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  • A Look Back at The 48th NAACP Image Awards

    The 48th NAACP Image Awards — which are presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to honor people of color in entertainment — were held this past Saturday night, Feb. 11, 2017, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.

    Denzel Washington won an award for best movie actor for his role in “Fences,” the adaptation of August Wilson’s play, which Washington also directed.

    “It is a privilege, an honor, a responsibility, a duty and a joy to bring his brilliance to the screen,” Washington said of the late Wilson, whom he called among America’s greatest playwrights. Last month, the New York Film Academy welcomed one of Washington’s co-stars, Russell Hornsby, who also praised the late playwright for being so influential on his career. “Wilson forced actors to bring their authentic self,” Hornsby said to a room full of NYFA students. “You bring your pain [to the role].”

    One of the big winners of the evening was “black-ish,” the TV sitcom came close to sweeping its categories, taking the award for best TV comedy and stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross getting top acting trophies. In non-televised awards given Friday, the show earned honors for co-stars Laurence Fishburne and Marsai Martin and a writing trophy for creator Kenya Barris. “The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” also cleaned up the television comedy and drama categories with three wins, though newcomer Queen Sugar was recognized as the best drama series. Interesting note: NYFA Instructor Ken Lerner played attorney Howard Weitzman in “The People Vs O.J. Simpson” —the lawyer who is ultimately replaced by attorney Robert Kardashian, played by David Schwimmer.

    Hidden Figures

    American musical recording artist, actress, and model Janelle Monáe, left, American actress and singer Taraji P. Henson, American actor, film director, and producer Kevin Costner, and American actress Octavia Spencer arrive on the red carpet for the global celebration of the film “Hidden Figures” at the SVA Theatre, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 in New York. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

    However, the directing award went to Donald Glover for his hit comedy series “Atlanta,” which also won a Golden Globe earlier this year. “Hidden Figures” and Taraji P. Henson were also winners, as the fact-based drama about the contributions of black female mathematicians to the U.S. space program won the award for best movie, while star Henson was honored as best actress.

    Beyoncé dominated the music categories with five wins, including Outstanding Female Artist and Outstanding Album for Lemonade.

    Back in the film world, “Moonlight” ran away with four awards including Outstanding Independent Motion Picture and two writing and directing wins for Barry Jenkins.

    “Queen Sugar,” created by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, was named best drama series, and “This Is Us” star Sterling K. Brown claimed the award for best TV drama series actor.

    Lonnie G. Bunche III received the NAACP President’s Award for his work as founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

    Last but not least, the popular wrestler turned actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, was named entertainer of the year in online voting. Last year, one of our Acting for Film graduates appeared in a video with Johnson, promoting his new Youtube channel.

    February 13, 2017 • Entertainment News • Views: 1079

  • Film Critic Peter Rainer to Teach at NYFA Los Angeles

    Part of what makes up a successful filmmaker is a having a vast knowledge of cinema history. Look no further than Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, who are both well known for having an encyclopedic memory of films over the last century.

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    Peter Rainer with NYFA President Michael Young

    Given the importance of film and cinema studies, the New York Film Academy is delighted to welcome its newest faculty member, Peter Rainer, who has thirty years of professional experience as a film critic. “There is still nothing like seeing a movie in a theater on a big screen and being awed by the whole experience — that communal feeling,” says Rainer.

    Rainer is currently the film critic for the Christian Science Monitor, a columnist for Bloomberg News, the president of the National Society of Film Critics, and a regular reviewer for FilmWeek on NPR. He’s also written for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine, New York magazine, and New Times Los Angeles, where he was a finalist in 1998 for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. He is also a three-time winner of the Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award for best online film critic.

    The first film Rainer reviewed professionally was “Chinatown,” which is considered a must-see for any aspiring screenwriter or director.

    “I really had this jones to be a critic ever since my dad gave me this book called ‘Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies,'” says Rainer. “I learned you could be a real writer and still be a critic.”There is still nothing like seeing a movie in a theatre on a big screen and being awed by the whole experience, that communal feeling.

    rainer and calderon

    NYFA Dean of the College Sonny Calderon with Peter Rainer

    Beginning this spring, Rainer will begin teaching a special topics seminar at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, which will consist of eight courses. His love for Robert Altman’s career will be an integral part of his course as he intends to screen and discuss much of his work.

