On Wednesday, February 13, as part of celebrating Black History Month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the NYFA African Black American Film Society hosted a screening of two episodes of Netflix’s Dear White People, followed by a Q&A with writer and producer Chuck Hayward.
One of the episodes was directed by Academy award nominee Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), which was a real treat for the filmmaking students. It was moderated by NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, and co-moderated by NYFA directing student, Nicole “Soul” Creary.
Hayward landed his first staff writing gig on the NBC series Bent. His feature film script, Potluck, won the WGA’s 2012 Feature Access Project. He then sold an untitled baseball project to Nickelodeon, after which he wrote for the Nick at Nite sitcom Wendell & Vinnie. In 2014, Hayward became a staff writer on the new NBC series One Big Happy, followed by Fox series Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life.
In 2016, he had two movies produced—Fat Camp and Step Sisters—and sold the Untitled UrbanPitch Perfect Project to The Firm and PepsiCo. Hayward is currently a writer and co-producer on the Netflix series, Dear White People, and a producer on Marvel’s upcoming untitled Scarlet Witch and Vision series.
Many students in the audience were curious about how Hayward started his career as a writer. “For me, personally, it was the contacts I already had,” said Hayward. “It was reaching out to all of them saying, ‘Can we meet for an informal meeting? Here’s what I’m interested in doing… can you introduce me to anybody else who might be able to help me in that?’… And then it’s just all about following up…You don’t want them to forget about you, although not bug them too often… A lot of times, offering to work for people for free on a project is a good way to show, like, ‘Hey… I’m not looking for anything from you financially; I’m just kind of looking for you to help me get my foot in the door and I’m looking for a chance to show what I’m capable of.”
Other students wanted to know about Hayward’s writing process. “I’m a big pre-writer so I’ll sit down, I’ll write my character sketches, I’ll write my outline; I’ll do as much as possible before I open up Final Draft because I don’t want to look at a blank page and freak out,” Hayward said. “It’s also knowing if your idea is better suited to television or film.”
One of the students asked how Hayward and the other writers on Dear White People navigate the complexity of the topics discussed on the show. He replied, “Most of the blowback that we’ve gotten about Dear White People happened before the show came out because people were like, ‘Dear White People? How dare you … address us as a group!’ And we were like, ‘Oh that happens to us all the time, oddly, so it’s not that big of a deal’ … But I think once people started to see the show and see what it was about and see that we weren’t just ‘coming for’ white people and taking out … aggression on them; we weren’t blaming them for stuff; it was just like, ‘Hey, here’s some of the shit you do that bothers us; like, maybe don’t do that anymore; it’s super easy!’ And we also take as many stabs at, you know, black folks and the things that we do that are problematic or that are not beneficial to us all as a group.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank writer and producer Chuck Hayward for sharing his entertainment industry and writing advice with our students!
On Tuesday, January 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of the pilot episode of Project Blue Book, a new original series from HISTORY (formerly The History Channel) that adapts the real-life US Air Force investigations of UFOs in the 1950s. The screening was followed by a Q&A with creator and former NYFA screenwriting and producing instructor, David O’Leary, moderated by NYFA Producing instructor, Ashley Bank.
O’Leary is a former development executive who has worked for Bellevue Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, Kopelson Entertainment, Rogue Pictures, Warner Bros., and Industry Entertainment. He is also a producer on two features set for release this year, Parallel for Bron Studios and Eli for Netflix. Additionally, O’Leary is adapting a sci-fi book series for A+E Studios.
Bank opened up the Q&A by asking about how O’Leary became a writer. He shared that he started his career as an intern at New Line Cinema and decided he was interested in development, so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with a friend at Village Roadshow Pictures. From there, O’Leary worked his way up from the mailroom to assistant jobs and became a development executive, himself, at the age of 28. He realized, however, that his true dream was to be a screenwriter. “I pivoted and I’m a big believer in pivoting,” said O’Leary.
O’Leary shared that even though he knew he was passionate about becoming a professional writer, that wasn’t enough. “Honestly, I had to get good at being a writer; I was not a very good writer when I made that choice.” He continued, “I think the way that you get better at being a writer is you have to keep writing, but you can’t keep writing in a vacuum; you have to keep showing your work to people and you have to keep getting feedback… you need people you trust to tell you ‘Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and here’s why.’”
