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  • Silicon Valley’s John Altschuler Speaks With New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On August 15, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of HBO’s Silicon Valley followed by a Q&A with creator and showrunner John Altschuler. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, moderated the event.

    As a student at University of North Carolina, Altschuler created the first comedy sketch show on the university student TV. He and his co-writer, looking to capitalize on their venture, sent written material in three boxes to three owners/editors of the National Lampoon magazine, adding a dollar to each to get their attention. It worked! He became a writer for the most iconic humor magazine of its time, until he moved to Hollywood.John Altschuler

    After moving to Los Angeles however, he realized that his previous work was not going to magically open doors in the industry, so he worked odd jobs until he started getting gigs as a production assistant. He was careful not to pitch himself, instead concentrating on the job at hand. He told students, “Whatever job you get, just do that well… make their lives easier and they will look out for you; they will want to help you because you made their day that much easier.”

    His first writing job, on HBO’s The High Life, led to his becoming an executive producer and showrunner on FOX’s King of the Hill for 12 years and the relaunch of Beavis and Butt-head for MTV. He then co-created Silicon Valley for HBO, and Lopez for TV Land, starring George Lopez. He’s also produced Mike Judge’s film, Extract (2009) starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis and Ben Affleck, and co-wrote Blades of Glory (2007) starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.

    A student asked Altschuler about his inspiration for Silicon Valley. He replied, “I was reading a biography of Steve Jobs and there was a quote in there where Bill Gates was ridiculing Steve Jobs: ‘The guy can’t even write code!’ Altschuler thought: “The guy created the biggest brand in the world and there’s somebody up in Silicon Valley sniping at him; I was like, “This is hilarious!'”

    To the question of whether the creators knew Silicon Valley culture or only did research when they wrote the pilot, the answer was, “Both.” Altschuler had family members who were engineers, but they also did further research:

    “We went up to Silicon Valley… and it was so funny, because… everybody kept talking about how they were making the world a better place… The sanctimony was so thick that I thought, ‘well this is something to make fun of.’ It’s… fun to take on the big guys and try to deflate them.”

    John AltschulerLaiter noted that sometimes it’s easier to make fun of something when you’re outside of it, and Altschuler concurred.

    One student asked about Altschuler’s tips for pitching a show or movie to a producer. Altschuler advised, “[When] you go in, have your story and try to start off with a topic sentence or a personal story… try to make it a conversation, not a laundry list of ‘first this happened and then that happened.'”

    Altschuler imparted to the students that no matter what, they have to like what they’re making or no one will want to consume it. And when they write, and a scene doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to let it go. “If it’s really great, it will get its way in back later.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank John Altschuler for sharing his industry expertise and advice for our film school students!

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    August 17, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 153

  • Q&A With High School 9-1-1’s Tim Warren and Kelli Joan Bennett


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    The New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus welcomed director Tim Warren and producer Kelli Joan Bennett for a Q&A following a screening of their award-winning, impactful documentary, High School 9-1-1 for summer high school students. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter moderated the event.

    The doc follows a year in the life of the members of EMS-Post 53, a volunteer student-run ambulance service in the small town of Darien, Connecticut, where Warren himself had volunteered as a senior in high school. 

    Tim Warren is an American film and television producer whose credits include popular reality programs such as Bar Rescue, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and more. Kelli Joan Bennett is an actor and writer, who recently produced and starred in the feature crime-thriller Collusions, alongside Tom Everett Scott. Together, Warren and Bennett formed Boomerang Production Media in 1996, and it was under this banner that High School 9-1-1 was ultimately produced. 

    Laiter started the night off by inquiring after Warren’s motivation for pursuing the film, so many years after he had experienced life at Post 53. “I was sort of thinking,” he explained, “if I die tomorrow, what would I regret not doing? And ultimately, I always thought about doing a documentary on this organization that was so positively impactful on my life. And even though I didn’t go into the medical field, the things that I learned on the ambulance thirty plus years ago, I still use today as a producer and director.”Tim Warren and Kelli Joan Bennett

    Many of these lessons, Warren noted, came in the form of mantras from the organization’s beloved founder, Bud Doble. “One of them was, ‘Be prepared for what you find, but be prepared to change your mind.’ And that applies to not only when you’re on the ambulance, but when you’re in television and film.” Warren went on to paraphrase, “You need to have a plan. You need to have an idea of what you want to do. But you can’t be so married to that plan that you either miss a greater opportunity, or don’t see a problem that’s coming at you.”

