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  • Master Class with Academy Award-Winning Producer James Skotchdopole

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    Last week, Academy Award-winning producer James Skotchdopole held a Master Class at the New York Film Academy New York with Short-term Filmmaking Chair Jonathan Whittaker. Skotchdopole has worked alongside some of Hollywood’s leading directors, including Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, with whom he won Best Picture for Birdman. His filmography includes many memorable and award-winning films like Django Unchained, The Revenant, True Romance, and dozens of others.

    skotchdopole

    Producer James Skotchdopole with NYFA Short-term Filmmaking Chair Jonathan Whittaker

    Skotchdopole broke down his path to becoming an Academy Award-winning producer, which developed over time from being an Assistant Director to Line Producer. As a Line Producer he is heavily involved with the day-to-day responsibilities of production. His hard work and problem solving skills have been noticed and appreciated in the industry and, due to his integral involvement with each project, he is now well respected in the business.

    Since climbing the ranks, Skotchdopole has had the privilege of choosing his own projects wisely. “For me it’s about keeping a connection to the creative process,” said Skotchdopole.

    During the Master Class, Skotchdopole went through several of his projects and explained how he and his team overcame some major obstacles to create some of film history’s most memorable scenes. He recalled a time during the middle of production on Django Unchained when Tarantino came to him and said he has an idea for an epic hero moment for his main character, Django, played by Jamie Foxx. Tarantino had hand-written an eleven page scene at the estate where Django blows away dozens of men — a scene that is now a staple in the film. It was up to Skotchdopole and his team to make that scene happen, no matter what. So, he immediately took action calling in favors, extras, special effects teams and, most importantly, more money.

    Another incredible scene that required a tremendous amount of preparation and time was the bear attack in The Revenant. The team spent days researching bear attacks and needed the choreography to be perfect between Leo DiCaprio and the stunt man (who is one of the tallest stuntmen in the business). With the choreography between the two perfected and shot over a few weeks, a special effects team was able to come in create the bear, which is practically indiscernible from a real one.

    Some final general advice that Skotchdopole provided the NYFA students was to keep their expenses as low as possible, so that they can take risks in life. If you burden yourself with a great deal of overhead, it’s difficult to take on some of the entry level jobs that enable you to break into the business and climb the ranks — just like he was able to do.

    Be sure to look out for Skotchdopole’s most recent film with Brad Pitt, War Machine.

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    June 2, 2016 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6973

  • J.K. Simmons Finds a Navy SEALS Role More His Tempo

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    jk simmons

    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 documentary Aliens 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.

     

     

     

     

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    March 25, 2015 • Acting, Entertainment News, Guest Speakers • Views: 4762

  • Oscar Nominated Editor Discusses Cutting Best Picture Winner ‘Birdman’

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    douglas crise

    Editor, Douglas Crise

    New York Film Academy students gathered in the school’s own Los Angeles theater this week for a screening of the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture Birdman followed by a Q&A with Douglas Crise, the Oscar nominated editor of the film. Crise received an Oscar nomination for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Babel in 2007. He has since cut John August’s The Nines, starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy; David Schimmer’s Trust, starring Clive Owen; and Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere which has received much critical acclaim. His collaboration with filmmaker Harmony Korine on Spring Breakers—which stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens—has been talked about as revolutionary. Doug just received a BAFTA nomination for is work on Inarritu’s Birdman starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis. The discussion was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA LA’s Dean of Students Eric Conner.

    It is often said that the best editors make their cuts “invisible” to the audience, stitching shots together in just the right so that the audience can lose themselves in the story and not focus on the filmmaking craft. Douglas Crise achieved this in a very literal way with Birdman—the vast majority of which appears to be all one shot, but in reality is composed with many, many edits. These cuts are nearly impossible to see at all, even with the trained eyed. So how many cuts were there in Birdman? This has been a topic of hot debate, and while the number of cuts have been kept secret but the team, the special effects department had spilled the beans and said it was 100, which Douglas didn’t deny. This is compared to the 30 definite edits planned before the shooting of Birdman.

