Photography students from the Los Angeles campus were on hand as the exclusive event photographers for the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles German Currents 7th Annual Film Festival, held last weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in the heart of Hollywood. Students shot the opening night event, workshops and screenings over the weekend. A sample of their images are below or checkout the link here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goethe-institut_los_angeles/
Thanks to July 2013 1YR students: Andrew Linga, Aric Coppola and Jimmy Rhodes; January 2013 MFA students: Nicole Campbell and Joseph Bornilla; January 2013 2YR student: Liam Hayes; and January 2013 One Year graduate Luc-Richard Elie. Great job everyone!
Jonah Hill has come a long way from his brief comedic appearance in the The 40 Year Old Virgin, to his Oscar nomination in Moneyball. His comedic presence and timing puts him at the top of his class, and yet his transition into more dramatic roles has been something to marvel. This week, the New York Film Academy was thrilled when Mr. Hill came in to speak with students and alumni. As a testament to his comedic timing, Jonah started the evening shouting,”I’m here! I’m here already!” as Eric Conner, the Dean of Students, introduced the actor who had already been sitting in the back of the room.
Jonah was in high spirits throughout the night, quickly acknowledging his true passion in life – making movies. He feels it’s what he’s been put on this Earth to do, and he encouraged the crowd to aggressively pursue filmmaking if they feel the same. “This business is so weird,” said Jonah. “If this isn’t the only thing you want to do in life, then leave the room and don’t do it. But if this is the only thing you want to do in life and can’t imagine doing anything else, then don’t worry about how much time it’s taking. It will happen in whatever incarnation it’s supposed to happen. But you have to just ‘make stuff’ constantly and don’t worry about ‘making it.'”
At a young age, Jonah wanted to direct, but says he was really bad in giving directions to actors. So, he took acting classes to find out how an actor would want to be given direction. As a result, he fell in love with acting as well. He studied Meisner in school, but admits he now uses a variety of techniques that vary from film to film. He also likes to improv, as long as it’s about the character and not to be funny. Jonah recalled his improved scenes with Martin Scorsese in The Wolf of Wall Street. “It’s so cool that new stuff can happen, that no one knew about ever, and that makes the reactions real – because they’re hearing it for the first time.”
In regards to the challenges he faces as an actor, Jonah said, “I think the most challenging part of being an actor comes from the days where something really bad is happening in your personal life. Let’s say some death or breakup or friendship thing – some personal thing that’s going on outside of work – and you have to show up that day and act and give your performance like none of that is happening.”
His journey through Hollywood grew as he managed to maintain friendly working relations with so many talented artists, namely Judd Apatow, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen. “You find the people who you’re creatively in tune with.”
Like most people, Jonah recognized how some would have assumed he, being the comedy guy, would be an odd casting choice as the second dramatic lead next to Brad Pitt in Moneyball. Typically, once you’ve successfully done one thing in Hollywood, most people will push you to do the same thing over and over. But, for Jonah, it’s important to make all kinds of movie. “I think I’m a product of two things: TheSimpsons and Goodfellas.” The Simpsons encouraged his taste in comedy and Goodfellas, the other side of things.
While admitting he was nervous talking about himself, Jonah was very appreciative of being able to speak in front of our students and his positive rapport was undeniable after closing on a standing ovation. He’s currently writing a movie that he plans on directing next year. His new movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, will be out in theaters on November 15.
Talent Manager Susan Zachary was our guest last night, arriving to a packed crowd of students in the Welles screening room at New York Film Academy Los Angeles. The moderator was Producer Tova Laiter, who just so happened to bring Susan to NYFA.
Susan started out working at a number of different jobs, including public relations, advertising for film, and working within the studios. From there, she produced several films. Then, about 11 years ago, she founded her own management company, where she definitely seems to have found her niche.
As a manager, Susan deals with the clients, talent, producers and goes through the breakdowns, which is a key element in the Hollywood casting process. “The management business is secure and predictable, compared to the life of an independent film producer.” said Susan. “It’s all about selling! Whether it’s a network or studio – when pushing talent – you’re always essentially in sales.”
