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  • Dare to Be Remarkable: New York Film Academy Alumna Adriana Ledesma on Film, Family and Future

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    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    Latina filmmaker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Masters of Screen and Media graduate Adriana Ledesma is hard at work, applying her remarkable skill set as a writer, director, editor, cinematographer, producer, production manager — and more — to tell distinctive stories. In an industry focused on better promoting diversity and women in film while also creating opportunity for individuals with unique voices, this rising filmmaker is intent on creating engaging stories and touching audience’s hearts, and we are excited to watch her blaze a unique path.

    In the past few years NYFA alumnus Adriana Ledesma has premiered her work at numerous film festivals, including her films “Departure,” “Karma,” “A Choice,” and “Empathize.” In 2016, “Departure” won the Bronze Award for Short Film at the Fameus International Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Best Short Drama Jury Award at the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival and the Best Short Film Hollywood Cinefest award at the Hollywood Cinfast. Adriana’s passion, experience, and unending love of mankind lend a unique perspective to her films, helping to create an experience audiences won’t soon forget.

    Recently, the busy filmmaker took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog and share some of her thoughts with our international community.

    NYFA: Some of your films have been honored with multiple awards. How did that feel? 

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    AL: Of course it’s always a great satisfaction that someone external, in this case some real experts, value the work you do and that you put so much effort into accomplishing. I don’t do things to receive something in return, but I am very passionate and I believe you should put more than 100 percent on everything you do — or else, what’s the point in doing it at all? So it has been an honor for me.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the film industry since graduating from the New York Film Academy?

    AL: Well, it certainty hasn’t been an easy road. There have been many obstacles and many sacrifices involved, but when you set your mind towards what you truly want, there’s nothing that can stop you.

    What you need to do is take the risk, forget about all the complications you might find on the way, and step out of your comfort zone. Don’t limit yourself, and dare to be remarkable.  

    I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do what I love, to wake up and go to set every day. I feel blessed.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: You are from Mexico originally and left home to pursue your dream, which is something that many members of our international NYFA community can relate to. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and how your home and family have inspired your work?

    AL: I am a person who values family immensely and thank God I come from a family where love, affection and support are key. Even though I know they miss me as much as I miss them, the fact that they are always there for me, giving me advice and encouragement, pushes me to continue. …

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    … I have countless memories of my childhood, climbing trees, riding bikes with my neighbors, playing soccer, going to the park with my siblings and my parents, etc., but there is one that stands out from when I was around nine years old. I was with some cousins and friends at my cousin’s house, and all of our parents no longer knew what to do to entertain us anymore, so they came up with the idea of all of us creating a whole episode of a TV program. We were very young at that time but I remember, knowing nothing, we pulled together a very decent project with nothing but one camera. Some of us took care of crew-type activities, some of them were acting in it, we had production design involved and even visual effects with some blood. That moment, at that age, felt magical for me.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: Who are your influences? And how would you define your style as a filmmaker?

    AL: I am mostly inspired by Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg. The way they portray their stories, the approach they have when it comes to every single element involved, the importance they give to movement, acting, and framing while doing a film, is also how I love doing mine.

    For me, making a film is like putting a duet dance piece together: it’s all choreography. First you do the research — you gather all the elements you might use, then you explore styles and steps and you make your creativity shine.

    Once you have planned all the moves, you have to spend time rehearsing so it goes as well as possible. But when you’re actually shooting, you have to deal with unpredictability and uncertainty, because even when you’ve been working on it for a long time, the music might take you to different places.

    Then it becomes about timing. Each of the puzzle pieces have a detailed purpose, a precise time where they are needed, a specific meaning — so at the end, if everything flows as it was supposed to, the unified project gives you goose bumps.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Adriana for taking the time to share a part of her story with our community. Keep an eye out for many of her exciting new projects in development, including “Growing Up,” “Once in a Life time,” “Los Elegidos,” and “Until the End,” among others.

