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  • NYFA Student Omri Bezalel Interviews George Lucas

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    Photo: Courtesy of The Jewish Chronicle Online

    New York Film Academy student Omri Bezalel learned that good deeds and great filmmaking sometimes produce unexpected rewards when he was granted the opportunity to interview George Lucas for an upcoming project.

    Omri Bezalel was born in Tel Aviv and has lived all over world. He believes his passion for film began when he was nine years old and spent his summer toying with a camcorder and filming commercials with a friend.

    In October 2009, Bezalel began his studies at the New York Film Academy. “It’s a great program which is very intense and hands on,” he reports of his experience with NYFA. A dedicated filmmaker, he publishes all of his work, including his film projects with the New York Film Academy, on his website, Carlito Montana Productions.

    Bezalel is currently working with Films Without Borders, a program to teach Israeli, Palestinian and Rwandan teenagers filmmaking skills and promote peaceful interaction between the three communities. Television producer Jill Samuels, the idea-lady behind Films Without Borders, happens to be a former employee of George Lucas. Lucas accepted her invitation to back the project, and this past April, 26 year old Omri Bezalel found himself walking into the Picadilly editing suites in London to interview the iconic director.

    During Omri’s interview, Lucas explains that the silver lining encircling today’s economically precarious environment offers a special place for young filmmakers.

    You live in a wonderful time. Because the consortium of rich corporations which used to control the entire medium is now doomed. Now anyone can make movies – you can buy a studio, everything, for around $3,000. And it’s as high quality as anybody has. And now with the internet you also have a distribution center which no one controls.

    Considering the delicate and overwhelmingly grim political circumstances that inspired Film Without Borders, Lucas’ subsequent comments concerning the enjoyability of a film are fitting. The content of a movie, no matter how serious, should still be appealing enough for the audience to want to watch it. ”Hopefully, in the process of entertaining them, you give them insight into their own lives and into their own world, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that people are giving you their time and money,” Lucas advices that it is important that a film entertain, not preach; otherwise, it is unlikely to gather many viewers.

    In his final words with the director, Bezalel voiced his anxiety that every good story has already been told. George Lucas admitted that, yes, they have, but reevaluating tropes is by no means a negative. “People have been telling stories for 10,000 years, ” is Lucas’ explanation, “There are only 32 kinds of story. So don’t think you’re going to tell a new story – the only thing that changes is the way you tell the story.” Retelling an archetypal journey, or a combination a several, is in the nature of all modern storytelling, and consequently, finding a unique way to do so is an integral part of cinema.

    Armed with the words of one of the world’s most influential directors, Bezalel has no dearth of inspiration to bring to his work with Film Without Borders and to Israel’s blossoming film industry. Omri Bezalel’s commitment to filmmaking is illuminated by his respect for his own nation’s work in cinema. “A lot of Israeli films I see are better than studio films. Film is an international language,” articulates the New York Film Academy student, “I want to see Israeli film celebrated at the Oscars for what it is, in the Best Film [sic] category, not Best Foreign-Language Film.” When Bezalel graduates from the New York Film Academy, he plans to return to Israel to teach a course for Film Without Borders. Bezalel has already made impressive progress bringing attention to Israeli film and using cinema to spread peace. We’ll certainly keep our ears open for more news about his ongoing projects.

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    May 5, 2010 • Acting • Views: 4377

  • NYFA Graduate Ben Adler’s Bagatelle

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    Graduate of the New York Film Academy’s 2002/03 one year program, Ben Adler, has been keeping busy since his time with us at NYFA. For the past four years, Adler has been studying and making short films in Paris and has found success with his short film Bagatelle.

    In the words of Mr. Adler, Bagatelle tells the tale of “an international group of amateur footballers [who] find their efforts to locate a pitch to play on halted by a group of angry French locals.” Selected for the Cannes program “Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down” in 2009, Bagatelle stood out from 2000 other films in the Short Films Corner and earned screening in Palais F. Bagatelle went on to gain recognition at other international film festivals and won the award for Best Short Film at the Portobello Film Festival in London.

    This past year and a half, Adler worked as 2nd assistant to Wes Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox and directed a feature length music documentary which is currently in post-production. We’re sure we’ll be hearing more from him soon.

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    May 3, 2010 • Acting • Views: 5467

  • NYFA Graduate Brett Carlson Writer & Director of "Take My Wife"

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    A  gigolo, a hitman and a couple of unhappy husbands walk into a bar; unfortunately, the pimp they’re supposed to meet “inconsiderately” drops dead before showing up to sort everyone out. New York Film Academy MFA graduate Brett Carlson writes and directs the story of what happens when you bring the wrong man home to your wife in his thesis film, “Take My Wife”.

