“A Girl in the River” has been nominated for three Emmy Awards, including Best Documentary and Best Documentary Short. The HBO documentary was edited by New York Film Academy’s own Master Class Lecturer and Curriculum Advisor Geof Bartz.
Directed by Sharmeen Obaid, executive produced by Sheila Nevins and Tina Brown, and produced by Lisa Heller, the film follows the story of one woman who survived an “honor killing” attack in her native Pakistan.
Geof Bartz is Supervising Editor of HBO Documentary Films. “A Girl in the River” marks Geof’s 12th Emmy nomination (with five prior wins). The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject, which marked Geof’s fifth Oscar, and director Sharmeen Obaid’s second. It’s an incredible awards season journey that, perhaps even more remarkably, has made a real-world impact.
“First they won the Oscar,” observed NYFA New York Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift. “Then they won the DuPont. Now, the Emmy nomination. Yet the most important and satisfying part of all, is that ‘Girl In The River’ actually inspired the Pakistani government to reconsider their laws.”
The New York Film Academy will hold a master class with Geof Bartz in early August that will include a special screening of “A Girl in the River.” The film will also serve as a jumping-off point for student instruction and exploration.
“We’re all looking forward to watching the movie with Geof and discussing the intricacies of creating Oscar-worthy docs,” noted Andrea Swift.
New York Film Academy alumni Susana Matos and Javier Colon have just finished their latest film “Yo soy un Politico” (I am a Politician). The film is about Carlos, an ex-convict looking for a job where he can make a lot of money without putting in a lot of work. After discussing it with his cellmate, they decide that the only job that fits that description is governor of Puerto Rico.
The filmmaking duo presented their film at the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus on Saturday, March 4. The film will also screen at the Chicago Latino Film Festival and the San Diego Latino Film Festival. It will begin airing on HBO starting this September 2017.
We had the opportunity to talk to both Matos and Colon after the screening to get more insight into how the film came about.
Tell us about what drove you to make “I Am a Politician.”
Susana: Javier’s first movie was titled “I am a Director.” When he produced that movie, there was an ongoing conversation about how to make a trilogy of these I am… films. The character could be a different profession every time. It could be “I am a Regueton Artist,” “I am a Doctor”… so when the election year rolled around we settled on “I am a Politician.” I wrote the first 25 pages as a draft to motivate Javier into doing the film and he liked them so we finished the script… and began working on preproduction.
Was this a collaborative effort in terms of writing and directing? Were you both writer/directors on this film or did you have different roles?
Javier: It was a collaborative effort. The Idea for this film was on the drawing board since I shot my first film I am a Director. I didn’t really want to do a sequel to that film but Susana began throwing ideas around for this story. One day she just sat down and wrote 20 something pages, I liked them so we finished the script together.
Even though I have the directing credit on the film, Susana was a very big part of the directing process and decisions during the shoot. And beside being a writer, she was one of the producers of the film.
How were you able to raise funds to produce this film?
Susana: With Javier’s first feature film “I am a Director” he got distribution from Starz, Sundance, Canal +, and Croatia. Thanks to his reputation with the 1st film, we were able to raise funds through private investors.
How did the meeting with HBO come about? Can you tell us a little bit about that process of selling your film
Susana: With the first feature, Javier acquired a sales agent. He was very interested in our future projects. In 2015 we went to Argentina for a Film Market, and we told him our idea; he loved it and signed a sales contract with us. He shopped the film around and sold it To HBO
Talk about audience reactions to the film? Is the reaction what you expected or was it different? How?
Susana: We are so pleased with Saturday’s screening at the New York Film Academy. We had a full house! It was the first time we had so many people watching the film whose first language was not Spanish and we were happy to hear them laughing.
Javier: We definitely did not expect that many people to come watch our film and laugh as much as they did. It’s a comedy with subtitles, so we weren’t sure if English speakers would understand the humor, but based on the comments we received after the screening, seems like they really enjoyed it.
What was the message you were trying to leave for the audience in this film?
Javier: When we began writing this film, we knew we wanted it to have a positive message. Susana’s favorite directors are Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In the style of South Park, we wanted to create a satire with a message. The message in I am a Politician focuses on not waiting for politicians to fix our problems. We all should be part of going out there to make a change.
What was the biggest hurdle in completing this project?
Susana: The biggest hurdle is taking on a film with a very limited amount of money. So many people helped us because they believed in us but I would have loved to pay people well for the work they put in. Which is why we always like to take the time to thank our crew and cast for being a part of this project.