O’Leary added that working as a screenwriting instructor at NYFA required him to be extra knowledgeable about professional screenwriting. “It really forced me to practice what I was preaching,” he said. O’Leary then shared that something that helped him stay positive while he worked toward becoming a successful professional screenwriter was “celebrating small victories” because trying to be successful in the entertainment industry is a long and arduous process and one needs to have stamina to make it all the way to their end goal.
O’Leary made it clear to the audience that hard work is important but sometimes luck also plays a role in success; with Project Blue Book, “It was sort of the right idea at the right time at a network that was looking to grow and move into scripted series.” The simplest way that O’Leary could sum up the show to pitch it to producers was “X-Files meets Mad Men,” which was a concept that had not really been explored before.
One of the members of the audience inquired about navigating a narrative based on real events. “Every week we look at a real-life case… so it has that kind of ‘based on true events’ cache,” said O’Leary. “[Lead character] Hynek was a real-life guy; we ended up recruiting both [of] his sons as consultants on the project… I really want the show to be entertaining, but I also want to educate people on this phenomenon.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank former instructor David O’Leary for sharing his experiences and advice for writers as well as details about the development and production of Project Blue Book.
Last night, movie and TV fans around the world watched the 76th Golden Globe Awards, where award winners were announced and presented with the famed statuettes at a televised dinner ceremony hosted by Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg.
The Golden Globe Awards are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and have been given out to cast and crew of film and television productions since 1944. The awards show is typically looser and more casual than other ceremonies like the Emmys and Academy Awards, with Hollywood stars drinking and mingling in a dinner atmosphere.
Highlights of the evening include Jeff Bridges winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the entertainment industry and the subsequent, seemingly off-the-cuff speech he gave that ranged from heartfelt thanks to his family and collaborators to the invention of ship rudders called trim tabs. Among many other feelings, Bridges referred to his role in The Big Lebowski: “If I’m lucky, I’ll be associated with The Dude for the rest of my life.”
Other memorable moments from the evening included host Sandra Oh speaking to her parents from stage and winning a Globe herself for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for her role in Killing Eve, and a surprise appearance by Taylor Swift, who presented the awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. The latter award went to Lady Gaga for “Shallow”, seen here being covered by New York Film Academy (NYFA) student Amanda Jerlov:
Additionally, the second Golden Globes ceremony since the start of the #MeToo movement contained multiple nods, references, and calls to action for more diversity in the entertainment industry for women and people of color.
The big winners of the night was an eclectic mix of expected wins for favorites, mild surprises, and upsets. The Americans won Best Television Series – Drama for its final season, while The Kominsky Method won Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy for its inaugural first season. In a year of genre-bending films, Green Book won for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy while Bohemian Rhapsody took home the prize for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Veteran actress and previous New York Film Academy guest speaker Glenn Close also surprised many with her win for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, for which A Star is Born lead Lady Gaga was considered a favorite. Close seemed genuinely surprised and gave a powerful, tearful speech that touched on her mother and gender roles in both the industry and society as a whole.
After describing how her mother regretted not doing more with her life, Close told the audience, “Women — we’re nurturers — and that’s what’s expected of us… but we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that’ and ‘I should be allowed to do that.’”
Other NYFA guest speakers were at the Golden Globes too, as well as several alumni. New York Film Academy Acting for Film alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Widows, The Magnificent Seven) was in attendance, as was NYFA Camp alum Lana Condor (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, X-Men: Apocalypse.)
Former Saturday Night Live star and NYFA Workshop Alum Bill Hader was also present last night. Hader earned five Emmy nominations last year for his work on Barry, a dark comedy about a midwestern hitman who moves to Hollywood to become an actor. At that awards show, Hader picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor. The Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy was the latest achievement in the comedic actor’s evolving career.
The show itself was nominated for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, an impressive feat for a new series with only one season of episodes to date. Barry has received glowing reviews since its 2018 debut, with Hader’s performance being an obvious standout.
Hader’s Barry co-star, Henry Winkler, was also nominated for a Golden Globe, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. The veteran television actor has previously been a guest speaker at New York Film Academy.
Other guest speakers and lecturers at New York Film Academy have also worked on several Golden Globe-nominated works this year, including Adam Driver. Driver spoke with NYFA students in New York City earlier this year, and has a featured role in BlacKKKlansman, nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Guest speaker for NYFA Los Angeles Amy Smeed served as an animator on Ralph Breaks the Internet,Golden Globe nominees for Best Motion Picture – Animated. Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose agent Andrew Finkelstein spoke with NYFA students in a productive Q&A at our Los Angeles campus, was a nomineefor Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his role in Mary Poppins Returns.
