Joelle Smith
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  • Wonder Woman Writer Allan Heinberg Joins New York Film Academy Guest Speaker Series

    The New York Film Academy was proud to welcome Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg to its Los Angeles Campus.

    Heinberg has written for Party of Five, Sex in the City, The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, and Gilmore Girls. He is also the creator and showrunner of The Catch. Outside of television, Heinberg has worked for DC comics, writing The Young Avengers, Justice League, and the 2005 reboot of Wonder Woman.

    Heinberg regaled students with the tale of how he was hired to write the Wonder Woman film. He first saw the character of Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, on an episode of Super Friends. He was seven. A few years later, when Linda Carter burst on television screens in the 1970s, Heinberg was hooked. The very first play he wrote after graduating college featured Wonder Woman. After that, Heinberg moved to Los Angeles and immediately began working in television.

    After years of working on Grey’s Anatomy, Heinberg began looking for a new project. There was a Wonder Woman feature in development but Heinberg did not consider applying. He explained, “Usually, there’s a big wall between movie writers and television writers … It is a big risk for a television writer to be asked to work a large tent-pole film. They just don’t do that.”

    Heinberg was happy to cheer on his friend (and President of DC Comics) Geoff Johns as he worked to develop the Wonder Woman film for Warner Brothers. After about a year, Johns called Heinberg and told him that his team had hit a wall in the writing process. Producer Zack Snyder wanted to start over from the beginning.

    Snyder and Johns brought their teams together to explore the fundamentals of Wonder Woman. When it came time to decide who would have a seat at the table, Johns said he didn’t want anyone except Heinberg. Snyder agreed and the brain trust that created the final screenplay was formed.

    Heinberg listened as Synder explained the finer details of the project. Snyder broke down what the team had been preparing. Heinberg knew what story he wanted to tell. He said, “For me, there’s really only one essential Wonder Woman story and that’s her origin story.”

    One of the major problems most writers run into when writing Wonder Woman is that her origin story does not typically contain the deeply personal, emotional hook — like a terrible crisis or loss to overcome — typical in a hero’s origin. For example, in contrast, Batman’s parents are murdered and, as he grows up, he is driven to protect his entire city from feeling that same pain. Similarly, Superman was orphaned and his home planet was destroyed, so he spends the rest of his life protecting his new home and the people in it. In the case of Wonder Woman, Diana Prince was molded from clay by her mother, Hippolyta, and grew up in a women-only utopian paradise, where the powerful Amazons live independently from the world and evils of mankind.

    Using references like Splash and The Little Mermaid, Heinberg described Diana’s origin myth, where she leaves Themyscira to save mankind. Heinberg referred to it as a fish-out-of-water story. The comparison resonated with Snyder. By the end of the first meeting, everyone agreed that Heinberg’s version of Wonder Woman’s origin was the right direction to take the film.

    Over the next three days, they constructed a story and broke down a script so Snyder could pitch it to the studio. It was green-lit on the fourth day. The film already had a release date. Now, Snyder wanted Heinberg to write the script.

    The only problem was that Heiberg had a job. He was still a part of the Shondaland family after moving from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal, and it was the middle of the season. Heiberg wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to do both the show and the film. So, he had to speak with Shonda Rhymes. He was convinced she would say no. With two more years on his contract, Heinberg fully expected to have to walk away from his dream job.

    When he walked into her office, Rhymes thought he was going to quit. When he told her the news, she said simply, “It’s Wonder Woman. You have to do it.”

    Heinberg was adamant that no other showrunner would have afforded him this opportunity, and says the moral of this tale is that none of this could have happened if it wasn’t for the relationships he’d previously built with his colleagues. He described Snyder as his hero for championing his vision of the film. It’s not a typical superhero film: Wonder Woman focuses on the human relationships, as opposed to the hero and villain aspect of the genre.

    During the Q & A portion of the Guest Speaker event, one NYFA student asked, “How do you think the success of Wonder Woman has changed the way people will write women in the future?”

    Heinberg gave a cheeky response, stating, “Well, Wonder Woman has made a lot of money.”

    One obvious change is that more women-centered films in the superhero genre are being green-lit this year. Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Captain Marvel will all be getting feature films soon.

