Award-winning actress and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Instructor Ayelet Zurer is currently starring in Netflix’s newest binge-worthy hit. Shtisel is a innovative Israeli drama that focuses on a family of ultra-Orthodox Jews in a Haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem. The actress stars as Elisheva, a widowed mother who captures the heart of Akiva, a shy young man struggling with his father’s matchmaking efforts.
Zurer is a familiar face in films and television in both America and Israel. She has starred opposite Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons, Russell Crowe in Man of Steel, Ewan McGregor in Last Days in the Desert, and Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe in Adam Resurrected. Zurer also starred on multiple seasons of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix and In Therapy (adapted as HBO’s In Treatment). She received the Israeli Academy of Film (OFIR) Best Actress Award for Nina’s Tragedies, and is a two-time winner of the Israeli Academy of Television’s Best Actress Award.
The Hebrew-language Shtisel is making headlines for its honest and touching portrayal of a traditionally insular community. The New Yorker calls the show “generous, lighthearted, and nostalgic,” and says the show’s success is “the result of several powerfully understated performances, most notably by Ayelet Zurer in the role of Elisheva.” The New York Times was similarly complimentary, calling the show “groundbreaking.”
Though the show was originally screened in 2013-14, the show’s success on Netflix has been so impressive that its original creators are currently considering creating a third season. In addition, an American version of the show has already been sold Amazon by Marta Kauffman, one of the creators of classic 1990s sitcom Friends. The show, to be set in Brooklyn, will be titled Emmis.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Ayelet Zurer on her continued success and looks forward to seeing her future projects!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Fatima Al Taei stars in Justice, the procedural drama set in Abu Dhabi that is now available on Netflix. The 18-part legal series originally premiered on OSN HD in 2017 and is now available for streaming with subtitles in 20 different languages.
Al Taei first attended NYFA in 2009 in Abu Dhabi. Since then, she has gained steady work as an actress, including a lead role in When the Autumn Blooms, Saudi Arabia’s first longform drama series.
Justice (Qalb Al Adala) was created by Oscar nominee Walter Parkes (He Named Me Malala) and Emmy award-winning producer William Finkelstein (LA Law) and was filmed and produced in Abu Dhabi by Image Nation and Beelink Productions. The story follows a passionate lawyer, Farah, who rebels against her father’s firm and sets out on her own to become a defense attorney.
The series uses actual cases from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department as a basis for their stories, and was directed by Ahmed Khalid. In a recent Harper’s Bazaar Arabia piece, Al Taei’s character was called a “strong, ambitious” lead”—an important milestone for female representation on television in the Middle East.
New York Film Academy spoke with alum Fatima Al Taei about her experiences at NYFA and filming her culturally important lead role in Justice:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Justice?
Fatima Al Taei: When I was learning at NYFA, they made sure not to tie me into a specific technique—they taught us different ways to get into the character and it helped me in different situations during the shoot, being flexible and open yet focused and specific.
Also, they taught me how to deal with other actors and directors. NYFA was a lab for me, with great helpful tutors!
NYFA: Can you speak a little about your experience playing a strong, ambitious Emirati woman? Do you see yourself as a role model for other Emirati women?
Fatima Al Taei: It was a unique experience. We had the opportunity to shoot inside actual courtrooms, because all the cases are based on true events.
Playing a strong Emirati woman is the same to me as playing any “strong woman,” an inspiration for all women to follow what they believe in no matter what kind of pressure they may be under. So it’s not only for Emirati women, but for all women.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
Fatima Al Taei: NYFA will teach you so many things. You will be surrounded by people who have the same passion, which is good networking as a start.
But NYFA will not do the job you have to do—you have to secure your dream and make it happen. If it takes months or years, studying at NYFA won’t be a waste unless you give up. Many students disappeared after graduation because they didn’t have enough patience and didn’t want to get out of their comfort zone.
The industry is not much in interested in your specific acting techniques (these are your tools.) If the industry is interested in “You” they will work with you—your attitude and passion is important, so MAKE THEM WANT TO WORK WITH YOU.
The New York Film Academy congratulates actress and alum Fatima Al Taei on her success and encourages everyone to check out her legal drama Justice on Netflix!