So what makes a great manager? “An honest, communicative and persistent one. We always hear NO – a lot of reasons why an actor does not potentially work – so it all comes back to selling.”
In regards to what exactly managers look for in a client, Susan said, “We are very selective. You should ideally have a body of work, a reel, a resume, and be SAG eligible.” When asked by a student if there were any exceptions to this, as far as taking on new talent, she told the students that managers go to “The Leagues” (acting school showcases) every year, and on rare occasion 1-2 people will get signed.
She was realistic about the hardships of getting picked up by a manager without lots of experience, but also stressed how perseverance is key and encouraged the students to love, practice, and hone the craft of acting. Most importantly, find ways to make yourself stand out.
Here are some great tips she provided for our students:
Join casting director workshops
Make a reel
If you don’t have content for a reel, create it!
Do the ‘work’ – take acting classes!
Don’t sit around and wait
Treat acting like a job
Get recommended by someone
Make yourself marketable for the manager and be creative about it
Susan also stressed the importance of making and maintaining good relationships in the business. In the literary world, it’s important to be cooperative (take notes and directions when asked to change scripts) and the same goes for actors as well. While actors can get away with more undesirable behavior if they have pure talent, it is rare these days because of the state of the economy. Her final words of advice, “Auditioning is a job! You must treat it like one.“
This summer, the New York Film Academy summer camp students in Los Angeles were treated to a special guest appearance by Disney star, Sierra McCormick. We screened the most recent episode of her Disney Channel show, A.N.T. Farm, which is a huge hit with the tweens!
Sierra became interested in acting at the age of 8 years old, when she took an acting class at her school. Her acting teacher saw something in her and got the ball rolling from there. She landed her first role on the TV show, ‘Til Death. Now, at the age of fifteen, she’s already appeared in TV and film, with genres varying from comedy to more darker, dramatic roles.
“Working within the Disney family has been great!” said Sierra. “They treat you very well and really accommodate you.” She started with a small role in Disney’s Hannah Montana and is very fond of the character she plays on A.N.T. Farm, the super smart Olive.
When asked by a high school student, Lulu, what her favorite film genre is, Sierra answered, “Cerebral movies: including comedies, dramas, horror, and foreign films.” Pretty diverse for a young mind. She added that she likes roles that are challenging, empathetic, different from her real self – she loves strong female characters. In regards to auditioning, she says it’s very important for her to memorize lines, so that she is not distracted, and can focus on the acting. To calm her nerves, she’s changed her attitude, realizing, “I have nothing to lose.”
Being such a young actress, Sierra must balance her career and education. “It’s my main goal to go to a good college.” She gave example of plenty of “cool actresses” that have done so, such as Natalie Portman and Claire Danes.
With wit and poise, Sierra shows definitive signs of maturity. Her time away from the camera is primarily composed of “doing regular things” and surrounding herself with “grounded people.” Something that is dearly needed with a girl in her position. Sierra closed with these wise words of advise, “Don’t let yourself slip away. Hold onto yourself and your beliefs.”
On August 1, the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles welcomed Academy Award winning actor Martin Landau for a screening of Ed Wood (1994), followed by a Q&A between Mr. Landau and NYFA students.
Mr. Landau, 85, has worked on stage and screen for 60 years, appearing in films such as North by Northwest (1959), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and Tucker: A Man and his Dream (1988). His television credits include the classic 1960s show Mission Impossible and more recently, several episodes of Entourage.
Mr. Landau explained to students that he left his early career as a cartoonist to join 2,000 other applicants who auditioned for the Actor’s Studio in New York, ending up as one of only two students selected for admission (the other was Steve McQueen). Offering a history of the Actor’s Studio, Mr. Landau also described his instrumental role in creating Actor’s Studio West in Los Angeles, where he still serves as Artistic Director.