    In addition to his seminars, Rainer has been a guest speaker at NYFA LA and intends on speaking at its New York campus in 2017.

    January 4, 2017 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 1518

  • NYFA LA Welcomes Special Guest Eric Goldberg, Disney Animator: “Moana”

    On Wednesday, Nov. 16, legendary Disney animator Eric Goldberg brought an exclusive preview of Disney’s latest project, “Moana” to New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. The chair of animation, Mark Sawicki, moderated the event.

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    Goldberg’s career is extensive. He’s worked on classic animated television shows such as “Looney Tunes” and “The Simpsons.” His work at Disney includes supervising the dance sequences in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” and serving as supervising animator for the Genie in “Aladdin.” His specialty is 2D animation. For “Moana,” he oversaw the animation of Mini Maui, the mobile tattoo of Dwayne Johnson’s larger-than-life Maui.

    The theater was filled with animation and game design students both eager to hear from someone with over 25 years in the business and excited to catch a sneak peak of “Moana.” Goldberg did not disappoint in either area, treating students to over an hour of behind-the-scenes footage — including messages from the cast and crew, works in progress, and clips from the film.

    Many students wanted to know how 2D animators could survive in a 3D animation world. Goldberg assured students that the fundamentals wouldn’t be disappearing from animation anytime soon. “I always encourage people to look at the principals,” he stated, “They’ve held together for 100 years.” Mock up, character design, and landscaping are still all animation jobs that are originally drawn by hand.  “It’s about creating characters people can identify with. It’s a blend of both sensibilities: theatric and artistic.”

    Walt Disney Animation Studios' artist Jin Kim showcases the look of the title character in the upcoming adventure "Moana." Says director Ron Clements, “Moana is a vibrant, tenacious 16-year-old growing up on an island where voyaging is forbidden. But Moana has been drawn to the ocean since she can remember and is desperate to find out what’s beyond the confines of her island.” Directed by Clements and John Musker and featuring the voice of Native Hawaiian newcomer Auli'i Cravalho in the title role, "Moana" opens nationwide on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

    ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

    For those hopefuls trying to get into Disney, Goldberg had some additional advice. “Disney is always looking for talent.” He suggests going to the Disney website and looking at the portfolio requirements. He also suggests a tactic that he called “observe and caricature” to up one’s game. “How can you identify a friend in a crowd from behind and 20 yards away?” Goldberg asked.  “It’s their walk. You know how they carry their weight. How they walk when they’re sad or mad.” Goldberg suggests practicing nailing those walks and gestures in order to improve basic skills.

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    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Goldberg for sharing his wealth of knowledge with humor and humility. NYFA would also like to thank Tova Laiter for bringing this presentation to the school.

    “Moana” will be in theaters near you on Nov. 23, 2016.

    November 18, 2016 • Guest Speakers • Views: 1748

  • NYFA Presents Artwork of Beijing Film Academy’s Sun Lijun

    This month, the New York Film Academy held an event that presented the work of Sun Lijun “Fan Beilu,” which included traditional art and his documentary “Go Together.”

    Professor Sun Lijun, vice president of the Beijing Film Academy, is committed to innovation and the training of young Chinese talent. He has made an outstanding contribution to the domestic animation industry. He has participated in the production of many animated films, including “Little Soldier,” “Sunny Story,” “Happy Running,” “Bateelaer Saga,” “Legend of a Rabbit, ” “Fantastic Adventure” and others.

    sun lijun

    Lijun noted that China is now the second largest movie market in the world behind Hollywood, but could learn more in terms of the quality of the content. According to Lijun, Chinese films are currently “dumplings” compared to American films, which he said were like “big cakes.” He hopes that more American filmmakers, such as the students from the New York Film Academy, will partner with Chinese filmmakers in order to continually improve the quality of the films.

