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  • Face 2 Face by New York Film Academy’s Matt Toronto Now on Netflix

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Instructor Matt Toronto has just signed a two-year deal with Netflix to stream his film Face 2 Face.

    Together with his brother Aaron, Toronto wrote Face 2 Face about growing up in the age of social media. The film screened at the Manhattan Film Festival and had its premiere at the Edmonton International Film Festival, where it won the jury award for innovation.

    The movie follows two teenagers, Teel and Madison, who rekindle a childhood friendship online. Soon, they begin sharing their lives over the internet as a means of coping with the typical problems of adolescent life even though they are at opposite ends of the popularity spectrum. Madison in an A-list party girl, and she takes pity on Teel, the social outcast, vowing to help him win friends on social media.

    As their relationship deepens, Madison falls for Teel. She forces him to confess the hidden cause of the bullying he faces. His admission sets off a sequence of events that ultimately motivates Madison to expose her own secret. This digital coming-of-age story examines some of the most pressing and difficult social issues facing teenagers today.

    The story was inspired by a vacation Toronto took with his family years ago. While directing a play at the University of Utah, Toronto would FaceTime his wife and kids every night before bed.

    “At one point, the thought struck me,” Toronto said, “If we were talking about something interesting, this could be a movie.” That was when he decided to write a movie that takes place completely over video chat.

    As a professor working with young people, Toronto saw the effects social media had on his students. “I was working with young people all of the time. I could see how they interact with technology,” he said. “Teenagers seemed like natural choices for the heroes of the film.”

    As he dove further into the script, he decided to reach out to his brother, a counselor who has treated many people struggling with the same issues that Madison and Teel face in the script. “Aaron was able to bring a real authenticity to the characters and their development,” Toronto said. “But one of the most important inspirations came from a close cousin of ours who suffered in much the same way that Madison does in the film. We made this film in her honor.”

    Face2Face | New York Film Academy

    Some of the issues that the film focuses on include bullying, sexual identity, suicide, and sexual abuse. Raising awareness was a vital part of the filmmaker’s goals, but Toronto described a realistic and honest portrayal of friendship as the true heart of the film: “The film is about the power that friendship has to help us change, to help us become better people, and to help others as well. I hope the movie will inspire people to be friends. We can all be better friends to anyone who needs one. That’s the kind of thing that changes lives.”

    Toronto credited his time with the New York Film Academy to opening his worldview. The diversity of the school’s student body, in particular, had a profound effect on him. “I learn every time I teach,” he said. “That diversity has brought new insights and perspectives that I might never have found. Each student expands my point of view on the world and on the craft.”

    As an Acting for Film instructor stepping behind the camera, Toronto was able to bring a lot of the lessons from his classroom to the set. “My experience as an actor and an acting teacher are both essential to my work as a director. Actors are the humans that give life to the characters in a script. My background allows me to participate in that process with skill and compassion. I see my actors as designers.”

    To any actors looking to make their debut behind the camera, Toronto offered this advice: “Learn the craft of directing.”

    Matt Toronto | New York Film Academy

    NYFA Acting for Film Instructor Matt Toronto

    As intense as it is to learn the craft of acting, it’s equally important to focus on the details of directing. Toronto warned that it takes years to master directing, but there’s no better time to start than now. “The best actor/directors are the ones that respect both crafts, and put in the effort to grow as artists and storytellers throughout the entire process and on every project.”

    Toronto is working on several new projects. He’s keeping it a family affair, working with his wife to develop three television pilots and a feature, and working on two features with his brother, Aaron Toronto. Though it’s thrilling to see his film as he scrolls through Netflix, Toronto says that hasn’t been the most rewarding part.

    “About a week after it was released,” Toronto began, “I got a message from a viewer through the film’s website. In it, she shared that she was a teenager struggling with depression. She had been planning to commit suicide, but after watching Face 2 Face, she decided she wanted to live. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Knowing that our film had helped someone in such a profound way is worth more to me than all of the artistic accomplishments in my entire life. That’s what art is all about.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Toronto on all of his hard work. Face 2 Face is now available on Netflix in the U.S.

