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  • Understanding the Craft of Acting

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    Grant Turnbull with Liam Neeson

    Since Grant Turnbull graduated from New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film in 2011, he’s been booking steady work. Hailing from a small town outside of Belfast, Ireland, Grant took the risk to move to New York City, where he felt was the place to fulfill his acting aspirations. While most of his acting peers stayed local, Grant went for it all. It is that drive and ambition that has sustained his early career. “I have always been a deep person with a love for the performing arts, but the New York Film Academy taught me about ‘depth.’ Depth in my performance, depth in myself, and the ability to see depth in other people. Respect: respect for my fellow actors, respect for people’s stories, where they came from, what their hardships where. Understanding: understanding people’s troubles and always trying to help. This was something I was always good at, but now I could use it in my acting.”

    With his maturity and formal education, Grant was ready for the competitive world of acting. After shooting a commercial for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Grant landed commercial spots for major brands like Just for Men, Gold Bond, Alfani Suits, ESPN, Major League Baseball, and an NFL catalogue advertisement. He is currently working with the Bella Agency where he is constantly on call for auditions. For the second year in a row, Grant starred in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. The play, held in the Lower East Side, performed in front of record crowds of 300 people per night. Grant is currently gearing up for an independent feature film, 19th Hole, which will be shooting this September in Connecticut.

    Grant’s strongest recommendation to current students is to put everything they have into the program. Be prepared for every class and never ever be late! “I made sure I put everything I had into the school and, in return, three of my teachers cast me in two plays and a feature film. I acquired an agent from a faculty recommendation, and was able to audition for The Good Wife, Boardwalk Empire, The Big C, and Gossip Girl. After that, I landed parts on White Collar, Smash and The Good Wife. My first day at NYFA an instructor told me, ‘Grant you may be in school, but your career has already started.’ He was right.”

     

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    August 14, 2012 • Acting, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5609

  • Bollywood’s Sex and the City

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    Shailja Gupta frames a shot on set

    Photo from The Hindu

    Kalkata native, Shailja Gupta set her dreams early on in life with the goal of making her own films. After attending the New York Film Academy‘s film school in 2009, Shailja set out to do just that. Initially, she became involved in the international marketing of films such as Chokher Bali and Ra.One. As good as that sounds, Shailja still wasn’t creating her own films. That’s why she switched gears to work on her feature debut, Walkaway, a light-comedy drama that mocks the clutches of social obligations on young Indian professionals settled in New York City.

    Like many first time filmmakers, Shailja had trouble finding the right distributors to pick up her film. So, she took matters into her own hands. “I had hoped to release it theatrically but after chasing the distributors for a year, I got tired and gave up. I was hoping to show it on television but with such competition it’s difficult to get people to watch the film. I hope through word-of-mouth something good comes out of it.”

    “It’s exciting. Sure, I do feel overwhelmed when I take on more work sometimes and have to run against time to deliver. But once I complete the work the feeling of achievement is quite satisfactory.”

    Indeed, Shailja should feel excited and proud of her accomplishment. Her film, Walkaway, has received some rather kind words from the press:

    • “More earnest and insightful than Sex and the City.” – NY Magazine
    • “A little Bollywood, a lot American Indie.” – NY Times
    • “Filmmaker Shailja Gupta has a sure hand and eye.” – Newsweek
    Shailja is currently working on scripts for two more comedies, which she hopes will see their way to mainstream Bollywood.
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  • Sprinting Toward Hollywood: A Pro Athlete Turned Actress

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    As a child in Markham, Ontario, Charlotte Plummer was involved in countless extra-curricular activities: ballet, modern dance, piano, accordion, trombone, horseback riding, acting classes. She did well in all of them, but started aggressively pursuing sports in high school. By the end of her 9th grade year, she was already being offered scholarships for universities in the United States.

    After finishing high school, she accepted a scholarship to New Orleans’ prestigious Tulane University, receiving her BA in Psychology, with a minor in Exercise and Sports Science. She was a conference athlete for the school, an NCAA qualifier, and won at the Penn Relays. She started as a 400-meter hurdler, and ended up as a runner in the 800-meter dash, making it to the Olympic trials for Canada.