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  • New York Film Academy Alumna Kellyanne Chippendale Talks “Meisnered” at NYFA Los Angeles

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    On Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, director and comedian Kellyanne Chippendale brought her short documentary “Meisnered” to the New York Film Academy. The film chronicles her experiences studying the Meisner Technique, and how it changed her life. The documentary also includes the short film “Getting Meisnered.” Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter and Chair of Acting for Film Anne Moore hosted the evening.

    Kellyanne Chippendale had an unconventional path into the entertainment industry. She began the same way as many, with a passion for watching movies that was passed down from her parents. But by the time she was in college, her focus had shifted. She went to school for broadcast journalism, focused on becoming an educator, and thought about having a family.

    “I taught every single subject and every single grade except math,” Chippendale said. But something was missing. She wanted to try acting, but the audition process never seemed to go her way. “I’d prepare so well and then once I got into the room…” So she did what any rational adult would do: She joined a stand-up comedy class. When they asked her to come back the following season she knew she was on to something.

    Her continued hard work led her to wear many hats for the company. “I started producing my own shows because that’s the only way you can make money in comedy when you’re first starting out.” She began with dinner shows, where patrons would pay $50 a table to have dinner and a show. Through this she began to form relationships with other comedians, getting invited to perform at other shows, and building a roster for her own performances.

    Her film “Getting Meisnered” is about this process of becoming an actress and, more specifically, about her instructor, Wolfgang, who helped her have a major breakthrough in acting through the Meisner technique. She says this experience changed her life. The idea of working off an actor’s true essence and building a scene with a partner was a philosophy she was able to take into her real life.

    Moore and Chippendale gave a short demonstration of one of the Meisner exercises. One actor makes an observation about the other. Then the statement is acknowledged and repeated as the actors search for the truth in the moment.

    One student asked which books would be best to read if they were interested in studying the Meisner technique independently. The answer they received was “Meisner on Acting” and Larry Silverberg’s four-part series “The Sanford Meisner Approach: An Actor’s Workbook.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Chippendale for taking the time to speak with our students. Check out her short film “Getting Meisnered” on IMDB by clicking here.

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    November 16, 2017 • Academic Programs, Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1229

  • NYFA Chair of Community Outreach Mason Richards Shows “The Seawall” at CCCADI

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    NYFA Los Angeles Film Directing Faculty and Chair of Community Outreach Mason Richards wears many hats, both on and off campus — teacher, filmmaker, advocate, artist — and fearlessly explores these complex identities in his own artistic work. Right now, his film “The Seawall” is a part of an installation exploring trans-national identity, Afro-Caribbean culture, and diaspora with the (CCCADI) Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute gallery in New York City. If you’re in New York, hurry to see it before Nov. 30!

    Born in Guyana, Richards immigrated to the U.S. when he was just seven years old, an experience that inspired him to create and film “The Seawall” back home in Guyana. In the midst of pre-production for the feature version of “The Seawall,” Mr. Richards found the time to catch up with the NYFA blog to share his inspirations and his insights with our international community.

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

    MR: I started my career in the arts as a teen actor while growing up in New York City. I was one of the youngest members of a youth theater company called “The CityKids Repertory Company.” We wrote and performed theatrical pieces around social issues such a drug abuse, bullying, racism and identity.

    My transition from acting to directing happened around the time I was an undergraduate in college pursuing degrees in English (B.A.) and Human & Organizational Development (B.S.) double-major from Vanderbilt University. I directed my first theater play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” during my freshman year at Vanderbilt, and I knew from that point on that I wanted to be a director.

    Many years later after working in Hollywood at Paramount Pictures in marketing, I decided to return to school to pursue my MFA in Film Directing from Cal Arts (California Institute of the Arts). As far as teaching at NYFA, I’ve always known that I would work as an educator in some capacity. So when I heard about an opportunity to teach filmmaking at The New York Film Academy’s NYC campus I jumped at the chance — mainly because of the diversity of the NYFA student population, as well as NYFA’s “hands on” approach to filmmaking.

    I actually started teaching in the high school program at NYFA New York in 2014. Then when I moved to LA full time in 2016, I subsequently took on teaching more advanced filmmaking classes at the NYFA Los Angeles campus, focusing on directing and screenwriting.

