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  • Martin Landau Discusses His 60 Years in the Business

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    On August 1, the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles welcomed Academy Award winning actor Martin Landau for a screening of Ed Wood (1994), followed by a Q&A between Mr. Landau and NYFA students.

    Mr. Landau, 85, has worked on stage and screen for 60 years, appearing in films such as North by Northwest (1959), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and Tucker: A Man and his Dream (1988). His television credits include the classic 1960s show Mission Impossible and more recently, several episodes of Entourage.

    Mr. Landau explained to students that he left his early career as a cartoonist to join 2,000 other applicants who auditioned for the Actor’s Studio in New York, ending up as one of only two students selected for admission (the other was Steve McQueen). Offering a history of the Actor’s Studio, Mr. Landau also described his instrumental role in creating Actor’s Studio West in Los Angeles, where he still serves as Artistic Director.

    laundauWith such a rich history in the entertainment industry, Mr. Landau told stories of working with Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Tim Burton. He spoke candidly about the actor’s job, and explained that actors must always be observant of what is around them, making their daily lives a preparation for various roles. He demonstrated his own lifetime of observation by precisely impersonating Hitchcock, or by speaking with the Irish and Italian accents of his childhood friends. He said that only bad actors pretend to laugh or cry, and that instead, it’s the actor’s job to prepare and focus on the details and emotions of each character in each moment.

    To that end, Mr. Landau encouraged students to enjoy the filmmaking process as it’s happening. He even showed that he still subscribes to this idea – when asked by a student which of his films was his favorite, Mr. Landau quipped, “Whichever film I’m working on now.” Wrapping up, he told students to reach for the stars: tired of seeing “robots…and more robots” in today’s movies, Mr. Landau convinced the young filmmakers in attendance that it was up to them to once again make movies about real people.

    The NYFA students and staff in attendance were awed by the talent and humor of Mr. Landau, and appreciated his time and important advice.

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    August 6, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 6873

  • ‘Broken City’ Director of Photography Chats at NYFA Union Square

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    Last week, the New York Film Academy in Union Square hosted an exclusive Guest Speaker event with Cinematographer, Ben Seresin. Ben has been a member of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC) since 2010, and the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) since 2011. He has worked on the films Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, World War Z, Pain & Gain, and more. With over twenty years in the business, Ben has worked with many of Hollywood’s top directors. Recently, blockbuster director, Michael Bay, has chosen to work with Ben on Transformers and Pain & Gain.

    On Wednesday, NYFA screened Ben’s film, Broken City, an action thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. While the movie sounds like a big Hollywood film, Ben says he had to work on a bit of a low budget. He admitted having to film major scenes in the course of a day. His goal was to shoot the noir in a contemporary way and to make New York City feel more like a home, as opposed to the glorified movie set it is so often portrayed as. Ben also noted that Russell Crowe was the most technical actor he’s ever worked with. “He had a great sense of the camera.”

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    One of the topics of the conversation between Ben and moderator John Loughlin was overshooting a scene, or allowing oneself to get wrapped up in the mechanics of filmmaking while on set. “Having a safe option can potentially be damaging,” said Seresin. “Compromises can be made if you over cover a scene. It can then be edited in many ways.” Ben added, “There’s a mechanical element that can distract you from film making. It’s dangerous if you get caught up in the mechanics. You lose sight of what’s really important.”

    His advice in avoiding this potentially damaging aspect of film making, “Try to stay detached. Be relaxed. Do not be stressed and trust your eyes.”

    Ben hopes to diversify his upcoming projects as he loves exploring all genres of cinema. We look forward to seeing more great work from Ben!

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    August 5, 2013 • Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 6439

  • So How Do You Get a TV Series Off the Ground?

