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  • NYFA Participates in Interview with Denzel Washington at Pan African Film Festival

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    Executive Director of the PAFF, Ayuko Babu with actor Denzel Washington

    On Saturday, February 14, Industry Lab students and others—through the Diversity Development Department—participated in the filming of three major events in a row at the Pan African Film Festival.

    The first two events were produced by Kim Ogletree, NYFA Producing Instructor, and executive produced and directed by Neema Barnette, the first black woman to win an Emmy directing comedy. The Director of Photography was Tommy Maddox Upshaw who is a Cinematography Instructor at NYFA. NYFA provided some of our hard-working students and equipment.

    PAF students

    The first interview was the Power Broker discussion with Sony Executive, Producer DeVon Franklin. He is also a film producer and has worked on projects like The Karate Kid, Not Easily Broken, Hancock and Heaven Is for Real.

    Next, the students helped document a conversation with Denzel Washington. Having directed Denzel in Devil In a Blue Dress and Out of Time, director Carl Franklin (House of Cards) was the one who interviewed Mr. Washington.

    Lastly, the students took stills for DGA Panel Event, hosted by NYFA Instructor, Jeff Byrd, Co-Chair of the African-American Steering Committee of the DGA. The Director’s Panel consisted of Ernest Dickerson (Bosch, Walking Dead), Charles Stone (CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, Friday Night Lights), Princess Monique (Seasons of Love, The Call), Janice Cooke (Jane The Virgin, Pretty Little Liars) and Charles Murray (Sons of Anarchy, Castle).

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    February 24, 2015 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4610

  • Screenwriter David Chirchirillo Joins NYFA’s Biz of Screenwriting Class

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    cheap thrillersLast month, rising genre screenwriter David Chirchirillo joined New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class, entertaining students with his journey of how this film student originally from St. Louis, Missouri ended up writing the 2014 cult shock-horror hit Cheap Thrills and, until very recently, working as the Head Writer on Playboy TV’s The Playboy Morning Show.

    Chirchirillo went to Columbia College in Chicago where he took a horror screenwriting class and ended up reading the script for Deadgirl by Trent Haaga, his 2008 horror hit. A fan of low-grade horror and Troma movies, Chirchirillo’s professor was friends with Haaga, and in his last semester put the two in touch. Chirchirillo became his production assistant upon moving to Los Angeles.

    “Cleaning up fake blood, going on food runs, whatever they asked of me really,” is how Chirchrillo described his early experiences working as a PA. A naturally friendly, funny and outspoken guy, it wasn’t long before people in the industry got wind that Chirchirillo was also a writer. “I, of course, was willing to write for free when I started, and made it known that I’d be willing to be fingers on a keyboard.”

    He soon met writer/director Chad Ferrin who was looking for a writer for an original idea entitled, Dances With Werewolves. Chirchirillo jumped all over it and wrote the script – which is a Civil War-era werewolf movie about a group of Confederate POWs who escape a Union prison camp and soon encounter a tribe of shape-shifting Native American werewolves with an insatiable blood lust.

    He also impressed Trent Haaga himself who had written a draft of Cheap Thrills, and attached director E.L. Katz. Katz wanted a fresh take on the script, and after Katz and Chirchirillo had lunch, it was clear they shared the same vision for the script — which was to make it a crazy, satirical dark comedy (it was originally written as a more straightforward thriller). “Remember: this is a comedy,” Chirchirillo had to remind his collaborators.

    Indeed it is. It’s a mind-blowing balls-to the-wall horror comedy that has received some amazing reviews, and currently stands at an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. It tells the story of a scheming couple, who pin two struggling friends against each other in a series of increasingly twisted dares for money over the course of one unforgettable evening. Premiering at the SXSW film festival, Chichirillo described the euphoric feeling of watching crowds react to the movie, “It was like doing a drug. It was probably the best moment of my career… thus far.”

    Chirchirillo went on to talk about some other experiences he’s had as a professional writer. “Every time I write, I learn something new. Once it’s done, it becomes the struggle of having it become a movie, where I learn more. I have a tendency to overwrite in the beginning, but it’s all part of the process of what helps me find the best version of the story.”

