Guest Speakers

  • Celebrity and Portrait Photographer Robert Trachtenberg Speaks to Photo Students at NYFA Los Angeles

    jerry larry

    The New York Film Academy‘s Photography School in Los Angeles was honored to host a guest lecture by renowned photographer, Robert Trachtenberg, last week. Robert talked students through his work, describing his shoots in detail from conception through execution. Students were encouraged to ask questions which Robert answered with humor and wit. He discussed the role of the publicist in celebrity shoots and how he works with actors from commissioned magazine shoots to off-the-cuff moments he’s captured.

    Robert also described his transition to the moving image. His response to an art director who doubted his ability to shoot a commercial – “I have to tell a story in one frame so 30 seconds is a huge luxury for me!”  Robert  is the winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Direction for his latest production, the American Masters film, Mel Brooks: Make a Noise.

    Robert Trachtenberg’s photographs have appeared in The New York Times MagazineEsquireVanity FairEntertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone among other publications. Advertising clients include NBCCBSABCTNTTBSDisneyMGM and HBO. The work can be viewed at

    -Bobbi Fabian, Chair of NYFA Photography LA
    For more information on NYFA’s Photography Programs, visit here.

    November 28, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Photography • Views: 6376

  • True Blood’s Stephen Moyer Charms NYFA Acting Students

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    Stephen Moyer with Glynis Rigsby

    Acting students and True Blood fans were treated to an exclusive event at the New York Film Academy in Union Square. Stephen Moyer, who plays Bill Compton on HBO’s True Blood, introduced and screened an episode he directed entitled, Somebody That I Used to Know. Stephen was so excited to speak to the students, he grabbed the microphone before the screening to introduce himself and the episode. Incorporated into his introduction were his charm and sense and humor.

    Stephen has recently been living in New York City as he prepares for his role of Captain Von Trapp on The Sound of Music, which will be a live 3-hour broadcast of the original 1959 Broadway production, executive produced by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. He will star alongside Carrie Underwood, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald and Christian Borle, which airs on NBC on December 5th.

    Stephen Moyer

    During the Q&A with NYFA Acting Chair, Glynis Rigsby, Stephen recalled his hard work and dedication to his craft that led him to his current status in the business. He even broke down scenes for the audience to get a sense of his directing style in this specific episode on season 5. Through entertaining anecdotes and insightful industry knowledge, Stephen had the entire house engaged and entertained. It’s no wonder he’s an A-class talent on the screen.

    Even after the event, Stephen took the time out to speak personally with several students, including signing autographs and taking photos with hardcore fans.





    November 22, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 7594

  • Homefront Director Speaks at NYFA


    Gary Fleder with Tova Laiter

    Last night we had a full house yet again at Warner Bros theater 5 for our special guest, director Gary Fleder. Producer Tova Laiter, who moderated the Q&A, brought Gary to the New York Film Academy.

    We screened the upcoming film, Homefront, starring Jason Statham, Kate Bosworth, and Winona Ryder. The screenplay was written by Sylvester Stallone, based on a novel Sly optioned a few years ago.

    After graduating from film school, Gary’s debut film, Things To Do In Denver When You Are Dead, received polarized reviews from both critics and audiences.”People really loved it or hated it,” Gary admitted. He went on to direct Runaway Jury, Kiss The Girls, Don’t Say A Word and numerous television series, including Vegas and Beauty & The Beast. “TV is great in the sense that every day you direct, you get a lot of practice; hours on TV are like hours in a cockpit,” he said, referring to the speed at which television content is produced.

    FlederAsked by a student about the process of preparing a film, Gary said, “You have to find your process; there really is no one formula. You really have to have a vision – see the film in your head – then you can move on to storyboarding and putting the pieces together.”

    In regards to screenwriting, Gary’s advice was, “Structure and architecture are more important to me than dialogue.” In fact, he joked that his debut film had virtually no structure and was a cluster of scenes.

    He looks at the importance of every phase of moviemaking. “Movies are made 3 times! The writing, the shooting, and the editing.” If you can get a good script and then make several choices while shooting, there is flexibility in what happens in post, which does not apply as much to TV.

    Homefront has impressive combat/fighting scenes, and Gary said that giving the audience “a sense of geography was important.” He also admitted that working with people like Jason Statham, who is an athlete and has a lot of combat/fighting scenes on his resume, is helpful. Staging is also very important for credibility purposes, and sometime a single kick or punch would require ten takes.