A special screening of Netflix’s hit series, Medal of Honor, was held at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Theater in New York City last week, hosted by NYFA’S Division of Veteran Services (DVS).
Commissioner Loree Sutton MD (Brigadier General Ret.) of New York City’s Department of Veteran Services and Medal of Honor recipient Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.) participated in an unfeigned discussion with attendees after the screening of Episode 8, which featured the heroic story of Staff Sergeant Ty Cater, who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2013 for his heroic actions in Afghanistan.
Reflecting on the Medal of Honor experience from a personal perspective, Colonel Jack Jacobs, who has been the Chair of New York Film Academy’s Veteran Advancement Program since 2014, and is also an on-air Military Analyst at MSNBC/NBC news, answered questions from the audience along side the Commissioner Sutton.
NYFA Acting for Film alum Tyler Williams, who portrays Ty Carter in the episode, not only conveyed the authentic challenges service members face in their transition back from combat, but will be screening the episode with veteran students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus on February 11.
“A successful transition home is important not only to veterans, but the families and communities they return to,” asserted Commissioner Sutton, an Army psychiatrist and a fierce advocate in New York City for services that protect and empower returning service members.
Attendees engaged openly with the Commissioner Sutton and Colonel Jacobs in a series of questions that ranged from the philosophical (“Do you think that Plato was right when he stated that only the dead have seen the end of war?”) to the pragmatic (“How do vets leverage the skills they learned in the military if they want to work in film and television?”)
Both speakers believe the arts offered great opportunities for healing. Army veteran Justin Ford, a NYFA Filmmaking & Producing conservatory grad, enthusiastically stated, “It was a really great opportunity to hear Commissioner Sutton’s and Colonel Jacobs’ thoughts about the Medal of Honor, war, and returning home from the defining moment of many young veteran’s life—combat.”
The Netflix screening and special quest speakers made for a very moving and emotional evening, which was made all the more special by a touching and warm exchange of military challenge coins that passed reciprocally between Colonel Jacobs and Commissioner Sutton at the event’s conclusion.
New York Film Academy students can attend another screening of Medal of Honor at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus on February 11, with special guest Tyler Williams — you can RSVP for the event here.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Tyler Williams can be seen in the new Netflix series, Medal of Honor, a docudrama anthology series based on real life servicemen who have earned the military’s highest award for valor. It’s perfect casting for the Robert Zemeckis-produced series, as Williams isn’t just a graduate of NYFA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting for Film program, but a military veteran as well.
Shortly after 9/11, Williams joined the Marine Corps, where he was eventually assigned to a top secret joint task force. After four years, Williams received an Honorable Discharge and attended business school full time in New Mexico.
After trying out for a local production starring Val Kilmer and Gary Cole for a small part as a Marine, Williams was asked to be the military technical consultant for the film, as well as a stand-in for Val Kilmer. It was his first film role and first time on a movie set. He tells NYFA, “I remember looking for the director like, ‘Who’s the General around here?’ I had no idea who did what on the set.” By the end of the shoot, Williams had fallen in love with acting for film.
The background casting director of Medal of Honor, looking to use actual veterans, had contacted New York Film Academy, knowing the school has enrolled nearly 2000 veteran students and military dependents since 2009. This was how Williams found himself on the set of the Netflix series as a background actor.
After one of the featured actors, Paul Wesley, was injured on set by a ricochet special effect, Williams was called over to double for him. After impressing the crew with his expertise around military weapons, he was invited to sit with the “stunt table” at lunch. By the end of that day’s shoot, Williams had been asked to do more stunts the following day. One complicated stunt Williams performed for the crew involved being yanked back while in a “jerk vest” to simulate being thrown back by an RPG explosion. “It looked amazing on camera!” Williams tells NYFA.
Williams credits not just his stunt classes at NYFA but also the school’s instruction in camerawork with helping him tailor his stunts to the specific scenes and set-ups.
Other film credits for Williams include the films Gamer, The Spirit, and MacGruber. Currently, Williams is working as a stunt coordinator on an MFA Thesis film, as well as auditioning for roles on major television series. He is also developing content for his YouTube channel, and advises fellow NYFA students and alumni to make their own content to help break into the industry.
