David OLeary
Author archives

  • Film, TV, & Video Game Composer Erik Desiderio Sits Down with NYFA Students

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Recently, film and TV composer Erik Desiderio sat down with New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class to offer up his unique perspective on how he broke into the entertainment business as a composer, and what he looks for in a story when designing the music for his film and TV projects.

    Born in Washington D.C., Desiderio believes he was bitten by the music bug due to his music-loving grandfather. After attending James Madison University in Virginia, Desiderio attended grad school for Music Composition at NYU. It was there that he started scoring films on MFA student projects and honing his craft.

    erik desiderio

    After graduating, Desiderio initially worked as a musician on cruise ships, a job where he got to travel and see the world, but knew he wanted to remain involved in storytelling. Eventually, he managed to secure a job working as the score producer on the Academy Award-winning animated autobiographical short, The Moon and The Son, about a turbulent relationship between father-and-son as told by filmmaker John Canemaker, with voice actors including John Turturro.

    After that, Desiderio was off to the races….

    He moved to Los Angeles, and began networking like crazy, taking jobs off Craigslist and meeting as many people as he could. He knew he’d made the right decision as the work started flowing in. In his career, Desiderio has scored over 50 shorts — many of which came in those early years. But as his body of work grew, Desiderio started doing TV and films. Desiderio scored the indie feature comedies PaperDolls in 2006, Sons of Liberty in 2008, He’s Such A Girl in 2009, the indie-sci-fi film Beta in 2007, and drama Possessions in 2012, crisscrossing a variety of genres and stories. It wasn’t long before mainstream Hollywood took notice.

    More recently, Desiderio was the technical score producer on Showtime’s hit The Borgias and composed music for HBO’s beloved comedy Entourage. He was also an additional music composer for the 63rd Emmy Awards in 2011. He’s worked as a composer for the breakout ratings juggernaut reality TV series Duck Dynasty for A&E in 2012, and was the technical score producer for the Relativity Media action/fantasy film Immortals, starring Micky Rourke and Henry Cavill. He’s also branched into other formats of storytelling as well, working as a composer for documentaries (including the upcoming WoW MoM) and videogames (including the upcoming Reborn for Sony Entertainment).

    erik d

    Desiderio explained to the students how he usually reviews a cut of the film or TV episode he’s scoring, picture-locked or not, with temp music. Then it’s his job to give the filmmakers exactly what they want. As the composer it’s really up to him to layer in the emotional through-line of the piece, whether it’s lighthearted, thrilling, tender, whimsical or scary.

    To close the evening, Desiderio shared orchestral and electronic pieces he composed for a series of four shorts called The Four Players, a gritty re-imagining of the Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. focusing on the title’s four central characters. Undoubtedly, part of what’s made these shorts such a viral success is the storytelling tone and mood set by Desiderio’s compositions.

    More information on Desiderio and his music, as well as a plethora of samples of his work, can be found on his website at www.erikdesiderio.com.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    September 2, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 4053

  • Former NFL Player-Turned-Writer Pat Hegarty Talks Business with NYFA Students

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
    patrick hegarty

    Patrick Hegarty

    Recently, movie 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, including the semi-autobiographical tale, “The Dazzle of the Light” (Wexford College Press), about a troubled man coming to terms with the untimely death of his brother. “The problem with books is that they take a lot of time. A lot of time,” Hegarty smirked.

    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. “I guess they thought, given my experience, I could do it. I’m really glad they did. It opened up a lot of doors.”

    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.

    “The great thing about writing video games is they give you the parameters, the plot-points, but you have a lot of freedom within those confines to make it your own,” Hegarty remarked. Hegarty soon became an acclaimed video game writer. He was a finalist at the 13th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards (Best Adapted Story for Ghostbusters video game); and a finalist at the 10th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards (Best Story – Kids’ Title for The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning video game). NFL news used on this page source of nflbetting.us via NFL Betting. More recently, he was the Voice Director and Writer for Battleship, and wrote on Wipeout: The Game, NBA 2K15 and NCAA FOOTBALL 14.

    But writing in the gaming world isn’t all Hegarty has in his satchel of acumens.

    HIs first screenplay, Flower of Fire, won the prestigious Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition and garnered some industry attention. Soon, managers came clamoring, and he signed with Madhouse Entertainment, where he’s still represented.

    Another action feature script S.T.E.A.L. — about an American hiding in Brazil who is blackmailed back into his life of crime to steal back loot from ‘The Sao Paulo Seven’, a multi-national gang of expert thieves — placed on the Hit List in 2010, an industry insider’s list of the best specs screenplays in Hollywood, before selling to Fox International. It is currently in development there, with early 2016 as the scheduled start of filming.

    Hegarty has been writing TV and film projects in addition to video games ever since.

    On writing, Hegarty remarked, “You have to treat it like your day job, even when you have a day job, you have to always keep writing. I know it’s cliche, but I write every day. Maybe it’s from my discipline developed in football, but I make it my daily routine.”

    Hegarty also talked about his process, “I’m not the biggest outliner. I do it, but I don’t like to have my characters pigeon-holed into a pre-existing plot. I like them to take me to unexpected places. To let them surprise me. Sure, I’ll know the general shape of a story I’m working on, but I don’t let an outline rule the screenplay once I start writing it.”

