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  • NYFA Abu Dhabi Student’s Script Accepted to Oscar Library

    Pink

    The New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi is pleased to announce that one of its 8-Week Filmmaking students, Arkus, has had his script Pink accepted into the Oscar Library, and the short Arabic film he created from the script has already screened at more than 10 international short film festivals around the globe.

    Pink is a story of Khadijah, a middle aged Arabic woman suffering from depression and low self-esteem after her divorce. The divorce has scarred her and led her to believe that she is no more attractive. Therefore, she begins a quest to look beautiful once again.

    Arkus

    Arkus

    “I am honored that Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences popularly known as the Oscar library has accepted the screenplay of Pink,” said Arkus. “It gives me a great sense of joy to know that my screenplay will share a room with some of the best screenplays in the world.”

    Arkus describes the New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi as his second home.

    “I had amazing teachers and staff who took the pain to guide me even after the lectures at pretty odd hours, and my batch mates who made extra efforts to ensure that the film is what it is today. Specifically for the screenplay — maximum credit goes to my two teachers, Norman B. Schwartz and Scott Hartmann, who poured their heart out. I just feel that if I would have listened to them more, the screenplay would have been better.”

    Arkus continues to screen his film at festivals around the world. After making Pink, Arkus teamed up with a few close friends to create a paper-cut stop motion animated short film Dubai LoveScape, which screened at Dubai International Film Festival, 2014.

    He is also working on a feature film script, which he hopes to find the right sponsors who can someday make it a reality.

    March 31, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4271

  • Iconic Actor Al Pacino Speaks at New York Film Academy

    Al Pacino New York Film Academy

    New York Film Academy students received the rare opportunity to participate in an intimate Q&A with one of the greatest actors in film history Al Pacino this past Thursday, December 4th at the Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, CA. The discussion took place after a special advanced screening of Pacino’s new film The Humbling. In this, funny, observant, erotic comedy, Pacino plays an aging actor who feels he is losing his craft and after a breakdown becomes involved with a much younger woman but soon finds that it’s difficult to keep pace with her and makes the ultimate performance. The film was highly received by the students for its content and Mr. Pacino’s amazing performance in it. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the Q&A.

    Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winning Al Pacino took the stage to an uproar of applause and a standing ovation from students. The legendary actor, who’s entertained and inspired us with iconic performances in The Godfather, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Scent of a Woman, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Heat, to name just a few, was tremendously gracious for the warm reception. Pacino was all smiles and full of life, emanating that vivacious energy we’ve come to love him for.

    In a profound statement about the actor’s process, and artistic process in general, Pacino stated, “I love the line that Michelangelo said in a poem when he was doing the Sistine Chapel, he said, ‘Lord, free me of myself that I may please you.’ Meaning, get to that place in us where we’re not censoring ourselves or trying to do it good or right but rather connect with whatever it is we’re trying to say in our work. Become. Become it, absorb it and let it come out and let the unconscious free. And I strive for that. And I rarely, rarely get it. If I do it’s for a moment or two… Sometimes I’m given a role… Then I have to look at the empty canvas and I say, ‘Wow, I don’t know anything about acting. I don’t know anything about anything. What am I gonna do?’ And you start. And the hope is that instead of figuring it out, you find it.”

    But it wasn’t all serious talk. Pacino revealed the origins of his “Hoo-ah!” line in Scent of a Woman in an amusing story: “That came because I was learning to assemble and disassemble a .45 in forty-five seconds. And that ain’t easy. And I worked literally weeks on that, months, just with this Lieutenant Col. who would say to me every once in a while when I did it well, he would just say to me (pointing) ‘Hoo-ha!’ And I finally said to him, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Well, you see that’s the way I talk to the troops. If they get in line and their suits are straight and their metals are straight, I just go up and I say ‘Hoo-ha!’ And that got into the movie. That wasn’t written.”

    In closing, to the question of what the most important thing acting has taught him, Pacino answered, “It taught me to love people more. I feel more a part of the world. And that we’re all actors. Only some of us can really do it. Some of us have the ability to do it…and the desire to do it. And it taught me that desire can sometimes trump talent. Think about that. So that you may not have as much talent as you think you have, but if you have the desire, your talent will find you.”

    When the Q&A ended, Al Pacino thanked and waved goodbye to students as they all stood and cheered once again. It was a wildly entertaining and inspiring night that was a special gift to NYFA. In a cosmic coincidence, Pacino’s daughter Julie Pacino, an alumna of NYFA, showed her movie to NYFA students at our Union Square square campus the same day!

