NYFA Screenwriting
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  • New York Film Academy Screenwriting Instructors Pen New Comic Miniseries Dragon Age: Deception

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    New York Film Academy Screenwriting Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and NYFA Instructor Christina Weir are returning to the Dragon Age franchise with a comic miniseries, Dragon Age: Deception, which will launch in October 2018.

    Dragon Age: Deception is a three issue comic book miniseries, set in the world of the best selling and award-winning video game series, Dragon Age. The miniseries, published by Dark Horse Comics, follows the story of a failed actress turned con artist who sets out to con the heir to a magically gifted family and gets caught up in something much larger.

    The announcement for the miniseries can be found on the Dark Horse website.

    About their experience writing for Dragon Age DeFilippis and Weir said:

    Nunzio DeFilippis: We’ve been lucky to be able to create our own story worlds in our creator-owned books, but there is a thrill we get out of working within an established universe that has its own history, characters, and fan-base.  And in the case of Dragon Age, we’re both huge fans of the franchise.  We know all the lore, and all the characters, and that was a huge plus going into the project.

    Christina Weir:  WithKnight Errant and now Deception, we’ve been able to build our own central characters, and that’s exciting.  We’re adding pieces to the Dragon Age canon.  But we also get to work with characters we’ve loved in the games.  In the last mini, we worked with Varric and Sebastian.  In this one, we’re working with… well, I’m not sure we’re supposed to spoil that just yet.  But there’s a small role for a fan-favorite in this mini.  And he was a great character to interact with in the games, so we had a real thrill giving him a few scenes.

    Nunzio DeFilippis: There’s a big piece of emerging lore that we got to put into this story – something that shapes the franchise going forward.  When we started this mini, we had a long conversation with the Dragon Age story team at Bioware, and they told us where they saw the story world going forward, and we asked how we could help advance that.  And they let us, which was awesome.  This universe is evolving, through the games, the books, the comics… and we get to help it along the way.

    Image Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

    Nunzio DeFilippis is the Chair of Screenwriting and Dean of Faculty at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. Christina Weir teaches TV and Comic Writing at the Los Angeles Campus, as well as Story Generation and Character Development. The two are a writing team who were writer/producers on HBO’s Arliss and wrote for the Disney Channel series Kim Possible. They have had features optioned at Hollywood Pictures, Process Media and Humble Journey Films. They developed a video game at Sony, and a TV movie (Two Step) at Oxygen. The pair has written in comics for almost two decades, and beyond Dragon Age, they have written New X-Men, Adventures of Superman and Batman Confidential. They created the comic franchises Bad Medicine (in development at Closed On Mondays with NBC), The Amy Devlin Mysteries (in development as a TV series at E!) and Frenemy of the State (co-created with Rashida Jones, optioned as a feature film by Imagine Entertainment/Universal Pictures).

    DeFilippis and Weir have worked on one previous Dragon Age miniseries in 2017, entitled Knight Errant.

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

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    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.

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  • Writing Home Stars Comedian and New York Film Academy Grad Tony Kelly

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    Everyone wants to laugh, and for those talented and skilled enough to make an audience roll in the aisles in laughter, the world truly opens up. Such is the case for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Conservatory alum Tony Kelly, whose international comedy career has crossed continents and genres.

    Since graduating from NYFA in 2009, the Irish comedian has used his writing, performing and producing chops to carve a unique path, from BBC America’s Primeval to Canadian features Freedom and Victory, as well as recording his own solo comedy album PS I Hate You at home in Ireland.

    Up next, Kelly stars in Writing Home alongside Caoimhe O’Malley. The feature has won a warm review from Film Ireland and screens at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. Created by a truly international team of filmmakers from Ireland, Brazil, Lebanon, and Mexico, the film puts a hilarious spin on the familiar romantic comedy trope of “finding love where you least expect it. Home.” Kelly stars as Daniel Doran, a successful novelist whose self-centered life is interrupted when he reluctantly goes back to his small Irish village to help his estranged, ailing father, and has to face the bridges he burned on his way to the “top.”

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly.

