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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Emmy-Winning Actor Matthew Rhys

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    On Thursday, May 30, New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomed Emmy-winning actor Matthew Rhys to its New York City campus for a jovial, passionate, and insightful Q&A session with NYFA students. The event was moderated by Amy Van Horne, actress and Creative Director of Acting for Film at NYFA-New York.

    Rhys won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his incredible work on FX series The Americans, a dramatic thriller about undercover Soviet spies living in the 1980s Virginia suburbs. He was previously nominated twice for the role, as well as a third time for his work on HBO’s Girls. Additionally, he received two Golden Globe nominations as well as a plethora of other awards and nominations for both his work on The Americans and other projects. 

    Matthew RhysThe Q&A discussion followed the screening of a reel produced by NYFA featuring Rhys’ well-known and applauded work in the stage play Look Back in Anger (with co-star and previous NYFA guest speaker Adam Driver); films The Edge of Love, Burnt, and Steven Spielberg’s The Post; and television shows Brothers and Sisters and the aforementioned The Americans.

    The actor was more than happy to take multiple questions from students, both in the theater audience and from our South Beach campus, where the event was livestreamed.

    Among other topics, Rhys discussed the grueling process of acting with an American accent (Rhys is native to Wales), and said that there are always two things that happen before he recites a line: first, he has to decide if the sound will come out right, and then he has to act the part as he speaks.

    The actor was also asked which was his favorite character to play, and he replied that The Americans’ Philip Jennings is definitely his favorite, given the complexity of the show and the intricacies of the character. When asked about how he prepares emotionally to get into character—since undercover spy Philip Jennings has so many false identities—Rhys said that he always tries to identify parts of the characters that he shares a truth with to lend a sense of authenticity to each part.

    Matthew Rhys

    When asked about his favorite director to work with, he said of course that it was the director of The Americans, but also elaborated on his experience working with Steven Spielberg on The Post. “It was like working with God,” Rhys told the audience, “and everyone in the room knew it.”

    Rhys has also directed several television episodes as well as a documentary short. When asked about his role as a director, he responded that a film set is a forest, and that everyone involved on set is a tree that thinks they’re the only one in that forest. He added that directing made him better at time management.

    One student asked for advice on auditioning. Rhys advised students not to try and show off in an effort to differentiate themselves. Now that he’s on the other side of the casting table as a producer on the new Perry Masonwhich he will also star in—he’s noted that in auditions that “those who serve the script more than they serve themselves” always stand out.

    “Turn up on time, know your lines, be bold, and great gods will come to your aid,” Rhys told the captivated audience.

    New York Film Academy thanks Golden Globe-nominated and Emmy-winning actor Matthew Rhys for taking the time to share his advice and experiences with our New York and South Beach students. 

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    June 4, 2019 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1895

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Paul Salamoff, Writer/Director of ‘Encounter’

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    On Saturday, April 13, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of new sci-fi/drama Encounter, the award-winning directorial debut of industry vet and NYFA Screenwriting instructor Paul J. Salamoff. The screening was followed by a Q&A with actors Anna Hutchison, Glenn Keogh, Vincent M. Ward, Christopher Showerman, Wendy David, and Peter Holden, and co-moderated by writer/director Paul J. Salamoff and Chris Showerman. The film also stars Luke Hemsworth (Westworld, Thor: Ragnarok) and Tom Atkins (Lethal Weapon, Escape from New York).Encounter Paul Salamoff

    Salamoff has been working for almost 30 years in film, TV, video games, and commercials as a writer, producer, director, executive, comic creator, storyboard artist, and make-up FX Artist. He is the author of On the Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette (now in its 4th Edition) and the graphic novels DiscordTales of Discord, Logan’s Run, and issues of Vincent Price Presents. His short stories and essays have been included in acclaimed anthologies including Midian Unmade: Tales From Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring The Blade Runner Universe and he is a two-time Bram Stoker Award Nominee.

    He was recently named one of The Tracking Board’s Top 100 up & coming Screenwriters and has developed projects with Mosaic Media Group, Hollywood Gang, Blumhouse, Wigram Productions, Silver Pictures, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Vertigo, Unstoppable Entertainment (UK) and Eclectic Pictures.

