NYFA Q&A-List
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  • NYFA Welcomes ICM Partners’ Doug MacLaren for Online Q&A-List Conversation

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the opportunity to host a live video Q&A with the Head of the Motion Picture Literary Department of ICM Agency, DOUG MACLAREN. The discussion with NYFA students and alumni was centered on the agency world and how agents work with their clients in the entertainment industry, especially now in the middle of a pandemic. TOVA LAITER, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Doug MacLaren is Partner and Co-Head of ICM’s Director’s Group. He is a talent and literary agent at ICM Partners, where he represents directors, writers, and actors across both movies and television. His current clients include Tom Hooper (Best Picture and Best Director Oscar winner for The King’s Speech; Les Miserables; The Danish Girl), Vince Gilligan (Emmy award-winner for Breaking Bad and Better Caul Saul; El Camino), Gurinder Chadha (Blinded By The Light; Bend It Like Beckham), Neill Blomkamp (District 9; Elysium), Peter Weir (multiple Oscar nominee for Dead Poets Society; Witness; The Truman Show) Joseph Cedar (Foreign Oscar nominee for Footnote and Beaufort; Our Boys), and Michelle MacLaren (Emmy award-winner for Breaking Bad; Game of Thrones; Westworld; The Walking Dead).

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Doug MacLaren for NYFA’s Q&A-List

    Laiter began the discussion by asking MacLaren how he ended up in the entertainment agency business, to which he replied that right out of college he was involved in the banking industry. After working in Hong Kong at a French bank, MacLaren realized he needed to reevaluate what it was he actually wanted to do with his life. After coming back stateside, MacLaren decided to finally let his love of cinema lead a path to Los Angeles where he started meeting with companies who made movies he liked and eventually landed a job in the industry.

    Laiter questioned how is the agency able to keep up with the multiple companies around, from studios, streamers and so many independents (when she started in the business there were 5 studios and two independents). MacLaren explained how the agency world is keeping up with the changes. “We have staff covering it all and we meet several times a week where we cover all kinds of possibilities for our clients” he explained. “We need to be specialists in all areas from animation to the independent filmmaking market, and I have a division of people who I can work with for all kinds of projects [studio and streaming alike].”

    Doug MacLaren (Right) with “Breaking Bad” creator and client Vince Gilligan (Zimbio)

    “There’s a lot of ways we can keep things COVID-safe with what we do,” shared MacLaren. “We are finding that scheduling Zooms with studios and big production companies is actually easier to get everyone together. In fact, it’s a plus not having to drive to studios or companies across heavily trafficked Los Angeles. It’s now easier to work with people’s schedules including managing clients in multiple time zones and helping in work/life balance to take moments to relax.

    While the pandemic has changed the way agents are working, studios and streaming services have already been changing the way they pick and choose their projects, MacLaren noted. “Studios like Sony and Warner Bros. are mostly looking for the pre-branded IP (Intellectual property). That shift has been going on for a long time as there is international value in it.”

    “For those of us who grew up loving dramas, comedies, and thrillers, that can be frustrating because of the narrowing of movies that are being made,” he said. “The hope is that the streamers don’t have to worry about the Box Office and streamers like Netflix are making everything from documentaries to sit-coms to replace your cable box.”

    On the other hand, MacLaren warned that the data streaming platforms collect can also be threatening. “My fear is, because I represent a diverse group of artists, is that they [streaming platforms] start to develop an echo chamber and say ‘oh well if people are watching action comedies, let’s make more action comedies and IP-driven blockbuster movies’.”

    Still from Doug MacLaren’s Tedx Talk “Primal Processing Power of Our Brains”

    Laiter also asked MacLaren whether creatives and agents need to have more of a package, even if its middle names of talent, put together before showing it to studio or streamers for a project, to cut through the noise or send a screenplay unattached. “In general, yeah, we are taking things a bit further down the road before exposing them to studios,” he revealed, noting that that the production can be easily imagined by studios if the project has the thoughtfulness and care already put into it. However, if the script is exactly what the studio or streamers are looking for- then yes, just send the screenplay.”