    “Take My Wife” has been racking up accolades on the festival circuit and has won a Panavision New Filmmaker Grant and a Fotokem Processing Grant during production which helped make shooting on Super 16mm film possible.

    “Take My Wife” screens at the NYC Downtown Short Fest this Wednesday at 8PM. Last time Carlson was in New York, tickets sold out, so hurry and get your seats. Carlson had this to say…

    It’s been a while since I’ve sent out an update about the progress of Take My Wife. I’m currently only my way to Boston for the Boston Int. Film Festival already underway.  Take My Wife screens this Sunday at 3:30pm.

    From there it’s back to New York, NY.  We did really well in the Audience Choice Screenings at the NYC Downtown Short Fest and have been invited back for the main event.  We screen Wed at 8pm at the Due theater with a cocktail reception to follow.  Last time we where in town the screening sold out— so if you plan to come make sure you get your tickets ahead of time at: https://www.smarttix.com/Show.aspx?ShowCode=6TH6 .

    A short hop from NY and I’m off to the Connecticut Film Festival in Danbury, CT.  The film screens Thursday May 6th at 7:30 at the Heirloom Arts Theater if you’re in the area.

    After that Chesley Heymsfield, one of the film’s producers, and I are off to France for the Cannes Independent Film Festival.  If you’re also going to Cannes let’s meet up there!  Take My Wife plays at 18:00 (Europe and their 24 hour clocks…) on the 20th at the CIFF Villa.  Tickets are VERY limited so if you at the festival and want to go please let me know ASAP.

    Also that week Take My Wife is screening in the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii.  Why did Hawaii and France have to be the same week?  Geesh.

    Press:

    “After viewing Take My Wife (Twice), there is very little doubt in this critic’s mind that Brett can breakthrough and follow his dream. Even though it is only a short film, it may be one of the funniest pieces you’ll see this year.” – Joe Belcastro, Tampa Movie Examiner

    “A terrific comedy and very well-done piece… …Take My Wife is the best. The film is very well produced and acted and has world-class camera work and editing.” – Gary Wolcott, Tri-City Herald


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    April 27, 2010 • Acting • Views: 4042

  • New York Film Academy Teaches Film Workshops in Abuja, Nigeria

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    This past spring, the New York Film Academy visited Abuja, Nigeria, to train aspiring filmmakers in a four-week film workshop. Thirty faculty members from our New York and LA locations traveled to Nigeria and, in partnership with Del-York International, spent two months giving students hands-on, practical training in film production.

    Listed ahead of the United States’ in productivity, the Nigerian film industry, colloquially referred to as Nollywood, is second only to India’s Bollywood in number of films released per year and is the second-largest employer in the country. Linus Idahosa established the media communications company, Del-York International, with the intent to further develop Nigeria’s extremely active yet largely unknown film industry.

    During a time of national rebranding, a modernized film industry could be a powerful unifying agent for the country of Nigeria. Idahosa believes that, through mass publication of creative expression, Nigerians can harness their cultural capital and more tangibly portray their country’s identity. If talented filmmakers were better trained and equipped to record their personal testimonies, then Nigeria’s collective story could be captured, preserved and publicized to a wider audience.

    Idahosa’s ideas about the power of film are undoubtably shared by his fellow citizens, and the program was met with considerable enthusiasm. Over the course of a month, NYFA gave a passionate group of students, ages ranging from 18 to 40, instruction in directing, acting, producing and animation. Together, Del-York and NYFA were able to give roughly 370 up-and-coming Nigerian filmmakers and actors essential training to advance their craft and better communicate their message.

    The New York Film Academy was honored to be invited by Linus Idahosa and Del-York International to help launch a filmmaking program in Abuja and hopes that the Nigerian film industry will continue to grow and gain recognition.

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    April 23, 2010 • Acting • Views: 11749

  • Writer, Director and Producer Tokunbo Falope

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    Tokunbo Falope, TK as he is fondly called, is a writer, director and producer. He runs BRV, a Nigerian production company, with his brother Deji Falope, who handles the TV aspect while he does the filming.