    Encounter has already picked up several awards, including Closing Night Film at the Other Worlds Austin Film Festival, Best Director at the 44th Boston Sci-Film Festival, and the Audience Award and Best Supporting Actor (for Tom Atkins) at the Miami International Sci-Fi Film Festival.

    Salamoff began the Q&A with a discussion about the unique way each of the actors became involved with the film. Some were actors that Salamoff had known and written roles specifically for while others were ones that he had admired and wanted to work with. 

    The most notable story was from Glenn Keogh who got a call three days before filming to replace one of the actors who got stuck in the UK because of a work visa issue. Salamoff remarked how generous it was of Keogh to step in so late and how remarkable a job he did, and in hindsight he “can’t even imagine the role being played by anyone else.”

    Showerman followed up with a question about Salamoff’s mature directing style despite being a first-time director. Salamoff cited the fact that he has been a fan of movies since he was five years old and still sees “tons of movies” as well as jokingly claiming to be the reason why Moviepass failed. He went on to say that he was heavily influenced by directors such as David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, and most recently Denis Villeneuve.

    When asked about the story itself, Salamoff discussed his desire to tell a story “where the science-fiction and fantastical aspects are important, but it’s more about the characters.” He cited films like Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stalker as well as the films of Brit Marling (Another Earth, Sound of My Voice) as having influenced the screenplay.

    The big takeaway from the Q&A was that Salamoff tried to create an environment on set that was highly collaborative with his cast and crew. Wendy Davis pointed out that even though the film was on a tight schedule, “it felt very safe and free for the actors” and that Salamoff would “allow us time to play and discover things.” 

    Encounter Paul Salamoff
    Peter Holden added that “If you’re going to try to pull things off on a shoestring, then you better have people be on your side,” which prompted the cast to reminisce about how well they were taken care of especially in regards to food. 

    A number of the film’s producers owned local restaurants and supplied them, according to Anna Hutchison, “with as much crab legs, steak, and oysters as they could eat.” 

    Vincent Ward followed that by saying “they never had to worry about anything” and could just focus on their craft.

    Keogh went on to say that they’ve “all worked on projects where the camaraderie was not there,” but it was there on Encounter because Salamoff set the tone from day one. 

    Salamoff remarked that this was always the plan and “at the end of the day, I made the movie that I wanted to make,” before adding “but it’s always interesting the road it takes to get there.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank instructor Paul Salamoff and the cast of Encounter for sharing their experiences and advice for filmmakers as well as details about the development and production of the film.

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    June 3, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 1623

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Academy Award-winning Actor Sir Ben Kingsley

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with Academy Award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley last Thursday, May 23, following a screening of the first episode of the new Epix series, Perpetual Grace, LTD. The event was moderated by NYFA admissions specialist Chris Devane.

    Sir Ben Kingsley
    Kingsley began his career by studying theatre in Manchester, England and eventually acted professionally in the West End in London and then on Broadway in New York. After establishing himself on the stage, Kingsley began working as an actor in television and film in Hollywood, quickly drawing acclaim for his work. In 1983, he won the Academy Award for Lead Actor for his work in Gandhi.

    Other notable film roles include Schindler’s List, House of Sand and Fog, Hugo, Iron Man 3, Ender’s Game, Night at the Museum, and The Jungle Book. In 2002, Kingsley was named a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the British film industry.

    Sir Ben Kingsley

    Moderator Chris Devane began the Q&A by asking what inspired Kingsley to become a professional actor. “My absolute desire was to be seen and heard,” answered Kingsley, adding, “impersonation gave a great comfort in that I could—for a fleeting moment—acquire an identity and a voice … and entertain and connect with people.”

    “Eventually,” he continued, “it was clear to me that I could, in fact, turn what one could call … an urge … into a craft … Without the urge to connect, one isn’t really an artist.”

    One student in the audience asked what Kingsley has learned from his many years as an actor. “When one was younger, one did an awful lot of acting and, as one matures in the craft, paradoxically, you do less and less and less and less acting … and, hopefully, you embark on a process of being.”

    Sir Ben Kingsley

    Kingsley was asked by another student how he is able to switch from one role to the next so quickly. Kingsley replied that when he was acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he was playing multiple roles each week. He elaborated, “As a matter of survival, you [learn], you [have] to get off that horse and get on another one and you know the horses are very different; it simply is practice, but, unless you have that muscle that’s practiced in you that can switch from one role to another, it’s going to be very difficult.”

