Boxing Girls, a new Arabic-language drama from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) premiered earlier this year and is the screenwriting debut of New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Afnan Alqasimi. Additionally, the program features actress and NYFA alum Dana Al Salem.
Alqasimi hails from the United Arab Emirates and attended NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2012. Alqasimi previously worked on the animation short Homecoming. Al Salem is originally from Bahrain and enrolled in NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in August 2015. Al Salem previously appeared in The Sleeping Tree and the short film Canary.
Boxing Girls is gaining buzz for its focus on female characters and stars several well-known Arabic performers, including Fatima Al Hosani, Ali Al Sherif, and Shaifan Al Otaibi. The program was directed by Saudi filmmaker Samir Aref and was produced by O3 Productions and twofour54 Abu Dhabi.
“This drama production is particularly unique, because it puts a real emphasis on the region’s young talent — both in front of and behind the camera,” says Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority, Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.
The program was shot over two months across various locations in Abu Dhabi, before completing production in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additional cast members include Mila Zahrani, Abdul Aziz Skeirin, Alaa Shaker, Anoud Al Saoud, Abeer Sander, Noura Ezzer, Mohammed Meshaal, Rakan, Zuhair Haider, and Zara Al Balushi.
Boxing Girls debuted in February of this year.
The New York Film Academy congratulates workshop alumni Afnan Alqasimi and Dana Al Salem on the production and success of Boxing Girls!
Abby Ajayi, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. In a rebuke to the industry sentiment that it’s hard to diversify writers rooms because there aren’t enough women writers and writers of color to choose from, the industry magazine gathered dozens of women from the networking group Black Women Who Brunch.
Black Women Who Brunch (BWB) was founded in 2014 by television writers Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Erika L. Johnson, and Lena Waithe as a way to get black female TV writers a chance to meet, support, and get to know one another. Their first meeting was in March 2014 and had 12 attendees. The current membership of BWB is now around 80.
In addition to taking photos, many of the women shared their experiences and thoughts on being black women television writers—many of whom were the only person of color on their staff. NYFA alum Abby Ajayi was one of those at the shoot interviewed. Unlike many of her peers, she wasn’t the only woman or person of color in her writers room.
“On How to Get Away With Murder,” Ajayi toldThe Hollywood Reporter, “there were seven women in the room and six were women of color. It didn’t fall on one person to be the voice of all women or all black people. Having multiple women from diverse ethnic backgrounds broadened the conversation, which in turn led to richer, deeper characters.”
Ajayi added, “It’s also inspiring to see the women higher up the ladder prove that there is a path.”
Ajayi originally hails from Nigeria and attended NYFA’s Screenwriting school in 2011. In addition to How to Get Away with Murder, Ajayi has worked on Eastenders, Doctors, and Hetty Feather. She is currently co-producing Hulu’s limited series adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi on her current success and encourages everyone to read The Hollywood Reporter’s piece!
With his debut novel published last October and development underway for his animated pilot, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screenwriting instructor Matt Harry is making waves in the industry. A multi-hyphenate, Matt’s not only a writer—he’s an editor, director, and producer. Matt took some time to chat about his career, teaching, and the time he made a fool of himself in front of Tom Hanks.
NYFA: Where are you from originally?
MH: I was born in West Virginia, but my parents moved around a lot. We ended up in Cleveland when I was in sixth grade.
NYFA: Growing up, what did you want to be?
MH: I wrote a novel in seventh grade, so I wanted to be an author from a young age. Later I became interested in theatre, then filmmaking, but eventually I went back to writing.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What’s your professional background?
Matt Harry (MH): After I graduated, I spent 12 years working as an editor on shows like The Bachelor while continuing to write. I’ve written screenplays for various production companies and my feature film Fugue, which I wrote and produced, was named Best Horror Film at the Mississippi International Film Festival. My short Super Kids, which I wrote and co-directed, has over 3.7 million views on YouTube and is being developed into a feature by Temple Hill and Fox 2000.
NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?
MH: A chance encounter with my former USC classmate Eric Conner at a coffee shop led to me to NYFA.
NYFA: What are you working on right now?
MH: My novel Sorcery for Beginners was released last October, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’m also developing a TV adaptation of Sorcery as well as an animated pilot I wrote called Monster Cops. I also have a couple new book projects I’m finishing!
NYFA: What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far?
MH: My short film Super Kids was the first project I worked on where the finished product looked almost exactly like what I imagined it could be.