    Hegarty advised the students to find the process that works for them. “Don’t be afraid to try it your own way. Look at Blake Snyder. His unique way of looking at things became a best-seller. And wear different hats. Many hats. Learn editing, copywriting, video game writing, directing — it’s all part of that same creative muscle. But never, ever stop writing.”

    Currently, Hegarty is working on a one hour drama pilot as well as several feature concepts. He is represented by Madhouse Entertainment and yes, he can still throw a mean spiral.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    August 14, 2015 • Game Design, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Sports • Views: 7576

  • Screenwriter and Reality TV Story Producer Ed Klau Sits Down with NYFA Students

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
    ed klau

    Edward Klau

    Recently, screenwriter and reality TV story producer Edward Klau visited with New York Film Academy Business of Screenwriting students to talk about his unique path in the entertainment business–from working on a variety of reality TV shows over the years to most recently having his thriller screenplay Brights win the Table-Read My Script Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

    Originally hailing from Miami, 13-year-old Klau loved to make short movies. “I always loved storytelling,” Klau explained. He attended school in upstate New York, with a major in Cinema & Photography. While there, Klau wrote, directed and produced a half-hour TV show that aired on the campus-wide TV station ICTV, entitled Tracy Malis, a crime-thriller web series in the vein of La Femme Nikita. “It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot doing it.”

    While a student, Klau knew that most of the job opportunities in entertainment were in Los Angeles, and while still in school, took an internship over the summer as a set PA on the Nicholas Hytner film The Object of My Affection.

    After college, Klau held assistant jobs working for producer Steve Tisch (FORREST GUMP, AMERICAN HISTORY X), who had a first look deal with DreamWorks at the time. But Klau knew he had other ambitions than working in development; he wanted to write and wanted a job that afforded him some time to do so. He soon found a niche that better suited him when he got a job as a logger/transcriber on LAW AND ORDER: CRIME & PUNISHMENT. “The job was pretty easy. I had to take notes on what was on the footage, that is, its content basically. I was a fast typist, and I also knew how to edit.”

    After graduating, Klau was able to land a job as a logger on The Amazing Race. And from there, he began a long and successful career working his way up the creative reality TV producing ladder, as an associate producer, a story editor, and then a story producer.

    project runway

    Klau has worked on over 30 shows—everything from Project Runway, a reality TV series exploring the fashion world, to Project Greenlight, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of movies. He was a story producer for Trading Spaces, a reality TV series about carpenters who compete against each other to redecorate a room in each other’s homes, and the cooking competition show Ultimate Cake Off.

    As Klau explained to the students, part of his job is to comb through all of the footage that is taken and start finding episodes. “It’s a lot of puzzle-solving,” Klau explained. Essentially, he has to help find “problems of the week” that can become episodes, which is challenging especially on non-competition shows. He then has to find other problems that have come up (B and C stories from footage) and string them all together and make sure they work with another and have a creative coherence.

    As for whether reality TV is really written and scripted, Klau explained, “It depends on the show, but all really come together in the editing. Some shows still basically just shoot documentary-style, and see what they can get, and we have to really create the show in post. That’s challenging, but rewarding. On some shows, the producers intervene with ideas or directions about where the show might go or what a character might say, blurring the lines a bit more. And on some, yes, it’s almost scripted reality, almost like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

    A lot of what Klau enjoys about his work is through osmosis of just being a part of the team. “One of the things I love about what I do is how much I get to learn about niche topics, things I would have never gotten a chance to learn. On Sons of Guns, I learned everything there is to know about building guns. On Flipping Ships, it was building boats, on Kentucky Justice, it was learning about people who manhunt for arsonists.” Klau worked on the ghost-hunter show Paranormal State, and while he claims not to not believe in the paranormal, he did say there was once a very strange “electric glitch” on an episode that gave him the willies….

    paranormal state

    “Every show is completely different and is an entirely new world, which is really cool. It helps my writing as well, not only as a research tool, but in coming up with new ideas,” Klau explained.

    Klau taught the students that some producer and editor positions are known as a “PrEditor” gigs, though it’s not a title that entirely fits his job description, and that reality TV shows are filled with like-minded individuals, many of whom have scripted film and TV aspirations as well, but it’s a great community of individuals who get to create every day. “It’s not a bad day job at all.”

    As for screenwriting, Klau is also beginning to make a name for himself in that arena as well. His script Brights recently won the “Table Read My Screenplay” at the Sundance Film Festival, a great honor. Klau has developed many other projects with producers over the years and shared some closing advice for NYFA’s writing students as well. “I think there are two types of people in the world: those who can and those who can’t, those who will and those who won’t. With writing, you have to remain proactive, because this is not an easy profession and you can’t ever give up.”

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    July 20, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 5788

  • Matthew Jennison on Starting His Screenwriting Career from a ‘Wonder Woman’ Spec

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
    jennison

    Matthew Jennison

    This past semester, screenwriter Matthew Jennison visited with our Business of Screenwriting students to regale his improbable story about how he literally sold his first project to Warner Bros.—without any representation whatsoever—before going on to become a rising film and TV writer.

