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  • Q&A with Oscar-winning ‘First Man’ editor Tom Cross

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    On Friday, March 1, the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of First Man (2018) followed by a Q&A with Academy Award-winning editor Tom Cross, moderated by NYFA Filmmaking instructor, Paul Yates.

    Cross began his editing career in 1997 as an assistant editor, contributing to a number of projects including We Own the Night (2007), Crazy Heart (2009), The Switch (2010) and the Emmy Award-winning drama series, Deadwood. He came to worldwide prominence in 2015 when he won the Independent Spirit Award, BAFTA Award, and Academy Award for Best Editing for his work on the critically acclaimed film, Whiplash (2014). Cross was also nominated for an Academy Award in 2016 for the film, La La Land.

    Tom Cross

    Yates opened up the Q&A by asking Cross about how he started. Cross shared that, when he was a kid, his father took him to the public library to see a screening of the 1953 French film, Le salaire de la peur (Wages of Fear); the film fascinated Cross; he noted that he was able to follow the story and the character arcs despite not knowing the language. Cross said that, from that point on, he “loved going to the movie theater and escaping.” Once he was in high school, he was able to go to video stores and rent movies that were no longer in theaters and got the chance to expand his cinematic repertoire. “That’s kind of what led me to want to try to make my own movies,” said Cross.

    Yates steered the conversation to Cross’ editing process; he asked Cross what he does if he disagrees with a director’s editing idea. Cross shared that, in that instance, he waits for the director to see that an editing idea they suggested isn’t working rather than arguing against it in the moment, “I try to trust the process,” he said.

    One of the students in the audience asked how Cross approached editing First Man, a film about the first moon landing in 1969, because the audience knows going in that the protagonist is going to successfully land on the moon. Cross shared that he and the director, Damien Chazelle, wanted to focus on what most people didn’t know so that it would still be a story with drama and character development; “It was about making it more personal and intimate,” said Cross.

    Another student asked Cross how he approaches editing different types of stories; Cross said that what’s most important is the characters because the audience connects with them and follows their journeys. Cross said that, in Whiplash, he sought to highlight the relationship between the protagonist and his music teacher by finding the right close-ups of each actor to create a sense of tension.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Academy Award-winner Tom Cross for sharing his industry experience and editing techniques with our students!

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    April 15, 2019 • Digital Editing, Guest Speakers • Views: 749

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Matt Harry

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    With his debut novel published last October and development underway for his animated pilot, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screenwriting instructor Matt Harry is making waves in the industry. A multi-hyphenate, Matt’s not only a writer—he’s an editor, director, and producer. Matt took some time to chat about his career, teaching, and the time he made a fool of himself in front of Tom Hanks.

    NYFA: Where are you from originally? 

    MH: I was born in West Virginia, but my parents moved around a lot. We ended up in Cleveland when I was in sixth grade.

    NYFA: Growing up, what did you want to be? 

    MH: I wrote a novel in seventh grade, so I wanted to be an author from a young age. Later I became interested in theatre, then filmmaking, but eventually I went back to writing. 

     

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What’s your professional background? 

    Matt Harry (MH): After I graduated, I spent 12 years working as an editor on shows like The Bachelor while continuing to write. I’ve written screenplays for various production companies and my feature film Fugue, which I wrote and produced, was named Best Horror Film at the Mississippi International Film Festival. My short Super Kids, which I wrote and co-directed, has over 3.7 million views on YouTube and is being developed into a feature by Temple Hill and Fox 2000.

    NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

    MH: A chance encounter with my former USC classmate Eric Conner at a coffee shop led to me to NYFA.

    NYFA: What are you working on right now? 

    MH: My novel Sorcery for Beginners was released last October, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’m also developing a TV adaptation of Sorcery as well as an animated pilot I wrote called Monster Cops. I also have a couple new book projects I’m finishing!

    NYFA: What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far? 

    MH: My short film Super Kids was the first project I worked on where the finished product looked almost exactly like what I imagined it could be. 

     

    NYFA: What is your favorite course to teach?  