    Though she originally planned on going into sports psychology, Charlotte had worked with mentally disturbed adolescents during school, and decided to change her path. As she says, “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to work with pampered athletes, or people who really need help?’” She ended up working with individuals with brain injuries, mostly resulting from car accidents. She helped patients with rehabilitation, speech therapy, psychology, and fitness.

    A series of injuries took Charlotte away from the world of competitive sports, but through her experience in track, she became an athletic model and did a lot of commercial work for Tennis Canada, Nike, and Pfizer. A chance meeting with a New York Film Academy representative led to another scholarship, and soon Charlotte would be pursuing her MFA in Acting for Film. “Doors have opened up, and I have to step into every door that is open to me,” says Charlotte.

    She began her studies at the school’s New York City campus before finishing at the Universal Studios campus in Los Angeles. “I’m glad I did New York and L.A.,” says Charlotte. “New York is definitely more theater based. In L.A. you really get the business side. You learn a lot in production and writing.”

    Just a few weeks before graduation, Charlotte participated in the Acting for Film showcase, produced by Valorie Hubbard. Scores of agents and managers came to see the showcase, and every student received callbacks the following week. Charlotte took 3 meetings, and is currently deciding which agent to sign with. She is also in rehearsals for an upcoming short film, and going on auditions. Of her education, Charlotte says, “You don’t realize while you’re in it how much you’ve learned. Now when I go on auditions I’m surprised at how prepared I am. Because there‘s so many teachers of so many backgrounds, you get so many perspectives.”

    Charlotte looks forward to a career in film, but also hopes to continue with mentorship. “I feel like young people are so lost in this world and have no concept of dreams,” she says. “I’m pursuing my reality. I’ve lived so many dreams. I’m able to make them realities. I’m still striving.”

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  • It’s Never Too Late To Pursue Acting

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    They say it’s never too late to start your dreams. At the age of 35, Silje Aas Meyer finally got the courage to follow her childhood dream to become an actor. She quit her job in childcare, got a job as a retail manager, and began auditioning. Her first acting role came about in the film, Den Hengte Mannen, which premiered at the International Film Festival in Bergen (BIFF). The film screened in Norwegian cinemas, and is now on DVD in stores across the country.

    “It was a challenging character, with all the right ingredients. The fact that she was actually quite disturbed just made it more challenging. I loved how real and raw she was. At this stage, I had no experience beside my high school drama in 1993. I felt sick just standing in front of the camera, and my acting was terrible! Nevertheless, I told the director that if he took a chance with me I would deliver. He actually believed in me, and continued to do so for the next six months. Truthfully, he was in great doubt until I got back from NYFA.”

    Silje Aas Meyer set out for New York Film Academy to hone her skills in the 4 week acting for film workshop. From the second she set foot on American soil, Silje decided to let go of any inhibitions and seize the moment. “While I did learn a lot of skills in different areas of acting, for me the most important bit of knowledge comes from knowing what it is that you can bring to the table that is unique. In the movie, my character is abusing her own child. As a mother and having worked with abused children, this was extremely challenging. For me to be able to dive into this character, I had to respect the person I was playing. I had to giver her life. I discovered places inside of me where I had felt that bitterness, and magnified that feeling. It was actually therapeutic to be allowed to feel and act out without really hurting others.

    When Silje returned to Norway with her newly acquired knowledge and self confidence, her director claimed that a miracle happened to her at the New York Film Academy. “After NYFA he had no more doubts in my ability to deliver in the role. So you can imagine my gratitude towards the people helping me to discover what I always knew was inside of me. I do believe that everyone has to find their own way of learning to perform at his or her best. The way each of us learn is as unique as we are.”

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  • Winning in Casablanca

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    Jaouad Bouddehbine winning Best Fiction at the Casablanca International Student Film Festival

    One year filmmaking graduate, Jaouad Bouddehbine, won Best Fiction at The Casablanca International Student Film Festival and was selected at Angelus Student Film Festival with his film, Stricken, which was his thesis film at New York Film Academy. The Moroccan native believes there is a wealth of untapped material which can shared through the medium of cinema. “Great stories can be told and shared worldwide. I would love to tell the world some of those stories.”
    Currently, Jaouad is looking to shoot his next film in which he tends to cross genres. In fact, he has set the bar high with his hopes to revolutionize Moroccan cinema. But, first, he plans to continue his film education through NYFA’s MFA Filmmaking program. “NYFA was a great experience, especially in terms of writing, shooting, and editing short films in the United States.”