    In the midst of a busy festival season, Kelly took some time to share his story with the NYFA Blog.

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

    TK: Sure. I always knew I wanted to be involved in storytelling and performing in some way, from an early age. I had planned to leave home at 17 to go to San Francisco to try and at least start a journey after I finished school here in Ireland, but my mother was too nervous to let me go, and asked me to try college out for a year until I was at least 18. And if it wasn’t for me I had her and my dad’s blessing to go and do whatever I wanted.

    So I tried college, I went to study Business at Waterford Institute of Technology. I quickly mentally checked out, it wasn’t for me at all. The only class I put anything into was a communications class and I enjoyed giving the speeches we were tasked with handing out.

    This will sound crazy, but my friend Matt introduced me to the The Office (The UK version, the U.S. hadn’t even been made at this time), and it mesmerized me. I thought, “This is what I need to be doing.” So I dropped out of college and got a job selling cars and started saving.

    Five years later I was 23 and had some changes happen in my life. I looked at my bank account and had been lucky enough to save some good money so I decided to take the leap. I applied [to the New York Film Academy], got in, made the choice to move from Waterford, Ireland to New York City, and I’ve never looked back.

    Best decision I’ve ever made.

    NYFA: What inspired your project I Am Jeff Shanagarry?

    TK: Hahaha. Jeff Shanagarry, now there’s a thing I haven’t spoken about in a long time. You know, it’s funny, this was my first foray into on-screen comedy, having been writing comedy short stories and stuff since I was a teenager, and in some ways I’m so far removed from Jeff Shanagarry that it’s insane. But one of my teachers from NYFA, Randy Dottin, still calls me Jeff Shanagarry!

    How it came about was we were tasked to write, direct, shoot, edit and just make a short film for class at New York Film Academy. I had a penchant for acting even back then so I had been in a couple of other student shorts and was obviously going to be in my own.

    Almost everyone was making your usual melodramatic film school shorts. I didn’t wanna do that. I knew that direction I wanted to head in with my career, and used it as a jumping off point. So I made I Am Jeff Shanagarry, this mockumentary about an Irish singer coming to play a show in NYC.

    Looking at it now I cringe, but that was the precursor to my web series The Hurler, which opened up so many doors for me, and Jeff Shanagarry itself got me my start as a stand-up comic. It was being passed around by some of the students, kind of like a cult hit at the school (everyone still used DVDs in 2009!), and one of the students was taking stand-up classes in NYC. He gave it to Stephen Rosenfield, the famous comedy teacher, and he called me for a meeting and asked me would I be interested in doing stand-up. Crazy.

    NYFA: As a comic doing stand-up, web content, film, and albums, do you have a favorite format? What is your advice to NYFA students interested in doing comedy?

    TK: I was asked this question only the other day in another interview. I do love scripted comedy. On camera. I think it allows the greatest opportunity to improvise and hone what you’re doing and make it the best, and obviously you get a couple of tries to make it the best it can be and give different options.

    BUT stand-up comedy is my first love. It’s raw, it strips you down and forces you to sink or swim on the spot.

    I don’t think I could pick a favourite, I love everything that I do.

    As far as advice, I’d just say, “Get out there and do it.” We live in the Instagram world where everybody wants to attach a label to themselves to sound successful and important, nobody wants to put in the work. But the work is what separates the truly successful from the wannabes.

    Get out there and do stand-up, take improv classes, take sketch classes, get a collective or a group of like-minded friends together, and create. It’s the only way to move forward. If you wait for people to hand things to you, you’ll never get anything done.

    Tony Kelly in a still from Primeval.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about working on Primeval? What surprised you the most?

    TK: Primeval was a lot of fun. It was the first major thing I was ever really a part of. I was just after moving home to Ireland for a while from New York. I was 25, sad, depressed about being back home, and this chance came along. It was a small part but on a big budget show and did a lot for me. There are people, fans of that show, that still follow my career to this day and I’m so grateful for that initial exposure.

    As far as what surprised me the most, probably the efficiency of the work that goes into such a big project. It was a lesson in professionalism, the hard work that it takes to work at that level and the growing up I needed to do at the time. It helped me a lot and gave me a drive to keep going.

