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  • Congratulations NYFA Grads!

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    Congratulations to New York Film Academy’s new crop of future filmmakers! Last weekend, 54 filmmaking students graduated from the school’s Los Angeles campus. Four-time Emmy Award winner, Jay Kogen, delivered a rousing commencement speech to the grads. The producer/writer/director, best known for his work on The Simpsons, Frasier, The Tracey Ullman Show, and Malcolm in the Middle, inspired the students to chase their dreams.

    Congratulations to the AFA Filmmaking graduates: Eskil André Brattgjerd, Carlos Garcia, Mohammad Lajevardi, James Neill, and Elias Smith; and to our MFA Filmmaking graduates: Yagiz Acar, Farah Fuad Alhashim, Victor Aminger, Charles Ancelle, Kirsten Eleanor Anderson, Adrian Aquino, Annique Arredondo, Raul Asensio Molina, Eduardo Augusto, Stefani Avila, Tatiana Beller, Askar Bissembin, Nataliya Bobytska, Nicolas Brouwers, Neil Casey, Pablo Chozas Zambrana, John Chuka, Filipe Ferraz Coutinho, Min Dai, Lu Feng, Seth Fuller, Jubilee Gamaniel, Rafael Garcia, Matthew Gengel, Yifei Guo, Yang He, Shirley Hon, McKinley Johnson, Prarthana Suneel Joshi, Christian Jurgensen, Geet Kandya, Dae Kyu Lee, Nancy Lee, Rishi Mehta, Jason Mohan, Adrian Morales Ramos, Roona Mukhopadhyay, Rima Naim, Sishu Peng, Juhi Roddam, Bryan Rooney, Thomas Schade, Galo Semblantes, Anna Skrypka, Keith Thompson, Aili Wang, Robert Womack II, Zi Xiang, Wen-Hsin Yu!

     

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    February 1, 2013 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6343

  • Art Imitates Life for Horror Film Director

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    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with 'Smiley' Director Michael Gallagher at New York Film Academy

    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with ‘Smiley’ Director Michael Gallagher

    Director Michael Gallagher attended summer camps at New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios campus 3 times as a youngster. He started making short films, music videos, and documentaries while in high school. Since then, he has started a wildly popular web series called Totally Sketch, which has over 850,000 subscribers on YouTube.

    During a recent guest speaker event at New York Film Academy, Gallagher shared his recently-released horror film, Smiley, which was released in theaters nationwide. He described how his experience with internet shorts helped prepare him for his first feature length film. “Most of the sketches I shoot are like little scenes,” he said. “It was like 110 sketches in a row.” Working with a tight budget, the indie film was shot in just 15 days, and the filmmakers were shooting as many as 8 pages of the script per day. But as Gallagher puts it, “Horror movies fit the low budget. You can do a lot more with a little.”

    Gallagher cast friends and actors with large YouTube followings to help build buzz around the film. To date, the trailer has racked up over 21 million views on YouTube. At just 23 years old, his first feature length film was about to be released in AMC theaters across the nation. Things were going well until users of the website 4Chan got wind of the film’s plot.

    Gallagher said he was going for authenticity when he decided to make 4Chan users the villains of his film. In an interview with Huffington Post, he said, “I anticipated a minor backlash of people leaving harassing comments online.” But he didn’t anticipate the website’s users posting his home address, his personal information, and leaving dozens of death threats on his cell.

    After interviews with the TODAY ShowInside EditionVarietyPaste (and the FBI), 4Chan users realized they were only giving him free publicity. Just as the movie was released in theaters nationwide, the threats disappeared.

    Much to 4Chan’s chagrin, we’re happy to report the Smiley DVD is now available for pre-order.

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    December 14, 2012 • Academic Programs, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6602

  • Timur Bekmambetov Talks Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, and Vampire Hunting

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    Director/producer Timur Bekmambetov, who has been called “the Russian Steven Spielberg,” recently visited students at New York Film Academy, following a screening of his film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Born in present-day Kazakhstan, Bekmambetov made his mark with Hollywood studios and U.S. audiences with Night Watch, one of the highest-grossing Russian films of all time.

    He made his Hollywood directorial debut with 2008’s Wanted, an action blockbuster starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. Of his stars, he said, “Morgan is very simple to work with, and always jokes around on set. Angelina is very different. She is very serious, very focused. She’s a genius. She’s very powerful. You have to surround yourself with actors you trust.”

    Following the success of Wanted, Timur Bekmambetov teamed up with producers Tim Burton and Jim Lemley for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. When asked how he decided to take on a film based on a vampire/action/historical/period piece novel, Bekmambetov said, “It’s a challenge. It’s important to fall in love with the material. You need to be brave and forget about the rules. There’s no way to [know] how the audience will respond.” The audience responded well, with the film bringing in over $114 million worldwide. Bekmambetov is currently hard at work on preproduction for Wanted 2.

    Timur is also at work on a startup related to the film, and we are proud that he chose NYFA students to work with him on developing it further.

