Angelina Jolie
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  • Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-nominated The Breadwinner Screened at New York Film Academy With Producers Mimi Polk Gitlin & Anthony Leo

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    On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) 3D Animation & VFX students were excited to welcome Oscar-nominated producers Mimi Polk Gitlin and Anthony Leo of The Breadwinner, a feature animation executive-produced by Angelina Jolie.

    Leo has produced Justin Bieber’s Believe, the Bruno & Boots Series, and television series Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. Polk Gitlin is perhaps best known for producing Thelma & Louise, and her work with Director Ridley Scott.

    NYFA animation students watched the duo’s latest film, The Breadwinner, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Director of the Q&A Series at NYFA Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Leo first encountered The Breadwinner, based upon by the book of the same name written by Deborah Ellis, while on vacation. One of his daughters had a friend who loved the book. One night, when the girl’s mother was reading the book aloud, everyone, no matter his or her, age stopped to listen. By the end of the vacation, the two families had both completed the book.

    Leo didn’t immediately purchase the rights to the book. He was a young producer and unsure if he was ready to dive headfirst into such an important property. But, he and the book continued to cross paths. Finally, years after that fateful trip, when he was at Groundwood Books looking for properties to develop, The Breadwinner was revealed as an option. He jumped at the opportunity.

    The decision to adapt the story as an animated film instead of a live-action film was not made lightly. The book was crafted for children ages 10-13 as a part of an educational curriculum. Even so, some of the themes in the book can be challenging to discuss.

    “We thought, if we did a live-action film like The Kite Runner, our concern was that we would lose that 10-13 year-old audience the book was meant for,” Leo said. “Through animation, we could help make those harder scenes more palpable for kids and adults.”

    From there, the producers looked at which animation studios were making this kind of content. Films like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells had paved the way for animated films with serious content aimed at children. Leo pitched The Breadwinner to Cartoon Saloon and they eagerly agreed to work on the project. Soon, Polk Gitlin joined the team to help with financing and Nora Twomey decided to direct.

    The Breadwinner is Polk Gitlin’s first formal introduction to animation. “I’ve always loved movies with strong female protagonists,” she said. “Not only is The Breadwinner about a strong, young, female protagonist, but it also had great substance. It was an inspirational and helpful film that I thought could educate people about what was going on in this part of the world. I hoped this film would inspire people to get up and help make a difference.”

    Polk Gitlin knows how to pick winners. When she and Ridley Scott were producing Alien, she encouraged Ridley to direct. “They’re not going to think of you for this kind of film,” she advised the young filmmaker. “You should take advantage of the fact that we own it and control it.”

    When it came time for the Q&A portion of the evening, one student wanted to know what advice the two had for students just beginning their careers in animation.

    “You should watch all of the animated shorts nominated for the Oscars,” Polk Gitlin told students. “It showcases multiple styles and all of these filmmakers worked on a very tight budget. It helps shape the way you think about your film. Most of those nominees are students.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Leo and Polk Gitlin for taking the time to speak with our students. The Breadwinner is now available to stream on Netflix in the United States.

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  • Timur Bekmambetov Talks Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, and Vampire Hunting

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    Director/producer Timur Bekmambetov, who has been called “the Russian Steven Spielberg,” recently visited students at New York Film Academy, following a screening of his film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Born in present-day Kazakhstan, Bekmambetov made his mark with Hollywood studios and U.S. audiences with Night Watch, one of the highest-grossing Russian films of all time.

    He made his Hollywood directorial debut with 2008’s Wanted, an action blockbuster starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. Of his stars, he said, “Morgan is very simple to work with, and always jokes around on set. Angelina is very different. She is very serious, very focused. She’s a genius. She’s very powerful. You have to surround yourself with actors you trust.”

    Following the success of Wanted, Timur Bekmambetov teamed up with producers Tim Burton and Jim Lemley for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. When asked how he decided to take on a film based on a vampire/action/historical/period piece novel, Bekmambetov said, “It’s a challenge. It’s important to fall in love with the material. You need to be brave and forget about the rules. There’s no way to [know] how the audience will respond.” The audience responded well, with the film bringing in over $114 million worldwide. Bekmambetov is currently hard at work on preproduction for Wanted 2.

    Timur is also at work on a startup related to the film, and we are proud that he chose NYFA students to work with him on developing it further.

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    December 3, 2012 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5175

  • Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer on His Love of Film

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    Director/writer/producer Kurt Wimmer speaking to students at New York Film Academy.

     

    “I live to see a good movie,” said director/writer/producer Kurt Wimmer. “When I sit down in a theater, I love it when the trailers come up. My heart starts pounding and I start tearing up.” As part of New York Film Academy’s ongoing guest speaker series, Wimmer spoke to an audience of students after a screening of his breakthrough hit film, Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale. He explained, “There’s things I want to say, and this movie is about that. It’s about the things I feel. I want you to feel that too.”

    Though he had already found considerable success as the co-writer of Sphere, and adapting Michael Crichton’s Thomas Crowne Affair, Equilibrium was Kurt Wimmer’s first major directing credit. As he said, “I was dreading the moment when someone would say, ‘Will you direct?’ I spent the entire shoot waiting for someone to tap me on my shoulder and say, ‘What are you doing here?’” He credited his crew for their support throughout the process, saying, “There are invisible hands that help you.”

    Wimmer was joined on stage by crew members, including stunt coordinator Mike Smith, editor William Yeh, producer Lucas Foster, and score producer Klaus Badelt who shared their experience working on the movie. Previous guest speaker Alan Siegel, Gerard Butler’s manager, was also in attendance. As Wimmer put it, “You meet people as you go along. Sometimes you have chemistry and sometimes you don’t. But you have to establish relationships and establish trust.”

    Kurt Wimmer is known for his star vehicle movies, such as The Recruit with Colin Farrell, Law Abiding Citizen with Gerard Butler, and Salt with Angelina Jolie. He announced that his next release, the remake of Total Recall, is scheduled for release next month. The film features a star-studded cast, including Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Ethan Hawke, and Bryan Cranston.

    Stunt coordinator Mike Smith, event moderator Tova Laiter, editor William Yeh, director Kurt Wimmer, producer Lucas Foster, and score producer Klaus Badelt

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    July 18, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 9907