    Lijun’s recent documentary “Go Together,” which he screened at NYFA’s theater at 17 Battery Place, tells the story of a group of Chinese filmmakers who show their animated film to underprivileged children in some of the remote areas of China’s Sichuan province.

    sun lijun

    Produced by and starring Sun Lijun, the film not only shows the whole picture of Sun’s journey with four other team members, but also the magnificent landscape and culture of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Starting in Chengdu and equipped with professional projection equipment, the team brought the magic and joy of the screen to towns on the plateau with an elevation of over 4,000 meters.

    More than just showing animated films for the children, Lijun’s actions have attracted tens of thousands of people’s attention through the internet and social media, and has become a charitable activity, which collects donation for the children in Ganzi.

    November 16, 2016 • Acting • Views: 718

  • NYFA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate with an Industry Pitch Fest

    Graduating MFA, AFA and BFA New York Film Academy Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held at the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

    screenwriting dept

    A catered event and mingling opportunity for the students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrated the New York Film Academy’s graduating screenwriting students, offering them a professional outlet to jumpstart their careers by pitching their film and TV thesis projects to industry executives.

    These writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructors David O’Leary, Jerry Shandy, and Dirk Blackman, in conjunction with Faculty Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and Associate Chair Adam Finer, preparing and fine-tuning their pitches.

    nyfa screenwriting

    They shined on this pinnacle evening, leaving with new professional contacts and a wave of interest in the scripts they’d worked so hard on all year.Considered by the school to be their first night as professional screenwriters, this group of bright students brought their A-game, as they pitched agents, managers and production company representatives in a relaxed, round-table environment. Organized and hosted by David O’Leary, the event featured representatives from various Hollywood companies, including literary agencies, management companies, and TV and Film production companies.

    Attendees included: Blumhouse, Closed on Mondays, Elevate Entertainment, Good Fear Film + Management, ICM, Imagine Entertainment, International Film Trust, Mad Chance, Madhouse Entertainment, Magnet Management, Management 360, Marc Platt Productions, Moresco Productions, Nightshade Entertainment, Original Film, Quadrant Pictures, RatPac Entertainment, Triple Threat Pictures, and Walden Media.

    NYFA wishes to thank all of its participants, particularly our industry guests, without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA, BFA and AFA graduates!

    September 20, 2016 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1651

  • Screenwriting Instructor Dan Kay Pens “I.T.” with Pierce Brosnan

    Brosnon IT

    RLJ Entertainment

    New York Film Academy Screenwriting Instructor Daniel Kay, writer of the film Pay the Ghost with Nicholas Cage, was recently mentioned in Deadline and Hollywood Reporter for his upcoming film, I.T., starring Pierce Brosnan.

    The project has been acquired by RLJ Entertainment for North American distribution rights. The thriller from Voltage Pictures, directed by Good Day To Die Hard director John Moore, and co-written by William Wisher, Jr. (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) was produced by David T. Friendly, Beau St. Clair, Nicolas Chartier and Craig J. Flores.

    “I couldn’t be more excited for the release of the film,” says Kay. “I was very pleased with how it turned out and I think audiences will respond to it.”

    I.T. is scheduled for a September 2016 theatrical and on-demand release.

    August 2, 2016 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1477

  • MFA Producing Grad’s “Fortune Cookie” Airs on Fuse

    MFA Producing graduate Robert Pallatina’s directorial feature debut, Fortune Cookie, co-produced by Sony and The Asylum, aired on the Fuse network this past weekend.

    His film is a horror/thriller set in present day Los Angeles about eight friends who fall victim to an ancient curse after receiving mysterious black fortunes at an Old Chinese restaurant. The movie stars James Hong (Big Trouble In Little China), Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers) and Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3).

    James Hong

    James Hong in “Fortune Cookie”

    Pallatina initially developed the script after being offered an already greenlit feature project from The Asylum, a production company that he frequently works with.

    “My intensive studies [at NYFA] from conceptual scriptwriting to technical on-set production really helped prepare me for what I was getting myself into,” said Pallatina. “I researched Chinese folklore to intertwine real mythology into a modern day supernatural thriller and wanted to create a common threat for the characters, which was unpredictable and unstoppable.”

    Thus far, 2016 has been very busy for Pallatina as he’s currently editing a number of features, developing scripts, as well as pitching himself to direct another film.