Additionally, Francesco Panzieri, an alum of New York Film Academy’s animation school, worked on the HBO series Westworld, whose star Thandie Newton earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Panzieri is a Visual Effects artist whose other credits include Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avengers: Infinity War.
Eric Demeusy, who attended the 1-Year Filmmaking program at NYFA’s film school in Los Angeles, also worked on Westworld, having helped create its famous and evocative title sequence. Demeusy has previously won the Emmy for Main Title Design for his work on Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things.
The New York Film Academy is proud to see its alumni and other members of its community involved with such highly regarded, award-winning productions.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees! Here is a full list of the winners and nominees for the 2019 Golden Globe Awards:
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Green Book The Favourite Vice Mary Poppins Returns Crazy Rich Asians
Best Motion Picture, Drama
Bohemian Rhapsody BlacKkKlansman If Beale Street Could Talk Black Panther A Star Is Born
Best TV Movie or Limited Series
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story The Alienist Escape at Dannemora Sharp Objects A Very English Scandal
Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy
The Kominsky Method The Good Place The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Kidding Barry
Best TV Series, Drama
The Americans Bodyguard Homecoming Killing Eve Pose
Best Foreign Language Film
Roma Capernaum Girl Never Look Away Shoplifters
Best Motion Picture, Animated
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Mirai Ralph Breaks the Internet
Best Director – Motion Picture
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman Adam McKay, Vice Peter Farrelly, Green Book
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie; Green Book Alfonso Cuaron, Roma Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk Adam McKay, Vice
Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Justin Hurwitz, First Man Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs Ludwig Goransson, Black Panther Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns
Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Shallow,” A Star is Born “All The Stars,” Black Panther “Girl in the Movies,” Dumpling “Requiem for a Private War,” A Private War “Revelation,” Boy Erased
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk Amy Adams, Vice Claire Foy, First Man Emma Stone, The Favourite Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Green Book Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Glenn Close, The Wife Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born Nicole Kidman, Destroyer Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Rosamund Pike, A Private War
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, Vice Lin Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns Viggo Mortinson, Green Book Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun John C Riley, Stan And Ollie
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman
Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora Amy Adams, Sharp Objects Connie Britton, Dirty John Laura Dern, The Tale Regina King, Seven Seconds
Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso Daniel Bruhl, The Alienist Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited Series, or TV Movie
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Thandie Newton, Westworld Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series or TV Movie
Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method Kieran Culkin, Succession Edgar Ramirez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Henry Winkler, Barry
Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Kristen Bell, The Good Place Candice Bergen, Murphy Brown Alison Brie, Glow Debra Messing, Will & Grace
Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method Sasha Baron Cohen, Who Is America? Jim Carrey, Kidding Donald Glover, Atlanta Bill Hader, Barry
Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve Caitriona Balfe, Outlander Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale Julia Roberts, Homecoming Keri Russell, The Americans
Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama
Richard Madden, Bodyguard Jason Bateman, Ozark Stephan James, Homecoming Billy Porter, Pose Matthew Rhys, The Americans
On Friday, December 14, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of A Country Christmas Story (2013) followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor Eric Bross, and writer and NYFA instructor Steven Peros, moderated by NYFA student, Bakyt Zhumadilova.
Bross is known for directing Affairs of State (2018), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and Peros is known for writing Footprints (2009), The Undying (2009) and The Cat’s Meow (2001).
Zhumadilova opened the Q&A by asking Peros about his inspiration for the screenplay. Peros said he started by researching the history of country music and its prevalence in the South, then adding layers of complexity to the story by making the protagonist both a child of divorce and biracial within that world.
Peros also wanted the film to be about the various characters’ relationships with music and the arts and added that the music teacher in the film was inspired by a teacher he had when he was a kid.
Zhumadilova inquired about what it was like for Peros to writeA Country Christmas Story star Dolly Parton’s lines knowing she was going to be playing herself in the film. “The funny thing about writing her was, I had written this thing… and suddenly I’m on set going, ‘I’m about to meet Dolly Parton!’ Is she gonna come up to me and say, ‘Well, first off, Steven, I don’t talk like that at all,’” joked Peros. “But she didn’t at all! She didn’t want to change anything… so I was somehow channeling my inner Dolly Parton.”
“I just thought he really captured her voice,” added Bross.
Peros shared that Parton suggested that she sing instead of just introducing the music contest at the end of the film. “She just kept giving us gifts.” said Bross.
