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  • Getting a Break at an Early Age

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    Victoria Justice Actress

    The “calling” often comes at an early age, but it’s not too often that a performer becomes successful until years of persistence and hard work. That’s not to say Victoria Justice didn’t put in her dues, but she didn’t have to wait long for her first break into the business. The teen actress and pop singer is best known for her work on Nickelodeon’s Zoe 101, and her pop album, Victorious. Recently, Victoria made the jump to motion pictures. Her newest film, Fun Size, stars Jackass star, Johnny Knoxville, and Chelsea Lately’s, Chelsea Handler. The film is The O.C. and Gossip Girl creator, Josh Schwartz’s directorial debut, and Victoria’s first real opportunity to make a name for herself on the big screen.

    Victoria’s life wasn’t always jumping from show to show, movie to movie, and album to album. She, like every aspiring young actress, began by auditioning for a television commercial. Though, she may have been luckier than most actresses. “My first job ever was an Ovaltine commercial and I was eight years old. I was so excited,” recalled Victoria. “It’s my first audition and I ended up booking it. To me, that was the biggest break anyone could ever have.”

    While this certainly put Victoria on the map, it didn’t necessarily start her career as a buzzing teen star. “I remember auditioning for Zoey 101 as their new series regular. They needed a new roommate for Jamie Lynn Spears, who played Zoey. They were auditioning a bunch of girls for that role and I ended up getting it. I remember I was actually on set filming a Hallmark short film for Christmas time called Silver Bells, and my agent called me and let me know I had just booked a new role in Zoey 101. The creator, Dan Schneider called me personally to congratulate me and I was freaking out. It was such a surreal feeling. I was on such a high. I think that’s kind of what started my career.”

    Victoria Justice Fun SizeFrom there, Victoria spent her teen years as a child of Nickelodeon. Life was pretty good for the young actress. However, Victoria wasn’t a shoe in for Fun Size, despite its ties to Nickelodeon. “I definitely did have to audition. It was not just handed to me. I had to work for that role. “

    It seems Victoria has a knack for performing. After all, she landed her first audition at the age of eight in a national commercial! So, where did this confidence come from? “Definitely my mom. We spend a lot of time together and she’s an incredible mentor. I don’t think I would be at the place I am in my career right now if it wasn’t for her. She’s guided me to make the right choices, she’s helped pick the right team of people surrounding me. She’s just a really smart, genuine, and a great person that I’m very lucky to have in my life.” Based on her personal relationship with her mother, Victoria will have to pull out some of her acting chops for her newest film. She plays the role of Wren, who takes on the responsibility of her brother due to a broken relationship with her mother, played by Chelsea Handler. Wren is your typical teenage girl who happens to have one of her Halloween’s turned completely upside down. “It’s a coming of age story in a lot of ways. I think we can all relate to growing up, learning about ourselves and finding ourselves. I related to her in that way as well.”

    See Victoria Justice in the new movie, Fun Size, when it’s released in theaters on October 26.

    -Frank Pasquine, Director of Social Media at New York Film Academy

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    October 15, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 5001

  • Classic Art in Video Games

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    Chris Solarski in New York Film Academy

    This Thursday the New York Film Academy‘s Game Design and 3D Animation program welcomed guest lecturer, Chris Solarski. Chris is an artist game designer and author of Drawing Basics and Video Game Art: Classic to Cutting Edge Art Techniques for Winning Video Game Design. With a Bachelor’s in computer animation, Chris began working as a 3D character and environment artist for Sony Computer Entertainment in London. Later, he enrolled in art classes at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, where his interest in applying classical art techniques to video games began. It was after a lecture by visual artist, Andrew Jones, that Chris found his true calling. “I was so impressed with his ability to create something out of nothing,” recalled Chris. “I knew I needed more training. I had catching up to do.”

    The students were treated to an hour lecture that was truly fascinating and well thought out. Chris’ lecture focused on the connection between classic art and modern video games. Yes, that’s correct. While it may not be obvious at first glance, Chris was able to dissect classic works of art to validate his points. Using comparisons from the work of artists like Degas and Boticelli, Chris was able to show the influences these artists have on modern gaming. Much like an intricate painting or drawing, a crucial element in game design is emotion. Emotion can be conveyed through composition, contrast, and the structure of images. These elements are essential in the development of any art, and Game Design and 3D Animation are no different. “The composition and contrasting elements have a very strong impact on emotion.”

