Screenwriting
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  • Spanish Goya Nomination for Jorge Laplace

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    ALFRED Y ANNA

    New York Film Academy screenwriting graduate, Jorge Laplace is the screenwriter behind the Goya Nominated Animated Short, Alfred & Anna. The Goya Awards, known in Spanish as los Premios Goya, are Spain’s main national film awards, considered by many in Spain, and internationally, to be the Spanish equivalent of the American Academy Awards. This is Jorge’s second Goya nominated script, the former being the documentary, 30 Years of Darkness.

    photo (11)

    Jorge Laplace

    Alfred & Anna was directed by Juanma Suarez with music by Roque Baños, whose known for his work in Sexy Beast and The Machinist.

    We’re very proud of Jorge on another wonderful accomplishment and wish him the best at the Goya Awards on February 17!

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  • Screenwriting Instructor’s TV Series Premieres Tonight!

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    New York Film Academy screenwriting instructor Jerry Shandy is looking forward to tonight’s premiere of the television show Perception. In addition to his staff writer credits for the series, the NYFA instructor penned an episode called Cipher that will air in August. The crime drama stars Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce, an eccentric neuroscience professor who helps the FBI to solve complex cases. The show, which also stars Rachael Leigh Cook and Kelly Rowan, premieres after The Closer tonight on TNT.

    Originally from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Jerry got interested in filmmaking because of the wildlife filmmakers that would visit his hometown. He initially attended USC with hopes of becoming a filmmaker, but soon realized screenwriting was the place to be. “I like screenwriting because it’s the creation of the characters,” says Jerry. “I wanted to get into directing, and in the long-term I still want to do that, but I always wanted to be the one generating the story. The filmmakers I admire are the ones who come from that background.”

    New York Film Academy screenwriting instructor, Jerry Shandy

    After working as a writer’s assistant on CBS’ Close to Home, and a series of PA jobs, including assisting producer Lawrence Bender, Jerry got an agent and sold a pilot to USA and Universal Cable. That pilot became his calling card, and the buzz around it got him meetings, and his most recent gig on Perception. He is also developing a feature script with a European production company, and is developing a television pilot with international television heavyweight Endemol.

    Jerry says he loves teaching courses at New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios campus, including One Hour Drama, Pitching for Producers, and Feature Workshops. “I feel like it’s complementary because I’m able to bring in the industry experience, and talk about what’s going on out there. I also get to go over the basics of writing every day. My ideal day is being able to write half day and interact with students the rest of the  day.”

    Ready to make your mark in screenwriting? Check out New York Film Academy’s screenwriting programs today!
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    July 9, 2012 • Academic Programs, Screenwriting • Views: 4108

  • Pixar’s Rules for Great Storytelling

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    Pixar Animation

    Thanks to department chair Eric Conner of the screenwriting program for this great tip! A story artist at Pixar Animation Studios had been tweeting a series of “story basics” which illustrates the kind of talent that exists at Pixar. Their overwhelming success is easily demonstrated by the numbers. 7 out of 12 Pixar films were nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars and the company won the Animated Feature Academy Award 6 times. They have 13 consecutive box-office toppers and 2 Best Picture nominations. If that’s not proof of their genius, then we don’t know what is. Steve Jobs purchased the studio in 1986 for $10 million. It was originally a hardware company with only one animator on its staff. Now it’s widely reputed to be one of the best film studios on the planet. Here’s a quote on Deadline from the producer of the latest Pixar hit Brave, which debuted at number 1 at the Box Office this weekend. They attribute their phenomenal success to the basic wisdom that story trumps all.

    It was not easy. The biggest challenges at Pixar are always the stories. We want really original stories that come from the hearts and minds of our filmmakers. We take years in crafting the story and improving it and changing it; throwing things out that aren’t working and adding things that do work. All of that  is just the jumping off point for the technology and how we are going to make this happen.

    Without further ado, here are 22 pointers from Pixar’s story artists for creating a compelling story and building a mega-successful franchise. Don’t forget to learn more about our animation curriculum and become a top-notch animator for Pixar. Click here to request more information on the program!