    “There’s an audience we can serve,” said Heinberg. “I don’t think the formula that made Wonder Woman can be replicated. You need to come up with a compelling and emotional story that can stand up on its own.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Allan Heinberg for taking the time to speak with our students. Wonder Woman is now available on DVD.

  • HOLA Partners with New York Film Academy Jaguars to Create Basketball Clinic for Kids

    This winter, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus men’s basketball team, the NYFA Jaguars, embraced the idea of giving back. Forming a partnership with Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a non-profit organization that provides Los Angeles children free access to academic, art, and athletic-based classes, together, HOLA and the NYFA Jaguars created a basketball clinic for kids.

    The clinic was led by the NYFA Jaguar’s coach, NBA Champion Lucius Allen. The clinic consisted of basketball drills that legendary UCLA Coach, John Wooden, used to train Allen when he was in college. “Wooden’s philosophies helped define success for me both inside and outside the game of basketball.” Allen said. The goal was to help instill confidence and sportsmanship in the young basketball players.

    Reflecting on the class, HOLA Athletic Director Kristina Wheeler said, “This was a great experience for our kids. The opportunity to learn from someone like Coach Lucius Allen is rare. I believe the lessons learned today will stick with the students for the rest of their lives.”

    The NYFA Basketball team felt the experience was a special one as well. Coach Allen remarked, “The kids were great. They were receptive, respectful to each other, and very competitive.”

    That sentiment of creating positive change within the community is a cornerstone of the New York Film Academy’s Athletics Program. Through the Athletic Leadership Development Program (ALDP), NYFA students are encouraged to seek out opportunities where they can give back as a team. With that goal in mind, the basketball team will also be creating Valentine’s Day cards for children at a local hospital.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank HOLA and Coach Allen for giving our students a chance to pay it forward.

  • Art LaFleur is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was thrilled to have actor Art LaFleur at the Los Angeles campus on Jan. 18, 2018, as a part of the Guest Speaker Series. LaFleur took part in a Q & A following a screening of “The Sandlot.” Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond, who was the cinematographer on the movie, was also in attendance. NYFA Senior Instructor Eric Conner hosted the evening.

    LaFleur is known as a prolific character actor whose career has spanned over 40 years. He’s shared the screen with Hollywood heavyweights like Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Costner, and played American heroes like Babe Ruth as well less heroic characters like Chick Gandil (first baseman for the infamous 1919 Chicago Whitesox).

    When asked about his career and his first major role, LaFleur credited his face — literally — with helping him get a start in the industry. At the time of his first role as Ivan in the made for TV movie “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island,” LaFleur had been taking acting classes for a couple of years but says there was no trick or tip that helped him land the role. He simply had the right look: “There were people in my acting class who were really good. They were wonderful, but they wouldn’t get arrested, whereas I have this mug. I don’t know. I just have this face.”

    One of LaFleur’s most memorable roles is his portrayal of Babe Ruth in the modern classic, “The Sandlot.” To prepare for his audition he studied The Babe’s life and mannerisms by reading autobiographies and watching interviews. Most importantly, he studied old tapes of Babe Ruth playing baseball and practicing Ruth’s mannerisms. He took note of how the legend stood with a bat in his hands and how he would walk to first base. The research paid off when his portrayal won over the film’s casting director.

    It was during the filming of “The Sandlot” that LaFleur met NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond, who spoke fondly of their brief time on set together.

    “Occasionally, you get to meet incredible people like Art,” said Richmond. “Even though he was on set for only a brief time, his role gave the film credence.”

    LaFleur jumped in explaining, “I get recognized for this film more than any other. It’s the best one-day job I’ve ever had.”

    In speaking of “The Sandlot,” Richmond and LaFleur brought up an old film adage: “Never work with water, children, or animals.” Richmond explained that producers try to avoid these three elements because they can’t be controlled. “The Sandlot” featured all three. There were multiple children in the cast. Two large dogs were brought in to play the junkyard dog. There was the famous swimming pool scene, where Squints pretends to drown so he can get a kiss from Wendy Peppercorn.

    Richmond, a father himself, suggests filmmakers should simply talk to child actors as if they are adults. “Then,” says Richmond, “They’ll behave like adults.”

