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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Academy Award-winning Actor Sir Ben Kingsley

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with Academy Award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley last Thursday, May 23, following a screening of the first episode of the new Epix series, Perpetual Grace, LTD. The event was moderated by NYFA admissions specialist Chris Devane.

    Sir Ben Kingsley
    Kingsley began his career by studying theatre in Manchester, England and eventually acted professionally in the West End in London and then on Broadway in New York. After establishing himself on the stage, Kingsley began working as an actor in television and film in Hollywood, quickly drawing acclaim for his work. In 1983, he won the Academy Award for Lead Actor for his work in Gandhi.

    Other notable film roles include Schindler’s List, House of Sand and Fog, Hugo, Iron Man 3, Ender’s Game, Night at the Museum, and The Jungle Book. In 2002, Kingsley was named a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the British film industry.

    Sir Ben Kingsley

    Moderator Chris Devane began the Q&A by asking what inspired Kingsley to become a professional actor. “My absolute desire was to be seen and heard,” answered Kingsley, adding, “impersonation gave a great comfort in that I could—for a fleeting moment—acquire an identity and a voice … and entertain and connect with people.”

    “Eventually,” he continued, “it was clear to me that I could, in fact, turn what one could call … an urge … into a craft … Without the urge to connect, one isn’t really an artist.”

    One student in the audience asked what Kingsley has learned from his many years as an actor. “When one was younger, one did an awful lot of acting and, as one matures in the craft, paradoxically, you do less and less and less and less acting … and, hopefully, you embark on a process of being.”

    Sir Ben Kingsley

    Kingsley was asked by another student how he is able to switch from one role to the next so quickly. Kingsley replied that when he was acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he was playing multiple roles each week. He elaborated, “As a matter of survival, you [learn], you [have] to get off that horse and get on another one and you know the horses are very different; it simply is practice, but, unless you have that muscle that’s practiced in you that can switch from one role to another, it’s going to be very difficult.”

    Kingsley added, “I have learned, onstage, through my work in the great rehearsal room … after each take … I let go … I’m constantly letting go … I do not stay in character between takes and I do not stay in character when I go home.”

    Sir Ben Kingsley

    New York Film Academy thanks Sir Ben Kingsley for sharing his insights about the art and craft of acting as well as anecdotes from his renowned and prolific career in film, theatre, and television.

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    May 29, 2019 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 402

  • Hamilton’s Greg Treco Gives Master Class to New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Students

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    Actor, singer, and dancer Greg Treco arrived at the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA) on April 9 to hold a Master Class with NYFA’s Musical Theatre students.

    Treco is originally from Nassau, Bahamas, and is currently the standby actor for Aaron Burr, George Washington, and Lafayette/Jefferson in Hamilton on Broadway. He most recently wrapped up playing Burr in the Chicago company of Hamilton: An American Musical. 

    Greg Treco

    His other credits include Taboo on Broadway, the Off-Broadway hit Zanna Don’t, Miracle Brothers at the Vineyard Theatre, Neil Berg and Robert Schenkkan’s THE 12 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and Roar of the Greasepaint at Goodspeed Opera House. 

    Treco was also a finalist on WB’s Popstars, with other TV credits including a guest-starring role on the CBS sitcom Whoopi. He also recently created the choreography and movement for the acclaimed short Celeste, which opened the Brooklyn Beats Film Festival earlier this year. 

    PCMT students chosen to perform in Treco’s Master Class each presented a song and received one-on-one coaching from him on their selections and individual performance. Treco’s goal was to encourage the students to think outside the box and develop a deeper connection to storytelling, imagery, and text. 

    “I was impressed by the amount of tools Greg gave each performer to help them reach what they wanted,” shared PCMT student Santiago Roma. “He was able to identify what was getting in the way of each actor and find a solution to that problem.”

    Treco helped bring clarity to the many complexities of song performance and storytelling, offering constructive feedback for each student and helping them to better understand the audition process.

    PCMT student Jennifer Johansson told NYFA, “What I found most fascinating about the Master Class with Greg was how big of a difference he made with each one of the students’ performances. Whether it had to do with the physicality or the story in itself, I could see and feel the difference between their first and their last passes. It was really cool to watch it happen in such a short amount of time.”

    Broadway actress and PCMT Creative Director Kristy Cates, who worked with Greg in 2004 on a show at the Eugene O’Neill Center, was also in attendance. “I saw him go on as Aaron Burr a few months ago and he was so wonderful that I knew I had to have him come in and do a Master Class with the students,” Cates told NYFA. “He is a beautifully nuanced, yet specific, actor and is just an all around wonderful person.”

