Jennifer Sterner
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  • NYFA’s Final Draft Fellowship Pitch Fest

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    The New York Film Academy’s Final Draft Fellowship came to a close on May 12, launching the Final Draft Fellows into their careers with a Pitch Event that introduced them to potential managers and industry executives.

    final draft

    Final Draft’s Big Break Competition is a major opportunity for writers, and among the prizes for finalists and winners is a twelve-week Fellowship at the New York Film Academy. This Fellowship offered intensive screenwriting classes on Feature writing, Television writing, Rewriting, which involved a complete table-read by working actors, Business and Pitching classes, and a series of “Life In” panels by working writers in the industry: Life in Feature Films, Life in Television, and Life in Transmedia.

    Recently, this year’s winners put that Fellowship to good use, developing not just new story ideas and scripts, but also pitches for those new ideas and their contest-winning material. And they took those pitches to NYFA’s Final Draft Fellowship Pitch Event on Thursday, May 12th.

    final draft fellows

    Hosted at the Academy by Associate Chair of Screenwriting, Adam Finer, the Pitch Event was a chance for Fellows to get meetings with representation and industry figures. Each fellow met with the industry guests for half hour meetings that centered on their pitches but then continued as a way for the Fellows to make new contacts that will benefit their career. Among those in attendance were representatives from Cartel, Super Vision, and Haven Entertainment. In addition the Fellows were put in touch with Radmin Entertainment.

    The classes on preparing to pitch gave the Fellows confidence in their material, and they impressed the execs with their ideas and delivery. Many scripts were requested and several important relationships were started. Final Draft and NYFA congratulate our hard-working Fellows and we look forward to the success we are sure awaits them.

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    May 18, 2016 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 4942

  • Screenwriting Panel: Life in Transmedia

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    On Thursday, March 24th, the New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting Department, in cooperation with Final Draft, hosted the third, and final, in its second annual series of “Life In” panels. Arranged for NYFA’s Final Draft Fellowship (a 12 week Writing Fellowship for the finalists in Final Draft’s Big Break Contest), this panel focused on “Life in Transmedia” and saw the panelists explore working in franchises, transmedia and individual mediums like comics, web-series and games.

    dunlap

    The Transmedia panelists (many of whom teach at NYFA) included:

    Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir, writing team in comics (NEW X-MEN, BAD MEDICINE, FRENEMY OF THE STATE), games (Unititled Jet Li videogame), and TV (ARLISS, KIM POSSIBLE)

    Josh Eiserike, comic writer & artist (MAD MAGAZINE, ANYONE BUT VIRGINIA, ANNA AND PAT)

    Margaret Dunlap, writer of webseries (THE LIZZIE BENNETT DIARIES, WELCOME TO SANDITON, EMMA APPROVED) and television (THE MIDDLEMAN, EUREKA)

    Emmett Furey, writer/producer of webseries (THE NEW ADVENTURES OF PETER AND WENDY, FUREY OF SOLACE)

    Scott Rogers, writer/producer of video games (LEVEL UP! THE GUIDE TO GREAT VIDEO GAME DESIGN, GOD OF WAR), comics (BEDBUG: SINGLE FATHER SUPERHERO)

    Adam Finer, NYFA’s Associate Chair of the Screenwriting Department, moderated and provided advice and insight. He said, “We tell stories. It’s something inherent in human nature. You’re here because storytelling matters.

    transmedia panel

    Adam started the discussion with the big question: What is Transmedia? Margaret Dunlap joked that with six panelists you would get about seven different answers, but Nunzio DeFilippis’ answer garnered general agreement. Nunzio explained that transmedia is story told across multiple media, where, ideally, each new media format expands the world, characters, and story. He said that transmedia is a way to, “Think beyond film and television.

