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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: 147

  • 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: 259

  • 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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  • Psychiatrist and Visual Collage Artist Steven Rudin Speaks With New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On February 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomed Steven Rudin, a psychiatrist turned visual collage artist, for a special guest lecture and Q&A at NYFA’s New York campus as part of NYFA’s monthly photography guest speaker series. 

    Having led more than 24,000 psychotherapy sessions over the course of 20 years as a psychiatrist, Rudin now creates hand-cut paper collages that explore nostalgia and optimism, using the concept of perspective to create a unique participant-observer experience through art. He applies his extensive understanding of the human mind and mental health to his artwork, creating collages that require introspection and offer a look inside one’s struggles and triumphs.

    Steven Rudin

    Led entirely by Rudin, the special lecture entitled “Psychology of Collage” explored the aesthetics of memory and identity for which his collages are a metaphor. Rudin encouraged students to reflect on the ways in which stories emerge and are altered by the arrangement of our memories, similar to the way that films navigate through past, present, and future narratives. 

    Rudin also inspired students to appreciate the way that new experiences and emotions can change perspectives on the past, drawing a comparison between the scenes his collages represent and those that are edited in the filmmaking process. Students also considered how the media affects both the accessibility of information and memory overall.

    Steven Rudin

    Through the exploration of psychological theories, neurobiology, and cognitive behavioral therapy—of which he is an expert—Rudin opened students’ minds to the direct relationship between psychology and creating art, whether that be visual collages, photography or filmmaking.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Steve Rudin for sharing his experiences and offering his unique insight into the psychological processes behind perception and creativity, and wishes him the best as he continues to explore the relationship between psychology and art, bridging the gap between these worlds and encouraging others to do the same.

    Steven Rudin
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    March 18, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Photography • Views: 474

  • AAFCA and ABA Film Society Hold ‘Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema’ Event at New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On Monday, February 18, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) partnered with the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) and the African Black American (ABA) Film Society to present a special discussion exploring the past, present and future of Black creative excellence in Hollywood through an inaugural learning lab, Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema at its Los Angeles campus. The event featured Outlier Society’s Alana Mayo, and was moderated by AAFCA Founder and President Gil Robertson.

    Gil Robertson said, “AAFCA is thrilled with our partnership with NYFA as we celebrated Black excellence in the industry during BHM. Our panel with Alana was excellent. She was very generous in sharing her experiences with the students as a Creative Executive, as well as providing them with inspiration on how they can follow in her path.”

    Alana Mayo

    Alana Mayo was Vice President of Production at Paramount and Vice President and Head of Originals at Vimeo before becoming Head of Production and Development for Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society Productions. At Paramount, Mayo helped develop the cinematic adaptation of Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

    Mayo discussed her background, how her parents influenced her career, and navigating her trajectory as a Creative Executive for three of the top studios in the industry. 

    Three students who attended the event gave NYFA their thoughts on the experience. Folake Kehinde, recent NYFA MFA grad and ABA’s Events Chair and Interim Communications Chair, had this to say:

    My favorite things about this event were the access. Alana was welcomed by one of the ABA members who is also queer. I had no idea of this connection when I was scheduling volunteers and was so happy to be able to give Jamie the opportunity to meet and welcome Alana. Alana has greatly inspired Jamie and she was thrilled for the opportunity to meet and welcome her. 

    Alana attended the pre-reception briefly. She took pictures with the ABA and was so polite and happy to be with us. Her humbleness was so sweet and unexpected. Then during the event I appreciated her learnedness. It was so wonderful to hear from a production executive with a degree in film studies. So often production executives studied English or something slightly unrelated to filmmaking—it was nice to hear from someone with an extensive study of cinema as well as years of employment with various studios and production companies. 

    It was interesting to watch her talk so passionately about her favorite films, Polish Cinema, and the discussions she has while watching TV with [her fiancee] Lena Waithe. They’re very different in how they communicate but both have obtained vast success. 

    I also loved hearing how nice Michael B. Jordan is. I was so moved by her saying that Michael will give out her email at various places around town to people who have an idea and that they’re even going to make one of the ideas a person he met on the street wrote. I love that Michael is so kind, contemporary, and cutting-edge. The fact that he cares about people and is interested in talking with them and helping them to make their work blows me away. I also love that he is starring in several projects his company is making as well as other projects outside of his company. It’s inspiring to watch his career as an actor and now producer unfold. As an actress and producer myself this helped to confirm for me that I can achieve my dreams! 