    Kingsley added, “I have learned, onstage, through my work in the great rehearsal room … after each take … I let go … I’m constantly letting go … I do not stay in character between takes and I do not stay in character when I go home.”

    Sir Ben Kingsley

    New York Film Academy thanks Sir Ben Kingsley for sharing his insights about the art and craft of acting as well as anecdotes from his renowned and prolific career in film, theatre, and television.

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    May 29, 2019 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1899

  • ‘Birdy’ Screening and Q&A with Actor and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Board Member Matthew Modine

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    On Monday, May 6, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Birdy (1984), starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine, followed by a Q&A with actor, director, and NYFA board member, Matthew Modine, moderated by NYFA Screenwriting instructor, Eric Conner.

    Matthew Modine Birdy

    Modine studied with Stella Adler at her Conservatory of Acting in New York City. While still a student of hers, he was cast in lead roles in film and later theatre and television. Modine has acted in a number of films including Vision Quest (1985), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and he has worked with a number of critically-acclaimed directors including Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan, and Oliver Stone. He has been nominated for Golden Globes, Emmy Awards, and Independent Spirit Awards. Modine is currently running for president of SAG-AFTRA.

    The NYFA Theater was packed with NYFA students, including veteran-students enrolled in various programs at NYFA. Many military servicemembers have a special fondness for the famed actor because of his numerous portrayals of the life of a soldier–including his standout roles in Birdy, Full Metal Jacket, and Memphis Belle.

    Birdy is a 1984 Vietnam War drama that follows the story of two teenage friends, Birdy (Modine) and Al (Nicolas Cage) who served in the Vietnam War and are forced to cope with the post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences in combat. Birdy appears to completely lose touch with all reality, and Al struggles to help his friend regain his connection with the existent world. Modine gives a tremendous performance as the young, traumatized Vietnam veteran.

    Matthew Modine Birdy
    Mike Kunselman, a veteran and member of the NYFA DVS staff, expressed,  “As a veteran, and an actor myself, I was very interested in Mr. Modine’s emphasis on the importance of being proactive with one’s own career.” Kunselman continued, “I also was intrigued by his portrayal of a Vietnam War US combat serviceman, and his ability to own the sympathetic character of Birdy.”

    Conner opened the Q&A by asking Modine what he’s learned from his prolific career as an actor in Hollywood. Modine replied, “The only moment that an actor can completely control is between ‘action’ and ‘cut’… that’s your moment… Everything else is out of your control. The editing. The distribution. It’s all out of your control. I worked just as hard on the successful films I’ve made as I did on the films that weren’t successful—what’s the lesson? Simple, always do your very best … work really hard and be present and, if you’re lucky, it all comes together.”

    Modine shared a piece of advice for the producers and directors in the audience, “When you’re putting your crew together, that’s just like casting the movie with your actors; you want to cast your crew and your actors that you know and trust.”

    Matthew Modine Birdy

    One of the students in the audience asked Modine for advice for actors just starting out in the business. Modine said that actors should trust themselves and their instincts: “If you’re waiting to be directed, you’ve lost, you have to be self-prepared and have made choices about your character. Your choices are your talent!” he emphasized. 

    “Mr. Modine was very informative with the information that he shared,” said Jonathan Garza, a Navy Veteran and BFA Producing alum. His stories from being on set were very entertaining. Even as an alumnus of the Producing program, I can take the information that he shared and apply it to my craft.”

    Modine also shared that he believes the auditioning process to be very important as an actor and that, when actors are feeling discouraged, they should remember that, “Every no is a step closer to a yes.”

    New York Film Academy and the NYFA Division of Veteran Services would like to thank Matthew Modine for sharing his advice for actors and directors as well as anecdotes from his experiences in the entertainment industry.

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    May 10, 2019 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers • Views: 2628

  • Q&A with CreativeFuture’s Ruth Vitale, Cesar Fishman, and Brett Williams

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    On Tuesday, April 23, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a panel and Q&A with Ruth Vitale, CEO of CreativeFuture; Cesar Fishman, Senior Vice President, Communications; and Brett Williams, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Vitale served as president of Paramount Classics and Fine Line Features and, collectively, her films have won three Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. As CEO of CreativeFuture, Vitale—with the assistance of her colleagues, Cesar Fishman and Brett Williams—works to ensure the protection of the intellectual property of filmmakers and workers in the entertainment industry as a whole.