    Jennison, who is six-foot-six, had at first considered being an actor when he originally moved to Los Angeles from Albuquerque. He recalled, “They told me I was too tall, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.” Jennison always loved storytelling, and soon he discovered that he wanted to explore different sides, including the writing side. So, he partnered up with actor/writer Brent Strickland, who he met in an acting class. They read some scripts and a few books, and they started writing projects together.

    The problem was they had no representation and didn’t really know how to get people to read them. They wanted to write something that would garner them some attention, maybe even based off something people knew… “Wonder Woman seemed like the perfect property and character to write a spec script about. Many people had tried to crack a Wonder Woman movie, but it had lingered in development, and it’d been a very long time since the TV series. She was powerful and alluring. We thought we’d give it a shot…”

    They figured if done right, it was a good way to get noticed, a good sample, by building a story around a character people knew. So they wrote their ‘Wonder Woman’ script, an ambitious take set against the backdrop of WWII. “At the time, doing a period comic book was a pretty novel idea and was one we were really excited by.”

    When it was done, Jennison got his friend Kristian Harloff (now of ‘Schmoes Know’ fame, then an assistant at Silver Pictures) to give it a read. “I knew Kristian from my time interning at Village Roadshow Pictures, and since he worked at the production company who was producing the real Wonder Woman movie, I figured, who better?”

    Harloff liked the script and it trickled up the chain fast, as everyone at Silver Pictures grew more and more excited about it. Then, the studio Warner Bros. got their hands on it, and they liked it too. “It was one of those Tuesday-to-Friday stories we rarely hear about anymore, where people read it at the start of the week and you have a deal by the close of the week. “It was crazy,” Jennison recalled.

    wonder woman

    With a studio deal under his belt, reps came calling and Jennison and Strickland signed with ICM and Underground Management. They began what’s known as ‘the water-bottle” tour, “This is where you meet a lot of people—execs and producers—in a short amount of time. Lots and lots of general meetings.”

    Universal was interested in adapting the graphic novel Villians from Viper Comics into a feature, and they hired the writing duo to adapt it with Sean Bailey’s Ideology producing. “What was great about this project, is we got to have some fun with a group of bad guys with super-powers and tell a story through the lens of someone who wants to learn the fine art of super-crime.”

    Jennison offered a variety of advice for the screenwriting students with adapting pre-existing properties. “The source material is never just what they want. They want your own unique spin on it. They want you to take it somewhere they haven’t thought of… But you as a writer also need to find your own emotional connection to the material, if you strip the fantasy and sci-fi away, what’s the story about for you on a primal human level?”

    Jennison warned that it can be a difficult business, especially when company politics that you have no control of play a role. “Companies merge or an executive leaves and projects linger. Outside forces are constantly altering the landscape of your projects, which is why you have to keep writing, keep coming up with new ideas.”

    Jennison also advised that writers get a day job in the business when they get out of school. One of Jennison’s first jobs was working for the comedy troupe Broken Lizard as an assistant to actor Kevin Heffernan on the movie Beerfest. “It was a great experience working on set and working for an actor. I learned a lot.”

    Jennison shared a few more nuggets, “Play ball. That’s an expression to remember as a writer. Always try and make it work and be collaborative,” Jennison advised. “It’s not for me.” That’s another expression you’ll hear a lot. It’s the soft pass and may be unfortunately all you get sometimes.”

    Joining a writer’s group and working with a writing partner who keeps you to deadlines were two other strategies Jennison suggested when starting out. Jennison now writes his projects himself but got his professional start with a partner.

    “And always remember ‘that was then’ with executives notes,” Jennison closed, “In other words, their opinions can change. What they thought a few months ago or even a week ago, may not be how they feel now. But you need to be flexible and adapt to their changes. And always be searching for where the notes are really coming from. Not the solutions, but the problems”.

    Matthew Jennison currently lives in Los Angeles and works as a Film and TV writer. He is currently developing a variety of TV and film projects around town and repped by Matt Bass at Chemical Imbalance.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    June 23, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 4421

  • NYFA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate with Industry Pitch Fest

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    pitch festOn January 21st, 14 graduating MFA and AFA New York Film Academy Screenwriting students attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event held at the Andaz Hotel up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. A catered event and mingling opportunity for the students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone event celebrated the New York Film Academy’s graduating MFA and AFA Screenwriting students, offering them a professional outlet to jumpstart their careers by pitching their projects.

    These writing students, having spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting III class preparing and fine-tuning their pitches for their thesis film and TV projects, shined on this pinnacle evening, leaving with new professional contacts and a flurry 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 managers and production company representatives in a relaxed, round-table environment.

    pitch fest

    Hosted by NYFA’s Business of Screenwriting curriculum kingpin David O’Leary, in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair, Nunzio DeFilippis, and NYFA’s Chair of Industry Outreach & Professional Development, Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from 14 Hollywood companies.

    Attendees included: Bright Whale Entertainment, Canana Films, Dobre Films, The Dino De Laurentiiis Company, Echo Lake Entertainment, Elevate Entertainment, FilmHaus, FR Productions, Meyer Management, No BullScript, Paul Schiff Productions, RatPac Entertainment, Unbroken Pictures, and Underground Films & Management.

