Recently, the New York Film Academy Los Angeles’ faculty and staff were treated to a day at one of LA’s premiere museums: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Sponsored by the Faculty Senate, the day was organized to celebrate and thank the NYFA staff for all of their hard work throughout the year.
The day kicked off with the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Then, faculty and staff toured the facility. Staffers were able to take photos of many of the exhibits, which featured works by Picasso, Renoir, and Warhol.
Soon it was time for lunch. Finger sandwiches and fresh fruit were served in the sculpture garden. The grassy space allowed for a picnic-style lunch where co-workers could gather to chat about what they had just seen inside the museum.
After lunch, the leftovers were donated to a local charity to feed the homeless. Many of those in attendance went back to explore the museum including exclusive exhibits like “Chagall: Fantasy of the Stage,” “Japanese Painting: A Walk in Nature,” and “Unexpected Light: Works by Young Il Ahn.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank LACMA for hosting our faculty and staff for a day of learning and exploration. For more information on LACMA click here.
In 2010 Samantha Hamadeh graduated from the One Year Acting Program at New York Film Academy. Her 3.9 GPA should have tipped everyone off that she was headed toward great things. In just a few years Hamadeh was on Comedy Central co-hosting one of their most popular shows. Hamadeh sat down with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith, to talk about where it all began and how NYFA helped her to get where she is now.
NYFA: When did you fall in love with acting?
Hamadeh: I was in 1st or 2nd grade. My friend and I used to hand out little notes to people in the class to come watch our plays on the playground. There was a tree ring made of cement. That was our stage.
NYFA: What were some challenges you faced in your craft before coming to NYFA?
Hamadeh: Although I’m a firm believer that people are born with a talent, I still thought that there was so much that I needed to learn about myself in order to be able to understand and portray different characters. Also, I took 3 years off from the theater because I was getting a degree at university. I was nervous about getting back into the world of acting.
NYFA:How did NYFA help you move through these challenges?
Hamadeh: I had some of the best teachers and mentors. From Kelly Hughes to Caitlin Muelder, Scott Ferrara, Valorie Hubbard, and Anthony Montes – they were all so supportive and truly believed in me. In class, I was able to work on my technique while also developing new skills.
NYFA: What is your best memory from NYFA?
Hamadeh: My dream of going to film school came true! The entire experience was life changing. I also got to meet some of the most amazing and talented students who I look up to, especially Eliza Delacourt and Maria Carvalho, who are now family to me. Some of the best years of my life were in Los Angeles, both on and off campus.
NYFA:Tell us about your show, “Ridiculousness Arabia.”
Hamadeh: Ridiculousness is an American comedy clip show, which presents viral videos. Comedy Central Arabia got the rights and I got to co-host the Arabic version – “Ridiculousness Arabia.”
NYFA: How did you become involved with the project?
Hamadeh: I work in marketing and was at a meeting with Comedy Central because they were looking to film their stand up comedy show at my brother’s venue, Stereo Arcade in Dubai. The CC team mentioned they were also working on Ridiculousness and I got excited because I love the US version. The producer asked if I was interested in co-hosting. Obviously, I said yes.
NYFA: What was your goal with the project?
Hamadeh: It was pure improv so we didn’t have much time to rehearse and we filmed two to three episodes a day over five to six days. My goal was to stay focused and enjoy filming every episode. There’s no character work. What you see on tv is who I am in person.
NYFA: What’s been the most rewarding part of being involved with “Ridiculousness Arabia?”
Hamadeh: Being part of a production like this was a dream come true! And I enjoyed every single minute of it because I got to work with really talented guys; Mohanad, the host and Khaled, the co-host.
NYFA: What advice do you have for an aspiring host?
Hamadeh: You’re going to hear a lot of no’s before you get a yes. It’s hard to be patient, I know, but when the right opportunity comes along you’re going to be happy that you were.
NYFA: Where and when can people watch your show?
Hamadeh: Every Sunday night on Comedy Central Arabia.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Samantha Hamadeh for taking the time to speak with us.
At the New York Film Academy, it is not uncommon to see actors and directors who have already made great strides in their career seek a focused short-term learning experience in order to brush up on a rusty skill or even learn an aspect of the movie-making business in which they have never participated.
Already successful in their native Colombia, NYFA graduates Valentina Rendón and Haik Gazarian have attended the New York Film Academy a combined 10 times and are self-described evangelists for the school. In Colombia, Rendón has worked as a pop star, soap-opera actress, and scriptwriter, and Gazarian has managed actors and written and directed features. The couple returns to NYFA before almost every project.