What are you most proud of in this film?
Javier: The HBO sale is the first thing that comes to mind, but, also, whenever we watch a screening of the film and I hear someone laugh. It amazes me that I wrote and created something that makes people laugh.
Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to create this film?
Javier: I actually took a digital course in filmmaking in 2002 in New York. At that time my plan was to be an editor, NYFA help me realize that what I truly wanted was to be a director and tell stories. Im 100% sure that if it wasn’t for that small course, first I wouldn’t be in the situation that we are right now, and most importantly, I wouldn’t have met Susana
Susana: The NYFA filmmaking course helped me develop my skills as a director and for me the greatest asset was the people I met on the program. My classmates are still part of my work.
What’s up next for you guys?
We’re working on getting the funding for our next project, “Who Cares?,” a road trip dramedy with the tone of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” Our goal is to begin pre-production at the end of this year.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Susana Matos and Javier Colon for taking the time to discuss their work. You can learn more about this dynamic duo on Facebook.
This past Friday, Dec. 9th, the New York Film Academy’s new theater at 17 Battery Place hosted Kim Cattrall for an exclusive Q&A with Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby and Chair of the Department of Contemporary Photography Ralph Gibson.
While known by an entire generation for her role as Samantha Jones in the HBO hit series, “Sex and the City” — for which she received five Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations, winning the 2002 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress — some in the audience were surprised when Cattrall admitted, “I’m not like Samantha at all, but I’d like to have some of that.”
Cattrall has starred in many popular films such as “Porky’s,” “Police Academy,” “Big Trouble in Little China,” “Mannequin,” “Masquerade,” “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” and “Ice Princess.”
Aside from her film and TV career she also starred in the 1986 original Broadway production of “Wild Honey,” as well as staged productions of “Antony and Cleopatra” at the Liverpool Playhouse, “Private Lives” on Broadway, and “Sweet Bird of Youth” at London’s Old Vic. Since 2014, she has starred in her passion project, the HBO Canada series, “Sensitive Skin,” which she is also an executive producer on.
Cattrall eloquently elaborated on her long career in show business and gave an abundance of advice on the craft of acting. She also discussed the challenges of her new endeavor as executive producer of “Sensitive Skin,” which she says has a cadence to it that feels very British. Having been involved with the arduous process of bringing the show to life, Cattrall feels she now knows what it’s truly like to be an executive producer. “Don’t assume that everybody is on the same page,” she says. “There is a clear path to inviting people into your story.”
Like many of the students in the audience, Cattrall’s dream coming out of high school was to go to New York to study theater. “It was a chance to experience living in others people’s shoes,” said Cattrall, who grew up in a middle-class Canadian family. Trained in Stanislavsky, Cattrall says, “Every line I’m trying to get something from the other person. I know when I land a moment.” She did add, “What makes my job easier is a good script. That’s why I like to do Shakespeare.”
While many artists seek perfection in their work, Cattrall admitted, “There are always going to be glitches. You can’t hold onto perfection. You will learn more from when you fail than when you succeed.”
When asked by Ralph Gibson how she sees the camera, Cattrall said, “The camera is always connected to the cinematographer, so I always flirt with the cinematographer. I try to make the cinematographer be somebody who I can possibly be in love with.”
For acting students going on auditions, Cattrall remembered the advice she had been given, “Someone told me when I come into a room to audition that I should be auditioning them.”
The entire day was filled with golden nuggets of advice for actors and storytellers. Cattrall said she knows when she puts on a good show if the audience members are leaning forward in their chairs. Well, the entire hour talk had NYFA students leaning forward to listen to her captivating words of wisdom.
Mike Judge’s HBO comedy, Silicon Valley, which surrounds the lives of young computer programmers who head out to Northern California to succeed in technology, has been a wild success thus far. Now in its third season, those of us at the New York Film Academy may recognize Acting for Film Instructor Ken Lerner in a few episodes.
Ken Lerner, left, and T.J. Miller in “Silicon Valley.” Credit John P. Johnson/HBO
Lerner has been playing the character of Arthur, who is Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti’s Business Manager.
In addition to his teaching at NYFA, Lerner has acted in many major film and television productions, including his most recent appearance on the FX’s mini-series The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. He’s also appeared in The Mentalist, NCIS, In Plain Sight, Two and a Half Men, Desperate Housewives, Castle, Weeds, CSI, Without a Trace and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He has had over 40 film roles, including Unlawful Entry, The Doctor, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Running Man, The Story of Us, Immediate Family, Irreconcilable Differences and Project X. In addition to film and television, Ken has starred in productions at The Pasadena Playhouse and Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theater and off-Broadway.