    The conversation moved to how to get started working in transmedia. Scott Rogers discussed the available technology and software in today’s world that can help a person create their own material – software to render video games, technology for drawing and animating, phones and cameras to film. Scott said, “It’s completely doable. There’s going to be a big amount of luck, and skill, and talent, but it’s doable.” Emmett Furey added, “There’s nothing to stop any of you. You just gotta do it.”

    final draft panel

    One way to get involved in creating your own content that the panelists discussed was to borrow from pre-existing franchises. Scott Rogers said, “If you love Star Wars, create your own Star Wars.” Take what you love from a franchise – the world, characters, relationships – and create your own, unique, version. Josh Eiserike added, “Tap into what you really love about the world and then create your own version.” Nunzio DeFilippis, who has written for X-Men and Superman, offered a counterpoint, though, saying “if you create your own team, you have to wait to see if they have the cultural impact of the X-Men.” He spoke about the thrill of working in a franchise that has an existing fanbase.

    The panelists also explored getting started with content based off property in the public domain. Margaret Dunlap, an Emmy Award winner of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Welcome to Sanditon, said of writing new media content for property in the public domain, “Part of the appeal is that it gives people the hook in. This is familiar ground. It’s easier to take on something new if there’s something familiar at the same time.

    This segued into how creating your own content in new forms of media can lead to other, more traditional, forms of media. The comic writers, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, and Josh Eiserike, all agreed that one should never set out to write a comic, or any other form of new media, with the intent of having it turned into a film or television series. They did agree that if you create compelling content it can be easier to turn it into something else, but that should never be the original intent. Nunzio insisted, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. You have to love the form you’re writing in.”

    tv panel

    Adam Finer then asked the panelists to discuss audience engagement within the transmedia world. Emmett Furey told an amusing anecdote one of his The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy characters interacting with a fan, role-playing a fairy character, to the point of other fans “shipping” (seeing two characters in a relationship) them. At the end of this story Emmett said, “We facilitate fanfiction by making it fanfact.” In terms of the web and social media, there is no lag between the content being delivered and fans responding to it. Fans want to be, and will be, involved. Margaret Dunlap said, “When you bring your story out into the real world, storytelling gets messy, and that’s okay. Stuff is going to happen that you hadn’t anticipated and you have to embrace it.

    At the end of the discussion the audience (made up of Final Draft fellows, NYFA students, and alumni) was invited to ask questions, which ranged from virtual reality games, alternate reality games, and traditional media breaking into the web space.

    One student asked about limitations new media formats can have on storytelling. Nunzio DeFilippis brought up that while film and television can control the pacing of the viewer, comics can’t – or they handle pacing differently. A reader can stay on a page for hours or seconds, they read at their own pace. However, surprises can be controlled as long as they don’t come on an even page where the surprise would be seen on the opposite page. In terms of limitations on story, however, Christina Weir said, “You are not limited in comics. If you want to tell a story in space with exploding rockets you can. The artists can draw that as easily as panelists sitting behind a table.” When it comes to games, Scott Rogers, talked about the biggest limitation being that of the user. If a player can’t get past a certain level, or isn’t interested, they’ll never unlock the full story.

    panel transmedia

    One of the Final Draft Fellows asked about finding an audience once your content has been created. Scott Rogers discussed finding other creators with similar interests and commenting on their pages/blogs/content, then, once your material is ready to go out, asking if they will help promote your work. Margaret Dunlap added, “Patience really is the long game. Start small and if you nurture it, it can really snowball.” Josh Eiserike chimed in with, “It’s not just about building a fan base and cultivating fans. It’s also about cultivating your peers. Use your network.” He talked about searching for others with similar interests, promoting their work, and then asking if they would do the same. Nunzio DeFilippis encouraged the audience to show authenticity towards your peers. To be genuinely interested in what they have to offer and be kind, then people will be more willing to help you.

    The ultimate bit of wisdom given to the attendees was to always be creating and making things. To collaborate with others and to make projects with your friends. And to not let the fear of wanting to create something similar to something else stop you from creating.