Gazarian grew up in Venezuela shooting on an 8 mm camera. He worked for a television station where he saw how newsreels were made. He was fascinated. While there, Gazarian began meeting actors. As those connections grew he built a career out of those relationships. For the next 15 years he managed actors, but his dream to make feature films never faded.
As his connections multiplied, Gazarian began to figure out how to make that desire a reality. He began writing and sought out fundraising opportunities. Gazarian is practical in everything he does. Despite his years in the entertainment industry and the incredible talent he was surrounded by, Gazarian wanted to go back to school.
He wanted to make sure that the work he produced would be of a professional quality and he wanted to do it himself. In 1996 he found the New York Film Academy and enrolled in the eight-week filmmaking course. By the time he had completed the course he had the first draft of his script, “Venezzia.”
He would spend the next eight years re-writing, workshopping and developing the script. During that time Gazarian kept an open mind about his work and was willing to hear suggestions on how to better it.
One day while on set while visiting a client, Gazarian was taking photos as his client rehearsed a scene. Through a camera lens, he spotted Valentina Rendón. This would be an encouter that changed his life.
Columbian actress Rendón is perhaps best known for winning “Bailando por un Sueño.” Her work includes appearances in television shows like “Copas Amargas,” “Tabú,” and “Allá Te Espero.” She was also one-fourth of the pop group Luna Verde in the mid-’90s. Now, Rendón has started to center her attention behind the camera. She came to NYFA to study editing.
Rendón began her career in industrial design, when she was awarded a music scholarship at the age of 18. “Since I was a little kid, I was driven by the creative process,” Rendón said. She would write songs and poems, practice ballet, play guitar and paint. When the opportunity arose to go to the Acting School of the National Theater of Colombia via a scholarship, she found the perfect way to combine all of her talents and jumped at the challenge.
As she settled into acting, she found herself curious about the work happening on the other side of the camera. “I was always asking the DPs about how the camera worked,” Rendón said. When she first started dating Gazarian she would give him notes on the script for “Venezzia.” Gazarian brought Rendón in for re-writes, and she wound up writing the final draft of the script.
In addition to the filmmaking, directing, and screenwriting courses they have already taken, the couple is now taking on the NYFA’s 4-Week Digital Editing Workshop. They are working on their next feature and, while they will not be editing the project themselves, they thought it important to know the language and styles of editing before they began post-production.
There are two reasons the couple keeps coming back to attend NYFA programs in between projects: it is a a process they compare to training for sports. “We’re about to start pre-production,” Gazarian said. “It’s like a fine-tune-up before going into battle. You want to keep pushing yourself. It gives you a version of the orchestra you’re conducting. You should know the limitations of each position.”
“Learning new skills will give you more information. This is what NYFA’s short programs are made for. You get to practice what you’re learning,” Rendón said. Gazarian added, “All of the information you learn here is meant to be applicable.”
The other thing that keeps them coming back is NYFA’s global community. “Hanging out with people outside of your purview helps you pick up on little things,” Gazarian said. Rendón said that in one of her classes there wasn’t a single student from the same country. She even learned the Bollywood style of filmmaking from a classmate.
The couple was tight-lipped about their upcoming project, but said that there was already a major studio interested in producing it.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Valentina Rendón and Haik Gazarian for taking the time to share their experience.
Early this August, Jennifer Jenkins from Giant Artists gave the first of three lectures for the New York Film Academy Photography Department’s summer series. In attendance were students interested in learning more about professionalism within the industry.
Jenkins began her career in music working with bands like Wilco and Elliot Smith. She spent 11 years managing artists, but around 2005 the future of the music industry was called into question with the advent of streaming services and illegal downloads.
Jenkins began to look at other ways she could engage with and serve the music community. Her first love was the album cover, and soon she had created Giant and began working with photographers with a unique way of seeing the world.
Though album photography was her passion, Jenkins revealed that advertising is Giant’s bread and butter. She explained that current trends are against the grain, and clients are looking for something they haven’t seen before. This bodes well for Giant’s artists like Emily Shur, Christaan Felber, Jessica Antola, Tom Van Schelven, and RJ Shaughnessy.
Jenkins’ had plenty advice for students as they make their way into the working world. First, she suggested that every artist find his or her own voice. She calls this “Diversity with a single point of view.”