    We thank Al Pacino for sharing his time with us and look forward to the success of The Humbling (which Mr. Pacino also produced), directed by Barry Levinson. The film opens in theaters in limited release for a week on December 5th and wide release January 23rd, 2015.

    December 8, 2014 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 8945

  • An Evening with Steve Tisch: Winner of the Oscar and Super Bowl

    steve tisch

    Steve Tisch

    Recently, lyricist Robert Lopez became the 12th member of the exclusive E.G.O.T. Club – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Yet there is an even more exclusive club, one that I am officially labeling the O.S.B : Oscar, Super Bowl ring. The difference is this club only has one member –Steve Tisch. Tisch won an Oscar as producer of Forrest Gump and two Super Bowl rings as chairman of the New York Giants. After a screening of his heart-wrenching drama, American History X, Mr. Tisch spoke to our students at the New York Film Academy.

    Steve Tisch got his start as an assistant to legendary producer Peter Guber, an experience he described as both his graduate school and PhD in the entertainment business. After a few years, Mr. Tisch started his own production company. His first major hit was 1984’s Risky Business, the movie that made Tom Cruise a star. During the 1980’s, Steve Tisch also produced several popular TV movies, including Burning Bed with Farah Fawcett. With only three major networks and limited competition from cable, TV Movies could draw an audience larger than most features. During some weeks, there’d be six new TV movies premiering, most of which would cover social topics that feature films wouldn’t touch.

    Mr. Tisch talked about how he’s managed to keep producing successful material over the years. For him, the keys are the material and the relationship. In the case of Forrest Gump, he spent nine years getting the movie made. The largest issue was no writer seemed to be able to crack the book until Eric Roth stepped in. He was the one who understood that it needed more relationships, more love stories. The audience cares about Forrest Gump, largely because of his “love stories” with Jenny, his mother, Lieutenant Dan and the shrimp-loving Bubba. Six Academy Awards and several hundred million dollars later, it’s safe to say they figured it out.

    forrest gumpOne of the students asked how the entertainment industry and sports industry were alike. Mr. Tisch explained that it’s all about getting an audience, and giving the audience some real entertainment for their dollar. He also admitted that if he had to give either his S.B. Rings or Oscar back, he’d keep the Rings! In three plus hours, the Super Bowl had drama, tension, heart, excitement, heroes, villains, and (in the end) the thrill of victory. All without a screenplay.

    Another student asked Steve Tisch, “What is your greatest mistake–the one you learned the most from?” Smiling and shaking his head, Mr. Tisch said to never give a movie star (who’s also directing) final cut. He knew the movie wasn’t working in post, but couldn’t do a thing to fix it. Lesson learned.

    On American History X, Mr. Tisch faced a bit of a battle, but with much better results. Using his clout from the ultimate feel good movie (Gump), he was able to get funding for what he called the ultimate “feel bad movie.” When Edward Norton signed on as the reformed neo-Nazi, the movie got its green light. And that’s when the trouble began.

    The director – Tony Kaye, who had a terrific career in commercials – clashed constantly (and very publicly) with Edward Norton. Tony Kaye put out an ad in Variety demanding that his directing credit get changed to “Mickey Mouse, etc.” In the end, the movie is 90% Tony Kaye’s cut, 10% Mr. Norton’s and holds up as a beautifully shot, devastating drama that netted Edward Norton a well deserved Oscar nomination.

    Steve Tisch’s big advice to the student body was to keep working on their material and finding the people who they want to work with… as well as the ones who will help them steer their way through Hollywood.

    March 12, 2014 • Guest Speakers • Views: 6722

  • NYFA Grad’s Documentary ‘The Square’ Nominated for an Oscar

    A scene from THE SQUARE, a feature documentary by Jehane Noujaim. Ahmed Hassan in Tahrir Square.

    A scene from THE SQUARE, a feature documentary by Jehane Noujaim.
    Ahmed Hassan in Tahrir Square.

    Today, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released their nominations for Best Documentary Feature. We were thrilled to find the documentary film The Square, shot by New York Film Academy graduate Muhammad Hamdy, has been announced as one of the 5 nominees at the 86th Oscars.

    Congratulations to Muhammad as well as Director Jehane Noujaim and Producer Karim Amer!

