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).
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
(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.