Many young photographers begin as a studio assistant. Jenkins commented that many of those assistants leave with work that looks just like their former bosses, but no one will buy a copy while the original is still available. Jenkins suggests working as an assistant for just a few years.
“Find your own team,” was another piece of advice that Jenkins emphasized to students. Photography is not a profession that can be done solo: Many clients are asking for motion graphics and GIFs. Having a trustworthy editor and graphics team will put beginners far ahead of the competition.
Another important to-do for aspiring photographers is to have a beautiful and completed portfolio. “Make sure all of your pages are printed from the same place.” Jenkins detailed the unpleasant experience of flipping through a talented artist book when every page looks different. Clean uniformity helps the keep the viewer’s eye where it should be — on the work. Jenkins suggested clean white paper in an 11×14 black book with a two-inch margin and no more than 70 prints. Jenkins cautioned against going the iPod route: The backlighting can be distracting and many clients like the look and feel of a book.
Once a portfolio book is complete, photographers will be ready to start submitting their work. Jenkins attends a number of photography competitions throughout the year. Artists were encouraged to apply to and attend these competitions. She also suggested using an industry database like Agency Access to book jobs.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jenkins for taking the time to speak with our students. You can learn more about Giant Artists by clicking here.
This August, Head of Animation for Walt Disney Studios Amy Lawson Smeed gave a rousing Q and A at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy, after a screening of her latest work “Moana.” Smeed’s work includes “Treasure Planet,” “Paperman,” “Frozen,” “Tangled,” and “Moana.” The event was moderated by NYFA Chair of Animation Craig Caton.
Students were excited to hear from one of the few leading women in animation. A recurring theme of the night was how much animation is accomplished by private performances no one ever sees. Smeed described working in an isolated room trying to capture the feelings and actions of a character. “I don’t ever want the character to look like me.”
The performance is less about being the character and more about finding the truth and nuance in the scene. As an example, Smeed spoke about the scene in “Tangled” when Rapunzel sings over a dying Flynn Rider. Smeed drew on a personal family loss and her favorite tearjerkers to study how the throat gets tight when a person cries and how their eyes widen and tear.
Smeed explained to the screenwriters in attendance that as an animator she does not often see a script. The collaborative nature and time intensive work requires a lot of planning up front. The workflow generally begins with a polished script, that is then storyboarded and screened (an animatic) for the entire studio. Everyone then has an opportunity to give notes on what they saw.
Those notes are considered, a new draft is written, and the new and improved animatic is screened. Scenes that work are then given to the voice actors to record the dialogue. The recording sessions are filmed as a reference for animators. Finally, the recorded dialogue is given to the animators and they go to work making their character walk and talk.
The reference tapes can be used to help define the character. Dwayne Johnson’s character in “Moana,” Maui, maintained “the people’s eyebrow” made famous during Johnson’s wrestling days. Smeed says the performance aspect is her favorite part of the job. Animating her first Disney kiss in “Tangled Ever After” was a particular highlight.
Smeed was asked to give the best advice to students getting started in the industry. She said the reel is the animator’s key to getting into the exclusive club of working creators. She highlighted three key elements to improve a reel. The first is to flip images of characters. If a something seems off about a pose, reverse the image. If it still seems off or if the pose becomes worse, it means something is wrong — perhaps the weight is distributed oddly or an angle of the limbs slightly askew.
Smeed also shared that incorporating entertainment value is vital to impressing a veteran reviewing your work. “This can be something funny, a line or a gag, or it can be a moment that moves you,” Smeed said. What matters most is that an emotional reaction is elicited out of the viewer.
Finally, students were encouraged to make sure the animated scenes in their portfolio include texture. Smeed defined texture as the way characters react to objects, tasks, and people when they are not speaking. Giving their hands and face definition is vital to making the character feel like a living being.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Amy Smeed for taking the time to speak to our students. Smeed’s next project is “Wreck-It Ralph 2,” and she noted that she’s excited to be animating the reunion of all the living Disney Princesses.
Over the next three months, the Photography Department at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy will be hosting a guest lecture series that will welcome some of the most noteworthy houses of representation in the industry.
As a part of the New York Film Academy’s continued commitment to hands-on education and industry-centered skill building, topics of the special guest lecture series will include professional topics such as how to find the right representation, how to put together an eye-catching portfolio, and more.
The lecture series began Friday, August 4, and will continue throughout the transition to the fall semester. Giant Artists represents Michael Schmelling and Justin Fantl. RedEye will be at the school on September 8 and iheartreps will be releasing their arrival date shortly.
