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.”
NYFA Cinematography Chair John Loughlin with Adam Holender
This Tuesday, the New York Film Academy in Union Square welcomed cinematographer, Adam Holender. His most notable credit is Director of Photography on the 1969 classic, Midnight Cowboy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. Adam suggested we screen another classic from 1971, starring the then unknown Al Pacino. The Panic in Needle Park is a stark portrayal of life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in New York City’s “Needle Park.” The film was a part of the early 1970’s cinéma-vérité. Adam’s use of hand-held cameras, real-life urban location, sounds and lack of traditional soundtrack set the tone for a new style of realism. According to Adam, the film was shot primarily on-location in forty-three days.
Living mere blocks away from the main location of the film up on 71st and Broadway, Adam and his director, Jerry Schatzberg, spent months in New York City diligently preparing for production. “Pre-production is the most important part of the process,” said Adam.
Coming up in a time when film was meant to be gritty and real, Adam admits digital filmmaking is the obvious wave of the future. “If people have something to say, it really doesn’t matter if it’s digital or film,” admitted Adam. Though, he does feel a certain loss of intimacy between the cinematographer and the actors’ performance when shooting digitally as opposed to 35mm.
When asked by a student if he typically criticizes his films or often thinks about “going back and making changes,” Adam said, “Your work is really never finished. It’s only abandoned.” Wise words from a DP with a long and successful career in the industry.
The New York Film Academy recently invited Esq. Productions to a discussion called “The New Normal? Lessons Learned from Toronto, Sundance & More.” The panel examined the current state of independent film production and distribution, the continuing evolution of multi-platforming, and provided students with practical tools they can use to capitalize on a resurgent indie film marketplace. The symposium, co-sponsored by RAW: Natural Born Artistsand Backstage, featured guest speakers Steven Beer (Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo, PC), Jerry Dasti (Sloss Eckhouse Law Co), and Emma Marie Riley (Creative Director, RAW: Natural Born Artists Brooklyn).
Empowering creative artists. That is the mission at the heart of the 501(c)(3) non-profit Esq. Productions. Co-founded in 2010 by then-first year law student Latha Duncan, the company’s goal is simple: to provide creative artists across the various entertainment industries with the tools they need in order to successfully manage their careers from a commercial perspective while simultaneously protecting their artistic integrity.
Esq. Productions puts together educational programming that focuses specifically on the business and legal aspects of entertainment. Motivated by the realization that many indie filmmakers don’t have the benefit of exposure to business and legal counsel, Latha sought to fill the void. “Many filmmakers get caught in a Catch-22 situation,” Latha said. “Before you’ve made a name for yourself, it’s often difficult to secure representation, whether that means an agent or an attorney. But when faced with the spectre of truly independent film production, it can be just as difficult to make a name for yourself without the help of those business and legal counterparts. I wanted to break that cycle.”
The company, now run by Latha and his law school roommate, Brett Deacon, encourages artists to get involved in their own business affairs. “The reality is that there is a lot the artist can do him- or herself to secure their position,” said Latha. “A foundational understanding of relevant legal principles, knowing when and where to look out for red flags, and recognizing where you have leverage in different transactional settings can all go a long way. We’re not trying to turn artists into attorneys or to stifle creativity. But the nature of the marketplace is such that the days of a one-size-fits-all approach are long gone. Our goal is to get artists – whether filmmakers, fashion designers, musicians – to incorporate what they learn from our programming into a holistic approach to their careers.”
Before approaching the New York Film Academy, Esq. Productions has worked with the Art Center College of Design, the DePaul University School of Cinema & Interactive Media, and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Always looking to provide attendees with the broadest perspective possible on the issues addressed, they brought together entertainment attorneys from Lionsgate, UTA, and Weintraub Tobin. “Entertainment attorneys play very different roles depending on where they work,” Latha said. “Bringing together people with different backgrounds and who represent different interests helps to hammer home that very point – that within the structure of any given deal, there are multiple competing interests at play. Politics can be just as important – and often is more important – than the black letter law.”
Having focused exclusively on the film industry to date, Latha and Brett are excited to be moving into both fashion and art in 2013. “We have a number of partnerships that we’re excited about,” said Brett. “Not only RAW Artists and Backstage, but also top law firms in LA and NYC. As the scope of the services we provide continues to expand, we’ll continue to focus on quality. These new partnerships will help us take our programming to the next level.”
