Screenwriting
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  • Screenwriting Workshop in LA

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    On Saturday, November 16th from 9 to 12:30pm the Screenwriting Department (in L.A.) will be hosting a morning of free screenwriting workshops for any New York Film Academy student who wishes to attend. The workshop/lectures are designed to boost the story skills of students from any discipline — acting, directing, producing, etc. — and will include talks on how to build characters, story structure, log lines and pitching skills. As they say in the business, without story, you got nothing.

    We are limiting the event to 50 students, so any who wish to come must RSVP soon to reserve a seat.

    To RSVP, email: Adam.Moore@nyfa.edu

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    November 8, 2013 • Screenwriting • Views: 3820

  • How David Marshall Grant’s Persistence Led to His Success

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    This Monday, the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of ABC’s Brothers and Sisters with executive producer/show-runner David Marshall Grant. The event was moderated by Producer, Tova Laiter.

    In addition to Grant’s success in television as Executive Producer/show-runner of NBC’s Smash and ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, he is an accomplished actor and playwright. His first play, Snakebit, was nominated for both a Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award. His second play, Current Events, was produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2000. His most recent play, Pen, opened in 2006 at Playwrights Horizons. As an actor, Grant is best known for playing opposite Richard Gere in Broadway’s Bent and for his Tony-nominated performance in Angels in America. His acting credits include film and television work in such projects as The Devil Wears Prada, The Stepford Wives, The Rock, Air America, And the Band Played On, Citizen Cohn, thirtysomething, Eli Stone, and Party Down.

    david grantAfter attending the Yale School of Drama, David went to the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference in Connecticut where he did a workshop of Bent. He was very lucky to experience immediate success right out of school when the production, which was bound for Broadway, asked him to star opposite Richard Gere. “So much of life is what fate brings you, and so much of life is what you bring when fate shows up,” said Grant.

    It was during his time at the playwright’s conference that David became fascinated with story and by the idea that the way an actor’s mind thought could actually help you as a writer. This kept gnawing at him until one summer he began to write a play. He wrote 23 pages the first day, assuming he could have the production up and running in no time. However, he ended up working on the play for five years and it was never produced despite his efforts.

    When his acting career stalled after Bent, David started taking writing more seriously. His second play was entitled, Snakebit. It was twelve years before this film was produced on a very small scale at Grove Street Theater in New York. There was an audience of 53 people. One of these people was Peter Marks of The New York Times. Marks wrote a great review of the play, and the next day everyone was calling David. It seemed there was a renewed interest in him.

    At the time, David was auditioning for episodic television and not getting the parts, so he decided to “open the door that wasn’t locked” and become a writer. Although, even that became an immense struggle for David. Five or six years later, John Robin Bates called David and asked him if he wanted to be a story editor on Brothers and Sisters, and he hasn’t stopped working since then.

    David always tries to impress on his students that, “Failure is the norm,” and this industry is a long game. “You’ve got to keep your eye on the prize, and if it doesn’t happen today, it might not happen for the next five years. But that doesn’t mean you give up.”

    David was also one of the first brave actors to play gay characters, like he did in Bent, when other actors (straight or gay) wouldn’t. This was also at a point when David hadn’t been out with the public. In thirtysomething, David took the opportunity to play a gay character, even though he was convinced it would ruin his career. He brought up the point that there hasn’t been a major movie actor that has come out yet. You can’t be Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise and be known as gay.

    QUESTION: Can you give advice to actors who want to transition into producing?

    DAVID: An actor’s job should always be to figure out how he or she can support the STORY—understand what your place in the story is. You are a part of the larger thing—and that thing is everything—STORY.

    QUESTION: What are some of the roles of a show-runner?

    DAVID: Your first job is to come up with a story every week. You follow the story. Also, it’s about navigating personalities—the demands of the studio and the actors on the script. That’s what the show-runner does. In the process of pushing that story up the hill, he deals with every human being that touches that story.

    David’s story was inspirational in regards to the success one can achieve in this industry through endurance and never giving up. He made the point to say that you must consciously inspire yourself. “It really works by failing every single day, until the world sees,” he concluded.

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    October 11, 2013 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Musical Theatre, Screenwriting • Views: 9481

  • Literary Agent Says TV is Where it’s At

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    melinda jason

    Once again, producer Tova Laiter put together an exclusive event for New York FIlm Academy students in Los Angeles. One of the toughest obstacles coming out of film or acting school is landing the right agent — or landing any agent for that matter. Given the full house at Warner Bros, Theater 4 for this event, students were anxious to get some inside information from Melinda Jason and her business partner Simon Ore. Melinda is a prominent literary agent at Conspiracy LLC – with her partner Simon Ore – a production and management company based in Los Angeles. As a former lawyer at 20th Century Fox and former Head of Literary Department at Gersh, Melinda has also established producing deals with Universal Television, Disney and Sony Pictures, and has produced five feature films. Some of the talent she is most famous for discovering are Michael J. Fox, Dean Pitchford (writer of Footloose), Ron Bass (writer of Rain Man and My Best Friend’s Wedding), and David Saperstein, whose manuscript Cocoon she sold to Fox. Melinda and Simon Ore are currently developing an animated series, several feature films, and several television pilots, including one in partnership with Producer Nick Welchsler (The Road, Requiem For A Dream, Sex, Lies & Videotape, Drugstore Cowboy).