    Laiter then closed the conversation by thanking MacLaren for pulling back the curtain as to what is happening in the film industry right now and what his job entails. MacLaren replied that he was grateful to join the conversation and wished NYFA students and alumni the best of luck. “Keep making stuff. Keep writing stuff. This is an exciting time for the industry!”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank ICM Partners’ Doug MacLaren for sharing his time and film industry experience with NYFA students and alumni. To hear the full conversation with MacLaren’s insight into the industry and what he thinks will become of movie theaters as a result of the pandemic.

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    December 15, 2020 • Guest Speakers • Views: 1304

  • NYFA Welcomes Actor & Director Mark Webber to ‘Q&A-List’ Guest Speaker Series

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) was excited to host a virtual Q&A with actor and director Mark Webber to discuss directing his latest film The Place of No Words with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of NYFA’s Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Webber has been nominated for multiple awards for directing and acting. He is known for roles in films such as Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, A24’s Green Room, Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, and more. He has also come into his own as a fully-fledged director with his fifth film as director, The Place of No Words, receiving ‘Best Film’ at the Giffoni Film Festival and nominations at Tribeca Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, and the Philadelphia Film Festival.

    Webber’s unique, realistic approach to authentic storytelling began with his first feature, Explicit Ills, where he used elements from his real life and included family members in his cast. He has since cast all his movies that way.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Mark Webber (Right) for NYFA’s Q&A List

    Webber, who shared he was happy to be talking online with NYFA’s students, recalled his upbringing with his teenage single mother and growing up homeless, citing that as a filmmaker he benefited from how he was raised as it allowed him to connect with different groups of people in the community. “These are the things I care about most in my life and I know how grateful I am to be in this position [an actor/director] because I know how vapid the industry can be.”

    The NYFA students and Laiter praised Webber for his recent film and asked him multiple questions about directing, his original filmmaking style, and honing his craft. “I started this process called ‘reality cinema.’ After screening my previous film, The End of Love at Sundance, I felt like I really found my voice. I am particularly fascinated by realism and acting in my own films. I paralleled a moment in the film where I cast my real father, who I hadn’t seen in years, in a scene where we meet face-to-face in real-time. It is deeply fulfilling to get to work on things with people you love.”

    Still from ‘The Place of No Words’ – Mark Webber (Left) and Bodhi Palmer (Right)

    The Place of No Words, in which a three-year-old (played by his son Bodhi Palmer) take a fantastical journey into the wood, to grapples with his father’s (Webber) terminal illness – something he cannot make sense of in real-world terms. his wife, Australian actress Teresa Palmer plays the mother- a real family affair.

    Laiter, who remarked how incredible Bodhi was in the film, asked Webber about directing and being a dad at the same time while on set and working alongside his family. “I can never stop being a dad. I have my dad hat on at all times and Bodhi’s emotional well-being and safety is the top priority for me,” he shared. “Some of the scenes, we would shoot as improv. There are moments of takes with that spontaneity anchored in the framework of the context of the story, so it allows for these moments that feel so authentic and so real take place in this film.”

    The film, part real and part fantasy, creates a colorful world for a child to begin to understand the biggest question of all, “Where do we go when we die?” Webber explained that he wanted the fantasy elements to still feel like reality. “I wanted it to honor the way I see my child’s mind working. So many of the fantasy elements there are from stories that Bodhi and I would tell each other and from stories I tell my own children.”

    Webber’s film pays off, being hailed by the likes of Variety and The New York Times calling it “sweet and personal.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actor and director Mark Webber for sharing his directing experience with NYFA students and alumni and encourages everyone to check out his beautiful and emotionally rich film, The Place of No Words, now available to watch on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and other streaming service providers.

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    October 28, 2020 • Acting • Views: 890

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Die Hart’ Actress Nathalie Emmanuel for “The Q&A-List Series”

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    On October 15, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with acclaimed actress Nathalie Emmanuel to discuss the acting craft and her latest project Die Hart (now streaming on Quibi) with NYFA students. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Nathalie Emmanuel is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after English actresses and well-known to many as ‘Missandei’ in the critically acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones. Emmanuel can now be seen in Quibi’s comedic series Die Hart, starring alongside Kevin Hart and John Travolta. The actress was recently seen in Hulu’s romantic comedy series Four Weddings and a Funeral and made her US feature film debut with the wildly popular Fast & Furious and is expected to appear in the ninth installment, F9.

