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  • 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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  • Photography Guest Lecture Series Spring 2018

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography Department’s Guest Lecture Series offers students the opportunity to meet active, working artists and engage with them personally and professionally. In each series, lecturers present their work, discuss their practice, and talk about how their particular career has evolved in the dynamic and ever-changing field of photography. NYFA students are able to ask questions and lead discussions with the guests that range from technical challenges and solutions, to conceptual and philosophical explorations.

    The guest lecturers range from fine art photographers, commercial photographers, and multimedia artists, to photography reps and creative directors. Photography reps and creative directors discuss the process of selecting and working with photographers, offering advice on presentation, websites, and branding. This spring, Jen Jenkins from Giant Artists, Maren Levinson from Redeye, and Dara Siegel from I heart reps., brought books of their clients’ work and other printed materials for students to peruse and touch — tactile experiences that bring photography to life.

    Of NYFA’s Spring 2018 series, BFA Photography student Lotta Lemetti said, “For me these artist guest lectures are always inspirational because it takes away a little bit of the mystery of being a successful artist: they are human beings too, just like us. Each one of us could be there one day. That’s how I always feel after seeing these people talk. I think the intimate small group size also helps to feel the human connection between the lecturer and audience.”

    © Rose Callahan

     

    Commercial artists such as Rose Callahan, a NYC-based photographer who was in Los Angeles on a book tour, also brought books. She discussed her books on men’s fashion, which had blossomed from her personal project photographingdandies in NYC; Gestalt publishing in Berlin had seen her blog on the subject, and sent her on a world tour through Africa, Japan, and parts of Europe. The students loved hearing about her process of making her pictures — what kinds of lights she used, how she approached her subjects, and her journey through the mystical world of book publishing.

    Another commercial artist, Taj Stansbury, a local LA-based filmmaker and photographer, discussed how his eloquent and mindful artistic practice is based in gratitude, and shared personal stories of getting his foot in the door to make videos with Rihanna, Eve, Ludacris, JLo and many others.

    Guest Lecturer M. Rasmussen, a creative director discussed the importance of color and listening to your inner voices, while Zen Sekizawa, an advertising photographer and activist, talked about her personal project, You and I See Why, which explores the “fleeting nature of memory and the inevitable loss of context that occurs when revisiting old ideas.”

    © Zen Sekizawa

    Jordie Oetken, a local photo- and video-based artist, discussed her original approach to art making, using her body and her experience studying the art of stunt doubling, to get to a more nuanced and authentic place in her work. She discussed the importance of community and how she often uses the people around her to engage and assist in her art making practice.

    © Jordie Oetken

    The NYFA Photography department would like to thank all the wonderful Spring 2018 guest lecturers for their generosity of spirit and willingness to share their expertise and experiences with our students:

    Jen Jenkins

    Maren Levinson

    Dara Siegel

    Zen Sekizawa

    M. Rasmussen

    Jay Blakesberg

    Maya Gurantz

    Thomas Locke Hobbs

    TAJ Stansbury

    Oli Rodriguez

    Anna Garner

    Thomas Werner

    Rose Callahan

    Jordie Oetken

    The Photography Department is gearing up for a great new summer season of exciting guest lecturers, so stay tuned!

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    May 24, 2018 • Community Highlights, Guest Speakers, Photography • Views: 356

  • Mariano Di Vaio Visits New York Film Academy Los Angeles Production Workshop & Guest Speaker Series

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    It was just another Production Workshop Thursday on the Universal Studios backlot in Los Angeles. New York Film Academy (NYFA) student crews sprawled across the European set searching for places to shoot, directors framed their shots, actors rehearsed their lines.

    Then he walked onto the backlot: Mariano Di Vaio, Italian fashion star, Forbes magazine top influencer under 30, and NYFA Acting for Film alumnus. Heads turned as he arrived to shoot a production workshop commercial with Directing Instructor Nick Sivakumaran and Cinematography Instructor Matt Kohnen.

    “It’s a dream come true to be on the backlot,” said Mariano. “I always said to myself maybe one day I could shoot something in Hollywood. And doing this student project, I feel like I’m rewinding back nine years to my student days.”

    In 2009, Mariano enrolled in an Acting for Film course at the New York Film Academy in New York. When he returned to his hometown of Perugia, Italy, he started a blog about men’s fashion that blew up on the web, netting him over 10 million followers on social media and enabling him to start his own clothing and hair product lines.