    MH: The thesis screenwriting workshops.

    NYFA: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current students?  

    MH: Keep working. I’ve met very few artistic geniuses, but my own career is a testament to the fact that if you keep pushing, working and revising, you’ll improve.

    NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of teaching?  

    MH: Frequently I’ll be discussing a student’s project, and I’ll have a realization about not only their work, but mine as well. Thanks to the students, I’m constantly learning and improving.

    NYFA: What is most challenging about teaching for you? 

    MH: Finding enough time. I could talk about story development all day, but with less than three hours per class, we have to set timers to get to everyone!

    NYFA: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?  

    MH: “Stick with it. Even if you don’t make it, eventually everyone you know will make it, and you make it by proxy.” I have absolutely found this to be true.

    NYFA: Who has influenced you the most in life?

    MH: My wife Juliane. Her work ethic, morality, and positive attitude inspire me to be a better person.

    NYFA: What creators have influenced you the most? 

    MH: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, David Lynch, Edgar Wright, Colin Meloy, Madeline L’Engle, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Pullman, and Wes Anderson.

    NYFA: What do you do to take a break from work and teaching? 

    MH: Video games, going to restaurants, and hanging out with my family. 

    NYFA: What is an interesting fact about yourself your students and fellow faculty might not know about you?  

    MH: I interviewed Tom Hanks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when I was 15 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was incredibly gracious. I remember shouting out some inane question about Madonna, but he treated me like every other adult journalist there.

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    April 15, 2019 • Digital Editing, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 550

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screens Oscar-Winning ‘Free Solo’ with Editor and Instructor Bob Eisenhardt

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    On March 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomed Bob Eisenhardt, NYFA instructor and editor of this year’s Academy Award-winning Best Documentary Feature, Free Solo for a screening and Q&A session.

    Following the screening of the Oscar-winning documentary film, Eisenhardt was greeted with no shortage of questions from an eager NYFA student audience. He delved into a discussion on the unusual film editing process behind a film as unpredictable as Free Solo, having had to explore the possibility of cutting a film that would end in tragedy from a failed climb attempt or no attempt at all. 

    Free Solo

    Free Solo endeavors to capture the free soloist climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream of climbing the 3,000-foot mountain El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Eisenhardt shared that he and his team of only two were left with over 700 hours of footage to sift through from the shoot. From shuffling scenes to creating sequences that would keep audiences enthralled even when they weren’t watching in awe as Alex scaled a mountain without ropes, Eisenhardt sought to create a film that left viewers genuinely rooting for Alex’s survival. 

    With the hundreds of hours of footage he had to work with, Eisenhardt shared that there were even several different openings, but they were all “trying to do the same thing.” He explained, “There was no particular scene that was really hard—it was trying to get the scenes to work together that was difficult. For the longest time nobody understood what he was doing, no one understood what the point was.” Eisenhardt was able to create a film that carried multiple storylines by developing various plots, such as that of Alex’s girlfriend, who represented a “removal of armor,” allowing for a deeper complexity and additional sense of purpose.

    Bob Eisenhardt Eddie Free Solo

    Eisenhardt also offered an inside look into the undertaking—both Alex Honnold’s and his own. After the initial free solo surrender, “We felt that he was going to keep trying to climb, but I wanted to play it like he wasn’t going to keep trying. I wanted to let you feel that it could well be over so that he could kind of re-double his commitment, which is what you need at that point in the movie.”  

    In sharing his own personal efforts to create a compelling film with the footage he was given from such an unorthodox crew—those hanging from ropes 2,500 feet in the air themselves—Eisenhardt noted, “Alex was trying and practicing for two years, but the crew was also practicing for two years, so they pretty much had it down about where they could be to get the best angles on each shot. I complain that I don’t have all my shots, but I think I did pretty well.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Bob Eisenhardt for his continued contribution to the NYFA community and his ongoing inspiration to those within it. We appreciate him sharing his first-hand experience and again congratulate him on Free Solo’s Academy Award win!

