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  • 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: 405

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Holds Q&A with “Affairs of State” Director and Cast

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn Monday, December 3rd, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Affairs of State followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, producer, Stephen Israel, and actors, David Corenswet and Nate Walker, moderated by NYFA Producing Chair, Roberta Colangelo. Affairs of State explores the extent to which one man is willing to take risks to progress his career in Washington D.C.

    Director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, is known for directing A Country Christmas Story (2013), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000). Producer, Stephen Israel, is a former VP of New Business Development at TBS, worked in strategic planning at Warner Brothers and spent four years as a management consultant with Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He is known for producing Blood, Sand and Gold (2017), G.B.F. (2013) and I Do (2012). Actor, David Corenswet, is a Julliard graduate known for his roles in House of Cards, The Tap and Elementary. Actor, Nate Walker, is known for his roles in Homeland, Bottom of the Barrel and The Maladjusted.

    Colangelo opened up the Q&A by inquiring about Bross’ inspiration for the film. Bross shared that he and Todd Cudworth, the film’s writer, were inspired by the ruthlessness of the “game” of politics; the original script, written in the early 2000s, was based on the tactics used by the Republican party to discredit President Bill Clinton– and the Democratic party as a whole– in the public eye in the late 90s. Bross said that Cudworth asked himself, “What if the Democrats got really ruthless, just matched the tactics of the Republicans who seemed to be pretty much willing to do whatever it [took]?” However, as America moved closer to the Trump presidency, the script evolved.

    Ultimately, Bross and Cudworth wanted to bring attention to the world of politics rather than make an argument about a specific political party as contemporary politics is so consumed by polarity. Producer Stephen Israel assisted with the blurring of the political binary in through the characterization of the protagonist’s boss, a political candidate named John Baines, “We took a lot of trouble to play…Baines’ politics down the middle,” said Israel, “We tried to make him a conservative who could appeal to liberals.”

    Colangelo noted that sex is used by the main character of the film, Michael Lawson, to gain power in the political sphere and asked how Bross navigated the sex scenes from a storytelling perspective. “I never like to shoot anything gratuitous,” said Bross, “Every scene in every movie should have a purpose…and this movie, ultimately to me, is about the exchange of power, sex for power.” Bross discussed how the sex scenes in which Michael is with Mrs. Baines, his boss’ wife, and the sex scenes in which Michael is with Darcy Baines, his boss’ daughter, were shot and edited differently to give different effects; Michael’s scenes with Mrs. Baines are focused on the exchange of sex for power whereas Michael’s scenes with Darcy are more romantic and idealized.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Eric Bross, Stephen Israel, David Corenswet and Nate Walker for sharing their perspectives on storytelling and working in the entertainment industry with our students.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 7, 2018 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 552

  • Colonel Jack Jacobs Holds Lecture for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Veteran-Students

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn November 15, 2018 New York Film Academy Los Angeles veteran-students gathered in the NYFA Theater, for a special lecture from Medal of Honor Recipient and appointed Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program Colonel Jack Jacobs.

    Colonel Jacobs served in the U.S. Military for more than 20 years and his gallantry in Vietnam earned him the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest combat honor—as well as two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. Colonel Jacobs is a military strategist and on-air analyst for NBC and MSNBC News.

    Colonel Jacobs’ mission at NYFA is to support the Academy’s veteran-students’ transition from the military to exciting careers in media and entertainment.

    The evening began with a screening of the documentary about Colonel Jacobs that recounted the events that took place during the Vietnam War and Colonel Jacobs’ dauntless actions that later earned him the Medal of Honor.

    Honorable Col. Jack Jacobs (MoH Recipient) with NYFA veteran-students.