    One student asked, “What’s the most difficult part of working with children?” According to our guest, the most challenging aspect by far is the tighter shooting schedule. Due to child labor laws the children on “The Sandlot” could only work eight hours a day, and three of those hours had to be dedicated to their education. These regulations make scheduling challenging. It is particularly challenging when every scene has a child in it.

    Another student asked the veteran actor and cinematographer for any advice on how, as an international actor with an accent, he might be able to get ahead in the American film industry? Richmond and LaFleur agreed that success comes from collaboration and networking, which is why film schools like NYFA are the perfect place to meet future business partners and collaborators.

    Richmond said, “I love teaching at NYFA. When I was getting started, four cinematographers really helped me out. You can’t do it without help.”

    LaFleur ended the evening with some advice to the actors in the audience. “If you are lucky enough to be cast in a film or on a television series the most important thing is to be sharp. Be on your game with the dialogue and everything else. And if they don’t talk to you, you’re doing fine.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Tony Richmond and Art LaFleur for taking the time to speak with our students.

    January 30, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Guest Speakers • Views: 788

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Alum Barret Bowman of OhForShow as Guest Speaker

    The first Alumni Spotlight Showcase of 2018 kicked off on this January at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus. Alumni Relations Coordinator Gabriela Egito hosted an evening with NYFA alumnus Barret Bowman and his business partner Peter Castagnetti. Together, the pair are the directors and founders of OhForShow, a production company that creates soft pitch ads (otherwise known as branded content).

    OhForShow’s stated mission is to “help purpose-driven people create culture through thought.” When the two men began working with Yeti Coolers, they found a prime example of a corporation willing to trust filmmakers. Yeti’s clients range from average campers to wilderness adventurers. In their first short for the company, OhForShow pitched content that would feature Yeti Cooler’s product in an emotionally impactful story. Yeti liked the story, but they didn’t actually want their cooler to be the star.

    “We were shocked,” Bowan said. “Yeti just wants to interact with their base.”  In the final film, the cooler appears roughly 70 times, “But we always hear people say they didn’t even notice the cooler.”

    In fact, the name Yeti only appears at the end of the film. “If you didn’t know what Yeti was you would think it’s a production company,” Castagnetti said.

    Of course, creating OhForShow did not happen overnight.

    “When I left NYFA, I probably had a month’s worth of money,” Bowman said. “I knew I had to get a job right away.”

    Through a fellow alumnus, Bowman was able to get a job as a location scout to make ends meet. After working that job for a few months another NYFA alumnus, a producing friend, hooked him up with a gig at Easton, a sports equipment manufacturer. As an intern, Bowman made technical videos about baseball bats. It could have been just another internship, but he made the most of his time there.

    Two things happened at Easton. First, Bowman met Castagnetti. Second, they filmed a short that highlighted the Little League World Series. That video served as an unofficial launch for their newly forming production company. They didn’t have the name yet, but the pair felt a kinship and knew they wanted to work together.

    UnitedSTATE lululemon from OhForShow on Vimeo.

    When it comes to getting clients, the duo has to think creatively.  “It’s less about convincing them [to hire us],” Castagnetti said, “… and more about convincing them to spend the money [required to produce a film].”

    In this spirit, the duo has tried a lot of “outside the box” ideas to get the business started. Once, Bowman even sold himself at an auction: in exchange for a place to stay, Bowman promised to develop work for the buyer or their company. It worked! Three bidders donated a couple thousand dollars to support Bowman while he worked on their projects. During that time he slept on couches, washed dishes, and cooked meals to help pay his way. One client begot another client. Soon their business was taking off.

    Pinterest Pin Collective from OhForShow on Vimeo.

    In addition to their commercial content, Castagnetti and Bowman also create documentaries. Their work includes “Accidental Courtesy” and the upcoming “This is Not Normal.”

    The skills they’ve learned on these projects are evident in all of their work, but the men stressed fun as a fundamental component to their success. A motto they live by is, “I don’t create magic, I create an atmosphere to allow the magic to happen.” This energy allows for the talent to feel relaxed on set. The crew is small and comfortable working with one another. The results speak for themselves.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Bowan and Castagnetti for taking the time to speak with our students. You can explore more of their work by clicking here.