    Fortune Cookie will continue to air on Fuse this upcoming Wednesday, May 18th and Thursday, May 19th.

    May 17, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1666

  • Screenwriting Grad’s “Business” to Screen at Cannes Cinéfondation

    businessFor those of us in the film industry, the month of May has always been synonymous with the Cannes International Film Festival. This year’s festival, the 69th since its inception, will run from May 11-22nd, with Woody Allen’s Café Society being its opening film.

    In more recent years, part of the prestigious festival is the Cinéfondation, which selects some of the best short films from young filmmakers around the country. This highly competitive competition is often the goal of many of our students and graduates. This year, the New York Film Academy proudly recognizes Malena Vain, who studied at our 8-Week Screenwriting Workshop in 2014. Vain’s short film, Business, is an official selection in the Cinéfondation.

    The Short Films Jury—presided over by Japanese director and writer Naomi Kawase, as well as Marie-Josée Croze, Jean-Marie Larrieu, Radu Muntean and Santiago Loza—will be awarding prizes for three of the 18 student films shown as part of the Cinéfondation selection. The jury must also name the Short Film Palme d’or winner from among the 10 “In Competition” films selected. This will be awarded at the closing ceremony of the “69th Festival de Cannes” on Sunday, May 22nd.

    We had the opportunity to ask Ms. Vain a few questions about her and Business before she heads off to Cannes.

    Can you tell us a little bit about your film, Business — what is about?

    A girl, alongside her guitar, reunites with her father in a hotel room. He’s a business man on a visit to Argentina, the country he once called home. She’s back from playing at a concert. Night falls between those four white walls, until the sun rises again.

    Where did the idea for this film derive from?

    It was slowly cooking for a couple of years. I first saw a site-specific type of a play called “Showcase,” by Richard Maxwell, which was staged in an actual hotel room. You were literally told to enter the room and sit there, while a man would perform the play. From then on, I was instantly attracted to the feeling of the hotel room, and its potential to create stories. These rooms are set in a way to make you feel comfortable, warm and safe, but in reality they’re also really impersonal and empty spaces. However, in a way, those places make you feel like nothing but who you are. The world is fast and chaotic outside, but inside the hotel room, time stops for you.

    Once I got this straight, I also had two characters I wanted to explore. I thought it would be interesting to make them meet in this type of space, after a long time.

    BUSINESS (2016) – TRAILER from Malena Vain on Vimeo.
    Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of writing and directing this film?

    Yes, for sure. My screenwriting skills definitely improved at NYFA. I had never had such intensive writing workshops or full knowledge of classical structures to generate conflicts and transform characters. It’s not easy. At first, you are really conscious of these tools and try hard to follow the rules, but then you let go and just write. Ben Maraniss, one of my teachers at NYFA, would ask us to write twenty pages in two or three days — it sounded impossible, but it really isn’t. As Kate Kirtz used to say, when you have a deadline there is no time for creative blocking. Eventually you incorporate what you learn in class and don’t feel so stressed out about finishing a script. If you keep your enthusiasm up, you will write something you can be proud of—even though you’ll always find mistakes—because you’re human and creativity is never perfect (and it shouldn’t). I’m also trying to refresh the pitching skills I learned with Nick Yellen, since I’m only two weeks away from Cannes Film Festival, those could be really useful now!

    Is your feature screenplay related to this film or another idea?

    Not really. However, I’d say they have similar topics in common. I’m really interested in distance between humans, and all problems regarding communication to bond with someone, especially in a time where our virtual selves are so present and our real selves are so concerned about our virtual selves. It’s hard to connect to what you really feel and what you really want. In my screenplays the question usually is: “Who would you like to share your time with?”

    I’m also fascinated about cities, and that love-hate relationship you have with the place you live in. My NYFA script was set in New York, and the city played an important role to make the story move forward, even with the obstacles. Business, even though it’s mainly about a father-daughter relationship in contemporary life, also talks about life in my hometown, Buenos Aires.

    Business will be screening on Friday, May 20 at 11:00a.m. (Cinéfondation programme 4) in Buñuel Theatre on the 5th floor of the Palais des Festivals.