    Gary was asked about directing actors, specifically Jason Statham and the young child actress who plays his daughter in the film, Izabela Vidovic. He said that for the child actress, who had traumas to deal with in this story, “You find that these kids are like adults, talk to them with respect, not condescendingly. Jason, on the other hand, is very opinionated and you tend to discuss scenes and ideas; and some of them end up going through changes. You have to be malleable with someone like him because of his experience and stature.”

    “I don’t think a film director is an acting coach. I trust them to work out characters by giving them a good backstory.” He gave an example of how Kate Bosworth developed her character in the film, a spiteful drug addict at the center of the town’s drama. “You hire good actors and trust them to do good work.”

    His favorite actor that he has worked with is Dustin Hoffman because, “Dustin was 67 at the time, and he was so engaged and interested. He was curious about every scene…always a student, always learning.”

    Finally, he said it takes a combination of talent, tenacity, and love to make it in this business.

    Be sure to check out the action film, Homefront, which opens November 27th!


    November 20, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4842

  • Producer Gaby Tana Speaks to NYFA Producing Students

    Gaby Tana

    Gaby Tana

    Prominent film producer Gabrielle (Gaby) Tana joined our Producing Program students last week for an inspiring Industry Speaker session. Gaby has not one, but two major feature film releases upcoming: Stephen Frears’ Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman (Sony Pictures Classics).

    Coming off very successful premieres at the Venice, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals, Gaby shared her inside perspective on developing, financing, and overseeing the production of both films. A producer based in New York and London, Gaby discussed the role of BBC Films as both a creative and business partner, working with various financing entities such as Pathe, how tax schemes have aided her efforts, and how producers can impact marketing and distribution strategies. Gaby also shared some of her experiences producing earlier films The Duchess (which starred Keira Knightly), and Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut Coriolanus.

    New York Film Academy Producing students will continue to track the progress of Gaby’s two films as they open in the US in November and December.


    November 19, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6889

  • NYFA Union Square Hosts Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, and Polsky Bros

    Emile Stephen

    Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff at NYFA Union Square

    On Tuesday, the New York Film Academy screened the newest film from Gabe and Alan Polsky, The Motel Life. This was The Bad Lieutenant producing brothers’ directorial debut, starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, and Dakota Fanning. After the screening, students and alumni were treated to a panel consisting of Emile, Stephen, Gabe and Alan. Instructor Ben Cohen moderated the event, which turned out to be a full house of entertained students.

    The film, which opens in theaters and On Demand this Friday, focuses on a pair of down and out brothers who must flee their hometown of Reno after a fatal hit-and-run accident. Shot on 35mm, The Motel Life brings us back to a time in cinema when filmmakers didn’t have to rely on explosions, comic book characters or exotic locations. The characters dealt with a lot of internal conflicts, though Stephen’s character was also dealing with an obvious physical dilemma. “We wanted the film to have a timeless classic feel,” said director, Gabe Polsky.

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    Gabe and Alan Polsky

    Emile and Stephen were quite taken with the material and signed on immediately after reading. Working with the first time directors was a very pleasant experience for both actors. “They were very smart about putting all of the elements together,” said Emile Hirsch. Emile admitted to the fact that he had actually lived in motels at the age of 12, so this was something very personal to him.

    In order for Stephen to prepare for the role (his character loses his right leg), he spent time with amputees to see what it was like to live with such a disability. He told the students how moving and inspiring their stories were, and how much it helped him prepare for the part of Jerry Lee.

    The acting duo were flowing with personality and humor throughout the evening, and had the entire room engaged. Each guest even spent time shaking hands and speaking privately with several students after the Q&A.


    November 6, 2013 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 6913

  • Randall Emmett Recounts His Journey to Mega-Producer Status


    Producer Randall Emmett

    Last week, prolific film producer, Randall Emmett spoke to New York Film Academy students, providing them with some valuable insider Hollywood advice. Beforehand, Randall screened his most recently released film, Escape Plan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, which premiered only four days before. The film, with its mega-star personas and epic action scenes, was a good compliment to a larger than life producer like Randall Emmett.

    Randall has produced over seventy feature films and has at any time five films in different stages of production. With a reputation for packaging movies and getting them made, Emmett’s films have been both box office ‘hits’ and acclaimed works, debuting at Sundance, Berlin and Toronto, with many nominated for Independent Spirit Awards. Randall’s films include 2 Guns (starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg), End of Watch (starring Jake Gyllenhaal), Righteous Kill (starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro), 88 Minutes, The Amityville Horror, and Narc among many.