With such a rich history in the entertainment industry, Mr. Landau told stories of working with Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Tim Burton. He spoke candidly about the actor’s job, and explained that actors must always be observant of what is around them, making their daily lives a preparation for various roles. He demonstrated his own lifetime of observation by precisely impersonating Hitchcock, or by speaking with the Irish and Italian accents of his childhood friends. He said that only bad actors pretend to laugh or cry, and that instead, it’s the actor’s job to prepare and focus on the details and emotions of each character in each moment.
To that end, Mr. Landau encouraged students to enjoy the filmmaking process as it’s happening. He even showed that he still subscribes to this idea – when asked by a student which of his films was his favorite, Mr. Landau quipped, “Whichever film I’m working on now.” Wrapping up, he told students to reach for the stars: tired of seeing “robots…and more robots” in today’s movies, Mr. Landau convinced the young filmmakers in attendance that it was up to them to once again make movies about real people.
The NYFA students and staff in attendance were awed by the talent and humor of Mr. Landau, and appreciated his time and important advice.
Last week, the New York Film Academy in Union Square hosted an exclusive Guest Speaker event with Cinematographer, Ben Seresin. Ben has been a member of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC) since 2010, and the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) since 2011. He has worked on the films Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, World War Z, Pain & Gain, and more. With over twenty years in the business, Ben has worked with many of Hollywood’s top directors. Recently, blockbuster director, Michael Bay, has chosen to work with Ben on Transformers and Pain & Gain.
On Wednesday, NYFA screened Ben’s film, Broken City, an action thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. While the movie sounds like a big Hollywood film, Ben says he had to work on a bit of a low budget. He admitted having to film major scenes in the course of a day. His goal was to shoot the noir in a contemporary way and to make New York City feel more like a home, as opposed to the glorified movie set it is so often portrayed as. Ben also noted that Russell Crowe was the most technical actor he’s ever worked with. “He had a great sense of the camera.”
One of the topics of the conversation between Ben and moderator John Loughlin was overshooting a scene, or allowing oneself to get wrapped up in the mechanics of filmmaking while on set. “Having a safe option can potentially be damaging,” said Seresin. “Compromises can be made if you over cover a scene. It can then be edited in many ways.” Ben added, “There’s a mechanical element that can distract you from film making. It’s dangerous if you get caught up in the mechanics. You lose sight of what’s really important.”
His advice in avoiding this potentially damaging aspect of film making, “Try to stay detached. Be relaxed. Do not be stressed and trust your eyes.”
Ben hopes to diversify his upcoming projects as he loves exploring all genres of cinema. We look forward to seeing more great work from Ben!
On Tuesday, New York Film Academy in Los Angeles welcomed producer, Sean Daniel. Sean provided insight into the life of a producer, both independently and within the studio system. As President of Production at Universal Pictures for several years, he was integrally part of overseeing films such as Animal House, Sixteen Candles, and Blues Brothers, which was screened before the Q&A. Now, as an independent producer and current head of his own production company, Sean Daniel Productions, Sean has brought to life the successful The Mummy franchise, and has several films in development, including a Ben-Hur remake.
His journey to Hollywood began in 1970, when he received a scholarship to California Institute For the Arts, and just so happened to be first in his class for filmmaking.
After college, he applied for a P.A. position at Universal. From there, Ned Tannen, whom he spoke of with great respect and called a “bold studio head,” took him under his wing. He eventually became the youngest President of a studio (at that time) at the age of 34. “I read every script and wrote a lot of coverage,” said Daniel. “Ned liked my point of view. I watched all the dailies I could get my hands on, and eventually got my way onto projects.”
Later, Sean was asked by one of NYFA‘s producing students from Brazil, “What qualities must a good producer possess?” Sean’s response was simple, yet great advice, “One, you must love it. Two, You must not be in it for the money. Three, you must be incredibly stubborn. Four, you should be really skillful at dealing with people.”
It’s no secret that maintaining a career as a producer in Hollywood is a very difficult endeavor. Sean admitted that producing takes extremely hard work. Having been involved in many risky ventures, Sean left the students with these words, “It’s always a fight to get any movie made. At the end of the day, however, I love movie making.”