    Over the course of several years following their almost year-long stage of principal photography, that lesson would come into play in more ways than one. The first cut of High School 9-1-1 was upwards of six hours, followed soon thereafter by a two-hour cut. After screening the film for an audience, and being told it was still too long, the two of them cut it down by another fifteen minutes. “We submitted the one hundred and four minute cut to the top ten film festivals,” Warren began. “We were [resoundingly] rejected. So we’re now seven, eight years into this process, a mountain of debt, and nobody loves us.” 

    Warren and Bennett returned to their professional lives for a time, until their collective spark was reignited after Bennett ran into the program director for the LA Film Festival. “The program director says, ‘Oh, I remember that film — great film. Too long. But don’t give up on that film.’ And she said that the film needed to be under 90 minutes. So, that reinvigorated us.”

    The pair then cut the film down to 86 minutes and launched a successful festival tour, screening at Heartland, Kansas City, New Haven, and more, as a part of the American Film Showcase program. After nearly ten years put into the project, its success was well-deserved. But documentary film, as Warren later attests, isn’t necessarily about success.

    “The thing with documentary that I always say is… you have to be really passionate about the subject matter.  And you have to go in pretty much knowing that it’s not your ticket to riches… If you’re thinking about doing a documentary, you have this feeling that, ‘I have to tell this story, and I’m going to tell this story — really — at any cost.’” 

    High School 9-1-1 is currently on a world-wide tour, screening at high schools and within communities, with the ultimate intention of “empowering young people through responsibility.” For behind the scenes, screening information, and more, visit here.

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    August 9, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1026

  • Documentarian Amy Rice Presents “By The People” to New York Film Academy Students

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    This July, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing and Documentary Filmmaking departments presented a screening of By the People: The Election of Barack Obama followed by a Q&A with director Amy Rice. The discussion was moderated by Producing Chair Neal Weisman and Documentary Chair Andrea Swift.

    Producing Chair Neal Weisman, Director Amy Rice, and Documentary Chair Andrea Swift

    Producing Chair Neal Weisman, Director Amy Rice, and Documentary Chair Andrea Swift.

    The nearly two-hour film documents the years leading up to the election of Barack Obama. Rice gives viewers an inside look into Obama’s evolution from little-known Illinois Senator to symbol of change for a generation.

    Calling it one of her favorite documentaries, Rice was greatly influenced by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s The War Room, about Bill Clinton’s campaign for president in 1992. By the People premiered in August of 2009 on HBO, and last week’s screening gave younger students a look at how the 2008 election differed from recent elections.

    Rice began her career as a cinematographer, working with her eventual co-director on By the People, Alicia Sams. The documentarian talked about the appeal of this type filmmaking, saying, “There was something very organic about documentary. Just pick up your camera and go shoot and follow the story as it’s unfolding in front of you.” 

    "By the People" director Amy Rice

    By the People director Amy Rice.

    After her other brother told her about Obama before he was well-known, Rice watched his speeches and read his book, Dreams from My Father. “I was just naturally obsessed with his story,” she says.

    Her and her team used a trip to Africa during a congressional delegation trip as a testing ground. From there, the film follows the lead-up to the 2008 election and Obama’s transition from presidential long shot to favorite. Rice discussed the difficulties that began to arise as the presidential candidate’s popularity increased. For instance, at one point the film crew was unable to use a boom mic due to secret service safety concerns. Rice pointed out another instance deep into the campaign where security tried to stop her from filming: “I looked so horrified that he was trying to stop me from getting my final shot.” 

    The filmmaker also dropped some words of wisdom on the students throughout the course of the discussion. One thing she stressed was to “always say ‘yes’ to all film opportunities.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Amy Rice for her time and the illuminating discussion with the Producing and Documentary Filmmaking departments.

    Watch the trailer below and/or purchase the film here.

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  • Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos Speaks With New York Film Academy

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    Last Friday, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor to be invited to the Netflix Sunset-Bronson Studios for a preview screening of Netflix upcoming series The Innocents followed by an exclusive Q&A with Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.

    Ted has led content acquisition for Netflix since 2000. Since 2013, he led the company’s transition into original streaming content with the launch of House of Cards, Arrested Development, and Orange is the New Black, among numerous other series. Ted has been recognized as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2013, and as an innovator in film acquisition and distribution. Netflix executive Matthew Thunell introduced the pilot. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter hosted the afternoon.

    Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos

    Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos

    Laiter opened the conversation by asking Mr. Sarandos about his unique start in the film industry, from community college for journalism, to running movie rental stores, to where he is now. “It’s a super unlikely path,” Mr. Sarandos said, “I’m always reluctant to give my path… as it wouldn’t make any sense for anyone to try to follow.”

    The conversation moved to Netflix’s first original release, the wildly successful House of Cards. Mr. Sarandos spoke fondly of working with David Fincher, saying “He’s exacting. I love, more than anything, somebody who knows what they want, knows what’s important and what isn’t. David never had a wasted conversation or a wasted argument about anything during production.” He also talked about the initial meeting. They pitched Fincher an offer he couldn’t refuse: two seasons of a TV show, with no pilot, and no notes. The only restriction was that he would have to put his name on it. “The bet was that someone who really cared about their brand would really make it great if you gave him the freedom to do that. And that’s what we did.”

    One student asked what advice he would give his younger self, just starting out in the industry. Mr. Sarandos talked about how far Netflix and the industry as a whole has come and continue to change. “I don’t know that I ever would have seen far enough ahead to say ‘You should do this, and not that.’ The main thing is, I think, is to be incredibly nimble.”

    Tova Laiter & Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos

    Tova Laiter & Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos

    Laiter ended the Q&A by asking what quality Ted felt led the most to his success. He answered, “Probably curiosity. It’s not necessarily what you know, it’s what you’re willing to figure out… Being humble enough to ask, and not being afraid to look dumb, is how you learn.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Sarandos for inviting us to Netflix for this amazing Q&A.

    The Innocents will be streaming starting August 24th – only on Netflix.

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    July 25, 2018 • Guest Speakers • Views: 521

  • Q&A with Filmmaker Ned Dougherty

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    It’s often said that family members should never work together. This certainly is not the case for Ned and Michael Dougherty, a father and son filmmaking duo who’ve been successfully working on films together for the past few years. They have just recently finished a feature film titled Love & Everything in Between. “I can’t stress this enough,” Michael shared, “it’s all because of my parents that this is even on screen. That’s the truth.”

    The New York Film Academy invited Ned and Michael Dougherty to do a special Q&A with students following a screening of their film, where they shared with the audience how the movie came to be, from the writing process to the marketing of the film. The film has already earned several awards and nominations from the festival circuit, including wins for Dramatic Original Feature and Best Feature Film – Romance from WorldFest Houston.

    One student asked what it was like to screen the movie in the Hamptons, where the movie is set. “It was a great turn out,” Michael answered.

    His father Ned added, “That was our quiet, low-key premiere at the Southampton United Artists Theatre last July, to a standing room of more than 300 friends.” Another student, Roberto, approached the microphone, and Ned immediately recognized him — they both attended a producing workshop together a couple years back, and Roberto had helped to create the thesis for Love And Everything in Between.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Robert shared, “We were classmates… as a matter of fact, we actually shot a short film, a thesis for this movie… it was actually the dinner scene…. it was so fun.” Roberto continued, “I don’t really have a question, I just want to say congratulations because I know… I was kind of a witness to how much work you put into this project. And I think that it’s a big motivation for me, because I can see closely how dreams actually become true.” According to Ned,  that statement made his night.

    Prior to the screening, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had an opportunity to ask Ned Dougherty a number of questions pertaining to Love and Everything in Between (LEIB), concerning the struggles he and his son faced, his experience as a producer, and any insight he could give to aspiring filmmakers:

     

    NYFA: How did you get involved with this film?

    Ned Dougherty: Following [his] high school graduation, my son Michael Dougherty studied acting for two years at Stella Adler in New York City and then came to Los Angeles in late 2012 to pursue an acting career. After several years of “pounding the pavements” in L.A., Michael decided to promote his career by creating his own projects through his own production company, Hampton Filmworks.” Michael’s first project is Love & Everything in Between, written primarily in 2015.

    Here is the key: Michael’s mother Ginnie and I both fully supported Michael’s decision to pursue his dream, including our financial support. We are both co-producers with Michael and I have been actively involved as a full-time creative filmmaker and business-end producer. Initially, we hired a line producer in January 2016 who prepared a $250k budget. In February 2016, I completed the NYFA Los Angeles Producing Program. The principal cinematography was completed over six weeks in Fall 2016 with pick-up scenes filmed in May 2017.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about this film’s success?

    ND: When Michael initially wrote the screenplay in 2015 without ever attending a screenwriting course, I read it and said: “Son, you have written The Graduate for the Millennial Generation.” Michael had never heard of or seen The Graduate (1967) at that time. Both films feature a recent college graduate trying to find himself, complimented by a beautiful music score, but the similarities end there. Michael was passionate about writing Love & Everything in Between and his passion for the story, as well as the location settings, is evident in his storytelling.

    Michael grew up in the Hamptons and I taught him to swim and surf at the same beach which is the opening scene location. Michael created a “Romeo & Juliet” in the Hamptons story and his knowledge of the Hamptons provided him with the beautiful Hampton scenery as well as the inspiration for a compelling Romance/Drama which morphs into a Romance/Thriller.

    NYFA: What has been the hardest part of completing this film?

    ND: We are currently marketing the film, attending film festivals, seeking distribution opportunities, etc., to successfully monetize the project. Finding a successful route to making the film financially viable seems to be the greatest hurdle for first-time filmmakers.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty


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

    ND: In my youth, I read classic American novels (by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, and James Michener) and developed an appreciation for great storytelling that morphed into my interest in great films. Among my favorites: Casablanca, It’s A Wonderful Life, To Kill A Mockingbird, Dr. Strangelove, Rocky, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Forrest Gump, and ironically The Graduate.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about producing?

    ND: I prefer to introduce myself these days as a “filmmaker,” rather than as a “producer.” I am more passionate about the creative side (filmmaking) as opposed to the business side (producing). Michael has allowed me to creatively participate in his project, and I have really cherished that opportunity to work alongside my son from creation to distribution. I have been primarily a businessman for most of my life, so I had that experience to offer Michael, but both Michael and I have had to learn the business by trial and error.

    NYFA: What advice do you have for young producers?

    ND: As trite as it sounds, follow your dream! If you are not “passionate” about your project, take a pass! Optimally, strive to balance your energies between your dual responsibilities as a creative filmmaker and as a business-oriented producer. While Michael was pursuing his acting career, I encouraged him to take college business courses to develop a business sense and an understanding of basic business principles.

    NYFA: Why should people see Love & Everything in Between?

    First of all: Location! Location! Location! The Hamptons has a global appeal to moviegoers and LEIB is a cinematic treat for the eyes with spectacular drone shots and scenery of the Hamptons and Montauk that — and I say this with all humility — has never been achieved before in previous Hamptons’ films. At our World Premiere, the Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, the judges agreed; we garnered the “Best Cinematography” award (Thank you Red Dragon!)

    While your eyes are being dazzled by the scenery, story, and character development, the romance/drama unfolds unexpectedly into a romance/thriller that never stops moving while accompanied by an outstanding musical score that appeals to all generations.

    Secondly, LEIB is a socially relevant story. In writing LEIB, Michael never intended to create a controversial film, but so it is — much to our surprise. The controversial aspect of the film, which deals with sexual assault, became obvious in test screenings that we held at several Hampton libraries. At these events, college students wanted to know if they could bring LEIB to their campuses as a teaching or learning tool for students. As a result, we have developed a program to provide public service screenings for colleges and universities, particularly during “April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” utilizing TUGG.com and TUGG.edu.

    There is one word that continuously surfaces from viewers: “Amazing!” A sure sign that LEIB made a significant effect on viewers was the consistent feedback from many viewers that the story and the music stayed with them days later. I often heard “I can’t get the music (or the story) out of my head!”

    As a matter of fact, LEIB was selected and screened at the Socially Relevant Film Festival NYC in March 2018. In February 2018, LEIB received The Grand Prize – Best Feature Film at the Silicon Beach Miami Film Festival and has already been nominated as a finalist for a REMI Award as Best Feature Film at Houston Worldfest in April 2018.

    NYFA: What projects are you working on next?

    ND: We have a number of projects and several episodic series in various stages of development to be filmed primarily in the Hamptons and Los Angeles. Michael’s personal next feature film preference is The Butterfly & the Butcher, a colorful character crime drama to be filmed primarily in the Los Angeles Artist and Warehouse Districts. Followed by a paranormal love story to be shot on location on Shelter Island, New York. The Marakesh Story is my personal true story of my experiences as a nightclub owner (played by Michael) in the Hamptons and Palm Beach during the champagne/cocaine-fueled disco era of the 1970s-80s,  with additional shooting locations in New York City, Washington D.C., the Cayman Islands, Central America, and other locations.  TV episodic series include South Beach Spirit and an untitled Hamptons project Michael is developing. However, film financing and future producer/partner relationships may determine the scheduling of our next projects.

