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

    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.

  • President Meets and Greets With New York Film Academy Australia Students

    President Michael J. Young visits NYFA Australia

    NYFA President Michael J. Young addresses NYFA Australia students

     

    In early February, New York Film Academy (NYFA) President Michael J. Young visited the Gold Coast campus at New York Film Academy Australia along with the NYFA Australia Board of Directors. Attending the meet and greet were many of NYFA Australia’s current students, including the January 2018 class just getting underway.

    Far from a quiet, staid succession of speeches, the event buzzed with an energy of enthusiasm and good cheer that started with the excited student body loudly cheering and ended with an impromptu dance party.

    Tasha Cooper, Director of NYFA Australia, Gold Coast, introduced President Young, who had come from the Academy’s New York City campus, where he is based. Young, who has been with the New York Film Academy since it was founded in 1992, talked about the history of the school, as well as its future. After speaking briefly, he then let students pick his brain with a myriad of questions, both thoughtful and fun, while also using the opportunity to get to better know the aspiring artists.

    President Michael J. Young visits NYFA Australia

    President Michael J. Young and NYFA Australia students

    Of meeting the NYFA Australia student body, President Young said, “I was honored and delighted to meet the many aspiring filmmaking, acting, and screenwriting students studying with us at the Gold Coast campus. Their enthusiasm was awe-inspiring, and I expect we will see their talent to be equally so.”

    The New York Film Academy expanded to Australia in 2011, and boasts a state-of-the-art facility co-located in Southport, the Gold Coast’s leading educational and creative arts precinct. Attending NYFA Australia’s programs — including camps, workshops, Diplomas, and Advanced Diplomas — affords students the opportunity to shoot and act on NYFA’s exclusive backlot facilities at Village Roadshow Studios, the location of many Hollywood films including Thor: Ragnarok and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. By working within this professional, Hollywood environment, NYFA Australia students gain a unique experience that prepares them for real-world work in the filmmaking industry.

    Director, Tasha Cooper introducing President Michael J Young

    Director, Tasha Cooper introducing President Michael J. Young

    The diverse, vibrant environment of the Gold Coast suits the artistic, zestful personalities of NYFA Australia’s student body. While President Young didn’t expect his casual but informative talk with the students to erupt into a dance party, the festive, exuberant atmosphere made it clearly inevitable. A barista was even on hand, providing students with speciality coffee.

    It’s hard to say who had more fun during the visit — President Young or the students. Likely, everyone equally had a great time. After the event, Tasha Cooper remarked, “As part of a global institution, NYFA Australia students were excited to partake in a tradition where NYFA President, Michael Young, learns more about their story and what they hope to achieve from our interactive and intensive programs.”

    Cooper added, “It was a fantastic event that filled our school with laughter, spirit, and even some spontaneous dancing!”

    February 20, 2018 • Community Highlights, Entertainment Australia • Views: 586

  • All Rise Film Competition Runner-Up is New York Film Academy MFA Screenwriting Student

    The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Screenwriting student Ines Carolyne de los Santos Almanzar and her all-NYFA crew for winning the Runner-Up prize in the All Rise Film Competition.

    Founded by Simone Benhayon in 2015, All Rise is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to eradicate cyberbullying. Through legislation, reform, and education, All Rise has empowered thousands to take a stand against cyberbullying. Part of their education initiative is an annual film competition that draws attention to many of the issues surrounding online bullying.

    This year, the theme of the film competition was “Is Cyber Abuse an International Crime?”

    The youth competition is divided into two categories. The first is a children’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 10-15. The second is a young adult’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 16-21. Films can’t be more than three minutes in length. Other than that, creators are able to tell their story in whatever cinematic format they chose.

    Initially, Almanzar wasn’t sure what story she would tell, but she relied on her own experiences.

    “I was a victim of cyberbullying, myself,” Almanzar said. “I know how tough it can be to survive cyberbullying. You want to ask for help, but most people don’t think this is a big issue.”

    With polls showing that anywhere from 35-50 percent of teens have been bullied online, it is clear that cyberbullying is, in fact, a very big deal.

    Almanzar’s film Isn’t This a Crime follows a plus-size woman as she tries internet dating for the first time. She struggles through date after date. She is told she isn’t pretty enough. One man explains that her need to have kids makes her undesirable. Everything from the way she dresses, to her desire to study art, is insulted. Later, the emotional abuse she has endured begins to manifest itself physically as bruises all over her body. When she tries to report the abuse, she’s informed that the police cannot help her.

