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  • DGA Training Program Chair Speaks at NYFA LA

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    Darrell Woodard

    Special guest Darrell Woodard, co-chair of The Directors Guild of America’s Training Program for the west coast, recently visited the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. He talked to students about the DGA Training Program, the submission process, and specifically encouraged minorities, women, and veterans to apply. Darrell attributes his successful assistant directing career to the opportunities he’s been given as a participant and graduate of the program himself. Cheryl Bedford, NYFA’s own producing instructor and Chair of Diversity Development, moderated the interview.

    The first step of applying to the DGA’s Training Program for the west coast requires the applicant to fill out a form and write a personal essay. For this step, Darrell emphasized that best way you can “stand out” is by “following the rules.” One would be surprised by how often this isn’t done. So ensure you read the directions and fill out everything correctly. If you make it through the first phase, the second involves a group interview in which the applicants are judged on how well they work as team members. The difficulty here lies in not being too overbearing or passive—in other words, you must be a quiet leader. In the final stage you are interviewed intensely by a DGA Training Program committee. Be prepared, as they will leave no stone uncovered in regards to the information you’ve included on your application and your motivations for attending the program.

    Mr. Woodward made it clear that assistant directing within the American film industry is NOT the best path to actually directing. In fact, the assistant director may be the closest person to the director, but he or she is the furthest from the director’s chair. The AD position is intentionally designed this way so there is no conflict of interest. While having allegiance to the director, the assistant director must simultaneously maintain autonomy from them. The AD is ultimately beholden to the producer and he must always do what’s best for the production as a whole. Because of this, the AD is obligated to finish the project with or without the director. Although there have been assistant directors who have made the transition to directing, it is not common. Therefore, assistant directing is a career path in and of itself, not a means to the end of becoming a director.

    For those passionate about assistant directing, the DGA’s Training Program is as good as it get’s in terms of a platform to launch your career. If ADing is a passion of yours then apply this year! We sincerely thank Darrell Woodward for the time he spent with the New York Film Academy and the opportunities he’s giving up-and-coming professionals through the DGA Training Program.

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    May 13, 2014 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 6556

  • Hollywood Stunt-Coordinator and AD Discusses His Craft at NYFA

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    andy armstrong

    Last week, the New York Film Academy welcomed seasoned Hollywood stunt-coordinator and Assistant Director, Andy Armstrong. The night began with a screening of Andy’s reel, which included clips of epic action scenes from Season of the Witch, The Amazing Spiderman, Thor, The Green Hornet, the remake of Planet of the Apes, Galaxy Quest, Stargate, and Hoffa to name just a few.

    Andy began his film career in 1972, in England and France, as a vehicle stunt performer. Andy’s time was primarily focused on vehicles stunts. In 1973, Andy decided to make use of his organizational skills and become an assistant film director. This proved extremely successful and Andy enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of third, second and eventually first AD to become one of the world’s most highly paid AD’s. This work took him all over the world. Specializing particularly in very large international productions that involved complex, dangerous and logistically difficult stunts and action sequences. From 1973 to 1987, Andy worked as an Assistant Director on more than 70 International Movies. As First Assistant Director, Andy has coordinated and directed some of the largest action sequences ever achieved on many international productions. Andy even directed, wrote and produced his own TV movie, Moonshine Highway (1996).

    armstrong nyfaAs Andy spoke to the students, what quickly became apparent was how incredibly diverse his stunt-coordinating career has been. In Season of the Witch he replicated large-scale battles from the Crusades using only thirty stunt men and CGI techniques. In The Green Hornet he supervised the building of stunt vehicles that would make any car enthusiast’s jaw drop. In The Amazing Spiderman he designed unprecedented aerial stunts, including intricate cable systems strung over New York City streets. One would assume that different stunt coordinators, each with their own specialty, would have been hired to execute such assorted undertakings. However, Andy has proven to be quite the Jack-of-all-trades in the stunt world.

    What was also impressive was the degree of creative input Andy has had with acclaimed directors. During the making of Hoffa, Andy worked closely with director Danny DeVito to design the Teamster riot scenes. They studied the behavior of individuals in a riot and replicated these historic uprisings with twelve hundred extras on set. Andy noted that someone is more likely to sneak up behind you and hit you over the head with a bottle, then they are to duke it out with you face-to-face in a riot. It was this attention to detail that made the teamster riot scenes in Hoffa feel so real.

    Many of the students in attendance that night were actors interested in stunts. Andy’s advice to these students was to become an apprentice to a stunt man/woman or coordinator as soon as possible. He said stunt work is one of those old-fashioned professions for which there is no substitute for real world experience.

    With an action-packed career covering five decades, Andy Armstrong is the definition of a stunt coordinator with real world experience. The kinds of stunts he can create on screen seem to only be limited by his imagination. We can’t wait to see what Andy Armstrong thinks up next.

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    October 28, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 6954