    One of Chris’ most recent games that he enjoys the most is Journey, mainly due to the composition and emotion of the experience. “It is important to know the emotional experience from the outset and use composition to create the player experience.”

    Chris currently develops his own video games under Solarski Studio, with the aim of exploring new forms of player interaction and creating more expressive and varied emotional experiences in games. “My job is to validate video games.”

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    October 5, 2012 • 3D Animation, Acting, Game Design, Guest Speakers • Views: 4005

  • Screening with Award Winning Director Yazhou Yang

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    If you’re a New York Film Academy student in New York, stop by the 4th floor screening room for a screening of award winning director, Yazhou Yang’s film Wings. Following the screening will be an informative Q&A with the director. Don’t miss it!

     

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    September 5, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 3892

  • Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer on His Love of Film

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    Director/writer/producer Kurt Wimmer speaking to students at New York Film Academy.

     

    “I live to see a good movie,” said director/writer/producer Kurt Wimmer. “When I sit down in a theater, I love it when the trailers come up. My heart starts pounding and I start tearing up.” As part of New York Film Academy’s ongoing guest speaker series, Wimmer spoke to an audience of students after a screening of his breakthrough hit film, Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale. He explained, “There’s things I want to say, and this movie is about that. It’s about the things I feel. I want you to feel that too.”

    Though he had already found considerable success as the co-writer of Sphere, and adapting Michael Crichton’s Thomas Crowne Affair, Equilibrium was Kurt Wimmer’s first major directing credit. As he said, “I was dreading the moment when someone would say, ‘Will you direct?’ I spent the entire shoot waiting for someone to tap me on my shoulder and say, ‘What are you doing here?’” He credited his crew for their support throughout the process, saying, “There are invisible hands that help you.”

    Wimmer was joined on stage by crew members, including stunt coordinator Mike Smith, editor William Yeh, producer Lucas Foster, and score producer Klaus Badelt who shared their experience working on the movie. Previous guest speaker Alan Siegel, Gerard Butler’s manager, was also in attendance. As Wimmer put it, “You meet people as you go along. Sometimes you have chemistry and sometimes you don’t. But you have to establish relationships and establish trust.”

    Kurt Wimmer is known for his star vehicle movies, such as The Recruit with Colin Farrell, Law Abiding Citizen with Gerard Butler, and Salt with Angelina Jolie. He announced that his next release, the remake of Total Recall, is scheduled for release next month. The film features a star-studded cast, including Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Ethan Hawke, and Bryan Cranston.

    Stunt coordinator Mike Smith, event moderator Tova Laiter, editor William Yeh, director Kurt Wimmer, producer Lucas Foster, and score producer Klaus Badelt

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    July 18, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 8642

  • Joel Silver on the State of Hollywood

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    “Joel has never been afraid of color,” said producer/moderator Tova Laiter.

    Mega-producer Joel Silver recently visited New York Film Academy for a Q&A and special screening of his 1988 classic, Die Hard. “We were kind of crafting a new genre,” said Silver. “Summers weren’t full of action films then.” He said he had originally wanted Richard Gere to play the lead, who turned down the role. They took a risk with Bruce Willis, an actor best known at the time for his starring role on TV’s Moonlighting. It paid off, becoming an international hit that would go on to spawn 3 hit sequels. The fourth sequel, A Good Day to Die Hard, is slated for release in February 2013.

    Silver has produced more than 60 films, earning more than $13 billion worldwide. His credits include the Academy Award-winning The Matrix trilogy, the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise, and the sci-fi thriller, Predator. More recently, he launched the Sherlock Holmes franchise for Warner Bros. He is co-founder of Dark Castle Entertainment and owner of Silver Pictures. His newly-launched division, Silver Pictures Entertainment, announced a five-year distribution deal with Universal Pictures. Silver said the new division plans to make movies in various genres with mid-sized budgets of $40-60 million. He joked, “There’s always going to be artistic films out there, but I want to make the movies people actually see.”

    Answering questions from New York Film Academy students, Silver commented on the state of the industry, saying, “The Hollywood system is better than it has ever been. People are going to the movies more than ever, and all over the world. It’s a great time.” He continued, “People are making movies for 20 bucks … We’re living in a golden age of Hollywood.”

    Speaking to the young filmmakers and actors, he said, “You have to be passionate about movies. I’m excited every day. I love the process. I know the process. I live crisis. Crisis is a part of my life … If you bang your head against enough walls, eventually you’re going to break through.”