    NYFA: As NYFA’s Chair of Community Outreach, can you speak to what community means to you and how you’ve seen it grow at NYFA?

    MR: In addition to being faculty in the filmmaking department where I teach directing and screenwriting, I am also the Chair of Community Outreach Department. I firmly believe that as artists, filmmakers, and creatives  it’s really important to give back to the community in any way we can — and especially now that there is such a push to increase diversity in Hollywood in regards to women and groups that have been traditionally underrepresented. I believe that it is important to live a life with purpose, and part of having purpose is service. So, as Chair of Community Outreach I feel like it give my life more purpose because I am able to be of service to the community.

    NYFA: As someone who has worn a lot of hats within the industry (acting, directing, community outreach, and more), how has your vision grown as an artist? Has shifting roles changed how you approach your work as a filmmaker?

    MR: Filmmaking is such a collaborative art form, and I believe that it is essential to be aware of all of the various jobs that people have on set. As for me, starting out in the business as a child actor and then moving into directing, I have a unique understanding of the process that actors go through from auditions, to rehearsals, to performance, etc. With that, I have lots of love and empathy for actors, and I always make sure that I’m not only concerned with the technical and cinematic aspects of a project, but also the performances are very important to me. It’s always a part of my vision to elevate the performances of the actors to ensure that they are truthful and relatable to audiences.

    NYFA: What inspired your film “The Seawall”?  

    MR: I was born in Guyana, South America, and like most Guyanese people, I left Guyana at an early age with my family in pursuit of a better life abroad in the United States. As a proud Guyanese citizen and passport holder, every time I return to my home country, I feel somewhat disconnected from the culture. This feeling is unsettling. It usually takes me a few days of listening to the cadence of the rich accents of my Afro- Indo- and Amerindian Guyanese people, in fish markets or liming on the seawall, then I start to feel more connected to the place and the people again. It’s always fascinating to me that Guyana can look and feel foreign to me in many ways, yet the sounds and optics contributes to making it feel very familiar, like “home” at the same time.

    NYFA: Can you tell us how your collaboration with the LIMINAL SPACE exhibition at the CCCADI (Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute) came about?  

    MR: I was approached by the art curator, Grace Ali, who had been a champion of “The Seawall” short film. Grace felt like the film would add a nice texture to the exhibit featuring art from various artists of Guyanese descent. I’m just thrilled to be in such great company with some of the more talented painters, photographers and sculptors in the diaspora.

    The CCCADI is very deliberate about the art they showcase in their space, so the whole experience is just an honor. Many of us from the Caribbean diaspora, as well as other immigrants to foreign countries, struggle with a concept of “trans-national” identities — meaning that we are from another country; however, we’ve immigrated to the United States, where we’ve adapted to a new, dominant culture and way of life.

    With that, there are times when we as immigrants feel a sense of “disconnect” from our present culture while maintaining and sense of nostalgia for our place of birth. For immigrants, this can be a feeling like we have left something behind, back “home,” whether it’s family, our cultural identity, or simply our childhood memories. In my current film installation project, I wish to explore the disconnect between our cultural identity by focusing on the natural elements that connect me to my birth country.

    NYFA: Having left Guyana at age 7 for New York, many of our students may be able to relate to your story of immigration. What advice would you give to our students who are in transition between countries, and establishing their identity as artists?

    MR: As an artist and filmmaker, my creative and artistic intentions tend to center around themes of identity and belongingness. In my work, I constantly strive to explore questions around “who am I, where do I belong, and what does ‘home’ truly mean?” These questions, I believe are the pillars for a strong sense of self, and ultimately the foundation of character. As immigrants in America it’s important that we tell our stories and share the experiences of our culture. It only takes us one step closer to understanding each other as human beings.

    NYFA: You’re now preparing to produce the feature version of “The Seawall” — how has your process changed since producing the short?
    MR: For the feature film of “The Seawall” I have expanded the story so that the main character Malachi is now an adult struggling with becoming a new father and going back home to his country of birth. The process has been more intense than producing the short because it’s a longer format, but also because I’ve had to do a lot more research and development of the characters to make sure that they are telling their own truth. I’m excited because I have a great producing team to help me along.

