This week, Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby welcomed back her former student Caitlin Cooke for an Industry Trends Series discussion. Aside from her acting career, Cooke is a Casting Associate at Donna Grossman Casting, a full service boutique casting company based in Manhattan. Donna Grossman Casting cast commercials, print, beauty, editorial, TV, film, theater, web series, live events and special projects.
photo by Alejandra Arias
Cooke began the talk by saying, “This school to me, it kind of makes me emotional,” said Cooke. “It brought me a lot of friends and a lot of opportunities and I met a lot of people in the industry. Everything I learned here was helpful. I learned a lot of the business side. Also the access to the equipment I had here is insane. Access to the industry here was way better than other places. And the advice that Glynis [Rigsby] and other instructors offer is invaluable.”
Facing the competitive field of actors after graduating, Cooke landed notable TV series and feature films such as Emmy-winning NBC series, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and the star-studded comedy blockbuster, “Grown Ups 2.” Most recently, she had the chance to guest star in an episode of “Tough Love,” a web series created by her friend Steven Bell. To further her and her friends career, she created an original series, “Rules of Cool,” which she was able to sell.
“Creating your own work is very important,” she said. “When you get out of school you’re not sure what to do next. We decided to take control and create our own opportunities.”
Cooke provided invaluable insight into the casting process, breaking down the process and providing tips and suggestions to improve NYFA Acting for Film students’ auditions.
“Auditions are like a first date,” said Cooke. “Act natural, but if it doesn’t work out there’s always someone else. Always take a chance and always listen to what they have to say. Always be appropriate for what the role is. Look appropriate for what you’re doing.”
NYFA would like to thank Ms Cooke for taking the time to speak to our students, and we wish her the best of luck on her blossoming career!
New York Film Academy Acting for Film alumnus Kojo Boama’s newest short film, “Proceed With Caution,” has been picked up by Amazon Prime video. “Proceed with Caution,” written by NYFA alumnus Joey Colebut, is about an upcoming NYC music producer who stumbles on his way to stardom by getting his mistress pregnant. The film has been talked about by major hip-hop artists such as P.Diddy, Jadakiss, and Swizz Beatz.
We had a chat with Boama to find out more about his new film, and about how aspiring filmmakers should never give up.
Hi Kojo. Can you tell us where you’re from and what brought you to NYFA?
I was born in Ghana, West Africa and raised in Harlem, NY. My mother lived in London and had me educated in England as well. She was going to have me stay and live the rest of my life there, so NYFA in NY was an alternative escape route to move back in with my father up in Harlem while seeking to further my education and study a craft.
And the craft you studied was Acting for Film. Can you tell us about your experience in NYFA’s Acting for Film program?
I absolutely loved the acting program. Meisner technique is an essential tool I still use today: always listening to determine the true meaning underneath a person’s statement was a technique that was very useful in the making of this film. This is because I had to multitask around the set — produce, semi-direct and clean the set while playing the lead role. So aside from memorizing my lines, actually paying attention to other actors responses helped save me from potential bad acting.
How did this short film come about? What made you want to create “Proceed with Caution”?
This short film was written by fellow NYFA student Joey Colebut, who had originally had me act in his final showcase at NYFA. I fell in love with the process. Most of our journey can be found on our episodic youtube documentary called “Never Give Up,” which showcases the trials and tribulation it took to actually make this project a reality. “Proceed with Caution” was scheduled to be wrapped in six months, but due to setbacks it ended up taking four years. (Below is the first episode of “Never Give Up.”)
You have some really notable hip-hop artists and celebrities talking about your film. How did that come about?
Due to the hardships of making this project a reality, I always had to plot ahead to see how I could overcome any giving situation. Initially, I worked over at CBS and used to rush down celebrities every time they came by to get some endorsements. One endorsement from Jack Thriller, which I actually got on 125th street in Harlem, helped turn this project around. I knew that hiring my co-star, Jack Thriller, who is signed with 50 Cent, and is talked about in the streets to be the next Kevin Heart, would help open other doors to various people within the entertainment business. (Check out this episode for more details.)