    The school wishes to thank its participants, for which this evening could not have been possible without, including — Guy Jackson, Maria Brasero, Paloma Martinez, Mike Klein, Dan Ingram, Jesse Murphy, Dan Rosenfelt, Bobby Sabelhaus, Jessica Jacobs, Scott Varnado, Daniel Manus, Jay Glazer, J Stuart, Peter Meyer, Chris Armogida, Annie Manion, and Tiffany Prasifka.

    You all made this event such a success. Thank you, guys! Congratulations also to all of the Sept ’13 graduates! Onwards and upwards!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    February 19, 2015 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3730

  • Screenwriter David Chirchirillo Joins NYFA’s Biz of Screenwriting Class

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    cheap thrillersLast month, rising genre screenwriter David Chirchirillo joined New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class, entertaining students with his journey of how this film student originally from St. Louis, Missouri ended up writing the 2014 cult shock-horror hit Cheap Thrills and, until very recently, working as the Head Writer on Playboy TV’s The Playboy Morning Show.

    Chirchirillo went to Columbia College in Chicago where he took a horror screenwriting class and ended up reading the script for Deadgirl by Trent Haaga, his 2008 horror hit. A fan of low-grade horror and Troma movies, Chirchirillo’s professor was friends with Haaga, and in his last semester put the two in touch. Chirchirillo became his production assistant upon moving to Los Angeles.

    “Cleaning up fake blood, going on food runs, whatever they asked of me really,” is how Chirchrillo described his early experiences working as a PA. A naturally friendly, funny and outspoken guy, it wasn’t long before people in the industry got wind that Chirchirillo was also a writer. “I, of course, was willing to write for free when I started, and made it known that I’d be willing to be fingers on a keyboard.”

    He soon met writer/director Chad Ferrin who was looking for a writer for an original idea entitled, Dances With Werewolves. Chirchirillo jumped all over it and wrote the script – which is a Civil War-era werewolf movie about a group of Confederate POWs who escape a Union prison camp and soon encounter a tribe of shape-shifting Native American werewolves with an insatiable blood lust.

    He also impressed Trent Haaga himself who had written a draft of Cheap Thrills, and attached director E.L. Katz. Katz wanted a fresh take on the script, and after Katz and Chirchirillo had lunch, it was clear they shared the same vision for the script — which was to make it a crazy, satirical dark comedy (it was originally written as a more straightforward thriller). “Remember: this is a comedy,” Chirchirillo had to remind his collaborators.

    Indeed it is. It’s a mind-blowing balls-to the-wall horror comedy that has received some amazing reviews, and currently stands at an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. It tells the story of a scheming couple, who pin two struggling friends against each other in a series of increasingly twisted dares for money over the course of one unforgettable evening. Premiering at the SXSW film festival, Chichirillo described the euphoric feeling of watching crowds react to the movie, “It was like doing a drug. It was probably the best moment of my career… thus far.”

    Chirchirillo went on to talk about some other experiences he’s had as a professional writer. “Every time I write, I learn something new. Once it’s done, it becomes the struggle of having it become a movie, where I learn more. I have a tendency to overwrite in the beginning, but it’s all part of the process of what helps me find the best version of the story.”

    Chirchirillo also had some advice on choosing reps, as he himself has hired and dropped folks over the years in his search for agents and managers who grasp his unique voice, “Pick your reps carefully. Don’t be in a rush to go with the first guy. Find someone who gets you and what you want.”

    Chirchirillo then entertained students with his insane directing experience on the low-budget horror film, 616: Paranormal Incident. “Let’s just say it was a 9-day shoot on a shoestring budget, and due to other less than ideal circumstances brought on by the production, I ended up directing it under a pseudonym. But director Duke Hitchcock is really, really proud of it,” Chrichrillo joked.

    He also spoke about his experience writing a comedy morning show for Playboy TV, which spawned from him first working as an editor first for the network. “I got lucky, and a lot of it came down to timing, but it was a really fun gig.” Chirchrillo wrote and oversaw the comedic bits for the newsroom-based comedy show. “It was great. We would bring in tons of special and celebrity guests, and the people at Playboy had a great sense of humor and there’s not a lot of egos. It was just about having fun and putting on the best show we could.” They wrote a different show every day of the week — an impressive feat in its own right.

    Closing out, Chirchrillo offered some final words of wisdom to the aspiring NYFA screenwriters. “Outline. For a long time, I didn’t, but it really helps. Also, check out Dan Harmon’s 8-steps to Structure. That’s been really helpful for me.” On getting hired on assignments, Chirchirillo reminded the room, “Give them what they want, of course, but remember nothing has to be dumb, and it can all come from you. Find your way to address the note, that’s how you’ll do your best work. And do whatever you need to get your movies made, because that’s what it’s really about: getting movies made.”

    David Chirchirillo, who also wrote a segment for ABCs of Death 2, is currently writing the psychological horror thriller Eli in addition to other projects. He is repped by Bellevue Management and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    February 18, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4469

  • Composer Daniel Wohl Joins NYFA Screenwriting Class

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    daniel wohlOn January 13, 2015, composer Daniel Wohl sat down with New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class to offer up his unique perspective on how he broke into the entertainment business as a composer, and what he looks for when he’s designing the music for his film projects.