    To cut together the best film possible, Crise had to dig deep down and use every trick in the book, and even invent many himself to make the impossible possible. For instance, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu would like Michael Keaton’s performance at the beginning of one long shot and Edward Norton’s performance at the end of it. Douglass would have to dig deep to think of solutions such as rotoscoping Michael Keaton out of the first shot and laying him onto the background where Edward Norton appears in the next shot until Keaton walked offscreen and the second shot took over completely. Douglas Crise enjoyed working with Inarritu because the demanding director always pushed him to do his best work, and to achieve levels he originally thought impossible.

    douglas crise

     Crise discussed his contrasting, yet equally fulfilling experience, editing Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. Whereas Birdman required working within strict limitations, Douglas was called upon to nearly rewrite Spring Breakers in the editing room. He moved things around out of chronological order, laid dialogue and sound over scenes from the footage of other scenes, and worked from a rough outline instead of a detailed script. Harmony’s approach to Crise was more relaxed, as the two discovered the story together from the footage. Having worked so well with two iconic directors whose working styles are at different ends of the spectrum Douglas has exhibited how creatively flexible he is.

    Douglas Crise gave NYFA students a unique and important insight into the post production process. We sincerely thank Mr. Crise for taking the time to visit us and look forward to seeing his next critically acclaimed editorial work.

     

     

     

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    March 10, 2015 • Digital Editing, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 8331

  • Independent Spirit Awards Liked ‘Birdman’ Too

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    The big story about this year’s Oscars winners may very well be what else they’ve won—namely, the Independent Spirit Awards. The ceremony, as usual, was held the day before the Academy Awards, and rewarded films with smaller budgets and not supported by Hollywood’s largest studios. The show typically has a looser, more fun vibe where its celebrities mingle and goof off, similar to the Golden Globes. This year’s show was hosted by Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell.

    Like the Academy Awards, Birdman walked away with Best Feature. However, in one of the biggest differences from the Oscars, Richard Linklater was awarded Best Director for Boyhood. Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K. Simmons all foreshadowed their Oscar wins with acting awards, though Michael Keaton scored the win he couldn’t get Sunday for his starring role in Birdman. Citizenfour presaged its Best Documentary Oscar with a Spirit Award win in the same category. Even the Best Cinematography and Best Editing awards mirrored the Oscars, going to Birdman and Whiplash, respectively. Best Foreign Film winner Ida also got its Spirit Award equivalent for Best International Film.

    With nearly every major winner of the Spirit Awards going on to win their categories at the Academy Awards this weekend, the Oscars overwhelmingly went to films not directly produced or financed by the major studios. Is this a sign of the times, a decentralization of film’s powerhouse auteurs, or just a fluke? Evidence seems to point to the former—after all, five years ago Spirit winner The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar for the Best Picture, but only time will tell. Basically, let’s start the 2016 Oscar predictions!

    Here’s a full list of the winners:

    BEST FEATURE

    Birdman
 Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

    BEST MALE LEAD

    Michael Keaton, Birdman

    BEST FEMALE LEAD

    Julianne Moore, Still Alice

    BEST DIRECTOR

    Richard Linklater, Boyhood

    BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

    Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

    BEST SUPPORTING MALE

    J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

    BEST SCREENPLAY

    Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

    BEST DOCUMENTARY

    Citizenfour
 Director/Producer: Laura Poitras

    Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

    BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

    Ida (Poland), Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

    BEST FIRST FEATURE

    Nightcrawler
 Director: Dan Gilroy; Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

    BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

    Justin Simien, Dear White People

    BEST EDITING

    Tom Cross, Whiplash

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

    Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

    JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

    Land Ho!

    Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens; Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

    LENSCRAFTERS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
  The Kill Team, Director: Dan Krauss

    PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
 Chris Chison

    KIEHL’S SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
 H., Directors: Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia

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    February 23, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 5056

  • Birdman Wins Top Cinematography Award

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    birdman cinematography

    This weekend, Emmanuel Lubezki picked up the American Society of Cinematographers Award for Best Feature Cinematography for his work on the Alejandro G. Iñárritu film, Birdman. Lubezki also made history, tying the record of most ASC wins with Conrad L. Hall, with an impressive four victories in the category. Lubezki won previously for shooting the Alfonso Cuaron films Gravity and Children of Men as well as the Terence Malick film The Tree of Life.