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    One of the most crucial steps into the film and television industry for any writer is finding and landing the right agent. It’s one of the first obstacles for any film student, especially after graduation. So, the New York Film Academy was excited to hold an informative Q&A with the Senior VP of Gersh Agency, Jack Dytman. His long list of clients include TV series show-runners, executive producers, story editors, staff writers and feature writers in all aspects of the business. His clients have worked on network and cable television series such as Breaking Bad, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Walking Dead, Desperate Housewives, Castle, Criminal Minds, Hawaii 5-0, Smash, Lie To Me, Frasier, Without A Trace, Law and Order: SVU, X-Files, Alias, Hill Street Blues, Suddenly Susan, Murphy Brown, Boston Legal, Barney Miller, Law and Order, Chicago Hope, NYPD Blue, Married with Children, Carnivale, and more. Numerous clients have been nominated for Emmy Awards, ten clients have received Writers Guild Award nominations, and four have won. In the last five years his clients have received nine Producers Guild Award nominations.

    Given his background, Jack provided much insight into the world of the business. He spoke about the current popularity of television, noting, “I have a long line of feature writers trying to get into television, but TV is different…you need to be able to lay the pipeline for 100-150 episodes. It’s not just three acts and an ending!” He also stated that the people that you may need to pitch to are “smart and have heard everything, so the work needs to be unique.”

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    Tova Laiter with Jack Dytman

    One of our students asked Jack the popular question, “How do you get your foot in the door at a network show?” He suggested that, “If you want to get in the door, be a writer’s assistant. If you can’t do that, do something else – sweep if you have to!” Typically it can take up to ten years to develop a writing career for networks, but there are exceptions. One exception he mentioned was the creator of Burn Notice, who had never written for a show. So while it’s rare, it can happen. “You should find your niche and focus on that genre. Understand the networks and cable  – what are they branding? Understanding the difference between ABC, CBS and SHOWTIME is important.”

    While Jack admits it was difficult to predict what shows would become hits, he knew Magnum PI was going to be. However, other shows such as Pushing Daisies simply didn’t catch, even with the top people on board. Then there was Seinfeld, which took about three years to turn into a good show. Go figure.

    Jack also walked our audience through the Development process for TV shows, which was quite telling.

    1. Writer goes to agent with AN IDEA.
    2. If agent says “it’s great” they go to a studio or network.
    3. If it moves forward, they will create or develop a creative team together.
    4. The team will, among other things, BRAND the show. An incredibly important part of network television (each studio and network have branding branches.)
    5. If all goes well, the pilot is picked up once written.
    6. The pilot WILL receive notes, accept them and work with them!
    7. Hopefully pilot gets made, then shown, then repeated.
    8. This process repeats itself annually.

    If you don’t like receiving notes, you’re in the wrong business. Jack stressed the importance of being able to take notes and establishing a relationship with producers and executives. The old cliche about the industry being, “Half about ability and half about like-ability,” is true. “A lot of it is about relationships – you have to network constantly.” He closed with these words of advice, “Have someone refer you when trying to get your work out there.”

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    August 1, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 5095

  • Tips From a Commercial Talent Agent

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    Jennifer Boyce, the head of the Commercial Talent Department at The Savage Agency for 22 years, spoke to more than 60 acting students in the Welles Screening room at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. The Savage Agency has been one of the top agencies for young talent – from ages 3 to 40 – for over 35 years. They represent actors for theatrical, voice over, and commercials.

    Here are some of the facts that she feels are important for new talent to know:

    1. Having an awesome photo is important! If you are not known to the Casting Director, they have no imaginations. Have several pictures with different looks. Once the Casting office gets to know you, they will have an idea of your type.
    2. Be a “CAN DO” client. Jennifer said, “I work for free until you work, so if I worked for a year for you to finally get a job, that’s one day’s work. You will earn $627.00 at scale for a commercial. I will make $62.70. So I don’t make money unless you make it. So I want clients to work. If I make a suggestion you should pay attention to that. You have to show me you are passionate about this.”
    3. An audition is not a pedicure appointment. You have to really want it. If you don’t there are lots of others who do. Every audition is an opportunity! When you are starting out, you should be willing to do everything.
    4. Don’t just rely on your agent. Don’t just sit by the phone and wait, complaining that your agent isn’t doing anything for you. “I make 10%, so I always say I will do 10% of the work, but you have to do 90%. I get you in the door, but after that the rest is up to you.” It’s important to create your own work – be in plays, improv groups, get yourself out there.
    5. If something is not working, don’t blame your agent, look to yourself.
    6. At the end of the day your job is to audition. Some actors hate the casting process. Get used to it. They might pick somebody because they look like their sister or girlfriend, but that is what happens. You can’t control what they are looking for, but you can control what you do in the room. If you’re getting callbacks, you are doing your job. If you don’t get the job, it’s not on you. You can’t get involved in the politics. That’s the only way you can enjoy being in the business.