“NO EXCUSES!” Williams exclaims. “Make that short film, write your own feature films, produce your own IG videos, make a YouTube channel — just get out there and use the editing and filmmaking knowledge we learned in school.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Acting for Film alum Tyler Williams on his latest role in Netflix’s Medal of Honor and looks forward to watching his career develop!
Just as 2018 was wrapping up, Netflix managed to squeeze one more buzzworthy hit movie into the zeitgeist with Bird Box, a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Sandra Bullock and featuring a haunting, memorable scene with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film instructor, Happy Anderson.
Bird Box was an instant hit, dominating social media with both high praise and viral memes. According to Netflix, it was the media company’s biggest opening to date, having been streamed by over 45 million accounts in its first week alone.
The film, directed by Susanne Bier and written by Eric Heisserer based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, is a story about survivors who must keep themselves blindfolded to stay alive from mysterious creatures who drive people insane once they look at them.
Some of the infected victims are compelled to force survivors to open their eyes and look at the creatures. As Sandra Bullock’s protagonist rows down a river blindfolded while protecting two children, a mysterious River Man comes out of the fog and attacks them. The scene is moody and tense before coming to a violent, thrilling, and frightful conclusion. The River Man is played by actor and NYFA instructor Happy Anderson.
Anderson had a blast shooting the scene, posting photos to his social media of the complicated rig needed to shoot in waist-deep water. “Bird Box time was a very fun time!” he wrote, included with a production still.
Bird Box is the latest in a string of impressive credits for Anderson, including another Netflix original film, Bright, starring Will Smith, and Mindhunter, the drama series from David Fincher that was also produced and distributed by Netflix.
Other credits include Gotham, The Blacklist, The Tick, and The Knick, co-starring Clive Owen and NYFA alum Eve Hewson. Upcoming projects include the X-Men horror film The New Mutants and the highly-anticipated television adaptation of Snowpiercer.
Anderson teaches Acting for Film at NYFA’s New York campus, along with many other working professionals who teach at the acting school. The Academy prides itself on its faculty, who share with students their experience and expertise from working in a dynamic, competitive, labor-intensive industry.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Acting for Film instructor Happy Anderson on his latest role and encourages everyone who hasn’t to check out the mysterious and haunting thriller, Bird Box!
On October 30, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with actress Ayelet Zurer following a screening of a third season episode from Netflix’s acclaimed series Daredevil. The Q&A was moderated by Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series.
Zurer is an award-winning Israeli actress whose career began in Israeli television and crossed over to mainstream American movies and TV, most notably Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005); Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid (2008); Ron Howard’sAngels and Demons, with Tom Hanks (2009); Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013); Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert, alongside Ewan McGregor; Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Ben Hur, and many more.
Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking about Zurer’s early career; Zurer shared that she was artistic as a young girl and did not “fall in love with acting as a profession” until she studied acting in her hometown,Tel Aviv. She then relocated to New York City to study further and acted in numerous theatrical productions before being offered a large role on a television series in Israel, moving back home where she would work in the Israeli entertainment industry to great success and winning many awards.
While Zurer was working on a television show, In Treatment, that would later be adapted for HBO, she got a mysterious call to audition from an English casting agent who caught one of her random films. Zurer was apprehensive but then she was informed this audition was for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Zurer landed the role and this launched her career as an actress in American media. “Say yes to things!” Zurer advised the students in the audience.
A couple years later, Zurer has the opportunity to act in the film, Angels and Demons; she was anxious about the magnitude of the film but when she sat down with Tom Hanks to run lines, “I don’t know what happened; it was really magical; I was not nervous…”
Laiter inquired about the lessons Zurer learned from working with Hanks. Zurer replied, “The tone is set on a film by its leader. Tom was relaxed, intelligent, and generous. When he had an idea, he didn’t pester the director with it but suggested it in the right time… you have to have patience… he really set the tone.”
Laiter asked Zurer about the lessons she has learned as an actress. “One of the things I’ve learned is to be very present because… that’s the most important thing for an actor and for a person in life, period.” Between “action” and “cut,” “…in that moment I [am] able to eliminate everything out there; the sound of fear, the self-doubt…” continued Zurer, while illustrating to the students a technique she uses just before she goes on stage or set.