    Click here, if you’re interested in learning filmmaking at New York Film Academy like Jaouad!

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  • Financing Your Indie Film and Developing an Audience

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    Rohit Gupta is a Mumbai native who came to the United States over 12 years ago. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Rohit didn’t have “the slightest idea about filmmaking” until he joined the New York Film Academy  for a 4 week film workshop. Realizing his passion for the craft, he extended his stay and enrolled into the one year conservatory program. Rohit was an MBA graduate who came from a family of entrepreneurs. He decided to take his shot in an “unstable” industry and fell in love. The film assignments he was working on for classes became inspiration for later works. Another Day, Another Life was shot in seven hours, edited on his laptop, and completed on a $100 budget. His first feature film Life! Camera Action was shot in ten days with a two member crew on a Panasonic DVX 100. Rohit has claimed that his rounds on the festival circuit, including the Short Films Corner at Cannes, has resulted in over 100 awards and accolades internationally. Talk about independent success on a micro-budget!

    As an independent filmmaker, Rohit has compelling views on cultivating an audience and working with financiers to distribute your film. Rohit credits his success to his drive and ambition. He has an optimistic outlook in a field with many pitfalls and setbacks. “There is nothing more or less to it than just doing it now. With pure excitement, love and compassion in your heart, all will fall in place magically.” For any aspiring filmmaker, the most important thing is to keep an open mind. He advises current students to think of the possibilities, explore them, and figure out what they ultimately want to do. “The fun is to create something with what resources we have on-hand than worrying about what we don’t.”

    THE AUDIENCE. Speaking with other filmmakers from all over the world, the anxiety is the same. “What is the audience going to like?” Rohit is critical of those who worry too much about the audience’s reception of the product–to the point that it affects the process of creating the product. The audience, he says, won’t know what they like “until they see it.” Some worry too much about audience expectations that there is a choke hold on creativity and productivity. Many aspiring filmmakers say their biggest hurdle is the lack of resources. Rohit believes with technology at our fingerprints, everyone is able to do what they want. Find opportunities everywhere. How you take advantage of the resources at NYFA is solely your initiative in the end. As he says, “No one is to be credited or blamed but yourself.”

    FINANCIERS AND THE REAL INVESTMENT. “It’s not the creativity that needs to chase the finance, it’s the other way round!” Don’t waste your time with financiers if they don’t step up after your first meeting. Never give up your creative control just because someone is investing in your project. Be committed to execution without financial pressure. Unless you do this, you won’t know what you like about what you do and why. Only when you feel strongly about the work will your audience connect. This is the definition of success. Asking for advice from those who never made a feature film is a great way of finding reasons for not doing it. Learn from and collaborate with those who’ve objectively achieved a level of success that you can relate to. There is nothing like being original. If you try to make everybody happy, you will lose yourself. In the end, if you are happy, then everybody around feels the energy and, in turn, feels happy, too. It’s just like doing everything else. There is no mantra to it. Learning is a constant phenomenon and the beauty is no amount of learning will ever be enough.

    What do you think about Rohit’s views? Tell us if you agree or disagree with him on Twitter! And if you want to find out more about the filmmaking program, please request info here!

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  • Michael Staininger on Directing His First Feature

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    Imagine being in charge of a 2 million dollar feature film, written and produced by the same guy who wrote The Crow. Your only experience is from directing a student film at the New York Film Academy. That is exactly what director, Michael Staininger was going through when he was thrown in front of 150 crew members on set of The Tomb. Luckily, he had the hands-on training from NYFA to prepare him for the real world. “Diving into filmmaking from day one, being thrown into the cold water with very little previous experience, that is what prepares you for the real world; and the madness which will await when you step onto your first feature film set. The ability to make one hundred plus mini and big decisions per day, mostly based on instinct and preparation, is what will set you apart from the competition.”