Why do you believe people should see your film?
Aside from the fact that it’s mere entertainment, I also want to give aspiring artists hope that they could do it as well. Thus, the making of the behind the scenes episodic documentary “Never Give Up.”
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
I hope this film helps open doors for me to grow as a filmmaker within the industry, and for me to be able to make a few feature films.
Are you planning to film a feature version of “Proceed with Caution”?
I could make a feature version of this project if need be, but I have already written another feature, “Blue Grease,” which I believe would be a great challenge for me if I’m able to accomplish it. “Blue Grease” is an urban love and basketball themed movie.
We wish you the best of luck with everything!
If you’re interested in checking out “Proceed with Caution,” CLICK HERE.
Tom Machell is an actor, writer and comedy performer originally from the UK who decided to attend the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film program for the school’s hands-on approach. “There is no school in the UK that offers as much on screen time as NYFA,” said Machell.
Machell is part of the award-winning comedy team zazU, a group that has had sell out runs at the Soho Theatre and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and are currently developing their work for television and radio.
As an actor, Machell has worked in the UK, Europe and the USA and can currently be seen in feature film “Dinosaur Hunter” starring Jenny Agutter and shorts “Litterbugg” “Sticky” and “Die Agentin,” which have been screened at the BFI and the Berlin Film Festival respectively. Tom is currently filming the BBC Television Movie “Babs.” His theatre credits include New York City’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot playing Antipholus E in “The Comedy of Errors,” “The Love and Devotion of Ridley Smith” at the Old Red Lion Theatre, London, and three runs of Guinness World Record holding comedy show, “News Revue,” which he also writes for.
Machell is now making his Off Broadway Debut in the award-winning play, “Life According To Saki.” The play’s life began at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was the winner of the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award. It is the debut play of award-winning author Katherine Rundell and will play at The New York Theatre Workshop at the 4th Street Theatre in Manhattan until March 6th.
“Life According to Saki” is inspired by the life and short stories of British satirist Hector Hugh Munro, nicknamed “Saki.” We meet Saki in November 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, where he and his fellow soldiers bear witness to a world turned on its head. Their only refuge is the fantastical world of the imagination — Saki’s world.
Each actor has multiple roles in the play. Machell’s main character, Walter Spikesman, is Saki’s right-hand-man in the trenches.
“My NYFA training really helped me in the rehearsal room, as there was a lot of devising and focus needed to make the piece,” said Machell. “During my training we had a lot of improvisation training, which hugely aided in creating the multitude of characters that I needed to create for the play. Also, by having such an international class, I was able to pick up numerous helpful accents along the way.”
“Life According to Saki” is now playing at the 4th Street Theatre until March 5, 2017. For tickets and information, please CLICK HERE.
Attendees visited the sets of The Today Show and NBC Nightly News and gained deeper insight into how a major news network provides content for its viewership.
“Every time I set foot on a professional set, I get chills! This is why I came to NYFA! I want to be on television!” exclaimed U.S. Navy veteran, Julia Velasquez, Acting for Film graduate, upon seeing the giant production set as the group walked into the MSNBC studio.
After touring the sets, students were brought to the MSNBC control room where they were treated with a very interesting situation occurring in real-time: A scheduled interviewee was late for their interview spot and the control room personnel were involved in a whirlwind of action trying to fill air space while the person made there way through heavy cross-town traffic!
Colonel Jacobs used the opportunity to provide a learning experience for the NYFA students, explaining the demanding conditions they must navigate through to provide a seamless broadcast to audiences at home.
The veterans soaked up the lesson Colonel Jacobs was instilling: Every position at the network is specialized and translates into the creation of a product that is greater than the sum of its parts when the team works together.
“Television is a collaborative production — just like filmmaking. People work together and pool their talents to create art,” mused Army Veteran and NYFA Filmmaking and Photography Conservatory graduate, Anthony Floyd.
Acting for Film graduate Mey Ferdinand, who came to NYFA from Brazil, has recently spent a week in Los Angeles to act in the Brazilian-American production called Thumbs Up, directed by NYFA alumnus Brian Visciglia. The LA based film was produced in partnership with local and international artists, and the production company Red Line Filmes.
