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  • NYFA Screens “Blank City” with Filmmakers Amos Poe and Celine Danhier

    blank city“There’s no relationship between New York now and in the 70s,” said New York Film Academy’s recent guest speaker, filmmaker Amos Poe. This became apparent for incoming New York Film Academy students who were fascinated by Celine Danhier’s documentary “Blank City,” which captured New York’s indie filmmakers of the 70s, who were inspired by the burgeoning underground art and music scene.

    The era included this cross-pollination of art, music and film. Filmmakers with hardly enough money to pay their Con-Ed bills would hit the streets to shoot guerrilla-style movies while unknowingly influencing the highly regarded No Wave movement. Danhier’s film examines the events that led to No Wave’s creation, in which the city itself, which was in decay at the time, plays a significant role. Danhier, who came to New York from Paris, interviews such filmmakers and artists as Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, Amos Poe, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry and Lydia Lunch.

    “I didn’t know how to make movies but I had a camera,” said Poe. “I thought: I’m never going to make a movie that anyone is going to see, so why not make a film movement.”

    Danhier, who spoke to NYFA instructor Ben Maraniss and students after the screening, became interested in the lawless and desolate city streets of New York’s No Wave movement after seeing Poe’s “The Blank Generation” and Edo Bergoglio’s “Downtown 81.” In the spring of 2007, after meeting with producers, she began shooting her first movie, a documentary on the films associated with the No Wave movement and the city that set the backdrop.

    “I was charmed by her and her interest in our work,” said Poe. “Celine was dealing with a lot of difficult people and she stuck with it — even though it took four years.”

    Celine’s documentary screened at both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, where she eventually found a distributor.  

    Poe and Danhier are now working on their own project, which deals with their admiration for French New Wave cinema.

    May 26, 2017 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 97

  • An Evening with Chris Buck and His “Uneasy” Photos at the New York Film Academy

    The Photography Department at the New York Film Academy hosted an evening with Chris Buck, one of the most captivating voices in celebrity portraiture. NYFA Photography Chair David Mager introduced the prolific photographer to a room full of photography students and avid fans of Buck’s work. Buck has been creating a unique space within the world of celebrity portraiture for three decades. His charming, odd, and captivating photos from 1986 to 2016 have now been compiled in a cohesive collection entitled “Uneasy,” which he will be signing before and after the event. The new book features his portraits of some of today’s most famous celebrities including Jay Z, Mary Tyler Moore, President Barack Obama, Louis C.K., Mac DeMarco, Lena Dunham, Snoop Dogg, George Clooney, William Shatner, Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer, and many others.

    Chris Buck

    photo by Alejandra Arias

    Buck began the evening with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his photo shoots. He joked that while the production process may look easy and glamorous in a short film, most of the time he is freaking out and obsessing on whether he will be able to get the right shots.

    He soon recalled his early childhood where he didn’t have many friends and began to cling to pop culture through movies and music. It was his increasing interest in pop culture and the fact that his father worked at Kodak that led to his passion for photography. As a young photographer Buck would follow local bands in Toronto and take photos. Initially, Buck was so “uneasy” around his subjects that he would only take photographs of their feet rather than a proper portrait.

    chris buck

    photo by Alejandra Arias

    While known for his work with high profile individuals and celebrities, Buck says he’s also interested in exploring regular people and working in advertising. “My real mission is to project my wounded ‘damage’ personality onto the photography,” said Buck.

    As Buck’s confidence and experience grew, he soon learned that being a great portrait photographer requires a focus on making an image for the audience and yourself — not the subject. As a professional with 30 years of work under his belt, Buck says its his ability not to act like “buddies” with his subject that creates an atmosphere in which the subject sees him as a serious professional. This is typically when his best work comes through.

    After elaborating on his work and wisdom through a series of videos and slides, Buck signed copies of his new book, “Uneasy,” which constructs a road map of contemporary culture, featuring a wide range of subjects, including many of the most recognizable names today: President Barack Obama, George Clooney, Joaquin Phoenix, Lena Dunham, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Louis C.K., Judd Apatow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William Shatner, Aziz Ansari, Kristen Stewart, Jay Z, Cindy Sherman, Jimmy Fallon and Donald Trump.