    During the talk, Colonel Jacobs discussed his personal experience in transitioning from the military to civilian life and offered his advice to the veterans in attendance. The Colonel’s personal experiences, his inspiration, and at times his wit, touched several pungent topics. He emphasized his belief that the military is the only place that will give an 18-year-old man or woman a large amount of responsibility and this prepares them – more than most 18-year old who have not served – for nearly any career and circumstance. “An employer who hires a veteran, gains a huge benefit due to the work ethic and skills that they learned and honed while serving our great Country” stated Jacobs. He spoke on how veterans should walk into a job interview confident that with their military background, they know both how to follow and how to lead.

    The evening concluded with Colonel Jacobs taking photos and talking with the NYFA veteran-students as well as other vets in attendance from Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME), and the Veterans Affairs (VA).

    It was truly a great experience and very inspirational evening for everyone in attendance.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 6, 2018 • Community Highlights, Guest Speakers, Veterans • Views: 445

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and GreenLight Women Q&A with the Filmmakers of “Stuntwomen”

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailStuntwomen Q&AOn Saturday, November 10, New York Film Academy and GreenLight Women hosted a screening of the documentary, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, followed by a Q&A with director, April Wright; producers, Michael Gruskoff and Marion Rosenberg; and stuntwoman, Amy Johnston; with the event moderated by Rosenberg. Afterward, students were able to meet the panelists and discuss the film at a reception in the lobby.

    April Wright is a director, writer, and producer known for the films, My BFF (2015), The Graveyard Shift (2010), and Layover (2009). Michael Gruskoff is a producer known for the films, Prelude to a Kiss (1992), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Marion Rosenberg is a producer known for the films, Revolutionary Road (2008), Hollow Man (2000), and The Deer Hunter (1978). Amy Johnston is a stuntwoman known for the films, Deadpool (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).

    Rosenberg opened up the Q&A by inquiring about how all of the panelists came to be involved in the film. Wright shared that she had already worked on an archive-heavy documentary, so she felt like she could take on the challenge of bringing the book, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, by Mollie Gregory to life. 

    Wright asked herself, “How can we bring this into the present [and] not just make it a history [documentary] but really, you know, what are stuntwomen doing today? And bring it up to the present and have some action in the movie so that it wouldn’t be all ‘talking heads.’”Stuntwomen Q&A

    Wright added that the timing of the documentary and its subject matter felt especially relevant as there have been movements in Hollywood recently to push for more inclusion of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community in various roles behind the scenes. “We felt like this group of stuntwomen represented the bigger picture,” Wright said, “It was just sort of this microcosm of what was happening in the whole industry [and] all the things that [women have] been fighting for for all these years.”

    Rosenberg asked Johnston what the film meant to her as a stuntwoman. “One of the questions I always get asked is ‘how do you become a stuntwoman and why are you a stuntwoman?’” said Johnston. “This is so important to share vital information about how we do things and why we do things.” She added that the film taught her about the history of stuntwomen in the earlier days of the film industry, “I learned how much these women paved the way for us.”

    Though strides have been made for the stuntwoman community in terms of job opportunities and safety, Wright and Johnston look forward to even more progress being made in the future.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank April Wright, Michael Gruskoff, Marion Rosenberg, and Amy Johnston for sharing their riveting documentary and positive message about inclusion in Hollywood.

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    November 19, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 767

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Q&A with Cast & Crew of “Killer Under the Bed”

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailKiller Under the BedOn Friday, October 26, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Lifetime’s Killer Under the Bed (2018), followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Jeff Hare; producer, Ken Sanders; director of photography, Brad Rushing; and stars, Brec Bassinger and Madison Lawlor. The event was moderated by NYFA instructor, David Newman.

    Hare is a writer, director, and filmmaking instructor at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, and has been working as a director of thrillers for the Lifetime channel for the last few years (A Lover Betrayed, Psycho In-Law, Nanny Killer).

    Sanders is a prolific producer for the Lifetime channel who has accumulated over 60 movie credits in the last 30 years (Accused at 17, Double Daddy, Stalked by My Doctor).