    Chirchirillo also had some advice on choosing reps, as he himself has hired and dropped folks over the years in his search for agents and managers who grasp his unique voice, “Pick your reps carefully. Don’t be in a rush to go with the first guy. Find someone who gets you and what you want.”

    Chirchirillo then entertained students with his insane directing experience on the low-budget horror film, 616: Paranormal Incident. “Let’s just say it was a 9-day shoot on a shoestring budget, and due to other less than ideal circumstances brought on by the production, I ended up directing it under a pseudonym. But director Duke Hitchcock is really, really proud of it,” Chrichrillo joked.

    He also spoke about his experience writing a comedy morning show for Playboy TV, which spawned from him first working as an editor first for the network. “I got lucky, and a lot of it came down to timing, but it was a really fun gig.” Chirchrillo wrote and oversaw the comedic bits for the newsroom-based comedy show. “It was great. We would bring in tons of special and celebrity guests, and the people at Playboy had a great sense of humor and there’s not a lot of egos. It was just about having fun and putting on the best show we could.” They wrote a different show every day of the week — an impressive feat in its own right.

    Closing out, Chirchrillo offered some final words of wisdom to the aspiring NYFA screenwriters. “Outline. For a long time, I didn’t, but it really helps. Also, check out Dan Harmon’s 8-steps to Structure. That’s been really helpful for me.” On getting hired on assignments, Chirchirillo reminded the room, “Give them what they want, of course, but remember nothing has to be dumb, and it can all come from you. Find your way to address the note, that’s how you’ll do your best work. And do whatever you need to get your movies made, because that’s what it’s really about: getting movies made.”

    David Chirchirillo, who also wrote a segment for ABCs of Death 2, is currently writing the psychological horror thriller Eli in addition to other projects. He is repped by Bellevue Management and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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    February 18, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4982

  • ‘The Shorts Show’ Creator Finds a Knack for Poster Art

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    hooligans

    After graduating from New York Film Academy’s Two-Year Acting for Film course, Corey Scott Rutledge created a comedy sketch group with his friends and fellow NYFA graduates Nick Snow, Brooks Russell, Luis Alarcon, Dirk Otis, Grant Lancaster and Dave Steffey.

    The Shorts Show, which has amassed 76 videos and well over 1 million views since its creation, has hilariously parodied everything from Game of Thrones to Matthew McConaughey being…well Matthew McConaughey. Given not only the quantity of content but the quality of their videos, it’s only a matter of time until these guys land a show on a network like Comedy Central.

    “Attending NYFA was very important to what I have been able to do,” says The Shorts Show creator Corey Rutledge. “Not only meeting those who I currently work with now on the show but also networking into so many different projects while there has landed me projects both acting and design wise post graduation.”

    In addition to Corey’s ability to parody trends in pop-culture, he’s a very talented graphic designer. Before his acting studies at NYFA, Corey earned his computer graphics degree back home in Michigan. His graphic design skills have recently become a major factor in his life, once again. With so many of his peers looking for concept art for their short films, he became the go-to guy for stellar movie posters like The Hooligans one in this post. As time went on, he thought it was common sense to start offering his services to filmmakers outside of his network. Now, he’d be killing two birds with one stone, working on both of his passions at once with poster art.

    He’s quickly built a portfolio and a reputation for delivering some really cool posters for students and independent filmmakers. If you’re looking to get your short or indie feature to stand out amongst the crowd with a solid poster, check out Corey’s work on his website or shoot him an email about his services at theshortsshow@gmail.com.

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    January 16, 2015 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4827

  • Top Ten Reasons Late Night Will Change in September

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    Stephen Colbert10. CBS announced today Stephen Colbert will take over hosting duties of The Late Show for David Letterman on September 8, 2015

    9. It’s still unclear what Colbert’s take on late night will be, but rumors are he’s going to make it more of a variety show

    8. Colbert will follow primetime dramas Scorpion, NCIS: New Orleans, and Madam Secretary, all of which CBS has renewed for second seasons today

    7. Colbert will not be followed by Craig Ferguson, who ironically ended his stint on The Late Late Show the same week The Colbert Report ended