    The film is incredibly impactful, and Almanzar’s entire crew was made up of current NYFA students and NYFA alumni. Almanzar said she relied heavily on her crew to help complete the project.

    When asked why she liked working with NYFA students, Ines said, “Since we’re all students we already had a kind of shorthand on set. Communication is vital to the success of a set. We were able to move quickly and resolve issues as they happened.”

    You can watch Isn’t This a Crime and all of the finalist films here:

    All Rise Film Competition 2018 Judging Evening from All Rise on Vimeo.

  • American Cinematographer Spotlights New York Film Academy Cinematography Grad Egor Povolotskiy

    American Cinematographer magazine, the official publication of the American Society of Cinematographers, recently spotlighted the meteoric rise of New York Film Academy MFA Cinematography grad Egor Povolotskiy in it’s Rising Stars of Cinematography piece.

    In an issue that also features ASC giants like the creative minds behind The Last Jedi, American Cinematographer highlights how Povolotskiy’s pathway to success in Los Angeles was paved in large part through his NYFA connections.

    First, Povolotskiy points to his NYFA instructor and mentor Mike Williamson, and later to fellow NYFA alum and line producer Mariietta Volynska, who hired the cinematographer for his first project post-graduation, based on his NYFA thesis. 

    Since then, Povolotskiy has padded out his already impressive resume with three wins at the Rochester International and Voya Film Festivals plus another four nominations for his short film We Are Enemies.

    Now with eight features and almost 60 short films under his belt, we had a chance to hear from Povolotskiy about his experience working on the riveting thriller, Gold Dust, and his own journey behind the lens.

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

    EP: My journey starts back in Russia. I was at university getting my first master’s in artificial intelligence. Somewhere in the middle of my education, I started taking pictures of my friends and becoming interested in photography in general. I realized that AI was not that interesting for me anymore, and I started growing more as a photographer. (I still finished my masters though!)

    During university, I was working as a photojournalist as well as a wedding and family photographer, shooting for Marriott Hotels in Moscow. I was also an official photographer of Russian Association of Motorcyclists. Bikers and their bikes were involved in film productions, and for me it was always magic to see how films were done. So the next time I saw them on set, I called the president of this association and asked him if I could stop by and take some pictures just for myself. It was a shoot of a son of one of the most famous directors in Russia, with the biggest production company. I ended up being hired as bts [behind-the-scenes photographer] after my first day on set.

    After working for three years as bts and 2nd unit, the producer asked me one day if I wanted to DP a film. I refused, and told her that I would first get my education. … I had a sense of framing and lighting, but I didn’t know anything about being a DP at that time. Being a DP is not just framing and lighting. A DP is a storyteller, a head of a department, a set runner and problems solver — that’s became a definition of my job now.

    When I was choosing a school I was really afraid to go overseas, but my wife supported me, saying that everything was going to be how I wanted. My parents also gave me big support. My DP friends recommended NYFA as a possible school — hands-on and not that expensive. I was choosing between London, Lodze (in Poland), and NYFA, and I choose NYFA in the end.

    Egor Povolotskiy via IMDB

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time as a NYFA student?

    EP: As for favorite moments — I really don’t know, because it was great overall. … Every project I was shooting, I was trying to do better and bigger than my previous project. I still have warm feelings about NYFA and mention it where I can. I was also TA-ing sometimes between projects. By the time I graduated, a lot of people at NYFA knew me already. But I was still afraid of what would happen after school, how I was going to find a job. But right at two weeks after my graduation, I booked my first feature film as a DP!

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your experience shooting Gold Dust?

    EP: That was a fun experience. I went to an interview and I usually talk first, but here I was kind of shocked that the director took the initiative. He ask me, “What’s wrong with you Russians, you shoot so differently?” I really didn’t know what to answer. Later when we became friends he told me that he hired me because of the way I told him that I like to shoot fast. David Wall — a true director, in my understanding of what that means: great powerful leader, a captain of a ship. …

    We were actually blessed to have a desert with its very different looks — breathtaking sunsets, rain, heat — we got everything taped. We got a great “family” film by the end.

    Egor Povolotskiy Cinematography reel summer 2017 from Egor Povolotskiy on Vimeo.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your prep process before you start working on a film?