The New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles hosted a special industry workshop in partnership with Phase One.
Manager of Educational Services Scott Niedermaier brought the Capture One software to the event to share with students. Capture One Pro 10 is a revolutionary piece of image editing software billed as the “professional choice” by Phase One.
Of course, Phase One brought in many of their own cameras for students to use, including one with a 100 Megapixels. This is one of the sharpest images available. This is one step closer to a film look recorded on a digital media.
Students in attendance were given the opportunity to photograph four different set-ups inside the newly acquired studio at Burbank Studios. Each set up was designed after a preferred style of a famous photographer. One such set up was designed after the work of noted head shot photographer Peter Hurley.
Ari Lighting was used during these tests. Shadows and high contrast were the focus of the day. Students were able to learn this latest technology under the advisement of the professionals instrumental in the software’s creation.
“This is just another way students can walk away from NYFA and be prepared to walk on to a set,” Senior Coordinator of Photography Kristine Tomaro said.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Phase One for taking the time to further prepare our students for a career in photography.
New York Film Academy Instructor Craig Caton has created a new plug-in on Autodesk Maya that may revolutionize the way digital puppetry in both independent productions and major motion pictures.
The new software is called Animservo. It is non-real time facial recognition software that allows a single puppeteer to craft and save a performance before ever arriving on set. The software records a performer using a go pro. Facial recognition software captures the performance, and it is then uploaded into the puppet. With Animservo, the nuances of facial recognition performance by the puppeteer are recorded and then uploaded to Maya. The performance is refined and then downloaded into the puppet.
Utilizing a GoPro and marker-less facial recognition software, the puppeteer does not even have to be in the same state as the production. A recent test allowed a puppeteer to give a performance in Texas for a puppet in Los Angeles.
Usually, crafting a performance with a puppet requires quite a few performers. For example, the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park” utilized five union performers: one controlled the eyebrows, another the mouth, a third the neck, and so on.
Animservo can save productions a ton of money on performers and allows directors to have a picture-ready performance with less rehearsal time. If a director changes his or her mind about the way a performance looks it will take the puppeteer just a few minutes to make adjustments and the puppet will be ready for the next take.
As great as this invention is both financially and on a time crunch Caton says he has “something even better on the horizon.” In the mean time, Caton will be previewing Animservo at SIGGRAPH, or the Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques in Los Angeles.
In order to get this new plug-in sign up for the training class here. The software comes free with the class.
Outside of the New York Film Academy, Acting Instructor, Chris Devane is a giant in the casting industry. Devane detailed his experience with large casting calls, which can include seeing over 400 people in a single day, to an hour-long casting rehearsal with a single actress. With clients like Wal-Mart and major production studios, Devane knows everything there is to know about the casting process. Most importantly, he has been able to pass that information on to acting students. Here are the top 5 lessons we took from Devane’s Casting Class.
There Are a Lot of Actors Actively Seeking Work
Devane began the class with a simple question, “How many union actors are working in the United States of America?” After letting students take a guess, Devane revealed the staggering number.
There are 160,000 actors in the union and untold scores of hopeful eyed youngsters trying to enter the industry every day. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that the average income for those 160,000 union actors is $7,000. This includes big stars like Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana who make millions of dollars per movie.
Devane brought up these numbers to make a point. Those that want to act had better be prepared to work for free or very little. They will need to love their craft beacuse acting is not always kind to actors.
“The only person who can help your career is you,” Devane told his students. “Getting success is easy. Keeping it is a challenge.” Many actors come to LA from smaller cities where they have had some success. It means nothing when they get to Hollywood. “There are no failed actors. Just people who quit.”
You Have to Really, Really Love Acting
“There’s more competition in acting than any other field in the world,” Devane said. While working for free or very little upfront may be necessary, eventually, payment will be required. “Who’s paying your rent or putting gas in your car if you work for free? This is show business,” Devane warned. Deciding how much one’s work is worth can be challenging.
This is all part of the gig. Actors typically work twelve to eighteen hour days, six days a week. This is an exhausting and demanding schedule. All the while, actors are being judged. They’re judged for their looks, they are judged for their talent, and they are even judged for their behavior. This scrutiny tends to get the better of most people.
Self-promotion is of the utmost importance. There are more opportunities to be seen with YouTube and other social media platforms but there’s also a bigger opportunity to fail. A good casting director will not place an actor in a role for which they are not prepared. But the advent of casting based on followers has a lot of young talent scrambling to put out any work they have in hopes of gaining a following.
