Graduating MFA and BFA New York Film Academy Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held at the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.
The event was live-Snapchatted by May 14 BFA screenwriting student Kyle Del Fierro. NYFA can be followed on SnapChat at NYFilmAcademy.
A catered event and mingling opportunity for the students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrated the New York Film Academy’s graduating Screenwriting students, offering them a professional outlet to jumpstart their careers by pitching their film and TV thesis projects to industry executives.
These writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructors David O’Leary and Dirk Blackman, in conjunction with Faculty Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and Associate Chair Adam Finer, preparing and fine-tuning their pitches.
They shined on this pinnacle evening, leaving with new professional contacts and a wave of interest in the scripts they’d worked so hard on all year.
Considered by the school to be their first night as professional screenwriters, this group of bright students brought their A-game, as they pitched agents, managers, studio and production company execs in a relaxed, round-table environment.
Organized and hosted by David O’Leary, the event featured representatives from various Hollywood companies, including —
AAO Entertainment, ArieScope Productions, Awesomeness TV, Blumhouse, Canny Lads Productions, Closed on Mondays, Chockstone Pictures, Dino De Laurentiis, Elevate Entertainment, Good Fear Film + Management, Imagination 9, International Film Trust, Madhouse Entertainment, Magnet Management, Management 360, No Bull Script, Original Film, Quadrant Pictures, The Rothman Brecher Agency, Safehouse Pictures, Silver Pictures, STX Entertainment, This is Just a Test Productions, Triple Threat Pictures, and Zucker Productions.
NYFA wishes to thank all of its participants, particularly our industry guests, without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA and BFA graduates!
New York Film Academy students worked with survivors of homelessness to present a spoken word and musical performance at the NYFA Theater at the Los Angeles campus. Urban Possibilities is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring the homeless and working poor. Urban Possibilities’ alumni performed spoken word pieces about their lives developed during one of UP’s writing workshops. NYFA acting students Fernando Sambora and Roman Arnaize performed a musical interlude for the full house of enthusiastic NYFA students and faculty.
The next day, NYFA screenwriting, filmmaking, and documentary students participated in a unique daylong workshop facilitated by Urban Possibilities. NYFA students were paired with Urban Possibilities students to interview one another and share their personal stories. After an hour of heart-to-heart conversation, each person was asked to write a profile of the person they’d been speaking to. Touching, surprising and sometimes extraordinary bonds between the pairs were revealed. One NYFA student called it “an unforgettable day of learning and feeling and writing a truly original piece.” Another said, “I loved it. It was enlightening, inspirational, transformational and eye-opening.”
Eyvette Jones Johnson, Founder and CEO of Urban Possibilities said, “When we exchange our stories, bonds are created and biases begin to melt away no matter what our zip codes may be. That’s important in a world often violently divided by race and class — one that our students navigate daily.”
Recently, film and video game writer Patrick Hegarty dropped by New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class to share his remarkable journey of how this one-time professional NFL football player went on to become a professional screenwriter and video game scribe.
Hailing from Orange County, CA, Hegarty attended the University of Texas at El Paso, where in addition to playing football on a scholarship, he earned himself a Bachelor of Arts in English. However, in 1989, he was recruited by the Denver Broncos and ended up becoming the back-up quarterback to John Elway and Gary Kubiak.
After 2 years in the NFL, Hegarty attended the University of Colorado Denver and attained his masters in English. The initial plan was to become a novelist, get his PhD, and teach. And for a while that’s what he did, teaching high school English and writing books.
However, a unique opportunity came for Hegarty when a friend working in the video game sphere needed a writer to generate announcer commentary material for a new football game they were producing called NFL GAMEDAY, and recruited Hegarty to write the play-by-play dialogue.
Before long, Hegarty immersed himself in video games, writing the scripts for over a dozen titles for Playstation 1 and 2, including, MLB 2002, The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning and Eragon, becoming a Senior Writer for Sony Computer Entertainment. Currently, he is on assignment for Sony and 2K Games on a variety of different titles.
However, Hegarty also has pursued an active movie writing career, working on projects with a variety of companies. In the feature space, his script “S.T.E.A.L.” made the Hit List and is in development with Total Entertainment based out Brazil. He’s also working on a feature assignment for the production company Constantin Film (“Pompeii,” “The Resident Evil” franchise, etc.).
Hegarty shared insights into his process, tips and tactics for navigating reps and executives, and staying true to your work. NYFA thanks Mr. Hegarty for being so gracious with his time and advice.
New York Film Academy Screenwriting students were invited to Nickelodeon headquarters in Manhattan to attend an entertaining and educational event with Nickelodeon show creators, executive producers and screenwriters. While nobody was slimed or got to meet SpongeBob Squarepants, students were able to meet with and learn from the writers behind-the-scenes of their favorite childhood shows. They were even given a peek into the writers’ room, which is the dream office of many aspiring screenwriters.