NYFA: What is your favorite course to teach?
MH: The thesis screenwriting workshops.
NYFA: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current students?
MH: Keep working. I’ve met very few artistic geniuses, but my own career is a testament to the fact that if you keep pushing, working and revising, you’ll improve.
NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of teaching?
MH: Frequently I’ll be discussing a student’s project, and I’ll have a realization about not only their work, but mine as well. Thanks to the students, I’m constantly learning and improving.
NYFA: What is most challenging about teaching for you?
MH: Finding enough time. I could talk about story development all day, but with less than three hours per class, we have to set timers to get to everyone!
NYFA: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?
MH: “Stick with it. Even if you don’t make it, eventually everyone you know will make it, and you make it by proxy.” I have absolutely found this to be true.
NYFA: Who has influenced you the most in life?
MH: My wife Juliane. Her work ethic, morality, and positive attitude inspire me to be a better person.
NYFA: What creators have influenced you the most?
MH: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, David Lynch, Edgar Wright, Colin Meloy, Madeline L’Engle, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Pullman, and Wes Anderson.
NYFA: What do you do to take a break from work and teaching?
MH: Video games, going to restaurants, and hanging out with my family.
NYFA: What is an interesting fact about yourself your students and fellow faculty might not know about you?
MH: I interviewed Tom Hanks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when I was 15 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was incredibly gracious. I remember shouting out some inane question about Madonna, but he treated me like every other adult journalist there.
Legendary producer, director, and editor Sam Pollard led a spirited “Conversation with…” and Q&A session after a rousing screening of his latest documentary Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me at New York Film Academy (NYFA). A capacity crowd at NYFA’s Theatre in New York City was captivated by the film, which traces the iconic entertainer’s life from his youth in Harlem to international stardom— from Hollywood to Broadway to Las Vegas and beyond.
NYFA students were inspired by Sam Pollard’s recollection of his early career, when he gravitated towards an editing career after a Public Broadcasting internship program. He went on to cut narrative features as well as documentaries, most notably working with Spike Lee on films including Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Clockers, and Bamboozled. In 1998, Pollard and Lee were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for 4 Little Girls.
Pollard moved into producing and directing while working on Eyes on the Prize, still considered the seminal work on the American Civil Rights Movement. Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me capped NYFA’s celebration of Black History Month. Made for American Master/PBS, other Sam Pollard projects made for the series include works about August Wilson and Zora Neale Hurston.
“Filmmaking is hard work but it’s like magic when it works. Now it feels seamless, and that to me is that magic of filmmaking,” Pollard explained to the audience.
The evening was a co-production of NYFA’s Producing, Screenwriting, and Documentary departments. Pollard told the students in attendance, “If you’re here because you love to create, be compassionate, committed, and willing. Learn the craft and be proud of what you’ve done.”
He added, “As aspiring filmmakers, you should be committed to making the best possible film you can make, and if you hang in there, you will be rewarded.”
The New York Film Academy thanks Oscar-nominated producer, director, and editor Sam Pollard for sharing his experience and wisdom with our students and encourages everyone to check out Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me.
It was a time of celebration once again as graduating MFA New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held in the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles.
A catered event and mingling opportunity for students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrates the New York Film Academy’s graduating Screenwriting students, offering them a unique opportunity to jumpstart their professional development by pitching their Film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals. In addition, a very talented alum of the Screenwriting Department also joined in the event.
Organized and hosted by Jenni Powell, Ashley Bank, and Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including Monkeypaw, MGM, Practical Magic, Paramount, Automatik, Grandview, and Gulfstream Pictures.
The exceptional writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructor Ashley Bank in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and other members of the Screenwriting department, preparing and fine tuning their pitches.
The students’ dedication and passionate love for their work shone as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had developed for nearly a year. Students left with new contacts, excitement about the scripts they’d worked so hard on, and a sense of what it’s like to meet with industry professionals.
Their hard work paid off as the talented and creative students pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, VR, TV and film production executives in a relaxed, roundtable environment.
“My experience at Pitch Fest was excellent to say the least,” shares David Barbeschi, one of the graduating MFA students at the event. “Nothing like pitching to people who listen to these things as a job to better yourself and see where you stand in the immense LA Film Industry.”
The New York Film Academy wishes to thank all of the Industry Pitch Fest 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 graduates and wish them the best of success as they move forward in their professional journeys!
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!