    Rushing’s career as a director of photography began with some small features in the 1990s then expanded into the music industry with music videos for Eminem, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Blink-182 and more. Rushing then moved back to film and television, and ultimately made his way to the Lifetime channel where he now works as a DP on many of its thrillers.

    Bassinger is an actress known for her roles in ABC’s The Goldbergs and Nickelodeon’s Bella and the Bulldogs and School of Rock. Lawlor is an actress known for her roles on TNT’s Franklin and Bash, Netlfix’s Dear White People, and the film, Daddy Issues (2018). The film also stars Kristy Swanson, eponymous star of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Moderator David Newman opened up the Q&A by asking about the inspiration for the film. Producer Ken Sanders explained that he was approached by the film’s writer about producing a movie about a voodoo doll; Sanders knew that there would have to be more meat to the story to get executive producers interested, so he began thinking about the topic. 

    Sanders then remembered a TV movie from his childhood that “terrified a generation” called Trilogy of Terror; in this film, the protagonist struggles to escape from an evil doll she purchases at an antique shop. Sanders decided to combine the voodoo concept and the evil doll concept into one, and, in a sense, remake Trilogy of Terror for a modern audience. It was important to him, though, that this film appeal to “multiple markets” and not just a “hardcore horror audience.”

    Newman went on to ask the panel about how they handled their tight shooting schedule — the Killer Under the Bed production team only had 14 days to shoot a feature-length film, which is less than half the time that most features take to shoot. DP Brad Rushing advised, “Be prepared… Meticulously know what you’re doing… [Have] contingency plans… and good communication with the producer and the director.” Killer Under the Bed

    Rushing added that he and director Jeff Hare had worked together before, and were largely on the same page aesthetically when it came to the look of the film.

    Newman inquired about how the team made the voodoo doll come to life onscreen. “Most of the doll’s motion was actual[ly] mechanical,” said director Jeff Hare, “it’s trying to keep that aesthetic of that 70s stuff [that] scared us… we tried to keep as many effects as we could practical and we also stole the whole Jaws thing of trying to keep it hidden for as long as we possibly could.”

    “I think oftentimes what you don’t see is a lot more frightening,” added Brad Rushing, “because the audience fills it in with their own imagination and personalizes it as their own boogeyman.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks Jeff Hare, Ken Sanders, Brad Rushing, Brec Bassinger, and Madison Lawlor for sharing their insights about making an independent thriller on a tight budget and in a short timeframe!

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    November 14, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 691

  • Ayelet Zurer Speaks With Tova Laiter at New York Film Academy

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn October 30, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with actress Ayelet Zurer following a screening of a third season episode from Netflix’s acclaimed series Daredevil. The Q&A was moderated by Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series.Ayelet Zurer

    Zurer is an award-winning Israeli actress whose career began in Israeli television and crossed over to mainstream American movies and TV, most notably Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005); Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid (2008); Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons, with Tom Hanks (2009); Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013); Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert, alongside Ewan McGregor; Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Ben Hur, and many more.

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking about Zurer’s early career; Zurer shared that she was artistic as a young girl and did not “fall in love with acting as a profession” until she studied acting in her hometown,Tel Aviv. She then relocated to New York City to study further and acted in numerous theatrical productions before being offered a large role on a television series in Israel, moving back home where she would work in the Israeli entertainment industry to great success and winning many awards.

    Ayelet ZurerWhile Zurer was working on a television show, In Treatment, that would later be adapted for HBO, she got a mysterious call to audition from an English casting agent who caught one of her random films. Zurer was apprehensive but then she was informed this audition was for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Zurer landed the role and this launched her career as an actress in American media. “Say yes to things!” Zurer advised the students in the audience.