    He also put to rest rumors about revisiting the Lethal Weapon franchise, saying, “I’d rather be dead,” eliciting a roar of laughter from the crowd.

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    July 5, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 5442

  • Casting Advice From a Pro

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    Casting director Nancy Nayor recently visited students at New York Film Academy following a screening of The Grudge. She began her casting career off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club before moving to Los Angeles to become President of Feature Film Casting for Universal Studios, and working on films for Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, and John Hughes. “The first year was kind of a shock, to have that position at 24,” she laughed. She spent 14 years there before opening her own freelance casting company. Since then, she has cast movies including Road Trip, The Whole Nine Yards, Exorcism of Emily Rose, When a Stranger Calls, and Scream 4.

    Nayor spoke about the love of her job, saying, “It’s great because you’re around actors all the time, and you get to think like an actor, and you get to read with the actors, and you’re in the arena of filmmaking or theater, and it’s just fantastic.”

    Following a brief interview, Nayor answered questions from students, offering lots of helpful advice. “You need to have footage of yourself and you have to be able to email links,” she said. “It’s great to make your own reel. Tape your own scenes or monologues. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. I just want to see talent. If you’re constantly taping yourself, and the camera becomes your friend, then when you’re in the audition room you’re not automatically nervous. It helps you go into an audition room and be relaxed.”

    Do you have other helpful tips or advice for auditions? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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    June 1, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4605

  • Amy Heckerling: Doing Things Her Own Way

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    Amy Heckerling visited students at the New York Film Academy for a screening of her hit film Clueless. The writer/director garnered both critical praise and impressive box office success with movies including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who’s Talking, and National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

    Heckerling became a successful director at a time when female directors were a novelty. Asked about what it was like being a woman in Hollywood in the 80’s, she responded, “I’m psychotic. I don’t care how the world works. I do what I want to do…. If you want to do it, you can’t listen to what the world is telling you. You do what you want. If I tell you what I feel truthfully, there will be a [ton] of people who respond to that.”

    When asked about Clueless, Heckerling recalled, “They told me, ‘We want to do something about the cool kids,’ and I thought, ‘Well that sounds stupid… But what if the cool kids were nice.’ I remembered Emma, which I read in college. I always wanted to do something where the character was just happy. It seemed so strange to me. Then I got into her head and it wasn’t so strange.” The script came soon after, but it was initially met with rejection by a number of studios. “Everyone will try to say you can’t do something,” she said, “but there’s only one person who has to believe in you, and that’s you…. You may have to find another door to take you there. Take your shot. Be aggressive. As long as you believe in you, you’ll find others to believe in you.”

    Do you have the same passion for directing as Amy? Learn directing at the New York Film Academy!

      

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    May 22, 2012 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 4952

  • Rob Reiner Visits the New York Film Academy

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    Legendary director Rob Reiner visited New York Film Academy and shared an advance screening of his upcoming film, The Magic of Belle Isle, a comedy-drama starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen. He also sat with students to watch the film before spending over 2 hours answering their questions!

    rob reiner

    Rob found fame as an actor in the landmark television series All In the Family, but went on to become the acclaimed director of influential films, ranging from the pure comedy of This Is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride to the intense drama of Stand By Me, Misery, A Few Good Men, and Ghosts of Mississippi; from the romantic comedy of When Harry Met Sally, The American President, and Flipped to the poignant comedy-drama, The Bucket List.

    Though he was asked questions about many of his films, Rob named Stand By Me as one of his favorite film projects. When asked about working with the film’s young cast, Rob said, “You can teach them craft, but you can’t teach them talent,” and went on to speak glowingly of the film’s young stars. He continued, “It was turned down by all of the studio heads. I thought, ‘I don’t know if anyone will see it, but I like it.’”

    Rob told stories about growing up with his talented father, writer/actor/director Carl Reiner, saying, “My father was on television before we owned a television! We bought a television so we could see him on television.” Rob said he learned the art of storytelling on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show, where his father was the writer. He also said he learned from his films’ stars, praising Kathy Bates, Morgan Freeman, and Jack Nicholson (complete with a spot-on Nicholson impression!).

    Rob also thanked the students for their intriguing questions about the art of filmmaking, saying, “Usually I turn up at these events and I just get asked how to get an agent!”

    -Joe Hui

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    March 22, 2012 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2438