New York Film Academy Acting for Film
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  • Alum Ludovic Coutaud Brings Lunatic Clowns to the Drama Book Shop

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    New York City is a thrilling and challenging place to be an artist. For NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory alum Ludovic Coutaud, creating site-specific shows crafted to play off iconic performances spaces within the city has helped him forge a specific and entirely original path as a performer, producer, and creative director.

    Coming up this summer, Lunatic Clown And Cie, the international theatre company Coutaud founded and serves as artistic director, brings The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) to the iconic Drama Book Shop library. Here, he tells the NYFA Blog what it’s like to perform original clown shows in New York City, and why it’s important for artists to produce their own work.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    LC: I studied Acting for Film at NYFA in 2011, and had a blast learning from this very talented faculty. I had visited the campus two months prior as a New York tourist with my parents and loved the idea of studying acting in another language among other foreigners. That is something that makes New York Film Academy such a strong, diverse school. We were 12 students in my class and only three Americans were present. I remember liking to call my class the United Nations of NYFA.

    NYFA: Why acting and directing? What draws you to storytelling through performance?

    LC: I started directing in Marseille, France where I am from, with my first acting teacher directing the end-of-year kids’ shows. It was a true leap of understanding the craft even better, and I found myself being able to communicate my directions more specifically having known what it was like to receive notes. It also taught me the importance of collaboration.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    LC: I loved every class for several reasons. The one I discovered entirely and had the most fun with was maybe Maggie Reed’s TV Sitcom and Soap Opera class during the second semester. These formats are very uncommon where I am from (especially the laugh tracks in the background). I learned lots of new tricks and techniques that I still use to this day.

    NYFA: Tell us a bit about your company Lunatic Clown And Cie. What inspired you to start the company, and how do you juggle your multinational and genre-bending productions?

    LC: I have written, directed and produced a dozen of shows in New York City under my name and I have developed a new style through these selections of projects. I’m now six years into the process — but I’ve been called a “clown” all my life!

    For those who know, clowning is a word that resonates out of the ordinary for certain cultures. For example, here in America clowns are often associated with birthday parties and dark serial killer stories. Well, my company, style, and the values behind every show aren’t remotely close to that. I call my clowns “tall children,” or poetic souls. Many names could be found. The style is complex.

    When I first discuss it with the actors involved in my company, I share information with them — like a chart of what to do and not do, and how to find the goal to achieve. Each clown piece is one simple, heartfelt story. I want to always find all the possible nuances and converse about the topic with all my clowns one on one.

    After 7 years juggling between the arts and other wonderful jobs, I have luckily been able to maintain my main target to why I came to New York in the first place. That’s also why it was time for me to brand all of my style under a name that would be catchy, mysterious yet personable: Lunatic Clown And Cie.

    NYFA: As a producer and performer, what challenges do you face when creating your shows, and how do you overcome those challenges?

    LC: Producing a show is hard work, yes, but if you do believe thoroughly in the project, things seem to flow a bit more. Throughout the years, struggles have shifted. My hat of producer joins creative, executive (financing), and supervising roles. Where other projects would hire three people, I found myself loving to do these three positions. My style being different, I needed to have very strong collaborators by my side who would understand me 100 percent. From show to show, I have found that person to assist me along the way on one or two projects, co-direct or even invest in the shows — and most importantly, friends who believed in my work.

    To this day, gathering a group of passionate risk takers, willing to join a community of artists and be clowns, has been a challenge. From all these hats, I would say I added the one of “eager artist hunter” to amplify the panel of the performers who I had the chance to work with.

    NYFA: Your summer show The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) uses clowning to explore the theme of denial. What an interesting combo — what led you to this theme? Why this show, now?

    LC: The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) takes on the very important theme of denial indeed because it has been a subject of mine for a long time. My first short play Denial was a success, also at the Drama Book Shop, in 2016. It was a piece with words and lots of audience members came to find me afterwards and said, ”Did you write this? Thank you. I would love to see more about that theme from you in the future.”

    I remember thinking how interesting that was, so I did find the inspiration to write two new pieces: Look at Me, and now this one. This time, I decided to explore that major topic through physicality only. Again, you realize that clowning and performance art here is the same family for me.

    Timing is very interesting and the society we live in fascinates and aggravates me at the same time. I had a list of eight shows of mine waiting around and I picked this one because I got the Drama Book Shop. This the third time that I have contacted the Drama Book Shop team. Four pieces of mine have swept the stage of the Arthur Seelen Theatre already and this time I had decided to rock the library.

    That location is ideal for several reasons; it is an actor’s temple, it gathers stories waiting to be told, it is a pleasure to work with the staff and is a centered location for many involved. The show is not Rated R but for everyone. This piece is for all. I look forward to discussing this piece with the audience members.

    NYFA: What’s next for you and The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards)?

    LC: The Lunatic Clown And Cie show Voyage will be next at the New York New Works Theatre Festival 2018 at Theatre Row in September.

    NYFA: Would you say that your time at NYFA was at all useful for preparing for the work you are doing now?