Still from “Thumbs Up”
Thumbs Up surrounds Internet celebrity, Gabriel, a young Brazilian artist who becomes lost in his own fame. Dealing with his agent, personal problems, as well as his superficial and selfish decisions moves him into an entirely new lifestyle that is anything but “normal.”
With an international cast and crew, the movie focuses on the fact that today’s Internet stars are the new decision-makers in the entertainment world and, often times, are not prepared to handle the responsibilities. The goal of the film is to show how the Internet influences our youth not only in the US and South America, but in the entire world.
Still from “Thumbs Up”
The film is also an important lesson to all of our students, as we always encourage our graduates to work on projects with the people they hit it off with in school.
“NYFA was very important to my career,” said Ferdinand. “Not only for its acting lessons, but all of the networking I was able to do while attending.”
Upon her return to New York, Ferdinand will be acting in another short called Model Life, where she plays a fashion director of a magazine. The film will be released for cable in Manhattan.
One of the many appealing features of attending the New York Film Academy is your ability to study “bicoastally” at both our New York City and Los Angeles locations. Essentially, getting the best of both worlds. Acting for Film graduate Johanna Finn studied her first year in New York and the second year in Los Angeles. In this time, the Finnish native acted in about 35 student student films in both NYC and LA.
“At NYFA, I learned a specific skill set for film acting, met a lot of future filmmakers, and I also learned about building a career as an actress from a business standpoint,” said Finn. “However, the great thing about life is that you are never ‘done’ and there is always more room to grow and learn.”
Finn was fortunate enough to work with her NYFA instructor Lanre Olabisi as an actress in his award-winning film Somewhere in the Middle. Olabisi’s film won the grand prize ‘Best Feature Film’ at the San Antonio Film Festival in Texas and the audience award ‘Best Feature Film’ at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York.
“Somewhere in the Middle was born out of a year long improvisational process, which made it a fascinating project for me as an actress,” recalled Finn. “The main cast was able to contribute to the script much more than in traditional filmmaking, and I have huge respect for Lanre for taking this approach as a director.”
In the short film Hot Therapy, Finn won an award for ‘Best Actor in a Short Dramedy’ at the Best Actors Film Festival 2015 for portraying an insecure woman, battling to find inner peace.
And now, Finn will be appearing in an episode of Lifetime’s and A&E’s My Haunted House.
Finn says her ultimate goal as an actress is to help tell stories that create understanding, empathy, compassion, and hope in the world. “I believe that compassion is a powerful force that can really change the world. The camera comes so close to the actor in a close-up that the audience can see the actor’s bare soul living in the character, and the audience will reflect this onto themselves.”
We look forward forward to seeing more of Finn on film and television as she continues to empower and inspire her audience.
Acting Scholarship Winner Prosper Mangena (right) with Blake Babbitt and Anaïs
As an on-going effort to reach talented individuals not only in the Unites States but also abroad, the New York Film Academy has partnered with the “Be Your Dream” project in South Africa to offer two full tuition scholarships to teen musical theatre and acting students.
Founded by artist and Ambassador of Lifeline, Anaïs, the “Be Your Dream” project is an initiative to spread awareness throughout South Africa, regarding LifeLine and their free services and counseling that is provided for those in need.
After auditioning forty selected individuals from the program, our admissions team was forced with the difficult decision of awarding two of the many deserving artists with these talent-based scholarships.
Musical Theatre Scholarship Winner, Kayla de Araujo
Today, with Anaïs on hand at NYFA Battery Park, NYFA showcased our most recent student scholarship winners:
Prosper Mangena, Awarded 4-Week Acting for Film Teen Scholarship
Kayla de Araujo, Awarded 4-Week Musical Theatre Teen Scholarship
“I had the honor of awarding Prosper Mangena and Kayla de Araujo full talent-based scholarships to attend our 4-Week Teen Summer Acting for Film and Musical Theatre programs,” said Director of Performing Arts Admissions, Blake Babbitt. “I see such incredible talent come from South Africa, and it’s a pleasure to be able to join with the ‘Be Your Dream’ project to offer Kayla and Prosper this unique and life changing opportunity.”