    Then he was back on a NYFA set collaborating with faculty and staff on a shoot designed to teach students and alumni how to film a commercial. It featured several of his brands: Mariano Di Vaio Limited Edition Hair Products, NOHOW clothing, and MDV Eyewear.

    Written by Nick Sivakumaran, who also directed, the commercial starts with Mariano walking past several NYFA crews shooting a variety of scenes. He notices one crew in particular — they are struggling to shoot a romantic scene between a guy and girl. The director is obviously frustrated at the lack of chemistry between them. Enter Mariano! He gestures to the director, “un moment,” takes aside the actor, and gives him a quick makeover using his hair products and sunglasses. Suddenly, the actor looks great, the actress is in love, and the director is thrilled! Mariano leaves as everyone looks at him in amazement and wonders, “Who was that guy?” 

    The fake crew consisted entirely of NYFA Acting for Film students and alumni. Ezra Ramos (Fall ’17 BFA Acting for Film), who played the actor and was styled by Mariano for the commercial, reported that “Mariano just opened up his suitcase and said ‘what’s your size’?” Then he rifled through the suitcase to hook Ezra up with MDV Collection suede loafers and a tropical white NoHow shirt festooned with tiny palm trees, pineapples, and bananas.

    Gulshan Salamli (Spring ’17 BFA Acting for Film) played the role of the unimpressed actress, and she said the shoot with Mariano was a very different experience from the usual production workshop. “Mariano is the star, obviously, and it is interesting to work with him, to play a supporting role and observe how much input a star has on set. I realized it’s okay to be in the shadows, that I can express myself yet serve the project at the same time.”

    Fake crew member Mackenzie Leslie (Summer ‘16 One Year Acting for Film) said she learned a lot on set, pointing at a huge flag on a C-stand that was blocking the bright California sun. “This production workshop has way more equipment than I’ve seen before,” she said.  “I’ve never filmed with a dolly. I’ve seen shots that were made that way, but never been in one.”

    Meanwhile, actors Elizabeth Otaola (Summer ‘16 MFA Acting for Film) and Christopher Rybka (Fall ‘15 AFA Acting for Film) discussed Mariano’s career. “He’s not a traditional actor. He’s inspired me to explore other options and ways of having an acting career,” said Elizabeth, who played the director. “Everything is going to evolve. Television and film will change in the next 20 years.  Smart people should be paying attention to that and create their own content and know about marketing.”

    Christopher concurred, saying, “It’s very unique that Mariano has used Instagram as a marketing tool to get out there rather than going to auditions and hoping someone picks him up.”

    The following night, Mariano entertained a full house of students at the NYFA Theater with humorous and informative tales about his career in a Q&A moderated by Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison Crickett Rumley. He emphasized the importance of setting small, achievable goals in pursuit of big dreams, and of approaching every task, learning opportunity, and job with passion — an outlook he attributed to his instructors at NYFA back in 2009.

    When asked what advice he had for students starting an Instagram account for the first time, Mariano replied,“I would start with videos if I had to start from scratch, because right now I think they are the key. The algorithm has changed, so it’s harder for people to just post photos.” More specifically, he “would definitely put up something about comedy because positivity, that’s what people like. Being happy is what people want to get from their phones.”

    Most importantly, Mariano encouraged students to do exactly what they had been doing when he walked onto the Universal backlot — collaborate with as many people as possible to increase social media following. “If all of you guys here start to do something together, even a small project, you already can reach how many? 10,000 people for sure.” Another reason to collaborate: “Sometimes when you talk and do something with other creative people, something better comes up, better than what you can do by yourself.”  

    Speaking of collaboration, the Mariano Di Vaio/NYFA Los Angeles commercial project will drop on social media sometime in May. Be on the lookout!

    NOTE: in addition to the students quoted above, the shoot also featured Paulina Hilla (Fall ’17 BFA Acting for Film) and Amber Satcher (Fall ‘16 MFA Acting for Film).  

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  • The Simpsons Director Mike Polcino Shares Special Master Class at New York Film Academy

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) 3D Animation & VFX and Filmmaking students packed the Riverside Theater at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus for a storyboarding master class from veteran The Simpsons director, Mike Polcino.

    The Simpsons just surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running scripted show in television history, and Mike Polcino has been with the Simpsons from the very beginning, directing 31 episodes in addition to episodes from the first season of Family Guy.

