John Hadity, the renown film finance expert, recently spent time with New York Film Academy‘s Producing students at the Battery Park New York City campus this month. An Industry Speaker in the Producing Program’s Film Finance series, John shared the latest developments in various areas, including: tax schemes, equity financing, and bank loans. Currently, John is the Executive Vice President for Entertainment Partners Financial Solutions. Over the course of his career, John has worked with a diverse group of film companies including twelve years as the Executive Vice President of Motion Picture & Television Production Finance for Miramax Films. He is also on the Executive Board of the Producers Guild of America. His expertise has established John as one of the first “go to guys” in the world of film finance, a fact not unrecognized by NYFA Producing students!
As those of us in the industry are aware, talent and networking can take you far. However, your projects will have little chance if you don’t know how to “pitch” them. There is a certain charisma, confidence and mastery of storytelling that must be honed in order to sell your ideas. That’s precisely why the New York Film Academy has its students go through a constructive pitching process with actual industry professionals.
On May 21st, the New York Film Academy Los Angeles Producing Department hosted our September, 2013 Year-One Pitch Fest at our new Riverside building in Los Angeles. It was a lively and enjoyable night for all who attended. The students pitched in a round-robin format to industry professionals as well as several of our instructors. All of our students received valuable feedback on their projects. And our “Pitchees” were very impressed with what they heard from our “Producers.”
Noted director Doug Liman, whose film Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, is currently playing on over 3,400 screens across the U.S., recently appeared at the New York Film Academy as part of the Producing School’s Industry Speaker series.
Participating in a lengthy question and answer session with Producing Department Co-Chair Neal Weisman, Doug spoke about various aspects of his career. The discussion largely focused on his process making such seminal independent films as Swingers and Go. He also gave great insight into the development and production of The Bourne Identity, which spawned the ongoing film franchise. Doug’s perspective on his career, and the current state of the film/tv industry, was truly inspiring for the gathering of NYFA producers, filmmakers, and screenwriters.
This week New York Film Academy students in Los Angeles were treated to a special sneak preview screening of the hit Sundance award-winning comedy The Skeleton Twins followed by a Q&A, moderated by Tova Laiter, with the SVP of Acquisitions at Sony, Joe Matukewicz. The film, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award this past Sundance Film Festival and currently has a 100 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, delighted students with its offbeat comedy and surprisingly profound performances by NYFA alum Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig. The discussion that followed with Joe Matukewicz shed light on the less known world of film acquisitions.
Joe Matukewicz is the current Senior Vice President of Worldwide Acquisition for Sony Pictures. His past positions include SVP and Head of Worldwide Acquisitions at Relativity Media, VP Acquisitions and Co-Productions at Paramount Vantage, and Director of Acquisitions and Co-Productions at Paramount Classics. Among the many films with which he was involved with were Act of Valor, House at the End of the Street, Hustle and Flow (2005 Oscar Winner for Best Original Song), The Machinist, and An Inconvenient Truth (2006 double-Oscar winner for Best Documentary and Best Original Song).
At Sony, Joe acquires forty movies a year of all genres, some of which are distributed by Sony and others with indie labels. Some movies can be bought at script stage, if there is a package attached, while others can be very execution depended — distributors may wait to see the movie, even though it can be more competitive.
When Joe first began in the acquisitions world as an assistant, he didn’t even know what “acquisitions” was. He soon discovered that the purchasing of film properties was an art form and one for which he had a knack. Deciding what to buy and when to buy it is a game for which there is no definitive strategy. Joe Matukewicz considers many factors including cast, execution, genre, social/political climate at the time and, of course, story. The one thing he doesn’t care about is the film’s budget. The producers are never obligated to reveal the true budget of the film. However, Joe will ask as many people involved with the film as he can what the budget is, but mainly to see how many different answers he can get. This will reveal the filmmakers’ expectation of how much they can sell it for, which is a more important factor in how much the film will end up costing him than the budget itself.