    NYFA: With your BBC America show Primeval, your Canadian films Freedom and Victory, and your original album PS, I Hate You recorded back home in Ireland, you’re truly working on the international level. What have you found most challenging working internationally?

    TK: I’ve really loved having such an international career so far. Being able to work in different places with different people allows me to offer something different and gives me experience others wouldn’t have, I suppose. But, the most difficult thing was probably neglecting my home base. I could have spent the past 9 years or so just focusing on getting my name out there in Ireland but I chose to go off and work other places and learn different things. That isolates you a little, so I’ve probably sacrificed relationships and friendships with people for that. When you’re jumping from city to city and country to country it’s hard to stay close with people and friendships and relationships suffer through that. But, my career has always comes first for me, we only get one try at this life thing so we have to keep going.

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly as Daniel Doran in Writing Home.

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

    TK: Absolutely. 100%. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for NYFA. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’ve done without NYFA. I mean, I studied Screenwriting, but during the course I also studied acting, directing, editing, all aspects of the business. And if people look at my resume, what I’ve done, I’ve done a little bit of everything. I haven’t pigeonholed myself and it allows me to create my own work when I need to, which was my initial plan upon going to NYFA.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

    TK: Yes, absolutely. It’s going to be a big year for me this year.

    Last year I had my first lead role in a feature film, Writing Home. That has it’s U.S. premiere at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. [There may be a New York City opening soon, stay tuned!]

    I’m also working on a feature film adaptation of my award-winning web series The Hurler.

    I’ve written a comedy radio series for WLR FM here in Ireland which we’re hoping to begin work on in March.

    I’ve also written a play called The Undocumented about two illegal immigrant Irishmen living in New York City, which myself and my collaborators have just gotten some funding for back home as well. So that will hopefully be up on its feet later this year and I would love to have it on in NYC as well.

    I just hosted the New York New Works theatre festival finals in New York City back in November, and I made some contacts during that so we will see what happens there! There’s a couple of other things I’m working towards as well so this year looks like it’ll be an exciting one.

    Congratulations to Tony Kelly and the Writing Home team!

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  • NYFA Screenwriting Alumna Devashree Shivadekar Shines With India’s Stars

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    New York Film Academy Screenwriting alumna Devashree Shivadekar has been a busy woman since she left NYFA’s hallowed halls. Her most recent success comes in the form of a script which she co-wrote with director Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar for a project which stars India’s biggest dancing sensation, Madhuri Dixit-Nene.

    Shivadekar spoke with NYFA correspondent Joelle Smith about the stories she hopes to tell and what she believes audiences will take from her latest film.

    NYFA: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

    Shivadekar: I knew I wanted to be a writer at the age of eight or nine while watching my first film in the theater, “Jurassic Park.” Of course, I didn’t know what went into making a film, or what a “script” was, but I knew I wanted to make others feel the way those characters (granted they were dinosaurs) made me feel — giddy with joy, excitement, fun, and fear.

    NYFA: Why was NYFA the right school for you to further your craft?

    Shivadekar: NYFA was the only school that had the perfect combination of film and television writing that also included a hands-on approach. Out of a select few schools that I applied to, this was an institute that felt welcoming to immigrants and foreign students.

    NYFA: What class was your favorite and why?

    Shivadekar: All the workshop classes were my favorite. Ripping into each other’s scripts — now why wouldn’t that be fun? But these classes taught me to not only give constructive feedback but also to accept, embrace and incorporate others’ criticism of your work into your writing — while not pulling your hair out.

    NYFA: How did you change as a writer once you finished the program?

    Shivadekar: Being a writing student and a writer are two polar opposite things. Once I finished school, it was a whole new ball game. Learning things the hard way was the only (and the best) option for me. I was lucky enough to get an internship at NBC Universal while I was doing my MFA, but “working in the industry” and “working in the industry as a writer” are very different. It took some time (a lot of time) but it was all worth it. The most important thing was to keep writing and churning out script after script like a thought factory.

    NYFA: What kind of stories are most important for you to tell?