    Starting out

    TK grew up in Festac Town, Lagos, had his secondary education at Kings College and was still an undergraduate of the Ogun State University when he decided to leave Nigeria for the US. He settled in Los Angeles and was working in a hospital supposedly to become a doctor like his father when he decided to give film school a try. Two and a half years at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), majoring in filmmaking exposed him to production, directing, screen writing and cinematography. It also prepared him for work as Second Assistant Director for the Los Angeles unit on the movie “Transformers” and as Assistant Director for Spike Lee’s “St. Anna”.

    However, TK took a look at Los Angeles, decided competition was too stiff for a black foreigner just starting out and opted for Nollywood. He returned to Nigeria and directed his first movie, ‘Silent Scandal’, gratis because he was more interested in “changing the game and putting his creative talent to play,” he explains.

    Professional uniqueness

    He feels that in Nigerian movies, drama is shot like comedy, comedy like action and action like drama. The uniqueness of his work stems from his camera shots, movements, pacing and the whole nine yards.

    Most challenging time on set

    This was when he worked with Spike Lee as assistant director. “His name is Spike for a reason; he has a very short temper and fuse so if he wants his actors on set in one minute and you spend an extra minute, he is up and yelling at you.”

    Taking business risks

    ‘Silent Scandal’ was a risk. Contrary to his thinking, his talent could not compensate for organisational lapses. Pre-production was done in a couple of days. Audition and shooting were simultaneous. Location was not known before hand. His efforts at ensuring proper lighting were regarded as a waste of time and money. He learnt his lessons though and has decided to personally produce his next movie.

    Improving Nollywood

    TK believes he is a selfless, open-minded perfectionist who is very strict when it comes to his work. He says “Actors feel that the whole over-the-top exaggeration and shouting is acting but I do not believe in acting, I believe in reacting. I want an actor that can listen and react rather than act because that is the way it should be. When it comes to production, people still need some kind of schooling and training not just to refine their skills but to know the set hierarchy and how a set is run.” He desires the best for people who work with him and he leads by example hoping that others will follow.

    Versatility

    Apart from filmmaking, he produces music videos and TV commercials. He did a TV commercial for Darbur toothpaste last year in Nigeria (yet to be released) and also shot a Nike commercial in New York. “I just finished two music videos for two artists, Zeal and Niyola. I also have about three Nigerian story scripts that are ready to be produced. I have working tittles which might change. One is called ‘Paradise: Under Construction’. The main character in the story is Lagos State, I made Lagos look very good especially for people living abroad who want to come back but have negative feelings. I kind of balanced it though. Attached to this script are international faces like Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje and Hakeem Kae Kazim both of whom acted in ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and Akon.

    Motivation

    “Growing up in Lagos was interesting. One comes out and sees the bus conductor shouting, people on the road saying stuff, graffiti on the buses and different clichés like “binti laye”, “no condition is permanent” etc. All those things fascinate me. Nigerians know how to express themselves and despite the difficulties they always have hope. Telling the stories of these people is what motivates me.”

    Aspiration

    TK would like to make a Nigerian movie that will earn him an Oscar. He will also like to attract foreign filmmakers into Nigeria, as this would enhance income and exposure for the industry.

    Role models

    In life, he looks up to Barack Obama because despite all odds, he achieved something that seemed impossible. In production, he looks up to Spike Lee and Mel Gibson. In other aspects of the industry, he looks up to Will Smith.

    Hobbies

    TK expresses himself by writing and loves to do a variety of other things. He had given playing basketball at the NBA some thought until he got to America and saw African-Americans playing, he opted for football instead. He loves taking pictures and could go for a drive taking pictures of the scenery. He also loves listening to music. His favourite…full story

    For more info on film school

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    April 15, 2010 • Acting • Views: 4375

  • New Moon Star Justine Wachsberger

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    Currently the American actress plays the part of Gianna in the popular vampire movie, New Moon, due out this November. Wachsberger’s character is the Volturi’s human secretary that longs to be immortal and beautiful like her superiors.

    As a biography American actress Justine Wachsberger was born in the United States. Wachsberger however calls Paris and Los Angeles, California home. She is a graduate from the University of Southern California and is a former acting school student of the New York Film Academy.

    About Justine Wachsberger New Moon experience- “I thought it would be harder to be on set, just because of the buzz and the fact that all these actors started as unknown and became so big – not all of them, but the majority. I thought I would arrive on set and kind of be an outsider and not really fit in. On the contrary, everyone was really nice, really down the Earth. It was a very friendly atmosphere. I was a little stressed out at the beginning, like ‘I’m getting to Vancouver on set, what is it going to be like?’ It was actually a really good surprise.”