    May 19, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Photography • Views: 1017

  • Industry Trend Series with NYFA Alumna Caitlin Cooke: Casting Associate at Donna Grossman Casting

    This week, Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby welcomed back her former student Caitlin Cooke for an Industry Trends Series discussion. Aside from her acting career, Cooke is a Casting Associate at Donna Grossman Casting, a full service boutique casting company based in Manhattan. Donna Grossman Casting cast commercials, print, beauty, editorial, TV, film, theater, web series, live events and special projects.

    caitlin cooke

    photo by Alejandra Arias

    Cooke began the talk by saying, “This school to me, it kind of makes me emotional,” said Cooke. “It brought me a lot of friends and a lot of opportunities and I met a lot of people in the industry. Everything I learned here was helpful. I learned a lot of the business side. Also the access to the equipment I had here is insane. Access to the industry here was way better than other places. And the advice that Glynis [Rigsby] and other instructors offer is invaluable.”

    Facing the competitive field of actors after graduating, Cooke landed notable TV series and feature films such as Emmy-winning NBC series, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and the star-studded comedy blockbuster, “Grown Ups 2.” Most recently, she had the chance to guest star in an episode of “Tough Love,” a web series created by her friend Steven Bell. To further her and her friends career, she created an original series, “Rules of Cool,” which she was able to sell.

    “Creating your own work is very important,” she said. “When you get out of school you’re not sure what to do next. We decided to take control and create our own opportunities.”

    Cooke provided invaluable insight into the casting process, breaking down the process and providing tips and suggestions to improve NYFA Acting for Film students’ auditions.

    “Auditions are like a first date,” said Cooke. “Act natural, but if it doesn’t work out there’s always someone else. Always take a chance and always listen to what they have to say. Always be appropriate for what the role is. Look appropriate for what you’re doing.”

    NYFA would like to thank Ms Cooke for taking the time to speak to our students, and we wish her the best of luck on her blossoming career!

    May 18, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1128

  • Guest Lecture Series with Film Critic Peter Rainer

    Film Critic and historian Peter Rainer continues his guest lecture series with a thoughtful exploration of the film “Blue Sky” starring Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones and directed by Tony Richardson (“A Taste of Honey” and “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”). “Blue Sky” was shot between 1990 and 1991 but was not released until 1993. It was Richardson’s last film. In fact, he did not live long enough to see it released.

    Lange won her second Oscar for her role as the Bipolar, hyper-sexualized wife of an army nuclear inspector. In her acceptance speech, Lange said, “This is such an honor, especially for a film that seemed to have no future.”

    peter Rainer

    Rainer began the evening’s conversation with a reading of his initial review published in the Los Angeles Times from his book “Rainer on Film.” This review was sent to Oscar voters along with the VHS of the film for Ms. Lange’s nomination run. Rainer divulged that Lange herself said that if it hadn’t been for his essay she wouldn’t have won her second Oscar.

    “Jessica Lange’s acting in ‘Blue Sky’ leaves you awestruck. It is a great performance. Because the film is just now being released, it is yet another foundling from the pre-bankrupt Orion picture era —its appearance is like a gift,” Rainer began. “It’s an especially welcome gift because Lange hasn’t been acting much in the movies lately. You have to wonder how it is that Lange could give such a performance. It’s even better than her Francis in ‘Francis’ or her Patsy Klein in the ‘Sweet Dreams’ and keeps away from the camera for so long. The lack of roles for women is no excuse. Lange is the kind of actress artists write parts for.”

    From here the floor was open to students to discuss what they liked, what they didn’t understand, where they were moved, and how they might have addressed these performances. The most prevailing subject of conversation was the lead actress.

    Lange has also played deranged southern belle, Blanche DuBois on Broadway. Her character in “Blue Sky,” Carly Marshall inhabits touches of Blanche but also Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot. During the open discussion, one student wondered aloud, “What is the relevance of Blanche. Why does she keep coming back over and over again in American cinema?”