    1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

    2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

    3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
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    June 25, 2012 • 3D Animation, Film School, Screenwriting • Views: 3450

  • Superheroes are Taking Over Hollywood (and I Feel Fine)

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     Eric Conner is the Chair of the Screenwriting Department for New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios – Los Angeles campus. With an MFA degree from USC School of Cinema and Television and a BA from UPenn, Eric is currently developing two TV pilots, a sci-fi feature, and trying to add to his collection of ironic snapshots with Stormtroopers. Feel free to email him at eric@nyfa.edu

    I often warn my students to avoid becoming “That Guy.” You know “That Guy.” He’s the one in the theater who complains about a director “crossing the 180 line” or using the wrong lens. He’s the one who LOUDLY critiques a movie in terms of “sequences” and “denouement.” Summer’s an especially difficult time for “That Guy” since the multiplexes are filled with Hollywood’s biggest, loudest, and franchise-iest products — though to be fair, there’s a Wes Anderson gem also playing in the theaters, but it’s on a screen smaller than your car. For my $14 (or $28 if you choose the couches and food service of iPic Theaters in Pasadena), I don’t watch a movie with a notebook or penlight. I go to the theaters simply to be transported.

    Sometimes it’s to the dark emotional wilderness of Into the Wild. Other times to see Kevin Bacon singlehandedly ignite the Cold War in X-Men: First Class. Please note: I’m pretty sure the Cuban Missile Crisis did not actually play out that way, especially since my own father was on one of the ships during those tense thirteen days in 1962. But that didn’t make me enjoy the scene any less. This likely goes back to why I work in the arts in the first place. Similar to many of my peers, I grew up on the films of Allen, Scorsese, Coppola, Ashby, Polanski, and Altman, and spent most of my college days working on one play or another. However, I also spent many hours in my native Delaware reading comics, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and — please don’t hold it against me or my department — watching professional wrestling! Meaning that I’m equally transfixed by the damaged honesty of The Descendants as when the Hulk mops up the floor with Loki. In fact, my favorite line of dialogue this decade came out of Bruce Banner’s mouth just as he got his green on. (No spoilers here!)

    With The Avengers approaching Titanic-level grosses, we’re likely to see even more superhero films in the future. And I’m here to tell you that’s okay. Some of them will be stinkers (I’m looking at you Ghost Rider), but others will give us the same thrill that George Lucas unleashed in 1977 with one unforgettable opening shot. For every Daredevil, Elektra, or Green Lantern, there’s a Superman or Spiderman 2. I still think  Magneto’s unorthodox escape from his glass prison — featuring a poor guard with “too much iron in his blood” — is as cinematic as cinema can get. Hopefully, the screenwriters who are developing the next mega-budget superhero adaptations remember the wonder they felt as kids, flipping through the pages of The Flash. Or take a cue from Chris Nolan, who’s been treating Batman like part of the Godfather franchise.

    In fact, our writing department in Los Angeles has even begun to address this head-on by adding comic book writing and game design to our curriculum. Both of these mediums have provided some of the greatest modern writing around. As long as there’s money to be made and stories to be told, Hollywood will continue to look for new films from these existing properties. Some films will anger the aforementioned “That Guy.” But other films will sweep him up in their worlds and remind him why he came to film school in the first place. If you want to discuss this with me, I can be found at either the Ahmanson touring production of War Horse or the opening weekend of Dark Knight Rises

    Eric Connor in a tiff with Darth Vader.

    Learn more about NYFA’s screenwriting program. Click here for more info! 
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    June 14, 2012 • Academic Programs, Screenwriting • Views: 6213

  • Pietro Schito on Cultivating Ideas

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    Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson with Pietro Schito on the set of Little Boy 

    “Ever since I learned what screenwriting was, I have always wanted to do that,” explains screenwriter Pietro Schito. “That’s the most important thing for any movie. That is where the message is.” While studying in his native Milan, Pietro’s first short film, Horror Kitchen, won a national contest at the Future Film Festival in Bologna. Shortly after, he left for Mexico to work for CSPC Filming the Ineffable, an international project working with young filmmakers. He was about ready to return to Italy when he received a scholarship from CSPC.

    Pietro decided to attend a 1-Year Screenwriting course at the Universal Studios campus in 2010. “The program was great and all the instructors were too,” he says. “I loved it. They push you to the limit. It was tough but worth it. The workshops and teachers are hands-on and thought provoking. [The instructors] have a real connection with the students. If we had problems or questions they were always available for consultation.”

    After graduating from New York Film Academy, Pietro found steady work as a script consultant. He also landed an internship with Metanoia Films. “One day, having lunch with the producer, I got to pitch my movie,” he explained. He shared his project 98.Vocho, a story he had developed while attending New York Film Academy. “As soon as he heard the story, he was really interested and asked if I was ready to pitch to directors. I got to pitch it several times in the Business of Screenwriting class, so I had some practice. They took me to [director] Alejandro Monteverde. He said I had an original plot, solid characters and structure. He also told me that my style of writing reminded him about Life is Beautiful, and I was really happy to hear that because Life is Beautiful is the movie that inspired me to become a filmmaker.” Pietro worked on a 20-page treatment and pitched it to another producer at Metanoia. The producer said, “If everything is like this, we’re going to produce your movie.” They asked him to stay on with the company to develop the project. But Pietro decided to follow his heart, and went back to Mexico to get married. “I thought I would lose the opportunity of my life,” he says.