The students in attendance were Oluf Marshall, Heather Gil, Christopher Garro, Jianda Song, Merrill Watzman, and Thomas Cersley.
“This made me long for a writers’ room,” said screenwriting student, Thomas Cersley. “The collaboration that you get — the white board, hiring your best friends to make jokes all day — all of these guys are living out their dream. It’s certainly one way to motivate yourself.”
“I thought it was great to see how they get into their mind frame,” added screenwriting student, Christopher Garro.
For writers with completed screenplays looking to break into TV writing for kids, Nickelodeon offers an annual Writing Program that selects some of the top comedic TV spec scripts from writers of all backgrounds.
For more information, visit their Writing Program website by clicking here.
Gordon Smith began his career as an assistant to creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan, during his Breaking Bad run. He was promoted to full-time writer on the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul. Smith wrote the episode “5-0”, about how Mike Ehrmantraut (played by Jonathan Banks) became an officer of the law. The episode was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and helped earn Banks an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama. New York Film Academy instructor, and screenwriter, David O’Leary hosted the event.
Smith attributes most of his success to luck. While in college, he wrote a script that would become Gennifer Hutchison’s directing thesis. Hutchison went on to be a writer’s PA on Mad Men before moving to Breaking Bad. During season three, Gennifer was getting freelance work and that created a need for a new writer’s P.A. She called up Smith. Gennifer was hired on as full staff and Smith was able to fill her space.
The transition from being Gilligan’s assistant to becoming a staff writer was mostly an easy one. The one challenge was being out of the know. As the assistant to the showrunner, you have to know every little bit of information including, who’s on set that day, what chemical they used three seasons ago to blow out a window, which outlet are coming to do interviews. That goes away when the staff is locked in the writer’s room trying to churn out the best possible material. But, soon he was happy to be just writing and didn’t miss the chaos.
“We work very slowly,” Smith said of the writer’s room. He commented that it was nice to move at a speed that wasn’t breakneck. The first two weeks of production are focused on what that season’s story will be. “We will lay them (ideas) out on a board. But big guiding light stories will move around a lot.”
He continued, “This is a virtue of the way we work. We have ideas and if wherever we think we want to be and where we are don’t match up we’re just like, well this is what we do. We don’t say, ‘Well we have to get to here by episode five so we have to do this and this and this to get to that.’ It’s almost always backward looking. What have we done and where should the characters most logically go next? That has served us in good stead because it allows us the opportunity to investigate things. It feels like we’re planted to something.”
“We break everything together. For a show as serialized as Better Call Saul, you kind of have to. If a person leaves to write his or her script everyone knows what’s happening in that scene. We usually get a couple weeks out of the room to write, but the rest of the time you have to write at lunch or on the weekend.”
As demanding as the workload is Smith joked that he still has struggled. “My process tends to be… I have to trick myself into it because I want to procrastinate so badly. I’ll go in and slug everything.” Slugging is placing in the scene headings as a way of outlining the script. Once the scenes are placed in order Smith said he knows he’ll, “…just keep going back to write more and more.” It never feels like writing.
Smith went on to describe the writing room as liberating. For example, in most visual writing it’s considered in bad taste to call a shot. Shot lists are for the directors to make not the writers. But, in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, they’re allowed to call a shot. They know they’re going to talk to the director. The shot can be cut if the director doesn’t think it will work or if they have another shot in mind. The freedom to try things and switch at the last minute give a sense of freedom.
One student asked, “Since Saul and many of the characters already existed did you use pre-conceived backgrounds or create new ones, and how did you decide what history to go with?” Smith described going back to Breaking Bad and trying to determine whether or not the things Saul said were true or false and to what degree. Mike didn’t have too much of a background story. Banks pitched an idea that Mike’s son was a boxer who died in the ring. It was a theory Banks had been working around as he tried to dive into the character of Mike. The writers loved it and picked up the story from there.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Smith for stopping by and sharing his work. Catch Smith’s next writing assignment on season two of Outsiders returning to WGN in 2017.
Recently, the ultra-talented Tim Tori dropped by our Business of Screenwriting class at New York Film Academy Los Angeles to discuss everything from writing independent horror movies to penning the #1 smash hit Vietnamese romantic comedy and everything in between.
Tim Tori kicked off his career as a writer/producer by penning the surf-horror movie “Trespassers,” which was released in 2006 by Image Entertainment.
Tori then went on a tear, selling his creature feature spec “Prowl” to After Dark Films. The film was shot in Sofia, Bulgaria, and released in the U.S. in 2011.
After Dark continued hiring him to write, produce and consult on multiple projects, including the science-fiction horror movie “51” starring Bruce Boxleitner and Jason London (released in 2011), and he continued his After Dark collaboration by writing the Joel Silver-produced action film “Dragon Eyes” starring none other than the legendary Jean-Claude Van Damme and Peter Weller (released in 2012).