    Rainer gave a brief background on the character of Blanche and then said, “I think there are certain archetypes that repeat and the southern belle is one of them. The poles are Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone With the Wind’ and Blanche from ‘A Street Car Named Desire.’ It relates to the fragility and the strength of women in the context of a very male dominated society. Putting it in a southern context exaggerates that paradigm. In the South, you are expected to be prim and ladylike and sip Mint Julep, if you are a white woman.”

    peter Rainer

    Speaking to the enduring legacy of the role, Rainer continued, “Also, the role is just that damn good. Tennessee Williams wrote one of the greatest roles of all time. It’s natural for dramatist and actors to try to play that out and try to recapture the magic. In the case of ‘Blue Sky,’ she’s not just DuBois she’s very much trying to capture the stars of that time — Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. The very first shot of the film is her leafing through star magazines.”

    Another student chimed in that they didn’t think a film with a woman over 40 — acting sexy and leading a character driven film — could hope for funding in today’s film world.

    “It’s kind of depressing to think about the number of great films that couldn’t get made today,” Rainer said. “This film got made because Jessica Lange at that time was big box office. Orion was one of the few film companies at this time willing to take risks. A film like ‘Blue Sky’ would do much better on television than film nowadays.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Peter Rainer for his continued support and informative lecture series. If you’d like to read more of Rainer’s reviews pick up his book “Rainer on Film” or his page on Rotten Tomatoes.

    May 16, 2017 • Guest Speakers • Views: 1117

  • NYFA Welcomes Versatile Actor Christopher Meloni

    On Tuesday, May 2 the Los Angeles Campus of the New York Film Academy welcomed a very special guest, actor Christopher Meloni, who is perhaps best known for playing NYPD Detective Elliot Stabler on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”

    tpva and meloni

    Meloni stunned audiences as Chris Keller on the gritty drama “Oz.” His vampire role as Roman Zimojic brought fresh blood to the horror opera “True Blood.” Not content with conquering the small screen, Meloni has given strong supporting performances in DC’s “Man of Steel,” the Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” and the cult classics comedies “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”

    Meloni walked out to thunderous applause and a standing room only crowd. Tova Laiter, Director of the Q and A Series at NYFA, hosted the evening. She began the discussion by asking, “It seems like you have done every genre: drama, action, comedy. Was this by design or those were the breaks?”

    Meloni responded, “It was by design. It was always by design. I’m a huge fan of physicality. I love really good action. I love Hong Kong Jackie Chan and I like early John Woo. I love the ballet of the motion and the beauty of the choreography.”

    He continued, “I love comedy where you just get to blow out the pipes.” But comedy didn’t always come easy. Meloni described his first big studio comedy “Runaway Bride” with Julia Roberts was like “being at the big kid’s table.”

    “I was on my best behavior and I was trying to be funny.” (Note to reader: he is very funny now!)

    meloni

    When asked about why he enjoyed studying the Meisner Technique, Meloni felt as though it forced away all the social niceties we have. Being reactive, whether it’s aggressively or subtly, is vital to the process. He described the repletion of the exercise as maddening but ultimately leading to truth and easier access to a range of emotions. “You have the ability to elevate moments and it makes working with the writer a more collaborative dance,” he said.

    Student Justin Ardine said of the experience, “It was amazing to hear Meloni talk about all the jobs he worked, from waiting tables to bartending because I’ve done all those jobs, too.”

    One NYFA student relayed a story of dismissive family and friends who thought his advanced age disqualified him from acting as a profession. Meloni didn’t think so. He recalled a friend question his choice to begin acting. “I don’t know if it’s cliché but it’s the God’s honest truth. It’s out of my hands. I had to act or I was going to die trying.”

    NYFA would like to thank Mr. Meloni for his sage advice while grandly entertaining us at the same time! Meloni is currently starring in “Underground” as August Pullman, a morally conflicted man working as a slave catcher. He is also co–starring in big screen “Snatched” with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.