    NYFA: What advice can you offer to our students who dream of making their own feature film?

    MR: The film industry is very tough, so in order to be successful, you have to be resilient and have faith in your dreams.

    NYFA: Are there any other upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

    MR: I’m developing a television pilot about a Caribbean family adjusting to life in NYC.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mason Richards for sharing a part of his story with our community. “The Seawall” Short film will be playing at the CCCADI until Nov. 30 2017. To view the film online via Anansi Studios, click here. Visit the New York City exhibit at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, 120 E. 125th Street.

     

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  • NYFA Filmmaking Grad Allan Ungar To Direct Upcoming Thriller “Decoy”

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    NYFA filmmaking alumnus Allan Ungar will direct feature thriller “Decoy,” blazing his path in the action film genre. “Decoy” follows the success of Ungar’s film “Gridlocked,” which has found distribution with digital giant Netflix.

    “Decoy” has already gained buzz in the Hollywood Reporter. Heavy hitters including actors Andy Garcia, Frank Grillo and Tyler Posey and producers Andrew Gunn, Michael Bien, Henry Less, Sissy Federer, Tom North, Tannaz Anisi and Greg Schenz are already attached to the action project.

    The NYFA Blog had a chance to catch up with Allan to hear more about “Decoy” and life in the director’s chair.

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

    AU: When I was in my early teens I was looking for a film school that was intensive through its education, but that would also allow me to have a hands-on experience. When I found out NYFA had a location in LA, I immediately knew that I had to go.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us?

    AU: My favorite NYFA moment was walking onto the Universal backlot for the first time and getting to direct a short film on the standing set from the original “Jurassic Park.”

    NYFA: What was the inspiration behind your upcoming feature “Decoy,” and how did this project come about?

    AU: “Decoy” was a script that my manager sent me two years ago, and I remember not being able to read it the night I received it due to a dinner meeting. The person I was seeing happened to be running late, so I began reading the script on my phone. Next thing I knew, I finished the script and hadn’t realized I was there for over an hour! The person never showed up either!

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience shopping “Decoy” to backers at TIFF? What was that process like, and did anything surprise you while there?

    AU: The reception at TIFF was extremely positive and welcoming, although I left most of the business to my producers.

    NYFA: When pulling together a major feature like “Decoy,” do you have any personal rituals or advice you follow to help you with the process that you can share with our students?

    AU: I try to read the script and work with the actors as much as possible beforehand. By breaking down the story and characters in depth, I find that it better prepares me for any changes or curveballs that are headed my way.

    I also like to watch films with similar tones and visual styles as a way to get into the world of the film. Pre-production is where the film lives or dies, so it’s always crucial to utilize whatever time you have to communicate your vision to the department heads and actors.

    NYFA: ou met your “Gridlocked” collaborator Rob Robol while still studying at NYFA. Has the NYFA community played any part in “Decoy”? If so, how? 

    AU: NYFA has played a large role in where I am now, and while there are no direct relationships being used on this film, I would say that the school enabled me to grow as a filmmaker and learn how to foster relationships as a whole.

    NYFA: What has been your greatest lesson in helming major feature film projects?

    AU: My biggest takeway would be that it doesn’t matter how many times you do it, you will always encounter the unexpected and continue to learn more about yourself and the process each time. I try to remember that it’s also okay to be nervous, so as long as you are as prepared as possible and know the material inside and out.

    NYFA: If you could next do a movie in a completely different genre besides action films, what would it be and why?

    AU: I’d love to tackle a drama; something that’s more intimate and all about the actors. I feel like because it would be something outside my wheelhouse it would be a good challenge.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about any other projects you are working on?

    AU: I’m looking at a couple projects for later but nothing I can speak about yet.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Allan Ungar for sharing some of his story with our community.

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  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Producer David Gale to Q&A Series

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    This October, David Gale came to the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy. Director of Q&A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening alongside Veteran Coordinator Steven Padilla.

    Gale began his illustrious career in entertainment as a lawyer, but wanted to make movies. Without any experience, he had to settle for working at ICM as an Entertainment Lawyer.