    My final favorite moment was when Jamie told Alana that she is also a queer woman and that she has been so inspired by Alana’s career and bravery to be heard and make a path in the entertainment industry. 

    After the Q&A, legendary casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd (who cast Michael B. Jordan and others in the film Fruitvale Station and so many other projects) stayed and did an impromptu Q&A with actors and filmmakers. It was fantastic! She had a very frank conversation with us where she challenged us to tell our stories! She talked about being on a panel that read scripts for a Festival and how so many of the ideas were so similar. She knows that all black people didn’t grow up in ‘the hood’ and she wants creators to be unafraid to share their middle-class or wealthy upbringing. She advised actors to look their best at all times—even at the gym. She also told actors to put our pictures on our business cards, and avoid putting too much of another actor on their reels. 

    It was an extraordinary evening. I’m very grateful to New York Film Academy, Professor Kim Ogletree, and the founder of AAFCA for putting the event together.

    Alana Mayo

    Toyin Adewumi, 8-week Producing student, learned a few lessons from the event as well. The first was to take risks! A former HR professional, Adewumi loved that Mayo talked about leaving her comfortable job at a studio she had been at for years: “Having that clarity of there’s more out there. Yes I’m here… but… not being connected with the culture there.” Adewumi was impressed that Alana was brave enough to leave and find her ideal job. 

    She also loved that Alana isn’t ashamed of her personality. “Her acknowledgement that she needed to change some things. Her boldness to be humble… being willing to drop some things I (she) learned when I’ve (she) grown up. Her being humble helped lead to her breakthrough….Taking risks, knowing when to work on herself, being humble” are lessons Adewumi will treasure for a long time to come.

    Brianna Dickens (AFA Acting For Film ’18) was moved by the ABA events held during Black History Month. Dickens had a wonderful chat with Twinkie Byrd and at the ABA Careers in Television event, she was invited to visit a set for a day with some friends. She tells NYFA:

    I’m so thankful I found the ABA. I didn’t even know they existed. Luckily my class was invited to a screening event of theirs (the Q&A with Chuck Hayward). The second I arrived, the leaders of the group welcomed me and introduced themselves to me. In less than a month of being an ABA member, I’ve attended three events that have truly inspired me, opened my eyes, taught me things no one else has, and even opened the doors for me to have real on-set experience!

    Everyone in this group is focused, supportive, kind, and encouraging. They uplift each other. I think we will do great things for one another and together. I’m thankful to have them.

    The New York Film Academy and ABA Film Society thank Alana Mayo and Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd for sharing their experience and advice with our students!

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    March 12, 2019 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 443

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screens ‘RBG’ and Holds Q&A with Cinematographer / NYFA Instructor Claudia Raschke

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    On Thursday, February 7, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screened the critically-acclaimed, crowd-pleasing, box office documentary hit, RBG, with the film’s cinematographer and instructor for the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking program, Claudia Raschke participating in a Q&A with students afterwards.

    RBG tells the story of Supreme Court Justice and surprise millennial icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg (aka “The Notorious RBG”). The Flatbush, Brooklyn-born Justice was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1992, becoming only the second woman to serve at the highest federal court in the United States. Ginsberg still serves on the Court and is currently the second-most senior Justice.

    The film was directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen and has been nominated for and won multiple awards since its debut at Sundance. It is currently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; “I’ll Fight” by Diane Warren, from the soundtrack of RBG, is also up for an Oscar for Best Song.

    Director of photography Claudia Raschke has worked on four other films previously nominated for Academy Awards, as well as Peabody, DuPont, and National Board of Review Award winners. Her oeuvre includes acclaimed documentaries as varied as My Architect, about Louis Kahn, Mad Hot Ballroom, which focuses on a New York dance program, and Particle Fever, which tracks the experiments of the Large Hadron Collider that ultimately discovered the Higgs boson (aka the “God particle”).