    Polcino started his career in animation doing all of the tedious work that goes into a massive production such as The Simpsons, such as animation timing and quality control.

    “Occasionally, we’d get the final animations back and Bart’s eyes would be looking in two different directions,” Polcino reminisced. “You’d be surprised what people miss.”

    His talent was unmistakable and, after a few short years, he moved up to become a director. Since then, Polcino has been a staple at Fox Television Animation, whose office is next door to the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus in Burbank, California.

    Polcino took the students through his process of breaking down an Emmy-winning script to put it on screen. Episode #593, Fland Canyon featured some of The Simpsons most cinematic sequences, such as great sweeping shots of the Grand Canyon. Polcino took the enraptured audience through a visualization process to find the key shots.

    “Part of the fun,” he said, “is coming up with shots that would be impossible without the animation.”

    He then melded the material for both the Animation and Filmmaking students by sharing his process for storyboarding The Simpsons and how it is more directing than animating. The students loved the class, asking for autographs and even taking selfies with the Homer Simpson drawing Polcino left on the whiteboard.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mike Polcino for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with our students.

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  • The New York Film Academy Welcomes Echo Lake Entertainment Talent Manager Iris Grossman

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting esteemed talent manager Iris Grossman. Grossman works at Echo Lake Entertainment, a management and production company that represents veterans such as Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone as well as young artists such as Dakota and Elle Fanning. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Laiter began by asking Grossman about her start in the industry, and Iris described working early on at ICM as an assistant to agent Daniel Petrie Jr., who soon departed the company to write Beverly Hills Cop. Following that, she worked for agent Michael Black, who nurtured her and helped launch her career as an agent, where she developed her love of working with actors. 

    Years later, she took the job of senior vice president of talent and casting at Turner Network Television (TNT), where she had the joy of casting of stars such as Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Tommy Lee Jones, and Diane Keaton, at a time when actors did not do cable in the same way as today. She also discovered emerging talent: “I had the most incredible job. Every day I would get calls asking if I would like to meet with actors like Clive Owen, or Jude Law, who were unknowns at the time. It was pretty incredible.”

    Laiter followed up by asking Grossman about transitioning from being an agent into casting, and she responded, “I called casting ‘being an agent with a larger client list.’” When she would read a script at the agency, she would have to think about who at the agency would be right for the part, but in casting, she now had the world opened up to her.

    When asked about what it takes to have a keen eye for talent, Grossman answered that part of it is learned, and part of it is instinctual.

    “When you watch a movie, and you believe what you see, you know the person is talented,” she said.

    In regards to the teaching element, she remarked that you have to know about the history of the industry, and understand what made certain people stars, and then translate that into the moment.

    Her advice for actors upon graduation was to stay proactive, do theater, and create their own web content. “While I don’t cast people just based on their Instagram followers but their talent, if you have a video with a million views, people will start knocking on your door.”

    A student asked Grossman about what changes she saw with women in the industry, behind the camera, from the start of her career to now. Iris responded, “There are things that have changed, and things that haven’t changed.” She went on to say how women have always been producers in the industry, but how there aren’t enough women directors. She also noted that in television some of the top writers and showrunners now are women. “When I started out there were maybe five women agents. Now I see there are so many women agents and executives and managers. I think it’s changed, but it still has far to come.”

    When asked about what happens in her first meeting with an actor, she said she wanted to learn about them as people: “I already know they are talented from their reel.” She wants to make sure they get along, because it’s all about the relationship and making sure they have the same goals.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Grossman for taking the time to speak to our students and share her wealth of knowledge and experience.

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    May 1, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 285

  • Talent Agent Jennifer Boyce Visits New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    Talent agent Jennifer Boyce recently dropped by the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles for a Q&A with our students and to speak about her many years in Hollywood as an agent, working at both the Savage Agency and KMR Talent. Senior Enrollment Advisor Chris Devane and Associate Chair of Acting for Film Anne Moore hosted the evening.

    Students heard Boyce’s perspective on head shots and tips on what to do when meeting with an agent. Most students had never met an agent before, so one of the most common questions of the night was: How, exactly, they should go about working with one in their careers? What information should actors have on hand?

    From left to right: NYFA’s Senior Enrollment Advisor Chris Devane, Guest Speaker Jennifer Boyce, and Associate Chair of Acting for Film Anne Moore.