Mr. Matukewicz acquired The Skeleton Twins at this past Sundance Film Festival. His yearly schedule is jam-packed with film festival appearances. Although his job is exhausting, traveling around the world, watching films and making big picture deals is an exciting gig that Joe is very grateful to have. We wish Joe Matukewicz continued success in the world of acquisitions and hope that his next purchase makes a huge splash in a theater near you.
New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were treated this month to a screening of the cult smash hit Donnie Darko at Warner Bros. studios. Following the screening was a Q&A with the producer Adam Fields, moderated by Tova Laiter.
Although there may be mass confusion as to the meaning behind Donnie Darko, most people can agree that, for one reason or another, they love it. This was the case for producer Adam Fields when he first read the script and decided to spearhead the project. Adam didn’t know exactly what the story was about, but he was deeply drawn to the project. Most notably, the dialogue of the struggling high school students felt more real and moving than anything else he had ever read in that genre. So Adam followed his gut and took on the project. Before he had secured any financing, he went out on a limb and announced a future shooting date in the trade papers. Agents began calling and asking to read the script, their clients loved the material, and soon everyone was interested. This momentum attracted money and eventually Drew Barrymore, who helped complete financing. By believing the project was definitely happening and acting as if it were, Adam Fields manifested the reality he desired.
The value of “trusting your gut” was an important theme of the night. Trusting his gut is also something Adam did when deciding to produce the film Ravenous. Similar to Donnie Darko, this film was obscure and didn’t fit perfectly into any one particular genre like Hollywood likes, but Adam loved it. Without Adam’s enthusiasm for this offbeat script with cannibalistic content and humorous undertones, Ravenous would never have seen the light of day. He was eventually able to convince a studio executive to read the script. Although the executive told Adam that he “hated it,” he didn’t give up. While courting the executive over breakfast, he learned that he was a vegetarian, which explained to Adam why he wouldn’t like a script about cannibals. However, Adam cleverly spun the project as a “pro-vegetarian” piece. Adam was able to help the executive see what he saw in Ravenous and the project was green-lit.
Adam Fields rise to the top was definitely an unorthodox approach. He didn’t care about what was popular or trending and simply pursued those projects that he connected with. His successes, (that he has either produced or supervised) — An American Werewolf in London, Six Weeks, Missing, Endless Love, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Great Balls of Fire, Ali, Brokedown Palace, Blue Crush, and Limitless with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro — were all the more satisfying because of this. This was an important lesson that Adam taught NYFA students.
We wish Adam Fields the best of luck with his future projects such as Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Wedding Ringer, a TV series based on James Mangold’s Copland, and Gone Baby Gone from author Dennis Lehane.
Former New York Film Academy student, Julie Pacino, co-founder of Poverty Row Entertainment, recently teamed up with Los Angeles based producer Chidem Alie (Samsung, BMW, Emotional Branding) to create content for brands. To kick off the launch, Poverty Row threw a party this past Friday at their NYC location in Chinatown. The celebratory event turned out to be a packed house that included actress Julia Stiles, who will star in their upcoming Mary Pickford biopic, The First.
With over a decade of producing and branding experience working with world-class artists like David LaChapelle and brands like Puma, the new venture, Unofficially Unlimited promises cutting-edge advertising solutions for brands globally.
Unofficially Unlimited is a creative content driven boutique that specializes in newborn brands that are just entering the realm of the living, as well as older, more established brands that are looking for a rebirth or transformation. UU is all about smart, edgy, provocative, fresh, relevant, and artful content.
“Our expertise is channeling your essence and delivering content that expresses the specific philosophy, feeling, allure, and authentic nature of your brand.”
The partners at UU are collectively experienced in narrative storytelling, corporate and non-corporate advertising, high-concept events, and can function as image consultants, content producers, as well as marketing and branding specialists. Content can come in all shapes and sizes, be expressed in various mediums, and show across all platforms from theaters and television, to online channels and mobile devices, to billboards and street art.