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  • It’s Happy Hunting for New York Film Academy BFA Student Connor Williams

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    Connor Williams has truly hit the ground running in Los Angeles, not only booking a lot of professional work as an actor but also keeping up with his studies in the intensive New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA program in Acting for Film. It’s a schedule that would certainly prove challenging for anyone, yet Williams shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

    With his strong supporting role in feature horror flick Happy Hunting newly released on Netflix — along with his supporting role in indie feature The UnMiracle — Williams found some time to tell the NYFA Blog some of the secrets behind the hard work, dedication, and talent that go into the blistering pace of his life in acting for film.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film BFA program?

    CW: I had made a feature film heading into my senior year of high school. Relativity Film School reached out to me and offered me a full tuition scholarship, which was great, but I turned it down. I was just really unsure what I wanted to do after high school, and college was not in the plans. I then informed my parents of my plan that I was going to work full time in Utah (where my agent was located) and audition for smaller parts when movies came to town. They thought maybe I was making a mistake, so they asked me to reconsider. I called the school back about two weeks later to see if the scholarship was still good. They said it was, but in the meantime I had a buddy that was in my feature film Spoilers move to LA, and his place was right across the street from NYFA. I looked into NYFA, filled out the app, sent them my reel, and overall just had a better vibe with everyone at NYFA, so I decided to go there.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to pursue this craft?

    CW: I booked a commercial as a baby. …When I watched the videotape of the commercial years later, I told my parents I always wanted to be a actor. My dad did some networking, and two weeks later I had booked a part in a feature film. I was two-for-two for auditions! …

    When I was 10 years old, my dad realized he was waiting for people to do projects, so he paid for a two-day film camp. My brother Aidan and I learned how to shoot, light, boom, and edit. My dad would write these two-minute scripts for us, and we would do the rest. We won some awards, money, and prizes, which kept us motivated. From then on, I knew I wanted to make movies or act.

    3 semesters down. 6 more to go 😎

    A post shared by Connor Williams (@the_connor_williams) on

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or classes from your time studying with us so far?

    CW: The very first semester our class was obviously all new, and we rented a limo bus and took it around LA. That was fun. And I really enjoyed shooting an episode from Friends [in class]. Not only is it my favorite show, but I also worked with Isabella Hoffman, who is a great director, and did this with a bunch of my NYFA friends. It was a real fun shoot.

    Regarding moments, I have really clicked with a couple of teachers that really care about my auditions and want to help and guide me. That’s been pretty cool. We will break down the sides and make choices.

    I’ve always lived with NYFA students and it’s been great meeting people from all across the U.S. and abroad. I just got done with my voice-over class and just made a VO reel, which I’m really happy with.

    One other thing about NYFA classes: before I came here I had never taken an acting class, so this has really helped me understand the process so much better.

    My favorite thing about NYFA is all the connections I’m making. My classmates will always be my friends forever. I actually call them family.

    NYFA: You’ve been working professionally while also balancing your full-time studies at NYFA Los Angeles. What does that look like for you?

    CW: … At the beginning I would get an audition and go. Now, my manager and agent have my schedule and I ask them not to schedule an audition during class time. I can’t afford to miss class for an audition. You only get so many missed days and then your grade is dropped. I need to save those days for when I book something.

    NYFA: What is your advice to your fellow students for finding a balance between the intensive schedule at NYFA, and beginning to build your resume in the wider industry?

    CW: I would do the opposite of me. Just come here, do your school work, get involved, and learn the craft. The gigs will be there when you graduate.

    I would suggest that on the days off, go do background work on film and television. While on those sets, watch and listen, and when you go back to NYFA it will make a little bit more sense. Take it slow.

    Just by coming here, you will have an awesome reel before you leave. The talent here is crazy. Your game will go up just by being here.