    For 10 years he held this position until his firm began working with Ridley Scott’s production company. The two liked working together, and Scott offered Gale a job. It was not glamorous work, but Gale kept his nose to the grindstone and, just when he thought it wouldn’t work out, a friend phoned to tell him that Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of “The Terminator” and more recently “The Walking Dead,” was looking for someone to run her company.

    “I did that job for the next four years,” Mr. Gale said. “That’s where I really learned to produce movies. Gale is a tough one, but she’s fair and a wonderful person. If you did the work she really respected you.”

    Yet Gale still wasn’t doing the kind of work he truly wanted to be doing. Then, in 1995, MTV called. They were looking for someone to run their new feature film division. The first film on the docket was “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.”

    Gale remembered, “I loved it so I stayed there, running MTV Films, for 11 years.” His work included such cult classic hits as “Election,” “Varsity Blues” (with Tova Laiter), “Jackass: The Movie,” and “Pootie Tang.”

    Laiter wanted to know, what was the philosophy behind MTV Films’ and Gale’s success?

    Gale’s response: “When you have a great brand and you’re trying to make movies, or anything really, you can depend on that brand to help you understand and define what it is you want to make.”

    Gale did this by keeping the budget low and by hiring great independent voices. “Murderball,” Tupac documentaries, and indie voices helped define a youth-centered brand for the early 2000’s. When he had the idea to buy a manuscript called “Twilight and the studio passed, “Everyone thought I was crazy,” Gale said. He then decided it was time to move on.

    His boss gave him a new division as head of digital at MTV. In 2006, this move put Gale at the forefront of the next wave of media entertainment. Facebook and YouTube were brand new players on the scene. The rules for digital marketing, development, and content had not yet been created.

    While MTV ultimately elected not to go full blast into the digital world, they gave Gale the freedom to experiment and learn.

    After 18 years at MTV, Gale was looking for something new, only this time he wasn’t sure what the next step would be. So he quit. A few days later, someone sent him a video that led to the creation of We Are The Mighty, a digital media company focused on engaging the United States military community.

    “Somebody sent me a music video of a band I’d never heard of,” Gale recalled. “What was cool about it was it was all veterans in the band, and they had 150 million views on YouTube.”

    A couple of days later Gale received a documentary about five severely disabled veterans who were doing standup, called “Comedy Warriors.” He had a thought: “The military is a big giant audience and no one is serving it.”

    His second thought was, “Whatever I’m doing next I want to be positive in some way. Could I combine my skill set of 30 years and put that to work with a company that could make a difference?”

    Over the next year, Gale invested all of his time and energy into learning about the military and the lives of those who serve. What he learned is that one-third of Americans are directly or indirectly related to the military. Gale found that there were some entertainment companies with a military focus, “But without military personnel behind the camera it’s not going to be authentic. The entertainment industry says we have a lot of jobs for veterans — you can work in the mailroom or as an electrician. But we’re missing the creativity.”

    “There’s a lot of leadership skills not being put to use,” Gale commented. “The level of maturity, the ability to make decisions and adjust is so much higher than a 30-year-old who has been getting copy and delivering scripts for the past 10 years.”

    So Gale co-founded and is now CEO of We Are The Mighty. This organization hires veterans to create content and then helps pitch and launch the content on different platforms. There’s an internship program that turns young creators into professional filmmakers. He’s also partnered with Medal of Honor recipient and Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program Colonel Jack Jacobs to shoot a documentary about the first 10 weeks of basic training.

    NYFA student and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Drew Demboske asked, “What was the biggest obstacle you faced when starting your company, besides funding?” Gale suggested: just creating something. Once you’ve begun, you tweak, observe changes in viewer consumption, and keep up with those changes that happen every day.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. David Gale for taking the time to speak with our students. Check out We Are The Mighty online by clicking here.

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  • NYFA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate With an Industry Pitch Fest

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    Graduating New York Film Academy MFA and BFA screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held at the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles.