     

  • New York Film Academy Alumnus Yassin Koptan Brings Cairokee’s “Layla” to Life

    New York Film Academy filmmaking alumnus Yassin Koptan has done what many young filmmakers dream of doing: he made a music video for his favorite rock band.

    Cairokee is a band pushing the boundaries of censorship in their native Egypt. When the General Authority for Censorship of Works of Art would not release the album, the band circumvented their authority and posted “A Drop of White” on YouTube on July 11, 2017. Their song “Al-Kayf” has over 53 million views.

    In the fervor of that historic release, NYFA alum Koptan wanted to participate in the moment and make a video that would bring the band to a more global audience.

    Cairokee is well known for their unique style and their political message, so it may seem strange that Koptan opted to make a music video for one of their more intimate tracks. “‘Layla’ is one of the first Cairokee songs with a personal feel to it,” Koptan explained. “I love art driven by political expressions, but I wanted to be way less on the nose about things. ‘Layla’ was one of the few songs where I was able to do that. I wanted to approach things creatively and universally without interfering with the band’s current image.”

    The band’s current image is sleek and clean, and Cairokee frequently appears in coordinated outfits. In the first music videos they released for “Drop of White,” each member is dressed entirely in black and performs in a circle. Koptan subverts this imagery in his interpretation of ‘Layla.’ He chooses instead to use bright, almost neon, colors.

    Koptan believes a large part of the album’s success was due to the permeating themes of young love. “Everyone I spoke to about ‘Layla’ saw bright visuals when listening to the song. It is the classic boy meets girl love story,” he said.

    But the introduction of a bright color palette wasn’t enough of a change for Koptan. His story focuses on an elderly man who wakes up to discover his partner has passed in her sleep. Unable to accept the loss, he does everything in his power to bring her back. At first, he splashes her with water. Then, he tried to jump-start her heart. Eventually, the old man decides he does not care if she’s dead. He’s going to love her anyway.

    Koptan elaborated on this decision saying, “I discouraged myself from the safe choice. I decided to make something that truly represented the test of eternal love. What is more painful than accepting the loss of a soul mate?”

    The choice turned out to be a rather controversial one. “Audiences in Egypt are not used to stories that mix love and death,” said Koptan.

    Even so, many Egyptians’ tagged their friends in the comments section of the YouTube video. According to Koptan, a common discourse was whether or not the video could be considered art.

    “No matter which way they felt, I was flattered,” Koptan explained. “The video has over 10,000 views on YouTube and more people watch it every day.”

    Specifically, Koptan credited NYFA Instructor William Dickerson with a motto he was fond of using on set. “(Dickerson) told us limitations breed creativity. When we didn’t have enough dresses and suits for the mannequins on set I simply asked my crew, ‘What would our limited protagonist do?’ He would improvise! This philosophy was the heart of the production.”

    As with most independent productions, money was a constant struggle. “I did not have all the funds to make the movie until the day before we were scheduled to film,” Koptan said. By working as an editor for a marketing company and freelancing in his spare time, Koptan was able to pull together the $6,000 needed for the two-day shoot.  

    Koptan described the work as rewarding. “I had to balance not just earning the finances, but managing them for the film as well. I was the director, producer, and the writer. Each job requires extensive preparation before we could begin production. But, it was all worth it. These are the challenges all independent filmmakers face.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Yassin Koptan for all of his success. We look forward to the next project.

  • “The Truth” About New York Film Academy Acting Alum Fahad Olayan

    Since he was just a teenager, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumnus Fahad Olayan has had a solid plan for his life. Through hard work and determination, he has already achieved a lot of his dreams.

    He began his acting career in his native country of Saudi Arabia with the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash” in 2013, before going on to book several more television shows. He found success in America when he was offered a role on National Geographic Channel’s “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” where he played King Hussain in the episode “Proof of God” in 2017. Olayan’s latest project, “The Truth,” has been raking up awards. And now, he’s taken the time to catch up with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to discuss the role festivals play in the success of a film and what it was like to find most of his crew here at NYFA.

    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with acting?