    Michael was born in Vienna, Austria to an upper middle class family who expected him to pursue a career in business. But, like most creative filmmakers, he gradually began seeking adventure, searching for the unexpected, rather than pushing for the obvious. Michael used his imagination to open horizons and create new worlds through the moving image. From there, and a few viewings of Braveheart, Michael’s fascination with the magic of film was born. Directing became his path in life.

    So, how does a boy from Vienna end up directing a $2 million film in Los Angeles with producers George Furla and Randall Emmett? 

    George Furla was one of my first producer acquaintances in the first year I moved to LA. We understood each other right away and tried to put something into the pipeline. It took several efforts (4 projects didn’t happen) and a little more than a year until the first draft of the “Ligeia” script, which distributors later renamed The Tomb, went through the Emmett/Furla Films office. They started my career. The main reason I signed on to do the film was because I’m such a big fan of The Crow, which “Ligeia” screenwriter John Shirley also wrote. John Shirley really understands darkness and mysticism.

    Continue Reading

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  • Marko Nabersnik’s Path to Success

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    Director Marko Nabersnik attended an 8-week Film Workshop at New York Film Academy in 1996. His first film, Rooster’s Breakfast, won numerous national awards and became the biggest box office hit of the year in his native Slovenia. The film won the CBS Critics Award at the Southeast European Film Festival in Los Angeles and was also the official entry from Slovenia for the Academy Awards. He recently completed his second feature film, Shanghai Gypsy, which premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Market.

    “My childhood dream was to be a filmmaker,” says Marko. “I read an article about NYFA in Cinema, the German film magazine. Two months later I flew to New York. This was [before] the internet, so the best way to get real information on the NYFA was to board a plane, cross the Atlantic, and go there to learn first-hand. After my first day, I knew already that NYFA was something special.”

    “Surrounded by the inspiration and atmosphere of New York City,” he continues, “You pick up direct knowledge of filmmaking from prominent professors and guests within the film industry. The study process was intense. There were students all over the world. In my class alone, I interacted with future filmmakers from Italy, Spain, Japan, Germany, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We helped each other, explored the beauty of storytelling, and shared experiences about the unpredictability of shooting on original locations.”

    “When I came back to Slovenia from New York, I was determined that filmmaking would be my destiny. Whenever I found myself in the dilemma of choosing the next step for my filmmaking, I would remember a quote from Adam Stoner, our directing class professor: ‘Filmmaking is constant exploring and learning. Don’t forget the fun and passion which is hidden in that process and don’t get lost only because you have more questions than answers!’ Today I am a professional filmmaker and a professor. I teach at our national film academy, the Academy for Theater, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. I still recall the time I spent at NYFA and the endless inspiration the Academy gave me. NYFA gives you knowledge and builds your self-confidence.”

    Marko at New York Film Academy in 1996

    Marko in 2012

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    June 13, 2012 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5100

  • International Documentary Association Hires Rocio Mesa

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    Sabine Sighicelli is the Chair of Documentary Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy, Universal Studios campus. A documentary writer, producer, director, and associate producer, she has worked in the documentary field for 12 years for National Geographic Television, AMC, Foundation for World Arts, UCLA Intercultural Center, Women Make Movies, Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Home Planet Productions. Her award-winning documentary The Passionate Life of a Father Painter aired on PBS/KCET in 2001. Her film about composer Robert Een, Be Warned! is featured in the DVD collection of the Foundation for World Arts. She recently completed principal photography on her feature documentary “Breaking in Two, sponsored by Women Make Movies.

    Rocio Mesa determinedly pushes her cart packed with equipment down the New York Film Academy hallway. Dressed in her usual 50’s attire and cat eye glasses, she is heading to West Hollywood, where she will film Ondi Timoner (Sundance-winning director of Dig! and We Live in Public) and Marina Zenovich (Director of Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, among many others) at the International Documentary Association Doc U event. Rocio graduated from the One Year Documentary Filmmaking program in December 2011. “My parents were afraid about my future in the US because I was doing really well in Spain. They didn’t want me to be working as a waitress just to reach the American dream,” she confesses. But waitressing doesn’t seem to be in store for Rocio in this lifetime.