    Wachsberger made her debut in the movie First Daughter. You can also expect to see her in Sorority Row and the forthcoming and above mentioned Twilight saga sequel, New Moon.

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    October 29, 2009 • Acting • Views: 8720

  • Is Film School Worth It?

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    If you are pursuing a career in filmmaking one of the most difficult questions to answer is if film school is worth it? Many young filmmakers find difficulty in weighing the time and money spent on film school vs. pursuing a career in filmmaking on their own without school?

    First of all, if you have a camera and desire to make films, congratulations! YOU ARE A FILMMAKER. No need for any form of school or college.

    Filmmaking is an art, a creative process. A painter needs no certificate or training to create, just a brush, paint and canvas. A filmmaker only ever really needs a camera, film, and editing suite to make films; and because of the development of modern technology almost anyone can afford the equipment and learn how to use it fairly quickly. Plus, with the advent of YouTube you can distribute your film to the world in a day. On the other hand, to master the use of the camera, film and editing suite, as well as the distribution and sale of your film you will need a lot of practice and instruction.

    Most painters did not just pick up a brush and start painting masterpieces. They apprenticed professional artists, received some form of formal training and painted for years before they produced their best works. Most filmmakers need the same which you can get from a film school.

    Top film schools provide professional instructors and the opportunity to gain real world experience writing, shooting, directing and editing your own films.

    So ask yourself this, have you already mastered filmmaking or feel you are on your way? If the answer is yes, then the answer to is film school worth it is no. You don’t need film school.  If you are already creating great films, you just need to learn how to produce your films; which there are classes for that as well. Plus, take that $50,000-$100,000 you would have spent on film school and spend it on producing your own film.

    If you have not yet mastered filmmaking and feel that attending a film school would help you grow as a filmmaker while speeding up the process fulfill your goals as a filmmaker, then the answer is yes. Film school is worth it if it brings you closer to making your masterpiece.

    Now the next step is finding the best school for you and enrolling in film school.

    Addition – I posted this on Facebook and had a great comment from a former film school student.

    Its challenging but after finishing my Film, Bachelors I’ve never felt so confident in my life to hold a camera, to write a script and to pursue a career in Filmmaking.

    Film School… its definitely an advantage to acquire knowledge related to the industry, knowing certain techniques, styles and areas within Filmmaking…. it actually improves your creativism and versatility to better achieve your Vision.

    Finding your department is important…. I found FX/makeup department to be my strongest point.
    … if I would’ve chosen to just continue in the industry without been educated, I don’t think I would’ve ever found my place and probably end up disappointed and discouraged. Film school gives you guidance, to bring out that unique quality that describe us as an Artist.
    Tanya Lee

    —-

    Fun Fact: There are 968 film schools!

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    August 21, 2009 • Acting • Views: 1510

  • Film School Graduate Omowale Akintunde Feature Film "Wigger" Exposes Serious Race Problem

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    America may have a black president, but the arrest last week of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. proves the country still has a serious race problem.

    That is the view of Omowale Akintunde, who has spent the week shooting a feature film about race.

    The movie, which bears the provocative title “Wigger,” tells the story of an aspiring white R&B singer who is struggling to overcome a racist and impoverished family background.

    It stars Anna Maria Horsford — who has appeared on such TV shows as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and “Grey’s Anatomy” — and David Oakes as R&B singer Brandon.

    Filming began at various locations in north Omaha last week. Some scenes also were shot in the west Omaha home of retired Walnut Hills Elementary School principal Edwardene Taylor Armstrong and her husband, former Omaha Housing Authority director Robert Armstrong.

    The movie is currently scheduled for an April 2010 release.

    Akintunde, who became chairman of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Black Studies Department last year, said the message of his film is clear.

    “We still have institutional racism in America,” he said during a break Friday. “Look what happened to Gates.”

    Gates, the director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, was arrested for disorderly conduct on the porch of his Cambridge, Mass., home after a confrontation with a police officer. Police had responded to a report of a suspected break-in at the home.

    The charge was later dropped, but the arrest nonetheless drew sharp criticism from President Barck Obama, who said the police had “acted stupidly.” On Friday, Obama conceded his words had been ill-chosen, but he stopped short of a public apology. He personally telephoned both Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, and invited them to the White House for a beer.

    Akintunde, a widely published academic who also directed several previous films, is intentionally less conciliatory than Obama. The director, a graduate of the New York Film Academy‘s directing school, wants to stir up debate. And he sees some similarities between Gates’ arrest and his film.