    Olayan: I started when I was 13 years old. I attended school for theater. I was the supporting character in many different roles. In 2007 I began applying for jobs at production companies as an actor. I remember one of the directors was impressed by my audition. From that audition, I managed to book more than 10 TV series. In 2011, I considered moving my career to LA to pursue my dream. I studied English for two years and then went to NYFA to study acting and filmmaking. Once I graduated I immediately planned on making a movie.

    NYFA:  What was your first performance?

    Olayan: In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a production for a big channel in Dubai. It’s called MBC. It is the biggest channel in the Middle East.

    NYFA:  How did you end up at NYFA?

    Olayan: I wanted to learn how to perfect my acting skills and learn more about editing, writing, and filmmaking. It was great because it also gave me the opportunity to learn from professional people, who have been in the industry for a long time.

    NYFA: What was your favorite part of the education experience? Did you have a favorite class? Which one?

    Olayan: I got to collaborate with many new artists who are excited about making it in the industry. Each one had a fresh perspective on the craft. I also enjoyed the classes that were offered. My favorites were stunt training and sitcom. I also had the privilege of learning from Michael Zelniker. He is a mentor to me. He is an exceptionally talented individual and advisor at NYFA.

    NYFA: Why is an intensive program vital to your development as an actor?

    Olayan: It is vital because so much goes into acting. You take classes that help you learn about voice, movement, script analysis, observation, and how everything connects to each other. As an actor you need to learn about the different elements that go into the craft of acting. It broadens your horizons and makes you appreciate the art.

    Fahad Olayan With Alejandro Gonzalez

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your project, “The Truth”?

    Olayan: “The Truth” is an important project for me. It really touches home. I thought long and hard about this project for a few months because it has a very important message for the world: It focuses on racial profiling.

    Once I was ready to work on the project I met Nicolas Jung, a unique and exceptionally talented person who helped with co-writing, was the assistant director, and was one of the main actors as well. I strongly believe that this film wouldn’t be what it is without him. His outstanding writing skills and authentic acting skills took this project to a whole new level. The other actor, Dave Belvederi, and the cinematographer, Joseph Hamilton, also contributed to the success of this project. It is important to be smart and to choose a good team to work with so that there is a good collaborative environment on set.

    Once the project was completed, I submitted it to many different film festivals around the world. However, the most important festival that took notice of my film was in Saudi Arabia, where it won the award for best film out of hundreds of other projects.

    The best part was that it was awarded and announced by the King of Saudi Arabia’s son, which was a huge privilege, and it went on national news.

    NYFA: How did you prepare for this role?

    Olayan: I poured myself into the character that I played. I made the circumstance real to me. There was a lot of stunt training involved and intense rehearsal to achieve my goal.

    NYFA: Any chance for a sequel?

    Olayan: Yes, there will be a second part, I will refrain from giving too much detail to leave everyone in suspense.

    NYFA: What did you learn from making this film?

    Olayan: I learned that making a movie is not just about the name or title, it is an art. A lot of passion, imagination, and commitment goes into it. The most important thing that I learned was how to communicate with the audience. Once you get that, there is a feeling of having reached a huge accomplishment.

    NYFA: What’s up next for you?

    Olayan: Nicolas and I have written and acted together in two short films. Our first film was “Losing Life,” which won over 10 awards across the globe. In addition to all that, we have currently written two feature films and will produce one in 2018. We are currently in the preproduction process with one of the scripts and the other is in rewrites. When I am not working on these projects I am finding other ways to get ahead in my career.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Fahad Olayan for speaking with us about his work. 

    January 2, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 825

  • New York Film Academy Narrative Theory Students Explore IMAX VR Centre

    The Narrative Theory Course is a part of the New York Film Academy’s Game Design curriculum. The class focuses on storytelling methods in gaming. Virtual Reality (VR) provides an entirely new way of looking at how to tell stories. Without the control limits of a two-dimensional screen the ability to direct a player’s eye-line is no longer an option. A whole new set of rules has to be developed. This new frontier of technology brought NYFA students to the IMAX VR Centre in Hollywood, CA.

    For many students, this was their first experience with VR. “I had a really great time at the VR Center,” said student Kamen Marinov. “The moment I put those Oculus ‘goggles’ on my head I felt this strange feeling — that I was inside someone else. It was like I was seeing through another person’s eyes. It felt odd at first, but when I got used to the visuals and the game mechanics I had an amazing experience.”