    CA1A5857The audience had many questions for her, including the following:

    Q: How do you choose new clients?
    A: I usually choose through referral. If it’s not a referral, I go off picture and resume submission. I look for a GREAT picture, lots of training, improv groups, Second City and Groundlings. A lot of commercials are improv and funny, so those skills are especially important to me.

    Q: How many head-shots should I have?
    A: Have one good headshot to get you to see the agent. But don’t spend a lot of money on it, because most likely your agent will want you to get new ones. Every agents has different taste. A theatrical headshot is different – you need one great one. For commercials, you should have several looks that show different types that you can play.

    Q: What do you look for in a headshot?
    A: For commercials, I look for a headshot to be well lit. I want it to “pop” and see what role you’re going to play.

    Q: How easy is it to get Non-SAG actors into auditions?
    A: It’s getting harder to get commercials for non-union actors. A production company has to write an “essay” about why they need to use you for a union production, and if they don’t have a good reason, they will be fined $750. Casting has become more competitive so the Casting Director is not as willing to bring in non-union actors anymore because of this. They are more likely to call in names and their heavy hitters that they know. So new actors have a harder time getting in. Not everyone gets in to every audition – no matter who they are.

    Q: What about sending candy or gifts to an agent in order to get a meeting?
    A: I never open anything from anyone I don’t know. Better to send a postcard. A postcard is a very nice way to introduce yourself, and I can see it without opening anything.

    NYFA thanks Jennifer for taking the time out to provide invaluable advice for our acting students. Her final words of advice could not be more helpful, “Be grateful and thankful for every opportunity you get.”

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    July 25, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 39167

  • Screenwriting Brothers Screen ‘The Conjuring’

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    The number one movie at the box-office, The Conjuring, screened to a full house of New York Film Academy students with guest speakers, twin brothers and writing team, Chad and Carey Hayes. The horror, thriller is based on actual events and focuses on a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.

    Chad and Carey began their career as actors and eventually transitioned into television writers. After writing a modern version of House of Wax, the duo found themselves in the midst of “huge buzz” and their screenwriting careers began to take off. They followed the script with the horror films, The Reaping, Whiteout, and now, The Conjuring. “We treat writing like taking the audience to an amusement park,” said Chad. “It needs to be safe, scary and a great ride.”

    The writing brothers were thrilled about the box office success of The Conjuring this past weekend and noted that this was the first feature they wrote in which they had total control of the writing process from beginning to end. After a bidding war among the studios, New Line picked up the film. Chad and Carey couldn’t have been more thrilled with them.

    When asked about the discipline of writing, Chad responded, “We write everyday. We do it because we like it. If you don´t love it, and you don´t feel that passion, then it´s going to be a long, difficult journey. You must love writing.” Carey added, “We try to build on an initial thought, some of it is technical and about building a rhythm, but character is always at the center. You have to care about the characters.”

    Finally, a New York Film Academy student simply asked the question on everybody’s mind: HOW TO GET STARTED. Here was their advice:

    1. RESEARCH! Take a trip to India if you have to (they actually did that for a project). Immerse yourself in research! 

    2. Watch a lot of movies. 

    3. The Internet! There is so much out there! 

    4. People share their stories. Find them and listen!

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    July 25, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 4135

  • Michael Cudlitz Discusses His Acting Career with NYFA Students

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    Last week, the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles screened the final episode of the television series, Southland, and the fourth episode of Band of Brothers. Why you ask? Because of our special guest, actor, Michael Cudlitz. From his introduction to when he left the stage, Michael was very down-to-earth and cordial – something that is truly refreshing in this town.