    Melinda wasted no time in getting straight to the point, “In order to get yourself out there nowadays you have to be a great writer, get a producer, make content and create experiences!” Melinda, who has a first look deal with Fox Television, thinks television is where it’s at today. “TV is great now, it’s on a higher level intellectually, you can get your writers paid and once they are respected there they really get to show what they’ve got. These writers really think, they do research. The arch is different than in film, the characters have a lot of potential. TV is about being strategic.” Melinda clearly cares about her writers.

    Simon spoke in terms of what young writers tend to do when getting off the ground. “Sell your passion!” exclaimed Simon. “Once you are in, find the happy medium in compromising with your work.” Don’t sell out, don’t be unreasonable and inflexible.

    Melinda continued on, saying how a good writer must constantly read. “Read good stuff and bad stuff, lots of it. Go to places like www.simplyscripts.com and do the work.” Simon added that a writer needs to be patient. “Some of it is not over when you’re done. Take a break. Come back to it.”

    One thing the pair really stressed is how in today’s market, writers need to MAKE CONTENT! “Create something, put it on the internet.” However, once you get the ball rolling with credibility, it is important to know where content belongs. “Know the networks, they want different things,” said Melinda. “You have to know where content could live.”

    Her final words of advice, “You have to be really careful to never make a choice based on money. Follow your passion. You must feel strongly about it!”

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    September 27, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 6911

  • Screenwriting Brothers Screen ‘The Conjuring’

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    conjuring

    The number one movie at the box-office, The Conjuring, screened to a full house of New York Film Academy students with guest speakers, twin brothers and writing team, Chad and Carey Hayes. The horror, thriller is based on actual events and focuses on a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.

    Chad and Carey began their career as actors and eventually transitioned into television writers. After writing a modern version of House of Wax, the duo found themselves in the midst of “huge buzz” and their screenwriting careers began to take off. They followed the script with the horror films, The Reaping, Whiteout, and now, The Conjuring. “We treat writing like taking the audience to an amusement park,” said Chad. “It needs to be safe, scary and a great ride.”

    The writing brothers were thrilled about the box office success of The Conjuring this past weekend and noted that this was the first feature they wrote in which they had total control of the writing process from beginning to end. After a bidding war among the studios, New Line picked up the film. Chad and Carey couldn’t have been more thrilled with them.

    When asked about the discipline of writing, Chad responded, “We write everyday. We do it because we like it. If you don´t love it, and you don´t feel that passion, then it´s going to be a long, difficult journey. You must love writing.” Carey added, “We try to build on an initial thought, some of it is technical and about building a rhythm, but character is always at the center. You have to care about the characters.”

    Finally, a New York Film Academy student simply asked the question on everybody’s mind: HOW TO GET STARTED. Here was their advice:

    1. RESEARCH! Take a trip to India if you have to (they actually did that for a project). Immerse yourself in research! 

    2. Watch a lot of movies. 

    3. The Internet! There is so much out there! 

    4. People share their stories. Find them and listen!

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    July 25, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 4103

  • New York Film Academy Opens in Battery Park

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    Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 12.32.35 PM

    New York Film Academy Battery Park

    The New York Film Academy has opened the doors to its brand new campus, located at 17 Battery Place. The modern facility occupies 72,000 square feet on two full floors and offers breathtaking views of Battery Park and The Statue of Liberty. Each classroom was uniquely designed from scratch to meet the specific needs of the hands-on programs, including state-of-the-art production studios and sound stages.

    Summer Camp programs and Adult Musical Theatre programs have already begun, while Acting, Musical Theatre, Screenwriting, Producing, Photography, Journalism, and 3D Animation will kick off in the Fall. NYFA cannot be more thrilled to provide this wonderful new environment to its students, and is looking forward to meeting a whole new crop of talent!

    Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 12.37.14 PM

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  • Screenwriter Chris Galletta Screens The Kings of Summer

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    Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 11.58.03 AM

    NYFA Instructor Ben Cohen with Chris Galletta

    On Tuesday evening, the New York Film Academy was treated to a special screening of the Sundance Grand Jury Nominated feature, The Kings of Summer. The film stars Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman, Mad Men’s Alison Brie, and Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally. The story revolves around three teens, who decide to escape their dull parents for the summer and build their own home in the middle of the woods. Despite their lack of experience in the wilderness, the boys do their best to “live off the land.”

    kosJoining us afterward was screenwriter, Chris Galletta, who answered questions from our moderator, Ben Cohen, and students. Surprisingly, Chris mentioned how this was his first screenplay and even he was surprised just how well the ball began to roll. The script gained Chris representation, was sold, was made, made it to Sundance, and will be released theatrically on May 31 by CBS Films. Clearly a testament to his talents, but self-admittedly some luck came into play. It was soon after Nick Offerman offered to play the father role that the film really became a reality. “I’m a huge fan of Nick’s,” said Galletta. “I love him on Parks and Recreation and couldn’t have asked for anyone better.”

    Like most screenwriters, Chris admits he is highly critical of his work. He says he was rewriting drafts of his script all the way up until the movie began shooting. “I wanted to keep it funny throughout. I didn’t want it to lose its humor in the third act, like a lot of other comedies I’ve seen where it just wraps up the plot.” Some sound advice. Know your genre and maintain its tone from beginning to end.

    Chris is currently working on a new comedy adventure, which is still being scripted.

    Be sure to check out The Kings of Summer when it is released in theaters on May 31st. 

     

     

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    May 8, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 6593

  • 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: 4166

  • 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: 3476

  • 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: 6301