    EP: I read the script as the “dumbest person,” meaning that everything should be clear for me. If I have any questions, there’s going to be a person [in the audience] who will ask the same question. Then, myself and the director talk about the story in general. … In most cases I’m able to tell what kind of film the director sees in his mind. I do a beat breakdown of a script, and we decide if the film needs to be stylized or not. Then I build visual arcs based on developing the character and style of the film. Usually I give a couple of options to the director, if he gives me freedom. I prefer collaboration over the projects were I have no creative influence — every film is a part of myself.

    … I remember at NYFA we had some sort of test. If the director wanted a shot, but the producer was not giving him money, which side you will take? There are always two [out of three] things you have to choose: not expensive, good or fast. The secret is you can combine all three, actually!

    Being a collaborator with understanding of storytelling is a great help for a director, if you’re fast. … You have to stay in the budget, and then the producer will always love you. Learning how to use visual tools (composition, lighting, movement, editing, color grading), how to be a leader, how to delegate to your crew and build a shooting process so the crew feel safe, comfortable, respectfully treated — it is huge work.

    Being a DP you’re learning not only about other people, but also about yourself.

    Gold Dust film poster via IMDB

    NYFA: Are you working on any other upcoming projects you’d like to share?

    EP: As for future projects, I’m prepping a film with Richard Friedman (NYFA instructor), a TV series with Cyril Zima, and a mystic feature film with Alex Babaev.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Egor Povolotskiy for taking the time to share a part of his story with our students.

     

  • Pete Hammond is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

    On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Deadline film critic and reporter, Pete Hammond, joined New York Film Academy (NYFA) students for a Q & A at the Los Angeles campus. NYFA Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Hammond has worked as a contributor for Variety, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

    Laiter began the evening by asking Hammond how he got his start in the industry.

    It turns out Hammond didn’t set out to be a journalist. He just knew he wanted to be in the film industry. As an NBC Page, Hammond began working his way up the ladder. From page, he was promoted to a children’s television writer. Soon after, he became a researcher at Entertainment Tonight. From there he moved to the The Arsenio Hall Show, worked on Access Hollywood, and finally, Hammond created the entertainment news program Extra.

    With the Oscars just around the corner, students were curious to know more about the inside politics of the Academy.  One student wanted to know about the possibility of a shake-up at this year’s Oscars. “Looking at the statistics,” he began, “No film has won Best Film without first being nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay.” Three Billboards hasn’t been nominated for Best Director, but it has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. The student wanted to know if Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri could take home the grand prize.   

    Hammond was impressed and jokingly asked the student if he was looking for work. “Your predictions are spot on. This is what I’ve been writing about for the past couple of years.”

    Hammond said that only three times in Oscar’s history has a film won Best Picture that had not been nominated for Best Director. Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Argo, though he did win the Director’s Guild Award later that year. Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford and Grand Hotel director Edmund Goulding were not nominated, either. “The odds are statistically against Three Billboards but I think it has a shot because of the preferential ballot.”

    Hammond explained that when voting for the Oscars, Academy members number all of the nominees from their favorite to their least favorite. That numbering system can have a huge impact on the final turnout. If enough members place Three Billboards as a three or higher, it could mean a win.

    Hammond also noted a new trend over the past five years: Four out of the five Best Picture winners didn’t see their director rewarded, but all of their scripts did win Best Picture. In looking at the history of the Oscars, this trend is very rare.  

    Of course, students also wanted to pick Hammond’s brain about his personal opinion on the 2017 lineup of films. Hammond was particularly impressed with the stamina of Get Out. A film released in February usually isn’t in contention for the Oscars a year after it’s release. In fact, the last Best Picture nominee to have a February release was another thriller film, Silence of the Lambs, in 1991.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Pete Hammond for taking the time to speak with our students. The Oscars air on Sunday, March 4, 2018, on NBC.  You can read Hammond’s film reviews here.

  • Wonder Woman Writer Allan Heinberg Joins New York Film Academy Guest Speaker Series

    The New York Film Academy was proud to welcome Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg to its Los Angeles Campus.

    Heinberg has written for Party of Five, Sex in the City, The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, and Gilmore Girls. He is also the creator and showrunner of The Catch. Outside of television, Heinberg has worked for DC comics, writing The Young Avengers, Justice League, and the 2005 reboot of Wonder Woman.

    Heinberg regaled students with the tale of how he was hired to write the Wonder Woman film. He first saw the character of Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, on an episode of Super Friends. He was seven. A few years later, when Linda Carter burst on television screens in the 1970s, Heinberg was hooked. The very first play he wrote after graduating college featured Wonder Woman. After that, Heinberg moved to Los Angeles and immediately began working in television.