    After returning to Mexico, Pietro wrote the pilot for an animated TV series called Maria Bambina. He also worked for a Spanish television series called Mi familia y yo, and has an animated feature called Lucha Rooster in development. He found out that Metanoia Films was working on a big-budget period film called Little Boy, and that they would be shooting in Baja California. Pietro was brought on as a writers’ assistant. He soon found himself assisting the director as well. Then he was  asked to film and direct a making-of documentary to be featured on the Blu-ray release.

    Inspired by the paintings of Norman Rockwell, Little Boy is a period piece about a boy who believes he can bring his father back from World War II. It stars Sean Astin, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin James, Emily Watson, and Michael Rapaport. “It was an amazing experience, being there and seeing the process,” says Pietro.”They were really happy about the work I did, helping with outlines and reviewing scripts and storyboards.”

    Since wrapping the film, Pietro has been offered a job with Metanoia Films. “They invited me here for a staff position in writing and development,” he says. “I’m really happy being back in LA with that company. I like the way they think and organize their team. It’s a huge accomplishment, and it’s just the beginning. They have a lot of projects in development.”

    Pietro offers the following advice for students thinking about New York Film Academy: “Have an idea. Come here with an idea. Work as much as you can. The story you have in your heart: cultivate it. And don’t be discouraged by Hollywood.”

    Emily Watson and Pietro Schito with Jakob Salvati, star of Little Boy

     

    Pietro Schito working with director Alejandro Monteverde and producer Eduardo Verastegui on the set of Little Boy
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    May 30, 2012 • Film School, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4883

  • Amy Heckerling: Doing Things Her Own Way

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    Amy Heckerling visited students at the New York Film Academy for a screening of her hit film Clueless. The writer/director garnered both critical praise and impressive box office success with movies including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who’s Talking, and National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

    Heckerling became a successful director at a time when female directors were a novelty. Asked about what it was like being a woman in Hollywood in the 80’s, she responded, “I’m psychotic. I don’t care how the world works. I do what I want to do…. If you want to do it, you can’t listen to what the world is telling you. You do what you want. If I tell you what I feel truthfully, there will be a [ton] of people who respond to that.”

    When asked about Clueless, Heckerling recalled, “They told me, ‘We want to do something about the cool kids,’ and I thought, ‘Well that sounds stupid… But what if the cool kids were nice.’ I remembered Emma, which I read in college. I always wanted to do something where the character was just happy. It seemed so strange to me. Then I got into her head and it wasn’t so strange.” The script came soon after, but it was initially met with rejection by a number of studios. “Everyone will try to say you can’t do something,” she said, “but there’s only one person who has to believe in you, and that’s you…. You may have to find another door to take you there. Take your shot. Be aggressive. As long as you believe in you, you’ll find others to believe in you.”

    Do you have the same passion for directing as Amy? Learn directing at the New York Film Academy!

      

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    May 22, 2012 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 4843

  • NYFA in Paris, je t’aime!

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    Jean-Baptiste Gueniffey is a Parisian storyteller who made his way to New York City in search of the truth. We asked, “What truth?” He simply replied, “The truth.” By the end of the interview, this aspiring screenwriter impressed us with his calm and collected demeanor and his matter-of-fact approach to life. Inspired by his childhood love of films and literature, Jean decided to take the plunge into screenwriting because he felt it was the most viable platform to impact the most minds of any audience. “What artist doesn’t want to challenge people and push their boundaries?”Studying as a film editor in France, he reached out to French screenwriters working in America and they had suggested an education where one “writes and learns to correct what they write.” A personal friend also recommended the New York Film Academy after completing an eight-week intensive program. In search of a flexible program calendar where he could enroll in January, Jean felt our school was the perfect fit. He felt the screenwriting program helps one understand the structure of the story and how elements of motive and conflict are represented on the screen. He sees NYFA as the final step in entering the industry. Currently, Jean is developing a screenplay about an “unusual love” in New Orleans soon after the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Storytelling is, as Jean describes it, about “struggle” and the reality of conflict. “There’s no easy way out. Truth is, we live in an obscenely violent world.”Jean points to the works of Frank Capra. “His films forces you to ask yourself, ‘What makes an individual matter in this world?’ That’s what inspires my work. I’m in search of what’s real. Genuine. Tangible.” When asked of his plans after NYFA, Jean admits he doesn’t think of the future too much. As he says, “Good things have to mature.” Live in the present moment. Take the plunge. Don’t fuss. Spoken like a true Zen master.