“The role we play within your journey is all about the needs and desires of the brand combined with a strategy that suits those specific needs.”
If you grew up on 80’s horror, slasher films like Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, and American Werewolf in London, you will want to check out the film Rabid Love. Its throwback to the classic slasher genre is both refreshing and entertaining. The film stars Hayley Derryberry, Hannah Landberg, and Paul J. Porter, who is a graduate of the New York Film Academy. Porter is essentially the Woody Allen of Rabid Love as he is not only the lead actor, but also writer, director, and producer of the film.
Porter teamed up with other NYFA alumni including Executive Producer Paul Hutchens and Associate Producer Rob Thorpe. Porter initially met Hutchens online after realizing that both of them were veterans stationed at 29 Palms Marine Base. They officially met, face to face, on the first day of their MFA in Producing class.
“I feel like any school, and especially a film school, it’s going to be what you make of it,” says Porter. “Some of the producing classes I took were especially helpful in being able to work in the industry as a producer, such as the business/contracts, distribution, and budgeting/scheduling courses as well as the producing roundtable and the guidance of Lydia Cedrone. But I wasn’t content to just go to class and try to coast through the projects–I wanted to start my career as a filmmaker. So, the entire time I attended NYFA, I was working full time as a freelance producer, production manager, actor, or whatever else I could do on set–but the most important thing was graduating with my own feature under my belt as a producer/director.”
Porter’s persistence and work ethic has given him a head start on the rest of the pack. His film, Rabid Love, is available on Netflix and many video on demand platforms, or can be purchased as a DVD on Amazon.com.
We recently caught up with Emem Ekpenyong, a 4-Week Producing graduate from New York Film Academy, after coming across her production company’s trailer for her upcoming feature film, The Date. Emem enrolled in NYFA back in July 2013 after producing a short film called In Iredu, which was an African adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The short film was shortlisted (Top 10) in The Afrinolly Short Film Competition.
“The lessons [from NYFA] are too numerous to list, but my classes in Producer’s Craft, Pitching, Line Producing Essentials and Entertainment Law were particularly helpful,” says Emem.
Through Emem’s production company, Blacreek Pictures, she initially started on The Date as a short film project but it gradually metamorphosed into the production of a fast-paced comedy where the main character experiences a series of unfortunate events within a day’s time. “I have been involved in every stage of production, including conceptualization,” said Emem. “I was a producer and was even coaxed by our director to play a role in the movie.”
The entire cast and crew of the film are native Nigerians. Emem hopes The Date will prove to the world that quality filmmaking does exist in Nigeria. “Being Blacreek’s first feature, we want to be seen as the avant-garde breed of this generation, poised to go the extra mile in bringing forth the best in motion picture production and other related media works.”
Blacreek is interested in international distribution for The Date, but for now their focus is on Nigeria and West Africa.
The New York Film Academy Producing Department congratulates Industry Speaker Gaby Tana on her Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Philomena. Besides four Oscar nominations for this film, Gaby’s other film in current release, The Invisible Woman, also received an Academy Award nomination (Best Costume Design).
Gaby recently spent an evening with our students discussing all aspects of the producing process. Congrats and good luck, Gaby Tana!
Prominent film producer Gabrielle (Gaby) Tana joined our Producing Program students last week for an inspiring Industry Speaker session. Gaby has not one, but two major feature film releases upcoming: Stephen Frears’ Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman (Sony Pictures Classics).
Coming off very successful premieres at the Venice, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals, Gaby shared her inside perspective on developing, financing, and overseeing the production of both films. A producer based in New York and London, Gaby discussed the role of BBC Films as both a creative and business partner, working with various financing entities such as Pathe, how tax schemes have aided her efforts, and how producers can impact marketing and distribution strategies. Gaby also shared some of her experiences producing earlier films The Duchess (which starred Keira Knightly), and Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut Coriolanus.
New York Film Academy Producing students will continue to track the progress of Gaby’s two films as they open in the US in November and December.