    May 9, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1455

  • A Lecture From Storyboard Artist John Davis

    Last week, the New York Film Academy Filmmaking students were given an in-depth lecture on storyboarding from one of the best, John F. Davis. As a Storyboard Artist and Illustrator for over 70 major motion pictures, Davis has designed camera shots and scenes for directors such as Sydney Pollack, Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes, Robert De Niro, Baz Luhrmann, Lasse Hallstrom, Jonathan Demme, M. Night Shyamalan and Barry Sonnenfeld, among many others, with an initial collaboration in 1983 with Jim Henson and Frank Oz. In 2005, Davis won the Best In Show Award for the Society of Illustrators’ first “The Art of the Storyboard” exhibition, an international competition with over 300 entries worldwide.

    john davis

    Since coming to New York City in 1979 from the Yale School of Drama, he has been a Production Designer, Visual Consultant, Storyboard Artist and Illustrator. Davis won two Emmy Awards in 1988 for designing the broadcast sets for the Summer Games of the XXIV Olympiad in Seoul for NBC Sports; he has also been a political media consultant on presidential, senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns and in 1993 produced and directed a 3-hour nightly literacy show for the State of Mississippi (where he is from originally). In 1982, he designed all the News and Sports sets for ABC and has designed two independent films as well as creating concepts, storyboards and set designs for numerous music videos, industrials, and television commercials since the mid-80s.

    Davis began the lecture by allowing the students to check out his original storyboards from several major films including “The Departed,” “Black Swan,” “Zoolander,” and many others. The focus of the lecture was “awareness.”

    davis storyboard

    “There’s an awareness factor that needs to be in storytelling,” he said. “To engage the audience in a way that they’re surprised and taken by it.”

    He also stressed the fact that research is imperative. “If you do the right research it’ll inform your project,” he said.

    While Davis did admit that drawing is the foundation of the visual arts, he did say that a filmmaker doesn’t necessarily have to be great a drawing in order to create a storyboard. Davis broke down the drawing process, allowing students to understand how to properly draw and interpret a scene from page to visual.

    The process of storyboarding is extremely beneficial when it comes time for a director to set up his shots. Davis’ lecture brought about a true appreciation for storyboard art and the man or woman who provides the art for each of our favorite films.

    May 3, 2017 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1245

  • Roadside Attractions’ Eric d’Arbeloff Screens “Manchester by the Sea” at NYFA LA

    Students packed the Riverside Theater in Los Angeles to see one of last year’s most critically acclaimed films, “Manchester by the Sea,” and hear from one of the men who made the film possible, Co-Founder of Roadside Attractions, Eric d’Arbeloff. Roadside Attractions has released over 130 films including “Winter’s Bone,” “Love & Friendship,” “Southside with You,” “Mr. Holmes,” “Love & Mercy,” “The Cove,” “Margin Call,” “Arbitrage,” “Hello My Name is Doris,” The September Issue,” and “Mud.” Tova Laiter, Director of the New York Film Academy’s Guest Speakers Series, hosted the evening alongside NYFA Instructor Shaun Conan.

    Eric d’Arbeloff

    D’Arbeloff started by giving a little history on his company. “We are a small company focused on theatrical releasing. We’re kind of like a specialty boutique production company. We don’t do VOD releases or direct to video. We have a relatively small slate compared to some of our competitors. Typically, an IFC or Sony Picture Classics will do thirty or forty films a year. We’re more like ten or twelve films a year. From the get go the company was always designed for partnerships.”

    It was that spirit of partnership that brought Roadside Attraction to Amazon. Their first film together, “Chi-Raq,” opened to great critical acclaim. Thinking bigger has always been part of their DNA.

    Exhibition community is still establishing the rules with the rise of streaming services. Netflix, for example, likes to release everything on the same day. If you can watch it in theaters you can watch it on the app. But d’Arbeloff and Roadside believe that films like “Manchester by the Sea” wouldn’t exist without a theatrical release and critical discussion. Neither model is better, d’Arbeloff stressed. But he’s in the camp of traditional releasing.