    I introduced her to Amy at the International Documentary Association (IDA) – one of the most prestigious documentary organizations – and  soon after, Amy called me to tell me she and everyone at the IDA were so impressed with Rocio that they had decided to hire her as the producer, director, and editor of the Doc U series for the IDA’s Youtube Channel and archives. These events bring together some of the most highly sought-out people in the non-fiction industry. She also manages the department in charge of taping all IDA-related events. This is no surprise to me or to Rocio’s instructors, since she’s always taken the bull by the horns, and accomplished more in a year than most students are able to do in two!

    Rocio grew up in the Spanish town of Granada in Andalusia. She received a BA in Communication from the University of Seville in 2005, then went on to test her skills on several documentaries, commercials, and TV shows before landing a job on one of the most acclaimed TV shows in Andalusia, about traditional Spanish folk music. Her career was off to a good start, yet her real dream was documentary storytelling.

    She came to the New York Film Academy thanks to the Talentia Grant – a grant given exclusively to promising professionals by the Government of Andalusia. It was immediately clear in the One Year program, that Rocio was a high-performing student. From her character film, Almon Loos, the Rocking Barber, to her social issue documentary, Traffic in LA Sucks! (selected for the Burbank International Film Festival) to her One Year Final Documentary, Orensanz, the portrait of an illustrious Spanish artist who lives in a synagogue, Rocio has stamped every film with her unique vision.,Right after graduation, she was off and running: an internship at Interloper Films, Ondi Timoner’s production company; a job at the IDA; freelance editing gigs with various clients; directing gigs for Meltdown Comics and the web series Authentic Los Angeles… If the project stirs her interest, she will take it on.

    Last but not least, she’s currently our new favorite editor in the post production department, where, among other things, she has completed the editing of the documentary student reel, and a behind-the-scenes of the Young Storytellers Foundation’s collaboration with the New York Film Academy teen programs. Rocio will be with us until she returns to her native Spain. We cherish every moment we still have with her!

    To learn more about the Documentary Filmmaking program, click here.

     

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  • Showing The World Your Truth

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    Fito Pardo graduated from New York Film Academy in the late 90’s. Since then, he has gone on to direct short films and music videos, has worked as cinematographer on over 30 projects, and has found success as a photographer for publications worldwide, including Marie Claire, Vogue Japan, and National Geographic.

    Though he had loved films since his youth, Fito got little support when he expressed an interest in learning filmmaking. At his father’s insistence, he postponed his dreams of studying filmmaking. “I studied Administration for probably 6 months in one of the best universities in Mexico, and after the first 2 months I just knew it wasn’t for me,” he says. Eventually Fito started writing to film schools for information. After winning a partial scholarship to New York Film Academy, Fito was on his way to Manhattan. “I studied in NYFA between 1995 and 1997,” he says.

    “My experience was amazing. I had no idea how to use a film camera, so the workshops helped me understand what I was getting myself into…. At NYFA I learned how to write a script, how to be a cinematographer, how to be a producer, and how to understand all aspects of film. After NYFA, I worked with some Mexican production companies, opened my own production company called La Alcachofa Films, and started directing some interesting videos in Mexico. I directed some music videos… and did a couple of commercials for BBDO, Lowe & Partners, and some other agencies.”

    Fito shot his first feature film, El Fuego Inolvidable, last year. The controversial project explores the complicated state of politics in Mexico. The film has played at festivals and college campuses, with great responses from audiences. They are currently working on a distribution deal.

    “I am still in pursuit of more goals,” says Fito. “When I was working for National Geographic, I knew I accomplished one of my goals, but knew that it wasn’t it. My first feature film got the award of Best Mexican Film at the 2011 Oaxaca Film Festival, but I want more. Since I was kid, I always wanted to move people…. I have a condition. I am a stutterer, and I have been watching the world with different eyes…. All my life I have been limited in expressing my mind. Sometimes people don’t get it and just can’t wait for me to talk, so they go away. I think I show the way I see the world through my eyes, without my mouth. I believe this is what moves me: To show the world what my mind sees.”

    To learn more about our filmmaking program, click here.

     

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