Peros shared that one of the most notable moments of the shoot was when Parton sang in between takes to entertain extras in the audience. “She knew that all those extras who were there pretty much for free… were there for her,” he said. “She never left the stage… she sang ‘Tennessee Waltz’… and it was like a moment out of a movie; one by one, everything started to get silent.”
The discussion then moved onto producing a film like A Country Christmas Story on a tight shoot schedule and a tight budget. Bross advised filmmakers to keep the frame focused on the actors as much as possible when working with a small budget because sometimes it’s difficult to afford full, dressed sets. This way the story would still be the center of the film.
New York Film Academy would like to thank A Country Christmas Story filmmakers Eric Bross and Steven Peros for sharing their entertaining anecdotes from the shooting of the film, as well as their production advice for students.
On Wednesday, December 5th, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A session with Emmy Award-winning editor, actor, writer, and director, Steven Sprung, following an episode of Community which Sprung directed. Sprung is best known for his editing work on Star Trek Beyond, Entourage, and Arrested Development.
The Q&A began with a student who inquired about Sprung’s time at Syracuse University. Sprung shared that in college, he and his friends were very enthusiastic about filmmaking and worked together to produce numerous short films. During this time, Sprung got the chance to write, direct, edit, and act as these short films had very small production teams and needed many roles filled by very few people. He discovered that he had a special talent for editing and was nominated for an A.C.E. Eddie Award for outstanding achievement in editing while still an undergraduate at Syracuse.
Another student asked what advice Sprung had for actors trying to perform comedic material. “Do a lot of live productions ‘cause you can get instant feedback on whether people are finding things funny,” answered Sprung, “…and… don’t try to be funny; that’s the biggest killer of all.” Sprung suggested that actors “really get invested in the drama of a scene” because a character’s investment and reactions in the moment heighten the humor.
One student in the audience asked if Sprung felt that the entertainment industry was progressing in terms of the number of roles available for actors of color and international actors. Sprung said that, in his experience, most mainstream television shows and movies have mostly white and American production teams and actors. However, he added that there are increasing roles for actors of color and international actors because there is “so much content” available to consumers: cable TV, streaming services, web series etc.
Another student asked Sprung what makes actors stand out in auditions, inspiring casting directors to choose them as opposed to their peers. Sprung discussed how he cast one of the actors in the episode of Community that the students had just watched; he ultimately chose this actor because he “lit up the room” in auditions — Sprung liked his energy and his delivery. He informed students that casting is not an exact science or necessarily predictable; casting is based on a number of factors including industry relationships, whether casting directors are looking for known or unknown actors, personal opinion, etc.
One student asked Sprung how to become a known actor. Sprung said that he believes that that type of motivation to be unsustainable in the long run. He added, “If your primary motivation is to entertain people, or to engage creatively with others… if you have a vision for your life, then you can do that no matter who’s paying you, no matter who’s validating you, or hiring you or not hiring you.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Emmy Award-winning editor, actor, writer, and director, Steven Sprung for sharing his industry experiences and wisdom with our students!
On Thursday, November 29th the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of The Goalkeeper followed by a Q&A with director, co-writer and former NYFA instructor, Rodrigo “Gory” Patiño, moderated by Marlene Dermer, co-founder and former director of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.
Patiño is a Bolivian actor, writer and director. He earned an MFA in Film and Television at Chapman University in California and later returned to Bolivia where he co-wrote and directed La Entrega, a 10-episode TV series about human trafficking. This series inspired the film, The Goalkeeper, which has now been chosen to represent Bolivia at the 2019 Academy Awards. Patiño’s most recent film is Pseudo, a political thriller about a taxi driver who steals the identity of a passenger who turns out to be a mercenary.
Dermer opened up the Q&A by inquiring about the writing process for The Goalkeeper. Patiño shared that one of his co-writers, Camila Urioste, is a novelist who had done extensive research on human trafficking in Bolivia; she helped him create and write the series, La Entrega, which ultimately led to the production of The Goalkeeper. “Eight girls disappear every day…and that’s what’s reported.” said Patiño. Patiño added that he and his team interviewed a high-profile activist in Bolivia, a mother whose daughter went missing, and she shared a multitude of stories with them that helped to shape the film.
Patiño and his team added a layer of complexity to the issue of human trafficking by forcing the main character of the The Goalkeeper, a father, to make extreme and tragic choices in the hope of paying for his sick son’s surgery; the father ultimately decides to sell a young girl into sex slavery in order to pay for his son’s surgery and he must deal with the consequences of his decision. “We [ask] the audience, ‘How far would you go to save your son or daughter?’” said Patiño, “We wanted to provoke a dialogue.”
