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  • Art Imitates Life for Horror Film Director

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    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with 'Smiley' Director Michael Gallagher at New York Film Academy

    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with ‘Smiley’ Director Michael Gallagher

    Director Michael Gallagher attended summer camps at New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios campus 3 times as a youngster. He started making short films, music videos, and documentaries while in high school. Since then, he has started a wildly popular web series called Totally Sketch, which has over 850,000 subscribers on YouTube.

    During a recent guest speaker event at New York Film Academy, Gallagher shared his recently-released horror film, Smiley, which was released in theaters nationwide. He described how his experience with internet shorts helped prepare him for his first feature length film. “Most of the sketches I shoot are like little scenes,” he said. “It was like 110 sketches in a row.” Working with a tight budget, the indie film was shot in just 15 days, and the filmmakers were shooting as many as 8 pages of the script per day. But as Gallagher puts it, “Horror movies fit the low budget. You can do a lot more with a little.”

    Gallagher cast friends and actors with large YouTube followings to help build buzz around the film. To date, the trailer has racked up over 21 million views on YouTube. At just 23 years old, his first feature length film was about to be released in AMC theaters across the nation. Things were going well until users of the website 4Chan got wind of the film’s plot.

    Gallagher said he was going for authenticity when he decided to make 4Chan users the villains of his film. In an interview with Huffington Post, he said, “I anticipated a minor backlash of people leaving harassing comments online.” But he didn’t anticipate the website’s users posting his home address, his personal information, and leaving dozens of death threats on his cell.

    After interviews with the TODAY ShowInside EditionVarietyPaste (and the FBI), 4Chan users realized they were only giving him free publicity. Just as the movie was released in theaters nationwide, the threats disappeared.

    Much to 4Chan’s chagrin, we’re happy to report the Smiley DVD is now available for pre-order.

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    December 14, 2012 • Academic Programs, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6501

  • New York Film Academy’s Alumni Spotlight: Marshall Lewy

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    Marshall LewyWriter/director Marshall Lewy is riding the success of his film California Solo that was an Official Selection at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Writing for the Huffington Post, film critic Marshall Fine described it as “a touching drama… that gives that marvelous actor Robert Carlyle a great character part into which he can sink his teeth.” Total Film said, “An unexpected gem, Solo features a stunning central performance from Carlyle – perhaps his best since Trainspotting’s Begbie – and don’t be surprised if this turns up during the 2013 awards season.”

    “It’s about a British ex-rocker living in California who had some immigration trouble,” Marshall explained. “Robert Carlyle has a lot of friends who were like that. He knew a lot of those guys and really connected to the story. It was my dream to have him in it…. He’s a very generous actor…. I relied on him to bring a lot to the character, and he did, and so much more.” The film also features Danny Masterson and Alexia Rasmussen. Marshall, who graduated a short-term filmmaking program at New York Film Academy and now teaches at the Universal Studios campus, also wrote and directed the 2007 romantic comedy Blue State, starring Breckin Meyer and Anna Paquin. California Solo is his follow up film, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

    “[Sundance] is a pretty amazing place to premiere a film,” says Marshall. “I had been before but never with a movie. It’s fun to hear the reaction of such film-loving crowds.” His wife surprised him, showing up to Sundance with their 1-month-old daughter, Beatrice, who joined him on stage to introduce the film. “I got to introduce my two babies! I like to tell people that I spent 2011 pregnant with two babies,” he joked.

    Marshall attended New York Film Academy’s NYC campus in 1998. He recalls, “It was my first time with a film camera…. It was my first immersion in shooting. It was something I always wanted to do and it was a really great experience.”

    He went on to get his MFA from Columbia and began teaching at New York Film Academy in 2008. Of his teaching, he says, “Students can be really inspiring. It’s really fun to go into a classroom and talk about ideas and the most basic elements of filmmaking. It reminds me what’s really important about the craft of it.”

    In addition to teaching classes in directing, screenwriting, and directing for actors, Marshall is currently working with Peter Sarsgaard on an adaptation of the book Born to Run. He is also starting production on a film he wrote called Exodus, writing the screenplay for a project called Santiago, and pitching a TV show.

    California Solo will be playing festivals in Nashville, Cleveland, and Philadelphia in the next couple weeks, and Marshall’s team is in the process of closing a U.S. distribution deal. You can keep up-to-date on the film’s news by visiting the Facebook page.

    California Solo

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    March 28, 2012 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5707