    “I didn’t go to school for film composing, I just went for composing generally,” Wohl explained. That he did…Wohl holds a BFA from Bard College, an MFA from the University of Michigan, and is in the process of getting his Doctorate in Music Composition from Yale University, an honor awarded to only a few musicians a year. His academic background in music theory and technique is vast.

    “I knew I wanted to make my own albums,” Wohl stated, “but I always have had a strong interest in writing music for film, TV and other forms of entertainment and being a part of the storytelling process. It’s something I’ve really grown to love.”

    Wohl’s 2013 debut album, the New Amsterdam Records’ Corps Exquis, a multi-media, chamber and electronics project created in conjunction with the TRANSIT new music ensemble and a collective of New York-based video artists, was hailed by the New York Times, Pitchfork and many others, and earned Wohl a coveted spot on NPR’s Top 100 Songs of the Year.

    Wohl also makes a living off commissions and music grants, of which he’s been awarded many. “In some ways, the music world is sort of the reverse of the visual arts world. Someone will commission you to write a piece, and then you get to make something, and it can be whatever you want it to be. In film, where, if you’re hired by a director, producers or studio execs, they have a real say over what your music turns out to be. The music world isn’t like that as much. That’s one of the freeing things about the professional music community, they really trust their artists and let them — encourage them really — to do their best work as they see it.”

    More recently, Wohl has become involved in the world of film composing, working on some impressive projects. He was the composer on The Color of Time, starring Mila Kunis, and Jessica Chastain, a poetic road trip through Pulitzer-Prize winning C.K. Williams’ life.  He also composed the music for the surreal drama Elixir, a film by Brodie Higgs, which recently premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, and The Fly Room, which was an official selection at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival.

    Wohl explained that he’s basically “the third to last person to work on the film.” “It’s a close collaboration with the director. You usually have about six weeks to write the music. Sometimes, the director will give you a ‘temp track’, so you know sort of the tone they’re going for, but it’s really about figuring out what the director wants. All directors know what they don’t want and what they don’t like, but not all know what they want — until they hear it,” Wohl explained. “It’s part of my work to help get them there.”

    the color of time

    “The Color of Time”

    Wohl will often watch an early cut of the movie and/or read the script when he’s preparing to craft the musical tracks that will become the melodic pulse of the film.”The story and the music are intricately linked.” Wohl played selections from the recent films he scored, allowing the students to see some of his finished products.

    “Music definitely helps tell the story, and cue the audience into how to feel. Sometimes, it can save a scene, and deliver meaning that really isn’t obvious without the music. I definitely look for those moments of emotional catharsis and shift in the storytelling, so that the music works with the story seamlessly.” Wohl explained how on some projects the director might want a musical theme for each main character, and how his background in musical composition really helps generally.  “Films, like music, have a real rhythm, and you definitely have to listen for that. Even if you’re not an expert on a given style — say jazz — you may still have to write something in that style to go with intrinsic rhythm and mood of the scene.”

    Wohl has received support from grants including New Music USA, Meet the Composer/Commissioning Music USA, the American Composers Forum / Jerome Foundation, C.A.P, the Barlow Endowment, MET Life Creative Connections, and the Brooklyn Arts Council, amongst many others.

    His music has been heard at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Webster Hall,  Dia Beacon, Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center, Mass MoCA, Disney Hall’s REDCAT, the Chelsea Art Museum, MoMA, Arsenal de Metz (France), Warhol Museum, as well as over media outlets such as NPR, PBS, WQXR, CANAL +, TFI and FRANCE 2.

    Wohl is also passionate about bringing music to younger artists and has taught courses in composition, orchestration, and theory at Sarah Lawrence College and at Yale, and — in addition to NYFA — has given talks at NYU, Brooklyn College, Juilliard (evening division), and Amherst College.

    More info on Daniel Wohl can be found at his website www.danielwohlmusic.com. Born and raised outside Paris, France, Daniel Wohl currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    February 17, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4512

  • Literary Manager Mike Klein Joins Business of Screenwriting Class

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Mike KleinLast month, literary manager/producer Michael Klein of Dobré Films sat down with NYFA’s Business of Screenwriting class, charming them with his story of how this River Edge, New Jersey-native wound up becoming a rising literary manager and film producer in Hollywood. Turns out, it all began in Miami, Florida.

    Klein attended the University of Miami and got his Bachelor of Science in the Motion Picture Business. He started off as a production intern on the soap opera, Ocean Ave., a Swedish-American soap filmed in Miami for Dolphin Entertainment, which was filmed both in English and Swedish simultaneously about Miami cops on the case of a prostitute-murdering serial killer. “It was Megan Fox’s claim to fame,” Klein said with a smirk. “I think the Pussy Cat Dolls’ Jessica Sutta also got her start on the show. We had a lot of models on as well.” Not bad for a first job.