    He explained the different aspects of his job, which include curating the right types of film. Prints and advertising budgets are a difficult challenge. One of the largest challenges is picking the right release date. Holidays, elections, award season and other film release dates all play a key factor in when a movie comes out. D’Arbeloff described this process as “reading the tea leaves.”

    During the Q and A portion one student, Theresa, asked, “Is there any advice to young filmmakers who get their shorts into festivals and are rewarded? How do we manage to transition to features from shorts? Should we wait for feedback or start on a new project?”

    Eric d’Arbeloff at NYFA LA

    “The great thing is there are multiple avenues to make a name for yourself,” d’Arbeloff replied. “I think it certainly helps if you’re a writer or someone who likes to read and is good at developing material. There was a time when I was a producer. I would go to Sundance and keep tabs on all the filmmakers. When I first started you really had to decide, ‘are you going to be in television or film? Are you interested in business or are you interested in creative?’ That’s not the case anymore. I really want to encourage you guys to try everything. There are no boundaries.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. d’Arbeloff for taking the time to speak with our students. Roadside’s latest picture by Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona) entitled “Love & Friendship” starring Kate Beckinsale is currently available on Amazon.

    For more information on Roadside Attractions, you can click here.

    April 19, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1903

  • NYFA Producing Dept. Hosts Evening with Producer Carla Singer

    Last week, the Producing Department at the New York Film Academy hosted an evening with producer Carla Singer. The event was moderated by NYFA NY Chair of Producing Neal Weisman.

    carla singer

    Singer is president and executive producer of Carla Singer Productions, an independent production company that has produced over 30 television movies as well as documentaries and reality series. Her credits include “Freshman Father,” a Hallmark Channel movie, and Disney Channel films “T*witches,” and “T*witches Too.” For TNT, the company executive produced “The Portrait” starring Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall, as well as “Forgotten Prisoners: The Amnesty Files.” At TBS Ms. Singer produced a documentary “The Black West,” which was nominated for a Cable Ace award. She also produced “A Refusenik’s Diary” for PBS, for which she received an Emmy.

    Her extensive credits include the made-for-television movies “A Marriage of Convenience” starring Jane Seymour, “Indefensible: The Truth About Edward Brannigan” starring Brian Dennehy, “Taken Away,” “Angel Flight Down” and “Cold Heart of a Killer.”

    Singer became vice president of drama programming for CBS Television at a time when hardly any women were accepted into upper management at the networks. As a female pioneer for the network, and the industry in general, Singer helped create the extremely successful drama series, “Murder She Wrote,” as well as “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” and “The Equalizer.”

    carla singer with neal weisman

    Producer Carla Singer with NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman

    However, Singer’s career certainly wasn’t handed to her. Beginning her career in Israeli TV, Singer recalled working as an assistant director, but was credited and paid for the role of a PA due to the fact that she was a woman. Her career would continue to be an uphill climb due to her gender, but Singer kept one foot in front of the other and pressed on to tremendous success. While she feels there is still gender inequality in film and TV, Singer does acknowledge the progress since her beginnings.

    “You have to be very persistent,” said Singer. “You have to be risk tolerant. You have to take that risk — even if it’s scary.” Singer recalled two times in her life where she took a pay cut in order to work in a position that could propel her career into the direction she was confident would lead her on the right path.

    Singer advised students to appreciate and take advantage of the creative talent around them. After all, the people you’re working with now are going to be your network, and are going to climb the proverbial latter with you.

    While many of us get caught up in the creative aspect of filmmaking, Singer did advise producing students that, “It’s a business, and you need to make money. Even though that’s a bit crass. You should keep that in your head.” 

    “Carla Singer proved to be an inspiration to the cross section of NYFA Producers, Screenwriters, and Actors who attended the event,” said Weisman. “Emphasizing the need to take career risks and seek mentors, her wisdom gained from decades of television experience was both informative and motivating.”