    NYFA: Tell us a bit about your work in Happy Hunting. How did that project come about for you, and what was that experience like?

    CW: It was weird how fast that happened. I drove in from Idaho and had an audition set up for Happy Hunting through Actors Access. We get to LA with the car jam packed with all my junk, and we don’t have time to go to my new apartment and chill. We went straight to the audition. I remember thinking, “This traffic is insane and I really wish I had time to clean up and not so be rushed!”

    So I go in there, sign in and take a seat, and I really wanted to focus. Right when I sat, they call me in. I do my lines and they ask me to do it again. To me, that’s always a good sign. I leave the room tell my parents it went great, they remind me this is LA, not Idaho or Utah, and not to stress about it.

    We were finally driving to my new apartment and my phone rings. It was the Happy Hunting gang and they asked if I would turn around and read for a bigger part. I did, and I got the gig!

    I’m not sure what the record is but I feel like I have it: I was literally in LA less than 10 minutes before I booked my first feature film! We shot in Barstow and the Salton Sea. My part shot for nine days. What I didn’t know at the time was that the co-writer/director is Mel Gibson’s son, Louie. He just wanted to be one of the guys. I respect him for that.

    NYFA: Happy Hunting has just released on  Netflix — congrats! How does that feel?

    CW: It feels pretty awesome. …

    The UnMiracle with Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin is also on Netflix. I got that part by skyping my audition and a callback from my bedroom in Idaho, and we shot that in Chicago. I actually shot that while in high school, but it was held up for whatever reason and got released about six months ago.

    NYFA: What have you learned that has surprised you the most in your NYFA studies?

    CW: First off, the teachers care about us. They want us to succeed. I have a teacher that helps me all the time with my auditions. It’s intensive but fun.

    NYFA: Are there any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about?

    CW: The feature film Regionrat, where I play the lead, is now hitting the festival circuit. So far so good, as we just won the Chandler Film Festival for Best Feature! I flew out there for that. It has also won Best Feature at Barcelona Planet Film Festival, Festigious Film Festival and Best Ensemble at Festigious.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    CW: With Regionrat I have won Best Actor at the London Independent Film Awards, Festigious Film Festival and Stars Hollywood Film Festival. I was up for a fourth but didn’t win.

    I’m also up for Breakout Performer and Best Actor in a Feature at the First Glance Film Festival. Regionrat plays at that festival March 10 at 8 p.m. in North Hollywood. I guess I’m seeing what happens to me and this film … but I really think 2018 is going to be a great year for me.

    Congratulations, Connor! Thank you for sharing some of your story with the NYFA Blog.

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    February 23, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Entertainment News, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1322

  • “Mindhunter” Screening with Guest Speaker Happy Anderson at New York Film Academy

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    David Fincher’s critically-acclaimed Netflix series “Mindhunter” has been described by Slant Magazine as “addictive and resonant,” and features the work of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructors.

    In the wake of David Berkowitz (aka “Son of Sam”), Charles Manson and others, a new team within the FBI was formed to psychologically analyze the minds of killers. “Mindhunters” focuses on the early days of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) as its members struggle to understand the minds of serial killers, a term which had not yet been coined. The series stars New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Master Class lecturer Jonathan Groff, while veteran actor and NYFA instructor Happy Anderson is featured in two episodes of Season 1 in the chilling role of imprisoned killer Jerry Brudos.

    Jonathan Groff and Happy Anderson in a still from “Mindhunters,” via IMDB.

    This week, Anderson will return to NYFA’s New York City campus as a special guest in the New York Film Academy’s Guest Speaker Series, to share insights with students and discuss his career — which has included roles on acclaimed shows such “The Knick,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “The Deuce.” He will also be featured in “Bright” alongside Will Smith, which will be released December 22nd, 2017. Episode 7 of “Mindhunter,” in which Anderson guest stars, will be screened for students prior to a Q&A. NYFA Chair of Acting in New York City Peter Stone will be moderating the Q&A.