    CreativeFuture

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Vitale about her start in the industry. “I ended up in the entertainment business by accident,” said Vitale, adding, “I became director of acquisitions at The Movie Channel and I knew nothing about movies.” Vitale shared that, though her initial role in the entertainment industry focused on sales, she ultimately got the chance to distribute independent films, a job she loved. “You could bring a new voice into the world … I get to share an amazing film with you, the audience.”

    Vitale was introduced to CreativeFuture in 2013; “The job was about advocating on behalf of artists’ rights and saying ‘Copyright is important; we need strong copyright protections and it matters,’” said Vitale. She shared the statistic that, “in 2018, there were 126 billion visits to pirate sites.”

    CreativeFuture

    Vitale also shared a way in which CreativeFuture combats piracy. “Around the world there’s something called site-blocking where, if a site is proven in a court of law … to have more pirated content on it than legitimate content, [then] the judge has the right to send a notice to the internet service providers that they have to block it in that country.”

    CreativeFuture teams up with schools across America to educate students of all ages about protecting creative property and they have found that the younger students are, the more likely they are to adopt lessons about fighting piracy in their everyday lives.

    CreativeFuture

    CreativeFuture also combats piracy with videos in which cast and crew members thank the audiences that are about to watch their films in theaters. This may seem like a small gesture but Vitale shared research by Disney that shows these videos caused a 20% decrease in piracy and a 20% increase in sales.

    Many of the student filmmakers in the audience were interested to know how they could safely share their films online; Vitale said that the best thing to do is to purchase secure links with unique passwords that will expire within a few days of being received.

    CreativeFuture

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank CreativeFuture’s Ruth Vitale, Cesar Fishman, and Brett Williams for advocating for artists and sharing their insights and advice about copyright protections in the entertainment industry.

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    April 25, 2019 • Guest Speakers • Views: 2162

  • AAFCA and ABA Film Society Hold ‘Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema’ Event at New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On Monday, February 18, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) partnered with the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) and the African Black American (ABA) Film Society to present a special discussion exploring the past, present and future of Black creative excellence in Hollywood through an inaugural learning lab, Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema at its Los Angeles campus. The event featured Outlier Society’s Alana Mayo, and was moderated by AAFCA Founder and President Gil Robertson.

    Gil Robertson said, “AAFCA is thrilled with our partnership with NYFA as we celebrated Black excellence in the industry during BHM. Our panel with Alana was excellent. She was very generous in sharing her experiences with the students as a Creative Executive, as well as providing them with inspiration on how they can follow in her path.”

    Alana Mayo

    Alana Mayo was Vice President of Production at Paramount and Vice President and Head of Originals at Vimeo before becoming Head of Production and Development for Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society Productions. At Paramount, Mayo helped develop the cinematic adaptation of Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

    Mayo discussed her background, how her parents influenced her career, and navigating her trajectory as a Creative Executive for three of the top studios in the industry. 

    Three students who attended the event gave NYFA their thoughts on the experience. Folake Kehinde, recent NYFA MFA grad and ABA’s Events Chair and Interim Communications Chair, had this to say:

    My favorite things about this event were the access. Alana was welcomed by one of the ABA members who is also queer. I had no idea of this connection when I was scheduling volunteers and was so happy to be able to give Jamie the opportunity to meet and welcome Alana. Alana has greatly inspired Jamie and she was thrilled for the opportunity to meet and welcome her. 

    Alana attended the pre-reception briefly. She took pictures with the ABA and was so polite and happy to be with us. Her humbleness was so sweet and unexpected. Then during the event I appreciated her learnedness. It was so wonderful to hear from a production executive with a degree in film studies. So often production executives studied English or something slightly unrelated to filmmaking—it was nice to hear from someone with an extensive study of cinema as well as years of employment with various studios and production companies. 

    It was interesting to watch her talk so passionately about her favorite films, Polish Cinema, and the discussions she has while watching TV with [her fiancee] Lena Waithe. They’re very different in how they communicate but both have obtained vast success. 

    I also loved hearing how nice Michael B. Jordan is. I was so moved by her saying that Michael will give out her email at various places around town to people who have an idea and that they’re even going to make one of the ideas a person he met on the street wrote. I love that Michael is so kind, contemporary, and cutting-edge. The fact that he cares about people and is interested in talking with them and helping them to make their work blows me away. I also love that he is starring in several projects his company is making as well as other projects outside of his company. It’s inspiring to watch his career as an actor and now producer unfold. As an actress and producer myself this helped to confirm for me that I can achieve my dreams! 

    My final favorite moment was when Jamie told Alana that she is also a queer woman and that she has been so inspired by Alana’s career and bravery to be heard and make a path in the entertainment industry. 

    After the Q&A, legendary casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd (who cast Michael B. Jordan and others in the film Fruitvale Station and so many other projects) stayed and did an impromptu Q&A with actors and filmmakers. It was fantastic! She had a very frank conversation with us where she challenged us to tell our stories! She talked about being on a panel that read scripts for a Festival and how so many of the ideas were so similar. She knows that all black people didn’t grow up in ‘the hood’ and she wants creators to be unafraid to share their middle-class or wealthy upbringing. She advised actors to look their best at all times—even at the gym. She also told actors to put our pictures on our business cards, and avoid putting too much of another actor on their reels. 

    It was an extraordinary evening. I’m very grateful to New York Film Academy, Professor Kim Ogletree, and the founder of AAFCA for putting the event together.

    Alana Mayo

    Toyin Adewumi, 8-week Producing student, learned a few lessons from the event as well. The first was to take risks! A former HR professional, Adewumi loved that Mayo talked about leaving her comfortable job at a studio she had been at for years: “Having that clarity of there’s more out there. Yes I’m here… but… not being connected with the culture there.” Adewumi was impressed that Alana was brave enough to leave and find her ideal job. 

    She also loved that Alana isn’t ashamed of her personality. “Her acknowledgement that she needed to change some things. Her boldness to be humble… being willing to drop some things I (she) learned when I’ve (she) grown up. Her being humble helped lead to her breakthrough….Taking risks, knowing when to work on herself, being humble” are lessons Adewumi will treasure for a long time to come.

    Brianna Dickens (AFA Acting For Film ’18) was moved by the ABA events held during Black History Month. Dickens had a wonderful chat with Twinkie Byrd and at the ABA Careers in Television event, she was invited to visit a set for a day with some friends. She tells NYFA:

    I’m so thankful I found the ABA. I didn’t even know they existed. Luckily my class was invited to a screening event of theirs (the Q&A with Chuck Hayward). The second I arrived, the leaders of the group welcomed me and introduced themselves to me. In less than a month of being an ABA member, I’ve attended three events that have truly inspired me, opened my eyes, taught me things no one else has, and even opened the doors for me to have real on-set experience!

    Everyone in this group is focused, supportive, kind, and encouraging. They uplift each other. I think we will do great things for one another and together. I’m thankful to have them.

    The New York Film Academy and ABA Film Society thank Alana Mayo and Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd for sharing their experience and advice with our students!

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    March 12, 2019 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2110

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screens ‘RBG’ and Holds Q&A with Cinematographer / NYFA Instructor Claudia Raschke

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    On Thursday, February 7, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screened the critically-acclaimed, crowd-pleasing, box office documentary hit, RBG, with the film’s cinematographer and instructor for the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking program, Claudia Raschke participating in a Q&A with students afterwards.

    RBG tells the story of Supreme Court Justice and surprise millennial icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg (aka “The Notorious RBG”). The Flatbush, Brooklyn-born Justice was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1992, becoming only the second woman to serve at the highest federal court in the United States. Ginsberg still serves on the Court and is currently the second-most senior Justice.

    The film was directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen and has been nominated for and won multiple awards since its debut at Sundance. It is currently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; “I’ll Fight” by Diane Warren, from the soundtrack of RBG, is also up for an Oscar for Best Song.

    Director of photography Claudia Raschke has worked on four other films previously nominated for Academy Awards, as well as Peabody, DuPont, and National Board of Review Award winners. Her oeuvre includes acclaimed documentaries as varied as My Architect, about Louis Kahn, Mad Hot Ballroom, which focuses on a New York dance program, and Particle Fever, which tracks the experiments of the Large Hadron Collider that ultimately discovered the Higgs boson (aka the “God particle”).

    RBG

    Students were thrilled to pick Raschke’s brain at a Q&A following the RBG screening. Here’s what some NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students had to say after the event:

    Working with Claudia has been a dream come true in more than one way. Every step you take with the camera in your hand and every little movement you add with the camera while you are shooting should have a thinking behind it. That is the approach with which students like me have had the fortune to learn at New York Film Academy with Claudia. Making every second of the story powerful through visual storytelling is what Claudia is capable of making you learn. She is an inspiring teacher and an even more motivational person! 
    – Kuldeep Sah Gongola (‘18
    )

    There is so much attention to detail in Claudia’s teaching; she prepares you for any situation. When I went to see RBG, I bragged about how Claudia taught us to light interviews and how she kept the lights from reflecting off of the Justice’s glasses. It is easy to see why her work is so esteemed. She gives honest and practical feedback but her compassion for every student and their films is what makes her classes so great.
    – Ti Cersley (’17)

    Having the opportunity to work with renowned professionals in their field one-on-one is priceless! It’s what sets NYFA apart from other great programs around the world.
    – Mark Humphreys (’18)

    Being taught by Claudia is an amazing space to be in. She allows for creativity and ideas to grow in a playful way. Being taught by a female cinematographer who’s worked her way up in a male-dominated industry is very inspirational to watch and learn from.
    – Mollie Moore (’18)

    The New York Film Academy thanks Documentary Filmmaking cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke for speaking with students and congratulates her on all the success RBG has seen so far! 

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    February 18, 2019 • Cinematography, Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 2458

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Q&A with ‘Dear White People’’s Chuck Hayward

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    On Wednesday, February 13, as part of celebrating Black History Month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the NYFA African Black American Film Society hosted a screening of two episodes of Netflix’s Dear White People, followed by a Q&A with writer and producer Chuck Hayward.

    One of the episodes was directed by Academy award nominee Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), which was a real treat for the filmmaking students. It was moderated by NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, and co-moderated by NYFA directing student, Nicole “Soul” Creary.

    Chuck Hayward

    Hayward landed his first staff writing gig on the NBC series Bent. His feature film script, Potluck, won the WGA’s 2012 Feature Access Project. He then sold an untitled baseball project to Nickelodeon, after which he wrote for the Nick at Nite sitcom Wendell & Vinnie. In 2014,  Hayward became a staff writer on the new NBC series One Big Happy, followed by Fox series Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life

    In 2016, he had two movies produced—Fat Camp and Step Sisters—and sold the Untitled Urban Pitch Perfect Project to The Firm and PepsiCo. Hayward is currently a writer and co-producer on the Netflix series, Dear White People, and a producer on Marvel’s upcoming untitled Scarlet Witch and Vision series.

    Many students in the audience were curious about how Hayward started his career as a writer. “For me, personally, it was the contacts I already had,” said Hayward. “It was reaching out to all of them saying, ‘Can we meet for an informal meeting? Here’s what I’m interested in doing… can you introduce me to anybody else who might be able to help me in that?’… And then it’s just all about following up…You don’t want them to forget about you, although not bug them too often… A lot of times, offering to work for people for free on a project is a good way to show, like, ‘Hey… I’m not looking for anything from you financially; I’m just kind of looking for you to help me get my foot in the door and I’m looking for a chance to show what I’m capable of.”

    Other students wanted to know about Hayward’s writing process. “I’m a big pre-writer so I’ll sit down, I’ll write my character sketches, I’ll write my outline; I’ll do as much as possible before I open up Final Draft because I don’t want to look at a blank page and freak out,” Hayward said. “It’s also knowing if your idea is better suited to television or film.”

    Chuck Hayward

    One of the students asked how Hayward and the other writers on Dear White People navigate the complexity of the topics discussed on the show. He replied, “Most of the blowback that we’ve gotten about Dear White People happened before the show came out because people were like, ‘Dear White People? How dare you … address us as a group!’ And we were like, ‘Oh that happens to us all the time, oddly, so it’s not that big of a deal’ … But I think once people started to see the show and see what it was about and see that we weren’t just ‘coming for’ white people and taking out … aggression on them; we weren’t blaming them for stuff; it was just like, ‘Hey, here’s some of the shit you do that bothers us; like, maybe don’t do that anymore; it’s super easy!’ And we also take as many stabs at, you know, black folks and the things that we do that are problematic or that are not beneficial to us all as a group.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank writer and producer Chuck Hayward for sharing his entertainment industry and writing advice with our students!

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    February 15, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 2465

  • Emmy-Nominated Actor Timothy Olyphant Shares Techniques with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students

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    Emmy-nominated film and television star Timothy Olyphant joined students from New York Film Academy (NYFA) at its Los Angeles campus to speak about his career and the industry. Known for his roles in blockbusters like Live Free or Die Hard and in television shows like The Mindy Project and The Office, Olyphant currently stars on Netflix show The Santa Clarita Diet. The Q&A session was moderated by Anne Moore, Associate Chair for NYFA’s Acting for Film department.

    Olyphant began the talk by discussing the benefits of different acting techniques. He spent his early career studying the Meisner acting technique in New York, which aims to push actors to be present in the moment rather than “in their heads.” His strategy for “playing the scene” in Meisner’s style is to memorizes the lines so thoroughly that he’s not worrying about remembering them when it’s time to shoot the scene. He also studies the actor opposite him, paying attention to their technique and learning from them to build his knowledge for future roles.

    The actor then shared his view on the differences between acting for comedic roles, such as his time on Santa Clarita Diet, and dramatic roles, like Deadwood and Justified. “I don’t think of it as comedy versus drama; I see really very little difference between the two,” he said.

    Unlike some other actors, Olyphant also stated that he does not try to infer backstory for a character, but rather builds the character’s motivations exclusively from the actions in the scene as it is written. These actions, he stated, give a lot of insight into how the character thinks and operates. “I’m not even interested [in] what he was like when he was seven years old or 15 years old or 18 years old,” said Olyphant. “You’re just playing the scene; you’re just literally playing what’s in front of you.”

    In addition, Olyphant discussed the experience of working with different directing styles, such as with Quentin Tarantino on his most recent film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He shared that it was a very unique experience because despite working in an industry with a reputation for breeding self-importance, Tarantino did not allow anyone to have mobile phones on set. Instead, he wanted the cast and crew to be mentally present and focus strictly on the art of filmmaking, which deeply impressed Olyphant.

    “He’s doing it in a way that you just didn’t know was possible,” he told the audience. “He’s conducting his business and his work and his set like no other set you’ve ever been on… he’s worked really hard to be able to do it his way and it’s just beautiful.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank film and television star Timothy Olyphant for sharing his acting techniques and industry advice with our students!

     

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    February 15, 2019 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1504

  • Producing Department Industry Speaker Series Welcomes ‘The Rider’ Producer and Sound Recordist

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    On Monday, February 11, the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series welcomed producer Mollye Asher to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) for a “Conversation with” and Q&A session moderated by NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman, following a screening of Chloé Zhou’s The Rider. Also participating in the session was sound recordist on the film, Mike Wolf Snyder. Zhou is in post-production on Nomadland starring Academy Award winner Frances MacDormand, and is currently directing Marvel Cinematic Universe film Eternals, starring Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, and Kit Harington.

    This is the second Chloé Zhou film produced by Mollye Asher. The Rider was shot over five weeks, with non-actors playing roles very much based on themselves. Writer-director Zhou spent close to two years researching the story and developing the film before the shoot. The story follows a young rodeo star recovering from a serious head injury suffered when thrown by a horse in the midst of the rodeo. 

    A good amount of the time Zhou spent researching the story was an investment in gaining the trust of the non-actor cast. The film was made mostly by a six-to-eight person crew, who also needed to gain the trust of the cast. Snyder, the sound recordist, does not like to use wireless, lavaliere microphones that can be hidden underneath an actor’s shirt. He uses a boom microphone for every shot. However, he says, he was very sensitive to not wanting to come off as intrusive towards the actors. 

    The Rider

    (from L to R): NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman, Producer Mollye Asher, Sound Recordist Mike Wolf Snyder

    The Rider premiered at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was acquired for North American distribution by Sony Classics. At Cannes, Zhou also won the C.I.C.A.E. Award.

    The film has won numerous other awards, including Best Feature from the National Society of Film Critics Award, Best Picture at the Athens International Film Festival, and Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. It was also named one of the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Independent Films of 2018, and received multiple nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature and Best Director.

    The team recently wrapped production on a 50-day shoot on a “below the radar” project to be announced very soon.

    New York Film Academy thanks producer Mollye Asher and sound recordist Mike Wolf Snyder for sitting down with students as part of the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series!

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    February 13, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2004