    Emmanuel has also been heard as the voice of Deet in Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and starred in 20th Century Fox’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. Emmanuel is also set to star in Josh Friedlander’s directorial debut Holly Slept Over, alongside Ron Livingston, Josh Lawson and Britt Lower.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Nathalie Emmanuel (Right) for NYFA’s The Q&A-List

    Laiter began the conversation with the Die Hart actress by asking about how she started in the business. Stating she was a shy kid growing up, Emmanuel remarked how she got into the arts as a fun hobby until she finally got her big break on British TV show Hollyoaks.

    Now Emmanuel is known all over the globe and her most recent project, Die Hart, is the latest comedy from bite-size content streaming provider Quibi. Laiter, who also has experience with Quibi for the reboot of Varsity Blues, asked Emmanuel about her experience shooting the show and the unique breakdown of each episode. “It was a four week shoot and we shot based on where we were and what we could get and it can be quite challenging shooting out of sequence, but the script was so great I remember leaving it and laughing so much and my character was such a fun challenge for me.”

     

    Nathalie Emmanuel and Kevin Hart in ‘Die Hart’ (Quibi)

    The discussion then opened to questions with one student asking Emmanuel about what she looks for in a script when deciding on a role. “I look for the challenges and aspects of the character that I can relate to,” she began. “As a woman and as a woman of color, I want to ask myself ‘what else can I bring to this?’ It’s also interesting to play people who are complex and when there is variety in the character’s journey.”

    Speaking of characters, Emmanuel shared with the audience some advice on how to further connect with their characters if they are feeling stuck. “Sometimes my character can be inspired by music or it’s as simple as putting on your character’s clothing, but it depends on the part and sometimes the day. Once I am sure I really understand the scene and what I am about to do, the character’s world and the people around them, then it helps me connect to my character quicker.”

    Nathalie Emmanuel in ‘The Fate of The Furious’ (Universal Pictures)

    When building out her characters, Emmanuel shared that the process is different each time depending on the story and motivation of her character. “It really depends on the story. My character is a badass in Game of Thrones, but in a different way from my character in Fast & Furious is,” she recalled. “I would just try to prepare the character and identify all their qualities and flaws. I try to treat each character as an individual person and focus on their actions and what they do.”

    Emmanuel also encouraged students who are making the move in the industry to have a solid support system nearby. “I’ve had to work hard at positive affirmation. I have control over the things that I can control in my career and there is a confidence that comes with that,” she shared. “You have to give yourself time though. Things won’t happen at the speed like someone else.”

    Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei in ‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO)

    Students were also able to ask Emmanuel about getting the part of her most iconic role, Missandei on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Emmanuel joked that she kept harassing her agent about to find a role to audition for on the show.

    After landing the role and winning over audiences everywhere, Emmanuel remarked that her favorite director on the series, Mark Mylod, was outstanding at making everything comfortable on set for an intimate scene with fellow actor Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm). “Mark took the best care of us and gave us his ideas and would allow us to provide feedback. He was so respectful and so wonderful and just helped us bring out the beauty of that scene to where we felt like we just earned this moment.”

    When working with directors, Emmanuel shared that she likes it when she can get direct feedback, even if it’s criticism. “As long as people are respectful to me when giving a note, I am fine with it,” she elaborated. “When it is laid out in a clear way, even if it’s negative, they [the director] are allowed to do that. Sometimes, you just have to work stuff out, get frustrated, and work through it.”

    Nathalie Emmanuel in ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ (20th Century Fox)

    At the end of the discussion, Laiter thanked Emmanuel for taking the time to speak with NYFA students and giving them insight into getting into character and working on set. “It was my pleasure honestly,” replied Emmanuel. “When I had seen the amazing talent of the people who have been on this series [Q&A-List], I was flattered to be here. I also get so excited about the talent that’s coming into the industry; you guys [NYFA students] are going to take hold of that whole shift that is happening.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actress Nathalie Emmanuel for taking the time to speak with the NYFA community and invite the actress to come back in the future as many times as she wants!

    Nathalie Emmanuel can be seen in Quibi’s Die Hart, now available to stream by downloading the Quibi app in the app store or through Quibi.com.

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    October 20, 2020 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 860