On November 20th, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) had planned a Q&A with Academy Award winner, editor Joe Walker, following a screening of Arrival. Unfortunately, Joe was unable to make it to Burbank, so Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, moderated a Q&A conversation with Joe and the students over speakerphone.
As mea culpa, Walker invited the students for a screening and Q&A to his new movie Widows, in theaters now!
Directed by Steve McQueen, Widows, starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, has recently opened for Oscar run.
Since Walker has won so many awards and nominations (Arrival, 12 Years a Slave), Laiter asked Walker about the process of voting on the Academy’s end. Walker said that the initial list of Best Film Editing nominees is compiled by the editing branch and then voted on by the Academy. “If you’re nominated… that’s the endorsement by your peers. And then if you win… that’s the endorsement of the entire Academy.”
Asked about his background and how he “made a name for himself,” Walker said that the most important thing was that he “worked harder, and did more.” Walker had started as a sound editor at the BBC, and moved up through the ranks — now he collaborates with Steve McQueen on films like Hunger,12 Years a Slave, and Widows, and with Denis Villeneuve on films such as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049.
One student said that he admired the use of tension in many of Walker’s films, and asked how one might go around building that tension. “Tension is a really complicated thing to achieve… a lot of it is to do with story… you aren’t going to create suspense if there’s nothing to feel suspenseful about… you hope that the reveal is delivered with a little bit of a punch.”
One thing Walker likes to impart on students is, “If you interfere with a performance by cutting on every line — if every line of dialogue has a reaction, and then you come back for another line… it doesn’t allow the audience to look into the eyes and the soul of the character… Let that stuff play, don’t get in the way.”
The New York Film Academy looks forward to welcoming Joe Walker back to discuss his new film Widows and to learn more from him!
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), home of the Oscars, hosted a delegation of New York Film Academy (NYFA) students on Saturday, October 6, 2018, when they attended the 4th Annual Careers in Film Summit. With panelists such as the producer of Crazy Rich Asians, the music editor of A Quiet Place, and the production manager of Black-ish, students got insight into the wide range of careers available to them in the film industry. NYFA caught up with several members of the delegation and asked what they thought of the event:
“This was my first time going to the Oscars’ headquarters, and it was an amazing experience. The panels were very inspiring and all the professionals who spoke shared their experiences about how they got to be where they are today, which was very motivational for me as a person looking to build my name and career in the film industry. Also, it was great to see Brazil being represented by Renato dos Anjos, who is the Head of Animation at Disney Animation.” –Gabriela Ono, Fall 17 MFA Producing
“It was an inspirational experience, not only because we learned from very different departments, but also because these are people that have years of experience in the film industry and have noticed the change in the industry. The person that inspired me the most was Rachel Morrison, not only because she was on stage with her newborn baby, but also because she’s always that woman that is always leading a crew of men, which talks about equality, opportunities and, of course, female power.” –Inés de los Santos, Fall 2017 MFA Screenwriting
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Careers in Film Summit! Each panel shared some of their work and experience, which is always inspiring. I learned that there are countless paths to go down in this industry, which is encouraging! I think the point of the summit is: there’s something for everyone to do in filmmaking, and it is ultimately a collaborative effort!” –Harrison Misfeldt, Spring 2016 BFA Film 1B
“I’m so happy and honored to have been part of NYFA’s Academic Delegation. I loved hearing the panelists’ insights, and I so very much enjoyed being amongst my peers.” –Nestor Sierra, Fall 2017 BFA Acting for Film
“Being at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences event, hearing from the speakers — each with years of experience in the movie business — really got my blood pumping to be in this industry. Getting to hear how these professionals worked their way to their positions was both informative and inspirational. Can’t wait for the next one.” –Miskar Chomse, Summer 17 MFA Acting
“Newton,” a feature-length film by NYFA alumnus Amit V Masurkar, is now in the running for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — just one in a long line of successes the Indian dark comedy-drama and its writer & director have already seen.
Co-written and directed by Amit, “Newton” stars Rajkummar Rao as Newton Kumar, a rookie government clerk who seeks to uphold democracy and conduct fair elections in Chhattisgarh’s conflict-ridden jungles. The film has received positive reviews, including from India’s Huffington Post, which called it “a touching, personal and very human film.”
Amit first premiered “Newton” at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the CICAE Art Cinema Award. Since then, Amit has presented his film at nearly 50 festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it screened in the International Narrative Competition, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival, where it won the coveted Jury Prize.
An Academy Award would be the crowning achievement to go with these accolades, and the journey to attaining one is a long and tough road. Films that are produced outside of the United States and are delivered in a predominantly non-English language are eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Unlike other Oscars, the Foreign Language Film Award is unique in that the golden statue is presented not to the filmmakers, but to the nation that produced it—adding an air of patriotic pride to the category.
Each country must then select just one film per year to represent it at the Academy Awards, creating a lot of competition between movies of all genres, especially in a nation as populated and cinema-oriented as India. “Newton” was selected from a shortlist of 26 films to represent India at this year’s Oscars, and the final nominations from five different countries will be announced along with the other Academy Award noms early next year. The 90th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 4, 2018.