    May 4, 2016 • Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1991

  • Anna Serner Speaks on Behalf of Gender Equality in Film

    anna serner

    Since the beginning of 2000, the pursuit for gender equality in film has been an ongoing objective in Sweden. To reach that goal by the end of 2015, the Swedish Film Institute, led by its CEO Anna Serner, made an actionable plan with encouraging results. Under her guidance since 2011, the Swedish Film Institute has made Sweden the first-ever country to achieve 50:50 gender parity in terms of government financing for films. Last year, Serner succeeded in funding an equal number of films made by women and men in Sweden and Europe.

    On Monday night, New York Film Academy students, faculty and staff were invited to attend a special lecture and discussion with Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, to hear a presentation on a topic very much in the forefront here and abroad. That topic is gender equality in the film industry. Much has been said and written about the significant pay and role disparity in the acting field and the fact that women are under represented in the directing profession both qualitatively and quantitatively.

    anna serner

    Ms. Serner, who presides over the institute, a governmental organization which reviews applications and grants funding to prospective filmmakers, presented a list of most common arguments to which she has been subjected that seek to reinforce that disparity in the Swedish film industry and tied those to the conditions that exist in the American film industry as well. The arguments include rationalizations ranging from accusations of funding by quota to ‘women just don’t want to be directors’. Her responses brought to light cultural obstacles and ways of thinking that perpetuate these misconceptions.

    Regarding the accusation of managing by quota she responded, “We don’t do quota.” She went on to say that if an organization does that they have two different funding mechanisms—quota and quality. She maintains that the primary criterion is always quality and commented at length throughout the presentation regarding the quality of female produced and directed works.

    Key to overcoming these obstacles is a system in which female filmmakers are mentored and educated on how to navigate the system. Also key to moving forward, according to Serner, is an inclusive approach that helps to change male cultural paradigms, and brings distributors in early in the development of female led projects in order to make them vested sooner in the process and appreciate the evolution of the films in question.

    April 28, 2016 • Community Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 1716

  • Producing Grads Team Up for “Lilin’s Brood”

    Nothing like cuddling up with your loved one on Valentine’s Day with a psychological thriller, chiller/horror film. Come on, you know it sounds great. Now that you’re convinced, we have the perfect recommendation for you. Lilin’s Brood, created by New York Film Academy MFA Producing graduates Artii Smith and Phil Simon, has been picked up for distribution and is now available on iTunes, and will be released on Amazon next Friday, February 12th—just in time for Valentine’s Day.

    The movie is about a “New Media” news coverage team (W.H.I.S.T.L.E.) that is stranded near a beleaguered brothel in the middle of nowhere. The footage that is recovered will reveal what happens when they encounter a group of women with a terrifying secret.

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    “It’s personal in a sense that we both really love the horror/thriller genre and wanted to create a story that people like us would love to see,” said Smith. “Also, the characters we created were a loose combination of people we’ve known from our past experiences.”

    The NYFA grads shot the film on a small budget over an eleven day period.

    “Coming up with a strategy far in advance on how to tackle each phase of a project should be top priority,” says Smith. “We planned every single creative detail and business strategic move meticulously.”

    The filmmaking duo also suggests young filmmakers really believe in the story they are working on. It takes so much energy to create a feature, and you don’t want to be stuck doing a project you’re not passionate about.

    Before studying at NYFA’s Producing program, Smith was only interested in producing projects. He didn’t want to write and he wasn’t entirely sure about becoming a director either. But NYFA changed his attitude.

    “I think my joy for writing was discovered and ultimately nurtured at NYFA, and my love for directing really flourished as well. Working with writing professor David O’Leary, I believe, now that I look back, was an essential experience I needed in helping me develop and write engaging feature film scripts. Working with directing professor Nick Sivakumaran really helped me discover my love for directing.”

    Smith and Simon currently have a part two to Lilin’s Brood already written up and ready to shoot. They are also have several other projects in various stages of development—from treatment to full script—that vary in different genres such as Science Fiction, Drama, Comedy, Action and Historical Biopics.

    February 5, 2016 • Filmmaking, Producing, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2092