    As a kid, Randall was obsessed with acting and would make short films with the family’s home video camera on the weekends. After spending a summer in high school as a PA on a movie set, Randall realized he wanted to work behind the camera and decided to attend film school in New York for college. In a sea of aspiring directors, Randall was the only student who wanted to produce. At the time, producing didn’t really exist as a discipline or specialty, so Randall learned through “trail by fire.” Starting in his sophomore year, he produced an abundance of his senior classmates’ thesis projects, offering to deliver their films for five thousand dollars. Randall would go to extremes, far beyond the efforts of the average film student to get the best equipment rates, locations, and actors for his director. He would wear numerous hats to finish the film, acting as producer, AD, production manager, casting director, etc.

    Randall described the incredible amount of work he performed in school not as a burden, but a “magical experience,” because he was so in love with filmmaking. In his senior year, Randall took the highly unconventional route and chose to make a feature for his thesis. He wanted to leave school with what he believed would be a real product. Randall and his thesis team asked everyone for money, scraping together about twenty-five thousand dollars to make the film. Shooting a feature on 16mm film for such little money was a huge feat at the time, but Randall pulled it off. After moving to Los Angeles, he actually sold the film he made in college.

    The famous Aaron Spelling, a mentor of Randall’s, encouraged him to work at an agency. Although Randall was opposed to working in an office, he took this advice and worked at ICM. This proved to be invaluable experience as he learned how agencies, the center of Hollywood’s universe, operated. Meanwhile, he met Mark Wahlberg through an acquaintance. They hit it off and became friends, because they both shared a passion for movies. Later, Randall left ICM and took a job Mark Wahlberg offered him to be his personal assistant. The show Entourage, which Mark Wahlberg created, is based on his crazy life with Randall as he was a rising movie star in Hollywood.

    Randall had been trying to package movies throughout his time in Los Angeles. After he finished his assistant work with Mark Wahlberg, Randall found himself broke and sleeping on his friend’s couch in his late twenties. At this point he had been led astray countless times by “investors” that ended up never having a penny to their name. However, Randall didn’t give up, and finally met George Furla who ended up funding his first feature in Los Angeles. They have been producing partners ever since.

    Randall’s story is one of the underdog independent producers that now dominate Hollywood. His main message to students was to always believe in yourself no matter what level you’re at. This type of excitement attracts others and opens doors. It was Randall’s extreme positive energy that had students falling in love with him all evening as he told his story. Randall Emmett is just one of those people who you want to see succeed and we wish him continued success in the future.


    October 30, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 28023

  • Hollywood Stunt-Coordinator and AD Discusses His Craft at NYFA


    andy armstrong

    Last week, the New York Film Academy welcomed seasoned Hollywood stunt-coordinator and Assistant Director, Andy Armstrong. The night began with a screening of Andy’s reel, which included clips of epic action scenes from Season of the Witch, The Amazing Spiderman, Thor, The Green Hornet, the remake of Planet of the Apes, Galaxy Quest, Stargate, and Hoffa to name just a few.

    Andy began his film career in 1972, in England and France, as a vehicle stunt performer. Andy’s time was primarily focused on vehicles stunts. In 1973, Andy decided to make use of his organizational skills and become an assistant film director. This proved extremely successful and Andy enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of third, second and eventually first AD to become one of the world’s most highly paid AD’s. This work took him all over the world. Specializing particularly in very large international productions that involved complex, dangerous and logistically difficult stunts and action sequences. From 1973 to 1987, Andy worked as an Assistant Director on more than 70 International Movies. As First Assistant Director, Andy has coordinated and directed some of the largest action sequences ever achieved on many international productions. Andy even directed, wrote and produced his own TV movie, Moonshine Highway (1996).

    armstrong nyfaAs Andy spoke to the students, what quickly became apparent was how incredibly diverse his stunt-coordinating career has been. In Season of the Witch he replicated large-scale battles from the Crusades using only thirty stunt men and CGI techniques. In The Green Hornet he supervised the building of stunt vehicles that would make any car enthusiast’s jaw drop. In The Amazing Spiderman he designed unprecedented aerial stunts, including intricate cable systems strung over New York City streets. One would assume that different stunt coordinators, each with their own specialty, would have been hired to execute such assorted undertakings. However, Andy has proven to be quite the Jack-of-all-trades in the stunt world.