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    December 3, 2012 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6487

  • Interview with Director Robert Zemeckis

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    The New York Film Academy had a chance to speak with A-list director, Robert Zemeckis! Robert Zemeckis owned the 80’s and 90’s with his classic Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. Zemekis earned respect from critics and colleagues, while grossing quite a hefty penny at the box-office. His direction of Forrest Gump won him an Oscar for Best Director. It’s pretty safe to say that the filmmaker has established himself as one of the elite directors in Hollywood.

    The New York Film Academy offers many workshops and programs for those wishing to learn film direction.

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    October 31, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 6607

  • Screening with Award Winning Director Yazhou Yang

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    If you’re a New York Film Academy student in New York, stop by the 4th floor screening room for a screening of award winning director, Yazhou Yang’s film Wings. Following the screening will be an informative Q&A with the director. Don’t miss it!

     

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    September 5, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4607

  • Deciphering Stanley Kubrick at the New York Film Academy

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    Director and NYFA Editing Instructor Rodney Ascher recently returned from the Cannes Film Festival where his first feature film, Room 237, was one of only two American films in the Directors’ Fortnight. His documentary explores numerous theories about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film, The Shining, and its hidden meanings. The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and received glowing reviews from the major press. Here’s a roundup.

    • New York Times examined the documentary and called it an “intriguing” look at a growing subculture of Kubrick fans which has developed over the years.
    • “One of the great movies about movies…”  – Variety.
    • The Hollywood Reporter said, “Nutty, arcane and jaw-dropping in equal measure.”
    • On his blog, New York Magazine film critic Bilge Ebiri chose Room 237 as his Sundance pick. “The film expresses, better than any movie I can think of right now, the feeling of being lost inside the world of a film, and by extension being lost inside the world of film.”
    • “A brilliant work of alternative film criticism – and critique of criticism.” – LA Weekly.

    “Kubrick was my first favorite filmmaker,” says Ascher, “and one whose work has stuck with me throughout my life – The Shining in particular. The first time I saw it, I managed to sit through about 10 minutes. The music in particular filled me with an overwhelming sense of dread and doom that was more than I could take. It soon became one of my favorites.”

    Ascher says the idea for the film came after a chance Facebook posting. “My friend, Tim Kirk, who went on to become a producer of the film, posted an analysis of [The Shining] on my Facebook page. I became interested in the phenomenon — lots of people bringing up radical ideas. I thought we could make a pretty comprehensive field guide to what was in the film. It soon became clear that we could only get the tip of the iceberg.” Room 237 shares theories about The Shining from five people, told through voice over, film clips, animations, and dramatic reenactments. Ascher describes it as “not just a demonstration about how it has captured people’s imaginations, but also how people react to movies, and literature, and the arts in general.”

    The film was chosen to screen as part of the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes alongside Michel Gondry’s The We and the I. Room 237 is being distributed by IFC in North America and Wild Bunch in France. Watch for a theatrical release later this year. “It’s very exciting,” says Ascher, “I’d been used to being sort of an outcast with short films, screening to more … select groups. It was great. The screenings were packed, we were in a gigantic theater, got great press … I’m sure anyone would be excited.”

    See yourself premiering your movie at Sundance, screening it at Cannes, and getting fawned over by critics? Then look into our school and decide if it’s the right path for you.

    Rodney Ascher at Cannes Film Festival.

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    June 7, 2012 • Community Highlights, Digital Editing • Views: 6033

  • Amy Heckerling: Doing Things Her Own Way

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    Amy Heckerling visited students at the New York Film Academy for a screening of her hit film Clueless. The writer/director garnered both critical praise and impressive box office success with movies including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who’s Talking, and National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

    Heckerling became a successful director at a time when female directors were a novelty. Asked about what it was like being a woman in Hollywood in the 80’s, she responded, “I’m psychotic. I don’t care how the world works. I do what I want to do…. If you want to do it, you can’t listen to what the world is telling you. You do what you want. If I tell you what I feel truthfully, there will be a [ton] of people who respond to that.”

    When asked about Clueless, Heckerling recalled, “They told me, ‘We want to do something about the cool kids,’ and I thought, ‘Well that sounds stupid… But what if the cool kids were nice.’ I remembered Emma, which I read in college. I always wanted to do something where the character was just happy. It seemed so strange to me. Then I got into her head and it wasn’t so strange.” The script came soon after, but it was initially met with rejection by a number of studios. “Everyone will try to say you can’t do something,” she said, “but there’s only one person who has to believe in you, and that’s you…. You may have to find another door to take you there. Take your shot. Be aggressive. As long as you believe in you, you’ll find others to believe in you.”

    Do you have the same passion for directing as Amy? Learn directing at the New York Film Academy!

      

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    May 22, 2012 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 5952

  • Sal’s Guide to Being An Independent Producer

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    Sal Irizarry is making a splash with his debut comedy feature film, Bert and Arnie’s Guide to Friendship. Sal met his producing partners, Jane Basina and Waj Arshad, while attending NYFA. After graduation, they decided to work together under Sal’s company banner, Justified Ends Entertainment.  From there, they ran a nation wide script contest through indieWIRE.com, raised private equity, and produced the film in 2011.

    So, where did his passion for the industry begin?