Tori discussed how he broke into the business and answered student questions on everything from how to “write scary” to tips for getting representation.
Tori discussed his recent departure from genre fare with the Vietnamese-language romantic comedy “How To Fight In Six Inch Heels,” which he wrote and executive produced in collaboration with producer Timothy Linh Bui and producer/star Kathy Uyen. The Galaxy Studio film was a smash hit in Vietnam, spending two weeks at #1. It was released in the U.S. in 2015…
Currently, Tori is also co-writing and co-producing the action thriller “Die Laughing” with director/producer/co-writer Bui for Sony’s Stage 6 Films.
The latest project on Tori’s slate is “Legacy,” a dark, unique thriller to be produced by Bellevue Productions, yours truly, and Davis Entertainment, who has a first-look deal at Fox. Tori is repped by The Agency For The Performing Arts (APA).
Graduating MFA, AFA and BFA New York Film Academy Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held at the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.
A catered event and mingling opportunity for the students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrated the New York Film Academy’s graduating screenwriting students, offering them a professional outlet to jumpstart their careers by pitching their film and TV thesis projects to industry executives.
These writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructors David O’Leary, Jerry Shandy, and Dirk Blackman, in conjunction with Faculty Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and Associate Chair Adam Finer, preparing and fine-tuning their pitches.
They shined on this pinnacle evening, leaving with new professional contacts and a wave of interest in the scripts they’d worked so hard on all year.Considered by the school to be their first night as professional screenwriters, this group of bright students brought their A-game, as they pitched agents, managers and production company representatives in a relaxed, round-table environment. Organized and hosted by David O’Leary, the event featured representatives from various Hollywood companies, including literary agencies, management companies, and TV and Film production companies.
Attendees included: Blumhouse, Closed on Mondays, Elevate Entertainment, Good Fear Film + Management, ICM, Imagine Entertainment, International Film Trust, Mad Chance, Madhouse Entertainment, Magnet Management, Management 360, Marc Platt Productions, Moresco Productions, Nightshade Entertainment, Original Film, Quadrant Pictures, RatPac Entertainment, Triple Threat Pictures, and Walden Media.
NYFA wishes to thank all of its participants, particularly our industry guests, without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA, BFA and AFA graduates!
What’s it like for a screenwriter to hear his or her work read aloud by actors for the first time? Thrilling and nerve-wracking all at once, as LA’s Spring 2016 MFA, AFA, and One Year students discovered when they saw their work performed in a staged reading at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles Theater last Saturday night. Rounding out the second semester of their program, students chose 4-6 page scenes from their original screenplays and TV pilots, then event coordinators Terah Jackson and Crickett Rumley cast the roles with professional actors, including NYFA grads Dijon Delonte Hawkins and Heather Hult.
Screenwriter Queenian Okagu was excited to hear the actor playing the father in her feature Culture Clash do a Nigerian accent. “He sounded just like my dad,” she said. For Lindsey Lauren Hall, hearing her TV script And Then There Were Three read out loud was a real learning experience. “I heard some lines fall flat, so I’m going to have to go back through the script and work on them.”
The audience of friends, family, and faculty, including Screenwriting Department Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and Associate Chair Adam Finer, were drawn into a futuristic Los Angeles in David Castillo’s pilot The Crimson Samurai, met an ambitious young race car driver in J.B. Hakim’s The Formula, and got creeped out by the mysterious town in AJ Kunkel’s October. The bros of Adam Zagri’s Dungeons and Daily Life and the potential lovers in Robert Styles’ Friend Zone Jones had the audience in stitches, while Rachna Sukura’s Indira and Hamidreza Khorsanizadeh’s Motherhood explored complex relationship dynamics and family situations.
Following the reading, the screenwriters networked with their actors and enjoyed a reception with faculty and guests. Congratulations to the Spring 2016 MFA and AFA students on finishing their first year, and best of luck to the Spring 2016 One-Year students who just completed their program!
The New York Film Academy is excited to share that the popular series, “Bookburners,” is coming to print through SAGA Press. “Bookburners” is a collaborative novel featuring the talents of Screenwriting Instructor Margaret Dunlap, Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Francis Slattery. Previously released in 16 online installments by Serial Box,”Bookburners” is a critically acclaimed urban fantasy about a secret team of agents that hunts down dangerous books containing deadly magic.
The savvy pitch is Supernatural meetsThe Da Vinci Code in a fast-paced, kickass character driven novel chock-full of magic, mystery, and mayhem, written collaboratively by a team of some of the best writers working in fantasy.
The cover was designed by artist Marko Manev and designer Michael McCartney.
“I’m very excited that ‘Bookburners’ is coming to print,” said Dunlap. “We have a great team of writers, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to take the skills that I learned as a screenwriter and apply them to a new medium.”
The print version of “Bookburners” will be available on January 10, 2017 from SAGA Press!
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.