    “Mindhunter” has recently been renewed by Netflix for a second season which was announced in a tweet by the show’s official account:

    Watch the trailer for season one below:

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  • Special Screening of Netflix’s “Death Note” With NYFA Alumnus Jason Liles

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    This September, New York Film Academy alumnus Jason Liles was the second guest for the Alumni Screenings taking place the first Thursday of every month. After a screening of Liles’ latest work, Netflix’s “Death Note,” there was a Q and A. The creature actor is playing the indomitable Ryuk, who was voiced by Willem Dafoe.

    This is Liles’ first major motion picture and his enthusiasm for the craft of acting was tangible. He even stayed late, past the school closing, to speak with students about how to break into the industry.

    Chair of Alumni Affairs Gabriela Egito and Chair of Animation Craig Caton hosted the evening. They kicked off with the question on everyone’s mind, “What was it like in the Ryuk costume?”

    The outfit is skin tight leather, covered in sharp quills, and topped with bold purple hair. The costume came with a lot of restrictions. For one thing, common set etiquette requires crew yell, “Points!” when walking around with tripods, c-stands, or any object that could potentially impale another person. A common joke when Liles arrived on set was to yell, “Quills!”

    According to Liles, the quills were the heaviest part of the costume, but not the most challenging part. “Death Note” was filmed over the summer in Toronto. This was not exactly ideal weather in which to be covered head to toe in tight black leather.

    One student asked, “How do you, as an actor, take care of your health when you’re in the suit?” Liles gave a lot of credit to the makeup and wardrobe team, who he lovingly called “Team Ryuk.” At one point, a cooling suit was implemented: a system of tubes that run underneath the costume. The idea is that ice-cold water can be shot through the tubes to cool the performer down without taking off the costume.

    Keeping on the costume is vital to the filmmaking process. When they first began filming it took about an hour and a half to turn Liles into the god-spirit Ryuk. Before the end of production, Team Ryuk was able to get the costume and makeup done in about 30 minutes, according to Liles. Unfortunately, the cooling suit only worked once for five minutes.

    So, Liles was forced to manage his body temperature. The crew was helpful, setting up a cooling tent which was an air-conditioned reprieve from the summer heat. Cold packs were occasionally inserted into the suit between takes to help bring his body temperature down, which could reach over a hundred degrees. But it was staying hydrated that was the most important part.

    Getting the right amount of water was tricky. Since taking on and putting on the suit was a complicated affair, Liles had to strike a balance between staying hydrated enough not to die, but not so hydrated that he has to use the restroom every 15 minutes.

    But the suit wasn’t the only thing the NYFA community wanted to know about. Many were curious about how an actor can project through big costumes and pounds of makeup. Liles said in order to prepare for Ryuk, he watched the anime series and read the manga created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. But this was just the jumping off point.

    David Bowie and Prince were both wanted to perform the role of Ryuk before they passed, and director Adam Wingard wanted to use these musical geniuses as inspiration for the characters movements.

    The audition was a simultaneously grueling and joyous process. See, the audition was a movement audition. The single camera was mounted with a wide-angle lens. The script described movements such as popping in and out of the scene in poofs of smoke. “At first I thought, this is impossible,” Liles said.

    But he persevered, experimenting with different animal movements and eventually landing on a snake. He used his height to control the space. Sometimes he’d be crouching or slithering across the floor and then he’d stand up, his lanky body creating this skeleton-like creature. Liles even wore an all black leotard, employing his brief training as a mime, hoping the dark clothing would help him look more like liquid.

    The casting director was so impressed she told him immediately that he had done a great job and that she hoped he would be cast. Even so, he wasn’t sure he’d land the role. He recalled he had been close to being cast as the titular “Krampus” a few years earlier.

    “I was always so close,” he said, but his agent assured him he earned the part. “He told me the only way I wasn’t going to get the part is if I turned it down.”

