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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ivy Kagan Bierman, Lucy Webb, and Kim Ogletree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • New York Film Academy Hosts Hip Hop Film Festival Screening Event

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    The New York Film Academy recently hosted screenings, a Q&A, and panel presented by the Hip Hop Film Festival and 247films.tv. The event at NYFA’s Battery Park theatre was entitled “WeWatch: Femme Fatale Edition” and was presented as part of a series of Women’s History Month events hosted by NYFA. The hip-hop-focused festival is based in Harlem, and was founded in 2015. The third annual festival will take place this year from August 2-5 in Harlem.

    NYFA-HHFF-WomensHistory

    The WeWatch event began with food and drinks presented by Revive Kombucha. Attendees shifted into the theatre for the three-hour screening and Q&A portion of the event. Hip Hop Film Festival founder C R Capers introduced and moderated the event.

    After the first screening of comedy web series Shampagne, Capers sat down with series creator and lead actress Melissa Mickens to talk about her process and what served as inspiration. Mickens’ real life experiences of being pigeonholed during auditions spurned her desire to shift focus and pursue a rap career. She also discussed filming on a budget and in Harlem, where she resides.

    Next up was Australian filmmaker Bella Ann Townes’ Hip Hop & Holiness, which profiled Matthew “Mystery” Peet,  a breakdancer, rapper, and graffiti tagger who also happens to be a pastor at church. Peet discusses his relationship to both hip hop culture and religion and how he does not feel they should be mutually exclusive. Townes won Best Emerging Australian Director for the documentary short at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival in 2017.

    Seattle creative Voleak Sip’s short film Float was third in the lineup. Sip was unable to attend the event, but she recorded a video explaining how her older brother was the inspiration behind the main character, Rocky, who is a Cambodian hustler still living with his parents. The music was a key element of the film, and sound editor Jono Hill was on hand to speak to C R about his process. While the film is set in the ’90s, the music was created by present-day producers and musicians who provided a fresh take on the prominent ’90s boombap hip-hop sound.

    The event concluded with Jasmine Callis’ powerful documentary short set entirely in North Philly. Stay Black, Baby: The Mixtape is a complex portrait of Black youth rising, Black art glorified, Black voices uncovered, Black struggle acknowledged, and Black empowerment revered. Over the course of 20 compelling minutes, the film shifted seamlessly from motivational to heartbreaking and back again, covering topics from Black pride and resilience to police brutality and misogyny.

    Callis, who currently works at New York Film Academy as a video editor and producer, attended the event and discussed her inspirations, including Spike Lee and Philadelphia hip-hop legends The Roots. During the Q&A, Capers raved about Callis’ work, which she said belongs in a museum.

    Keep an eye on the Hip Hop Film Festival’s website for upcoming events and details on the 2018 iteration of the festival.

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  • President of Paramount Television Amy Powell Holds Q&A at New York Film Academy Los Angeles Screening of Hit Show The Alienist

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    The New York Film Academy welcomed Paramount Television President Amy Powell to its esteemed roster of Q&A guests this week. Director of the Q&A Series at NYFA Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Powell began her career as an intern for Ted Turner. She went on to create the marketing campaign for Paranormal Activity and produce the 3D Justin Bieber film Never Say Never. Now, she’s the president of Paramount Television, the one who has brought 13 Reasons Why, Grease Live for Fox, and The Alienist to screens everywhere.

    Based on a Caleb Carr novel of the same name, Paramount Television bought the rights for The Alienist 20 years ago. Yet when they acquired the rights, they were only in the filmmaking business, and the project proved too ambitious for a two-hour film.

    The Alienist was a perfect book for us to conceptualize for television,” Powell explained. “In fact, nine out of 10 of the shows we produce are based on literature.”

    Books play a huge role in Powell’s life. Even with two kids, a full-time job, and all the globetrotting she does for her shows, she still reads two books a week. Recently she bought the right to the Margaret Atwood trilogy Madd Addam as well as George David-Roberts’ Shantaram, a book she’s obsessed over for years.

    Laiter asked Powell why novels make such great television.

    “Books create the roadmap for depth of character,” Powell began. “They create set pieces and story arcs that are robust in nature. The ability for a screenwriter to come into a world that a novelist has envisioned allows them to create a visual patina on top of the depth of character that already exists.”

    Powell is an innovator. She created a marketing campaign for Paranormal Activity called “demand it.” At the time, Paranormal Activity was a small budget horror film. After its successful screening at Slamdance, the studio knew they had a potential hit on their hand.

    The “demand it” strategy began with a website. Powell would call up movie bloggers from all across the country and send them screeners of the film, they would write a review, and the fans would get excited about the movie. Fans were then directed to a link where they could demand the movie come to their city.