    RBG

    Students were thrilled to pick Raschke’s brain at a Q&A following the RBG screening. Here’s what some NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students had to say after the event:

    Working with Claudia has been a dream come true in more than one way. Every step you take with the camera in your hand and every little movement you add with the camera while you are shooting should have a thinking behind it. That is the approach with which students like me have had the fortune to learn at New York Film Academy with Claudia. Making every second of the story powerful through visual storytelling is what Claudia is capable of making you learn. She is an inspiring teacher and an even more motivational person! 
    – Kuldeep Sah Gongola (‘18
    )

    There is so much attention to detail in Claudia’s teaching; she prepares you for any situation. When I went to see RBG, I bragged about how Claudia taught us to light interviews and how she kept the lights from reflecting off of the Justice’s glasses. It is easy to see why her work is so esteemed. She gives honest and practical feedback but her compassion for every student and their films is what makes her classes so great.
    – Ti Cersley (’17)

    Having the opportunity to work with renowned professionals in their field one-on-one is priceless! It’s what sets NYFA apart from other great programs around the world.
    – Mark Humphreys (’18)

    Being taught by Claudia is an amazing space to be in. She allows for creativity and ideas to grow in a playful way. Being taught by a female cinematographer who’s worked her way up in a male-dominated industry is very inspirational to watch and learn from.
    – Mollie Moore (’18)

    The New York Film Academy thanks Documentary Filmmaking cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke for speaking with students and congratulates her on all the success RBG has seen so far! 

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    February 18, 2019 • Cinematography, Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 512

  • Simon Lyndon and Cinzia Coassin hold Q&A at New York Film Academy Australia

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    On Monday, February 11, New York Film Academy Australia (NYFAA) was delighted to welcome AFI Award-winning actor Simon Lyndon, and prominent Australian casting director Cinzia Coassin to our Australian campus.

    Simon Lyndon and Cinzia Coassin pose for a photo with New York Film Academy Australia students.

    Simon gathered acclaim as Jimmy Loughlin in iconic Australian film Chopper with Eric Bana, for which he won an AFI award for Best Supporting Actor and a Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for best supporting actor. He also received AFI nominations for Best Supporting Actor for Blackrock (as Ricko) and Best Actor in a telefeature or mini-series for his role in My Brother Jack.

    Cinzia Coassin and Simon Lyndon answer questions from New York Film Academy Australia students

    Other film and television credits include:

    Fresh AirSample PeopleThe Thin Red LineFrom the Outside Caught InsideFalling into Paradise, The Glenmore Job, The Well Dust off the Wings, Beaconsfield, a younger Jack Thompson in Paper Giants – The Birth of Cleo Magazine, Larry Knight, Spirited on Foxtel with Claudia Karvan, playing The KingPuberty Blues as a surfing teacher Gumby, Police RescueHeartbreak HighWildsideUnderbelly Canal Road and FOX network show Roar together with fellow Australian and Blackrock co-star Heath Ledger.

    Simon is also a sought-after theatre actor and director.

    Cinzia Coassin started her career as a theatre/film and television actor, and has since expanded her reach in the entertainment industry. Located on Queensland’s Gold Coast, she is one of the preeminent Casting Directors NYFAA students will see 

    Cinzia is currently Casting Director on Australian feature films Unsound, a feature film supporting disability and diversity, sci-fi film Occupation, and Darkman.  A seasoned Casting Associate and industry professional, Cinzia has been involved in the casting process for The Moon and the Sun, The Dressmaker, and Camp for the NBC Network, along with CBS pilot season 2014, The Code and Hiding for the ABC Network.  She was also involved with the Australian search for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, Hercules, The Shannara Chronicles,The Badlands and BIG VALLEY -The BFG.  Additional casting project involvement includes The Strip and Blood Brothers for the 9 Network Australia, Spartacus, Legend of the Seeker, and K9 (children series), 33 Postcards, The King is Dead, Satellite Boy and 4 seasons of ABC US pilot season.  

    A creator of work, Cinzia is creative producer and collaborator on Holy Moselle, a feature film written by  Michelle Coassin and has produced a short film festival – Ten to One – giving platform to writers/producers/directors to showcase their stories/films.

    Cinzia Coassin answers questions from students at New York Film Academy Australia

    NYFA students were curious about Simon’s experience on Chopper, and Simon shared personal anecdotes; his experience of sleeping in a cell where a stabbing took place, and stories of Chopper showing off his shooting skills by having a friend hold a target.  