    Like Gravity, Birdman features long takes that are not just tricky for actors but for cinematographers who must carefully choreograph and execute the shots. Birdman seamlessly edits the long takes to give the impression the film is one extended shot for the entire feature.

    The win gives more momentum to Birdman as it heads into the final stretch of the Oscar season. Many consider Birdman a close second favorite to Boyhood, with the competition hard to predict outright. With the ASC win, Lubezki has a solid chance at scoring the Oscar for Best Cinematography, though he faces tough competition from the other contenders, with Ida, Mr. Turner, Unbroken and The Grand Budapest Hotel competing in the category.

    Among the other ASC awards given out, Boardwalk Empire’s Jonathan Freeman beat out presumed favorite Game of Thrones for the television prize, and Barbra Streisand accepted the annual Governors Award.

    If you dream of maybe winning the ASC Award one day, check out our cinematography school programs here.

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    February 16, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4616

  • Birdman Becomes Oscar Front-Runner Following PGA and SAG Awards

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    Birdman cast accepts ensemble award at SAG awards

    (From left) Birdman’s Amy Adams, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and Michael Keaton accept the award for outstanding cast in a motion picture at Sunday’s SAG Awards. (Photo: Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images)

    This weekend’s double-header of the Producers Guild of America Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards continued to vex Academy Awards predictors as Birdman upset Best Picture front-runner Boyhood in both ceremonies, nabbing the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures at the PGA Awards and the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award at the SAG Awards. While Boyhood is still a likely candidate to take the top prize at the Academy Awards on February 22, these two victories for Birdman have placed it firmly in the front-runner category.

    Elsewhere, the other major upset from this weekend’s awards marathon came from Eddie Redmayne who beat Michael Keaton for the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the SAG Awards. While early predictions have placed Keaton as the front-runner for best actor at this year’s Oscars, his status now seems much less assured as the relative newcomer continues to scoop up awards.

    As actors make up the largest branch of the Academy—accounting for 19% of the voting membership—the SAG Awards offer Oscar analysts a significant insight into how the Academy Awards might shape up.

    In the other major film acting categories at the SAG Awards, things went as expected with Supporting Actor front-runners as Whiplash’s J.K. Simmons and Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette continued to clean up awards season. Arquette took her SAG award as a chance to salute her family’s long lineage of acting, stating “I’m a fourth generation actor.”

    Meanwhile, Best Actress frontrunner Julianne Moore picked up the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, cementing her status as the category’s likely Oscar winner.

    Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba, who plays the unforgettable Crazy Eyes on the series, provided the SAG Awards with its most emotional moment when she gave a tearful acceptance speech for winning the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series, informing the audience that “the day I got this job was the day I had stopped acting.”

    In other memorable speeches, How to Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis earned her first SAG Award for TV as an actress in a drama series, expressing her appreciation to ABC executives and the show’s creator for believing that her role as a sexual and conflicted heroine could be played by “a 49-year-old, dark-skinned African-American woman who looks like me.”

    And seemingly making amends for its Best Animated Feature snub at the Academy Awards, The Lego Movie won the award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures at the PGA Awards.

    Awards season will continue its build-up to Oscar night with the DGA Awards slated for February 7. The full list of SAG Award winners can be seen here while the PGA winners can be viewed here.

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    January 26, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 5052

  • Leo DiCaprio to Star in Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’

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    the revenant

    Photo credit: Kimberly French (Entertainment Weekly)

    If Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman was your cup of tea, as it was with the Golden Globes and Oscars, start preparing for his next film The Revenant. The film stars heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio and is currently filming in a frigid Calgary with Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) behind the photogenic tundra.

    In the film, Iñárritu tells the true story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), an American fur trapper and frontiersman in the early 1800s. After being mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead, Glass made a heroic 200-mile trek back to civilization to find the men who abandoned him in his time of need, played by Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domnhall Gleeson.

