michael gallagher
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  • Where Are They Now? Spotlight On New York Film Academy Summer Camp Alumni

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    Long before the final school bell rings every year, kids and teens around the world are dreaming of a camp where they can do what they love all day, every day. At the New York Film Academy, camp means storytelling in the visual and performing arts. Since 1996, the visual and performing arts stars of tomorrow have found their way to NYFA, where we’ve welcomed thousands of young artists, performers, filmmakers, and designers from all over the world at our many international locations. Our campers collaborate with working industry professionals while creating their own original art, and the creative excitement can last a lifetime.


    Even after summer ends and our campers go home, many take their passion for the visual and performing arts to the next level as they forge their own pathways as rising artists. Check out these incredibly inspiring stories from some of our NYFA summer camp alums.

    Aubrey Plaza

    Made famous by her breakout performance as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation with Amy Poehler, Aubrey Plaza, attended film camp at NYFA — and even returned to the school as a Guest Speaker in 2015. Since then, she has skyrocketed from success to success, going on to astound audiences with her riveting performance as Legion to winning an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature for Ingrid Goes West in 2018.

    Lily Buchanan


    Child actor Lily Buchanan recently had a starring turn in Syfy’s dark comedy series, Happy!, a dark comedy series that stars New York Film Academy Guest Speaker Christopher Meloni. The young actress has also stolen scenes in 2018’s Real Love and The After Party.

    Eve Hewson


    Eve Hewson may come from a famous family, but the daughter of U2 rock star Bono has carved out her own space in the entertainment industry through hard work and talent — which she honed in NYFA’s summer camps for acting! Since her studies, Eve has acted opposite Sean Penn and Frances McDormand in This Must Be the Place, opposite James Gandolfini in Enough Said, and opposite Clive Owen in Steven Soderbergh critically acclaimed series The Knick.

    Michael Gallagher

    New York Film Academy summer camp grad Michael Gallagher started out making hundreds of shorts on YouTube channel TotallySketch before going on to realize his dreams as a director. His directing credits include TV mini-series Interns, How to Survive High School and The Station. He’s also produced films Smiley, The Thinning, and Internet Famous. Despite being so busy, Gallagher found the time to return to NYFA as a Guest Speaker for a special screening of his film The Thinning in 2016.

    Bex Taylor-Klaus

    An alum of NYFA’s filmmaking camps, Bex Taylor-Klaus now stars in the hit MTV TV series Scream — though savvy viewers may also recognize her from her appearances in popular shows like House of Lies, The Killing, and Arrow. And if you listen closely, you’ll be able to tell that Bex also voiced the character of Katie “Pidge” Holt in Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender.

    Jonathan Morgan Heit

    After attending NYFA camps both as a kid and a teen, Jonathan Morgan Heit has gone on to great fun as the voice of Disney Junior’s Cubby and in commercials for Comcast, Zales, Dodge, Wal-Mart, Publix and Barilla Pasta. But you’ll also recognize him from TV smash hits including How I Met Your Mother, ER, and Close to Home, as well as films films Disney feature In Search of Santa Paws, Date Night, and Valentine’s Day.

    Pati Amoroso

    After wrapping up NYFA’s musical theatre camp in 2010, Pati Amoroso starred as Sophie in Brazil’s production of the Broadway smash hit Mamma Mia! And in 2018, she is expanding her work from stage to screen, with production of first pilot, Don’t Dig.

    Learn more about NYFA’s many summer and youth camp offerings here.

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  • NYFA Alumnus Michael Gallagher Returns to Screen “The Thinning”

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    On December 16, YouTube pioneer and NYFA alumnus Michael Gallagher screened his latest film, “The Thinning.” Following the screening, Eric Connor led a Q & A with Gallagher.

    michael gallagher

    Connor was Gallagher’s TA when he attended the NYFA Filmmaking Summer Camp when he was just thirteen. He made a film where Connor was chased around the “Jurassic Park 3” set. Using forced perspective Gallagher used a toy dinosaur to chase Connor around the set. It was in this moment that Connor knew Gallagher was special.