    6. Colbert’s spot will now be filled by The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, originally titled The Minority Report. The Nightly Show premieres next Monday, January 19

    5. English actor, comedian and writer James Corden will take over The Late Late Show on March 23, 2014. Ironically, his hiring was announced a year before Colbert’s premiere date—September 8, 2014

    4. Before Corden officially takes over, The Late Late Show is being guest hosted by a wide variety of celebrities—including Judd Apatow, Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Kunal Nayyar, and Jim Gaffigan

    3. Jay Leno is happily retired and Conan O’Brien’s job is still safe

    2. David Letterman will have his last Late Show on May 20, 2015, ending an era for late night talk shows

    1. Colbert is not expected to do any Top Ten lists, probably because they would seem lazy and anyone making a Top Ten list would just look like they were ripping off the great David Letterman

     

    Do you have another reason? Share it in the comments below!

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    January 12, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4107

  • Award-Winning Commercial Filmmaker Transitions to Feature Film

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    BrunoWith years of success in the commercial directing world, including a “best advertising” award at the Garden State Film Festival for the commercial Flanm by Coca-Cola and several awards for the advertising campaign Big Shake that has been a viral success on the Internet, New York Film Academy 8-Week graduate, Bruno Mourral, has decided to venture into the world of feature filmmaking.

    Bruno had been working as a professional prior to enrolling at NYFA, but wanted to truly hone his skills over an 8-week summer program. “It helped me strengthen my knowledge of filmmaking,” said Bruno Mourral. “I mostly made good contacts in the filmmaking industry. They gave me the opportunity to partner up and create Maninhat, a production company based in New York City. We worked internationally with several big brands such as Sony, Sports Illustrated, Nissan and others.”

    Since 2005, Bruno has had the idea for his feature, Kidnapping Inc., which he initially intended to have a rather serious tone. During his time at NYFA, he went ahead and worked on an idea for a short-film revolving around the theme of Kidnapping. Though, his tone shifted to that of a dark comedy.

    Last year, Bruno decided to team up with two screenwriters to help him develop a feature based on that short story. “The experience of working with two people who shared the same ideas and passion was great. This helped me bring the movie to a whole other level. Today, we are very pleased with the Kidnapping Inc. script.”

    Based on actual events, Kidnapping Inc. is a dark comedy, satirizing the Haitian society’s epidemic of kidnapping. The movie is about two deliverymen working for the largest kidnapping corporation in Haiti. While delivering the wealthy senator’s son, the duo foolishly misunderstand each other and one of them ends up killing the boy. Trying to fix this mess, they stumble upon the senator’s son look-alike, which sets them on the craziest kidnapping of their lives.

    Bruno is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, in which he hopes to raise $150,000. To learn more about his fundraiser, CLICK HERE.

    If he raises the funds to film the feature, his goal is to introduce the film to several festivals and find distribution deals to make this movie accessible to the world. He also wants this movie to be a premiere for the rebirth of the Haitian film industry.

    Watch below for a sneak peek of Kidnapping Inc.

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    November 11, 2014 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5695

  • New Indie Comedy “Teacher of the Year” Comes to NYFA

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    Teacher of the Year
    This week New York Film Academy Los Angeles gathered to watch the new indie comedy Teacher of the Year and participated in a Q&A with the movie’s writer/director Jason Strouse and lead actor Matt Letscher. The event was moderated by Tova Laiter, who has producing credits on such films as Varsity Blues, The Scarlett Letter, and Cop and 1/2.

    In a mockumentary fashion, Teacher of the Year depicts the honest efforts of a well-meaning teacher, surrounded by an eccentric faculty at Truman High School, as he grapples with whether he should accept a lucrative California Teacher of the Year award, which would mean leaving his job and abandoning the students he cares so much about. The movie was funny and played very well to the students who concluded its the kind of Indie movie they would like to make.

    Teacher of Year Director

    Jason Strouse (left) and Matt Letscher (right)

    Jason Strouse began his writing career on NBC’s Caroline in the City and appeared regularly as a stand up comic before ditching it to become a teacher in L.A. He directed The Audience that premiered at the Palm Springs Short Film Festival. Teacher of the Year is his first feature film. Matt Letscher was most recently seen as “Charles” in the Academy Award nominated Her. His extensive film/TV credits include Scandal, The New Adventures of Old Christine, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Criminal Minds, and Entourage. He currently recurs on the final season of Boardwalk Empire as Joe Kennedy and on Castle.