    A couple years later, Zurer has the opportunity to act in the film, Angels and Demons; she was anxious about the magnitude of the film but when she sat down with Tom Hanks to run lines, “I don’t know what happened; it was really magical; I was not nervous…” 

    Laiter inquired about the lessons Zurer learned from working with Hanks. Zurer replied, “The tone is set on a film by its leader. Tom was relaxed, intelligent, and generous. When he had an idea, he didn’t pester the director with it but suggested it in the right time… you have to have patience… he really set the tone.”

    Laiter asked Zurer about the lessons she has learned as an actress. “One of the things I’ve learned is to be very present because… that’s the most important thing for an actor and for a person in life, period.” Between “action” and “cut,” “…in that moment I [am] able to eliminate everything out there; the sound of fear, the self-doubt…” continued Zurer, while illustrating to the students a technique she uses just before she goes on stage or set.Ayelet Zurer

    To a student’s question of how she prepares for a role, Zurer talked about first learning the lines until they are embedded, doing research, and focusing on the storytelling; she asks herself: “What’s the beginning? Where [am I] coming [from]? What do I wanna say? What [does the] story [want] to say? What’s my job in that story? What is my role; what kind of a device am I?”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ayelet Zurer for sharing her entertainment industry wisdom and acting expertise with our students!

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    November 2, 2018 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 448

  • Ryûhei Kitamura and Aldo Shllaku Speak with New York Film Academy (NYFA)

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn July 25, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA), hosted a screening of the film Downrange and a Q&A with Japanese director and writer, Ryûhei Kitamura, and Albanian composer, Aldo Shllaku, moderated by NYFA screenwriting instructor, Eric Conner. Q&A with Ryûhei Kitamura and Aldo Shllaku

    Kitamura began his career by founding his own independent production company in Japan called Napalm Films. His first mainstream success was a film called Versus (2000) and he went on to direct a handful of other feature-length films including an adaptation of the manga series Azumi (2003) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). In 2008, Kitamura made his American filmmaking debut with Midnight Meat Train, based on the short story by Clive Barker and starring Bradley Cooper. 

    Shllaku is a classically trained composer; you can hear his work in films and on television in productions such as Spider-Man 3, David and Goliath, Kill ‘Em All, Lupin the Third, The Blue Hour and many more.

    Conner opened up the Q&A by asking Kitamura and Shllaku how they got started.

    Kitamura responded, “I grew up watching movies; I even didn’t go to much of the school when I was [in] like elementary school or junior high. I was always at the movie theater, so when I was like 17 I just thought about…what I want to do in my life and naturally…film directing [was] the only thing I wanted to do.”

    Kitamura eventually decided to move to Australia, the home of one of his favorite directors, Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction), where he studied filmmaking at the School of Visual Art in Sydney. Kitamura was disappointed to find that his fellow students were not interested in action and horror like he was, so after he finished school he decided to move back to Japan where he would go on to launch his film career.

    Shllaku started his career in Greece to avoid the political turmoil due to the rise of communism in his native Albania. He then moved to Canada where he studied film and composition.

    Q&A with Ryûhei Kitamura and Aldo ShllakuShllaku explained, “[Working globally] does have an impact, first of all, of the cinema of those respective countries and also from the music perspective. I’ve worked in nightclubs in Greece, in Montreal, in New York…so different type[s] of cultures, different type[s] of music…even though I’m classically trained…I absorbed certain things wherever I lived…because they become part of you.”

    Conner asked Kitamura to discuss the making of Versus, a low-budget horror movie that quickly became a cult hit.

    Kitamura answered, “I knew that I had something in me and I just had to show it to the world…I wrote the script…I went to every single studio, producer, everybody…like 300 places and everybody ignored me…somehow that didn’t stop my passion so I ended up calling friends…and I started asking for money.”