Devane suggests putting only polished work out for consumption. Start developing a style and a voice now. Don’t rely on followers. They do not denote talent. Do solid work, help others in developing their work, and promote the finished projects.
Casting Has Nothing to Do with Talent
When Devane revealed this information there was tangible hitch within the audience. Talent, fairy tales would have you believe, is the most important aspect in getting started in the entertainment industry. How else can someone with little experience get his or her start?
Devane says the most important thing an actor should be able to do is be themselves on camera. It is the job of a casting agent to find the best person for the role and not the best actor in the world. So, if an actor is relaxed and natural on camera than they can be cast in something.
Most people who have difficulty getting cast believe it’s something they have done wrong. According to Devane most of these people are missing a personality. Many balked at this statement because it can be rather difficult information to process. Some take it as an insult. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem. Devane suggests actively listening to get more parts. Listen to the partner in the scene. Don’t just wait for the next line. Also, listen to the casting director. If one is asked to try the line a different way, you should really think about how that note changes the reading. Being able to take direction makes any actor more desirable.
Reputation Travels Faster than any Human
Reputations cannot be bought or erased. They are earned through the most precious non-renewable source, time. With this in mind, Devane advised students to guard and protect their reputations with everything they have.
“The person who gets cast is the one who can work with the director.” Being a diva on set or overstepping boundaries will have an actor on the outs faster than they can sign a contract. Once a job is booked, it’s important to know on-set rules so as not to become a liability. “If you hear ‘points’ on set you need to know what that means and act accordingly,” Devane told students.
Don’t turn down work. “Look, sometimes being picky can be beneficial, but when someone brings you a job turning it down can look ungrateful at best and disrespectful at worst.” When auditioning for a role make sure the shoot days do not conflict with any other projects or personal appointments. If there’s a potential for conflict mention it at the start of the audition.
Be on time. Every minute of production can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Crew call is often much earlier and much later than an actor’s call time. There is zero excuse for holding up a production and everyone will remember who caused that hold up.
There is No Way to Tell Why You Did Not Get Cast
Devane let students in on a secret that most professional working actors do not know. He told them that not only does talent not matter but there are a million little reasons behind why an individual does get cast. “Get rid of the feeling of I could have done better.”
Sometimes one individual will pair better with an actor that has already been cast. Other times a director might have a working relationship with an actor. Sometimes a client will change their mind and want a different look than they originally set out to cast. It could be that there was just a better actor in the room that day.
It is important to remember that, “You’re going to be frustrated throughout your entire career. Be positive and confident in your ability, skills, and knowledge. It’s the only thing to separate you from the 180 other people auditioning for the role.”
It’s heartbreaking to get rejection after rejection but again, acting is not for the faint of heart. It requires great passion and equally as much patience and keep in mind that somewhere out there is the perfect role.
Devane left students with this thought, “The harder you work, the more fortune you’ll have.” Do not wait to be chosen. Be your own biggest advocate.
“Where Cultures Collide,” a web series produced and directed by NYFA’s MFA Documentary students in Los Angeles, is set to be published by PBS affiliate KCETLink starting August 1, 2017. The five-part series of 5-7 minute segments explores aspects of different cultures that have merged into the mainstream in Southern California and been transformed to a degree. The series spotlights cultural contributions from Latin America, Thailand, Polynesia, Armenia, and Saudi Arabia.
As part of their Community Film Project class, our MFA Documentary students had a unique opportunity to work with KCETLink in a professional producing relationship. The class, led by instructor Denise Hamilton, met with their “client” KCETLink to determine their interests. After the initial contact, they developed and presented concepts for them in a pitch meeting and were Greenlit to produce stories about unique “cultural clashes”. It was a professional pitch session that they passed with flying colors!
Students Ashley Harris, GuangLi Zhu, Yuan Li, Zhengyi Zhong, Sultan Aljurays, Camilla Borel-Rinkes, Mira Hamour, Carolina Sosa Andres and Kristen Lydsdottir served as directors, producers and crew members, responsible for the entire process from pre-production to post.
“It was a very difficult assignment” Denise acknowledges, “because they had to conduct extensive research and produce while simultaneously planning and prepping their thesis films.”
And, like any Client / Producer relationship, the group received notes for adaptations and changes throughout the process. Ultimately, the students obtained an invaluable lesson about creating work for someone else, and got a kick-start into the professional world of producing for a high-level client. KUDOS!