    Liles had quite a lot of wisdom to dispense. He encouraged students to, “…be the CEO of your life. I stopped waiting for somebody to do something.” He told stories of making international calls to Australia to figure out who was casting “Alien V. Predator” because he wanted to be a xenomorph, and walking into casting agents office in Canada and asking for a part.

    “I never thought I would do this,” he shared. But Liles wouldn’t let fear stop him from pursuing his goal. “Just try stuff,” he encouraged the students. “There’s only so much prep you can do. When you get on set everything is going to be changing.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Liles for taking the time to speak with our students. Watch Liles in the movie “Death Note” on Netflix, and performing with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Rampage” as his best friend, an albino gorilla named George.

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  • MFA Acting for Film Grad Jongman Kim Appears in Judd Apatow’s “Love”

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    After being picked up for a third season on Netflix, Judd Apatow’s romantic comedy series, “Love,” continues to grow in popularity. The series reflects the complicated dating life of millennials living in Los Angeles. In the second season of the show, the main character, Gus, played by creator Paul Rust, winds up working on set with an erratic movie director from Korea, whose name is Victor. The actor, Jongman Kim, happens to be an alumnus from the New York Film Academy’s MFA Acting for Film Degree Program.

    jongman kim

    (left to right) Paul Rust, Jongman Kim, and Randall Park

    Kim has been in a few big studio films in South Korea and even had his own theatre company. However, he says it was when he saw Robert De Niro and Al Pacino‘s performances in film that he aspired to learn “true acting” in America. “People laughed at me because I couldn’t speak any English, and I said that I’m going to America to be an actor,” he said. “I had been acting for 15 years before I moved to NYC, but I couldn’t stand not knowing what true acting was.”

    Kim couldn’t speak English when he first moved to the city, so he first attended ESL school to learn the language.

    “I loved my experience at NYFA,” he said. “I had lots of beautiful teachers and actor friends in both NYC and LA. Meisner Technique changed my perspective of acting. Taking acting classes is really important to me. It’s like a gym for an actor to build his acting muscles.”

    Kim says he’s now being recognized for his work on the streets of LA. “It’s amazing that I started from not speaking any English and not knowing this country,” he said. “I broke my big Hollywood wall, so now I’m just going to keep moving forward.”

    Kim has acted in many short films and one independent feature film that will be released this year. One of his short films, “She Jang,” which he is a producer, co-writer and lead actor, was accepted into the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival. Kim is currently repped by the Jenny Stricklin Talent Agency and the Clover Company in Korea. He’s hoping to act in both Korea and the US.

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    March 31, 2017 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3979

  • Academy Award Nominated Producer Screens “What Happened, Miss Simone?”

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    As part of a joint collaboration between the Documentary and Producing Schools, the New York Film Academy welcomed back former NYFA instructor Amy Hobby to screen her Academy Award nominated documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?. Similar to the Academy’s motto, Hobby exemplifies what it means to be a “hands-on” producer. With a deep experience across a wide range of budgets, Hobby has produced films, documentaries, and television for over 20 years.

    neal weisman

    Amy Hobby with NYFA Producing Chair, Neal Weisman

    Beginning her career as a camera assistant and eventually a producer’s assistant, Hobby worked on Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, and My Cousin Vinny. From there, her career and reputation as a driven producer took off and she began working on Nadja, produced alongside David Lynch, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was quickly acquired by legendary independent distributor October Films. Next she co-produced Sunday, which won the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival, made its international premiere in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, and was showcased as part of New Directors/New Films at the Museum of Modern Art, among many other festivals and awards.

    Hobby then produced Hamlet with Ethan Hawke, Bill Murray, Sam Shepard, and Julia Stiles, which was distributed widely by Miramax. Her extensive list of credits continued to accumulate to the point where she was able to start her own production company, Tangerine Entertainment, alongside Anne Hubbell. Tangerine is a film production company with a focus on female filmmakers and strong roles for women.

    In addition to all of her work as a producer, Hobby currently serves as Vice President, Artist Programs at Tribeca Film Institute.