    “He’s a brave, incredible actor. I’m so surprised about how good he is,” Iñárritu says of DiCaprio. “I think there’s a profound understanding of humanity that I can see through his eyes.”

    The production, shot in extreme conditions, is scheduled to continue until April 2015, and further continues the director’s interest in pushing the boundaries of filmmaking.

    “It’s a very experimental thing that we’re doing here,” says the Birdman director. “I’m now addicted to doing things that can fail horribly or maybe that can give us a surprise. We are all into it.”

    The Revenant will be released by Twentieth Century Fox on Christmas Day 2015.

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    January 22, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3776

  • And This Year’s Oscar Nominations Are…

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    A collage of the 2015 Oscar Best Picture Nominees

    The 2015 Best Picture Oscar nominees, clockwise from left: The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Selma, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, American Sniper

    The nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced Thursday, Jan 15 with all of the nominees being announced live for the first time, with directors J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón announcing the first batch and actor Chris Pine and Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs announcing the second group of nominees. And while this year had predictors preparing for a by-the-numbers slate of nominees, the Academy threw more than a few curveballs our way, with Selma getting largely snubbed and Boyhood and Birdman cementing their likely domination come Oscar night with The Grand Budapest making a surprisingly strong showing with nine nominations, tying with Birdman for most nominations.

    Starting at the top, the nominees for Best Picture dropped to eight candidates from nine in the previous years with American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash competing for the main prize. While this category largely came down as expected, one can’t help but wonder if Foxcatcher was dropped to make it an even eight, not to mention the surprise that both Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel maintained momentum throughout the year despite early releases and buzz (the Academy tends to favor films released during the Fall).

    In the Best Actor category, the five nominees had all been favorites throughout awards season, though Bradley Cooper’s turn in American Sniper seemed to take out late-season favorites David Oyelowo in Selma and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. The full list of nominees are Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Michael Keaton in Birdman, and Steve Carell in Foxcatcher.

    Competing for best actress, the nominees, similar to their male counterparts, were mostly favorites throughout the season though one can’t help but imagine how Marion Cotillard managed to squeeze out Cake’s Jennifer Anniston for her turn in the Belgian film Two Days, One Night. One thing is for sure, both actresses gave incredible performances and as there can only be five, someone is always going to get the short stick. The nominees are Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Reese Witherspoon in Wild, and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl.

    However, the big shocker came in the Achievement in Directing category as Selma’s Ava DuVernay was snubbed, seemingly in favor of relative newcomer Morten Tyldum and his The Imitation Game. Also, for American Sniper making such a surprisingly strong showing, one can’t help but wonder if Bennett Miller and Foxcatcher pushed out Clint Eastwood. The nominees are Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman, Bennet Miller for Foxcatcher, Morton Tyldum for The Imitation Game, Richard Linklater for Boyhood, and Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

    One of the bigger surprises came in the form of Robert Duvall for his turn in The Judge, a role that had seemingly zero Oscar buzz going into the nominations. J.K. Simmons was of course nominated for Whiplash, where he continues to be the front-runner, with Edward Norton in Birdman, Ethan Hawke in Boyhood, and Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher rounding out the category.

    Finally, in the Best Supporting Actress category, the nominees were largely as expected, though Laura Dern’s flashback-heavy role in Wild edged out other late contenders like Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year and Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Dern will be competing against Emma Stone in Birdman, Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game, Meryl Steep in Into the Woods, and Patricia Arquette in Boyood.

    A few of the other big surprises coming out of LA this morning was The Lego Movie not even being included in the Best Animated Feature category, which was long considered to take the award. On the bright side, the fantastic “Everything is Awesome” was included in the Best Song category. Furthermore, while Rosamund Pike did score a Best Actress nom for Gone Girl, this early awards season heavyweight joined Selma in the snubbed category. Finally, in the Best Documentary category, the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, also considered to be a lock for the award, failed to even score a nomination.

    All in all, Oscar night just got a lot more interested and we hope you’ll join us when we Live Tweet the ceremony on February 22nd.

    Click Read More to see the full list of nominees below.

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    January 15, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 6845