Dermer went on to ask the audience if they had any questions for Patiño; one audience member wanted to know how Patiño and his writing team navigated having the main character of the film, the father, make the disturbing decision to sell the girl to human traffickers as that could quickly turn the audience against his character. “We were conscious that this [was] an anti-hero story…but, believe it or not, we had some people that said, ‘Yeah, but he had to save his son!’…We wanted that dilemma.” said Patiño.
Another audience member asked Patiño what his advice would be for aspiring filmmakers. “Write, write and write,” said Patiño, “because people are hungry for content.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Patiño for sharing his knowledge about the epidemic of human trafficking in Bolivia and his advice for young storytellers.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen has had a productive 2018. His sitcom screenplay, The Library, recently made the 2nd Round at the 2018 Austin Film Festival. Additionally, it was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest.
Cohen hails from Decatur, Georgia and is currently based in Brooklyn. He has studied at various institutions across the globe, and has honed his comedy chops at Upright Citizen Brigade, among other theaters and playhouse troupes.
In addition to writing and performing, he currently teaches for the Filmmaking school at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus, where he has gained a reputation for being incredibly devoted to both his students and his fellow faculty members. He is also a great role model for the aspiring film school students he teaches, as he balances his position at NYFA with a working career in the film and comedy industry, much like most of the Academy’s experienced, industry-savvy faculty members.
It’s no surprise then that his script for The Library made it to the 2nd Round of the 2018 Austin Film Festival (AFF). The AFF was founded in 1994 and has a focus on screenwriters, and has had judges from Warner Bros., Pixar, ABC Studios, and Nickelodeon in past years.
Ben Cohen Hosting 2018 NYFA Emmy Party in NYC
Cohen’s script was also a finalist for the New York Screenplay Contest, a premiere global screenwriting contest that has introduced numerous talented and unique voices to the industry. Being named as a Finalist or Winner of the contest is a coveted, distinct honor.
Cohen has remained modest about his recent achievements, telling NYFA, “It’s nice to see my writing get some recognition, but it’s important for folks to know rejection isn’t the negative — it’s the norm.”
Expounding on this, he continued, “Much more of your creative life is spent being told that you’re not good enough, but you have to keep writing, and more importantly, keep sharing your writing. I’ve learned to appreciate the good days (like this one) and just keep going. It helps to care about other things. My students know I’m just as happy to talk sports or Bowie as I am to talk about writing.”
Additionally, Cohen was recently featured in a PBS Documentary produced by NYFA alum Ashton Brooks, and he plans to continue writing and pursuing gigs in the industry.
The New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking instructor Ben Cohen on his recent successes and looks forward to those still yet to come!
On Monday, October 22, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum Aubree Sweeney returned to campus to perform a stand-up comedy set followed by a Q&A with NYFA screenwriting instructor, Eric Conner.
Sweeney earned a master’s degree in screenwriting at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. After graduated NYFA’s screenwriting school, she studied with the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational comedy theater and training center in Hollywood; from there, she transitioned to stand-up comedy and now she is a nationally touring comedian. Sweeney continues to build her theatre resume and has been part of several television commercials.
Conner opened up the Q&A by asking Sweeney’s advice for aspiring comedians. “If stand-up is something you wanna do, just go hit as many open mics as you can,” Sweeney said, “and just keep getting onstage until you feel comfortable.” Sweeney shared that her background as a dancer and a baton-twirler for football games at the University of Arizona helped her with confidence.
Conner then inquired about Sweeney’s writing process. “Write it, rewrite it, rewrite it again, again, again, don’t look at it for a couple weeks — maybe a semester,” explained Sweeney.
She continued, “Write it again, polish it, then you’ve got that confidence because you know this material; you know that it is written to the best of your ability, and then you’re going onstage, and then you’re gonna figure out what that little extra thing [is] that makes it better… I think that most of my confidence in doing stand-up comedy onstage comes from the work not onstage.”
Sweeney also gave advice about how to deal with the anxiety of being new to performing stand-up, “I would recommend when you first start doing stand-up comedy, at the front, say ‘I’m new.’ I said it was my first show for probably the first 25 shows.”
Sweeney shared some of the best ways to get gigs as a comedian: promote yourself as much as possible, be resourceful, be open to performing at unconventional venues like business expos and county fairs, and adapt your comedy content for different crowds.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Aubree Sweeney for her performance and for providing insider insight for aspiring comedians at NYFA.
