Faculty Interviews
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  • NYFA Producing Faculty: Interview with Neal Weisman

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    Our NYFA Producing programs teach students all the critical aspects of making a film or television show from start to finish, educating them on the realities and challenges of bringing a production to life. This hands-on approach is supported by our faculty of active industry professionals, such as our Chair of the Producing department at NYFA New York, Neal Weisman. Neal believes his mission is to teach the next generation about the art and craft of producing.

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    NYFA Producing Chair, Neal Weisman

    Neal’s producing credits include The Politician’s Wife (1995), which won a BAFTA and Peabody Award, as well as an International Emmy Award for Best Drama Serial; Seeing Red (2000), which won a Christopher Award; and My Kingdom (2001), starring Richard Harris in his last leading role. He also produced Let’s Talk About Sex (2009), a documentary that was broadcast on TLC. 

    In addition to his producing career, Neal is also the Vice President of Edward Pressman Film Corporation, which is responsible for producing films like David Byrne’s True Stories (1986), Wall Street (1987), Talk Radio (1988), Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel (1989), and Barbet Schroeder’s Reversal of Fortune (1990), to name a few.

    An award-winning film and television producer with over 20 years of international experience, we spoke to Neal about his favorite projects, his time at NYFA, and what advice he’d give to those looking to get started in producing. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): How (and when) did you first get interested in producing

    Neal Weisman (NW): I initially wanted to become a writer-director. While earning my Master of Fine Arts degree in Cinema, I wrote and directed so many films that I realized I did not want to direct as a career. I worked out my directorial aspirations early in life! I wanted to keep making films, so it was a natural transition to producing.

    NYFA: What have been your favorite projects/productions to work on to date

    NW: This is like asking a parent which is your favorite child! I have a special affection for “my first child in the film industry,” True Stories (1986), co-written and directed by David Byrne, with music by Talking Heads. It has become a true cult hit, was recently remastered, and is available on Criterion. The cinematography is by Ed Lachman, a true master.

    NYFA: Tell us about your time at NYFA.

    NW: I love sharing my experience and knowledge in the education of new producers. It is very gratifying to mentor the next generation of content creators. I am on a mission to spread the answer to the important question, “What Does a Producer Do?”. One of the great strengths of the New York Film Academy is the diversity of the student population. It is invigorating to meet and work with students of all ages and ethnic and gender identities who come to study at NYFA from all over the world. It not only enriches the students’ experiences but those of the faculty as well. 

    NYFA: What are your favorite courses to teach?

    NW: Producer’s Craft because this is where I get to answer, “What Does a Producer Do?”. We explore the entire producing process, from identifying ideas to working with writers in the development of scripts, assembling commercially viable packages, raising finance, and looking at all aspects of pre-production, filming/shooting, post-production, as well as marketing, and distribution. It is a very comprehensive overview of producing. 

    NYFA: How would your students describe your teaching style/methods?

    NW: I have a lot of information to give to our students, so I do a lot of talking! The students, in turn, ask a lot of questions, so there is a good give and take. As we are very hands-on, students apply what they are learning in lectures to their own individual case studies, which are shared in class. I encourage as much participation, discussion, and interaction as possible.

     

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    Executive Producer John Giura with NYFA Producing Co-Chair Neal Weisman at a NYFA Q&A Session 


    NYFA: What are your favorite aspects of the film community in New York?

    NW: New York City is the greatest backlot in the world! Think of all the fantastic films that have been set here. It is so exciting to create work in the Big Apple. There is a fiercely independent and entrepreneurial spirit in New York; so many motivated people making everything from low-budget indies to amazing documentaries to huge Marvel movies. From Martin Scorsese to Spike Lee, everyone and everything is here!

    NYFA: Who do you believe have been some of the most significant individuals in producing?

    NW: Saul Zaentz was an incredible producer. He operated primarily outside the studio system, based in San Francisco, and was able to make truly significant work – movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The English Patient (1996), Amadeus (1984), The Mosquito Coast (1986), and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). 

    The British producer Jeremy Thomas has made a host of amazing films working with great directors like David Cronenberg, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Terry Gilliam. Also, Jason Blum is awesome, making lower-budgeted horror films like Insidious (2010-2018) and The Purge (2013); and moving on to movies like Whiplash (2014), Split (2016), Get Out (2017), BlacKkKlansman (2018), Glass (2019), and Us (2019). 