    What was also impressive was the degree of creative input Andy has had with acclaimed directors. During the making of Hoffa, Andy worked closely with director Danny DeVito to design the Teamster riot scenes. They studied the behavior of individuals in a riot and replicated these historic uprisings with twelve hundred extras on set. Andy noted that someone is more likely to sneak up behind you and hit you over the head with a bottle, then they are to duke it out with you face-to-face in a riot. It was this attention to detail that made the teamster riot scenes in Hoffa feel so real.

    Many of the students in attendance that night were actors interested in stunts. Andy’s advice to these students was to become an apprentice to a stunt man/woman or coordinator as soon as possible. He said stunt work is one of those old-fashioned professions for which there is no substitute for real world experience.

    With an action-packed career covering five decades, Andy Armstrong is the definition of a stunt coordinator with real world experience. The kinds of stunts he can create on screen seem to only be limited by his imagination. We can’t wait to see what Andy Armstrong thinks up next.


    October 28, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 6811

  • Mad Men’s Harry Hamlin Teaches NYFA Students the Power of ‘No’

    Harry Hamlin

    Harry Hamlin at NYFA LA

    One of the shows that put AMC on the map was Mad Men. The 1960’s period piece captures the life of a prestigious ad agency and its mysteriously talented leading man, Don Draper. Coming aboard the popular drama this past season as ‘Jim Cutler,’ was venerable actor, Harry Hamlin. Last week, Harry was a special guest to an audience of New York Film Academy students. Many acting students were thrilled to greet Hamlin after a screening of an extremely entertaining episode of Mad Men, starring the actor. Hamlin was originally up for a bit part as a swinger who attempts to seduce Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) and his wife. He didn’t get the role, but Harry didn’t exactly want to play a swinger anyway. Three months later, they offered him a part that was supposed to be only one day of work, but ended up being a reoccurring character on the show this past season.

    Harry originally took up acting through a series of rather bizarre circumstances. Originally, he set out to study architecture, but he was late for registration and enrolled in acting school (imagining that he would enroll in classes at the architecture school next quarter). One of the requirements for the acting school was that he audition for a play. He ended up landing his first role, and was cast afterwards in every play that performed at Berkley. Needless to say, architecture school was no longer on the forefront of his mind.

    Harry went on to finish his bachelor’s degree at Yale. At the time, Yale did not allow an exclusive degree in acting, so he had to double major in psychology.

    hamlin2After Yale, he was offered a scholarship to ACT (the American Conservatory Theater) in San Francisco. His parents were so against him attending the program that Harry’s father had removed the timing mechanism from his car so that it wouldn’t run. That didn’t stop him. Harry intentionally bounced a check to fly to ACT and register.

    He received an MFA at ACT. He applied for a Fulbright scholarship and got it. A casting director at Warner Bros., who saw him preform in a play in San Francisco called Equus, asked him to come into the studio for a meeting. Harry had no desire to do film; he considered himself a theater actor. He reluctantly agreed to see her and she immediately offered him a part in a television mini-series. Harry turned down the role, because he wanted to continue studying with his Fulbright scholarship. The studio was amazed that Harry turned down his first job offer, much less the starring role in a big television series! That stirred everyone up and only increased interest in him. The studio kept offering him bigger parts and more money, and he kept saying NO. “The power of ‘no’ caused Warner Bros. to stand up and say, ‘who is this guy?’” said Hamlin. “They ended up offering me a huge three picture deal – the same deal that Clint Eastwood had been given – it was called the ‘Clint Deal.’”

    On the day Hamlin was supposed to sign the contract, he told Robert Shapiro, the president of Warner Bros. at the time, that he wanted it to be written into his contract that he would have some say in the movies that he does. They wouldn’t give him that degree of freedom, so he didn’t sign the contract. Warner Bros. was stunned. Harry knew it was the right decision for him at the time, because he knew the movies that they had in mind for him and he didn’t like them.

    At the very same time Warner Bros. was talking to Harry about signing this contract, MGM wanted him to do Clash of the Titans, which he ended up doing. Obviously he wouldn’t have been able to star in it if he had taken the Warner Bros. deal.

    Afterwards, 20th Century Fox approached him to star in Making Love, which was the very first studio picture involving a gay love story. Harry took the role because he loved the script and felt it would have a great social impact. While it was a great artistic decision, it was a terrible career move. After playing a gay character, nobody wanted to cast him. Harry didn’t work for the next two years.