    NYFA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I could not have effectively assisted my son as a producer without the NYFA Producing Program and have great respect for the professionalism of the administration, staff, and faculty at NYFA L.A. I view this opportunity to screen LEIB at NYFA as a way of “giving back” by sharing more details of what it is like to be a first-time filmmaker. I am developing a “Dos & Dont’s” list for the Q&A Session on June 7, 2018, following the NYFA L.A. screening of LEIB.

     

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ned and Michael Dougherty for graciously attending this Q&A and sharing their story with our students. They are a true example of teamwork and great minds coming together to collaborate on a project for which they hold a great deal of passion. We look forward to continuing to follow their journey and watching the rise of their success that undoubtedly awaits them in the future! 

    If you are interested in attending a NYFA program, you can find more information here

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

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    July 11, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 499

  • Christina Beck Brings Perfection to New York Film Academy Los Angeles Guest Speaker Series

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    In February, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles welcomed writer, director, and actor Christina Beck as a Guest Speaker to the Q&A stage, following a screening of her award-winning film Perfection.

    The film, which tells the story of a young woman who struggles with self-harm, and her relationship with her mother, was screened in honor of Self-Injury Awareness Day, a global event dedicated to removing the stigma surrounding self-harm, and spreading awareness so that those who suffer do not have to suffer in silence.

    Beck began by discussing the script’s origins, which, unsurprisingly, initially sprang from her own experiences. “I wasn’t a cutter, but in my 20s I used to pick at my skin a lot, and I had a lot of self hatred,” she shared. “I grew up in LA, I had a very beautiful mother, and there was a lot of emphasis on exterior beauty and trying to be perfect. And trying to fit in and finding my way as a young woman, I felt like I wasn’t enough … so I started writing that character, and then later it morphed into a bigger story.”

    NYFA Los Angeles Producing Department Co-Chair Roberta Colangelo, who moderated the event, followed up with a question about what the medium of film can do, or what kind of opportunities it can bring to the subject of self harm.

    “I think even if you’re not someone who cuts yourself you can relate, hopefully, to the feelings,” said Beck. “For me, I always think that filmmaking is such a powerful medium, that we can observe behavior, follow a story, hopefully, and connect with a protagonist, and go on that journey.”

    Beck went on to talk about the process of making the film, which took two and a half years — and in true micro-budget fashion, the journey was full of ups and downs. They started out with no financing, cast the film out of Beck’s living room, and on one occasion, had only a half-hour at a location to film an entire scene.

    “So that’s a little stressful, for sure,” Beck admitted. “And there were quite a few moments like that, honestly … but you just kind of have to make it work, because the bigger picture is more important than the stress of the moment.”

    The bigger picture, in the case of Perfection, is an opportunity to positively impact the people sitting in the audience.

    “It leaves you with a strange sense of empowerment,” Colangelo noted. “Not by showing a very powerful female figure that has heroically overcome everything, but someone that is working her way [through it]. It’s a very powerful message.”

    Perfection is by no means a comprehensive guide to healing, but it was never intended to be. As Beck stated, the intention behind the film was, if nothing else, to be truthful.

    “In 85 minutes, it’s really hard to wrap up someone’s whole recovery,” said Beck. “It just wouldn’t be truthful. And so we kind of modified that journey to leave with a sense of hope.”

    Perfection is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.

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  • Producer Howard Rosenman Delivers Lively Q&A to New York Film Academy Students

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) New York recently had the honor of hosting legendary producer Howard Rosenman for a Q&A. NYFA Chair of Producing Neal Weisman moderated the evening.

    Producing Chair Neal Weisman & Producer Howard Rosenman

    Producing Chair Neal Weisman & Producer Howard Rosenman

    New York Film Academy’s Producing and Screenwriting departments teamed up to bring in the acclaimed film producer on May 16th. The longtime Hollywood mainstay is known for  “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Father of the Bride,” “Family Man,” and the recent Academy Award-winning “Call Me By Your Name.”