    “I was looking to go to film school and I didn’t want to spend three years on theory before learning the process hands-on. After looking into several programs and seeking the advice of several of my friends who were already in the industry, I decided to attend NYFA because of its intensive, hands-on program, from day one.  Just as I had hoped, in the first week of school we were working on our first short film. The Producing Program taught me real world skills and industry practices that were relevant throughout the entire process of production; from development to festival screenings and everything in between.  Let’s be clear though, there are some things you can’t learn in a classroom, but the education I received at NYFA was the perfect foundation to get me through the process.”

    What drives you as an artist?

    “As a creative producer, I enjoy the process of finding a story worth telling as much as I enjoy the wheeling and dealing side of the business.  Though my primary responsibility on set is to support the director, I have a responsibility to my investors to finish the movie on time, on budget and to get it out for the world to see.  Maintaining the balance between art and commerce, managing expectations, finding creative solutions to problems that will come up both on and off set is just the beginning.  After all, if your investors don’t recoup, you don’t get to keep making movies!”

    What is your perspective on screening at film festivals? Advice on the process?

    “You feel this sense of validation for all your hard work when you get into a fest and yet you can’t help but feel disappointed when you’re not accepted.  The fact of the matter is that navigating the festival circuit takes a lot of time and energy.  What I mean is, not every festival is a good fit for every movie and submitting to every upcoming fest can get really expensive really fast.  I’ll research what movies played in a particular festival the prior year to get an idea if they’re truly indie friendly and support first time and up and coming filmmakers, or if it’s geared towards screening Hollywood Tentpoles.

    At the end of the day, film festivals are great for exposure and buzz, but the ultimate goal for a producer is to get the movie sold.  Have a web presence.  Make sure your press kit and marketing materials are in order.  Lastly, don’t forget about the deliverables you’ll need in order to get a distribution deal! If your plan is to DIY your film’s release, make sure you’ve built a community around your movie that you’ve cultivated and nurtured throughout the process.  Keeping your fans updated as well as supporting other filmmakers in their efforts as best you can, will go a long way in this day and age.”

    Final words of advice to  NYFA students dreaming to succeed?

    “Persistence, patience, 100% dedication, tons of hard work, long hours and a lot of luck.  I cannot tell you how much I have sacrificed to realize my dream of being a producer.  The commitment necessary to see a project through to the end is not for everyone.  But hey, somebody’s gotta do it and I figure, why not me!”

    Click here to learn more about our Producing program.

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    May 11, 2012 • Producing • Views: 5421

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

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    “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.”

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    April 18, 2012 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6550

  • New York Film Academy’s Alumni Spotlight: Marshall Lewy

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    Marshall LewyWriter/director Marshall Lewy is riding the success of his film California Solo that was an Official Selection at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Writing for the Huffington Post, film critic Marshall Fine described it as “a touching drama… that gives that marvelous actor Robert Carlyle a great character part into which he can sink his teeth.” Total Film said, “An unexpected gem, Solo features a stunning central performance from Carlyle – perhaps his best since Trainspotting’s Begbie – and don’t be surprised if this turns up during the 2013 awards season.”

    “It’s about a British ex-rocker living in California who had some immigration trouble,” Marshall explained. “Robert Carlyle has a lot of friends who were like that. He knew a lot of those guys and really connected to the story. It was my dream to have him in it…. He’s a very generous actor…. I relied on him to bring a lot to the character, and he did, and so much more.” The film also features Danny Masterson and Alexia Rasmussen. Marshall, who graduated a short-term filmmaking program at New York Film Academy and now teaches at the Universal Studios campus, also wrote and directed the 2007 romantic comedy Blue State, starring Breckin Meyer and Anna Paquin. California Solo is his follow up film, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

    “[Sundance] is a pretty amazing place to premiere a film,” says Marshall. “I had been before but never with a movie. It’s fun to hear the reaction of such film-loving crowds.” His wife surprised him, showing up to Sundance with their 1-month-old daughter, Beatrice, who joined him on stage to introduce the film. “I got to introduce my two babies! I like to tell people that I spent 2011 pregnant with two babies,” he joked.

    Marshall attended New York Film Academy’s NYC campus in 1998. He recalls, “It was my first time with a film camera…. It was my first immersion in shooting. It was something I always wanted to do and it was a really great experience.”

    He went on to get his MFA from Columbia and began teaching at New York Film Academy in 2008. Of his teaching, he says, “Students can be really inspiring. It’s really fun to go into a classroom and talk about ideas and the most basic elements of filmmaking. It reminds me what’s really important about the craft of it.”

    In addition to teaching classes in directing, screenwriting, and directing for actors, Marshall is currently working with Peter Sarsgaard on an adaptation of the book Born to Run. He is also starting production on a film he wrote called Exodus, writing the screenplay for a project called Santiago, and pitching a TV show.

    California Solo will be playing festivals in Nashville, Cleveland, and Philadelphia in the next couple weeks, and Marshall’s team is in the process of closing a U.S. distribution deal. You can keep up-to-date on the film’s news by visiting the Facebook page.

    California Solo

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    March 28, 2012 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5806