    Powell then personally called movie theaters and asked, “If we sell out your theater will you screen this film?” No one turns down free money. Once the theater agreed, local fans rushed to get their friends and families to buy a ticket so the theater would sell out.  

    The final touch to “demand it” was Powell’s; she arranged it so that the film only screened at midnight, making it feel more like a special event. The timing also meant that moviegoers left the theatre terrified at 1:30 a.m. — greeted not by the sun, but by pitch-black night. Fans leapt onto social media to tell everyone about the experience.

    Paranormal Activity went on to make $107 million.

    During the Q&A, one student wanted to know what Powell thought the future of television looked like, considering new tech like neural networks and quantum computing.

    Powell answered, “The shared experience of enjoying the paranormal and the scare and the thrill of being in a packed audience, that community sense of fandom is going to come to an end.” Instead, Powell projects that the experience will be more personalized. Exactly how that will come to be is unknown, but she encouraged students to study and explore VR and AR storytelling formats.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Powell for taking the time to speak with our students.

    Be sure to watch the last episode of The Alienist on Monday 3/26, or 13 Reasons Why, originated by Selena Gomez; Maniac directed by Carrie Fukunaga and starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill; Catch 22 directed by and starring George Clooney; Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski; and Shooter produced by Mark Wahlberg and starring Ryan Phillippe and Omar Epps.

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  • Algee Smith Holds Q&A at New York Film Academy Los Angeles Campus

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles African and Black American Club (ABA) held a special screening of Detroit on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Special guest speaker and actor Algee Smith was in attendance to give a Q&A after the screening. ABA Club President Furaha Bayibsa and Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree moderated the event.

    Bayibsa opened the evening by asking Smith how he got the job on Detroit.

    The actor explained, “I was in rehearsals for the New Edition Story when I got the call from my agent to audition for a Kathryn Bigelow project.” At that point, the title of the film had not been released. Smith had no idea what he was agreeing to, but his agent was insistent he needed to go.

    Detroit depicts events that took place at the Algiers Hotel two nights after the Detroit Riots during the summer of 1967. With the news media’s lens turned to police violence in 2017, the timely historical drama created a national conversation.

    The audition process for the film was a unique experience for Smith. After a first audition with Casting Director Victoria Thomas, Smith was invited to come back and audition for Bigelow. At a mansion in the hills, Bigelow held a second, more unique, audition.

    Bigelow directed behind a camera that Smith described as “old.” She asked the actors to sit in a circle and sing a song. Then, she told them, a police officer would burst in and throw them against a wall. She asked the actors to respond naturally at that moment. “She was trying to capture authenticity,” Smith said.

    Though the character Smith plays (Larry Reed) is a living human being, Smith didn’t meet the man and inspiration for the film until after production had wrapped. When asked what his preparation for the role was Smith joked, “worrying and being nervous. I couldn’t call Larry or talk to his family. I had to rely on understanding the energy of the time period by researching the reactions of citizens to the event at the time it took place.”

    During production, Bigelow relied on the element of surprise to get the most authentic reactions from her actors. Several of the actors playing police officers were given a script, but those portraying the hotel patrons did not receive a script. This gave the police officers in the scene total control. Everyone else could only react.

    Smith explained, “She just threw us in there. … We didn’t know what would happen after that.”

    Because of the surprises on set, the actors connected much more deeply to their characters’ lives.

    “Even after leaving the set, I took a lot of that tension with me,” shared Smith. “The hotel we were staying in looked like a prison. There were bars on the windows and heavy locks on the doors.” Smith said it was challenging to leave the experience behind. “It was tough for me every day.”

    When it was time for the Q&A, one student asked for Smith’s insights as a person of color in Hollywood today, asking, “How do you stay motivated when you’re profiled or rejected for a role because of your race? I think a lot of the Black actors at this school think about the discrimination they might face in the casting room once they graduate.”

    Smith was candid with his response. “I don’t know if there were parts that had been kept from me because of my race. There very well may have been. Sometimes you hear casting directors say, ‘Oh, you were amazing in the audition, but we’re going with someone else,’ or, ‘we’re going in a different direction. ’ But you’ll never really know the reason why they made that choice.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Algee Smith for taking the time to speak with our students. See Smith next in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams on Amazon and The Hate U Give, coming to theaters soon.

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  • PBS NewsHour’s Jane Ferguson Visits New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism School

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    As an international correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, Jane Ferguson is always on the go. This month, she found time in her busy schedule to visit New York, so that she could meet with the Broadcast Journalism students at the New York Film Academy.

    Based in Beirut, Jane currently covers stories in the Middle East, as well as portions of Africa and South Asia. After screening examples of her work, she explained to the students the “story behind the story” — what it took to first find, then report, shoot and edit these reports.