    The catered event provided mingling and networking opportunities for the students, executives, and faculty alike. It was a capstone evening celebrated the New York Film Academy’s graduating screenwriting students, offering them an outlet to jumpstart their careers by pitching their film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals.

    These writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with instructors Adam Finer, Doc Pedrolie, and David O’Leary, in conjunction with Faculty Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and other members of the Screenwriting Department, preparing and fine-tuning their pitches.

    The students’ hard work and dedication shined as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had developed for nearly a year. Students left with new contacts, excitement about the scripts they’d worked so hard to create, and a sense of what it’s like to meet with industry professionals.

    Considered by the school as the graduating students’ first night as professional screenwriters, the evening showed that this group of talented and creative students’ hard work has paid off, as they pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, TV and film production company execs in a relaxed, round-table environment.

    Organized and hosted by Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including Blumhouse, ICM, Left Field Pictures, Madhouse Entertainment, Manifest Talent, Quadrant Pictures, Skydance, Studio71, This is Just a Test Productions, and Weed Road Pictures.

    NYFA wishes to thank all of its participants, particularly our industry guests, without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA and BFA graduates!

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    September 15, 2017 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1633

  • NYFA Los Angeles Students Attend Exclusive Premier of “American Assassin”

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    On Tuesday, September 12 New York Film Academy Students were invited to a once-in-a-lifetime event: the world premiere of “American Assassin.”

    The screening was held at the famous TCL Chinese Theater. As the students approached the theater, the red carpet stretched out in front them, including the Hollywood Boulevard handprints and stars. 

    Walking past the long line of paparazzi, journalists, PR representatives and screaming fans, students approached the grand entrance. After the large laminate tickets were shown to doormen, the student took their seats at the front of the theater.

    Director Michael Cuesta and producers Aidan Elliott and Lorenzo di Bonaventura introduced the film. They thanked the the men and women of the U.S. covert services who protect the United States of America. They also congratulated the entire crew for helping them complete this project, which they had been working on for over 10 years.

    Stars Michael Keaton, Dylan O’Brien, Taylor Kitsch, and Shiva Negar were also in attendance. “American Assassin” is O’Brien’s first leading role in an action film, though the former MTV “Teen Wolf” star is also known for “The Maze Runner.” His turn as a grieving fiancé seeking revenge against the terrorist organizations who killed the love of his life will have fans seeing O’Brien in an entirely new light.

    During the screening, the crowd was very vocal about their appreciation of the film. They roared with laughter as Keaton used wit and a sharp tongue to eliminate a bad guy and cheered as the hero made a daring last-minute escape.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank CBS Films and Lionsgate for the incredible tickets. Go see “American Assassin” in theaters on Friday, September 15.  

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    September 15, 2017 • Academic Programs, Entertainment News, Film School, Filmmaking, Producing • Views: 1601

  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Viceland’s Eddie Huang as Guest Speaker

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    This month, the New York Film Academy welcomed New York Times Bestselling author (“Fresh off the Boat”), chef, designer, and producer Eddie Huang to the Los Angeles campus. The event was hosted by Q & A Director Tova Laiter, who produced “Glory” with Denzel Washington.

    Huang showed NYFA students a segment he filmed in D.C. part of a series he is producing and stars in for Viceland called “Huang’s World.”  On his show, Huang travels the world tasting unique foods from every culture.

    Huang has an incredible resume that included being a lawyer and doing stand-up comedy. He shared that he had wanted to get into film but was told no one wanted to buy Asian American stories. He was crushed, but he did not let it stop him from being an artist.

    “Americans expect us (Asian Americans) to be good at cooking and kung-fu,” Huang said. So he started cooking, but kept his focus on Asian culture when he spoke to the media. Pretty quickly he was picked up for shows like “Munchies” and “Snack-Off.”

    Laiter asked Huang how he pitched “Huang’s World” to Viceland. Essentially, he blended his frustration with not being seen with his love of food: “I told them I wanted to explore culture through food.” That was it. The show was picked up for six episodes.

    When asked how he’s been able to accomplish so much in his short life Huang said, “It’s schedule and discipline. If I wake up and I’m not on it, I get mad.”