    The documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, began as an idea by RadicalMedia and was distributed by Netflix. The film focuses on the classically trained pianist, dive-bar chanteuse, civil rights activist and legendary recording artist Nina Simone, who lived a life of brutal honesty and battled severe depression. It was the initial footage from Radical that grabbed Hobby’s attention and made her want to produce the project with director Liz Garbus. As an admitted lover of archiving, Hobby said, “We spent four months doing archival research. We would discover something and say ‘maybe that’s the turning point.’ There never really was a script.”

    From there, Hobby and her team began digitizing hours of footage, creating a timeline, and securing the rights to use many of Nina Simone’s songs—which wasn’t an easy endeavor. Some of the early moments in the film of Simone as a child were recreated using 16mm and 8mm black and white film stock. The rest was archived footage and interviews.

    After two years of research, legal negotiations, production, interviews, and countless other production tasks, she and her team had a successful documentary to show. After Simone’s daughter was able to see the film she told Hobby that not only did she love it, but she was also now at peace with her mother.

    What Happened, Miss Simone? ended up premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and can now be streamed on Netflix.

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    May 13, 2016 • Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2439

  • Tony-Nominated Actor Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s Mindhunter Holds Master Class for Musical Theatre Program

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    The New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Program was honored to welcome Tony-nominated actor, Jonathan Groff, to a Master Class Lecture. Currently starring as King George III in the new Broadway musical Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, Groff has appeared in the Broadway rock musical Spring Awakeningthe critically acclaimed revival of Hair, as well as two Craig Lucas plays, Prayer for My Enemy and The Singing Forest. He made his West End debut in the revival of the play Deathtrap opposite Simon Russell Beale.

    jonathan groff

    Jonathan Groff, star of Broadway’s “Hamilton”

    As for the world of film, Groff starred in the first-ever screen adaptation of author David Sedaris’s work, C.O.G., in which he portrayed a character based on Sedaris himself, and as the voice of Kristoff in the Disney animated feature, Frozen. On television, Groff portrayed the recurring role of Jesse St. James in the Fox series Glee, and from 2014 to 2015, he starred as Patrick Murray in the HBO series Looking. In 2017, Groff has gone on to star as Holden Ford in Netflix’s Mindhunter.

    The event opened with an introduction where Groff spoke a bit about himself and his journey into the business. Hailing from Lancaster, PA and working a lot at the local Fulton Opera House, Groff decided to take a job on the non-union tour of Sound of Music. From there, he moved to New York City and waited tables for a while until his first big break into Broadway.

    The class developed into a workshop in which Groff coached six of our Musical Theatre students, and was totally impressed by their singing and acting abilities. He worked with each of them to find a different and more personal approach to each of their songs.

    groff

    “It was an honor to have such a well-rounded and admired actor spend his morning with our musical theatre department,” said NYFA Musical Theatre Creative Director, Kristy Cates. “He was patient and kind and gave incredible direction and advice. It’s extremely valuable for our students to see that someone who is so incredibly successful can still be humble and kind. He provided inspiration to our students…inspiration that will live with them for a very long time.”

    Groff ended the class with a question and answer session where he gave the sound advice to not compare yourself to others, to find a supportive group of friends in this crazy business and to continue to find new ways to be inspired.

    “I was so thrilled to find that the students at NYFA are as fearless as they are talented,” said Groff. “It was an honor and inspiration to work with them.”

    As you tell from the photos, it was a wonderfully inspirational experience for our musical theatre students and all involved!

     

     

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    February 5, 2016 • Guest Speakers, Musical Theatre • Views: 8842

  • Prolific Marvel & Sci-Fi Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski Visits NYFA

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     J. Michael Straczynski

    Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski

    New York Film Academy students gathered recently for a screening of the hit film Thor followed by a Q&A with its story writer Joseph Michael Straczynski.