We’re delighted to have these two gifted young performers currently enrolled at NYFA, and look forward to seeing next year’s talent!
One of the many enticing aspects of attending one of the New York Film Academy’s programs is the ability to learn hands-on from professionals who have and continue to have such a strong grasp of the professional entertainment business. The best teacher is someone with real life experience in his or her field. Our Los Angeles Acting for Film Chair, Lynda Goodfriend, oversees the acting for film school with a tremendously versatile and impressive background, having performed and acted in both New York City and Los Angeles.
After college, Goodfriend started her career as a professional dancer and singer on Broadway, Off Broadway and, as she puts it, “Way-off Broadway.”
“It was everything I’d dreamt of! One of the highlights was to work with a young performer just starting his career as well, John Travolta” recalls Goodfriend. “When I started to take my acting more seriously, I began studying with the master teachers Lee Strasberg and Sandy Meisner, which made me believe that my ultimate goal as a performer was to be a ‘dramatic actress.'”
After being in a couple of very small roles in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro and The Front with Woody Allen, Lynda drove to Los Angeles with ambition and her SAG card. To her surprise, Goodfriend booked a variety of sitcom roles, rather than the dramas she was accustomed to.
“I started classes at Harvey Lembeck’s comedy workshop and would come home crying after every class—it was so hard! But now I love comedy and appreciate the actors who do it well. Among my classmates was a young comedian who could not get work as an actor because he could not stick to the script, but he was brilliant at improv. A role came up on the series I was doing (Happy Days) and they could not cast the character, so I mentioned this guy from my class. He came in to audition, got the role, and the producers liked him so much they created a series of his own—it was called Mork and Mindy, and the actor, Robin Williams, became a huge star.”
Lynda Goodfriend as Lori Beth Cunningham with Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham on ‘Happy Days’
Lynda is most well known for her role as Lori Beth Cunningham in the hit TV series Happy Days. Along the way she did two other sitcom series, many guest star roles, and several roles in feature films working with such actors as Tom Hanks, Bette Midler, and Julia Roberts. One of her fondest moments, as she recalls, was working with Ray Bolger, the ‘Scarecrow’ from the Wizard of Oz, on an episode of Fantasy Island.
Taking a break from television, Goodfriend started her own acting school, The Actors Workout in NoHo (North Hollywood, the Theatre District), and developed two schools and a Theatre. She was also the head of a management company, Young Artists Management for many years, working with clients from top talent agencies such as CAA, ICM and William Morris.
She came back to teaching in 2006 at New York Film Academy, teaching Acting for Film and Scripted TV classes. In 2011, Lynda became—and still serves as—Chair of the Acting Department. “I feel like working in this position pulls together all that I’ve learned from my acting career, teaching and managing careers. And fortunately, since my daughter is a talent agent at one of the top agencies in LA, it’s easy to still keep up with the current trends in the industry, so I can help guide our students.”
“My goal for the Acting Department at NYFA is to continue to find more techniques and approaches to help actors learn their craft, as well as to expand our students’ opportunities to be involved in the industry after graduation. I love our program and have the honor to work with so many gifted instructors. Since becoming Chair, I have had the opportunity to add the Student Directed Plays, the Studio Classes (advanced “extra” courses in Meisner, Method and Chekov), Alumni Scene Study classes, as well as our extensive list of Drop In Classes—Auditioning, Stage Combat, Improv, Yoga, Meditation, Dance, Accent Reduction, Singing and Ballroom Dance—to support their training.”
“This program is an amazing gift for students who want to learn everything as an actor. When you graduate from this program you can hit the ground running! I believe that everything you do in life teaches you something about acting, so in my personal life I’ve always tried to do things that challenged me—I’ve raced airplanes, climbed mountains in the Himalayas, and am a competition rider along with my Swedish Warmblood horse, named ‘Othello.’ No matter what you do or pursue it’s all about the same thing—focus, hard work and commitment.”