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    April 8, 2016 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 3946

  • Screenwriting Panel: Life in Television

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    On Thursday, March 17th, the New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting Department, in cooperation with Final Draft, hosted the second in its second annual series of “Life In” panels. Arranged for NYFA’s Final Draft Fellowship (a 12 week Writing Fellowship for the finalists in Final Draft’s Big Break Contest), this panel focused on “Life in Television” and saw the panelists explore the ups and downs of working in the TV world. Eva Gross, the Marketing Coordinator for Final Draft, was also in attendance.

    tv panel

    The Television panelists (all NYFA instructors) included:

    • Jerry Shandy, (DOMINION, PERCEPTION)
    • Justin Sternberg, (THE PAUL REISER SHOW, LOVEBITES)
    • Margaret Dunlap, (EUREKA, THE MIDDLEMAN)
    • Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, (ARLISS, KIM POSSIBLE)
    • George McGrath, (TRACY TAKES ON, PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE)

    Adam Finer, NYFA’s Associate Chair of the Screenwriting Department, moderated and provided advice and insight from his years as a studio executive and manager.  About maintaining and enhancing your job as a writer he said, “Your job as a visual storyteller is to write visual stories, read visual stories, follow blogs, read magazines. Everything you do is gearing you be a storyteller. And write everyday.

    Adam guided the panelists through engaging and entertaining discussions about the industry and their careers, and each told tales of their time working in television. Justin Sternberg talked about how tragedy made him switch from comedy to drama. Christina Weir revealed how her insecurities made her almost turn down the writer’s assistant job that started her career. George McGrath remembered being contacted by Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) and suddenly finding himself a writer. Margaret Dunlap talked about finding a mentor who guided her path into television. Nunzio DeFilippis admitted to being too outspoken in the writer’s room and the damage that could do to a career. And Jerry Shandy amused the crowd and his fellow panelists by recalling his first day on his first job in the industry, which involved helping with an exorcism of his new boss.

    tv panel final draft

    Many of the panelists have been on the staff of shows, and they engaged in an animated discussion about the hierarchy and positions in the writer’s room, breaking story, and what to expect as staff on a television show. Nunzio DeFilippis said, “In a writer’s room everything is collaborative. From beginning to end.

    About moving up the ladder in the writer’s room, Christina Weir said, “A great way to learn how to be a Show Runner is to be a Writer’s Assistant. You see everything from the bottom up and know how everything’s done.

    Other than working your way through a writer’s room, the panelists also discussed selling original pilot scripts, shopping samples, and pitching your series. In terms of pitching your series, George McGrath said, “The simpler it is—if you can say it in a sentence you have a better chance of selling it.

    In regards to shopping scripts around and taking meetings, Jerry Shandy said, “You want fans in the industry. You want to take every meeting because you never know who will be championing you.

    justin sternberg

    You have to be an amazing writer, but you also have to talk to people, have conversations with them,” added Justin Sternberg. Learn how to craft your story so they go ‘Oh wow,’ I love that script, but I really love that person.

    Similar to feature writers, television writers have their ups and down. Good times and rough times. When it comes to surviving the hard times in between projects, Justin Sternberg said, “Something new always has to be put on the assembly line. Something comes off, but always put something new on.” Adam Finer added, “Don’t spend all the money that you earn. It needs to last you until you have the next thing. Surviving and thriving means you need to be able to enjoy your life and survive the slow times.” Margaret Dunlap chimed in with the treat she’ll award herself on a success, “Sushi, beer, and ice cream. It’s scalable. Not extravagant.”

    Part of surviving the hard times is to get into writing habits. The panelists all agreed that building and maintaining strong writing habits was key and that you have to write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. You have to take the time to write. Margaret Dunlap said, “Nibble it to death like a duck. You’ve got twenty minutes, what can you do?” George McGrath added, “Write every day. It doesn’t have to be a ton of pages, write a page a day. Take fifteen minutes to write a page and soon you’ll have a script.

    panel tv nyfa

    The panelists also discussed how to know if you’re a writer. Justin Sternberg said, “I write every day because I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t writing every day. I love it. It’s an addiction. It’s a high.” Nunzio DeFilippis added, “The best way to tell if you’re a writer is: what happens when you stop? Do you get cranky, itchy, like you’re going through withdrawal? Then you are a true writer. It becomes a sickness. You’ve got the writing bug and you’re stuck with it.”

    At the end of the discussion the audience (made up of Final Draft fellows, NYFA students, and alumni) was invited to ask questions, which ranged from writing for Netflix or Amazon to using features as a gateway for television.