    Finally, 20th Century Fox came to Harry with the pilot script for L.A. Law. The script sat on Harry’s coffee table for a month, because he didn’t think he was interested in TV. His friend convinced him to read it, because it was the “hottest script in town.” Harry read the pilot, and to this day it is the best thing he has read. He worked on the show for the next five years.

    On the whole, it was refreshing to hear how an actor can stay true to his artistic integrity and still find a path to success in an extremely cutthroat business. The New York Film Academy truly enjoyed Hamlin’s story and advice, and wish to thank him for joining us!

    Hamlin and Tova

    Producer Tova Laiter with Harry Hamlin


    October 22, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 6866

  • Abe Altman: Accountant to the Stars

    Abe Altman

    Abe Altman at NYFA Union Square

    As Abe Altman greeted a packed house at the New York Film Academy’s Union Square screening room, he humbly admitted, “I’m an accountant, and usually the conversation ends there.” While the ice breaker may not work in most social settings, Abe assured the audience that his profession was much more exciting than it sounds. Abe was right.

    Having started out as a typical accountant, making a decent salary and supporting a family, Abe yearned for more in life. After several years of establishing himself as a reputable accountant at a standard firm, he thought it was time to branch out into something more exciting. Abe ended up landing a job with an accounting company that focused on entertainment clients. This provided a needed fulfillment, and Abe never looked back.

    After several years of working with clients from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and even Tom Cruise, Abe started his own firm. Now his company, “Altman, Greenfield, and Selvaggi,” is one of the most prominent entertainment accounting firms in New York City, with a branch in Los Angeles. His roster of clients include major talents like Sarah Jessica Parker, John Goodman, John Turturro, and many more. Abe understands the struggles of an actor and says, “As long as you’re an actor, I’ll take you on as a client.” Having witnessed firsthand the blossoming careers of many A-list actors, Abe understands the value of a struggling actor who is genuinely motivated.

    A rather interesting story that Abe shared with us, was when he offered his support for John Turturro, who finally raised funds to film a personal project called Mac. Abe was so excited for John, he was willing to help out on set in any fashion. He told John he would leave work at 3:00PM everyday, even if it meant serving coffee for his crew. A few weeks later, John reached out to Abe, only it wasn’t to serve coffee. Turturro felt Abe could play a small part in his film as a hardware store owner. Considering Abe was a business owner, John felt he was the only one who could truly grasp the role. And so Abe was cast in his first film. It didn’t stop there, however. Abe was recently cast as a rabbi in John Turturro’s upcoming film, Fading Gigolo, which stars Woody Allen, Liev Schreiber, and Sofia Vergara. Indeed his world of accounting was much more thrilling than the norm.

    Abe was a gracious host with an abundance of insightful “Hollywood business” knowledge. His advice for actors, and any person pursuing a career for that matter, was to “Keep moving forward and keep plugging away.” Abe is a true believer in the notion that if you know what you want to do in life, you can achieve that goal through patience and persistence.


    October 17, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 18269

  • New York Film Academy Hosts Screening of Veteran Documentary


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    This past Thursday, the New York Film Academy, in collaboration with the Soldiers Project, a non-profit which provides confidential readjustment counseling to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, held a screening of Where Soldiers Come From. The screening was immediately followed by a Q&A with currently enrolled veteran students at NYFA.

    nyfa veteransThe film is based on a four year journey of childhood friends whose lives are forever changed by war. Where Soldiers Come From, provides a glimpse beyond the guns, glamour, and politics of war, and highlights family, friendship, community and the impact of war on our returning service members and veterans.

    The Q&A allowed currently enrolled civilian students, faculty, and staff to ask the panel of veteran students about their experiences, while in the military, after the military, and now as a college students. The panel consisted of a former special operations service member (BFA Screenwriter), a Marine who deployed to Afghanistan (BFA Filmmaking), and two Army veterans (BFA Acting/MFA Acting), including a woman veteran who served as an MP (Military Police).

    “The event brought together not only our veteran student population, but our entire campus community as a whole to learn about the experiences of our veterans,” says John Powers, Director Office of Veterans Services at NYFA. “With more than 200 veterans on campus, we are focused on providing services to ensure that NYFA veterans are meeting their educational and artistic goals while bridging the civilian, military gap.”


    October 15, 2013 • Community Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 3749