    The Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at New York Film Academy thanks Hamilton actor Greg Treco for giving our students the opportunity to study and learn from one of the theatre world’s best!

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    May 13, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Musical Theatre • Views: 375

  • ‘Birdy’ Screening and Q&A with Actor and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Board Member Matthew Modine

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    On Monday, May 6, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Birdy (1984), starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine, followed by a Q&A with actor, director, and NYFA board member, Matthew Modine, moderated by NYFA Screenwriting instructor, Eric Conner.

    Matthew Modine Birdy

    Modine studied with Stella Adler at her Conservatory of Acting in New York City. While still a student of hers, he was cast in lead roles in film and later theatre and television. Modine has acted in a number of films including Vision Quest (1985), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and he has worked with a number of critically-acclaimed directors including Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan, and Oliver Stone. He has been nominated for Golden Globes, Emmy Awards, and Independent Spirit Awards. Modine is currently running for president of SAG-AFTRA.

    The NYFA Theater was packed with NYFA students, including veteran-students enrolled in various programs at NYFA. Many military servicemembers have a special fondness for the famed actor because of his numerous portrayals of the life of a soldier–including his standout roles in Birdy, Full Metal Jacket, and Memphis Belle.

    Birdy is a 1984 Vietnam War drama that follows the story of two teenage friends, Birdy (Modine) and Al (Nicolas Cage) who served in the Vietnam War and are forced to cope with the post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences in combat. Birdy appears to completely lose touch with all reality, and Al struggles to help his friend regain his connection with the existent world. Modine gives a tremendous performance as the young, traumatized Vietnam veteran.

    Matthew Modine Birdy
    Mike Kunselman, a veteran and member of the NYFA DVS staff, expressed,  “As a veteran, and an actor myself, I was very interested in Mr. Modine’s emphasis on the importance of being proactive with one’s own career.” Kunselman continued, “I also was intrigued by his portrayal of a Vietnam War US combat serviceman, and his ability to own the sympathetic character of Birdy.”

    Conner opened the Q&A by asking Modine what he’s learned from his prolific career as an actor in Hollywood. Modine replied, “The only moment that an actor can completely control is between ‘action’ and ‘cut’… that’s your moment… Everything else is out of your control. The editing. The distribution. It’s all out of your control. I worked just as hard on the successful films I’ve made as I did on the films that weren’t successful—what’s the lesson? Simple, always do your very best … work really hard and be present and, if you’re lucky, it all comes together.”

    Modine shared a piece of advice for the producers and directors in the audience, “When you’re putting your crew together, that’s just like casting the movie with your actors; you want to cast your crew and your actors that you know and trust.”

    Matthew Modine Birdy

    One of the students in the audience asked Modine for advice for actors just starting out in the business. Modine said that actors should trust themselves and their instincts: “If you’re waiting to be directed, you’ve lost, you have to be self-prepared and have made choices about your character. Your choices are your talent!” he emphasized. 

    “Mr. Modine was very informative with the information that he shared,” said Jonathan Garza, a Navy Veteran and BFA Producing alum. His stories from being on set were very entertaining. Even as an alumnus of the Producing program, I can take the information that he shared and apply it to my craft.”

    Modine also shared that he believes the auditioning process to be very important as an actor and that, when actors are feeling discouraged, they should remember that, “Every no is a step closer to a yes.”

    New York Film Academy and the NYFA Division of Veteran Services would like to thank Matthew Modine for sharing his advice for actors and directors as well as anecdotes from his experiences in the entertainment industry.

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    May 10, 2019 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 803

  • Q&A with Film Critic Peter Rainer

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    On Thursday, April 25, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with prolific Christian Science Monitor film critic, Bloomberg News columnist, and reviewer for National Public Radio’s FilmWeek, Peter Rainer.

    Peter Rainer

    Rainer started off the Q&A by sharing how he came to love movies; he shared that he grew up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s and 60s and enjoyed trips to the movie theater from a very young age. Rainer explained that, as a teenager, he could not fully relate to some of the classic films he was watching because he had not yet experienced the deeper emotions explored in them, “…of course, when you see a lot of these films when you’re not even out of high school, it’s hard to look at a[n] ‘adult’ movie like L’Avventura or some of these great European classics … and really, you know, you can say they’re great but what kind of a life have you lived to appreciate a film like that? So even though I’m not a huge fan of seeing films over and over again, I do think that, for great movies, it certainly make sense—just like with great literature—to … see them as you mature because you just get more out of them—that’s the definition of a great film.”

