Following a screening of Men of Honor, students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus welcomed Director George Tillman, Jr., Producer Robert Teitel, and Cinematographer and NYFA Cinematography Chair Anthony Richmond, for a Q&A. Men of Honor, starring Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Charlize Theron, is based on the true story of Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, a man who overcame racism and the amputation of his left leg to become the first U.S Navy Master Diver. NYFA’s Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon, moderated the event.
George Tillman, Jr. is a director/producer/writer, best known for the Barbershop franchise, Notorious, a film about rapper Notorious B.I.G., Faster, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel, The Longest Ride.” Tillman also wrote, directed and produced the award-winning film Soul Food, with his producing partner, Robert Teitel. Teitel is a producer best known for his work on Tillman’s films, as well as Jayne Mansfield’s Car, and Nothing Like the Holidays (for which he wrote the story). NYFA Cinematography Chair and Cinematographer Anthony Richmond has had a long and illustrious career, starting in the 1960s with the Rock and Roll scene, working with, Jean-Luc Goddard, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and then making his way into features on films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, Legally Blonde, and The Sandlot, among many others. The tight-knit group reminisced about their experiences on Men of Honor, relating fascinating tales from the production, as well as invaluable words of wisdom.
Tillman spoke very fondly of working with Robert De Niro. He related one episode on set in which the legendary actor picked up a phone while acting and the heavy prop struck him in the head. De Niro quickly regrouped and yelled for the cameras to “Keep rolling!” and to start the scene again. Without missing a beat De Niro recognized that this incident provided him an opportunity and he used the unexpected emotions to give a better performance in the next take.
Cinematographer and NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond related a funny anecdote about his experience with the costume design for the film. A U.S. Navy ship provides the backdrop for the film, which of course means the story involves many sailors in uniform–white uniforms. Anyone who’s tried to film an actor wearing white knows that achieving proper exposure balance within the scene becomes very difficult. When Tony first got to set on the deck of the ship and saw a hundred extras wearing white under the blistering sun he said he almost had a heart attack. However, the highly skilled DP quickly found solutions to make all the shots work.
Producer Robert Teitel related the importance of how film school supplies students with the opportunity to create a “calling card” with which to break into the business. This is what he did with his 30-minute short Paula, which won several awards, including the Student Academy Award. This is also when he forged what was to become his very successful long-term partnership with George Tillman, Jr., who directed the short. The short helped Robert and George raise $150,000 and produced Scenes for the Soul, a feature film that was shot in Chicago, using local talent and resources. Scenes for the Soul was sold to Jackson-McHenry at Savoy Pictures for $1 million.
We thank George Tilman, Jr., and Robert Teitel for visiting our school and wish them the best of luck in their careers!
written by Melissa Enright and Robert Cosnahan