“My experience in the industry seems to be the biggest factor in my ability to be trusted that I know what I am teaching them, especially about auditions,” says Lerner. “I constantly use my acting jobs as reference for my students’ learning.”
Mr. Lerner is just one of the many examples of how our students have the privilege of working with current industry professionals who can provide unparalleled insight into the business.
Filmmaking students from New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus gathered with family and friends at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood on Saturday, September 19th to receive their MFA, MA, and BFA degrees. There were two commencement ceremonies that occurred at 2pm and 6pm, each completely filling the 400-seat venue. Presiding over the ceremony, speaking, and presenting degrees from the Filmmaking Department were Chair Art Helterbran, Associate Chair David Newman, and Associate Chair Ed Timpe, as well as Dean of Students Eric Conner, and Dean of Academic Advising Mike Civille.
Commencement Speakers Erik Bork and Peter Strauss gave words of inspiration and advice for the future. Erick Bork is best known for his work on the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon, for which he wrote multiple episodes and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team, and his blog Flying Wrestler for which he was named one of the “Top 10 Most Influential Screenwriting Bloggers” in 2014.
Since 2001, Peter Strauss has served as Executive Vice President of Mandalay Pictures (Sleepy Hollow, Donnie Brasco, I Know What You Did Last Summer). Before that he presided as EVP and Director at Allied Artists Pictures Corporation (Cabaret, Papillion, and The Man Who Would Be King), EVP at Rastar Films, President of Panache Productions Inc., and President, CEO and Chairman of the Board at International Movie Group Inc.
The graduates and their guests celebrated afterwards in the stylish party atmosphere of the Andaz Hotel’s Riot House Restaurant on the Sunset Strip.
Congratulations to New York Film Academy’s MFA, MA, and BFA Filmmaking Graduates!
Seung Hoon Han
Amber Darlene Hayden-Gardenhire
Chantal Le Hunte
Kah Kai Liew
Oliver Ernesto Olivo Batista
Alvaro Ortega Sanahuja
Stjepan Ostoic Papic
Javier Salvago Escalera
Juan Sebastián Sarmiento Bazzani
Carolina Mejia Lartilleux
Mariana Robles Thome
Jose Guilherme Correia Jr.
Fernando de Oliveira Haddad
Brooke Marshal Hagen
Oscar Ferid Hasbun Alcala
Pierre Beaufrand Mendoza
Kamala Khanna Chittoor
Daniel Frank Demenezes
Joaquin Fernandez Martin
Markel Goikoetxea Markaida
Lyndall Eileen Klinkert
Adesola Ibrahim Omidina
Carla Roda Gomez
Shobi Nadeesha Chamini Seneviratne
Sophie Ellen Taylor
BFA in Filmmaking
Pedro Paulo Araujo
Maria Gabriela Cardenas
Bud Jones Jr.
Chi Shun Lee
Kwok Yaw Loh
Diego Mejia Lartilleux
Marcelo Rodrigues Barbosa
Brianna Flores Stanton
As Supervising Editor of HBO Documentary Films, Bartz says this film is “about one of the true heroes — and great characters — of the 20th Century.”
Larry Kramer is an author, playwright and activist who gave voice to the outrage and grief that inspired a whole generation of gay men and lesbians to fight for their lives. As co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Kramer’s activism forever changed the public health policy pertaining to AIDS.
Directed by Jean Carlomusto, the documentary originally premiered at Sundance in January 2015, and will have its TV opening tonight on HBO at 9 pm EST. From there, Larry Kramer: In Love and Anger will be available at HBO ON DEMAND and HBO GO.
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have been growing rapidly over the past few years. With such demand for streaming content, HBO doesn’t want Netflix to have all the fun.
The International Business Times reports that HBO will be launching their own standalone streaming service. The service now has a name, a prospective launch date, and a price.
The service will go by the name HBO Now. Scheduled to be available in April, just in time for the new season of the wildly popular Game of Thrones, the service will cost $15/month.
HBO has had a long-standing relationship with paid content, so it is no stranger to the business model. It also already has a streaming service in HBO Go. However, up until now, viewers had to have a bundled cable package to access the content. What sets HBO Now apart is the ability to access HBO media without having to sign up for any other channels you don’t want.
