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  • NYFA Grad’s “The Dawn” to Screen at Kuwait Film Festival

    The DawnKuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei’s short film, “The Dawn,” was very well received at the ADASA Festival and is due to screen at the Kuwait Film Festival soon, and possibly play in local Kuwaiti movie theaters thereafter.

    His film is about a young boy, Bader, who wants to go fishing with his father. The father, unfortunately, has to cancel the trip due to a work commitment, which leads Bader and his friends on an adventure to find out what it is that the father actually does.

    Al-Qenaei had a chance to talk with us about his film and his experience as a filmmaker in Kuwait.

    What brought you to NYFA, and what led you into filmmaking in the first place?

    I’ve always had a passion for film and theatre. My childhood was spent on stage, and therefore the performing arts were always something I was fond of. After a while, I began writing plays as opposed to acting in them. I found a joy in that. Film was a new medium for me. It involved less dialogue and more to show. It was a challenge I was keen on exploring. NYFA was on the top of my list, and it being in NYC, a hub for creatives, made it all the better.

    What is the current filmmaking scene like in Kuwait?

    Kuwait has always been one of the strongest in the region when it comes to the arts. True, there was a period were things became idle and a lack of interest in the industry was prevalent. But now, the means in which a person is able to broadcast their work are a lot more accessible. Therefore, talent is being recognized and the scene is more inspiring now than ever.

    Did you shoot this film during or after NYFA?

    After my time at NYFA. I actually met with members of the Ministry of Youth Affairs of Kuwait whilst in NYC, at a conference for Kuwaiti students abroad. They asked me to submit a storyline for a short film that I had written, in the hopes that the Ministry may fund it. And they did, which was lovely.

    Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to create this film?

    Most definitely. I did an 8-week screenwriting course at NYFA. Before then, my comprehension of story structure and screenplays in general were terribly primitive. So much so that I had never been able to actually complete a screenplay before the course. The instructors and students also helped me with my biggest challenge whilst writing: making it more about showing the emotion than having the characters speak it.

    Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei

    Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei

    Have you screened this film elsewhere, or will you be in the future?

    This is the first official, public screening for the film. It is due to be screened at a few more soon, and then maybe into our local theaters here in Kuwait.

    What do you hope to achieve with this film?

    The most gratifying thing for me is when people watch films coming out of Kuwait and are proud that these are local productions. There’s definitely a stigma here, that all works of television or film are mainly social dramas that tend to highlight the negatives of society. We generally tend to sway away from the neutral let alone the uplifting. So I want this film to show that we have a diverse selection of work in the region, all representing different ideologies and mindsets. Representation is key.

    Are you currently working on another project that you’d like to tell us about?

    I am. It is in the very early stages at the moment, but it is definitely a project that will be a lot more challenging than a short film, but all the more gratifying and fulfilling. Watch this space. And thank you for your time!

    March 20, 2017 • Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1271

  • Writer / Creator Matthew Arnold Gives NYFA Students Advice on How to Pitch for TV

    The writer and creator of “Siberia,” “Emerald City,” and “Shadow People,” Matthew Arnold, visited the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy on Monday, February 27, 2017. Students from several writing classes attended the event.

    matthew arnold

    Arnold read pitches for each of his most recent projects and gave students advice on how to refine their pitches. “I like to do a little research (before a pitch), so I have something to talk to the executives about….

    But for ‘Siberia,’ I did something different. I went in and said, ‘Have you seen this new thing going around YouTube? There’s this reality show in Russia and people are being killed. They think it’s Chechen rebels.”

    Arnold said this pitch would often get Executives to call in their assistants and request to see the videos. When he revealed that this was not a real occurrence, but the pitch for “Siberia” they were already vested in the project. The end of that pitch was this: “We’re going to do for TV what ‘The Blair Witch Project’ did for film.”

    One student asked, “There’s a long established relationship with the world of ‘Oz’ for most of your audience. How did you create something new and not damage the source material?”

    matthew arnold nyfa

    “I think that’s the big challenge. To be honest, I didn’t have this thought when I first sat down to write it. I was just excited to write. But when we got into production, I realized there was a huge responsibility on me. People have a certain feeling about the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ They have childhood memories and beliefs about the story. It really irks me when someone takes the source material and go left, keeping only the names. What’s the point of that?

    So, I wanted to dig into the source material more and kind of translate it. If you read those books they are very vague. You have to infer that this would be a problem and hence there would be a conflict. That’s where you get the complexity without necessarily tampering with the source material.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Arnold for taking the time to speak with our students. You can watch “Emerald City” Fridays on NBC.

    March 13, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 1556

  • NYFA LA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate with an Industry Pitch Fest

    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.

    pitch fest

    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.

    la pitch fest

    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.

    pitch fest nyfa la

    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!

    February 2, 2017 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1053

  • Urban Possibilities and New York Film Academy Team Up For Spoken Word Performance and Story Encounter

    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.”

    urban possibilities

    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.”

    December 21, 2016 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 2634

  • Film and Video Game Writer Patrick Hegarty Speaks to Business of Screenwriting Class

    patrick hegartyRecently, 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.

    December 9, 2016 • Game Design, Screenwriting • Views: 1175

  • NYFA Screenwriting Students Attend Nickelodeon Writers Event

    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.

    nickelodeon

    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.

    nickelodeon

    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.

    November 4, 2016 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1675

  • Discussion with “Better Call Saul” Writer Gordon Smith

    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.

    gordon

    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.

    gordon smith

    “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.”

    gordon smith

    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.

    October 10, 2016 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 1699

  • Screenwriter Tim Tori Joins NYFA’s Biz of Screenwriting Class

    tim toriRecently, 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).

    NYFA thanks Tim Tori for a great guest lecture!

    September 28, 2016 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 2000

  • NYFA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate with an Industry Pitch Fest

    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.

    screenwriting dept

    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.

    nyfa screenwriting

    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!

    September 20, 2016 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1733

  • Spring 2016 Screenwriting Students Complete Second Semester

    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.

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    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.”

    screenwriting grad

    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!

    September 15, 2016 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 824