    Of course, I can’t forget Edward R. Pressman, who was an important mentor and responsible for such movies as Wall Street (1987), To Sleep with Anger (1990), Reversal of Fortune (1990), The Crow (1994), and American Psycho (2000).

    NYFA: What are some of your favorite films?

    NW: Many of my students know that I consider Citizen Kane (1941) to be one of the most influential and important films of all time. That said, I confess to The Wizard of Oz (1939) as being my favorite film for a multitude of reasons (not just Judy Garland). The music is timeless, the performances are superb, but most importantly, it is a classic hero story. I often cite it when speaking about crafting screenplays.

    NYFA: What advice would you give a prospective student looking to get started in producing?

    NW: Learn all the basics and fundamentals of producing first and foremost. Once you have these concepts, strategies, and skills in your toolbox, you’ll be able to follow your passion wherever it takes you, confidently knowing what you are doing!

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    September 11, 2022 • Faculty Interviews, Producing • Views: 35

  • NYFA Acting for Film Faculty: Interview with Josephine Wilson

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    Our NYFA Acting for Film faculty helps students develop practical acting skills using a hands-on approach. Josephine Wilson, Chair of the Acting for Film department in New York, uses her ten years of experience acting, directing, and teaching at the nationally-acclaimed Shakespeare & Co in Lenox, MA, where she’s a company member, to guide students and help them build confidence in their craft.

    Josephine moved to New York in 2015. She’s since been teaching at NYFA and is heavily involved in a number of theatre companies, both acting and teaching in them, and has also co-created and written shows herself.

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    NYFA Acting for Film Chair, Josephine Wilson

    During her time with Shakespeare & Co, Josephine studied under Tina Packer and dove deeply into Kristin Linklater’s work in the place where it was created and developed. Following her move to New York, she helped Lincoln Center Theatre develop its Shakespeare curriculum for schools and has taught in its programs since 2015. She is a member of The Humanist Project, a theatre company that devises new pieces rooted in the classics, and was a part of a five-person Macbeth performed at the Secret Theatre. She was also in Macbeth for South Brooklyn Shakespeare, was a part of the Shakespeare Society’s exploration of Richard III, and co-created a clown show called Quantum Fairy Tales

    She has also written and developed her own show, Psyche, which she performed at Dixon Place, and most recently, she played Dori Mae in Nathan Brewer’s short film, No Loss Here (2020). Her regional performances include Annie in Table Manners, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Miss Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

    We sat down with Josephine to talk about her love of acting, her favorite films and acting performances, and what advice she’d give to acting students looking to get started.


    New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did you first get interested in acting? 

    Josephine Wilson (JW): In 4th grade, I had a teacher that was very excited about Shakespeare and would act out the plays for us in class. She encouraged me, and I began memorizing and acting out scenes in my bedroom in my free time. Out of this, I joined the Junior Musical Playhouse Company, in which I got to act in several wonderful productions. It became a passion and an obsession. 

    NYFA: What have been your favorite projects/productions to work on to date?

    JW: My favorite project was a short film I got to work on called No Loss Here, directed and written by Nathan Brewer. It was an important story about Alzheimer’s that had a wonderful message of love. 

    NYFA: Tell us about your time at NYFA.  

    JW: I have been with New York Film Academy as both a teacher and administrator for seven years. I began in the Acting team for the Musical Theatre department and joined the Acting for Film department in 2018. 

    NYFA: What are your favorite courses to teach? 

    JW: I love teaching Acting Technique, Scene Study, and Shakespeare. I think these classes are immersive and fun. 

    NYFA: How would your students describe your teaching style/methods?

    JW: I am most interested in playing. How can you create the game in your scene work that brings your acting to life? I also want my students to learn to be very curious about the other actors on stage with them by listening to their whole being. This is where the exciting human behavior begins. 

    NYFA: What are your favorite aspects of the film and acting community in New York?