    A member of the audience later asked Rainer what he believes to be the purpose of film criticism. “It’s not the value judgement, per se, that you look for in a critic,” said Rainer. He added, “If somebody says to me, ‘I really love your reviews; I agree with everything you say,’ it’s nice to hear but it’s kind of like saying, ‘Thank you for validating my good taste,’” joked Rainer. Rainer said that he likes critics who challenge his views and force him to look at things in a different way.

    Peter Rainer
    Another audience member shared that they believe film to be a type of art and Rainer agreed, saying, “Because it’s such an accessible medium, because we go there and we eat popcorn and we see films and, you know, talk about [them] with our friends … that somehow, you know, you might think that that’s devalued it as an art form, but it [hasn’t].” Rainer spoke of his belief that a film’s artistic relevance transcends the film’s popularity and is truly about how well the story and the characters’ emotions are conveyed.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Peter Rainer for sharing his critic’s perspective on film and its place in society.

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    May 9, 2019 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 442

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Producing Students Give Notes to Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Tom Schulman

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    Academy Award Winner Tom Schulman, renowned for penning Best Screenplay Winner Dead Poets Society, engaged in a team discussion with New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Producing students over potential modifications on his new script, which is currently slated for production in the next few months.

    Over the course of more than two hours, Schulman listened with undivided attention as students dissected his script and offered detailed notes on its story, characters, and its world.

    The special opportunity for the students came as part of their Script Collaboration & Story Development class (MFA Program, 5th semester). The class is designed to teach students script analysis, and how to write and convey notes to a screenwriter professionally and effectively.

    NYFA instructor John Morrissey invited Schulman to participate not only as the recipient of the students’ notes, but also to offer our Producing students a rare opportunity to make a direct impact on the story of a professional film.

    Many times during the conversation–punctuated by laughter and meticulous detail-offering—Schulman jotted down students’ notes on a sheet of paper. When asked what he considered the best way for a producer to provide notes to a writer, he promptly responded: “The way we have been doing it here today!”

    He then shared with the students some inside stories on how studio executives give notes to screenwriters and praised the students for their genuine passion and thoughtfulness.

    New York Film Academy thanks Academy Award-winning screenwriter Tom Schulman for giving his time and advice to our MFA in Producing students.

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    May 8, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 429

  • Q&A with CreativeFuture’s Ruth Vitale, Cesar Fishman, and Brett Williams

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    On Tuesday, April 23, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a panel and Q&A with Ruth Vitale, CEO of CreativeFuture; Cesar Fishman, Senior Vice President, Communications; and Brett Williams, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Vitale served as president of Paramount Classics and Fine Line Features and, collectively, her films have won three Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. As CEO of CreativeFuture, Vitale—with the assistance of her colleagues, Cesar Fishman and Brett Williams—works to ensure the protection of the intellectual property of filmmakers and workers in the entertainment industry as a whole.

    CreativeFuture

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Vitale about her start in the industry. “I ended up in the entertainment business by accident,” said Vitale, adding, “I became director of acquisitions at The Movie Channel and I knew nothing about movies.” Vitale shared that, though her initial role in the entertainment industry focused on sales, she ultimately got the chance to distribute independent films, a job she loved. “You could bring a new voice into the world … I get to share an amazing film with you, the audience.”

    Vitale was introduced to CreativeFuture in 2013; “The job was about advocating on behalf of artists’ rights and saying ‘Copyright is important; we need strong copyright protections and it matters,’” said Vitale. She shared the statistic that, “in 2018, there were 126 billion visits to pirate sites.”

    CreativeFuture

    Vitale also shared a way in which CreativeFuture combats piracy. “Around the world there’s something called site-blocking where, if a site is proven in a court of law … to have more pirated content on it than legitimate content, [then] the judge has the right to send a notice to the internet service providers that they have to block it in that country.”

    CreativeFuture teams up with schools across America to educate students of all ages about protecting creative property and they have found that the younger students are, the more likely they are to adopt lessons about fighting piracy in their everyday lives.

    CreativeFuture

    CreativeFuture also combats piracy with videos in which cast and crew members thank the audiences that are about to watch their films in theaters. This may seem like a small gesture but Vitale shared research by Disney that shows these videos caused a 20% decrease in piracy and a 20% increase in sales.

    Many of the student filmmakers in the audience were interested to know how they could safely share their films online; Vitale said that the best thing to do is to purchase secure links with unique passwords that will expire within a few days of being received.

    CreativeFuture

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank CreativeFuture’s Ruth Vitale, Cesar Fishman, and Brett Williams for advocating for artists and sharing their insights and advice about copyright protections in the entertainment industry.