    He was generous in sharing his thoughts on acting techniques – method and physical techniques. 

    Students were treated to a viewing of Simon’s impressive showreel before Simon and Cinzia took questions from our acting students.

    Of particular interest was Cinzia and Simon’s initiatives in creating work: Simon in theatre and Cinzia in producing a short film festival.  In answer to student questions – what to do after graduating, Simon encouraged students to “make your own work!  If you’re not getting cast, make a short film and cast yourself!”.  

    As Chair of Acting NYFAA, it is wonderful to see our ethos of Learning by Doing, so enthusiastically endorsed by our industry leaders.  We all expressed our gratitude and appreciation to Simon and Cinzia, before taking advantage of photo opportunities.  Some students were even treated to a moment of individual consultation.   

    Thank you Simon and Cinzia, we hope to welcome you back again soon!

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    February 18, 2019 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 510

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Q&A with ‘Dear White People’’s Chuck Hayward

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    On Wednesday, February 13, as part of celebrating Black History Month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the NYFA African Black American Film Society hosted a screening of two episodes of Netflix’s Dear White People, followed by a Q&A with writer and producer Chuck Hayward.

    One of the episodes was directed by Academy award nominee Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), which was a real treat for the filmmaking students. It was moderated by NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, and co-moderated by NYFA directing student, Nicole “Soul” Creary.

    Chuck Hayward

    Hayward landed his first staff writing gig on the NBC series Bent. His feature film script, Potluck, won the WGA’s 2012 Feature Access Project. He then sold an untitled baseball project to Nickelodeon, after which he wrote for the Nick at Nite sitcom Wendell & Vinnie. In 2014,  Hayward became a staff writer on the new NBC series One Big Happy, followed by Fox series Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life

    In 2016, he had two movies produced—Fat Camp and Step Sisters—and sold the Untitled Urban Pitch Perfect Project to The Firm and PepsiCo. Hayward is currently a writer and co-producer on the Netflix series, Dear White People, and a producer on Marvel’s upcoming untitled Scarlet Witch and Vision series.

    Many students in the audience were curious about how Hayward started his career as a writer. “For me, personally, it was the contacts I already had,” said Hayward. “It was reaching out to all of them saying, ‘Can we meet for an informal meeting? Here’s what I’m interested in doing… can you introduce me to anybody else who might be able to help me in that?’… And then it’s just all about following up…You don’t want them to forget about you, although not bug them too often… A lot of times, offering to work for people for free on a project is a good way to show, like, ‘Hey… I’m not looking for anything from you financially; I’m just kind of looking for you to help me get my foot in the door and I’m looking for a chance to show what I’m capable of.”

    Other students wanted to know about Hayward’s writing process. “I’m a big pre-writer so I’ll sit down, I’ll write my character sketches, I’ll write my outline; I’ll do as much as possible before I open up Final Draft because I don’t want to look at a blank page and freak out,” Hayward said. “It’s also knowing if your idea is better suited to television or film.”

    Chuck Hayward

    One of the students asked how Hayward and the other writers on Dear White People navigate the complexity of the topics discussed on the show. He replied, “Most of the blowback that we’ve gotten about Dear White People happened before the show came out because people were like, ‘Dear White People? How dare you … address us as a group!’ And we were like, ‘Oh that happens to us all the time, oddly, so it’s not that big of a deal’ … But I think once people started to see the show and see what it was about and see that we weren’t just ‘coming for’ white people and taking out … aggression on them; we weren’t blaming them for stuff; it was just like, ‘Hey, here’s some of the shit you do that bothers us; like, maybe don’t do that anymore; it’s super easy!’ And we also take as many stabs at, you know, black folks and the things that we do that are problematic or that are not beneficial to us all as a group.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank writer and producer Chuck Hayward for sharing his entertainment industry and writing advice with our students!

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    February 15, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 471

  • Producing Department Industry Speaker Series Welcomes ‘The Rider’ Producer and Sound Recordist

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    On Monday, February 11, the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series welcomed producer Mollye Asher to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) for a “Conversation with” and Q&A session following a screening of Chloé Zhou’s The Rider. Also participating in the session was sound recordist on the film, Mike Wolf Snyder. 