    Kitamura was able to raise about $50,000 this way. When the money started to run out, he called his friends again to keep the production going. When the film was finally done shooting, Kitamura went to one of the top editors in Japan and brazenly asked him to edit the film digitally for free, promising to pay him “when he got famous.” The editor, amused and impressed by Kitamura’s confidence, agreed and the two worked together on a number of projects afterward, including Godzilla: Final Wars. Q&A with Ryûhei Kitamura and Aldo Shllaku

    Kitamura and Shllaku stressed to the audience that these types of relationships are the lifeblood of the entertainment industry; you have to like the people you work with because you spend hours, days, and weeks together on set, but also because good working relationships can lead to more jobs in the future.

    All of our students, including our many Japanese students, were excited to have Ryûhei Kitamura and Aldo Shllaku as guests at NYFA Los Angeles. The New York Film Academy thanks them for their generous time and for sharing their experiences.

    For Japanese students and schools that would like more information about NYFA programs please contact Noriko Yoshida. Phone: +1-917-570-2375 (USA) Email: noriko@nyfa.edu

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    September 14, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 463

  • Greenlight Women and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screen “The Girls in the Band”

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn August 22, 2018, the New York Film Academy and GreenLight Women hosted a screening of the film The Girls in the Band, followed by a Q&A with director and producer Judy Chaikin, and moderated by GreenLight Women chair Marion Rosenberg.GreenLight Women: The Girls in the Band

    Chaikin started in front of the camera but found that she was more interested in the exciting challenges behind the camera and set her sights on directing. Since then, she has worked consistently in film, television, and theater, winning several awards including two Cine Golden Eagles, a Billboard Best New Music Video Director nomination, nine Best Film Festival awards, and an Emmy nomination for the PBS documentary Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist.

    Her current film, the feature length documentary The Girls in the Band, is about the unknown history of women jazz instrumentalists from the early 1900s to the present day. The film took top prizes at five film festivals including the prestigious Palm Springs Film Festival.

    Rosenberg opened up the Q&A by asking Chaikin about why she chose the topic of women in jazz: “I came from a family of musicians; my mother was a songwriter, my brothers are … both professional musicians, my sister and I both were trained musically … she played flute, I played piano and trumpet and so music has been a very integral part of my life.”

    GreenLight Women: The Girls in the BandChaikin shared that when she was 13 years old, she was in her junior high dance band as a trumpet player and experienced gender discrimination like the musicians in her documentary. She added, “I absolutely adored it, but the boys … didn’t want a girl in their band, and I was discouraged … so I gave it up.”  Chaikin later regretted this so much that she jumped at the chance to produce a documentary about other women who experienced the same thing.

    Rosenberg asked Chaikin how she typically decides on the subject matter of her projects. Chaikin replied, “When you make a documentary, you gotta know going in that you’re committing yourself to a real long process. It’s gonna be years of your life, and if there isn’t something that’s in the documentary that is so personal to you — that has such meaning for you — it’s gonna be really hard to stay with it.” She continued, “It’s [also] very important to me to know that the subject matter I’m covering has deep roots in our society.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks Judy Chaikin for discussing her compelling documentary and for sharing her advice for film school students.

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    August 30, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1167

  • Women in Comics: New York Film Academy (NYFA) and Final Draft Host “Write On” Podcast

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn August 20, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) partnered with Final Draft to host a live taping of Final Draft’s podcast, Write On, focused on women in comics. The panelists were Shannon Watters, Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, and NYFA screenwriting school instructor Christina Weir. The event was moderated by Pete D’Alessandro."Write On: Women in Comics"

    Shannon Watters is the senior editor at BOOM! Studios and co-creator and co-writer of the award-winning comic book series, Lumberjanes. Kirsten Smith is a writer and producer (Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s the Man, Ella Enchanted, The House Bunny and The Ugly Truth) and Christina Weir is a writer (New X-Men, Skinwalker, Three Strikes, Maria’s Wedding, Bad Medicine, Play Ball, Dragon Age: Deception).