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    April 25, 2019 • Guest Speakers • Views: 495

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum and Emmy Winner Bill Hader

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    On Thursday, April 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum and prolific actor, writer, and director Bill Hader participated in a lively and entertaining Q&A following a screening of his hit HBO series Barry. The event was moderated by Director of the NYFA Q&A Series Tova Laiter.

    Hader is best known for his work on Saturday Night Live, for which he won an Emmy, and has acted in a number of successful films including Superbad (2007), The Skeleton Twins (2014) and Trainwreck (2015), among many others. 

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Hader about his start in the industry. He shared that while he did funny impressions for his friends and family when he was growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he really loved to go to the movies. “When I watched a movie, I got really drawn in by the story, the cinematography, the look of it, the feel of it,” said Hader. 

    When Hader was a teenager, he enjoyed making short films of his own and enrolled in a Filmmaking workshop at NYFA where he made four short films and got a lot of positive feedback from his instructors. Ultimately, Hader moved to Los Angeles, where he started as a production assistant and various low level jobs in the industry.

    Bill Hader

    After working for a while as a production assistant, Hader started to feel creatively unsatisfied, so he started taking improv comedy classes at Second City Theater in Hollywood. Actress Megan Mullally saw Hader perform at Second City and noticed how talented he was and told executive producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels, about him. “I had no manager, no agent, no anything,” said Hader, “so I met Lorne Michaels and I auditioned… I auditioned like four or five times for the show… and finally I got the job.”

    A number of students in the audience were interested in asking Hader questions. One student asked how Hader makes his acting feel authentic on shows like Barry. “You have to be truthful, instinctual, and not just go for the laughs,” said Hader. He shared that he watches others express their emotions through small idiosyncrasies and that he will occasionally mimic those mannerisms while acting.

    Another student inquired about Hader’s writing process for Barry. “We kind of have little ‘tentpole’ scenes,” said Hader, “we gotta write this to get to that… We’re constantly working on it but we never fully plan… but the fun of it is kinda seeing where the characters take it… Know that the process is messy and that you’re gonna fail a lot.” He emphasized that writing should always be “character driven” and centered on emotion.

    Bill Hader

    One student asked what advice Hader would give to his younger self when he was starting his career. “I would say to myself, ‘You don’t need to figure it all out this millisecond; it takes time.’ 

    I was terrified of failing… but you have to fail; you have to learn from that and keep doing it and keep doing it… it’s all a process,” said Hader.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank actor, writer, and NYFA alum Bill Hader for sharing his writing and acting advice as well as the lessons he learned from his experience in the entertainment industry with our students.

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  • Q&A with Oscar-winning ‘First Man’ editor Tom Cross

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    On Friday, March 1, the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of First Man (2018) followed by a Q&A with Academy Award-winning editor Tom Cross, moderated by NYFA Filmmaking instructor, Paul Yates.

    Cross began his editing career in 1997 as an assistant editor, contributing to a number of projects including We Own the Night (2007), Crazy Heart (2009), The Switch (2010) and the Emmy Award-winning drama series, Deadwood. He came to worldwide prominence in 2015 when he won the Independent Spirit Award, BAFTA Award, and Academy Award for Best Editing for his work on the critically acclaimed film, Whiplash (2014). Cross was also nominated for an Academy Award in 2016 for the film, La La Land.

    Tom Cross

    Yates opened up the Q&A by asking Cross about how he started. Cross shared that, when he was a kid, his father took him to the public library to see a screening of the 1953 French film, Le salaire de la peur (Wages of Fear); the film fascinated Cross; he noted that he was able to follow the story and the character arcs despite not knowing the language. Cross said that, from that point on, he “loved going to the movie theater and escaping.” Once he was in high school, he was able to go to video stores and rent movies that were no longer in theaters and got the chance to expand his cinematic repertoire. “That’s kind of what led me to want to try to make my own movies,” said Cross.

    Yates steered the conversation to Cross’ editing process; he asked Cross what he does if he disagrees with a director’s editing idea. Cross shared that, in that instance, he waits for the director to see that an editing idea they suggested isn’t working rather than arguing against it in the moment, “I try to trust the process,” he said.

    One of the students in the audience asked how Cross approached editing First Man, a film about the first moon landing in 1969, because the audience knows going in that the protagonist is going to successfully land on the moon. Cross shared that he and the director, Damien Chazelle, wanted to focus on what most people didn’t know so that it would still be a story with drama and character development; “It was about making it more personal and intimate,” said Cross.

