

    NYFA student and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Drew Demboske asked, “What was the biggest obstacle you faced when starting your company, besides funding?” Gale suggested: just creating something. Once you’ve begun, you tweak, observe changes in viewer consumption, and keep up with those changes that happen every day.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. David Gale for taking the time to speak with our students. Check out We Are The Mighty online by clicking here.