    Klein bounced around Miami for a while as a PA and got to work on some pretty impressive movies filming there, including Bad Boys II. “My job was crowd control, making sure people on the streets stayed out of the shots.” Klein explained it was pretty cool. “You know that epic shot where Will Smith is shooting out the window as the car is spinning around out of control in Bad Boys 2? I got to see them shoot that. Turns out the whole thing was done on a massive turn table.” Klein explained the lessons he learnt early on about cultivating relationships. Part of the reason Klein got these jobs, he explained, was because he had worked with them before. “Crews bounce around from shoot to shoot, like a family.”

    However, after a few years, Klein realized it was time to move on from PA’ing. He wasn’t sure if he should head to New York or Los Angeles, but he knew he much preferred the west coast weather and that most of the business was out there. While yearning to get into the creative end of developing stories and working with clients on new material, Klein also knew that a solid pathway into that world was to work in an agency mailroom. So Klein took a job at the now defunct Broder Webb agency (which was acquired by ICM in 2006), a small boutique literary firm. He became an assistant and served as the liaison between clients and their agents.

    Bad Boys II“What I learnt very quickly is that assistants have real power,” Klein explained. “They are the first line of defense at agencies and field calls from all over the world.” Klein also remarked about the ‘class phenomena’ with assistantships. “All your fellow assistants at your company and the places around town you interact with, become your class. You come up together; you grew up together. I can’t tell you how many assistants I knew then are now real power players today. So treat assistants well. It sounds cliché, but today’s assistants really are tomorrow’s studio heads.”

    After working at Broder, Klein knew he didn’t want to be an agent, but that representation and management sounded very interesting to him. Plus, management was a path towards producing, Klein’s other professional goal. So he took a job at BenderSpink, which in 2006 was the powerhouse management company in the spec world, with multiple high six-figure spec sales in any given year. “It was a different time then,” Klein recalls, “specs not only sold often, but for big money.”

    While at BenderSpink, Klein began hip-pocketing a few clients — that is, unofficially representing a few clients of his own, while still assistant. One of these clients was the writer Tim Tori, a genre scribe on the rise. Klein developed and packaged his script Prowl and ended up producing it alongside AfterDark Films. The film was later shot in Bulgaria and starred Josh Bowman from the hit-series Revenge.

    Soon after, Klein went off to form his own production and literary management company, Dobre Films in 2009. He partnered with his close filmmaker friend and collaborator Christopher D’Elia and they have been working together ever since. Klein works with a variety of different writers. While his client Tim Tori went onto write the Joel-Silver produced Dragon Eyes. Klein then found writing team Julie Sagalowsky & Alex Diaz and sold their tween series What’s Up Warthogs to Disney XD, where it aired for two seasons and sold internationally to multiple territories.

    In 2012, Klein discovered the writing team of Richard Tanne & Travis Baker. Klein helped develop their epic Caesar script, The Roman, which Mark Wahlberg is now producing. In 2013, Klein introduced Rich & Travis to Mythology Entertainment, where they’re currently developing a TV series alongside Academy Award Winner Mark Andrews (Brave). In addition, Travis wrote and directed the indie-horror Mischief Night, which was released through Lionsgate in May 2014. Richard also wrote the romantic drama Southside With You, which is going into production in 2015 and is being produced by Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow). Most recently, Klein introduced the team to Radar Pictures, who ended up acquiring their crime thriller spec, Midnight.

    The Philly Kid

    In the summer of 2014, Klein signed writer, James Breen. In the short time Klein has worked with Breen, he helped Breen get signed to The Gersh Agency, and he was hired by Blumhouse Pictures to write a thriller for Gwyneth Paltrow to star.

    Klein offered a variety of advice for NYFA’s writing students. “There’s no shortcut to being a good writer other than reading scripts… There’s also something I call ‘relationship currency’. I can’t tell you how valuable good relationships are out here; it’s almost everything. Start making them now — at your internships, and out there in town. It’s essential.”

    Klein went onto talk about what he looks for in scripts. “A unique voice, commercial appeal, specificity, and subtext — that’s super important.” But the other thing Klein looks at is the person themselves: “Can they take criticism? Are they good in a room? Do they take their time with their craft or do they rush it? Are they too married to their first draft and unable to change? All of this is just as important. Writers need to be flexible collaborators,” Klein explained. What turns Klein off to new clients? “When every character sounds the same, and when I can put the script down after 30 pages, then you have a real problem.” Klein closed out with some expert advice for all of the students — “Passion drives projects. What speaks to you? You need to find that voice deep inside and hang onto it tight.”

    In addition to managing, Klein successfully balances a full slate of feature films. After producing Prowl, Klein co-produced The Philly Kid, executive produced by Joel Silver. Currently, Klein’s in pre-production with Millennium Films on the action/thriller Point of Violence, as well as the cerebral horror, Spell with Radar Pictures. Klein’s also developing the art-house drama, This Is Your Death, alongside Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito. Klein lives in Los Angeles, CA and teaches Pitching classes at NYFA. He can be reached through his company website – www.dobrefilms.com.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    January 15, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 6231

  • Animation Writer Eugene Son Draws Up Helpful Advice for NYFA Students

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
    Eugene Son

    Eugene Son

    Animation and comic book writer Eugene Son recently joined New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class, entertaining students with his story of how this Southern California native came to write the voices for some of the biggest and most popular Marvel animation cartoon characters on television.