    LC: NYFA was indeed very helpful since I had the chance to work on several student films and learned from other departments and teachers. My curiosity and the proximity of campuses made me eager to keep learning and that hasn’t changed.

    Congratulations, Ludovic! If you’re in New York City, get your tickets for The Book Wives Club (or The Closeted Beards) here.

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  • New York Film Academy Alum DonnaLee Roberts in Production for Stroomop in South Africa

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    DonnaLee Roberts via IMDB

    New York Film Academy Acting for Film grad DonnaLee Roberts is a model for on-screen performers seeking to build their own career, their way.

    The prolific, award-winning South African performer-turned-writer/producer is now shooting feature-length adventure film Stroomop, in which she not only stars but also serves as co-writer and co-producer.

    Stroomop is the directorial debut of Roberts’ frequent collaborator and fellow South African A-lister Ivan Botha, who shared the screen with Roberts in South African blockbusters Vir Altyd and Pad na jou Hart, which the team also co-wrote and co-produced.

    Screen Africa reports that Stroomop is slated for a nationwide release on South Africa’s Women’s Day, Aug. 9, 2018, through the distributor Ster-Kinekor Entertainment.

    Roberts, who holds South Africa’s prestigious Huisgenoot Tempo Award for both Best Actress and Best Feature Film, told Screen Africa that she did some serious water training in preparation for Stroomop, which follows five women on a whitewater rafting misadventure on the Orange River.

    “My character finds herself in a situation where she must take the lead in rough waters,” Roberts said, “So it was crucial for me to be fully prepared for the challenges of filming on the river.”

    At a moment when the eyes of the world are on Hollywood’s gender imbalance, it’s especially exciting to see Roberts leading the way both on screen and behind-the-scenes as a content creator. Roberts summed up her strong work ethic and inspiring outlook well in a previous interview with the NYFA Blog:

    “In this industry we are all creative beings. Create the world you want to play in, create the characters you want to portray. It takes long hours of hard work, commitment and passion to make your dreams come true. The 8-Week Acting for Film Program at the New York Film Academy inspired and motivated me even more. I thought, I can now do this by myself. I don’t need to wait for success to fall onto my lap.”

    Bravo, DonnaLee!

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  • Felix Everding on Inspiration, German Soap Operas, and What to do in New York City

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    For international film buffs, Felix Everding is becoming a household name. The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Conservatory grad has run the gamut of television roles in his native Germany, from portraying  Mark Böcking in the wildly popular Sturm der Liebe to Dennis Grabowski in the poignant Rote Rosen, Everding is stealing hearts and lighting up screens both large and small across Europe.

    We had a chance to catch up with the busy NYFA grad to hear his advice on finding inspiration at home, preparing for television roles, and what to do when you find yourself in New York City.

    Felix Everding. Photo copyright: Renate Neder.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    FE:  My Name is Felix Everding, and I am an German actor. I grew up in Munich, Germany, and later went to study at the New York Film academy in New York. Today I work as an actor in Germany for television and film.

    I became aware of the New York Film Academy through a friend of mine who I visited in New York. I had always been interested in studying acting in New York, and had done some studying at the Terry Schreiber Studio in New York before. The Academy aspect of NYFA, meaning that the different departments work with each other — filmmakers, actors, producers, etc. — and the international aspect is what got me interested in the New York Film Academy.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspires you most as an actor?

    FE: I come from a theatre family. My grandfather was a theatre and opera director, and my father is a theatre director as well. I was exposed to theatre and opera at a very young age, and so the magic of the stage and acting captured me quite quickly.

    When I was 16, I knew I wanted to be actor. I think the art of acting is a wonderful tool to bring stories of all sorts closer to the audience, by making it a personal experience and therefore more relatable. We’re storytellers.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    FE: There are many moments I like to look back at from my time at NYFA.

    The acting department becomes great through it’s teachers, and I was lucky to have a couple of really great teachers — some who have actually studied under and worked for Sanford Meisner himself. That was definitely a highlight for me.

    And then, of course, spending lunch breaks and many late nights with my fellow students. There was a certain camaraderie that developed. Still today I call some of my fellow students friends.

    NYFA: As an international student, what surprised you most about living and studying in New York City? What advice would you offer your fellow NYFA students who are pursuing their dreams from around the globe?

    FE: New York in itself is a surprise.

    The city and its energy plays a main part in this whole experience. New York is mind-blowing, especially for a kid from Munich.

    If I had to give one recommendation for New York: WALK! New York is a fantastic walking city. And behind each turn can lay a different world!

    NYFA: You’ve been quite busy working in German television, from Rote Rosen to Sturm der Liebe to Tatort. How do you prepare for your roles?

    FE: That is different for every role. Mostly the first parts you get in television or film are rather small. (Although, of course, the saying is true: there are no small parts, there are only small actors!) So you don’t always get an awful lot to play.  

    Usually I read the script and try to find anything that relates to my character so I can build a certain foundation. Then, step by step, I imagine the world and circumstances my character lives in so I can work out my motivation. And then through learning the lines everything comes together.

    NYFA: In Rote Rosen [Red Roses] you had a long character arc. Can you tell us about that experience?