Director Linshan Zhao at New York Film Academy in Union Square
This Thursday, the New York Film Academy welcomed Chinese director, Linshan Zhao, to screen his film The Assassins. The Chinese historical drama stars Chow Yun-fat as Cao Cao, a prominent warlord who became the de facto head of government in China towards the end of the Han Dynasty. Being that the film has yet to be released in the United States, our students were in for a rare cinematic treat.
Having ten years of commercial directing under his belt, Zhao had been writing a screenplay for four years. Once producers got their hands on his script, they knew it needed to be made. With that, Zhao raised nearly eighteen million dollars to shoot what would become his first feature film, The Assassins. “It has always been my dream,” said Zhao “Since I was little, I wanted to be a director, and that was my biggest inspiration.”
Zhao’s next steps are to release the film all over the world, starting with Asian countries and working his way toward North America. He’s also working on his next project, My Super Ex, based on a popular Chinese Twitter feed. Zhao jokingly commented on how we all have those stories from past relationships, and he’s willing to hear them all to help shape his next film.
Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler speaks to students
Haskell Wexler recently visited students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. The 91-year-old cinematographer was named as one of the ten most influential cinematographers by the International Cinematographers Guild. In the course of his career, he lensed such seminal films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat of the Night, American Graffiti, and The Thomas Crown Affair. He has been nominated for a total of 5 Oscars, and has won two.
Wexler watched clips of cinematography students’ films, and gave them valuable feedback. “It was an amazing experience to have him share his thoughts and experience with us,” said Diego Gilly, an MFA Cinematography student. “I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to share some of our work with him, and hear what he had to say.”
Actor Robert Forster leads a master class for actors
Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster, who starred in 1969’s Medium Cool, written and directed by Haskell Wexler, also recently paid a visit to New York Film Academy. In addition to his numerous television roles, Forster is known for his roles in Mulholland Drive, Me, Myself, & Irene, The Descendants, and his Oscar-nominated role in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.
Forster led a master class for acting students, telling stories from his life and career, answering questions, and giving advice. “The camera looks real deep into you,” he said. “It knows whether you’re lying or not. If you want your audience to admire you, you have to be someone they can admire. You have to have the qualities that make a person worth admiring. Then it’s easy to deliver that on screen.”
This Monday evening, the New York Film Academy welcomed back former 1-Year filmmaking graduate, Philip Dorling. Philip’s last visit came back in 2011 when he screened his thesis film, “Predisposed.” Since then, Philip raised funds to shoot the feature with Melissa Leo, Jesse Eisenberg, and Tracy Morgan. The film was accepted at Sundance and picked up for distruction by IFC. Along the way, the title was changed to Why Stop Now, which Philip says was the producers’ idea. Though, Eisenberg eventually came up with the wording for the title. This being one of several compromises Philip had to make in order to successfully finish his feature film. As the evening’s host, NYFA Instructor Tassos Rigopoulus puts it, “Filmmaking is all about compromises.”
Philip suggests young filmmakers take the independent route, as opposed to writing a script and trying to get it in front of a big agent or producer. “If you want to make independent films, you should try to relate to someone who can raise money,” says Philip. Ultimately, Philip was able to convince three major actors to believe in his vision and after three years of planning, the financing eventually came from BCDF Pictures. With NYFA’s intense training and busy schedule under his belt, Philip was able to pull off a twenty day shoot on a relatively small budget, especially for feature standards. And from the words of renowned film critic Roger Ebert, “Why Stop Now is a bright screwball comedy about one fraught day in the life of a piano prodigy, his crackhead mother and her drug dealers.” Not a bad critic to have on your side.
The young director is currently in the middle of raising finances for his next project, Eat My Love, which he began writing two days after Why Stop Now was completed. Not only that, Philip extended an open invitation to NYFA filmmakers and actors to be a part of his next film. He hopes to have more details in the near future.
This past Saturday and Monday evening, the New York Film Academy hosted a screening event with the David Lynch Foundation at our Union Square campus. The documentary covers renowned filmmaker, David Lynch’s 16 country tour as he spreads his philosophy of transcendental meditation.
“I have been ‘diving within’ through the Transcendental Meditation technique for over 30 years,” says David Lynch. “It has changed my life, my world. I am not alone. Millions of other people of all ages, religions, and walks of life practice the technique and enjoy incredible benefits.”