    Son began his journey with a BA in Literature Writing from the University of California at San Diego. He flirted with working in the dotcom world, but his entry into a pilot competition sponsored by animation studio Klasky Csupo put him on the map and got him hooked. It was a short pilot called Don’t Drink the Water about children who find a mysterious stream of water that when they drink it makes them super-intelligent. It got Son some attention, “a few nibbles,” as he said, and hip-pocketed at a management company. Son then explained this amorphous term to the students, “hip-pocketing is when you’re not officially on the books, so they can drop you at any time, but they are unofficially representing you.”

    Son’s first big break came when his manager called him up with a job lead. “He called me up and was like, ‘hey, do you like Ninja Turtles?’, and I was like ‘heck yeah, I like Ninja Turtles!’,” Son exclaimed. After writing for TMNT in 2004, Son went onto write for shows like A.T.O.M., Duel Masters, and Cartoon Network’s Ben 10. “I can’t draw at all, but as an animated writer, you have to think visually and always ask yourself — is what I’m writing actually draw-able.”

    “Animation shows today operate a lot like traditional TV shows did in the 1970’s,” Son explained, “in that they keep their writing staffs small and hire a lot of freelance writers — something live-action narrative shows rarely do anymore.” This allowed Son to bounce around a lot and work for a bunch of different shows, penning episodes and developing his craft. “I love exploring different worlds, so while freelancing can be a bit unpredictable, it allows for a writer to play with a lot of different characters.”

    “You have to sink or swim,” Son explained of some of the time pressures faced with writing animation. “They need the script, and you can’t hesitate and wait until it’s completely perfect.” Son advised students interested in animation to develop a portfolio, with, at minimum, two spec episodes of popular existing shows and at least one original pilot. Son explained, it’s also important to be aware of the shows you spec and watch all the episodes, so you know where the storyline is currently and what’s already been done.

    Son went on to talk about another nebulous Hollywood term, “the general,” as in the general meetings. “It’s sort of like a blind date, and you know pretty soon whether you’ll be left out to dry or hearing wedding bells.” On advising writers on how to behave in a general, “honestly, just be yourself.” Son went on to explain how the old model of cartoons is changing. “Saturday morning cartoons don’t exist anymore, as kids don’t consume media that way now. It’s all streamed and recorded, so cartoons can air at anytime.”

    In more recent years, Son has gone on to write on a variety of shows for Marvel, including The Super Hero Squad, Iron Man Armored Adventures, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Ultimate Spider-Man. Son noted that working on Hulk was particularly interesting because it pushed the limits of what animation could do and tried a whole new spin while still using these familiar characters. The story is told from the perspective of an online reality show who’s goal is to foster public acceptance of the Hulk as a hero and not a monster. The “show” is filmed by robotic flying cameras that accompany the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. everywhere they go, resulting in humorous vignettes and visual gags throughout each episode.

    Son also spoke about working in comic books. “One of the biggest differences is you have to think even more visually and in less time. In comics, two or three lines fill a page, so you constantly have to ask yourself: what’s interesting, what’s essential, how can I encapsulate the essence of a moment, which in an animated TV show, might be a whole sequence?”

    With a few animation enthusiasts in the class, Son geeked out on various shows much to their enjoyment, from those running on Adult Swim to Ben 10: Alien Force, which was a grittier X-FILES-esque spin on the series. Son also explained how streaming services like Netflix will probably soon allow for more niche shows that can find audiences online. However, he also remarked on the challenges of monetizing these new subscription-based models. Son described where he feels he likes to live as an animated writer, demographically, “I really like that age when kids are just starting to ween off cartoons and get into videogames,” Son explained, preferring that sacred coming-of-age bracket.

    Closing out, Son offered NYFA’s aspiring writers wishing to get into animation some astute advice: “Watch it all. You really need to know the landscape of what’s out there.” As for the indie animation scene, Son remarked it’s tough if you’re not your own animator. As for comic books, Son advised, “partner up with a talented, hungry comic book artist who’s essentially you, someone who can really draw and who will work hard. It’s not a bad idea to look internationally for comic book artists, guys coming out of Europe and Asia who want American exposure.”

    Eugene Son lives in Los Angeles and is repped by The Gotham Group. More info can be found about him and his impressive body of work at eugeneson.com

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    January 14, 2015 • 3D Animation, Guest Speakers • Views: 5024

  • Filmmaker Nathan Scoggins Gives Career Advice and Inspiration in his Visit to NYFA

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Nathan ScogginsOn December 2nd, 2014, screenwriter and director Nathan Scoggins sat down with NYFA’s Business of Screenwriting class to tell his tale of how this son of a pastor from Warwick, Rhode Island, found his way to writing movies in Hollywood.

    “I couldn’t have grown up further from Hollywood,” Scoggins recalled. “I was raised in a conservative town with pretty traditional values. But my family always encouraged artistic exploration, and I think for me it just awakened something inside.” Scoggins grew up loving classic movies like Hoosiers and Citizen Kane, as well as movies with a heartfelt, hopeful or spiritual message like Field of Dreams. He wrote short stories and plays in high school, which won him a few awards. He also played soccer, which he credits to teaching him a certain level of mental toughness, something he definitely feels all writers need to have.