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    April 11, 2019 • Digital Editing, Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 513

  • Q&A with Oscar-Nominated Producer, Director, and Editor Sam Pollard

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    Legendary producer, director, and editor Sam Pollard led a spirited “Conversation with…” and Q&A session after a rousing screening of his latest documentary Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me at New York Film Academy (NYFA).  A capacity crowd at NYFA’s Theatre in New York City was captivated by the film, which traces the iconic entertainer’s life from his youth in Harlem to international stardom— from Hollywood to Broadway to Las Vegas and beyond. 

    Sam Pollard

    NYFA students were inspired by Sam Pollard’s recollection of his early career, when he gravitated towards an editing career after a Public Broadcasting internship program. He went on to cut narrative features as well as documentaries, most notably working with Spike Lee on films including Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Clockers, and Bamboozled. In 1998, Pollard and Lee were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for 4 Little Girls.

    Pollard moved into producing and directing while working on Eyes on the Prize, still considered the seminal work on the American Civil Rights Movement.  Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me capped NYFA’s celebration of Black History Month. Made for American Master/PBS, other Sam Pollard projects made for the series include works about August Wilson and Zora Neale Hurston.

    “Filmmaking is hard work but it’s like magic when it works. Now it feels seamless, and that to me is that magic of filmmaking,” Pollard explained to the audience.

    The evening was a co-production of NYFA’s Producing, Screenwriting, and Documentary departments. Pollard told the students in attendance, “If you’re here because you love to create, be compassionate, committed, and willing. Learn the craft and be proud of what you’ve done.” 

    He added, “As aspiring filmmakers, you should be committed to making the best possible film you can make, and if you hang in there, you will be rewarded.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks Oscar-nominated producer, director, and editor Sam Pollard for sharing his experience and wisdom with our students and encourages everyone to check out Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me


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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Instructor Bob Eisenhardt Wins Highest Editing Honor

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    The Eddie award is the highest honor American documentary editors can win. Last Friday night, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Department editing instructor Bob Eisenhardt, ACE, won it.

    If you’ve seen Free Solo, you’ll immediately know why. The 2018 film focuses on rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan, the vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, without ropes, or “free solo.” El Capitan is so dangerous, no one has ever tried before, and Honnold is the only person to have ever accomplished the feat. The documentary has been praised for its unparalleled look at such an intense climbing experience.

    Free Solo

    His fellow editors in the American Cinema Editors (ACE) guild voted Eisenhardt’s work on Free Solo, National Geographic’s current Academy Award nominee, Outstanding Editing on a Documentary (Feature). Filmmaker Spike Lee presented him with the Eddie and his Free Solo directors, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, saw to it that he was properly feted.

    Eisenhardt’s NYFA Docs students acknowledge his Jedi master editing skills on pretty much a daily basis, but it’s nice to see the big guns officially shouting him out too.

    This is Eisenhardt’s second Eddie Award. He was previously acknowledged for his Outstanding Editing on HBO’s feature doc, Everything Is Copy. Since the Academy Awards does not present an award for documentary editing, the Eddie is documentary filmmaking’s uncontested top honor. Free Solo is the fourth film Eisenhardt has cut to be nominated for an Academy Award, which also just won the BAFTA. Additionally, Eisenhardt was previously nominated for an Oscar as a director, and has won three Emmys and been nominated for several more. Films he’s cut have been awarded multiple Emmys and nominated several more times. One even earned a Grammy nomination!

    The New York Film Academy congratulates instructor Bob Eisenhardt on his prestigious win at the Eddie Awards and wishes him and the crew of Free Solo the best of luck at this years Academy Awards!

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    February 19, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1182

  • Q&A With Academy Award-winner and “Arrival” Editor Joe Walker

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    On November 20th, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) had planned a Q&A with Academy Award winner, editor Joe Walker, following a screening of Arrival. Unfortunately, Joe was unable to make it to Burbank, so Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, moderated a Q&A conversation with Joe and the students over speakerphone. 

    As mea culpa, Walker invited the students for a screening and Q&A to his new movie Widows, in theaters now!

