• DGA Training Program Chair Speaks at NYFA LA


    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.


    May 13, 2014 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 7114

  • New York Film Academy’s Alumni Spotlight: Jason Liles


    “Before I moved to NYC I was told by many that I was too tall to be an actor,” says New York Film Academy Acting for Film graduate Jason Liles. “However, it seems my height was been the very thing that’s been getting me in the door to this point.”

    The 6’10” actor has booked a number of high-profile jobs since his graduation in May 2010. Jason explains, “The very week after graduating… [I did an] episode of stand-in work for [pro wrestler] The Big Show as he guest starred on an episode of USA’s Royal Pains. That was my first experience on a big film or TV set ever.”

    “About a month later, [I was called] in to audition for a principal role as a tall alien in Men In Black III 3D!” says Jason. “I ended up working as three aliens over several weeks with [7-time Academy Award-winning] special makeup effects artist Rick Baker and his crew. I worked on the film… with nearly the entire main cast. I got all my SAG waivers and made some great connections. It was an incredible experience. I’m very much looking forward to it’s release on May 25.”

    Jason got another lucky break when he got a second callback for a role on a commercial. He recounts, “I was ecstatic… when I found out searching on the internet that it was a PRINCIPAL role in a NATIONAL Allstate commercial… This was my first time ever auditioning in front of the director, and all for a big project like this. MIB’s audition was for a camera. It was so cool to be getting direction from the director himself at the audition and I gave it my all in that room.”

    Jason waited anxiously until he got the news that he booked the role. He explains, “Because of the waivers I got doing Men In Black III, I had to join SAG to do it so I also got my SAG card!!! Meetings with agents were being set up!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was in denial even. I started to think, ‘Okay, it’s a commercial, but it won’t be that big. It can’t be.’ It just seemed too easy and too good to be true.”

    “The shoot went amazing,” he says. “Around 300 extras were cast for the crowd, and about 15 principals including us basketball players. I got to work directly with Dean ‘Mayhem’ Winters and his 11-year stunt double, David Shumbris, all day. It was such a pleasure to work with both of them and I can’t say enough nice things about them. Also getting to work directly with acclaimed commercial director David Gray was really exciting for me. He was nominated for the prestigious DGA Commercial Director of the Year award in 2004 and I believe this was his first Allstate Mayhem commercial.”

    “I had never experienced anything like a 2,000 frames-per-second high-speed camera getting my close-up for a national commercial before,” says Jason. “When we were setting up that shot, I can’t explain the anticipation and excitement for what was about to happen. I was so amped and felt so grateful to be standing on that court surrounded by such talent. After we got my close-up I went over to the monitor and watched it with David. It looked incredible! So epic! I remember standing behind David as he’s pointing at my face on the monitor saying to the assistant director, Peter Jackson, ‘That’s great! That’s perfect right there. Great, let’s move on.’ It was such a compliment for me to come from such a great director like him.“

    The commercial is currently airing on CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Comedy Central, History, Fox, ESPN, and AMC. Jason says, “Another graduate of NYFA, Nick Purdy, said my ‘shocked face is plastered all over Canadian television.’ So evidently it’s showing internationally as well.”

    “I love this business,” Jason says. “Less than a week before shooting the commercial, I knew nothing about it. Persistence is key in anything, and… especially in this industry. I feel so very blessed and so lucky to get this opportunity only a couple years into my career. I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities that have been given to me and can’t wait to see what’s next…. There’s one thing that I’ve come to learn in this business: you never know what’s right around the corner.”


    April 18, 2012 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 7041