    One student asked about the relative importance of talent versus attitude in a writer’s room. Adam Finer said, “I can’t stress enough how important it is to be nice to people. The dirty little secret of Hollywood is that people like to work with people they like.” Margaret Dunlap chimed in with, “You have to be a social animal. You’re spending a lot of time with other people in a room. If you’re pleasant, personable, always there and never bitter, that’s the person they bring back for the next season.

    panelists for tv

    Another student asked about getting staffed on a show as a new writer. Justin Sternberg said, “Just try to get on any show that will take you. You’ll meet the people you need to meet to get your career going. But, just get in wherever you can.

    Christina Weir added, “Don’t go into a writer’s assistant job, or PA job, and hand them your pilot. Save that for down the line.” Adam Finer said that, “People are willing to share their information. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to people.”

    The ultimate bit of wisdom given to the attendees was to be kind to others and to always be writing. Jerry Shandy said, “Success depends on the number of at bats. Keep swinging and you’ll hit something.” Margaret Dunlap said, “Work hard and be nice to people.” Justin Sternberg added, “If you have to be doing this, then you’re in the right place. You’ll enjoy the ups and the downs.” George McGrath intoned with, “Trust the universe. It’s out to help you.” Christina Weir added, “Don’t be afraid to do something you’ve never done before. Don’t be afraid to dive into the unknown.

    Lastly, Nunzio DeFilippis gave words of wisdom from the film BETTER OFF DEAD: “Go that way… really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.

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    March 30, 2016 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 3024

  • Playwriting Students Attend “Guards at the Taj” at the Geffen

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    “Spain’s beloved poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca, whose work flourished in the 1930’s, asserted that duende—a simultaneously dark and beautiful moment of inspiration and truth that is both euphoric and painful as well as purely visceral for both artist and audience—is most present during live performances. The artists as well as the audience can feel the potent, devilish energy of creation when the art is happening right in front of them, wonderfully and devastatingly altering the air and therefore one’s senses, ultimately generating an atmosphere ripe for revelation. I agree with Lorca, and this is why it is vital for my students to see and experience live art.“ – Megan Breen, Playwriting Instructor at New York Film Academy

    On Sunday, October 11th, Megan Breen took her Playwriting class to Brooklyn playwright Rajiv Joseph’s exciting new play, Guards at the Taj, at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. The story follows the complicated brotherhood between two Imperial Guards at the Taj Mahal in India, in 1648, when the exquisite and otherworldly palace was completed.

    geffen playhouse

    The Playwriting class is made up of screenwriting students who had read Joseph’s critical Broadway hit, Bengal Tiger and the Baghdad Zoo. The students were so responsive to its existential playfulness and provocative metaphysical explorations, that when the opportunity to see one of Joseph’s works live came about, they jumped at the chance.

    Guards at the Taj, and other works by Joseph, has a style that is more theatrical and magical, not as mainstream. It is visceral and thematically challenging with heightened language and a complex tone — the light and dark of duende. So seeing and experiencing how a play like this can be produced is exciting as well as educational for students who are new to playwriting. The students responded to the play’s visceral narrative, which allowed them to feel as if they were there with the characters and therefore more connected to them and their difficult, high stakes plights— soldiers at the whim of an insane ruler. They also loved the humor in the play, and the moving, heartbreaking struggles of the two best friends whose friendship must face an unthinkable challenge.

    geffen play

    After the play, the students engaged in a thought-provoking discussion of how to channel what they felt and thought as audience members into their writing, paying specific attention to the theatricality of the stage and how it is unique from film. Each student in the class will be writing his or her own one-act play.

    All in all, the field trip was an illuminating, fun and insightful outing vital to the students’ growth as new playwrights. Theater in Los Angeles is very much alive, and the students got to experience its vibrancy firsthand.

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    October 16, 2015 • Musical Theatre, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3124

  • NYFA Hosts “Life in Television” Panel with Final Draft

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    Recently, the New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting Department, in cooperation with Final Draft, hosted the second in a series of “Life In” panels. This second panel arranged for NYFA’s Final Draft Fellowship (a 12 week Writing Fellowship for the finalists in Final Draft’s Big Break Contest), focused on “Life in Television” and saw the panelists explore television’s past and its ever-evolving future.