    Shivadekar: A good story isn’t necessarily the one that makes you think of going to the theatre, it’s a story that makes you think when you come out of it. If it makes you think after watching it, then I’ve succeeded as a storyteller.

    NYFA: How did Madhuri Dixit become involved in your latest film?

    Shivadekar: Madhuri Dixit is the biggest star in India. I never thought she would be within my creative reach. But we had such a strong faith in our story that we took a risk and decided to pitch it to her. One thing led to another and the next thing we know, we are having coffee at her mansion in Mumbai and discussing the script. She’s the Meryl Streep of India — not just a talented actor but also an immensely loved individual. It was truly an honor to have her bring our script to life.

    NYFA: Are there any nerves going into production? How are you managing those feelings?

    Shivadekar: It’s the “good” kind of nerves. This is the feeling every storyteller craves; the anticipation of going to the set and excitedly waiting for your words to translate onto the big screen.

    NYFA: What was it like working with your writing partner on this film?

    Shivadekar: Effortless. It was like yin and yang, fire and water, north pole-south pole, two sides of the same coin … Alright, I’m out of metaphors. But you get the point. At times, we were one mind and other times we were like one entity with dual personalities.  But the end result was creative magic.

    NYFA: How do you hope audiences will react to this film?

    Shivadekar: I hope everyone watching the film would see themselves in our characters. I hope it inspires them, motivates them and makes them think about their lives (to better them in the best way possible).

    NYFA: Are there any other films in the works that you can tell us about?

    Shivadekar: There are a couple of exciting projects in the pipeline, but we’ll know more as time progresses.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Devashree Shivadekar for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to her next project.  

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  • NYFA Screenwriting Alum’s “Breakfast in Bangalore” Brings American Sitcom to India

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    “Write what you know” is perhaps the most popular advice for aspiring writers, and NYFA screenwriting alumnus Michael Fontana has taken this lesson to heart in his latest sitcom project in his adopted country of India.

    “Breakfast in Bangalore,” now in post-production in the Indian city of Bangaluru, will occupy a unique space in Indian television as a distinctly American-style sitcom in a land where Bollywood reigns supreme. Yet, the unorthodox format is pitch perfect for telling the series’ story of cultures crossing and clashing — something Fontana knows (and writes) very well.

    As Fontana explained to the The Economic Times, “The premise is that a mixed couple moves to Bengaluru to raise its three kids closer to Indian traditions, only to realize that people caught in the cusp of tradition and cosmopolitanism here can sometimes be more confused about their identity and culture than NRIs [non-resident Indians].”

    How did Fontana come up with the idea for his show? He’s lived it.

    Fontana relocated to Bangaluru with his Indian wife in 2009, and “Breakfast in Bangalore” serves as the vehicle to explore the many interesting questions and themes of identity, confusion, and tradition that he has observed in his own experience as an expat American living and joining a family in India. To add to the dynamic mix of topics humorously approached in the show, the sitcom will include progressive elements such as exploring mixed families, gender fluidity, and more.

    Fontana told The Economic Times, “We have shot the pilot and second episode, which will be aired in my Youtube channel `Laughter Unlimited.’ We are preparing for promotion and honest feedback, hoping the show will gain traction and be picked up by either TV stations like Comedy Central or video-streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime.”

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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: 2209

  • NYFA Gold Coast Celebrates January ’17 Screenwriters End of Year Showcase

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    NYFA Gold Coast was pleased to celebrate with the Class of January 2017 Diploma of Screenwriting students at their End of Year showcase this August. The End of Year Showcase for the graduating diploma students was  held in the Southport Campus theatre.

    Screenwriting lecturer Rachael Morgan McMurray stated, “The graduating screenwriters’ showcase was a complete success, with Adam and Markus’s’ work brought to brilliant life both by our talented acting students and also on screen.”

    As a part of NYFA Australia’s commitment to hands-on education, the end of year showcase offers graduating students an opportunity to share their work with invited guests.