    Writer/director Jason spoke about his roots in TV comedy show writers rooms and doing stand up comedy. The dynamics of both are very similar. He said that TV comedy writers are the funniest and smartest people you will meet, and keeping up with their witty banter in the room is quite a challenge. The writers room is where the magic happens. If your goal is write for TV, you should try to get in the room at all costs. Jason started out as a writer’s assistant, his talents were soon apparent to the writing team and he replaced a staff writer who couldn’t cut it. Later after having worked in the industry, Jason transitioned into teaching high school and works as a principle as he continues to write, produce, and direct. His teaching experience is what inspired Teacher of the Year. He used the mockumentary style to utilize his resources and tight shooting schedule to the greatest effect. The result is an outrageously funny and touching film coming from a truthful place.

    Actor Matt Letscher spoke in depth about the actors process. He discussed the differences between theater and film acting—which he describes as an “acting out” (theater) as opposed to “letting the camera in” on what’s going on inside the actor (in film). However, regardless of the acting style, the process of breaking down a script and understanding the reasoning and motivation behind every action is always the same. He believes acting is just like carpentry or any other craft, and your skills improve only by “doing the work.” Matt carried a massive notebook around with him on the set of Teacher of the Year, filled with his own notes about his character and the story, and would delve into it every moment he got in between shots and takes. When he worked early in his career with Anthony Hopkins, he saw a similar scenario with Hopkins making notes on every paragraph of his script.

    Jason and Matt stayed after their Q&A to mingle and take pictures with students. We sincerely thank Jason Strouse and Matt Letscher for visiting NYFA, and wish them the very best in their future filmmaking ventures!

     

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    October 17, 2014 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6669

  • Screenwriting Grads Not Playing Around at LA Web Fest

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    just playing with jason

    As most of us are well aware by now, the best way to break into the industry and have your vision seen is via the web. Two New York Film Academy Screenwriting graduates, Talya Adams and Kareem Brown, felt like they had a winner on their hands with their comedy web series, Just Playing with Jason. After entering it into the LA Web Fest, their intuition was correct. The series awarded Talya the prize of Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Web Show. Even the actors got in on the awards. Maleek Griffith won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Web Show and AC Sanford won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Web Show.

    Originally from Clearwater, Florida, Talya Adams grew up with a fascination for all things surrounding storytelling. Her continued love of the craft inspired her relocation to Los Angeles, California. In the two years she’s lived on the West Coast, Talya created and produced two web shows, including the award-winning Just Playing With Jason.

    Kareem Brown was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey and moved to Los Angeles, where he received an AFA in screenwriting at the New York Film Academy. Kareem has proven to be talented not in just film production, but in vocal singing as well. Since Kareem has moved to LA, he has produced three web series, two of which he wrote and acted in.

    This fall, the pair will roll out more original content on their Youtube Channel, Miss Adams and Mr. Brown TV, in the hopes of becoming one of the premier channels on the website.

    For now, you can watch the LA Web Fest award-winning web series, Just Playing with Jason, on Youtube.

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    August 4, 2014 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4221

  • Q&A with Parks and Recreation Star and Former Student Aubrey Plaza

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    aubrey plazaThere’s no prouder moment for the New York Film Academy than seeing our very own break through the walls of Hollywood to become a household name. Such is the case with Parks and Recreation star, Aubrey Plaza. At a young age, Aubrey has already had the privilege of working with incredible talent like Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman, and many others. In addition to her breakout role as April on NBC’s Park and Recreation, Aubrey has worked on major productions, including Funny People, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Portlandia, and is currently in pre-production on a new series called Welcome to Sweden.

    While there is never a direct path to stardom, it’s always interesting to hear everyone’s unique path to success. Recently, NYFA had the opportunity to catch up with the former NYFA acting student through an exclusive Q&A, which can be read in its new Student Resources section.