New York Film Academyacting instructor, Anastasia Coon is bringing her one-woman show, Gracie & Rose, to the Art of Acting studio in Hollywood as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The festival takes place in venues throughout Hollywood during the month of June, and promotes groundbreaking work in small venues. As Anastasia says, “A huge part of Fringe is the social aspect. You see a show, hang out with actors, and have a drink with them.”
In Gracie & Rose, Anastasia portrays multiple characters living in Wyoming in the 1950s. The character of Gracie has to deal with the intense demands of the land, caring for animals, and running a ranch. She also disguises herself as a man so she and Rose can be together.
Inspired in part by Anastasia’s time living on a farm in France, the play was cultivated over the past dozen years. “It’s a good story. Old-fashioned storytelling. And it’s a love story about living authentically by any means necessary,” she says.
While Gracie & Rose is not based on a specific true story, Anastasia says, “It’s based on true stories of women through our history that we never hear about.” In fact, there are many well-documented incidents of women living as men for various reasons throughout history – in Aboriginal communities, throughout the Middle East, and during the American Civil War. Anastasia continues, “Because we’re deprived of those stories, there are huge omissions in American history, the history of the Western states, and women around the world.”
This Tuesday, the New York Film Academy in Union Square welcomed long time professional cinematographer, Fred Murphy. Fred has worked on dozens of films and television shows, including: Hoosiers, Secret Window, Stir of Echoes, Fringe, and most recently, The Good Wife. Coming from a background in architecture, Fred found an interest in shooting short film pieces, which later developed into feature cinematography work. His career catapulted after his work on Heartland was recognized by the Berlin Film Festival with a Golden Berlin Bear in 1980.
Fred shared an episode of The Good Wife and several scenes from the film, Secret Window, starring Johnny Depp. He spoke about the “classic Hollywood style” that he tends to use as a templete for The Good Wife, and described some of the tricky shots from Secret Window. Some of the major differences Fred notices between film and television, “There are hardly any surprises in TV – whereas in movies – everyday is a different day. I learned in movies, there’s really only one camera. In television you have to come up with a lighting solution that allows for multiple cameras.”
Speaking in terms of the single camera rule, Fred recalled his work with Paul Schrader on the film, Auto Focus. Paul suggested they try going with two cameras on the shoot, but alas it just didn’t work.
On the whole, Fred gave students over an hour of insight as to his experiences on set of both television and film. In closing, Fred left students with simple, yet wise advice, “Just keep shooting.”
In the conference room with Erik Whitmyre, Co-Producer for NCIS: Los Angeles
Paramount Studios, the last major studio in Hollywood proper, moved into its current home in 1927. Paramount built its legacy as the home to legendary actors and directors including Mae West, W.C. Fields, D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, the Marx Brothers, and Claudette Colbert. Students entered the historic lot, walking past trailers and crew working on the hit TV show, Glee, before moving onto the Technicolor building. Working on projects for HBO and Marvel, Technicolor has the highest security for any post-production building in the world.
Inside the conference room, Erik Whitmyre, Co-Producer for NCIS: Los Angeles, spoke to excited students about all aspects of filming and post-production. He spoke about what makes an actor great, the importance of physical continuity (while being able to alter the emotional performance of his/her character), attitude on set, how the voice translates on film, and what makes a great close-up.
On the set of NCIS: Los Angeles
Students then visited the editing team, where Assistant Editor Eric Wilson showed them the latest episodes they were working on. Whitmyre explained the evolution of technology, the systems that editors had worked on in the past, and what they are working with now. Students also spoke with VFX Supervisor Robert Konuch. Along with Russell Welch and James Olney, the team had overseen the effects on CSI: Miami, and are now working with the NCIS: Los Angeles crew. Robert and the team were busy at work, adding snow to a winter scene shot in the desert. Before leaving the NCIS set, students got to take a visit to the set of NCIS headquarters.
The students ended their tour at the studio’s Bronson Gate, where Norma Desmond entered the lot in Sunset Blvd. Legend has it that the upper filigree was added to the gate after a throng of adoring female fans swarmed security and climbed the gate, trying to chase silent film star Rudolph Valentino!