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    July 28, 2009 • Acting • Views: 6371

  • The History of Our Film School

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    The history of film schools began less then 40 years ago. The history of our film school is much more recent and vastly different.

    While film schools started popping up in the 1970’s the New York Film Academy’s President and Founder, Jerry Sherlock, was busy making an impact within the motion picture industry.

    As an independent producer for Hollywood films, stage and television Sherlock developed projects for Disney, Warner Brothers, United Artists, Paramount, E.M.I. and others. Among his many credits are Executive Producer of the major motion picture and Oscar winning film, The Hunt For Red October, the Producer for Lolita, a Broadway production; and Executive Producer of the Television Production, Amal and the Night Visitors, for CBS.

    Not too shabby coming from someone who dropped out of school at age 14, joined a traveling carnival and later joined the United States Air Force.

    Working In Hollywood Has Its Advantages

    While working in Hollywood as a Film Producer, Sherlock was involved in conversations with his fellow Hollywood peers about where to send their sons and daughters to learn filmmaking and acting. This got the self-made businessman thinking.

    After a a little research, he discovered that anyone interested in a career in filmmaking or acting at the time was limited to two choices. 1) learn on their own or 2) enroll in an expensive university to study film for four years to attend lectures and study from books.

    Jerry asked himself why students have to spend thousands of dollars on an advanced degree just to “study” filmmaking when all it really took to learn filmmaking was practice with on latest equipment using the latest teqhniques while receiving hands-on instruction from a proffesional.  Without much delay, Sherlock opened the New York Film Academy in 1992 within Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Film Center in New York City.

    Pioneering Hands-On Filmmaking Classes

    Two years after graduating it’s first film class, the New York Film Academy had become known throughout the industry for offering “boot camp” style workshops for future filmmakers.

    The curriculum offered at NYFA consisted of intensive hands-on traning from day one. The first day of classes students had a camera in their hand and by the end of the first week they where shooting thier first film.

    The New York Film Academy was unlike any other film school at that time. We pioneered the teaching of hands-on learning with professional film equipment. Many critics thought we were crazy putting equipment in the “untrained” hands of students so soon. But Jerry knew better.

    He knew that the best way to learn filmmaking was to make films; not in a lecture hall or watching film, but actually working on a real set creating with other students.

    Competing With The “Best”

    After attracing the sons and daughters of many of Hollywood’s elite such as Steven Spielberg, Kevin Kline, Susan Surandon, Pierce Brosner and many more – a number of the “top” film colleges and universities started taking notice.

    Many of these schools started offering “hands-on” courses within their program and giving students the opportunity to shoot feature length films.

    Film School Perfected…Almost

    NYFA has since grown into its own building in historic Tammany Hall. Many of the original faculty, including Sherlock himself, are still with the Academy-and they come from some of the country’s most prestigious film programs, including NYU, USC, UCLA, AFI, Stanford and Harvard.

    In 2005, the New York Film Academy became an accredited college and began offering one and two year courses for college credit, plus, a two year Master of Fine Arts program.

    Just like our students, we are always learning and perfecting our craft as teachers of the art and science of filmmaking. Today, we have thousands of successful graduates working in the motion picture industry througought the world. All of whom have enjoyed our intensive, hands-on film courses that have remained the foundation of our curriculum since opening our doors in 1992.

    Even though our film school was NOT found by four naked guys on the Brooklyn bridge, we feel our history is what seperates us from all other film schoools and is an excellent indicator of where we are going.

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    July 21, 2009 • Acting • Views: 7274

  • Film School Student Amleset Muchie Films President Girma Wolde-Giorgis Documentary

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    The 2006 Miss Ethiopia Amleset Muchie currently studying film making at New York Film Academy is making a documentary on the life of President Girma Wolde-Giorgis.

    The one-hour long documentary which is a school project for the actress, model and director would chronicle a day in the life of the president as told by himself, close associates and her own commentary. The documentary would bring an intimate look behind the Jubilee Palace showing as the president attending staff conference, meeting with dignitaries and ceremonial events.

    The 84-year-old president who holds a symbolic office with little power has authorized Amleset to come and document him. Amleset is hoping to start shooting soon and have it ready in months’ time. The doc would be premiered at the New York Film Academy and other festivals.

    Amleset has already written and produced a romantic comedy, Si Le Fikir (About love) and has also starred in another Amharic film “Ye Felegal.”

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    June 25, 2009 • Acting • Views: 6033