    FE: In Red Roses I played a character for five months, which gave the chance to really create a character and lead him through a journey — although this experience wasn’t without challenges.

    It’s a daily show, so they shoot one 50-minute episode per day, which means you have very little time on set to try things out. So you really have to have your character and lines set and must be ready to react and change things quite quickly on your feet.

    NYFA: What advice can you offer to NYFA students about transitioning from the classroom to working in television?

    FE:  It’s always different when you’re on a professional set for the first time.

    All you can do is trust the things you learned and be open to learn new things. Just observe how things work on a set and keep an open mind.

    You’ll be fine!

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    FE: I have a couple of TV projects coming up, and a TV movie with a great German director is gonna air pretty soon. I am very excited about that project because I play a dark character, which was a lot of fun.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Felix Everding for sharing a part of his story with the NYFA Blog. Learn more about our Acting for Film courses here.

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    March 15, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1639

  • “The Truth” About New York Film Academy Acting Alum Fahad Olayan

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    Since he was just a teenager, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumnus Fahad Olayan has had a solid plan for his life. Through hard work and determination, he has already achieved a lot of his dreams.

    He began his acting career in his native country of Saudi Arabia with the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash” in 2013, before going on to book several more television shows. He found success in America when he was offered a role on National Geographic Channel’s “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” where he played King Hussain in the episode “Proof of God” in 2017. Olayan’s latest project, “The Truth,” has been raking up awards. And now, he’s taken the time to catch up with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to discuss the role festivals play in the success of a film and what it was like to find most of his crew here at NYFA.

    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with acting?

    Olayan: I started when I was 13 years old. I attended school for theater. I was the supporting character in many different roles. In 2007 I began applying for jobs at production companies as an actor. I remember one of the directors was impressed by my audition. From that audition, I managed to book more than 10 TV series. In 2011, I considered moving my career to LA to pursue my dream. I studied English for two years and then went to NYFA to study acting and filmmaking. Once I graduated I immediately planned on making a movie.

    NYFA:  What was your first performance?

    Olayan: In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a production for a big channel in Dubai. It’s called MBC. It is the biggest channel in the Middle East.

    NYFA:  How did you end up at NYFA?

    Olayan: I wanted to learn how to perfect my acting skills and learn more about editing, writing, and filmmaking. It was great because it also gave me the opportunity to learn from professional people, who have been in the industry for a long time.

    NYFA: What was your favorite part of the education experience? Did you have a favorite class? Which one?

    Olayan: I got to collaborate with many new artists who are excited about making it in the industry. Each one had a fresh perspective on the craft. I also enjoyed the classes that were offered. My favorites were stunt training and sitcom. I also had the privilege of learning from Michael Zelniker. He is a mentor to me. He is an exceptionally talented individual and advisor at NYFA.

    NYFA: Why is an intensive program vital to your development as an actor?

    Olayan: It is vital because so much goes into acting. You take classes that help you learn about voice, movement, script analysis, observation, and how everything connects to each other. As an actor you need to learn about the different elements that go into the craft of acting. It broadens your horizons and makes you appreciate the art.

    Fahad Olayan With Alejandro Gonzalez

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your project, “The Truth”?

    Olayan: “The Truth” is an important project for me. It really touches home. I thought long and hard about this project for a few months because it has a very important message for the world: It focuses on racial profiling.

    Once I was ready to work on the project I met Nicolas Jung, a unique and exceptionally talented person who helped with co-writing, was the assistant director, and was one of the main actors as well. I strongly believe that this film wouldn’t be what it is without him. His outstanding writing skills and authentic acting skills took this project to a whole new level. The other actor, Dave Belvederi, and the cinematographer, Joseph Hamilton, also contributed to the success of this project. It is important to be smart and to choose a good team to work with so that there is a good collaborative environment on set.

    Once the project was completed, I submitted it to many different film festivals around the world. However, the most important festival that took notice of my film was in Saudi Arabia, where it won the award for best film out of hundreds of other projects.

    The best part was that it was awarded and announced by the King of Saudi Arabia’s son, which was a huge privilege, and it went on national news.

    NYFA: How did you prepare for this role?

    Olayan: I poured myself into the character that I played. I made the circumstance real to me. There was a lot of stunt training involved and intense rehearsal to achieve my goal.

    NYFA: Any chance for a sequel?

    Olayan: Yes, there will be a second part, I will refrain from giving too much detail to leave everyone in suspense.

    NYFA: What did you learn from making this film?

    Olayan: I learned that making a movie is not just about the name or title, it is an art. A lot of passion, imagination, and commitment goes into it. The most important thing that I learned was how to communicate with the audience. Once you get that, there is a feeling of having reached a huge accomplishment.

    NYFA: What’s up next for you?

    Olayan: Nicolas and I have written and acted together in two short films. Our first film was “Losing Life,” which won over 10 awards across the globe. In addition to all that, we have currently written two feature films and will produce one in 2018. We are currently in the preproduction process with one of the scripts and the other is in rewrites. When I am not working on these projects I am finding other ways to get ahead in my career.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Fahad Olayan for speaking with us about his work. 

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  • “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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