    In the Q&A, Aubrey talks about being an actress, her affection for Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh, and which Parks & Rec star she thinks is an asshole. (Hint: it’s not Amy Poehler.)

    CLICK HERE to read the Q&A in its entirety.

     

     

     

     

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    June 27, 2014 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5494

  • NYFA LA Screens “The Skeleton Twins” with SVP of Acquisitions at Sony

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    Joe Matukewicz

    Joe Matukewicz at NYFA LA

    This week New York Film Academy students in Los Angeles were treated to a special sneak preview screening of the hit Sundance award-winning comedy The Skeleton Twins followed by a Q&A, moderated by Tova Laiter, with the SVP of Acquisitions at Sony, Joe Matukewicz. The film, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award this past Sundance Film Festival and currently has a 100 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, delighted students with its offbeat comedy and surprisingly profound performances by NYFA alum Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig. The discussion that followed with Joe Matukewicz shed light on the less known world of film acquisitions.

    Joe Matukewicz is the current Senior Vice President of Worldwide Acquisition for Sony Pictures. His past positions include SVP and Head of Worldwide Acquisitions at Relativity Media, VP Acquisitions and Co-Productions at Paramount Vantage, and Director of Acquisitions and Co-Productions at Paramount Classics. Among the many films with which he was involved with were Act of Valor, House at the End of the Street, Hustle and Flow (2005 Oscar Winner for Best Original Song), The Machinist, and An Inconvenient Truth (2006 double-Oscar winner for Best Documentary and Best Original Song).

    Skelton Twins

    Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader in ‘The Skeleton Twins’

    At Sony, Joe acquires forty movies a year of all genres, some of which are distributed by Sony and others with indie labels. Some movies can be bought at script stage, if there is a package attached, while others can be very execution depended — distributors may wait to see the movie, even though it can be more competitive.

    When Joe first began in the acquisitions world as an assistant, he didn’t even know what “acquisitions” was. He soon discovered that the purchasing of film properties was an art form and one for which he had a knack. Deciding what to buy and when to buy it is a game for which there is no definitive strategy. Joe Matukewicz considers many factors including cast, execution, genre, social/political climate at the time and, of course, story. The one thing he doesn’t care about is the film’s budget. The producers are never obligated to reveal the true budget of the film. However, Joe will ask as many people involved with the film as he can what the budget is, but mainly to see how many different answers he can get. This will reveal the filmmakers’ expectation of how much they can sell it for, which is a more important factor in how much the film will end up costing him than the budget itself.

    Mr. Matukewicz acquired The Skeleton Twins at this past Sundance Film Festival. His yearly schedule is jam-packed with film festival appearances. Although his job is exhausting, traveling around the world, watching films and making big picture deals is an exciting gig that Joe is very grateful to have. We wish Joe Matukewicz continued success in the world of acquisitions and hope that his next purchase makes a huge splash in a theater near you.

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    June 11, 2014 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6289

  • Acting for Film Graduate Stars in Finnish Comedy ‘Bunny The Killer Thing’

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    Roope NYFA

    Roope Olenius

    Roope Olenius, who graduated with his BFA-degree in acting for film at the Los Angeles campus last year, has just finished shooting his part for the film Bunny the Killer Thing. Olenius plays a major role in the hilarious feature film that was filmed in the Lapland of Finland. The film, which is produced by Black Lion Pictures and Jo-Jo the Dog Films, will get its premiere on the big screen by the end of 2014.

    Bunny the Killer Thing is a feature length comedy-horror in the genres of splatter and camp films. It is made for global distribution with an international cast, which makes it a rare and ambitious production in a country as small as Finland, where independent films have a small footing in the industry. The main language of the film is English.

    Olenius will join the rest of the main cast and production team to  promote the film at Cannes Marché du Film this spring. In addition, Olenius will be promoting his short film, Dia-cide, at the Cannes Court Metrage, which he produced as his thesis project at the Los Angeles campus last year and is planning to make into a feature film in the near future.

    After graduation, Olenius has increasingly gained more exposure in the Finnish film industry and opportunities to work with acclaimed directors like Joonas Makkonen, JP Siili and Samuli Valkama.

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    March 17, 2014 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5232