    J. Michael Straczynski works in films, television series, novels, short stories, comic books, radio dramas and other media. Straczynski is a playwright, former journalist, and author of The Complete Book of Scriptwriting. He was the creator and showrunner for the science fiction television series Babylon 5, for which he wrote 92 out of the 110 episodes, and the four Babylon 5 TV movies produced alongside the series. From 2001 to 2007, he was the writer for the long-running Marvel comic book series The Amazing Spider-Man. He also famously wrote for Thor, Superman, the Superman: Earth One original graphic novels, Before Watchmen and Wonder Woman. In 2009, Straczynski was nominated for the BAFTA Award for his screenplay for Changeling starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastward. His new series, Sense8, for the Wachowski’s brother-sister team (Matrix) premiered in 2015. Producer Tova Laiter and NYFA’s screenwriting instructor Crickett Rumley moderated the Q&A.

    tova and Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski

    Screenwriting Instructor Crickett Rumley, Producer Tova Laiter and Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski

    Mr. Straczynski was an incredible inspiration to all writers in the audience. He discussed how writing was something he’s been doing since he was a boy and has continued to be a therapeutic process for him. In his dry sense of humor, his advice to young writers was to “write out the crap.” After chuckles from the audience Michael went on to seriously explain that the first couple scripts any writer produces will inevitably be bad. So you might as well accept the fact that you’ll only get around to writing better material when you get all that bad stuff out of your system. Michael advocates that to become a better writer you just have to write A LOT. Every script teaches you a lesson. The more scripts you write, the more lessons you’ll learn.

    What stands out most about Michael’s career is how extremely prolific he is. He related a story highlighting this strength which astounded students. Six years ago, the Wachowskis approached him to rewrite the script for the film Ninja Assassin. The only catch was that it was a Tuesday and they needed a rewrite by Friday as the film was going into production very soon. Michael said “OK,” went home and started the coffee machine. He calculated how many pages he would have to write per hour and slept three hours a day at his desk. Come Friday, however, he had a completely finished rewrite, and the Wachowskis were thrilled with!

    Sense8, a Netflix Original Series, is Mr. Straczynski’s most recent project that he created with the Wachowskis. The plot revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world who suddenly become mentally and emotionally linked. The show aims to explore subjects that its the Wachowskis and Straczynski felt science fiction shows, at least ostensibly, tend to ignore or skim through — such as politics, identity, sexuality, gender and religion. Michael penned every episode of the series. The Netflix has seen huge success inside and outside of the U.S.

    We sincerely thank Joseph Michael Straczynski for dropping by NYFA and wish him continued success with Sense8 and his future endeavors!

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    July 28, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 6680

  • PlayStation’s Original Content Powers On

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    powers

    Another day, another trailer. This one, however, for the new original series Powers, is a little different, and a sign of big changes ahead for the television industry. Powers, an adaptation of the popular graphic novels by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, tells the story of a familiar, realistic world filled with superheroes and supervillains, much like the NBC series from last decade, Heroes. Unlike NBC’s Heroes, however, Powers intends to be much darker, grittier, and bloodier, if the trailer is any indication.

    The season’s main antagonist, played by comic and TV/movie vet Eddie Izzard, oozes danger in the brief looks we get at him. He’ll be facing off against the show’s leads, police officers played by Susan Heyward and Sharlto Copley, who first won sci-fi fans over with his starring role in District 9 and is currently starring as the title character in Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie.

    However, the most remarkable aspect of Powers may be where you can watch it—exclusively on your PlayStation. The show is the first attempt by the video game console to create and stream its own original content, hoping to take a piece of the pie Netflix and Amazon have been stealing away from the traditional TV networks. It is a bold but savvy move, considering many cord-cutters currently stream Netflix and their other television through the PlayStation already. It’s safe to say the industry, from television writers to television producers will be watching Powers’ ratings closely. Judging by the trailer, a lot of fanboys and fangirls will be watching too.

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    March 11, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 2267

  • HBO Will “Now” Be Available Without Cable Service

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    HBO Now

    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.

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    March 5, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3192