    NYC Producing Chair Neal Weisman led a back-and-forth discussion which took place in the 1st Floor Theatre on New York’s campus. A longtime Hollywood icon, this was actually a homecoming of sorts for the Brownsville, Brooklyn-born, Far Rockaway, Queens-raised Rosenman. He attended Brooklyn College in Flatbush in 1965. For decades since, he has been a staple on the Hollywood scene.

    The LGBTQI icon discussed the difficulties of being gay in Hollywood and how he has championed gay characters and themes in film throughout his lengthy career. Discussing how he landed his first acting gig on the Oscar-winning “Milk,” Rosenman joked, “Gus [Van Sandt] said to Francine Maisler, the casting director, ‘get me someone that looks like Howard Rosenman, that talks like Howard Rosenman, that acts like Howard Rosenman, and has Howard Rosenman’s vibe.’ And she said, ‘let’s get Howard Rosenman!'”

    Producer Howard Rosenman at NYFA

    Producer Howard Rosenman at NYFA

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Howard Rosenman for sharing his extensive knowledge with students.

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    June 23, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 311

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Producer Ted Field as Guest Speaker

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles recently had the honor of hosting prolific producer Ted Field for a Q&A, following a screening of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Currently the chairman and owner of Radar Pictures, Field has seen success in both film and music. In 1984, he founded Interscope Films, which produced hits like Cocktail, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and more. He also founded Interscope Records, an independent record label that signed emerging artists such as Dr. Dre. Eminem, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and others. Through his current company, Field has released hits like The Last Samurai, Spring Breakers, the Riddick franchise, and The Amityville Horror.

    Field’s first film was Revenge of the Nerds, and he and Laiter fondly reminisced about the movie. Field shared some of his struggles making the film, “…[it] still took me two years to get that film made. And I almost gave up. I was like, ‘This business is just too hard’ and I nearly quit, and all of a sudden … [Fox] greenlit the film.”

    Field also talked about his previous career as a race car driver: “If you’re thinking at 240 miles an hour about characters in your movie, it’s time to switch careers.”

    Laiter asked about the difficult things a producer has to do, including getting the rights to thought-after source material. Field dove into the topic, saying, “This business is ultimately about persuasion … you have to find a way to get to that author, tell that author how passionate you are, and how you would make it, and how you would protect his vision. Break down doors. Don’t take no for an answer … You know, the word you’ll hear most in the movie business, or the television business, is no. That’s the word. And it should not matter. By the way, you don’t get any credit for having made a lot of movies. We’ve made a lot of movies, but each one is a new series of no’s before we get a yes.”

    One student asked, “How does the development process work?” Field said that the development process is different on every film, and the one thing that almost all films have in common is they’re collaborative.

    “And, to me,” he added, “A producers not really a producer if he isn’t working on development — if he isn’t reading every draft, making comments on every draft … in the end, your responsibility as a producer is to make the best film possible.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ted Field for taking the time to speak to our students and share his wisdom from his many years in the industry.

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    June 20, 2018 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 698

  • New York Film Academy Division of Veterans Services Welcomes Casting Director Robert McGee, C.S.A as Guest Speaker

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Division of Veterans Services (DVS) recently welcomed NYFA’s veteran students and alumni, together with members of Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME), to a screening of the hit animated series Rick and Morty. Following the screening, the audience was treated to a Q&A with casting director extraordinaire, Robert McGee, C.S.A.

    The event was part of the NYFA DVS series of events that includes guest speakers, film screenings, master classes, workshops, and employment trainings — all of which promote industry engagement for NYFA’s veteran students, as well as the wider veteran communities, in Los Angeles, New York City, and South Beach (Miami).

    In addition to Rick and Morty, McGee has cast such hit shows as The Cleveland Show and Wizards of Waverly Place, as well as successful films such as The Virgin Suicides and World’s Greatest Dad, which starred Robin Williams. McGee is currently casting the newest rendition of The Adams Family, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Oscar Isaac, Nick Kroll, and Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron.

    With over 20 years of experience in the casting business in both live action and animation, McGee enjoyed sharing valuable insight on the casting process for both live action and voice over work. McGee is very passionate about the casting business and enjoys meeting actors.

    “The Q&A with Mr. McGee was very insightful,” said NYFA BFA Producing student and U.S. Navy veteran Jonathan Garza. “As a Producing student it was very informative, learning the complexities of what a casting director goes through and how intricate the casting process is.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks Robert McGee for his generosity and willingness to help veterans pursuing careers in the film industry.