    This is the second Chloé Zhou film produced by Mollye Asher. The Rider was shot over five weeks, with non-actors playing roles very much based on themselves. Writer-director Zhou spent close to two years researching the story and developing the film before the shoot. The story follows a young rodeo star recovering from a serious head injury suffered when thrown by a horse in the midst of the rodeo. 

    A good amount of the time Zhou spent researching the story was an investment in gaining the trust of the non-actor cast. The film was made mostly by a six-to-eight person crew, who also needed to gain the trust of the cast. Snyder, the sound recordist, does not like to use wireless, lavaliere microphones that can be hidden underneath an actor’s shirt. He uses a boom microphone for every shot. However, he says, he was very sensitive to not wanting to come off as intrusive towards the actors. 

    The Rider

    The Rider premiered at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was acquired for North American distribution by Sony Classics. At Cannes, Zhou also won the C.I.C.A.E. Award.

    The film has won numerous other awards, including Best Feature from the National Society of Film Critics Award, Best Picture at the Athens International Film Festival, and Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. It was also named one of the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Independent Films of 2018, and received multiple nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature and Best Director.

    The team recently wrapped production on a 50-day shoot on a “below the radar” project to be announced very soon.

    The New York Film Academy thanks producer Mollye Asher and sound recordist Mike Wolf Snyder for sitting down with students as part of the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series!

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    February 13, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 443

  • Q&A with NYFA Instructor and ‘Project Blue Book’ Creator David O’Leary

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    On Tuesday, January 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of the pilot episode of Project Blue Book, a new original series from HISTORY (formerly The History Channel) that adapts the real-life US Air Force investigations of UFOs in the 1950s. The screening was followed by a Q&A with creator and former NYFA screenwriting and producing instructor, David O’Leary, moderated by NYFA Producing instructor, Ashley Bank.

    O’Leary is a former development executive who has worked for Bellevue Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, Kopelson Entertainment, Rogue Pictures, Warner Bros., and Industry Entertainment. He is also a producer on two features set for release this year, Parallel for Bron Studios and Eli for Netflix. Additionally, O’Leary is adapting a sci-fi book series for A+E Studios.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    Bank opened up the Q&A by asking about how O’Leary became a writer. He shared that he started his career as an intern at New Line Cinema and decided he was interested in development, so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with a friend at Village Roadshow Pictures. From there, O’Leary worked his way up from the mailroom to assistant jobs and became a development executive, himself, at the age of 28. He realized, however, that his true dream was to be a screenwriter. “I pivoted and I’m a big believer in pivoting,” said O’Leary.

    O’Leary shared that even though he knew he was passionate about becoming a professional writer, that wasn’t enough. “Honestly, I had to get good at being a writer; I was not a very good writer when I made that choice.” He continued, “I think the way that you get better at being a writer is you have to keep writing, but you can’t keep writing in a vacuum; you have to keep showing your work to people and you have to keep getting feedback… you need people you trust to tell you ‘Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and here’s why.’”

    O’Leary added that working as a screenwriting instructor at NYFA required him to be extra knowledgeable about professional screenwriting. “It really forced me to practice what I was preaching,” he said. O’Leary then shared that something that helped him stay positive while he worked toward becoming a successful professional screenwriter was “celebrating small victories” because trying to be successful in the entertainment industry is a long and arduous process and one needs to have stamina to make it all the way to their end goal.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    O’Leary made it clear to the audience that hard work is important but sometimes luck also plays a role in success; with Project Blue Book, “It was sort of the right idea at the right time at a network that was looking to grow and move into scripted series.” The simplest way that O’Leary could sum up the show to pitch it to producers was “X-Files meets Mad Men,” which was a concept that had not really been explored before.

    One of the members of the audience inquired about navigating a narrative based on real events. “Every week we look at a real-life case… so it has that kind of ‘based on true events’ cache,” said O’Leary. “[Lead character] Hynek was a real-life guy; we ended up recruiting both [of] his sons as consultants on the project… I really want the show to be entertaining, but I also want to educate people on this phenomenon.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank former instructor David O’Leary for sharing his experiences and advice for writers as well as details about the development and production of Project Blue Book.

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    February 12, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 445