    She also discussed a concern shared by all students: “How do you get your first job?”

    One of the highlights of the session was an opportunity for students to talk one-on-one with Jane, where she answered their individual questions as well as helped them practice the essential art of “networking.”

    Jane’s visit was one of a series of unique experiences available exclusively to students in NYFA’s 1-Year Broadcast Journalism Conservatory program. In addition to meeting outstanding news reporters, producers and executives, students also get behind-the-scenes tours of NBC News and other major New York City production facilities.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Jane Ferguson for sharing her expertise with our students.

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    March 21, 2018 • Academic Programs, Broadcast Journalism, Guest Speakers • Views: 741

  • Stand Up for Women! Comedy Night at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    As part of Women’s Week at NYFA, which was created to celebrate and highlight women in the Entertainment Industry, the Acting for Film department sponsored a night of eight amazing stand-up comedians in a show called Stand Up for Women! Each comedian did a very funny 10-minute set to a packed house of over 100 NYFA students.

    It was a hilarious night — the level of talent was amazing! Students were impressed with the different personal styles of each comedian and how each was able to use their own creative voice in a unique way. Our guest artists covered topics from politics to parents, from women’s rights issues to the struggles of being an artist in this industry.
    Comedy is a great way to teach and each of our artists brought a unique lesson to our students.

    The evening was also a benefit for Women Helping Women (WHW), non-profit organization with the mission of providing unemployed and underemployed women the skills and resources they need to get and keep a good job. WHW job seekers depend on the generosity of clothing donors in the community to support their job search. Attendees were asked to bring an item of clothing for donation to the organization.

    Stand Up for Women! featured an all-star lineup of comedian guest artists, including:

    Lisa deLarios – (host) – Lisa has toured the country, featuring for Zach Galifianakis, Paul F. Tompkins, Anthony Jeselnik, and Maria Bamford, among others. She was showcased on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham and has been a frequent guest on Doug Loves Movies.

    Laura House – Laura is a headlining comedian who has performed on HBO, Comedy Central, and NBC, and starred in MTV’s Austin Stories. She has written on the Emmy-winning shows Mom and Samantha Who and the BAFTA-winning Secret Lives of Boys, as well as Nicole Byer’s Loosely, Exactly, NicoleThe George Lopez Show, Mad Love, Blue Collar TV, and more. 

    Jackie Kashian – Jackie is a comic whose new album, I Am Not The Hero Of This Story, was the #1 comedy album on iTunes and Amazon. She is in the 12th year of her podcast, The Dark Forest, and has a new podcast on the Nerdist Network called The Jackie and Laurie Show.

    Jena Friedman – Jena is a comedian, writer, filmmaker and political satirist who recently appeared on Conan. Her Adult Swim special Soft Focus with Jena Friedman aired in February. She has been a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has written for Late Show with David Letterman. ​

    Kate Willett – Kate tours nationally and internationally, has been featured on Viceland’s Flophouse and Comedy Central’s This is Not Happening, and recently taped a Netflix special. 

    Vanessa Gonzalez – Vanessa was recently voted “Best Stand-up Comic” in the Austin Chronicle readers’ poll and created and stars in the Mas Mejor web series Ms. Vanessa.

    Jessica Sele – Jessica is a stand-up comedian who tours across the country and has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and SF Sketchfest. She was written about in Huffington Post.

    Ellington Wells – Ellington is a filmmaker and comedian who hosts the monthly stand-up show Blackberry Jam and has worked on television shows such as Insecure, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Baskets.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank each and every one of these incredibly talented and funny women who came to our Los Angeles campus. We truly appreciate your giving our students the chance to Stand Up for Women!

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    March 19, 2018 • Community Highlights, Entertainment News, Guest Speakers • Views: 349

  • Gold Dust Screening and Q&A with Cinematographer Egor Povolotskiy at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    Following his recent write-up as one of the Rising Stars of Cinematography in American Cinematographer magazine, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Cinematography graduate Egor Povolotskiy returned to visit NYFA Los Angeles to present a feature film that he photographed.  

    Gold Dust is a feature-length adventure film about two treasure hunters searching for gold in the desert, who accidentally uncover a smuggling operation. Egor described it as a “family movie,” referring to both the story’s theme of friendship over material wealth, as well as the process of making the movie with a tight-knit crew that came to feel like a family by the end of the shoot.  

    Egor praised writer and director David Wall for the strong script and excellent performances in the film, and for creating an atmosphere of collaboration. Wall was also present for the screening, along with many members of the cast and crew who came out to participate in the NYFA Guest Speaker Series event.  