To a student’s question of how she prepares for a role, Zurer talked about first learning the lines until they are embedded, doing research, and focusing on the storytelling; she asks herself: “What’s the beginning? Where [am I] coming [from]? What do I wanna say? What [does the] story [want] to say? What’s my job in that story? What is my role; what kind of a device am I?”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ayelet Zurer for sharing her entertainment industry wisdom and acting expertise with our students!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum A.J. Rivera is following up several high-profile guest roles on television with a starring role in Netflix’s highly-anticipated new sci-fi drama, Another Life.
The 10-episode series is getting a lot of buzz since being picked up by Netflix last April, in part because of a veteran television cast. The cast includes Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff, as well as Alex Ozerov (The Americans), Jessica Camacho (The Flash), Barbara Williams (Mayans MC) and Lisa Renna (The 100). Also starring are film stars Selma Blair (Hellboy, Cruel Intentions) and Justin Chatin (Dragonball Evolution, War of the Worlds.)
The show is part of a continued campaign by Netflix COO Ted Sarandos — who spoke earlier this year with NYFA — to produce original content and dominate the longform storytelling market. It tells the story of a team of astronauts and scientists on a mission to search for intelligent life. It was created by Aaron Martin (DeGrassi: The Next Generation).
A.J. Rivera plays Bernie Martinez, a microbiologist on the spaceship who also serves as part-time chef. He is part of the show’s comic relief, where his character uses jokes as a form of currency. Rivera is no stranger to comedy — his previous regular role on a TV series was with the John Stamos vehicle Grandfathered, as Victor.
Rivera has also appeared on numerous other television shows, including Goliath, Jane the Virgin, Lethal Weapon, Shameless, 2 Broke Girls, Baskets, and This is Us. He attended New York Film Academy’s MFA Acting for Film program in September 2011, at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. There, he was able to train with talented faculty members currently working in the industry, and collaborate with film school students on the backlot of Universal Studios.
The New York Film Academy congratulates A.J. Rivera on his latest success, and looks forward to seeing him on Netflix’s Another Life in 2019!
Heroin(e), a Netflix-produced documentary edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructor Kristen Nutile, has been nominated for an Emmy. This adds to its rave reviews and other major award nominations, including for the Peabody and, earlier this year, for an Academy Award. Heroin(e)’s producers join NYFA alumni, guest speakers, and other NYFA community members with nominations for the Emmy this year, including Bill Hader and Issa Rae.
One of Netflix’s acclaimed original documentaries, Heroin(e) is directed by Peabody Award-winning documentarian Elaine Mcmillion (Hollow, The Lower 9). The film offers an intimate and harrowing view of the nation’s opioid epidemic through the stories of three women in Huntington, West Virginia — a city now infamous for an overdose rate 10 times the national average.
The nominations for the 39th Annual News and Documentary were announced on July 26 by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, who also annually distribute the Daytime Emmy Award and Heartland Emmy Award, among other accolades. The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be presented on Monday, October 1st, 2018, at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in the Time Warner Complex at Columbus Circle in New York City. The ceremony will be attended by more than 1,000 television and news media industry executives, news and documentary producers, and journalists.
Heroin(e) is nominated for Outstanding Short Documentary, and is one of 112 nominations for streaming juggernaut Netflix, who for the first time this year leads all networks in total noms, beating out HBO (108) and NBC (78).
Heroin(e) was edited by Kristen Nutile, who teaches for the Documentary School at New York Film Academy’s New York campus, a program featured on The Independent Magazine’s list of Top 10 Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers. The school boasts both award-winning alumni and faculty.
Nutile is a prolific filmmaker in her own right, having edited two dozen films in addition to directing six of her own. She founded Soft Spoken Films in 2001, and is a recipient of the Albert Maysles Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking.
The New York Film Academy congratulates documentary instructor Kristen Nutile and Heroin(e) on its incredible run of prestigious nominations and wishes them the best of luck at this year’s Emmy Awards!
Interested in studying documentary filmmaking with the New York Film Academy? You can find more information here!
Last Friday, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor to be invited to the Netflix Sunset-Bronson Studios for a preview screening of Netflix upcoming series The Innocents followed by an exclusive Q&A with Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.