    Boyce suggested that students create opportunities to succeed. “If you are an actor, you do not get to sit at home waiting for your agent to call,” Boyce said. “Don’t ask ‘What is my agent doing for me?’ Instead ask, ‘What am I doing for my own career?’”

    Boyce reminded students that an agent only makes 10 percent commission from what actors make, and cautioned them not to expect agents to do more than 10 percent of the work. She echoed the great advice that actors’ minds and bodies are an instrument, and they need to keep their instrument in tune. She hammered home an old truth: actors have to act. Talking about acting is not acting. Thinking about acting is not acting.

    “It takes a lifetime of commitment to have any success in this business,” Boyce warned. “If you’re not willing to put in the work, then you may not be suited for this business.”

    During the Q&A, one NYFA student asked, “For an agent, what is the most important part of an actor’s resume?”

    Boyce’s explained that, first, acting students should focus on the special skills portion of their resumes. This section is often overlooked, but it is often the difference between a callback and never hearing about a particular job again. Special skills include horseback riding, swimming, sewing, or driving a car. It is in this section where casting directors might think of additional roles for which actors may be the right fit. Secondly, while special skills are important, the best thing an actor can do to improve their chances of securing an agent is to train in their field. This is why even professional actors still take acting classes well into an established career.

    Boyce shared that, from an agent’s point of view, actors who continue to take classes and train demonstrate a work ethic and dedication to their craft. Additionally, many casting directors have established relationships with acting coaches. When they spot a familiar name, casting directors can reach out and learn more about an actor, their abilities, and personality.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jennifer Boyce for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with our students.

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    April 26, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Community Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 352

  • Greenlight Women and New York Film Academy Host Special Screening of A Classy Broad With Anne Goursaud and Marcia Nasatir

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    This April, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles was proud to host Greenlight Women for a special screening of the documentary A Classy Broad, followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, prolific editor Anne Goursaud, and it’s subject, Marcia Nasatir — the first woman to be vice president of production in a major Hollywood studio.

    From left to right: Marion Rosenberg, Anne Goursaud, Marcia Nasatir, Lawrence Kasdan, and Meg Kasdan.

    Anne Goursaud is known for her work as an editor on films including Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Outsiders. Her 2016 documentary A Classy Broad chronicles Marcia Nasatir’s career from her beginnings as a literary agent in New York City to making history as the first woman to become vice president of production at United Artists, as well as her continuing career as an independent producer. Nasatir is known for driving such films as The Big Chill and Hamburger Hill.  

    Moderated by manager/producer Marion Rosenberg, the Q&A event was introduced by actress Piper Laurie and Greenlight Women President Ivy Kagan Bierman. Marion Rosenberg opened the event by asking how Anne Goursaud and Marcia Nasatir met.

    Anne Goursaud reminisced about going to a yard sale hosted by Marcia Nasatir, and striking up a friendship. Marcia then passed Anne’s name along to Fred Roos — leading to Goursaud becoming Francis Ford Coppola’s editor.

    Ivy Kagan Bierman, Lucy Webb, and Kim Ogletree.

    “She immediately took me in, like she does everybody,” Goursaud recounted fondly.

    The conversation turned to films, and Rosenberg asked, “Do you think it’s possible to make a good film from a bad or moderately well-written script?”

    Marcia responded positively, saying that for her, “It’s not always about all the words, it’s about characters you care about … you go to the movies, or you begin to hear a story that sort of interests you, and you wanna find out what’s gonna happen.”

    Marion Rosenberg, Marcia Nasatir, Piper Laurie, and Anne Goursaud.

    Hanan Higgi, a recent documentary filmmaking alumna, asked,  “Do you have any tips for how to get mentors?”

    Goursaud advised, “You never know where you’re going to meet people. You go to festivals … keep the relationships, keep telling people what you’re doing … have coffee with them … people in the industry are actually very nice.”

    To illustrate Goursauds advice, special industry guests were in attendance for the evening, including writer/director Lawrence Kasdan, known for Empire Strikes Back, The Big Chill and recently, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and his wife, Meg Goldman Kasdan. Nancy Schreiber, the fourth woman ever voted into membership of the prestigious American Society of Cinematographers, and recipient of the 2017 ASC President’s Award, was also present.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Marcia Nasatir, Anne Goursaud, Marion Rosenberg, Piper Laurie, Ivy Kagan Bierman, and Greenlight Women for joining us to host this wonderful event.