The most important words of advice Goodfriend can give any actor that is pursuing a career are:
Work harder than everybody else
Don’t burn bridges
Do something every day to become a better actor: read scripts, plays or anything you can get your hands on, go to the theatre, watch great films, go to class
It’s showcase time at New York Film Academy Australia. Both our Sydney and Gold Coast campuses, together with Acting for Film students, had been working effortlessly over the months putting together performances that showcase the students’ talents.
Gold Coast had a busy three-day showcase schedule running throughout early March, featuring 34 of the Academy’s skilled acting students. Each and every night, the Helensvale Cultural Centre was filled with friends and family who had come along to support the graduate actors’ and actresses’ live performances and showreels. The room was filled with great energy and positive vibes as all graduates pulled-off an outstanding performance.
Congratulations to the Gold Coast Acting for Film graduates:
New York Film Academy Gold Coast Students: Brandon Sherwood, Callum Whitton, Anthony Christodoulou, David Austin, Samantha Willis, Tara Wraith, Michael Stoeckert, Marie-Clare Loi Zou, Jasper Batenga, Will Wensley (instructor), Stephanie Kutty, Paris Moletti, Taryn Roberts and Christine Campbell.
Thursday 5th March Performers
Marie-Clare Lou Zou
Wednesday 11th March Performers
Thursday 12th March Performers
As we headed down the coast of Australia, on Friday 6th March, Sydney was preparing for an over-capacity performance at the Australian Theater for Young People, located above the Sydney Theatre Company and accompanied with the breathtaking backdrop of Walsh Bay.
Over the months leading up to the showcase, acting one-year program graduates of the night, Chantelle Von Appen, Chris Strauss, Alexander Merlo, David Pound, Nicole Torode, Rafael Haddad and Andrew Murdoch were able to experience exactly why New York Film Academy programs are defined by their intensive, hands-on reputation. Graduates’ commitment and dedication truly shined on the night, with their high caliber execution of mixed scene performances and beat poetry receiving a well-deserved standing-ovation from audience members, family, friends, NYFA staff and instructors.
With a buzz in the air, graduates continued to showcase their works to a number of agents and casting directors at the Sony Theatrette. The opportunity for students to present their showreels was nerve-wracking but again, was received positively by students, agents and casting directors, alike.
New York Film Academy Sydney Students on-stage showcasing their talents.
New York Film Academy Sydney. From left, Rafael Haddad, David Pound, Nicole Torode, Jennie Hughes (NYFA Sydney, General Manager), Alexander Merlo, Chantelle Von Appen, Chris Strauss & Andrew Murdoch.
New York Film Academy would like to thank all students, graduates and teaching staff who worked tirelessly to produce such a successful program, making it possible to accomplish these inspiring events and performances. We congratulate all students who have now joined our NYFA Alumni family and look forward to another prosperous year working with talented, upcoming actors and actresses.
Fresh off his Oscar win for his incredible performance in Whiplash, J.K. Simmons is filling his dance card with an upcoming slate of high-profile movies. He’s already signed on for Skull Island, the epic sequel to Peter Jackson’s King Kong starring The Avengers’Tom Hiddleston and Birdman’s Michael Keaton, set for release in 2017.
This week, Simmons added another role, that of a Navy SEAL commanding officer giving his troops a hard time—a part he was seemingly born to play. The film is The Lake, a thriller about the aforementioned SEALs searching for sunken treasure in Serbia.
The Lake is being co-written and produced by prolific French filmmaker Luc Besson, director of La Femme Nikita, León, The Fifth Element and Lucy and creator of The Transporter and Taken series. Steven Quale, director of Final Destination 5 and Into the Storm and a long-time collaborator of James Cameron, will be helming The Lake. Quale is a fitting choice, considering his work with Cameron on other water-based adventures The Abyss and the 3D IMAX documentaryAliens of the Deep.
Simmons recently spoke with New York Film Academy students about his well-lauded roles in Spider-Man, Portal 2, The Legend of Korra, The Closer, and, of course, Whiplash. There’s no doubt he will bring his trademark talent and passion to The Lake.