    After years of working on Grey’s Anatomy, Heinberg began looking for a new project. There was a Wonder Woman feature in development but Heinberg did not consider applying. He explained, “Usually, there’s a big wall between movie writers and television writers … It is a big risk for a television writer to be asked to work a large tent-pole film. They just don’t do that.”

    Heinberg was happy to cheer on his friend (and President of DC Comics) Geoff Johns as he worked to develop the Wonder Woman film for Warner Brothers. After about a year, Johns called Heinberg and told him that his team had hit a wall in the writing process. Producer Zack Snyder wanted to start over from the beginning.

    Snyder and Johns brought their teams together to explore the fundamentals of Wonder Woman. When it came time to decide who would have a seat at the table, Johns said he didn’t want anyone except Heinberg. Snyder agreed and the brain trust that created the final screenplay was formed.

    Heinberg listened as Synder explained the finer details of the project. Snyder broke down what the team had been preparing. Heinberg knew what story he wanted to tell. He said, “For me, there’s really only one essential Wonder Woman story and that’s her origin story.”

    One of the major problems most writers run into when writing Wonder Woman is that her origin story does not typically contain the deeply personal, emotional hook — like a terrible crisis or loss to overcome — typical in a hero’s origin. For example, in contrast, Batman’s parents are murdered and, as he grows up, he is driven to protect his entire city from feeling that same pain. Similarly, Superman was orphaned and his home planet was destroyed, so he spends the rest of his life protecting his new home and the people in it. In the case of Wonder Woman, Diana Prince was molded from clay by her mother, Hippolyta, and grew up in a women-only utopian paradise, where the powerful Amazons live independently from the world and evils of mankind.

    Using references like Splash and The Little Mermaid, Heinberg described Diana’s origin myth, where she leaves Themyscira to save mankind. Heinberg referred to it as a fish-out-of-water story. The comparison resonated with Snyder. By the end of the first meeting, everyone agreed that Heinberg’s version of Wonder Woman’s origin was the right direction to take the film.

    Over the next three days, they constructed a story and broke down a script so Snyder could pitch it to the studio. It was green-lit on the fourth day. The film already had a release date. Now, Snyder wanted Heinberg to write the script.

    The only problem was that Heiberg had a job. He was still a part of the Shondaland family after moving from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal, and it was the middle of the season. Heiberg wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to do both the show and the film. So, he had to speak with Shonda Rhymes. He was convinced she would say no. With two more years on his contract, Heinberg fully expected to have to walk away from his dream job.

    When he walked into her office, Rhymes thought he was going to quit. When he told her the news, she said simply, “It’s Wonder Woman. You have to do it.”

    Heinberg was adamant that no other showrunner would have afforded him this opportunity, and says the moral of this tale is that none of this could have happened if it wasn’t for the relationships he’d previously built with his colleagues. He described Snyder as his hero for championing his vision of the film. It’s not a typical superhero film: Wonder Woman focuses on the human relationships, as opposed to the hero and villain aspect of the genre.

    During the Q & A portion of the Guest Speaker event, one NYFA student asked, “How do you think the success of Wonder Woman has changed the way people will write women in the future?”

    Heinberg gave a cheeky response, stating, “Well, Wonder Woman has made a lot of money.”

    One obvious change is that more women-centered films in the superhero genre are being green-lit this year. Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Captain Marvel will all be getting feature films soon.

    “There’s an audience we can serve,” said Heinberg. “I don’t think the formula that made Wonder Woman can be replicated. You need to come up with a compelling and emotional story that can stand up on its own.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Allan Heinberg for taking the time to speak with our students. Wonder Woman is now available on DVD.

  • Tom Fontana Visits New York Film Academy as Special Guest Speaker

    This week, New York Film Academy welcomed producer Tom Fontana to its New York City campus as a part of the ongoing Producing Department Industry Speaker Series. As a part of the event, the full house of NYFA community attendees were treated to screenings of clips of Fontana’s work from police procedural Homicide: Life On the Street, HBO prison drama Oz, and BBC America drama Copper, a period piece set in the notorious 1860s New York City neighborhood of Five Points.

    During the talk, Fontana sat down with Producing Department instructor and Marcia Mule Productions founder Marcia Mule, each sharing their bond over the fact that they’re both from Buffalo, New York, with students. The producer went on to discuss his early career as a writer for theatre, which led to an opportunity to write for the influential medical drama St. Elsewhere. He wrote dozens of episodes between 1982-1988.

    Following St. Elsewhere, Fontana had a meandering path to his next job. Baltimore newspaper man David Simon (who would go on to create The Wire, The Corner, Treme, and The Deuce) sent his book Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets to fellow Baltimore-born director Barry Levinson, hoping it would become a film. Levinson suggested it was too dense with too many important characters, and instead pitched it as a TV show. This would ultimately become Homicide: Life on the Street, for which Fontana would go on to contribute to 67 episodes.

    While writing for Homicide, Fontana began to ponder what happened to the characters the writers would send off to prison. Fleshing out the stories for these forgotten offscreen characters became the inspiration for Oz, a master class in character building set in a fictional, experimental prison unit called Emerald City.

    HBO had never aired an original drama series and the timing for Oz — a gritty, realistic, brutal prison drama — was right.  Fontana told an interesting story about a discussion with Dick Wolf, who wanted to use the popular character John Munch (played by Richard Belzer) on his new show Law & Order. Fontana and the Homicide creators let Munch use the character for free and don’t get royalties for his presence in over 300 Law & Order episodes. He has also since appeared in The Wire and Arrested Development, among other shows.

    Oz premiered in 1997 and went on for six seasons, and ended up inspiring later-renowned HBO dramas such as The Wire, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire.

    Tom Fontana has written and produced many more groundbreaking television series, including The Philanthropist and Netflix’s Borgia. He has received, among other distinctions, three Emmy Awards, four Peabody Awards, three Writers’ Guild Awards, Four Television Critics Association Awards, the Cable Ace Award, the Humanitas Prize, a Special Edgar and the first prize at the Cinema Tout Ecran Festival in Geneva.

    Fontana co-founded the non-profit charity, Stockings with Care. He’s on the Boards of the WGAE Foundation, The NYPD Police Museum, The Creative Coalition, The Acting Company, The Williamstown Theatre Festival and The International Council of The Paley Media Center.

    The New York Film Academy thanks Tom Fontana for sharing his time and expertise with our student community.

  • New York Film Academy Alum Made Head of Development at October Films

    New York Film Academy alum Louis Mole has been promoted to Head of Development US at production company October Films, along with colleague Matt Dewar, who’s been made Head of Development UK.

    Mole enrolled in NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary Program, chaired by Andrea Swift, in September 2011 at our New York City campus. In the program, Mole learned to conceive, pitch, produce, direct, and edit various types of documentary shorts, as well as gain experience as cinematographer, sound recordist and assistant camera.

    Of his time at NYFA, Mole said in 2013: “You come out of the program with the fundamental expertise of every single aspect of making a film – which is so unique.”

    Mole put the education to good use, heading to Singapore after graduation and writing three episodes for the docuseries Asian Swindlers. He then joined October Films in 2014 within their London development team, and later came back to the Big Apple when he transferred to the New York office of October Films.

    October Films is an award-winning, fast-growing production company based in the US and UK that focuses on independent content from a variety of genres — including documentaries, dramas, and entertainment and reality programs.

    Some of their recent projects include Eight Days That Made Rome, Dangerous Borders, Annie: Out of the Ashes, Motorheads, and From Russia To Iran: Crossing The Wild Frontier. October Films also has series in production for the BBC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, the Science Channel, and Channel 4.

    Before his promotion to Head of Development, Mole worked on multiple projects for October Films, including Mygrations for the National Geographic Channel, Trailblazers for Discover Channel, and a seven-part series for Lifetime.

    Louis Mole has also paid it forward to newer students at the New York Film Academy, speaking with them as a guest lecturer, and offering his solid expertise.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Louis Mole on his well-earned success, and looks forward to seeing where his career heads next!

    February 9, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 511

  • 2 New York Film Academy Grads Premier Films at 2018 Winter Film Awards

    New York City’s Winter Film Awards International Film Festival will feature the short films of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) grads in its seventh season, beginning Feb. 22. NYFA Los Angeles grad Tamara Ruppart screens Path of Dreams, a love story based on the life of Japanese poet Ono No Komachi, while NYFA New York grad Joseph Park premiers Inner Glow, a surreal journey of self-discovery and freedom following a troubled young woman in the clouds. More details from the Winter Film Awards, below:

    Path of Dreams

    Directed by NYFA Alum Tamara Ruppart

    Short, from Japan, in Japanese, 25 mins, 2017

    Screening Sunday Feb. 25, Block 10: 9:15 PM-11:45 PM     

    Path of Dreams TRAILER from Kotaro Mori on Vimeo.

     

    In poetic Japan, Komachi strikes a tantalizing bargain with suitor Shosho. If he agrees to write poetry with her for 99 nights, she promises they will create a love more beautiful than poetry. Every day he must ride to her home, and when the sun sets on the 99th night she will take him as her lover. For 98 nights, they journey through poetry, exploring their hearts and minds, as their love and desire grow in anticipation. On the 99th night, Komachi joyfully awaits her lover. But as she watches the sun set, Komachi moves from disappointment to anger, until a sense of mystery fills the stillness in the air, and heartbreak takes hold of her heart. In her grief, she will carry Shosho with her as she walks the path of dreams.

    Inner Glow

    Directed by NYFA Alum Joseph Park

    Short, from United States in English, 11 mins, 2017, World Premiere

    Screening Saturday Feb 24, Block 4: 3:45 PM-6:15 PM /Wednesday Feb 28, Matinee: 2:00 PM-5:00 PM    

    Skye, a troubled young woman trapped amidst the dark clouds with nothing but a window, struggles to access her power to illuminate light bulbs. After much despair and failure, Skye discovers a calling from outside, which turns out to be her clone. This encounter allows her to draw more power, and therefore, the bulbs begin to glow. However, she finds that her clone disappears, which causes the light bulbs to fade away. Skye’s only hope of freedom lies in seeking her true self and acceptance in order to bring in light again.

    The Winter Film Awards lineup will include a total of 93 films at Cinema Village in Greenwich Village, and this year the festival has reported their selected filmmakers come from 31 countries; 40% of the films were created by women, 43% were created by people of color. The New York Film Academy applauds the continued work to promote diversity in the entertainment industry, and congratulates Tamara Ruppart and Joseph Park. If you’re in the city, tickets are on sale now — check out our alumni films at the Winter Film Awards. 

  • New York Film Academy Co-Presents Stranger Than Fiction in its 14th Year at IFC Center

    The New York Film Academy returns to its partnership with IFC Center to present Stranger Than Fiction. For its 2018 winter season, Stranger Than Fiction is hosted by film producer and Toronto International Film Festival documentary programmer Thom Powers, and Oscar-nominated documentarian and New York Film Academy alum Raphaela Neihausen.

    “If you crave documentaries that generate passionate discussion, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from this lineup,” STF Artistic Director Thom Powers said in IFC’s press release.

    Now in its 14th year, Stranger Than Fiction is a weekly documentary film series that will now present nine seminal documentaries in keeping with its tradition of screening cutting-edge documentaries. After each screening, a Q&A will be held with each film’s director or another special guest, providing audiences with a truly exclusive and unforgettable experience. Stranger Than Fiction is sponsored by the New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking Department and presented by IFC Center.

    Stranger Than Fiction’s Opening Night festivities will commence with a screening of Sundance smash Seeing Allred, before exploring a lineup that will include serials and a Netflix original, and reflects the dynamically changing, cutting-edge documentary industry.

    Here is this year’s full Stranger Than Fiction lineup, co-presented by the New York Film Academy:

    Feb 6: Seeing Allred (2018, 96 min, dir Roberta Grossman & Sophie Sartain)

    + guest TBA

    Feb 13: Control Room (2004, 84 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Jehane Noujaim

    Feb 20: This is Congo (2017, 91 min)

    + Q&A w/  dir Daniel McCabe

    Feb 27: Flint Town (2018, two episodes totaling 90 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs. Zackary Canepari, Jessica Dimmock, Drea Cooper

    March 1: Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death (2017, 125 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Helen Whitney

    March 6: Oh, Rick! (2017, 78 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs Dustin Sussman, Aaron Rosenbloom & subject Rick Crom

    March 13: Wild, Wild Country (2018, two episodes totaling 120 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs Chapman Way, Maclain Way & exec prod Mark Duplass

    March 20: Occupation: Dreamland (2005, 78 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Ian Olds

    March 27: Closing Night: The China Hustle (2018, 84 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Jed Rothstein

    Screenings are held 7 p.m. Tuesdays (& one Thursday) at IFC Center, February 6 – March 27. The general public is welcome to attend Stranger Than Fiction screenings for $17, while IFC Center members enjoy a discounted ticket price of $14. Season Passes are available for $99 ($80 for IFC members), and cover admission to all 9 screenings. For more information, visit Stranger Than Fiction or IFC Center.