    Since then Gallagher has made hundreds of shorts, started the YouTube channel TotallySketch, directed the television mini-series “Interns,” “How to Survive High School” and “The Station,” and produced three films; “Smiley,” “The Thinning,” and “Internet Famous.”

    “The Thinning” was inspired by the current political climate and Gallagher’s own fear of the SAT’s. In the film high school students are required to take an aptitude test. If the student fails they are killed. When two students discover the results are predetermined they’ll do anything to reveal the truth.

    One student asked, “What were some of the things you did to advertise your earliest work?” When I first started I knew you only get so many favors. I knew the first thing that the first thing I asked, I knew it had to count. I went in with my first video. I planned it out and made this attack plan and I just carpet bombed everyone I knew asking, ‘If you ever do one thing for me promote this video.’”

    Gallagher also targeted video sharing sites like Reddit and IAmBored.com. He posted his video on viral threads. Gallagher also found websites centered on themes or items featured in his video. He reached out to administrators and asked for his work to be featured. “You just have to be creative,” Gallagher said.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Michael Gallagher for taking the time to come speak with our students. You can support Gallagher’s work by visiting his YouTube page and hitting the thumbs up. “The Thinning” is now available on YouTube Red.

    UPDATE (June 6, 2019):

    Michael Gallagher’s latest film, “Funny Story,” is now available to rent or buy on iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, and more! The film features critically-acclaimed performances from Emily Bett Rickards, Matthew Glave, Jana Winternitz, Pete Gardner, and Reginald VelJohnson.

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    December 16, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5303

  • NYFA Summer Camp Grad Michael Gallagher Releases “Internet Famous”

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    Michael Gallagher began his filmmaking as a Freshman at New York Film Academy’s high school summer program. Whether it was a comedy about a dinosaur with bladder issues or a movie about a prison-bound sea captain (shot entirely in French!), no idea was too out there for his imagination.

    internet famous

    Over the next few years, Michael returned for NYFA’s advanced summer programs and continued making films on his own. Before he even finished high school, Michael had directed Oscar-nominated Michael Lerner and won numerous awards himself.

    Soon after high school, Michael began the comedy site “Totally Sketch,” which currently tallies 1.2 Million “Beautiful” Subscribers (Michael’s own words) and over 400 MILLION VIEWS!

    As Michael explained,  “When we first started, people (on YouTube) were just turning on WebCams. I thought I’d take what I learned at NYFA and take a more cinematic approach (to my comedy shorts).

    In 2012, Michael co-wrote and directed the horror feature “Smiley,” starring Caitlin Gerard, Shane Dawson and featuring Rogert Bart and Keith David.  (Link On ITUNES –  )  The trailer scared up more than 30 Million hits on youtube and introduced the world to the creepiest slasher’s mask this side of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”.

    Returning to his Internet / comedy roots, Michael co-wrote and directed the parody “Internet Famous,” now available on iTunes and streaming on Netflix. 

    Michael explained, “The movie is about five internet personalities who travel across the country to compete in a talent competition. The problem is – they don’t have any talent.”

    The mockumentary stars Shane Dawson and other internet stars who were more than happy to mock their corner of the Industry. “These are people I’ve worked with in the past. It was fun to bring them in to parody themselves,” said Gallagher. “Shane (in particular) wanted to take the piss out of what he’s doing and comment on all the people who he works (around).”

    A Maker Studios co-production, “Internet Famous” was one of the most highly touted projects at this year’s VidCon (the Comic0-Con for the YouTube generation!)

    But “Internet Famous” is more than just a series of gags, as Michael lets the characters’ emotional stakes never get lost in all the youtube mockery. “Even in Airplane, you care if they land the plane.”

    Gallagher is already gearing up for his next film “The Thinning,” which will be coming to a computer near you this fall.

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    August 9, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5231

  • 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