    JW: New York is ambitious and intelligent, but it is also fun. The film and acting community reflect the vibrancy of the city. You can find any kind of show you could possibly desire to see; turn the corner, and a film is shooting on the block. I love that there is room for creativity and that the actors in the city are highly skilled and trained. It is a wonderful place to work. 

    NYFA: Who do you believe have been some of the most significant actors/actresses in film?

    JW: Marlon Brando and James Dean changed modern acting. Meryl Streep is undisputedly one of the greatest actors to grace the screen. Mark Rylance is the most alive actor I have ever seen on stage and on screen.  

    NYFA: What are some of your favorite films/tv shows and performances?

    JW: I am a true nerd. I love Star Wars (1977-2019), The Princess Bride (1987), Game of Thrones (2011-2019), Labyrinth (1986), and all of the epic adventure movies and shows. I think the best films and tv shows can transport us to another world but still reflect our human needs and emotional life. As for my favorite performances, I will never forget Minnie Driver in Good Will Hunting (1997). You can literally see her heartbreak moment by moment when Will tells her he doesn’t love her. That vulnerability and moment-to-moment specificity is something to strive toward.

    NYFA: What advice would you give a prospective student looking to get started in acting?

    JW: Practice, practice, practice. Get curious about what works and what doesn’t work, get help from others and begin to collaborate with people who share your same passions. Acting cannot happen in a vacuum, so it takes diligent work and a community to grow.

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    August 30, 2022 • Acting, Faculty Interviews • Views: 25

  • NYFA Cinematography Faculty: Interview with Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC

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    For cinematography students, learning from seasoned professionals such as BAFTA award-winning Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC is nothing short of taking a masterclass in excelling behind the lens. Chair of the Cinematography Department at NYFA Los Angeles, Richmond’s career spans well over six decades, with over 85 films and television projects under his belt.

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    NYFA Cinematography Chair, Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC

    Known for being both prolific and diverse in his range of genres, early on in his career, Anthony worked as Assistant Cameraman on such landmark films as From Russia with Love (1963) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). He also assisted on A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1966) and Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966). 

    In his later years as an established Director of Photography, he worked on films such as Don’t Look Now (1973), for which he won a BAFTA Award, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1975) starring David Bowie, Candyman (1992), and Legally Blonde (2001). He also worked on the seminal British music scene of the late 60s and shot the Rolling Stones classic, Sympathy For The Devil (1968) for Jean-Luc Godard, and then collaborated with Michael Lindsey Hogg on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1996) and the Beatles’ Let It Be (1970). 

    In addition to his extensive work behind the camera and in the classroom, Anthony is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (A.M.P.A.S), British Academy of Film & Television Arts (B.A.F.T.A), American Society of Cinematographers (A.S.C), and British Society of Cinematographers (B.S.C).

    We talked to him about how he first got interested in cinematography, his favorite projects, and his advice for students looking to get started.

    NYFA: How did you first get interested in cinematography?

    AR: I first got interested in cinematography when I was about 15 going to the movies three times a week.

    NYFA: What have been your favorite projects/productions to work on to date?

    AR: Don’t Look Now (1973), for which I won the BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography. Also, Men of Honor (2000), The Greek Tycoon (1978), Ravenous (1999), The Eagle has Landed (1976), and Silver Bears (1977).

    NYFA: What are your favorite courses to teach?

    AR: The Crane Workshop (3rd semester MFA Cinematography) and the Stage Lighting Workshop (2nd semester MFA & One-Year Cinematography).

    For Stage Lighting Workshop, we spend two weeks learning how to light in a stage environment using big lights, stage power, and advanced grip equipment.  We have a great set that’s been built for us, with a 20′ x 50′ backing of the New York skyline. The backing can be lit from the front for a day scene, or it can be lit from behind to create a night look.  Each student brings in a reference image, and they then create their own shot with the same lighting style.

    For the Crane Workshop, the students learn to operate the camera with a remote head.  This works like a traditional geared head, so the students work on this skill throughout the entire week of the class.  The workshop builds up to a Cinematography Practicum shoot where we bring in a massive telescoping crane and shoot a scene with actors and director.

    NYFA: Who do you believe have been some of the most significant individuals in cinematography?

    AR: Freddie Young OBE, BSC was a British cinematographer who photographed many great pictures, including major historical epics such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr. Zhivago (1965), both for director David Lean.

    Gregg Toland, ASC, was an American cinematographer who was very innovative and shot for many classic Hollywood directors.  His films include Citizen Kane (1941) for director Orson Welles, The Grapes of Wrath (1940) for director John Ford, and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) for director William Wyler.

    Raoul Coutard was a French cinematographer who brought new techniques to many of the French New Wave classics, including Breathless (1960) and Alphaville (1965) for director Jean-Luc Godard and Jules & Jim for director Francois Truffaut.

    NYFA: What are some of your favorite films (in terms of how they did the cinematography)?

    AR: Citizen Kane, Doctor Zhivago, and Lawrence of Arabia.

    NYFA: What advice would you give a prospective student looking to get started in cinematography?

    AR: Watch a lot of films.  You can learn so much about composition, lighting, and storytelling from watching all kinds of different movies. If you are interested in getting started in cinematography, you can also build some basic skills by taking still photos.  Be thoughtful about composition and lighting as you make your images.  You can also look for opportunities to crew on short film projects, music videos, commercials, etc.  Try to find other young filmmakers who have the same goal of making great films and collaborate with them.

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  • NYFA Cinematography Faculty: Interview with Piero Basso, AIC-IMAGO

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    As professionals who actively work in Cinematography, our NYFA Cinematography faculty teach students traditional techniques while passing on the latest industry requirements and trends. For Piero Basso, AIC-IMAGO and Chair of the Cinematography Department at NYFA New York, Cinematography is not merely a job but a calling.

    During his career, which exceeds two decades, Basso has photographed over 16 feature films and TV series, as well as a range of short films, documentaries, and commercials. We talked to him about how he fell in love with film, his favorite movies, and his advice on how aspiring Cinematographers can get started.

    NYFA Cinematography Chair Piero Basso

    NYFA Cinematography Chair Piero Basso

    NYFA Cinematography Chair, Piero Basso, AIC-IMAGO

    Known for his work on films such as Dafne (2019) and Working Man (2019), as well as television series including L’Aquila – Grandi speranze (2019), Piero has a wealth of experience as a Director of Photography. His films have screened at prestigious film festivals around the globe, including Berlin (Dafne, Panorama – Fipresci Award as Best Feature Film), Cannes (Darker than Midnight, Semaine de la Critique), Locarno (Seven Acts of Mercy, competition), Turin (Santina, competition), Oberhausen (Zakaria, competition), Venice (Una Famiglia, competition), Clermont-Ferrand, Busan, Huesca, Marrakech, Santa Barbara, and several others, winning awards such as the prestigious FIPRESCI award for Best Feature Film of Panorama. In 2009, he was invited to join the exclusive Italian Association of Cinematographers (AIC).

    Here’s what Piero had to say about his experience in Cinematography and at New York Film Academy.

    NYFA: How did you first get interested in Cinematography?

    PB: I loved Cinema from the early years of my life, and, growing older, I was naturally drawn to it. Making movies felt like a necessity. I dreamed of being a director, but Cinematography was my true destiny. Looking to my beginning with the knowledge I have now, I didn’t really have any other option; I started working with friends and being asked to be the camera operator for their films, and suddenly I found my true self not in the director’s chair but behind the camera, using my eyes to make real the dreams of someone else.

    NYFA: What have been your favorite projects/productions to work on to date?

    PB: Choosing a favorite project is almost like choosing your favorite child. I love Cinematography because it allows me to work with different people with extremely different talents and visions. In most of the projects I worked on, even those that have not been fully successful, I have fond memories, and I have learned a lot. If I had to choose, I would say Seven Acts of Mercy (2011) because it was the conclusion of a long journey with Gianluca and Massimiliano de Serio that started in our early years in college and, more recently, working on the feature films of Sebastiano Riso, Lanre Olabisi, Bob Jury, and Federico Bondi. Truly, my favorite project is the next one. 

    NYFA: Tell us about your time at NYFA.