    • Click Here to learn more about the Screenwriting program. 
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    May 3, 2012 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3320

  • The Importance of an “Indelible” Screenplay

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    Melanie Williams Oram is the department chair of Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Campus. Melanie wrote and directed SHOOK, a short film that Showtime acquired and airs. SHOOK won several awards including Best film of the Festival at the inaugural Juneteenth Festival. Her feature length version of SHOOK was an Urbanworld Screenplay Competition Finalist. She has produced several award winning shorts including A-Alike, which won the Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards and a DGA Award. She has won both an Emmy and a Peabody for her work at HBO Sports. Currently she is producing her first independent feature film, Indelible.
    Indelible
    I am nearing the end of the production phase on my first feature film IndelibleThis film tells the story of El Bonds, an African American female scientist who races to find the cure for a disease that killed her husband and threatens to take the life of her teenage son. As the producer on this project, I am struck by how important a solid script is to creating a quality film. Yes, the feature film arena is one where the director is clearly the ruling monarch, and I’ve always preached that without a good script, the director, even a great director, has nothing. Now after nearly finishing the production phase of Indelible, I see in practice that a well-structured script is the engine that powers the rest of the filmmaking train.

    Our process on Indelible has been truly collaborative. Our writer, Mikki del Monico wrote the script and asked Randy Dottin, the director to attach himself to the project. Randy and I had collaborated on several short film projects together and he asked me to come onto the project as a producer. As a team our first step was to apply for a production grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Mikki already had an established track record with Sloan and had previously won a $10,000 screenwriting grant for an earlier draft of Indelible.We were fortunate enough to win the $100,000 production grant and then our journey to make a feature film began. I worked with Mikki and Randy for about two years on developing the script and getting it ready to shoot. Mikki wrote countless drafts and we had several meetings about how to clarify the want of the protagonist, increase the intensity of the obstacles created by our antagonist, and shape subplots that were both engaging and well-crafted.

    We went into production confident that our script had all the elements of a good drama. We completed our initial shoot and managed to stay true to our original vision. After a fairly lengthy break in production, we cut together an assemble version of the film and re-evaluated the script. It was clear that we needed to do some pick-up shoots. We were facing some challenges as a production because we didn’t have access to some of the key talent that we needed. We wanted to finish the film strong and so we were faced with the task of altering the script again. Our new script needed to create a softer side of our protagonist by deepening some of her personal relationships. This process included broadening the role of some characters, minimizing the role of other characters, and even recasting one of Indeiible’s major players.

    To date, we have completed two pick-up shoots and we plan to do one more in the late spring/early summer.We are editing a new cut of the film that incorporates all our footage from all three (3) periods of our production phase (initial production + two pick-up shoots). We will look at the cut and determine not only which scenes need to be reshot but what scenes need to added to the script to ensure that we enter into Indelible’s post production phase in the strongest possible position. We have pledged that we will not embark on this final pick-up shoot until we believe the newest version of the script is solid. As a team we are still committed to the idea that a strong, well structured script provides a blueprint for making sure that ultimately we produce “a good story that is well told.”I believe that my experiences as a professional filmmaker, and definitely my work with the Indelible project have shaped my teaching in the classroom. As an instructor, I try to bring together theory and practice. I’d be curious to hear your ideas on screenwriting theory and how you’ve put those ideas into practice. What are your experiences with developing and/or producing your own scripts either for shorts or feature films? 

    To learn more about NYFA’s Screenwriting program, please click here.

    Indelible Movie On Set Indelible

    On Set Indelible2

    On Set Indelible3

    All Photos Taken By Gregory Costanzo

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    April 16, 2012 • Screenwriting • Views: 7740

  • The Power of Pitchfest

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    Pitchfest are events at New York Film Academy are held shortly after graduation for MFA and AFA students in Screenwriting and Producing. A culmination of their studies, graduates pitch their thesis projects, usually a TV pilot or feature screenplay, to television and film professionals. It’s a great opportunity for students to start developing relationships in the industry. About 15 producing students held their event on campus in March, pitching their projects to industry professionals including guests from HBO and Network Television, and even George Gallo, writer of Midnight RunBad Boys, and The Whole Ten Yards. Twelve screenwriting students held their event at West Hollywood’s luxurious Andaz Hotel. By the end of the evening, each student had pitched to about 20 companies.

    Since the event, a number of students from both departments have gotten interest from companies. Congratulations to our recent Screenwriting and Producing graduates!

    NYFA PitchFest

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    April 5, 2012 • Acting, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 4198