    That attitude has permeated every aspect of his life. He has studied everything  (“its about the science of it”) from boxing to film to the difference in how his parents cooked (“mother was more focus and her food tasted better!”).

    Huang expanded upon the unique racism he has faced. In one anecdote, he shared that once he had written an article for a local paper. They liked it so much, they asked him to come in for a job. But when they saw his face they didn’t think people would be interested in talking to him. This is one example of many.

    So, Huang began working a lot of different jobs: “I didn’t know where my entry point was.”

    Huang explained that it is impossible to know where to start a career, but by being forced to start over so many times he grew into a more knowledgeable person and a stronger candidate for every job he applied for afterward.

    His final lesson: “Whatever you’re doing, do it well.”

    Huang had a lot of advice for students, including taking advantage of the library here at NYFA. “I just happened to walk into your library and you guys have a great collection. Use it!” Huang likes to go to Cinefile and watch the entire filmography of a single director. “I like seeing how they’ve progressed from start to finish.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Eddie Huang for speaking to our students. You can watch his show “Huang’s World” on Viceland.

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  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Kelly Fremon Craig of “The Edge of Seventeen” as Guest Speaker

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    This month, the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy welcomed writer/director/ producer Kelly Fremon Craig to a Q & A following a screening of her award-winning directorial debut, “The Edge of Seventeen.”

    The film stars Hailee Steinfeld as angst riddled teen Nadine and Woody Harrelson as her down-to-Earth teacher. Also featured in “The Edge of Seventeen” is NYFA alumnus Hayden Szeto. Szeto plays Erwin, the love-struck classmate of Nadine.


    Introducing Craig was Associate Chair of Screenwriting Adam Finer. Finer brought his class after a student told him this was his favorite film of the last year. The theater was overflowing with students eager to hear the writer/director tell her success story. Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Laiter asked Craig about how she got her script into the right hands after only writing one script before that. Craig shared some advice she received in her early 20s: “If you write a really good script you can throw it over the side of a freeway in Hollywood and somebody will find it and produce it.”

    Through persistence and hard work, she landed an agent after her first script got attention — and that agent submitted her second script to legendary writer/producer James L. Brooks, who produced the project.

    Tova asked, “In what ways did Brooks influence your writing?” There were two pieces of advice Craig took to heart. While she focused on making the script funny, he told her: the most important thing you have to do is figure what out what you are saying about life. “It was such a gift to me.” Craig said. “Essentially he was asking, ‘What is the point?’”

    The second piece of advice was, “Always do research.” Craig heeded this advice and visited many local high schools to speak directly with students about their life experiences. She would be a fly on the wall of classrooms and group settings. “There are so many details you pick up there that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”

    One student asked, “How did you approach making both a flawed and empathetic character?”

    Craig responded, “That was always the biggest challenge. I wanted to allow her to be every shade. In those moments where she’s being a jerk, you can sympathize with her because you remember the moments of pain.” As a writer, Craig was aware of these moments. In the actual shooting of the film, she tried to keep that balance at the forefront of her mind. She would have Steinfeld do takes on a spectrum. Each take would be a little more or less than the last but would give her many options for nuances at the editing room.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Craig for taking the time to speak to our students. “The Edge of Seventeen” is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD.

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  • NYFA Los Angeles Holds Social Media Networking Night

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    _DSC7452Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development Barbara Weintraub held a Social Media Networking Night at NYFA Los Angeles in late July. Over 220 students from the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus attended the event held in the Riverside Building.

    The lobby was filled with film companies like Film Independent and New Filmmakers LA. They were there to share opportunities for students, membership experiences, and career paths.

    A color-coded system helped students get in touch with other students. Small dots on name tags indicated whether the attending was an actor, filmmaker, photographer, or game designer.  

    “There are so many students that I hadn’t met,” said acting student An Phan. “I’m at the Barham building most of the time while the photography and filmmaking students are at Riverside. I never get to interact with them. I saw a lot of portfolios and I was blown away by how talented everyone was. It was great interaction. I had a lot of fun.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to wish all the students applying for professional memberships and those students teaming up to work on a project success on their next venture.

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