    Students were able to experience a ton of games that are new to the market. The new “Justice League” game based on the Warner Brother’s film allows players to drive the Batmobile or take out Steppenwolf’s lackeys with Cyborg’s arm cannon. This is just one of the many games currently on display. Set up in an arcade style, students can could jump into several cinematic worlds including “John Wick,” “The Mummy,” “Deadwood,” and the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises.

    Some students choose to play two first-person shooters “Raw Data” and “John Wick.” Jeffery Lay found the experience both taxing and informative: “In ‘John Wick,’ I was hiding behind a bar, watching my six, as enemies come from everywhere. A big vase covering an area of my view-making forced me to me lean around it, or jump to shoot over it, even though in reality, nothing is there.” 

    “VR had a lot more movement than I expected,” said Lay. “I probably changed between standing and crouching about 50 to 100 times in a row.” 

    Nathan Hales wasn’t just having fun. He learned a lot. “The level of immersion offered by virtual reality is really something that one cannot explain but must be experienced,” said Hales. “I felt like I was living within these virtual spaces. I was cutting down robots in ‘Raw Data,’ instead of the usual extra degree of separation offered from a traditional TV or computer monitor setup. Moving forward with the knowledge I gained from experiencing the capabilities and limitations of virtual reality, I can now envision games for the medium.”

    This is important because VR is a hot commodity in the entertainment industry. Since Nonny de la Pena’s VR project in immersive journalism entitled “Hunger in Los Angeles” premiered at Sundance 2012, there’s been a lot of buzz around the future of VR, yet there were many unanswered questions about the possibilities the new technology held at the time. Facebook set a new precedent when it acquired Oculus Rift in 2014. Since then, we’ve seen the development of both VR recording technologies and creative endeavors rapidly accelerate.

    Overall, the day was a rousing success. The New York Film Academy would like to thank IMAX VR for giving our students an opportunity to glimpse the future of gaming.

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles Hosts Expert Film Festival Panel

    Last month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison Crickett Rumley brought an expert panel to the NYFA Los Angeles campus for an in-depth discussion on the process of getting a film into festivals.

    In her opening remarks, Rumley shared that while many NYFA students are interested in applying to film festivals, she found that not many had actually attended one. The panel of experts was formed to help demystify what can be an intimidating world for newcomers, and help answer their questions. “We need to start talking about film festivals,” Rumley said. “Los Angeles has a lot of festivals, so we have no excuse to not be attending and submitting.”

    Sharing their insights and experiences with NYFA students were industry experts including producer and NYFA Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree, Senior Cinematography Instructor Matt Kohnen, Emmy Award nominee  Alexandra Chando, NYFA Senior Directing Instructor James Rowe, and NYFA alumnus Raphael Bittencourt. Each panelist has premiered a film at major festivals including Sundance, LA Shorts Film Fest, Shanghai Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival.

    Kickstarting the discussion, Crickett asked the panel, “Why should you attend a film festival, even if you don’t have a film?”

    Rowe began by sharing his reasons for attending the Toronto Film Festival as a non-participant. “I went as a scholar delegate for NYFA to kind of scout things out and see what the landscape is right now for short films in particular.”

    Chando, who represents the Mammoth Film Festival’s Women in Film Initiative and is perhaps best known for her work in “As the World Turns,” pointed out the need for diversity and representation in film festivals across the board. Attendees, filmmakers, and festival organizers all play a role in supporting diversity in the film industry. “Recently, within the last year, I have seriously begun working on the other side of the camera,” she explained. “Especially now, there has been a big push for diversity and, of course, women being behind the camera.“

    Encouraging diversity in film festival representation is a part of the reason why Chando was invited to be a part of the Women in Film initiative of the Mammoth Film Festival, which was founded by a NYFA alumna. 

    Rumley spoke about her experiences with Telluride, a renowned festival she began attending even before she had started making movies. She described the education as invaluable. “I was learning so much as a writer just by watching a ton of films,” she shared, “And I was able to watch them in a festival setting. I could figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be by exploring all of these international and independent domestic films.”

    New York Film Academy panelist Alexandra Chando.