    Michael discussed his fondness for TV work, due to the fact that most series are very character driven. He also talked about coping with the ups-and-downs of being an actor. Even Michael is currently “unemployed” (although, of course, he has prospects) and this didn’t seem to bother him in the least. He encouraged NYFA’s acting students to surround themselves with positive people who motivate, not bring them down, and to always be doing something to progress their career. “I think it’s all hard and it’s all exciting,” added Cudlitz.

    2Another aspect of acting that Michael stressed was research and “doing your homework.” Michael had been on at least twenty ride-alongs with cops while preparing for his role of Officer John Cooper on Southland. Though, he admits he was fairly unprepared for his role as a World War 2 soldier in Band of Brothers.

    “You need to just go with what’s there. You need to live in that moment… What’s important is, whatever work you do at home, trust that it’s going to be there when you’re at work, and forget about it, in a way. I mean, forget about it in the moment. Don’t get so lost in the process, that the process is screwing you up. Because other people, other actors, directors, everyone’s going to bring different elements into it, things that you never thought of, and it’s going to help elevate what you’re doing.”

    All in all, his love of acting was very inspiring. He’s truly the kind of guy you’d want in your group of friends. It’s clear that his success was a result of focus and hard work.

     

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    July 17, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 4562

  • Josh Brolin Pays a Visit to NYFA

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    Last Wednesday at Warner Bros, the New York Film Academy was honored to host the talented actor, Josh Brolin, following a screening of the Coen brother’s No Country for Old Men. In addition to the Coen brothers, Josh has worked with major directors, like Gus Van Sant, Robert Rodriguez, and Oliver Stone. His filmography includes a slew of successful films, like W., Milk, True Grit, and don’t forget his first film, The Goonies. Josh admits going on about 300 auditions before landing The Goonies.


    Producer Tova Laiter moderated the guest speaker event, and it wasn’t before long until we noticed how smart, funny, and humble Josh was. He told a number of entertaining stories about his long and successful acting career, including his recollection of his first audition for No Country. While on location for Grindhouse, Josh did a taped audition that was shot and directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The only initial reaction from the Coens’ was,”Great lighting.” Then, months later, his agent landed him a second audition. On a mere three hours of sleep, Josh stopped in a Boot Barn to buy a cowboy hat, which he rubbed on the ground to get dirty. Perhaps it was the rugged cowboy hat that sold the Coen brothers, but we’re sure Josh’s talent had something to do with it.

    Josh offered some words of advice for the aspiring actors in the audience, “When accepting or preparing for a role, fear is the motivating factor. Do it because you love it, not just for the success or the ego. It’s nice to see when people like acting.”

    Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 12.58.22 PMJosh also stressed that identification by an audience is key. “I’m glad when movies or roles I play touch other people. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick and I love the psychology of acting. Every movie is a dark tunnel, and you are just looking for the light.” When preparing for his famed role in Oliver Stone´s W., Josh worked on Alexander Technique and even sought dialect coaches. “Oliver Stone saw it in me before I did – that I could pull that role off.”

    In addition to his film work, Josh has a special appreciation for the theater and literature. “Theater taught me a lot. I love prep, research, and putting stuff together – even more so than the actual acting.”

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    June 26, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 5901

  • Screenwriter Chris Galletta Screens The Kings of Summer

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    NYFA Instructor Ben Cohen with Chris Galletta

    On Tuesday evening, the New York Film Academy was treated to a special screening of the Sundance Grand Jury Nominated feature, The Kings of Summer. The film stars Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman, Mad Men’s Alison Brie, and Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally. The story revolves around three teens, who decide to escape their dull parents for the summer and build their own home in the middle of the woods. Despite their lack of experience in the wilderness, the boys do their best to “live off the land.”

    kosJoining us afterward was screenwriter, Chris Galletta, who answered questions from our moderator, Ben Cohen, and students. Surprisingly, Chris mentioned how this was his first screenplay and even he was surprised just how well the ball began to roll. The script gained Chris representation, was sold, was made, made it to Sundance, and will be released theatrically on May 31 by CBS Films. Clearly a testament to his talents, but self-admittedly some luck came into play. It was soon after Nick Offerman offered to play the father role that the film really became a reality. “I’m a huge fan of Nick’s,” said Galletta. “I love him on Parks and Recreation and couldn’t have asked for anyone better.”