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  • Candy Clark and Peter Rainer Screen American Graffiti at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    The Los Angeles Campus of the New York Film Academy welcomed back actress Candy Clark following a screening of the classic film American Graffiti. Previously, Clark had joined us for a Q&A following the classic David Bowie Film, The Man Who Fell to Earth. Prolific Film Critic Peter Rainer moderated the event.

    Candy Clark has worked in the film industry for nearly four and a half decades, with roles in classic films including George Lucas’ American Graffiti, The Man Who Fell to Earth, David Fincher’s Zodiac, Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Clark has also worked on TV series including Magnum P.I., Criminal Minds, and a few episodes of the 2017 version of Twin Peaks.

    Peter Rainer has been in the industry for over 30 years, and currently writes for NPR, The Los Angeles Times, and the Christian Science Monitor. He’s also the author of Rainer on Film: Thirty Years of Film Writing in a Turbulent and Transformative Era.

    George Lucas’ American Graffiti is a coming-of-age comedy based heavily on Lucas’ own teenage years in Modesto, CA. It was a huge success, and is one of the films that led to the start of the “summer blockbuster.” The film’s success also gave Lucas the funding for a film he’d wanted to do for a long time — a space opera that eventually became Star Wars.

    Rainer and Clark opened the discussion by talking about the doubts studio executives had about American Graffiti, specifically: “they hated the title … nobody knows what graffiti means.”

    Producer Francis Ford Coppola asked everyone on set — actors included — to come up with a new title. Coppola’s suggestion was “Rock Around the Block,” but Clark said they held firm. “American Graffiti has a good rhythm … it just sounds great.”

    One audience member asked if Clark always knew the film would be a success. With a big smile on her face, Clark said that she always thought it would be a hit. Earlier in the Q&A, Clark even talked about how she had a first audition before she’d seen the script, and after reading it, she insisted her agent get her another audition so she could do the writing justice. She really identified with the characters, as she had spent her youth cruising between drive-ins in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Clark talked about her experiences on set, including the fact that “there would not be many takes at all, they had to move on.” Regardless, Clark said she always had confidence in her portrayal of Debbie, who she felt was an easygoing and kind character.

    Clark also reminisced fondly about her castmates and told stories from their time together, including one about Richard Dreyfuss: He was late meeting her for dinner because Harrison Ford and Paul Le Mat threw him in the hotel swimming pool.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Candy Clark for coming back and speaking to our students about this classic film, and Peter Rainer for his insightful moderation.

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  • Women’s History Month Industry Panel and Hidden Figures Screening at New York Film Academy South Beach

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    New York Film Academy South Beach screened the 2016 drama Hidden Figures this March as part of a month-long event series for Women’s History Month.

    Hidden Figures was based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about three black female mathematicians who worked at NASA. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe as mathematicians Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, respectively. The release of the film came on the heels of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in 2016, and its critical and commercial success proved that the stories of women of color have been waiting to be told for decades.

    NYFA South Beach Chair of Filmmaking Maylen Dominguez said of the decision to screen this particular film: “These untold stories need to be told. They are part of our history that will disappear if we don’t share them now.” The Filmmaking Chair also served as moderator of the Q&A, which took place after the screening. The Q&A featured panelists who are working women in film, including:

    • NYFA Acting Instructor Susie Taylor
    • Producer Giorgia Lo Savio
    • NYFA Chair of Filmmaking Maylen Dominguez
    • Filmmaker Rhonda Mitrani
    • Actress Maha McCain

    “As a woman, there is no need to be demure or diminutive about your skills,” said Maha McCain, who is an acting instructor at University of Miami. She explained that women are often expected to be more passive, but that they shouldn’t be ashamed to proudly showcase their talent.

    Maylen Dominguez thoughtfully illustrated why it benefits women and men to be more inclusive in casting and hiring: “You’re helping showcase a full picture of humanity. That’s why we’re in film!”

    Filmmaker Rhonda Mitrani added, “Don’t take things personally.”

    Toward the end of the discussion, one of the students raised her hand to say, “Thank you so much for having this kind of discussion. I am about to graduate and I feel hopeful.”

    A male student added, “We want you to know we heard you and our generation is working hard to change how things are.”

    The common themes throughout were to “never give up, support each other, and do not let your voice be stifled. The industry panelists also repeated the idea that it is always important to allow a variety of different voices to be heard, as evidenced by Hidden Figures.

    For a complete look at all of NYFA’s events during Women’s History Month, check out our blog piece here.

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