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  • 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: 1022

  • New Indie Comedy “Teacher of the Year” Comes to NYFA

    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailTeacher of the Year
    This week New York Film Academy Los Angeles gathered to watch the new indie comedy Teacher of the Year and participated in a Q&A with the movie’s writer/director Jason Strouse and lead actor Matt Letscher. The event was moderated by Tova Laiter, who has producing credits on such films as Varsity Blues, The Scarlett Letter, and Cop and 1/2.

    In a mockumentary fashion, Teacher of the Year depicts the honest efforts of a well-meaning teacher, surrounded by an eccentric faculty at Truman High School, as he grapples with whether he should accept a lucrative California Teacher of the Year award, which would mean leaving his job and abandoning the students he cares so much about. The movie was funny and played very well to the students who concluded its the kind of Indie movie they would like to make.

    Teacher of Year Director

    Jason Strouse (left) and Matt Letscher (right)

    Jason Strouse began his writing career on NBC’s Caroline in the City and appeared regularly as a stand up comic before ditching it to become a teacher in L.A. He directed The Audience that premiered at the Palm Springs Short Film Festival. Teacher of the Year is his first feature film. Matt Letscher was most recently seen as “Charles” in the Academy Award nominated Her. His extensive film/TV credits include Scandal, The New Adventures of Old Christine, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Criminal Minds, and Entourage. He currently recurs on the final season of Boardwalk Empire as Joe Kennedy and on Castle.

    Writer/director Jason spoke about his roots in TV comedy show writers rooms and doing stand up comedy. The dynamics of both are very similar. He said that TV comedy writers are the funniest and smartest people you will meet, and keeping up with their witty banter in the room is quite a challenge. The writers room is where the magic happens. If your goal is write for TV, you should try to get in the room at all costs. Jason started out as a writer’s assistant, his talents were soon apparent to the writing team and he replaced a staff writer who couldn’t cut it. Later after having worked in the industry, Jason transitioned into teaching high school and works as a principle as he continues to write, produce, and direct. His teaching experience is what inspired Teacher of the Year. He used the mockumentary style to utilize his resources and tight shooting schedule to the greatest effect. The result is an outrageously funny and touching film coming from a truthful place.

    Actor Matt Letscher spoke in depth about the actors process. He discussed the differences between theater and film acting—which he describes as an “acting out” (theater) as opposed to “letting the camera in” on what’s going on inside the actor (in film). However, regardless of the acting style, the process of breaking down a script and understanding the reasoning and motivation behind every action is always the same. He believes acting is just like carpentry or any other craft, and your skills improve only by “doing the work.” Matt carried a massive notebook around with him on the set of Teacher of the Year, filled with his own notes about his character and the story, and would delve into it every moment he got in between shots and takes. When he worked early in his career with Anthony Hopkins, he saw a similar scenario with Hopkins making notes on every paragraph of his script.

    Jason and Matt stayed after their Q&A to mingle and take pictures with students. We sincerely thank Jason Strouse and Matt Letscher for visiting NYFA, and wish them the very best in their future filmmaking ventures!

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    October 17, 2014 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6359

  • Financing Your Indie Film and Developing an Audience

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    Rohit Gupta is a Mumbai native who came to the United States over 12 years ago. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Rohit didn’t have “the slightest idea about filmmaking” until he joined the New York Film Academy  for a 4 week film workshop. Realizing his passion for the craft, he extended his stay and enrolled into the one year conservatory program. Rohit was an MBA graduate who came from a family of entrepreneurs. He decided to take his shot in an “unstable” industry and fell in love. The film assignments he was working on for classes became inspiration for later works. Another Day, Another Life was shot in seven hours, edited on his laptop, and completed on a $100 budget. His first feature film Life! Camera Action was shot in ten days with a two member crew on a Panasonic DVX 100. Rohit has claimed that his rounds on the festival circuit, including the Short Films Corner at Cannes, has resulted in over 100 awards and accolades internationally. Talk about independent success on a micro-budget!

    As an independent filmmaker, Rohit has compelling views on cultivating an audience and working with financiers to distribute your film. Rohit credits his success to his drive and ambition. He has an optimistic outlook in a field with many pitfalls and setbacks. “There is nothing more or less to it than just doing it now. With pure excitement, love and compassion in your heart, all will fall in place magically.” For any aspiring filmmaker, the most important thing is to keep an open mind. He advises current students to think of the possibilities, explore them, and figure out what they ultimately want to do. “The fun is to create something with what resources we have on-hand than worrying about what we don’t.”

    THE AUDIENCE. Speaking with other filmmakers from all over the world, the anxiety is the same. “What is the audience going to like?” Rohit is critical of those who worry too much about the audience’s reception of the product–to the point that it affects the process of creating the product. The audience, he says, won’t know what they like “until they see it.” Some worry too much about audience expectations that there is a choke hold on creativity and productivity. Many aspiring filmmakers say their biggest hurdle is the lack of resources. Rohit believes with technology at our fingerprints, everyone is able to do what they want. Find opportunities everywhere. How you take advantage of the resources at NYFA is solely your initiative in the end. As he says, “No one is to be credited or blamed but yourself.”

    FINANCIERS AND THE REAL INVESTMENT. “It’s not the creativity that needs to chase the finance, it’s the other way round!” Don’t waste your time with financiers if they don’t step up after your first meeting. Never give up your creative control just because someone is investing in your project. Be committed to execution without financial pressure. Unless you do this, you won’t know what you like about what you do and why. Only when you feel strongly about the work will your audience connect. This is the definition of success. Asking for advice from those who never made a feature film is a great way of finding reasons for not doing it. Learn from and collaborate with those who’ve objectively achieved a level of success that you can relate to. There is nothing like being original. If you try to make everybody happy, you will lose yourself. In the end, if you are happy, then everybody around feels the energy and, in turn, feels happy, too. It’s just like doing everything else. There is no mantra to it. Learning is a constant phenomenon and the beauty is no amount of learning will ever be enough.

    What do you think about Rohit’s views? Tell us if you agree or disagree with him on Twitter! And if you want to find out more about the filmmaking program, please request info here!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail