As many TV and film productions are grappling with new social distancing guidelines and reassessing working with extras for crowd scenes, New York Film Academy Cinematography instructor for NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, Mark Sawicki, says VFX is here to help.
Sawicki is a Clio-winning VFX and opticals artist, who has worked on incredible titles from The Dark Knight Rises and Bullet to the Head, to Tropic Thunder, 3:10 to Yuma and X-Men, among several others. Recently featured in Deadline, Sawicki shared how productions will increasingly begin to look to VFX to solve the challenging situations for making safer productions and creating scenes with crowds where multiple extras on set are typically needed.
Courtesy of Mark Sawicki
Using examples from titles like Casanova, Dracula,Gladiator,Pan Am, the Lord of The Rings trilogy, and more, Sawicki explains different VFX and even practical effects that can make movie magic for keeping sets safer. He also elaborated that background actors are still integral to filmmaking, but safety will need to take precedent. “I think background actors are very important. You know, this is a moving target as we’re adapting.”
Sawicki is the co-author with Juniko Moody of the recently released book Filming the Fantastic With Virtual Technology: Filmmaking on the Digital Backlot. Like his interview with Deadline explains, Sawicki and Moody outline some of the most ambitious evolutions in digital effects in filmmaking andthe new and exciting developments in digital cinematography with their new book, ultimately providing solutions for how VFX can help solve many of the challenges arising as crews look to return to work on COVID-safe sets.
To read the full article on Deadline, click here. Sawicki’s book has recently been released and is now available on Amazon and Kindle.
Actress Soundarya Sharma is keeping active amid the Coronavirus global pandemic. She was in the middle of attending 4-Week Acting for Film Workshop at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus when the pandemic forced classes to be transferred from in-person to online learning.
Soundarya discussed her experience at NYFA and her plans for the future. “I loved Richard Steinmetz’s class, techniques, and scene study. I loved his detailed explanations on how to be in the moment. Corey Pepper’s improv classes are also all about the presence of mind, which, I feel, is very important for an actor!”
Becoming an actress wasn’t always part of Soundarya’s plans for the future. “I completed my bachelor’s degree in dental studies and was pursuing residency opportunities in New Delhi, India – my hometown. It was during this time that I got audition opportunities which led me to the city of Mumbai. Once in the city, I realized that I want to pursue acting as a career.” Her decision to pursue a career in acting led her to the New York Film Academy. “NYFA is one of the finest acting academies in the world. I wanted to enhance my craft to an international standard and what would be better than to learn it at NYFA? Acting requires passion and craft which needs various modulations, NYFA is the best institute to mold you according to your skill.”
The COVID-19 global pandemic has been a challenging time for many. Soundarya has used this time to learn. “I have been spending most of my time learning Spanish online; keeping myself fit by hiking 10 miles a day at Runyon canyon; home workouts; swimming and yes, attending many of the NYFA webinars, they’re very helpful!”
New York Film Academy can’t wait for what’s next for Soundarya Sharma!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
New York Film Academy Acting for Film alum David Oulton is set to premiere the second season of his show Face to Face with David on Amazon Prime Video.
The show’s creation is a direct result of the restrictions set in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. “It came out of boredom during COVID. I’m sitting up here in Calgary, Canada losing my mind during the lockdown. I started mulling around with the idea of posting some FaceTime videos on social media, in line with what everyone else had been doing on Instagram and Facebook Live. Then it blew up and within about a week I had signed an agreement with Amazon, started hiring a crew, and it’s been a wild ride since. From conception to airing, the whole turnaround was less than two months and we’ve managed to pull it off.”
The objective of the talk show is pure entertainment. “I hope it brings them (the audience) a laugh or two and a quick escape from all the dreadful news we are being bombarded with lately. The concept of the show was to make the viewers feel as though they are listening in on a casual conversation between two people, and less of a formal interview. With a couple of exceptions, we mostly steered away from current events as well. It’s meant to be a half an hour of relaxing, easy watching tv to give yourself a little break.”
“Face to Face with David” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Face to Face with David follows a talk show format and features notable guests such as Carson Kressley and Perez Hilton. David spoke of his process for acquiring his big-name guests. “With Carson and Perez, I had built a relationship with via social media. Ironically, they were a couple of the biggest names in season one, but the easiest and most down to earth to get on the show. Carson, for example, said to just text him on the day of filming and let him know when to be ready. Vernee Watson and Lawrence Pressman, both extremely accomplished and award-winning actors, I have known for a very long time. Vernee was absolutely hilarious in sharing her time at the Emmy’s and what it’s like behind the scenes.” The show also featured one of David’s acting instructors at NYFA. “Valorie Hubbard taught me at NYFA, so it was great having her on and to catch up. She’s been a constant mentor since I did the acting program, and we’ve kept in touch. Most of the other guests were booked through their managers of publicists with the producers on the show. We have a really great team in place.”
Carson Kressly on “Face to Face with David”
David attended an Acting for Film Camp for Teens in Los Angeles back in 2010 after he received advice from an acting legend. “I came under the advice of Dame Judi Dench, who first suggested I find a great school in Los Angeles, especially since I was living in northern Canada at the time. After some research and visiting a few places, NYFA seemed to be the best suited.” He has since gone on to work on many successful productions. “Since NYFA, I’ve done about 15 film and television projects: Fargo, Galaxy Trek, Guns of Purgatory, The Agreement. But this show is definitely becoming bigger than anything I’ve done before for me personally.”
Of his time in the industry so far David said, I’ve learned to enjoy the process, but also to put the work in. If you show up to set prepared, knowing not only your lines but also your character and their story, the work is so much more fulfilling.”
He also encourages aspiring visual and performing artists to invest in their future and take a chance on their dreams. “I think that if anyone is reading the post and considering NYFA, and they’re from a small or remote part of the world or they have no experience, think about the fact that I came down from Fort McMurray, Canada with nothing but a couple of high school plays under my belt. If I can take what I learned during my course and eventually get my own talk show, airing around the world on multiple networks, then I think anyone should and can take the chance. You really never know until you hit that ‘submit’ button on the application, and then the possibilities are endless.”
Perez Hilton on Face to Face with David
As for a wish list of future guests, Oulten said he simply hopes to continue to provide quality entertainment. “Honestly, I don’t think I have a true ‘wish list’. I’m really just happy that anyone is taking the time to do our show and be authentic with their interviews. Perez was so fantastic, and really shared a lot of personal details which I wasn’t expecting. His interview was definitely a highlight for me. The second season is set to feature Vanessa Williams, Natasha Henstridge, Melissa Rivers, Pamela Rabe, Corbin Bernsen, Below Deck Med’s Captain Sandy, Ali Landry, and a host of other guests.
NYFA would like to wish David Oulton the very best on his second season of Face to Face with David which premiers on November 6, 2020 on Amazon Prime Video. The first season is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Google Play.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I had the pleasure of teaching Jeffrey Lay (BFA in Game Design) in several Game Design classes at the New York Film Academy here in Los Angeles. When he graduated, I had heard he got a job as a level designer at Square Root Studios. I recently found out that Square Root Studios had a new game on Kickstarter, so I contacted Jeffrey to find out more about it.
Scott Rogers (SR): Hey Jeffrey! Congratulations on launching TitanReach on Kickstarter! How did you join Square Root Studios?
Jeffrey Lay (JL): Hi Scott! Thank you very much. Funny story, I was in the middle of working on my own project, which was also heavily inspired by RuneScape, however it formed into a more idle-passive (mobile) version due to my limited coding experience. After a few weeks working on it, I saw a Discord post about the game and joined these two guys from Australia, both experienced programmers, and thought the idea was perfect. Now we’re now at about five to six developers.
SR: What can you tell me about TitanReach?
JL:TitanReach is an old school type MMORPG (an online role-playing video game) that focuses on skilling systems and action combat in a massive fantasy open-world with unique quests and a warm social experience! The game is heavily inspired by RuneScape, which had a very warm and calm feeling for it’s skilling system, along with great music, and was a “happy place” you could go to; which we’re combining with the nice warm environment.
SR: I think we all could use a “happy place” these days! What makes TitanReach different from all of those other MMORPGs that have come out in the past?
JL: The biggest adjustment for us is that we’re using action combat, which will be the contrast to it’s skilling system.
SR: What are your job responsibilities at Square Root Studios?
JL: While I’ve been part of TitanReach, I’ve focused on:
Level Design: Concepting out areas including the level design of Glimmermoore, the tutorial village, which is seen in the Demo.
Game Design: Coming up with the game world & environmental design, content design such as the Slayer Skill with all its details, skilling bosses, mini-games, along with combat design, economy and other various content coming down the line.
Project Management: Throughout the earlier months, this included checking developers are doing their tasks and prioritizing what needs to be done. This also includes finding other issues that need to be addressed although we have someone else who has since filled this position, though I still do some of it.
Marketing: I worked a lot on creating the Kickstarter campaign, including the written part of the Kickstarter. I’m also in charge of reaching out to various blogs, websites and content creators to gain exposure.
SR: It sounds like they keep you pretty busy! Why should someone back the TitanReach Kickstarter?
JL: We are being as open to the community as we can be in terms of our development.
We’ve released a free demo for anyone to play to see the exact stage we are in, which comes with its bugs and issues (ignore the quest). That demo is continually being patched each week for the community to see how fast we can turn around bugs and add some rough content in a week’s time for people to play around with.
With more time, these things can then be cleaned and polished. By backing us it will guarantee the cost of us continuing working on the project in order for us to deliver a polished, nice game. Having gotten this far with a penny, we’ll be able to focus full-time on the project.
The biggest benefit for backing us right now is that our Alpha/Beta is unlike most other companies (being 3-10 days) will be throughout the months of the game’s development stage (meaning months of playtime throughout those stages), although a player’s progress will be wiped at game launch, as we don’t want any unbalanced values (economic-abuse) to be transferred over to the official launch like what has happened with the dual universe beta to launch.
SR: That sounds like a good idea. Too many games have had issues with that in the past. What are some of the issues you find in games nowadays?
JL: An issue we see in games nowadays is that they are overwhelmed with Microtransactions (MTX) that bring an unfair advantage to many other users, although it’s understandable why they do it. We want to remain free from MTX, which gives a player any unfair advantage such as gold/xp rates or other unfair benefits. We try to level out the field and give everyone the same chance!
SR: That sounds really fair! I think your players will really appreciate that. So, where can we find out more about TitanReach online?
JL:Our Kickstarter has a lot more information along with our other social media! Feel free to join our Discord of over 12,500 Members and check out our website here!
SR: Thanks Jeffrey and good luck with the game! JL: Thank you!
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Game Design alum Jeffrey Lay on his new game TitanReach and wishes the Jeffrey all the best on the kickstarter campaign.
This year, New York Film Academy’s top-ranked summer camps went virtual and campers in countries across Asia had the opportunity to make films, learn to act, and create animations under the umbrella of knowledgeable Los Angeles campus instructors who have worked in the industry for years, in interactive live classes, from the comfort of their home!
Campers finished hands-on projects, and socialized (virtually) with their fellow campers. In addition, NYFA’s camps team had designed after-class social activities that would occur two to three times per week to allow campers to get to know one another and just have some fun!
NYFA’s unique Filmmaking, Acting, and 3D Animation teen courses have become a dynamic new standard in visual and performing arts distance education. During the summer of 2020, more than 40 students from China, Japan, Singapore, India and so on attended the teen camps online offered from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, located in the heart of Hollywood.
At their home, the campers could shoot, participate, and edit in film, acting, or animation projects using their smartphones and laptops. Students screened or displayed their final works at NYFA’s virtual graduation ceremony at the end of each program, varying from one to four weeks, along with popcorn at home and a virtual gathering of friends and family members.
NYFA Summer Camps 2019 (On Campus)
Danny, a camper in China, share: “I wanted to say it was one of the best experiences of my life. You run such an awesome program and I am so grateful that I got to experience this summer program at home. I would like to experience NYFA’s in-person programs soon.”
To learn more about future programs for China or Asia time zones, please click here to learn more about our summer camp programs or contact us through WeChat: nyfabeijing
At New York Film Academy, our instructors are working industry professionals who are constantly creating and pushing the boundaries in their industries. For NYFA Los Angeles Playwright and Features instructor Colette Freedman, she is doing just that, having recently worked as the script doctor on Steve Aoki’s highly anticipated musical Mozart² and continuing her work as a writer and an actress.
Freedman recalls jumping into her acting and writing career after experiencing an “ah-ha moment” in a theatre company while on a play reading committee. “I was reading a script and I realized ‘I can do better’.”
NYFA instructor Colette Freedman
Freedman then wrote the First to the Egg, which won a slew of awards. She also wrote the play Sister Cities, which has been produced all over the world and made into a novel and a Netflix film adaption in which Freedman also acted alongside Michelle Trachtenberg and Troian Bellisario.
‘Serial Killer Barbie’ (Written by Colette Freedman)
Freedman’s favorite projects she’s written include her dark comedy Serial Killer Barbie with Nickella Moschetti and another recent project with Freedman’s writing partner, Brooke Purdy, called The Last Bookstore, which gained great critical acclaim and is even receiving some film interest.
For the highly anticipated Mozart², Freedman shares that the process was quite collaborative when working with Steve Aoki and the entire team to bring this story to the stage. “We [Freedman and Tegan Summer] write the libretto and original songs alongside composer Gregory Nabours. Steve [Aoki] and his team would then select the EDM numbers that work best for the moments we define in the script, and then it comes together to green light, arrange, and orchestrate.”
Playwrights, as Freedman, points out, are not just there at the beginning to write the story, but are involved in the life of the musical or play from beginning to end. “ [For Mozart²] We have an amazing design team for visuals and incredible choreographers in Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson with Ferly Prado,” she shares. “We steer the narrative, they steer the floor.”
Poster for Steve Aoki’s ‘Mozart²’
As for what she hopes audiences will get from her script and the musical overall, she hopes audiences will relate to lead character Nan and shine a light on not only her character, but “all of the women whose talent was silenced due to the patriarchy.”
In the meantime, Freedman has this to say to students and creatives:
“Go make art. Especially in these times. Use your voice to create. Brooke and I have a YouTube channel Midlife Mutiny, which gives inspirational tidbits and encourages you to tell your stories and share your voice. Nan Mozart didn’t have the luxury of social media to get her voice out, but you do!”
New York Film Academy congratulates instructor, actress, and writer Colette Freedman on her recent achievement with Mozart² and encourages everyone to stay tuned for additional information about the musical and when it will be available to the public.
On Friday, July 10th, CG Supervisor, Daniele Tosti spoke with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Animation Instructor Bruce Buckley as part of an ongoing series for his Youtube channel, The Computer Graphic Career. “…Dedicated to helping artists in the feature and digital production industry”, the channel features several interviews with “some of the most successful senior artists and supervisors in the feature digital art business.”
The admiration between the two artists is clear from the start of the interview as they speak to each other’s successes and past collaborations. Once underway, we discover the passion and experiences that ultimately lead to Buckley’s long career as a CG Supervisor and Visual Development Artist for films like: Casper, Beowulf, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Fate of the Furious, and Deadpool 2.
3D design from Bruce Buckley’s portfolio of work on Pixars’s ‘The Incredibles’
The interview uncovers everything from the ways Bruce is able to find balance between being a supervisor while still feeling like an artist, to what he sees for the future of the business from a technological standpoint. However, it is Tosti’s questions that speak to the more personal nature of artists that separates this series from anything else. “As artists, we are all driven by emotions and subjective beauty. For that reason we tend to see the world differently and our passion goes deep. But balancing that passion with the economy of your professional life as an artist, as well as with your family and people around you is the most critical journey.” It is through this lens we begin to pull back the layers and see what it really takes to be able to make it in the industry.
NYFA’s Animation department prides itself on cultivating a faculty of working professionals utilizing a top down method. It stems from our belief that in order to become the best, you must learn from the best, and Bruce Buckley is simply the best.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Paula Bryant-Ellis’ story is proof that you do not have to grow up in the entertainment industry or start in showbiz at an early age to find your voice or succeed in the business. With the foundation of her faith and the skills from her career and educational experiences, Bryant-Ellis has managed to switch vocations and elevate her voice and the experiences of others along the way.
After graduating from Concordia University in Texas, where she majored in Accounting, Bryant-Ellis furthered her education with an MBA from UOP and an executive MBA from MIT. After years in corporate America as an executive and COO in banking and finance, Bryant-Ellis decided it was time for a change. “I was unfulfilled and really felt God pulling me in a different direction. So, my husband and I took a leap of faith and we sold our house, packed up our belongings, and moved to Los Angeles.”
That leap of faith led Bryant-Ellis to attend NYFA’s Los Angeles campus to study producing. “I enrolled at NYFA because I needed a way to learn the industry and get up to speed quickly,” she says. “I came out of the producing program convinced that I could produce my first project, and I did!” Bryant-Ellis also learned filmmaking at NYFA’s New York City campus. “I was able to develop relationships with students from LA, New York, Russia, Nigeria and South Africa and keep in touch with them even now,” she shares.
Photo courtesy of Paula Bryant-Ellis
Bryant-Ellis has gone on to produce TV series Hard Medicine and the short film Twelve Steps. She also recently made a small cameo appearance for an episode in season four of HBO’s Insecure, directed by her son Jay Ellis, who also stars on the show opposite NYFA filmmaking alum Issa Rae.
Bryant-Ellis’ most recent project to date has been her docuseries Behind Her Faith, which focuses on women in entertainment and their personal journey and the role of their faith in their career. The series features Essence Atkins (A Haunted House, Are We There Yet?), Niecy Nash (Claws, When They See Us), Angelica Nwandu (The Shade Room), and Aisha Hinds (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 9-1-1).
“Mentoring and encouraging women has always been extremely important to me, especially because there were no role models for me in my field as I was working my way up through corporate America,” reveals Bryant-Ellis. “There were very few females in the upper ranks and there were absolutely no men or women of color in senior or executive level positions.”
‘Behind Her Faith’ created by an produced by Paula Bryant-Ellis
Behind Her Faith is currently streaming on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Roku and UMC.tv (an AMC network), and Bryant-Ellis hopes to have more seasons in the future. “I want the audience to know that God loves them and that He’s waiting to have an encounter with them that’s more powerful than they could ever think or imagine.”
With faith being a cornerstone of Bryant-Ellis’ storytelling foundation, she also shares that this time in show business is crucial for people to understand that all stories should properly represented and calls for change in the industry. “Stop believing you can tell my story better than I can. No one’s story is more important than the other but BOTH must be told.”
Paula Bryant-Ellis behind the scenes during a film shoot
With the Black Lives Matter movement continuing to bring a reckoning in Hollywood, Bryant-Ellis also adds “it’s not enough to say that you are aligned with a cause when you don’t provide resources to support the cause,” and this is not just an issue that appears in the entertainment industry. “It does not matter what industry you’re in; your Boards and your decision-making team must be diverse and reflective of the people that support and purchase your products.”
Bryant-Ellis also reveals she has a couple of additional projects in the works including a docuseries and a drama, but is unable to officially share more information just yet. For now, she has this to say:
“Believe in you. This industry requires tough skin and staying power. Find a niche that works for you and create content that keeps you true to who you are. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. No one can do you better than you, you just have to believe it and trust it. Trust your voice and your vision!”
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate alum Paula Bryant-Ellis on her docuseries, Behind Her Faith, and looks forward to what exciting and inspiring projects come next from the NYFA alum!
Photo courtesy of Paula Bryant-Ellis
To learn more about Paula Bryant-Ellis and to keep an eye out for her upcoming projects, check out the links below:
New York Film Academy (NYFA), in partnership with the City of Burbank’s Cultural Arts Commission, has produced a video highlighting the 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program, an art installation initiative to display original artwork on utility boxes throughout the Burbank community.
With NYFA’s own Los Angeles campus located in the Burbank area, NYFA offered its support to the Burbank Arts Beautification Program for this local community initiative as a means to provide a glimpse at what has been accomplished so far in the community through the Program. NYFA’s video highlights the Phase 3 of the Burbank Arts Beautification Program, which focused on the utility boxes located in the media district of Burbank. These boxes were painted by talented artists, who were inspired by the theme “A World of Entertainment.”
A Vintage Postcard for Burbank’ by Artist Monika Petroczy
In addition to creating the video highlighting the 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program, NYFA also sponsored artist Monika Petroczy, who created her box, ‘A Vintage Postcard for Burbank.’ Petroczy’s box was inspired by the classic vintage postcards from the 1950’s and included famous Burbank landmarks, activities and landscapes both classic and modern.
NYFA sponsored artist Monika Petroczy (Left)
This week, the City of Burbank in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department and the Public Works Department, announced a call to all artists to participate in the Burbank Arts Utility Box Beautification Project for 2020. Various utility boxes throughout the City’s Magnolia Park District will be painted with original art inspired by the theme of “Celebrate Community.” Applications are now open and will close on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 5:00 P.M PST.
NYFA would like to thank the City of Burbank’s Cultural Arts Commission for being part of Burbank Arts Beautification Program and encourages artists to apply to be part of the Magnolia Park District phase of the Program.
To learn about previous Utility Box Beautification Projects, or to apply, click here.
The end of May was an exciting time at New York Film Academy (NYFA) for the Spring Class of 2020, where students and instructors witnessed the culmination of their hard work over multiple days of final screenings, presentations, pitches, and of course, graduation ceremonies.
Actor Vincent D’Oforino (Left) and Dean of Academic Advising for NYFA Los Angeles, Mike Civille (Right)
This year, NYFA graduations, like many across the country, were held virtually with students and their families tuning in from all over the world to celebrate as NYFA graduates proudly accepted their diplomas and tossed their caps in the air.
Guest speaker Vincent D’Onofrio joined in the commencement ceremony by delivering a speech that encouraged BFA and MFA students as they go into working more closely with the industry after graduation. He encouraged students to continue to remember what they know, but to constantly be willing to learn and grow along the way throughout their respective careers.
New York Film Academy congratulates all of the incredible students of the class of Spring 2020 who have dedicated so much time and hard work into completing their training here. We look forward to celebrating all their wonderful achievements to come!