    With thousands of film festivals worldwide, these dynamic events can serve as an essential launchpad for up-and-coming filmmakers. Genre film festivals provide an especially great environment for new cinema voices to be discovered.

    “The major festival will take everything; drama, narrative, documentary,” said Kohnen, “But then, there’s this whole other subset of festivals that are just genre.”

    Choosing to submit to a genre festival can help a film find a more specific audience and make valuable connections with likeminded people in the industry. Knowing his way around the festival circuit helped spark the chain-reaction of success that Kohnen enjoyed with his 2007 film “Wasting Away,” also known as “Aaah! Zombies!” The film won the audience award for Best Film at ScreamFest, and after that its sister festivals began seeking opportunities to screen the film, too.

    New York Film Academy panelist and Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree.

    For his part, Bittencourt said he used his time at film festivals as an opportunity to observe how different audiences connected with his film as well as to forge connections within the industry.

    “It gives me a sense of where I’m going,” he said. “It was part of my strategy to use two different kinds of film festivals to get more attention on my film. … It’s a huge chance to defend your film and get to know other filmmakers. You can also meet the organizers of the festival.” 

    Bittencourt encouraged students that even if they may not have been chosen to screen their film in a particular festival, they can still try to shake hands with those in charge. “[Festival organizers] tend to be really sympathetic to you if they know who you are,” he said.

    Ogletree agreed. She explained to students that film festivals provide opportunities not only for submitting work, but also for gaining direct access to creators from all walks of life. From her time behind the scenes in film festivals, she shared, “We were open to having discussions with students, with other executives, with producers and directors. At the time, folks would just bring their iPads up to speakers after the Q&A and show us their film. That was a way of getting their films out there without even being in the festival.”

    With these networking opportunities in mind, Ogletree went on to highlight the marketing opportunities students should prepare for when attending a festival. “There are certain things you need,” she said. “You need a business card. You need both a press kit and an electronic press kit. You need to have the bios of your key crew members. You need to have conversations, and that’s not something I see happening a lot anymore.”

    Ogletree suggests that when attending a festival with a family member or friend, students remember not to isolate themselves from what is going on. Instead, they should make sure to join outside conversations with members of the industry and to try and meet new people.

    To help get the conversation started at film festivals, Ogletree noted that it’s important to think early and often about where the film will show and how best to promote it once it has aired. Gimmicks also don’t hurt, according to Ogletree, who says that it’s important to find ways to make your film stand out from the crowd at a festival. Hats, pins, and t-shirts are always great and inexpensive options. Budgeting for these products and preparing for film festival conversations should be something students bear in mind even in the pre-production stage of their film.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Matt Kohnen, Alex Chando, Kim Ogletree, James Rowe, Raphael Bittencourt, and Crickett Rumley for participating int his in-depth discussion on film festivals.

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles Students Examine Ancient Treasures at the Getty Villa

    This month, degree students in New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles’ Western Art History Class visited the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. They were interested in seeing how the ancient Greeks and Romans developed their depictions of humans and gods, and whether these early creators sought to mimic nature or to reflect individuals in their most ideal forms. There were a lot of surprises to be discovered in the museum.

    The Getty Villa was designed to recreate the experience of seeing art in an ancient Roman home. After looking at these art works for weeks on a screen, students were excited to see how the mass and volume of the figures affected them in person.

    Through the trip, students learned that ancient Greek art was actually very diverse. Students saw stylized early Greek burial sculptures from the Cycladic civilization, painted burial masks, numerous portraits, busts of Roman rulers and the upper class, and a special exhibition of Roman mosaics. Another highlight was the chance to get up close to a Romano-Egyptian mummy with an intact portrait from 120 CE.

    Said one participant, “[My favorite part of the trip] was seeing how there were rings with art in them. It was shocking and interesting to see the different representations of art, beyond the sculptures.”

    Each student was assigned to choose one sculpture and write a formal analysis, contextualizing the piece both historically and stylistically, which meant that students had to look at the art rather intentionally and up-close — an experience that was a little unnerving for some students.

    “It felt weird lingering to stare at the cloth on a lot of the sculptures,” said one. “How did they make it look so thin?”