    Following the screening, Povolotskiy took part in a Q&A session moderated by Associate Chair of Cinematography Mike Williamson. He discussed some of the challenges of making this project on a low budget, and his desire to work quickly to maximize the time available on set. Povolotskiy offered praise for his crew, many of whom he first worked with during his time as a NYFA student, noting that he could not have achieved the look of the film without their hard work.

    He offered advice to the Cinematography students in attendance, speaking about the importance of finding good crew members and trusting them to do their work without micro-management. He also discussed some of the technical challenges of the film, including his use of classic “day-for-night” techniques for the massive night exterior scenes in the desert.

    When asking questions, many of the NYFA students in attendance raised topics like how to break into the business, what films have inspired him, and how to pick the best visual approach for a project. Povolotskiy answered their questions, and reminded the students that the cinematographer must create visuals that support the actors and the story, and not merely create pretty pictures. He discussed the importance of picking good projects with strong scripts, rather than looking for projects with big budgets.

    Since graduating, Povolotskiy has photographed eight feature films, and continues to collaborate with fellow NYFA alumni — including many producers, directors, and crew members. His films have played festivals in many countries, and have won awards such as the Festival Trophy and Audience Award for Best Short Film. In addition to working as part of these successful teams, Povolotskiy himself has collected several nominations for his work as a cinematographer. He has two wins for Best Cinematography at the Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival and the WIND International Film festival. He has photographed major actors including Malcolm McDowell, Chris Hemsworth, Steven Bauer, and Eric Roberts.

    Povolotskiy’s next feature film stars Taye Diggs, John Cusack and George Lopez.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Egor Povolotskiy, director David Wall, and the cast and crew of Gold Dust for sharing the evening with our student community.

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  • Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-nominated The Breadwinner Screened at New York Film Academy With Producers Mimi Polk Gitlin & Anthony Leo

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    On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) 3D Animation & VFX students were excited to welcome Oscar-nominated producers Mimi Polk Gitlin and Anthony Leo of The Breadwinner, a feature animation executive-produced by Angelina Jolie.

    Leo has produced Justin Bieber’s Believe, the Bruno & Boots Series, and television series Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. Polk Gitlin is perhaps best known for producing Thelma & Louise, and her work with Director Ridley Scott.

    NYFA animation students watched the duo’s latest film, The Breadwinner, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Director of the Q&A Series at NYFA Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Leo first encountered The Breadwinner, based upon by the book of the same name written by Deborah Ellis, while on vacation. One of his daughters had a friend who loved the book. One night, when the girl’s mother was reading the book aloud, everyone, no matter his or her, age stopped to listen. By the end of the vacation, the two families had both completed the book.

    Leo didn’t immediately purchase the rights to the book. He was a young producer and unsure if he was ready to dive headfirst into such an important property. But, he and the book continued to cross paths. Finally, years after that fateful trip, when he was at Groundwood Books looking for properties to develop, The Breadwinner was revealed as an option. He jumped at the opportunity.

    The decision to adapt the story as an animated film instead of a live-action film was not made lightly. The book was crafted for children ages 10-13 as a part of an educational curriculum. Even so, some of the themes in the book can be challenging to discuss.

    “We thought, if we did a live-action film like The Kite Runner, our concern was that we would lose that 10-13 year-old audience the book was meant for,” Leo said. “Through animation, we could help make those harder scenes more palpable for kids and adults.”

    From there, the producers looked at which animation studios were making this kind of content. Films like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells had paved the way for animated films with serious content aimed at children. Leo pitched The Breadwinner to Cartoon Saloon and they eagerly agreed to work on the project. Soon, Polk Gitlin joined the team to help with financing and Nora Twomey decided to direct.

    The Breadwinner is Polk Gitlin’s first formal introduction to animation. “I’ve always loved movies with strong female protagonists,” she said. “Not only is The Breadwinner about a strong, young, female protagonist, but it also had great substance. It was an inspirational and helpful film that I thought could educate people about what was going on in this part of the world. I hoped this film would inspire people to get up and help make a difference.”

    Polk Gitlin knows how to pick winners. When she and Ridley Scott were producing Alien, she encouraged Ridley to direct. “They’re not going to think of you for this kind of film,” she advised the young filmmaker. “You should take advantage of the fact that we own it and control it.”

    When it came time for the Q&A portion of the evening, one student wanted to know what advice the two had for students just beginning their careers in animation.

    “You should watch all of the animated shorts nominated for the Oscars,” Polk Gitlin told students. “It showcases multiple styles and all of these filmmakers worked on a very tight budget. It helps shape the way you think about your film. Most of those nominees are students.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Leo and Polk Gitlin for taking the time to speak with our students. The Breadwinner is now available to stream on Netflix in the United States.

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