    January 16, 2014 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 2960

  • NYFA Welcomes World War Z Director Marc Forster

    marc forster

    Marc Forster with Tova Laiter

    Wednesday night, the New York Film Academy hosted a full house at Warner Bros for the screening of World War Z with Director Marc Forster brought to us by Producer Tova Laiter. His work includes smart character-driven films (Monster’s Ball, Stranger Than Fiction) as well as stylish studio blockbusters (Quantum of Solace, World War Z) and he has been nominated for an Oscar several times. His film Finding Neverland is beloved by many and received 7 Oscar nods. He also made The Kite Runner, Machine Gun Preacher and several other films. His actors also do well under his guidance. For example, his third film, Monster’s Ball, earned Halle Berry an Oscar.

    Marc grew up in Davos, a winter resort in Eastern Switzerland. He decided at the age of 14 or 15 that he wanted to become a filmmaker, though his doctor father and family thought he would “come to his senses” and go into academics eventually. Good thing for Marc, he never did come to his senses.

    forsternyfaNYFA student, Krishna, asked Marc what was the most important part of the filmmaking process. He said it all mattered, but that pre-production is very vital. He added that, “there are different challenges for different projects, it depends on who the key people are involved. I make films in a very Swiss manner, very prepared…and pre-production is the most important.”

    Marc never puts the meticulous work involved in directing a film to rest. He admits that he has a vision, which caters to every detail including color, wardrobe, haircuts and lighting. “You are only as good as your last film,” says Forster. Though, he added, “I’m not a guy who just goes out and shoots.”

    He also told the audience to try and have thick skin as, “not everyone is going to love your work, you just have to get used to it.”

    Another student, Pablo, asked Marc about the degree of collaboration he gets into with actors. Marc said, “I love actors and it’s all about collaboration. You have to start at the beginning and really discuss the character.” Actors work differently. He has been lucky and has great relationships with many successful actors. He added that sometimes you simply have to, “do takes until you are both happy.”

    Asked by a filmmaking student what’s the best way to get started in today´s filmmaking world, Marc suggested one of the following:

    • 1. Make a commercial reel
    • 2. Make documentaries
    • 3. Try to make a small feature and get it into Sundance or Cannes

    And for all of them: Know what is personal and important for you. Do something original and interesting.

    Marc noted the importance of maintaining his cool on set. “Once on set, there is nothing you can do except stay focused.” He told a story of getting a bad toothache while shooting on an aircraft carrier, only to be driven to a barn after wrap for a procedure, then to get up at 4 am and resume shooting. Stay focused.

    On staying true to yourself and your vision, Marc said, “I don’t like branding myself…I do what I am passionate about. I try to continually challenge myself and I like making films that are dealing with the human condition.”

    Truly, an inspiring filmmaker.

    November 8, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 4641

  • Actress Nia Vardalos Visits New York Film Academy

    tovaselect

    Nia Vardalos visited New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus last week for a private screening of her hit film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, followed by a Q&A with students. After training at Chicago’s famed Second City, Vardalos was struggling to find work as an actress. She says she was told she “wasn’t pretty enough to be a leading lady, and not fat enough to be a character actress.” Determined to forge her own path, she wrote her own one-woman show in Los Angeles, based largely on her own upbringing in a Greek family. Rita Wilson came to see it, and returned again with husband Tom Hanks. The couple would soon give her the opportunity of a lifetime: to write and star in her first feature film.

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a sleeper sensation, becoming the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, and earning Vardalos an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. She followed up by writing, producing, and starring in Connie and Carla, and co-starred with Richard Dreyfuss in My Life In Ruins. She made her directorial debut with 2009’s I Hate Valentine’s Day, and co-wrote the box-office hit Larry Crowne.

    Vardalos shared stories about her rise to fame with New York Film Academy students, and even brought prizes that she gave away throughout the night. “It was amazing how she was so humble and down to earth,” said MFA Filmmaking student Edrei Hutson. “She was willing to share her experiences and gave great advice on writing and filmmaking in general.”

    Vardalos answered dozens of questions from excited students, and said, “Learn the rules, so you know what you’re breaking. Be true to yourself and find people who support what you want to do.”

    She is currently working on a project at Paramount, which she describes as an anti-romantic comedy for single people. Vardalos also recently released her first book, Instant Mom, in which she opens up about the heartaches, headaches, and humor of becoming an adoptive parent.

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    May 2, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4614

  • Oscar-Winning Cinematographer and Veteran Actor Visit NYFA Students

    Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler speaks to students

    Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler speaks to students

    Haskell Wexler recently visited students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. The 91-year-old cinematographer was named as one of the ten most influential cinematographers by the International Cinematographers Guild. In the course of his career, he lensed such seminal films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat of the Night, American Graffiti, and The Thomas Crown Affair. He has been nominated for a total of 5 Oscars, and has won two.