The meditation techniques are aimed to alleviate, and hopefully eliminate, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other stress-related disorders. The unique benefits of TM technique are well documented by extensive research.
Saturday’s event was represented by David Lynch Foundation’s Lil Malinich, Jessica Wisk, and Executive Director Bob Roth. While Monday’s event was hosted by Director of Programs, Peter Trivelas. “NYFA students are passionate, courageous, and genuinely curious to know more about what can enlighten and strengthen their work as artists,” said Lil Malinich from the David Lynch Foundation. We couldn’t agree more.
Both events were a tremendous success, with a full house of curious students and transcendental meditation enthusiasts. We want to thank the David Lynch Foundation for setting up two enlightening evenings to share with our community at the New York Film Academy.
Over 400 students signed up to attend Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister’s Q&A in after the screening of Inception for New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. The atmosphere in the room could only be described as a rock concert. And though Pfister was recovering from a bout of food poisoning, he wasn’t going to let down the auditorium full of excited students, who greeted him with cheers of “Wally! Wally!” He spoke about his long-time collaboration with Chris Nolan, saying, “Chris is an incredible storyteller and incredible screenwriter.”
Following an interview with producer Tova Laiter and Cinematography Chair Michael Pessah, Pfister took questions directly from the students who lined up in what can only be described as a conga line to ask the master about his work. “You have to take risks,” he said. “That’s what will make your career last longer. You have to fight to get your vision on the screen (but not fight with your director).”
Besides winning the Oscar for Inception in 2011, Wally also garnered Oscar nominations for The Dark Knight, The Prestige, and Batman Begins, and is well known for his work on Insomnia, The Italian Job, Moneyball, Memento, and The Dark Knight Rises.
MFA Screenwriting student Jordan Farrester said, “It was great to be there with someone who has worked on some of the biggest films of the past ten years. He was really thoughtful and insightful, and had a lot to say about the industry and his vision.”
Pfister’s latest project is his feature film directorial debut, Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp, and written by NYFA instructor Jack Paglen. The film is slated for release in 2014.
During a recent guest speaker event at New York Film Academy, Gallagher shared his recently-released horror film, Smiley, which was released in theaters nationwide. He described how his experience with internet shorts helped prepare him for his first feature length film. “Most of the sketches I shoot are like little scenes,” he said. “It was like 110 sketches in a row.” Working with a tight budget, the indie film was shot in just 15 days, and the filmmakers were shooting as many as 8 pages of the script per day. But as Gallagher puts it, “Horror movies fit the low budget. You can do a lot more with a little.”
Gallagher cast friends and actors with large YouTube followings to help build buzz around the film. To date, the trailer has racked up over 21 million views on YouTube. At just 23 years old, his first feature length film was about to be released in AMC theaters across the nation. Things were going well until users of the website 4Chan got wind of the film’s plot.
Gallagher said he was going for authenticity when he decided to make 4Chan users the villains of his film. In an interview with Huffington Post, he said, “I anticipated a minor backlash of people leaving harassing comments online.” But he didn’t anticipate the website’s users posting his home address, his personal information, and leaving dozens of death threats on his cell.
After interviews with the TODAY Show, Inside Edition, Variety, Paste (and the FBI), 4Chan users realized they were only giving him free publicity. Just as the movie was released in theaters nationwide, the threats disappeared.
Much to 4Chan’s chagrin, we’re happy to report the Smiley DVD is now available for pre-order.
Producer Donald De Line recently visited students at New York Film Academy as part of the ongoing guest speaker series, following a screening of The Green Lantern. De Line served as President and Vice Chairman of Paramount Pictures, before moving on to Touchstone Pictures. During his tenure as President of Touchstone, he oversaw films including Pretty Woman, Father of the Bride, Ransom, What’s Love Got to Do With It, Rushmore, Ed Wood, and the worldwide blockbuster, Armageddon.
“My thing was always just to work hard, stay in my office, and keep my head down,” says De Line. “Jeffrey Katzenberg always said that you have to be like a race horse with blinders on. You have to look straight ahead and know what you’re looking for.”
De Line did just that, and scored his first major hit as a solo producer with The Italian Job, starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and Edward Norton. He also produced Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies, and John Hamburg’s I Love You Man.
“Always be studying,” he said to the theater of New York Film Academy students. “Always be working in whatever form you can. Keep your instrument going. And then learn everything that you can about the business. Stay educated. Know what movies are being made around town. Read the trades. Read every script you can get your hands on.”