    “Family, friends and fellow students delighted in their success,” continued Rachael Morgan McMurray, “Laughing in all the right places and impressed by the quality of their writing. It has been a pleasure to teach both of these writers and see them eagerly taking on feedback and committing to their craft so fully. We wish them well as they head out into this exciting industry.”

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  • NYFA Screenwriting Alumnus Jon Mann’s “Wolfville” Selected for National Screen Institute 2017’s Totally Television Program

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    NYFA Screenwriting alumni and New Brunswick, Canada native Jon Mann was recently accepted along with producing partner Rob Ramsay into the National Screen Institute (NSI) 2017 Totally Television program. Mann’s selected pilot project, “Wolfville,” is set in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and follows the saga of two old friends who end up on opposing sides of the law.

    The NSI Totally Television program is an incubator that trains Canadian filmmaking teams to develop TV pilots into full series, and has been a driving force behind the success of such series as “What Would Sal Do?” (CraveTV), “Less Than Kind” (HBO Canada and Citytv), ‘“da Kink in My Hair” (Global and Showcase) and “Todd & the Book of Pure Evil” (Space, The Comedy Network). Mann was the only filmmaker accepted east of Toronto, Canada.

    We had a chance to catch up with the busy screenwriter and hear his take on Totally Television, his time at NYFA, and “Wolfville.”

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

    JM: I always had an honest passion for film and television, but it wasn’t until midway through my undergraduate degree at Acadia University that I realized how big of an impact movies, TV, books — and storytelling in general — had on my life.

    When I was humbly offered a spot to study screenwriting through NYFA it was a no-brainer. NYFA gave me the opportunity to master a subject I did not realize I had been studying my entire life.

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

    JM: Of all the things that I experienced during my time with NYFA, the moment that sticks out the most was a teaching moment I had with a member of the screenwriting faculty (who shall remain nameless!) after he reviewed a draft of the feature I was writing for my thesis. It had somehow found its way to him and he gave my advisor a message to pass onto me. It wasn’t positive, and he was completely right. He really put my writing in its place — which without knowing it, I needed to hear at the time. I’ve been a better writer ever since because of him.

    NYFA: What inspired your screenplay for “Wolfville”?

    JM: My writing/production partner Rob Ramsay and I met as students at Acadia — located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. We weren’t writing together during our time at Acadia, but it was always an important town and community for us.

    I grew up in a small east-coast Canadian town, as did Rob, and we always loved the idea of a small, picturesque, Canadian town dealing with issues that pushed the comfort zone of the community as a whole. We wanted to take the idea of disturbing the comfortable and comforting the disturbed, within the streets of a small town; which a lot of great TV shows have done an incredible job of lately. So those conversations turned into, well, why not in Atlantic Canada?

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about the process of finding your way into National Screen Institute 2017 Totally Television, program? (And congrats!)

    JM: Thanks! Rob and I shot a short film a few summers ago (“Rearview”) which made its way into NSI’s Short Film Festival, and that was a huge accomplishment for us. About a year later we got an email with a call out for writer & producer teams with pilots written to be part of their Totally Television program.

    Rob and I have been writing together for years and have a tall stack of pilots, so after some conversations back and forth we decided to go with “Wolfville.” Then, honestly, we were completely humbled to be put on the short list for the program, and now to find out we have been selected and to be working with NSI as part of Totally Television is incredible.

    NYFA: Was there anything that surprised you about the Totally Television selection process?

    JM: I think everyone knows the professionalism and expertise of the National Screen Institute and this process was no different. From day one they’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive.

    NYFA: What do you most look forward to in bringing “Wolfville” to life with the National Screen Institute?

    JM: I think what I’m most looking forward to is showing the masses a corner of the world — and the characters that live there — that they have never seen before. I am a very proud maritimer and I am excited to show people why.

    NYFA: What advice would you offer fellow NYFA students who aspire to bring a series script to development?

    JM: I’m still trying to figure it all out, but if you have an idea, write it. Things become exponentially easier once you have something to show people.

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

    JM: Constantly! I have two features that are ready for production, and I’m finishing a script for a short that Rob and I are shooting in November.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jon Mann for taking the time to share some of his story with our community.

     

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