    Directed by Steve McQueen, Widows, starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, has recently opened for Oscar run.

    Joe Walker

    Since Walker has won so many awards and nominations (Arrival, 12 Years a Slave), Laiter asked Walker about the process of voting on the Academy’s end. Walker said that the initial list of Best Film Editing nominees is compiled by the editing branch and then voted on by the Academy. “If you’re nominated… that’s the endorsement by your peers. And then if you win… that’s the endorsement of the entire Academy.”

    Asked about his background and how he “made a name for himself,” Walker said that the most important thing was that he “worked harder, and did more.” Walker had started as a sound editor at the BBC, and moved up through the ranks — now he collaborates with Steve McQueen on films like Hunger, 12 Years a Slave, and Widows, and with Denis Villeneuve on films such as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049.

    One student said that he admired the use of tension in many of Walker’s films, and asked how one might go around building that tension. “Tension is a really complicated thing to achieve… a lot of it is to do with story… you aren’t going to create suspense if there’s nothing to feel suspenseful about… you hope that the reveal is delivered with a little bit of a punch.”

    One thing Walker likes to impart on students is, “If you interfere with a performance by cutting on every line — if every line of dialogue has a reaction, and then you come back for another line… it doesn’t allow the audience to look into the eyes and the soul of the character… Let that stuff play, don’t get in the way.”

    The New York Film Academy looks forward to welcoming Joe Walker back to discuss his new film Widows and to learn more from him!

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    December 12, 2018 • Digital Editing, Guest Speakers • Views: 675

  • Q&A with Emmy Award-winning editor, actor, writer, and director, Steven Sprung

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    On Wednesday, December 5th, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A session with Emmy Award-winning editor, actor, writer, and director, Steven Sprung, following an episode of Community which Sprung directed. Sprung is best known for his editing work on Star Trek Beyond, Entourage, and Arrested Development.

    Steven Sprung

    The Q&A began with a student who inquired about Sprung’s time at Syracuse University. Sprung shared that in college, he and his friends were very enthusiastic about filmmaking and worked together to produce numerous short films. During this time, Sprung got the chance to write, direct, edit, and act as these short films had very small production teams and needed many roles filled by very few people. He discovered that he had a special talent for editing and was nominated for an A.C.E. Eddie Award for outstanding achievement in editing while still an undergraduate at Syracuse.

    Another student asked what advice Sprung had for actors trying to perform comedic material. “Do a lot of live productions ‘cause you can get instant feedback on whether people are finding things funny,” answered Sprung, “…and… don’t try to be funny; that’s the biggest killer of all.” Sprung suggested that actors “really get invested in the drama of a scene” because a character’s investment and reactions in the moment heighten the humor.

    One student in the audience asked if Sprung felt that the entertainment industry was progressing in terms of the number of roles available for actors of color and international actors. Sprung said that, in his experience, most mainstream television shows and movies have mostly white and American production teams and actors. However, he added that there are increasing roles for actors of color and international actors because there is “so much content” available to consumers: cable TV, streaming services, web series etc.

    Steven Sprung

    Another student asked Sprung what makes actors stand out in auditions, inspiring casting directors to choose them as opposed to their peers. Sprung discussed how he cast one of the actors in the episode of Community that the students had just watched; he ultimately chose this actor because he “lit up the room” in auditions — Sprung liked his energy and his delivery. He informed students that casting is not an exact science or necessarily predictable; casting is based on a number of factors including industry relationships, whether casting directors are looking for known or unknown actors, personal opinion, etc.

    One student asked Sprung how to become a known actor. Sprung said that he believes that that type of motivation to be unsustainable in the long run. He added, “If your primary motivation is to entertain people, or to engage creatively with others… if you have a vision for your life, then you can do that no matter who’s paying you, no matter who’s validating you, or hiring you or not hiring you.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Emmy Award-winning editor, actor, writer, and director, Steven Sprung for sharing his industry experiences and wisdom with our students!


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    December 11, 2018 • Acting, Digital Editing, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 861