The company hopes to gain exposure with demographics that have no desire (or ability) to buy expensive cable packages, and those that just prefer to stream content on demand.
There are also talks that HBO will partner with Apple to provide access on Apple TV. This should not come as a shocker, as HBO Go is already an option for Apple’s streaming device.
With HBO’s extensive current lineup and history of in-demand series and films, this should prove to be a successful venture. And if nothing else, this yet again points to the change in how people consume their entertainment and media.
While networks are trying to jump on board the limited mini-series trend, HBO continues to lead the pack by green-lighting yet another mini-series that will depict the expedition of Lewis & Clark to explore the area west of the Mississippi River.
A start-studded team including Tom Hanks, Edward Norton, and Brad Pitt will lead the production of the series, but unfortunately you won’t be seeing them on screen. Casey Affleck will portray Meriwether Lewis and Matthias Schoenaerts will take the part of William Clark.
Joining the A-listers in executive producing roles will be Gary Goetzman, Dede Gardner, Tim Kelly, and Adam Leipzig. Edward Norton will also play a part in the screenwriting portion of the project, along with John Curran and Michelle Ashford. Curran will also be responsible for directing the series.
The series will be based on Undaunted Courage, Stephen E. Ambrose’s biography of Meriwether Lewis, published in 1996. It aims to provide a depiction of the American spirit, as well as the tragedies and human impact during the expedition.
This also marks Tom Hanks’ return to producing historical dramas. He was formerly a producer on series such as John Adams, From the Earth to the Moon, and Band of Brothers, the last of which was also based on a book authored by Ambrose.
The project is set to start filming this summer so we likely won’t see anything until 2016. And although the biggest names associated with the project will be off-screen, there’s still enough star power on-screen to make this exciting and potentially attract more big names to other roles.
Never the type of company to shy away from ambitious projects, Netflix announced this week they plan to launch up to twenty original scripted series a year, in a bid to acquire and attain subscribers. The show has so far had mixed but generally positive reception to their original content, including House of Cards, Bojack Horseman, and Orange is the New Black.
Netflix has previously announced plans to produce feature-length films for theatrical release and has made a niche for itself in bringing back fan favorite cult shows like Wet Hot American Summer and Arrested Development. Launching twenty new scripted series is stepping up their game to a whole other level, however.
Currently, cable networks like HBO and FX typically release only a small handful of new shows each year. Twenty is even a high number for the broadcast networks. The announcement was made during a Q&A at NATPE, the National Association of Television Program Executives, by Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, with the aim of reaching as broad as demographic as possible, providing something for everyone.
It remains to be seen whether the popular netcaster can live up to such a lofty goal. Even if they do pull it off, it’s hard to imagine any network creating consistent quality over such a large number of projects, but Netflix has defied expectations before. One of their next projects to stream will be a new late-night show with Chelsea Handler, who has promised something new and different from her previous effort with E!.
One of the most common approaches for actors to take on their character in a given scene is to ask themselves the five W’s: Who, what, when, where, and why. Such was the advice from our recent guest and star of Fort Bliss, Michelle Monaghan. Michelle, who recently starred in HBO’s True Detective, played the leading lady whose character returns home from an extended tour in Afghanistan and struggles to rebuild her relationship with her young son. “I couldn’t believe what an amazing role this was,” Michelle told to a full house of New York Film Academy students. “The script was near perfect and completely original.”
Our other guest, actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, known for playing Chris in the HBO hit The Wire, wholeheartedly agreed with Michelle in terms of the material’s originality. To them, one of the most important aspects of the film was its ability to inform the audience of the difficulties soldiers face when returning home from combat. The two of them went to the actual Fort Bliss to sink their teeth into the environment and ultimately film at the location. The film’s authenticity really shined on the screen.
Gbenga and Michelle were gracious guests, answering insightful questions from students and our moderator, Acting for Film Chair, Glynis Rigsby. Of all of the advice that was given, one that stood in particular from Michelle was in regards to the actor’s audition process, “If I can at least make a connection with the casting director, that’s a plus.” She added, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember, they want you to get that job. After all, they invited you.”
As for Gbenga, his wisdom was to not wrap yourself up into the business too much. “Do and value things outside this business.” His advice came after his years of experience, noting how stressed actors can become when their entire life becomes ‘the industry’. Indeed something to think about when embarking on such a strenuous and competitive field.
You can watch the Q&A in its entirety in the video below.