    Like most screenwriters, Chris admits he is highly critical of his work. He says he was rewriting drafts of his script all the way up until the movie began shooting. “I wanted to keep it funny throughout. I didn’t want it to lose its humor in the third act, like a lot of other comedies I’ve seen where it just wraps up the plot.” Some sound advice. Know your genre and maintain its tone from beginning to end.

    Chris is currently working on a new comedy adventure, which is still being scripted.

    Be sure to check out The Kings of Summer when it is released in theaters on May 31st. 

     

     

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    May 8, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 6626

  • Actress Nia Vardalos Visits New York Film Academy

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    Nia Vardalos visited New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus last week for a private screening of her hit film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, followed by a Q&A with students. After training at Chicago’s famed Second City, Vardalos was struggling to find work as an actress. She says she was told she “wasn’t pretty enough to be a leading lady, and not fat enough to be a character actress.” Determined to forge her own path, she wrote her own one-woman show in Los Angeles, based largely on her own upbringing in a Greek family. Rita Wilson came to see it, and returned again with husband Tom Hanks. The couple would soon give her the opportunity of a lifetime: to write and star in her first feature film.

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a sleeper sensation, becoming the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, and earning Vardalos an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. She followed up by writing, producing, and starring in Connie and Carla, and co-starred with Richard Dreyfuss in My Life In Ruins. She made her directorial debut with 2009’s I Hate Valentine’s Day, and co-wrote the box-office hit Larry Crowne.

    Vardalos shared stories about her rise to fame with New York Film Academy students, and even brought prizes that she gave away throughout the night. “It was amazing how she was so humble and down to earth,” said MFA Filmmaking student Edrei Hutson. “She was willing to share her experiences and gave great advice on writing and filmmaking in general.”

    Vardalos answered dozens of questions from excited students, and said, “Learn the rules, so you know what you’re breaking. Be true to yourself and find people who support what you want to do.”

    She is currently working on a project at Paramount, which she describes as an anti-romantic comedy for single people. Vardalos also recently released her first book, Instant Mom, in which she opens up about the heartaches, headaches, and humor of becoming an adoptive parent.

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    May 2, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 6291

  • ‘The Good Wife’ DP Speaks at NYFA

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    CBS’ “The Good Wife”

    This Tuesday, the New York Film Academy in Union Square welcomed long time professional cinematographer, Fred Murphy. Fred has worked on dozens of films and television shows, including: Hoosiers, Secret Window, Stir of Echoes, Fringe, and most recently, The Good Wife. Coming from a background in architecture, Fred found an interest in shooting short film pieces, which later developed into feature cinematography work. His career catapulted after his work on Heartland was recognized by the Berlin Film Festival with a Golden Berlin Bear in 1980.

    Fred shared an episode of The Good Wife and several scenes from the film, Secret Window, starring Johnny Depp. He spoke about the “classic Hollywood style” that he tends to use as a templete for The Good Wife, and described some of the tricky shots from Secret Window. Some of the major differences Fred notices between film and television, “There are hardly any surprises in TV – whereas in movies – everyday is a different day. I learned in movies, there’s really only one camera. In television you have to come up with a lighting solution that allows for multiple cameras.”

    Speaking in terms of the single camera rule, Fred recalled his work with Paul Schrader on the film, Auto Focus. Paul suggested they try going with two cameras on the shoot, but alas it just didn’t work.

    On the whole, Fred gave students over an hour of insight as to his experiences on set of both television and film. In closing, Fred left students with simple, yet wise advice, “Just keep shooting.”

     

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    April 24, 2013 • Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 7126