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  • Final Draft’s Write On With Altered Carbon Writer Nevin Denham Live From the New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles recently welcomed Final Draft to the NYFA Theater for Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast. The live Q&A event featured Final Draft’s Pete D’Alessandro and writer Nevin Densham, executive story editor for Netflix’s original series, Altered Carbon.

    NYFA and Final Draft, the entertainment industry’s standard screenwriting software, have a relationship that goes back many years. NYFA provides a 12-Week Fellowship for the winners of the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest, yet this was the first time that Final Draft held Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast at the NYFA Los Angeles campus.

    “We’re excited to extend our relationship with Final Draft and build upon the great work we’ve done with the Final Draft Big Break Fellowship,” said Dean of Faculty and Chair of Screenwriting Nunzio DeFilippis. “Having the Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast take place at the NYFA Theater provides our students with additional networking opportunities and even more chances to gain insights from podcast guests.”

    Final Draft’s Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast provides listeners with insights into writing from industry experts and professionals, and in this case the audience of NYFA students and guests from Final Draft who were able to learn more about Densham’s journey as a writer. 

    Before delving into writing for Altered Cabon, Densham admitted that his path into writing for television was not traditional. He grew up in Los Angeles in a household where he had the unique experience to learn from his writer, producer, director father Pen Densham.  

    “I was mentored from a very early age on story and a love for storytelling,” said Densham. “At the time, in the late ‘80s, a version of a hero was a man who killed other men, and he did not want me to be raised seeing that as what a hero was. A hero was a man who fought for other people even though you didn’t necessarily get what you wanted. Selfishness versus, you know, being selfless. And from a really early age, those kind of things were made really clear to me because it was just what he believed.”

    Densham shared that he learned early on that it was about “thoughtful storytelling. It wasn’t just ‘hey let’s make a buck.’ It was how do you tell a story that matters? How do you do something that hopefully leaves a little good left in the world? And I was encouraged to write.”      

    Although the lessons from his father shaped his story sensibility, Nevin decided to leave Los Angeles to study sociology. When he returned to L.A. he had the opportunity to jump into the deep end of the pool, but he wanted to understand the business of film and television and first.  

    “I came back to L.A. and I wanted to roll phones,” he explained. “I didn’t know how to do that and I wanted to take notes, ‘cause I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know anything, frankly. I knew how to go have a meeting with a top level executive and talk and not be intimidated, but I could not answer a phone, and I knew that was a fatal flaw.”  

    During his time working “on a desk,” he took courses in television writing to learn the things he didn’t know. He wrote spec features and television pilots. His work got him some freelance writing jobs and an offer for a staff position, but his family friend, (and future Altered Carbon showrunner) Laeta Kalogridis told him not to take the job — but she couldn’t tell him why.

    What Densham soon learned was that Laeta wanted him to join her as the story editor of Altered Carbon. Densham took a leap of faith and passed on an offer in hopes that Kalogridis’ project would come through … and it did.  

    Densham knew the Altered Carbon book series well, and over several months worked with Laeta to breaking down the show, learning a lot from Kalogridis during pre-production and production. He praised Kalogridis as the hardest working person, driven out of pure passion.  Through her, Densham learned to not settle for something that could be better.

    Densham spoke about how he approached some of his favorite spec scripts and pilots, saying that he kept giving himself permission to write it the way he wanted. This comment sparked a NYFA student to ask how far out there stories should be.  

    Densham responded, “My advice is to be out there to the degree you’re comfortable with, that you want to be. You have to be able to sell you. You have to be you to the most you can be, and as interestingly and effervescently or at least marketably as you can be. If I’m going to hire a writer or someone is going to hire a writer, they’re looking at not just, can they write?They’re looking at, can I bear to be with them — for hours and hours? Can I have conflict with them? You have to be you, because any kind of inauthentic you will ‘out,’ because you’re going to be working hard with a lot of people. Best to be yourself and to make that what is marketable about you.”  

    The final question to Densham was, what advice would you have given to yourself 10 years ago? After a moment, Densham said he would have told himself, “have a little be more faith.  Have a little bit more confidence.”

    His final piece of advice to himself would be to write more, be more industrious, and to know that “you don’t have to be the natural talent, you have to do it, keep doing it.”

    This was the first Final Draft podcast recorded at NYFA but we look forward to hosting more in the future. Listen to the full episode of Final Draft’s Write On: A Screenwriting Podcast with Nevin Densham here.

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