    The Television panelists, consisting of former and current NYFA Instructors, included:

    • Rachel Vine, animation writer, (RAINBOW BRITE)
    • Justin Sternberg, half-hour and sketch comedy writer, (THE PAUL REISER SHOW, LOVEBITES)
    • John Marsh, half-hour comedy and animation writer, (THE PROUD FAMILY, FATHERHOOD, ARTHUR)
    • John Carr, reality TV writer, (THE BACHELOR, THE HILLS, VANDERPUMP RULES)
    • Christina Weir, half-hour comedy and animation writer, (ARLISS, KIM POSSIBLE)
    • George McGrath, half-hour comedy writer (TRACY TAKES ON, PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE)
    • Dan Kay, one-hour drama writer, (THE DIABOLIC, NOCTURNAL)
    adam finer

    NYFA’s Associate Chair of the Screenwriting Department, Adam Finer

    Adam Finer, NYFA’s Associate Chair of the Screenwriting Department, moderated and had several pieces of insightful advice from his years as a manager. He guided the panelists in an animated discussion of their path into the writer’s room and how they found their brand as a writer. John Marsh said,“Whether it’s being a PA on the show, being an assistant to an executive producer, figure out exactly what you want to do and try to gear yourself towards that. …Once you’re in there, use those relationships to help you.” Rachel Vine added, “I think there’s this myth that the industry is unapproachable, but I find that people want to help people. …Don’t be afraid to ask.”

    The panelists also explored the differences in network and audience targets, pitching, and how the world of television is evolving to the point that there are shows and networks niche enough for all tastes. John Carr said, “With the proliferation of networks it’s increasingly niche driven. …When you’re talking about your voice, you’re really talking about what network are you on? What is the micro-niche they’re reaching out to? Those are the questions you can ask yourself as a writer.”

    Dan Kay discussed the need to be savvy about the Business as well as the Craft, “Being a professional writer is not just writing. Although…you have to be writing all the time. But you also have to have a business brain. And you have to spend a lot of your time figuring out how to network and following up on your network and broadening your network. Part of being a writer is doing the business.” Adam talked about the challenges new writers face and the need to not give up,“It’s incredibly tough when you’re getting out of school to survive. To make a living doing what you love. And sometimes you take the jobs that sustain you while you pursue your career. But, you have to be tenacious. You have to keep going.”

    At the end of the discussion the audience, made up of Final Draft fellows, NYFA students, and alumni, was invited to ask questions, which ranged from how to find an agent or manager, to pitching, to specific questions about the writing work of each panelist.

    The ultimate bit of wisdom given to the attendees was to always be writing, to always be creating, and to write stories that speak to you and that you are passionate about. Christina Weir said, “…the focus is always on the story – how to tell a good story in the medium you’re doing it.” Christina’s comments were echoed by Justin Sternberg who said,“Tell your stories. Just keep writing and write you. Just be you.” George McGrath added, “What excites you? What do you want to see on TV? That’s what you should write. Whether that’s a sitcom, hour drama, kids show or animation, or a variety show you have to be excited to have that sense of ‘this is magic, this thing they handed me’ because it’s coming from a place that’s you.”

    The Panel was the second in a series being offered by NYFA, and in cooperation with Final Draft, and was followed by a “Life In Features” Panel.

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    August 4, 2015 • Community Highlights, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 4358

  • NYFA Hosts Transmedia Panel with Final Draft

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    transmedia panel

    On Thursday, April 9th, the New York Film Academy, in cooperation with Final Draft, hosted a “Life In Transmedia” Panel. The panel was arranged as part of NYFA’s Final Draft Fellowship, a 12 week Writing Fellowship for the finalists and winners of Final Draft’s Big Break Contest. The fellows were in attendance at the panel, as were NYFA students and alumni. The Panel, the first in a series, will soon be followed by a “Life In Television” Panel and a “Life In Features” Panel.