Ted has led content acquisition for Netflix since 2000. Since 2013, he led the company’s transition into original streaming content with the launch of House of Cards, Arrested Development, and Orange is the New Black, among numerous other series. Ted has been recognized as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2013, and as an innovator in film acquisition and distribution. Netflix executive Matthew Thunell introduced the pilot. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter hosted the afternoon.
Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos
Laiter opened the conversation by asking Mr. Sarandos about his unique start in the film industry, from community college for journalism, to running movie rental stores, to where he is now. “It’s a super unlikely path,” Mr. Sarandos said, “I’m always reluctant to give my path… as it wouldn’t make any sense for anyone to try to follow.”
The conversation moved to Netflix’s first original release, the wildly successful House of Cards. Mr. Sarandos spoke fondly of working with David Fincher, saying “He’s exacting. I love, more than anything, somebody who knows what they want, knows what’s important and what isn’t. David never had a wasted conversation or a wasted argument about anything during production.” He also talked about the initial meeting. They pitched Fincher an offer he couldn’t refuse: two seasons of a TV show, with no pilot, and no notes. The only restriction was that he would have to put his name on it. “The bet was that someone who really cared about their brand would really make it great if you gave him the freedom to do that. And that’s what we did.”
One student asked what advice he would give his younger self, just starting out in the industry. Mr. Sarandos talked about how far Netflix and the industry as a whole has come and continue to change. “I don’t know that I ever would have seen far enough ahead to say ‘You should do this, and not that.’ The main thing is, I think, is to be incredibly nimble.”
Tova Laiter & Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos
Laiter ended the Q&A by asking what quality Ted felt led the most to his success. He answered, “Probably curiosity. It’s not necessarily what you know, it’s what you’re willing to figure out… Being humble enough to ask, and not being afraid to look dumb, is how you learn.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Sarandos for inviting us to Netflix for this amazing Q&A.
The Innocents will be streaming starting August 24th – only on Netflix.
Sundance gave Documentary Cinematography Instructor Claudia Raschke some serious love, lauding her work as director of photography of the acclaimed, RBG, featuring her on the celebrated “Women Who Shoot” panel. You’ll find Claudia-centric articles include American Cinematographer, Filmmaker, Indiewire, etc.
Schechter scored these key reviews despite the lack of a release date, a publicist, or even a production company. A good, old-fashioned bidding war immediately broke out and it looks like Journeyman Pictures has won worldwide rights with a promise of theatrical release. A Sniper’s War has since gone on to win multiple festivals including Best Foreign Documentary at the Academy Award Qualifying, Arizona Film Festival. (With the new eligibility rules, the Arizona win almost certainly qualifies the film for the Oscar race. The Academy will confirm their new list of qualifying festivals later this spring, so we’ll know for sure then.)
Documentary Producing Instructor Dorottya Mathe also premiered her feature, The Independents, at SBFF. The Hollywood Reporter likes it too, especially, “the way in which it subverts all the clichés of the star-is-born story,” and pronounces it, “an extremely engaging film.” Graduate Erica Wong (’14) assisted Dorottya on the production, and fellow NYFA Instructor Piero Basso served as DP. Documentary Instructor Jessica Wolfson’s feature, Hot Grease followed its Discovery premiere with VOD roll out on Discovery Go.
Furlough, the second 2018 fiction film from NYFA Documentary Instructor Dorottya Mathe (Production Supervisor) opened in theaters. The female-driven comedy starred Academy Award winners Melissa Leo, Whoopi Goldberg and Anna Paquin.
Mariko Ide (’16) edited her first piece for Google.
Kristen Nutile editedWeed The People (directed by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein), which premiered at SXSW — where Indiewire and Interview magazine both pronounced it a “must-see” film. And even People magazine gave it a write-up.
The Stolen River, directed by Krisztina Danka (6-Week ’17), won Best Environmental Film at the Calcutta International Film Festival. That was after taking Best in Show at Cinema Verde International Environmental Film Festival, as well as awards at Independent Shorts Awards, Impact DOCS Award, LiFFT Filmotsav and others.
The Second quarter of 2018 is off to a great start as well. More on that shortly.
One spoiler, though…
Two documentaries nominated for Peabody Awards this year have NYFA Documentary School bloodlines: Heroin(e), edited by prof, Kristen Nutile and Newtown, Associate Produced/Associate Post Produced by Laura Snow (’13).