    April 17, 2017 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1191

  • Actor Dolph Lundgren Screens “Rocky IV” at NYFA LA

    Star of “Rocky IV” and “The Expendables,” Dolph Lundgren, visited the Los Angeles campus of New York Film Academy this past week. Students from all majors filled the number twelve theater on the Warner Brothers lot. NYFA LA Admissions Director, Chris Devane hosted the evening.

    dolph lundgren

    Lundgren is well known for his roles as a karate-kicking villain in the James Bond film “A View to Kill” and He-Man in “Masters of the Universe.” Recently he’s been venturing into television. He hosted his own series “Race to the Scene.” He’s played himself in the Nickelodeon animated series “Sanjay and Craig,” and government strongman, Konstantin Kovar, in the CW’s “Arrow.”

    Devane asked a question from a student at the NYFA Australia campus. The student, Andy, asked, “What was your greatest challenge working as an actor?”

    Lundgren responded, “My greatest challenge is you want to make it fresh for yourself all the time. You have to find something fresh in the material for you to be excited about the role. I always have a secret about the character. I don’t tell anyone, not even the director. It takes something to make you excited to come to set every day.”

    One of the instructors in attendance, Aviv Rubenstein, asked, “Upon viewing this movie (“Rocky IV”) as an adult, it seems like Drago is more of a reluctant soldier. You don’t say, ‘I will break you.’ You say, ‘I must break you.’ How much of that is in the script, how much of that is in your performance, and how much of that is in the directing?”

    “You’re completely correct. Some of it was in Stallone’s script. Drago is the Frankenstein myth created by the system. Dr. Frankenstein is the bad guy and the monster is just the creation. That’s why I think this character resonates,” Lundgren said.

    lundgren at nyfa

    Lundgren also credited his dialect coach who not only helped him perfect his Russian accent but also was a Meisner trained actor. He helped Lundgren play the second level since Drago was so stoic they would have him behave embarrassed at certain lines, and these behaviors were not in the script.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Lundgren for taking the time to speak with our students. You can catch Dolph Lundgren in his upcoming films, “Nordic Light,” “Black Water,” and “Dead Trigger.” Lundgren has also recently joined Warner Bros. “Aquaman” film opposite Jason Momoa, which will be shooting at Village Roadshow Studios — where NYFA Australia Gold Coast students have the opportunity to film.

    April 13, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1853

  • Actress Maria Conchita Alonso Screens “The Running Man” at NYFA LA

    Maria Conchita Alonso, the Venezuelan actress with over one hundred credits to her name, brought her cult classic film “The Running Man,” co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, to the Los Angeles Acting for Film and Filmmaking students. Industry Q and A Director, Tova Laiter, hosted the evening.

    maria conchita alonso

    Conchita Alonso is both a very popular Latin singer and international actress. Her work on the screen includes “The House of the Spirits,” “Predator 2,” “Chicago Hope,” “Extreme Prejudice” and “Saints & Sinners.” Not content with just images, Conchita Alonso has also written lyrics and performed the vocal for a song in “Scarface.”

    She’s been honored with the Outstanding Actress in Made-for Television Movie or Mini-Series, the Pioneer Award at La Femme International Film Festival, Outstanding Performer of the Year at Nostros Golden Eagle Awards, and a Grammy nomination.

    Conchita Alonso walked onto the stage with her dog Tequila and the audience fawned appropriately. She had a lot of advice for the students. One particular piece that stands out is, “Don’t ever compare yourself with others. Just work on who you are!”

    maria conchita alonso nyfa

    At the beginning of her career she was told she could not sing, dance, act, and host. She should pick one and perfect it. By dividing her time she was weakening her shot. So, when she wanted to record Vamos A Bailar for “Scarface,” her agent suggested they submit her tape under a different name, so executives could hear her performance instead of seeing her name. It worked, of course, and an important lesson was learned: put your work forward, not your attitude. “Know you’re good, but don’t show it.”

    Vamos A Bailar eventually went to number one on the charts.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Maria Conchita Alonso for taking the time to speak with our students. You can catch Conchita Alonso in “Off the Menu,” “He Matado a Mi Marido,” and “Kill ‘Em All” out later this year.

    April 7, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 2431