    Another student was left in awe. “I’ve always been amazed by art, but every time I go to a museum, I have more and more respect and appreciation towards it.”

    Students come to NYFA from all over the world and their experiences in the classroom tend to reflect that. For several of the students in the group, this was their first time in an art museum of the Getty’s status, while one student had never seen sculpture of human bodies before.

    One student said of their experience, “There is nothing like seeing a sculpture or painting live in front of you. It was my first time being at a place where all sorts of art was right there for your eyes to see.”

    When the class discussed their experience afterward, it turned out they learned a lot. Some of the students were impressed with the accuracy of the recreation of Roman society. Comments like, “I was able to see the craftsmanship up close and now have more respect for the artists,” and “I used to just appreciate art, but now I think about who made it and why,” were common among the group of excited scholars. The day was an incredible success.

    The New York Film Academy is grateful to the Getty for continuing to curate such important art pieces for our students to experience. One student walked away stating, “I learned that art serves a bigger purpose in a society than it shows. It makes us think more critically.”

    December 8, 2017 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights • Views: 251

  • Spotlight On: New York Film Academy Los Angeles Environmental Club

    This academic year, a new club has joined the ranks at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles. The Environmental Club has already undertaken two incredibly important projects — a trip to the Burbank Recycling Center and planting trees with Tree People.

    Environmental Club member Kasey Weldon and advisor Michael Zelniker spoke with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith about their recent experience of giving back to their community in collaboration with Tree People. Check out what they had to say about this exciting episode from NYFA Los Angeles student life.

    NYFA: On your recent excursion with Tree People, what was the goal for the day?

    Zelniker: The goal was to work with Tree People, an organization that supports students and educators to take responsibility for urban environments. Trees are one of the great hopes we have to reverse the carbonization of our atmosphere. Trees take in carbon dioxide and return oxygen to the atmosphere. Planting trees is an important step in our efforts to reverse the effects of fossil fuels on our planet.

    Weldon: On our first trip out, we were watering the baby trees that were already planted and pulling/cutting invasive weeds that could harm the tree’s growth. On the second trip out, we planted new trees in Calabasas, which was a lot of hard work but so well worth it and rewarding.

    NYFA: Los Angeles has had really hot weather lately. How did you guys prepare for the manual labor, and how did everyone fare on the day?

    Zelniker: We drank plenty of water. Everyone wore pounds of sunscreen. We had to cover up with appropriate clothing. Everyone fared very well. No problems at all.

    Weldon: Everyone did really well. We stayed hydrated, wore our hats to protect ourselves from the sun, and the SoCal breeze is always nice.

    NYFA: What was the most surprising thing about the trip?

    Zelniker: I was surprised at just how profoundly satisfying it is to simply dig a hole in the soil and put a tree in the ground knowing that the tree you’ve planted, over the course of its life, will absorb tons of CO2 and produce tons of oxygen. It’s empowering.

    Weldon: The unity really surprised me. Everyone is there with a goal in mind and a desire and passion to give back and create a better tomorrow. There were no strangers. We are all a team.

    NYFA: You guys are a new organization at the school. Was this a bonding experience for the new members?

    Weldon: Of course. We are all friends already from school, but to be able to bond over something that has such meaning and truly seeing the difference we have made at the end of the day, it just roots our friendships even deeper. Some people I met for the first time, and it’s like I’ve known them forever.

    It’s an amazing feeling to be around people who strive for the same things, work toward it with you, and, at the end of the day, you share the successes together. It’s a truly special friendship with Earth and human beings coming together as one.

    Zelniker: We’ve been a NYFA club for more than six months now. Over that time we have held several events. All of the events have served to create stronger bonds between us as we come together in our shared commitment to do whatever we can to lighten our carbon footprint, while at the same time spreading the word on how important it is to conserve energy, water, and resources in general, to our individual communities at large.

    NYFA: What other trips are you guys planning in the future?

    Zelniker: We intend to do more tree planting, hiking, a beach clean up, and another trip to Burbank Recycling Center, as well as another bake sale fundraiser. We’re also talking about the “Adopt a Highway” program.

    The New York Film Academy is proud of the success of the Environmental Club for their incredible efforts to help protect and preserve the Earth.

    December 7, 2017 • Community Highlights, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 533