    Wexler watched clips of cinematography students’ films, and gave them valuable feedback. “It was an amazing experience to have him share his thoughts and experience with us,” said Diego Gilly, an MFA Cinematography student. “I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to share some of our work with him, and hear what he had to say.”

    Robert Forster sized select

    Actor Robert Forster leads a master class for actors

    Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster, who starred in 1969’s Medium Cool, written and directed by Haskell Wexler, also recently paid a visit to New York Film Academy. In addition to his numerous television roles, Forster is known for his roles in Mulholland Drive, Me, Myself, & Irene, The Descendants, and his Oscar-nominated role in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.

    Forster led a master class for acting students, telling stories from his life and career, answering questions, and giving advice. “The camera looks real deep into you,” he said. “It knows whether you’re lying or not. If you want your audience to admire you, you have to be someone they can admire. You have to have the qualities that make a person worth admiring. Then it’s easy to deliver that on screen.”

    February 25, 2013 • Academic Programs, Acting, Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 4232

  • Oscar Winner Wally Pfister Talks Chris Nolan

    Over 400 students signed up to attend Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister’s Q&A in after the screening of Inception for New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. The atmosphere in the room could only be described as a rock concert. And though Pfister was recovering from a bout of food poisoning, he wasn’t going to let down the auditorium full of excited students, who greeted him with cheers of “Wally! Wally!” He spoke about his long-time collaboration with Chris Nolan, saying, “Chris is an incredible storyteller and incredible screenwriter.”

    Following an interview with producer Tova Laiter and Cinematography Chair Michael Pessah, Pfister took questions directly from the students who lined up in what can only be described as a conga line to ask the master about his work. “You have to take risks,” he said. “That’s what will make your career last longer. You have to fight to get your vision on the screen (but not fight with your director).”

    Besides winning the Oscar for Inception in 2011, Wally also garnered Oscar nominations for The Dark KnightThe Prestige, and Batman Begins, and is well known for his work on Insomnia, The Italian Job, Moneyball, Memento, and The Dark Knight Rises.

    MFA Screenwriting student Jordan Farrester said, “It was great to be there with someone who has worked on some of the biggest films of the past ten years. He was really thoughtful and insightful, and had a lot to say about the industry and his vision.”

    Pfister’s latest project is his feature film directorial debut, Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp, and written by NYFA instructor Jack Paglen. The film is slated for release in 2014.

     

    January 31, 2013 • Academic Programs, Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 4611

  • Landing a Role on Life of Pi

    After a nationwide talent search of India, by Casting Director Avy Kaufman, Vibish Sivakumar scored an opportunity of a lifetime meeting Oscar winning director Ang Lee for a role in the film, Life of Pi. Prior to landing the role, Vibish was studying Telecommunication Engineering, but his curiosity led him to acting. “I had to audition for about 5 or 6 months before I got to meet with Ang Lee. It was a long journey to land a role in Pi, but absolutely worth it at the end.”

    While filming Life of Pi, Vibish took up the 8 Week Acting for Film Workshop at the New York Film Academy for proper training. “I have a friend who lives in New York and he really recommended attending NYFA over the other acting schools in New York. My experience at NYFA was delightful. I got to interact with fellow actors from different parts of the world, and they brought a lot to the table in their own ways and methods. But what I would really take away from my experience there was my interaction with the faculty. I had an incredible batch of teachers: Peter Stone, Anna Cianciulli, Tina Benko, Miguel Parga, Katie and John. I truly learned a lot from them. My stint at NYFA reaffirmed my choice of becoming an actor.”

    Vibish plays the role of 18 year old Ravi Patel in what looks to be another Oscar contender for Ang Lee. “Working with Ang Lee is something you cannot describe in a paragraph. There’s a reason why he is one of the best directors in the world and it’s evident right from when you first meet him. He is an incredible human being and a wonderful filmmaker. The biggest thing I learned from him was humility and staying true to your craft and story.”

    Vibish added that right now is the hardest part of his career thus far, finding the right agent.

    November 29, 2012 • Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4313

  • Interview with Director Robert Zemeckis

    The New York Film Academy had a chance to speak with A-list director, Robert Zemeckis! Robert Zemeckis owned the 80’s and 90’s with his classic Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. Zemekis earned respect from critics and colleagues, while grossing quite a hefty penny at the box-office. His direction of Forrest Gump won him an Oscar for Best Director. It’s pretty safe to say that the filmmaker has established himself as one of the elite directors in Hollywood.

    The New York Film Academy offers many workshops and programs for those wishing to learn film direction.

    October 31, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4043