    The panelists were first asked what makes comics unique as an artistic medium. Smith said that, in her opinion, comics are special and intimate because they are “a work of art.” Weir added that, in the comic medium, it is essential to keep things moving; even if the scene is just a conversation, it’s important to keep it visually interesting to the reader. Watters shared that she likes using “the page turn” as a tool to surprise and entertain readers of comics in book form.

    The production of a comic is similar to the production of a play or TV show or film because, to be successful, the comic has to tell a story and, in order to tell a story well, there must be trust and communication between all parties involved. Watters described the relationship between a comic writer and artist as symbiotic and “like a marriage.”

    "Write On: Women in Comics"Weir added that comics are “great learning tools for screenwriting” because they “force [the writer] to get to what’s important… You only have so much space to get your point across.”

    The panelists were asked what they believe the future of the comic industry looks like. Watters said that she believes that in the next couple decades, there will be more and more women, people of color, and LGBTQ comic writers and artists. Weir added, “We are in an age now where kids are encouraged to read comics… Comics are cool!”

    Lastly, Watters’ advice for aspiring comic writers and artists is to “Get your stuff out there!” She encouraged students to share their work on the web and to meet other creative people to network, collaborate, and grow.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Shannon Watters, Kirsten Smith, and Christina Weir for sharing their experiences and advice for young writers.

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    August 28, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 1345

  • Silicon Valley’s John Altschuler Speaks With New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On August 15, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of HBO’s Silicon Valley followed by a Q&A with creator and showrunner John Altschuler. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, moderated the event.

    As a student at University of North Carolina, Altschuler created the first comedy sketch show on the university student TV. He and his co-writer, looking to capitalize on their venture, sent written material in three boxes to three owners/editors of the National Lampoon magazine, adding a dollar to each to get their attention. It worked! He became a writer for the most iconic humor magazine of its time, until he moved to Hollywood.John Altschuler

    After moving to Los Angeles however, he realized that his previous work was not going to magically open doors in the industry, so he worked odd jobs until he started getting gigs as a production assistant. He was careful not to pitch himself, instead concentrating on the job at hand. He told students, “Whatever job you get, just do that well… make their lives easier and they will look out for you; they will want to help you because you made their day that much easier.”

    His first writing job, on HBO’s The High Life, led to his becoming an executive producer and showrunner on FOX’s King of the Hill for 12 years and the relaunch of Beavis and Butt-head for MTV. He then co-created Silicon Valley for HBO, and Lopez for TV Land, starring George Lopez. He’s also produced Mike Judge’s film, Extract (2009) starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis and Ben Affleck, and co-wrote Blades of Glory (2007) starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.

    A student asked Altschuler about his inspiration for Silicon Valley. He replied, “I was reading a biography of Steve Jobs and there was a quote in there where Bill Gates was ridiculing Steve Jobs: ‘The guy can’t even write code!’ Altschuler thought: “The guy created the biggest brand in the world and there’s somebody up in Silicon Valley sniping at him; I was like, “This is hilarious!'”

    To the question of whether the creators knew Silicon Valley culture or only did research when they wrote the pilot, the answer was, “Both.” Altschuler had family members who were engineers, but they also did further research:

    “We went up to Silicon Valley… and it was so funny, because… everybody kept talking about how they were making the world a better place… The sanctimony was so thick that I thought, ‘well this is something to make fun of.’ It’s… fun to take on the big guys and try to deflate them.”

    John AltschulerLaiter noted that sometimes it’s easier to make fun of something when you’re outside of it, and Altschuler concurred.

    One student asked about Altschuler’s tips for pitching a show or movie to a producer. Altschuler advised, “[When] you go in, have your story and try to start off with a topic sentence or a personal story… try to make it a conversation, not a laundry list of ‘first this happened and then that happened.'”

    Altschuler imparted to the students that no matter what, they have to like what they’re making or no one will want to consume it. And when they write, and a scene doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to let it go. “If it’s really great, it will get its way in back later.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank John Altschuler for sharing his industry expertise and advice for our film school students!

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    August 17, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1628