    The “Life In Transmedia” Panel, moderated by Adam Finer, NYFA’s Associate Chair of Screenwriting and architect of the school’s groundbreaking Transmedia track and Media Studies Program, explored the life of content creators, writers and producers in the new and expanding field of Transmedia. Also examined were the individual mediums that play a role in Transmedia, such as comics, videogames, podcasts, blogs, and webseries.

    nyfa transmedia

    Some notable words from the panel included:

    “Whatever your platform is: if it’s the web, if it’s comics…write every day. Even if you’re posting it, even if it’s garbage, just something, write something every day. And keep doing that and you will have something.” – Josh Eiserike

     

    “Transmedia, or multi-platform narratives, it’s telling a story in a way that asks the audience to lean in as opposed to just leaning back for the story. It’s asking the audience, hey, we’ve got a bigger world here. You don’t just have to watch it you can poke your head in and interact with it a little bit.” – Margaret Dunlap

     

    “I think transmedia takes you beyond ‘but’ and ‘so’ as solutions, and it’s much more ‘this happens, and then over here this other thing happens’. When you’re in transmedia, you want us to ask ‘what’s behind that door? What’s in that safe?’ …You want the fans to ask ‘what’s the combination to the the safe?’ And you want the fans to find out what’s in it.” – Nunzio DeFilippis

     

    Adam engaged the panelists in a spirited discussion of the avenues that led them to the Transmedia world. The panelists explored what makes a Transmedia project and debated the definition of Transmedia. Panelists ultimately defined Transmedia story telling as building story worlds that have unique story components in various different storytelling platforms. The panelists delved into the growing nature of Transmedia itself, how to build and engage an audience in various media forms, the virtues of each respective medium, and storytelling across all media. Panelists discussed the unique ability of Transmedia storytelling to truly engage an audience and even have the audience expand the story world.  A conversation about how to use crowd-funding to activate an audience to support a project examined how to access the community to finance projects and even a career.

    “You need to be able to embrace the chaos. You kind of have to hug it and expect it and if you’re not rattled by it then you can look at it as something kind of amazing. And really cool stuff happens.” – John Zuur Platten

     

    “I’m not sure you can always start out with a transmedia project. It’s really big and complicated and overwhelming. You have to start with the story you want to tell, the character you want to explore, a thing you want to do and figure out which is the best medium for it.” – Christina Weir

     

    “For everyone here there’s a pinpoint moment, maybe five, that lead down the road to whatever amazing thing they’re doing today.” – Jennie Josephson

    adam finer

    The Transmedia panelists (all of whom teach, or have guest lectured, at NYFA) included:

    • John Zuur Platten, writer/producer of video games (Google’s INGRESS, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, FEAR EFFECT) and co-author of the book THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO VIDEO GAME WRITING DESIGN
    • Jennie Josephson, producer, blogger, and podcaster (CBS Interactive, Yahoo!, Daily Tech News Show with Tom Merritt)
    • Margaret Dunlap, writer on the Emmy Award Winning webseries THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES, Executive Producer of the webseries WELCOME TO SANDITON, and writer on the TV series EUREKA and THE MIDDLEMAN
    • Josh Eiserike, writer/artist for MAD MAGAZINE, and the comics (ANYONE BUT VIRGINIA, ANNA AND PAT)
    • Nunzio DeFilippis (chair of the Screenwriting Department) & Christina Weir, writers of the comics X-MEN, BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL, BAD MEDICINE, FRENEMY OF THE STATE, as well as the TV series ARLISS and KIM POSSIBLE.

    At the end of the discussion, the audience was invited to ask questions, which ranged from how-to advice to specific questions about the writing work and preferred medium of each panelist. The ultimate message imparted was to find the medium that works best for the story you want to tell and go out and do it. Create. Write.

    Adam Finer left the audience with these final words of inspiration: “You guys can create content. You guys have access to an audience. You can steer the ship easily and not have to worry about having a giant battleship block you. You have the ability to create these worlds and engage that audience in a way we’ve never had before.”

    Led by DeFilippis, Finer and Weir, New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting Department offers a cutting edge Transmedia Track in the MFA and BFA Screenwriting Programs.

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    May 1, 2015 • Acting • Views: 3625