This year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to help IFP Week celebrate its 40th anniversary. A leader in the independent media community, Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. NYFA was a co-sponsor for the second consecutive year. The week-long event took place at IFP’s state-of-the-art Made in NY Media Center in DUMBO, Brooklyn. A leading voice in the independent film industry, IFP also runs Filmmaker Magazine and the prestigious annual Gotham Awards.
Andrea Swift moderated an essential #MeToo panel on Saturday. The all-women panel took on difficult but necessary questions about the present and future of the industry in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The panelists discussed what needs to be done both on screen and through media activism. Filmmaker and panelist Shruti Rya Ganguly perceptively said, “The #MeToo movement is not necessarily something new, but a different way of having that conversation.”
The #MeToo Panel at IFP Week (photo provided by IFP)
The panel discussed the power of strong journalism and the exact role of social media. They also emphasized the importance of women of color in the aftermath of the #MeToo reckoning. Adding to that, Anne Carey, President of Production at Archer Gray said, “I would hope that the takeaway from this conversation is create a space of safety so people who feel threatened have a place to talk, push to tell the best stories with the best people telling them.”
NYFA Producing Instructor Krysanne Katsoolis moderated the Looking Abroad panel. This panel discussed the how-to’s and why-not’s of utilizing international co-productions and tax incentives. Katsoolis has significant multi-platform experience in content creation, financing, and distribution. She has produced over 60 films and series, and has worked with Academy and Emmy Award-winning directors. Recently Katsoolis built a media venture (Liquid Media Group) with actor Joshua Jackson, which is now public on NASDAQ.
NYFA Documentary Chair Andrea Swift (photo provided by IFP)
In addition to panels and screenings, IFP Week presented Spotlight On Documentaries, a mix of 72 documentary features, non-fiction series, and audio stories ranging from an early financing stage to those nearing completion. NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randy Dottin’s work-in-progress film The Chicago Franchise was selected for a prestigious slot in the Spotlight. The unfinished film was produced
Veranika Nikanava, NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randy Dottin, and Revital Iyov at IFP Week
by Randall Dottin and Angela Tucker, and executive produced by Cynthia Kobel. After the city of Chicago tore down its high rise public housing towers in 2011, the murder rate continued to climb. The documentary explores the complicated relationship between gun violence, poverty, and residential segregation — and how they’re all interconnected.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank IFP and the Made in NY Media Center for inclusion, yet again, in such a fantastic and thought-provoking week. We look forward to IFP Week 2019!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary school alum Ilaria Polsonetti’s film has been nominated for multiple awards at the 39th Annual News & Documentary Emmys. Made for VICE News Tonight on HBO, “Libya: Intercepting Migrants” is nominated for Outstanding Editor News and for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story. Winners are announced on the first of October in New York City.
Polsonetti graduated from NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary program in 2011. She is also a graduate of the 3-Month Screenwriting program, which she finished in 2013. Over the course of her career, the editor has melded her knowledge gleaned at NYFA with her M.S. in Sociology (London School of Economics). After graduating, she worked for Market Road Films, Singer Street Films, and as a freelance editor.
A screenshot from “Dirty Oil”
Since 2015, Polsonetti has worked for VICE in Brooklyn. With the expansive and ever-growing global media brand, she has had the chance to work on urgent and political topics such as Libya’s migrant crisis and Venezuela’s anti-government protests. VICE’s increasingly diverse and critically-acclaimed documentary series’ have been an ideal place for the multicultural filmmaker to hone her skills. In 2017 alone, Polsonetti worked on “German Hotelier turns Hotel into a Migrant Center,” “Dirty Oil,” and “The Politics of Terror” in addition to the aforementioned Libya piece. Along with her work for VICE, Polsonetti has worked on “The Notorious Mr. Bout” and “First to Fall.” She was also recently editor on VICE’s Raised in the System” starring Michael K. Williams (aka Omar on “The Wire”).
Documentary Chair Andrea Swift says of Polsonetti’s work,”These nominations don’t surprise me in the least. Ilaria has always been an insightful and diligent editor who demonstrated a unique sensitivity to the human experience. She developed a strong sense of story that is equally evident in this piece.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Ilaria Polsonetti on her recent success and looks forward to seeing what she works on next! You can watch VICE on HBO’s documentary on migrants in the Mediterranean below: