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  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumnus Hayden Szeto Visits Los Angeles Campus as Guest Speaker

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    On Tuesday, August 15 New York Film Academy alumnus Hayden Szeto returned to the Los Angeles campus to share his latest hit “The Edge of Seventeen.” Q and A Series Director Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Szeto was the first actor cast in the film in what writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig thought would be the most challenging role to cast. But, after auditioning him, she knew Szeto was perfect for the part.

    It could not have come at a better time for Szeto. A Canadian citizen out of school, Szeto was running out of time to find work in the United States. He had just one week left on his visa. This, Szeto said, was a blessing and not a curse: He encouraged the other international students to view the time crunch as a gift. “You don’t want to go home. The weather in LA is great, but you’ve got to earn your stay,” Szeto said. Let the ticking clock be a fire that drives toward success.

    Szeto found NYFA on Google and knew immediately that this is where he wanted to go to school. He had studied theater at another school, but a lack of on-camera work drove him to come to NYFA. Being in Los Angeles with the opportunity to work on professional backlots just sweetened the deal. “This is one school that has everything you need,” Szeto said.

    Szeto encouraged students to take advantage of their time at the New York Film Academy. He stressed that skating by in school would not translate to a flourishing career in the real world. “You’ve got to find out what you’re good at here. Once you leave it’s your responsibility to build on that,” he told students. “Treat this space like a gym.”

    When it was time for the Q & A portion, one student asked, “What catches your eye when reading a script?”

    Szeto responded: “I have to be able to relate to the character. How can I give him dignity?” He said a lot of the decision comes down to talking with the director and writer. “You’re not just auditioning for them, they’re kind of auditioning for you too.”  As an example, Szeto comically described working with a director who gave vague descriptions on how to improve a scene in what would have been a big movie for him, but Szeto ultimately turned down the role.

    An Asian student asked, “Do you have plans to take on roles that deal with Asian American issues?”

    “Being an actor of color, people in your community will say you owe them something because of your skin color. No. If it’s about the Asian American experience and it’s well written than yes, I’ll do it. But  first, it has to be good.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Hayden Szeto for taking the time to revisit his old stomping grounds, and for passing along advice to the next generation of students. Szeto’s next film is “Truth or Dare,” alongside Tyler Posey and Lucy Hale.

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  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Kelly Fremon Craig of “The Edge of Seventeen” as Guest Speaker

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    This month, the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy welcomed writer/director/ producer Kelly Fremon Craig to a Q & A following a screening of her award-winning directorial debut, “The Edge of Seventeen.”

    The film stars Hailee Steinfeld as angst riddled teen Nadine and Woody Harrelson as her down-to-Earth teacher. Also featured in “The Edge of Seventeen” is NYFA alumnus Hayden Szeto. Szeto plays Erwin, the love-struck classmate of Nadine.


    Introducing Craig was Associate Chair of Screenwriting Adam Finer. Finer brought his class after a student told him this was his favorite film of the last year. The theater was overflowing with students eager to hear the writer/director tell her success story. Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Laiter asked Craig about how she got her script into the right hands after only writing one script before that. Craig shared some advice she received in her early 20s: “If you write a really good script you can throw it over the side of a freeway in Hollywood and somebody will find it and produce it.”

    Through persistence and hard work, she landed an agent after her first script got attention — and that agent submitted her second script to legendary writer/producer James L. Brooks, who produced the project.

    Tova asked, “In what ways did Brooks influence your writing?” There were two pieces of advice Craig took to heart. While she focused on making the script funny, he told her: the most important thing you have to do is figure what out what you are saying about life. “It was such a gift to me.” Craig said. “Essentially he was asking, ‘What is the point?’”

    The second piece of advice was, “Always do research.” Craig heeded this advice and visited many local high schools to speak directly with students about their life experiences. She would be a fly on the wall of classrooms and group settings. “There are so many details you pick up there that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”

    One student asked, “How did you approach making both a flawed and empathetic character?”

    Craig responded, “That was always the biggest challenge. I wanted to allow her to be every shade. In those moments where she’s being a jerk, you can sympathize with her because you remember the moments of pain.” As a writer, Craig was aware of these moments. In the actual shooting of the film, she tried to keep that balance at the forefront of her mind. She would have Steinfeld do takes on a spectrum. Each take would be a little more or less than the last but would give her many options for nuances at the editing room.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Craig for taking the time to speak to our students. “The Edge of Seventeen” is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD.

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  • NYFA Alumnus Hayden Szeto on Acting in “The Edge of Seventeen”

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    If’ you’re looking for a critically acclaimed bitter sweet comedy to watch over the holidays, be sure to check out “The Edge of Seventeen,” starring Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, and New York Film Academy alumnus Hayden Szeto.

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    “The very first few hours on set I remember being extremely starstruck, however, this wonderful cast demystified themselves very quickly,” said Szeto, about his experience working with such a talented cast. “Major props to our director, Kelly Fremon Craig and the legendary James L. Brooks for creating such a close-knit-family feel on set where we felt safe.”

    “The Edge of Seventeen,” which is reminiscent of John Hughes classics such as “Sixteen Candles” and “Breakfast Club,” earned first time director Kelly Fremon Craig a New York Film Critics Circle Award.

    In the film, Szeto plays Erwin, the lovestruck classmate of Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld). Throughout the movie, Erwin tries to pursue Nadine in a variety of ways which elicits very awkward and hilarious situations.

    “I remember being on set the first day and saying to myself ‘Thank goodness I went to film school.'” recalled Szeto. “They say a little kindness goes a long way in this industry and it’s very true; one thing I take away from NYFA is appreciating the crew on both sides of the camera and understanding how much a film set is an ensemble piece where nobody has superiority over anybody. We are a team. Combining the knowledge of teamwork and my education at NYFA, I was not afraid to ask questions or try new things on set. It has made me fearless and allowed me to do my job more efficiently.”

    Sezto says his character is a ‘revolutionary role’ written for Asian Americans. “I’m so honored and blessed to have been given this opportunity to represent a voice that is often silenced,” he added.

    “The Edge of Seventeen” is now playing in theaters.

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    December 15, 2016 • Acting, Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6813