    PB: I started teaching for NYFA in 2009, fresh after moving to NY and receiving my Green Card. I always loved the educational world. When I was still a student at the University of Turin, I self-organized in collaboration with my Professor. Franco Prono, my mentor, and cinema instructor, a practical cinema course which I have been teaching while still a student, sharing the practical experience I was learning working on the side of my academic life. I particularly enjoy NYFA because it has a predominance of practical learning while still keeping a deep interest in forming the students from a theoretical perspective as well.  I became Chair of the program in NY in the second half of 2018, and I truly enjoy seeing how the Cinematography curricula introduces this wonderful field to a new generation of cinematographers while supporting the radical changes in gender and minorities representation that are one of the major challenges in our industry and role. 

    NYFA: What are your favorite courses to teach? 

    PB: I love equally the practical courses like Camera and Grip and Electric, as well as those more theoretical like Cinematographer’s Craft and History of Cinematography. Possibly my true favorite is the combination of the two which is achieved in the Production Workshops, where two specific and complementary phases are present: the preparation during which theory and history of the craft have a robust impact, which leads to a shooting phase during which the here and now of the set is what truly matters.

    NYFA: How would your students describe your teaching style/methods?

    PB: I believe my students would agree that my teaching is deeply rooted in my life experience as a Cinematographer. I always try to present the course topics from the point of view of someone who spends his life on the set trying to utilize the same techniques, concepts, and ideas being taught in the classroom to create the effective and hopefully powerful images needed to tell the story. I also encourage them to push themselves beyond their perceived limits and not to play it safe (artistically speaking, that is, we have a zero-tolerance policy for taking inconsiderate safety risks while shooting). I believe a film school is a safe zone, a place where students must be free to experiment and find their own voice.

    NYFA: What are your favorite aspects of the Cinematography community in New York?

    PB: New York is a challenging, intense place, rich in energy and truly committed to a life that rushes at twice the speed of most other places in the world. And it is gritty, dirty, beautiful, glamorous, it is rife with profound disparities built into its culture. A place where you can have infinite success and terrifying falls. And yet, a place that pushes you to believe in yourself and try again because the opportunities are there. I feel the Cinematographers in NY have an amazing city to film, literally a backlot at every corner, and they are surrounded by a community of creative people second to none in the world. It is also a place where a Cinematographer has opportunities in an extremely wide range of potential jobs, from low-budget indie to full-blown studio projects, and everything in between.

    NYFA: Who do you believe have been some of the most significant individuals in Cinematography?

    PB: As easy to imagine, this is an incredibly complex question to answer in an academic approach. If we forget for a moment the entire history of cinematography and we let me respond with a personal, imperfect, and totally arbitrary answer listing those that have been heroes of mine and have inspired my personal taste for cinematography, then the answer is somehow simple: Robby Müller, Sven Nykvist, Raoul Coutard, Vittorio Storaro, Luca Bigazzi, Darius Khondji, and Janusz Kaminski.

    Janusz Kaminski at NYFA New York

    Oscar-Winning Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski at NYFA New York City Campus

    NYFA: What are some of your favorite films in terms of how the Cinematography was done?

    PB: I love the honest, deep, and creative cinematography of Paris, Texas (1984) as much as the stylized and researched lighting and art design of The Conformist (1970). I have a deep sentiment of admiration and gratitude for Breaking the Waves (1996), that has taught me how Cinematography doesn’t require that the aesthetic quality of the images must be preserved at all costs and instead showed me how a story can be told with gritty, unperfect and dirty images if this style fits the story. I am a great fan of silent movies, and I loved Murnau’s Aurora (1927) and Lang’s Metropolis (1927). The black and white mixed with color of Wings of Desire (1987) (for which I will always prefer the German title Der Himmel über Berlin – The Sky above Berlin) and Die Zweite Heimat (1992). I cherish the darkness of movies like The Godfather (1972). And I can’t not mention probably the most beautiful movie ever shot: Stalker (1979). What would be a life without Tarkovsky…

    NYFA: What advice would you give a prospective student looking to get started in Cinematography?

    PB: I would advise them to abandon the fear of judgment and to concentrate on finding their own internal voice. And to sleep a lot before the program starts, because once we get moving the months will rush fast and emotions, fatigue, excitement, exhaustion, worries, dreams, nightmares, successes, failures and happiness will all mix in a journey that will feel like a rollercoaster and most likely will be some of the best and more memorable years of their lives.

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