    Attending Wesleyan University, Scoggins originally thought he might teach English when he graduated but “God messed all that up,” Scoggins joked with our students. Scoggins had taken a bunch of film classes and fell in love with the classic westerns like The Searchers and Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. Upon graduating, Scoggins knew he wanted to do good in the world (for anyone who knows Nathan, they know his spirituality and Christian faith is a big part of who he is), but that writing itch was also never far away from him. Serendipitously, it was the merging of Scoggins’ religious upbringing and his desire to write that lead to his first break.

    “They say write what you know, and I knew a lot about being a spiritual leader from my father and I thought — we’ve never really seen a movie about an African American priest before.” That script, then called Parker and later called The Least of These tells the tale of a priest who returns to his old Catholic high school to replace a priest who has gone missing, only to begin to suspect that the missing priest may have been murdered by someone at the school to hide a darker secret. This script was a game-changer for Scoggins, especially when it placed in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship along with a whole host of other screenplay competitions. It was the spark Scoggins needed to pack it up and move to Los Angeles.

    Scoggins began to write short films. There was Midnight Clear, which is about an escaped prisoner who forms an unlikely connection with the family whose home he breaks into during a storm; and Cries From Ramah, about two mothers, one Israeli, one Pakistani, who both lose children in a bombing at a Tel Aviv and unknowingly encounter each other while in the hospital waiting room. Scoggins also directed Pop Star, which is about a spoiled British pop star sent to a hospital before his first big tour. Once there, he meets a girl who enables him to see himself in a new light. Scoggins tells stories about people and moments in time when they are fundamentally altered.

    “One of the keys out here,” Nathan explained, “is finding people who really get you as a writer.” One of the collaborators Scoggins found early on was producer and mentor Ralph Winter (The Giver, X-Men Origins), who ended up Executive Producing The Least of These. “Another is to keep the people who are the most important to your priority — I’m a husband and father before anything else.”

    The Least of These soon attracted the attention of Grey’s Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington, as well as legendary character-actor Robert Loggia. Because of Nathan’s background with directing a few shorts, Nathan was able to direct the film as well. “We assembled a great team of people who really believed in me.” One thing Nathan explained to the students was “you should always be thinking and asking what other value can I add?” As it turns out, Scoggins has a knack for raising money independently, and he helped raise a significant portion of what turned out to be a million dollar budgeted debut feature. Scoggins went the angel investor route, asking friends and acquaintances who might want to contribute. “One of the advantages of making movies with a message is there are people out there who do want to help, but that’s definitely not why I tell the stories that I do.”

    After The Least of These, Scoggins went on write his second feature The Perfect Summer. “I had ten days to write the script,” Scoggins explained, to which all of the students (and me) did a complete double-take! It’s true. Scoggins got the call from a producer – who had liked his work — that he was making a spiritual surfing drama and needed a script ASAP. Scoggins had been planning a family trip to Seattle with his wife and kids. “He asked me if I could do it, and, after we negotiated the terms,” Scoggins joked, “I gulped, yes, I could.” Scoggins learned a valuable lesson about writing under pressure during this time. I wrote sixteen pages a day. Scoggins found that there were some nice parallels to surfing, which is a form of ‘walking on water’, and Jesus’ famous similarly miraculous feat. “It’s always an act of faith to make something out of nothing, which is why I think creativity is so closely linked to spirituality.” With our minds sufficiently blown, Scoggins has more wisdom to dispel.

    “One thing I’ve learnt with writing spiritual stories is that you can’t be too overt or too preachy. When you are, the audience tunes it out. Jesus is a slap in the face, not a comfort. And my faith is hard-fought. You have to avoid easy answers and half-truths, as there’s a lot of “Jesus Junk” out there,” Scoggins explained, alluding to some of the recent fair out there that’s capitalized on the ’God-craze’ in cinema lately. “It’s easy to say, ‘I do this in the name of Jesus’, it’s a lot harder to actually act like him.” The class, as evidenced by their comments and further questions, were truly grateful to Scoggins’ openness throughout and honesty about his faith and the role it plays with his work — something truly rare these days.

    Scoggins closed out with some more valuable pointers for NYFA’s screenwriters to take with them after they graduate. “Always be writing and always be finishing,” Scoggins exclaimed, recalling the fervor of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. “Try and do ten pages a day.” “Don’t chase scraps,” Scoggins continued, meaning don’t take a job just for the money, “find meaning in what you’re doing,” at which he joked, “this can be hard, as you don’t want to tell your daughter she has to live in your car and shower at the Y either!”

    On a roll, Scoggins closed out, “How you treat people matters. Listen to the universe, look for guidance all around you. It’s there. If you’re too self-focused, you’ll miss the opportunities. Don’t give up. Ever. Oh, and write thank you notes. Hand written thank you notes. It’s a dying art form people always appreciate.” Scoggins shook the hands of each of the students as he left, wishing them luck individually.

    Nathan Scoggins lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children. He is repped by Carlos Bobadilla. He recently completed his comedy script Made in Mexico, which will be shopped in 2015.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    January 13, 2015 • Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 4182