    Another student asked Cross how he approaches editing different types of stories; Cross said that what’s most important is the characters because the audience connects with them and follows their journeys. Cross said that, in Whiplash, he sought to highlight the relationship between the protagonist and his music teacher by finding the right close-ups of each actor to create a sense of tension.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Academy Award-winner Tom Cross for sharing his industry experience and editing techniques with our students!

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    April 15, 2019 • Digital Editing, Guest Speakers • Views: 537

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screens Oscar-Winning ‘Free Solo’ with Editor and Instructor Bob Eisenhardt

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    On March 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomed Bob Eisenhardt, NYFA instructor and editor of this year’s Academy Award-winning Best Documentary Feature, Free Solo for a screening and Q&A session.

    Following the screening of the Oscar-winning documentary film, Eisenhardt was greeted with no shortage of questions from an eager NYFA student audience. He delved into a discussion on the unusual film editing process behind a film as unpredictable as Free Solo, having had to explore the possibility of cutting a film that would end in tragedy from a failed climb attempt or no attempt at all. 

    Free Solo

    Free Solo endeavors to capture the free soloist climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream of climbing the 3,000-foot mountain El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Eisenhardt shared that he and his team of only two were left with over 700 hours of footage to sift through from the shoot. From shuffling scenes to creating sequences that would keep audiences enthralled even when they weren’t watching in awe as Alex scaled a mountain without ropes, Eisenhardt sought to create a film that left viewers genuinely rooting for Alex’s survival. 

    With the hundreds of hours of footage he had to work with, Eisenhardt shared that there were even several different openings, but they were all “trying to do the same thing.” He explained, “There was no particular scene that was really hard—it was trying to get the scenes to work together that was difficult. For the longest time nobody understood what he was doing, no one understood what the point was.” Eisenhardt was able to create a film that carried multiple storylines by developing various plots, such as that of Alex’s girlfriend, who represented a “removal of armor,” allowing for a deeper complexity and additional sense of purpose.

    Bob Eisenhardt Eddie Free Solo

    Eisenhardt also offered an inside look into the undertaking—both Alex Honnold’s and his own. After the initial free solo surrender, “We felt that he was going to keep trying to climb, but I wanted to play it like he wasn’t going to keep trying. I wanted to let you feel that it could well be over so that he could kind of re-double his commitment, which is what you need at that point in the movie.”  

    In sharing his own personal efforts to create a compelling film with the footage he was given from such an unorthodox crew—those hanging from ropes 2,500 feet in the air themselves—Eisenhardt noted, “Alex was trying and practicing for two years, but the crew was also practicing for two years, so they pretty much had it down about where they could be to get the best angles on each shot. I complain that I don’t have all my shots, but I think I did pretty well.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Bob Eisenhardt for his continued contribution to the NYFA community and his ongoing inspiration to those within it. We appreciate him sharing his first-hand experience and again congratulate him on Free Solo’s Academy Award win!

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    April 11, 2019 • Digital Editing, Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 403

  • Q&A with Oscar-Nominated Producer, Director, and Editor Sam Pollard

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    Legendary producer, director, and editor Sam Pollard led a spirited “Conversation with…” and Q&A session after a rousing screening of his latest documentary Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me at New York Film Academy (NYFA).  A capacity crowd at NYFA’s Theatre in New York City was captivated by the film, which traces the iconic entertainer’s life from his youth in Harlem to international stardom— from Hollywood to Broadway to Las Vegas and beyond. 

    Sam Pollard

    NYFA students were inspired by Sam Pollard’s recollection of his early career, when he gravitated towards an editing career after a Public Broadcasting internship program. He went on to cut narrative features as well as documentaries, most notably working with Spike Lee on films including Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Clockers, and Bamboozled. In 1998, Pollard and Lee were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for 4 Little Girls.

    Pollard moved into producing and directing while working on Eyes on the Prize, still considered the seminal work on the American Civil Rights Movement.  Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me capped NYFA’s celebration of Black History Month. Made for American Master/PBS, other Sam Pollard projects made for the series include works about August Wilson and Zora Neale Hurston.

    “Filmmaking is hard work but it’s like magic when it works. Now it feels seamless, and that to me is that magic of filmmaking,” Pollard explained to the audience.

    The evening was a co-production of NYFA’s Producing, Screenwriting, and Documentary departments. Pollard told the students in attendance, “If you’re here because you love to create, be compassionate, committed, and willing. Learn the craft and be proud of what you’ve done.” 

    He added, “As aspiring filmmakers, you should be committed to making the best possible film you can make, and if you hang in there, you will be rewarded.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks Oscar-nominated producer, director, and editor Sam Pollard for sharing his experience and wisdom with our students and encourages everyone to check out Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me


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