Amit V Masurkar honed his screenwriting skills at New York Film Academy’s New York campus, taking the 8-Week Screenwriting workshop in 2009. After writing for numerous sketch and comedy shows, Amit’s directorial feature-length debut “Sulemani Keeda” became a surprise indie hit. “Newton” is only his second feature film, and Amit has proven to be one of India’s most exciting voices in filmmaking.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Amit V Masurkar on such a fantastic achievement, and looks forward to seeing what further accomplishments he and “Newton” will achieve!
The New York Film Academy followed the 89th Academy Awards ever so closely last night on social media, even through the confusion. Heading into the evening, NYFA was firmly rooting for two of its alumni, Jean de Meuron and Raphaela Neihausen, both having been involved with nominated short films. Neihausen’s short documentary film, “Joe’s Violin,” which she produced, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. Alumnus Jean de Meuron was executive producer on “La femme et le TGV,” which was up for Best Live Action Short. While the former students didn’t end up winning for their respective categories, their monumental achievement speaks for itself.
Of course the most talked about moment from last night’s awards event, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, was the “Steve Harvey-like” gaffe during the Best Picture announcement. After accidentally awarding Best Picture to the movie musical, “La La Land,” the actual winner was revealed to be “Moonlight,” which iconic actor and director, Warren Beatty, clearly rectified by pointing out the winning card that was supposed to have been read.
So while that was not exactly a shining moment for the gracious team behind “La La Land,” the film still notched a record-tying 14 nominations. “Moonlight” and “Arrival” followed with a very respectable eight wins each. It should also be worth nothing that two of our teacher’s assistants from New York Film Academy South Beach, Robert Colom and Danniel Rodriguez, had the privilege of working on set of “Moonlight” as Production Assistants.
One of the more controversial topics of last year’s awards was the fact that there were no people of color nominated for an Oscar. However, this year offered the most diverse list of nominees, with a total of seven actors of color nominated — six black and one Indian. Some of the winners included Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali from “Moonlight,” and Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis from “Fences.”
NYFA also recognized a few of its former guest speakers like Kenneth Lonergan, who won Best Original Screenplay for his work on “Manchester by the Sea,” and Linus Sandgren, who won Best Cinematography for his capturing of “La La Land.”
Additionally, in the world of animation, “Zootopia” won Best Animated Feature Film. Last year, before the film’s release, 3D Animation students at NYFA had an inside look from “Zootopia” animator, Darrin Butters, who broke down scenes and the development process that went into the Disney film.
Finally, on a humorous note, NYFA guest speaker Seth Rogen brought us back to the future after emerging from a DeLorean with Michael J. Fox. Mr. Rogen was at NYFA Los Angeles last year to screen his R-rated animated comedy, “Sausage Party,” which was an absolute blast for those students and alumni fortunate enough to attend.
While the snafu at the end of the evening will be talked about for days to follow, the winners will always remember when they received Hollywood’s most coveted prize.
Below is a complete list of the 89th Academy Award nominees — winners are in bold:
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” (WINNER)
Andrew Garfield in “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington in “Fences”
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”
Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” (WINNER)
Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel in “Lion”
Michael Shannon in “Nocturnal Animals”
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”
Ruth Negga in “Loving”
Natalie Portman in “Jackie”
Emma Stone in “La La Land” (WINNER)
Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Nicole Kidman in “Lion”
Viola Davis in “Fences”
Naomie Harris in “Moonlight”
Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea”
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“La La Land” (WINNER)
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (WINNER)
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“La La Land”
“Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve
“Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson
“La La Land” – Damien Chazelle (WINNER)
“Manchester by the Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan
“Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America” (WINNER)
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets” (WINNER)
“Hacksaw Ridge” (WINNER)
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
“The Salesman” (WINNER)
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad” (WINNER)
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
“La La Land” (WINNER)
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”
“City Of Stars” from “La La Land” (WINNER)
“The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
Geof Bartz, New York Film Academy Documentary Master Class instructor and curriculum adviser (and Supervising Editor of HBO’s Documentary Department), is up for yet another Oscar this year! You may remember that Veterans Dial 1, the film Geof edited last year, won. This time he’s nominated for his editing work on Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s A GIRL IN THE RIVER: The Price of Forgivenes (Documentary Short category).
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s A GIRL IN THE RIVER: The Price of Forgiveness chronicles the story of a 19-year-old Pakistani woman, Saba Qaiser, who was shot in the face and thrown in a river by her father and uncle for marrying against their wishes. But Saba survived, only to face another challenge: how to bring justice to her attackers in a legal system that allows “honor killers” to be “forgiven” and set free.
More than 5,000 women are the victims of such honor killings worldwide each year. Sharmeen’s movie has already begun to draw the attention of critics in the US, including Nicholas Kristof’s piece in the NY Times last month.
A GIRL IN THE RIVER:The Price of Forgiveness will premiere on HBO and be available on HBO GO in early March. Meanwhile, you can check out the Oscars this weekend and see how it fares against four other terrific short documentaries!
Mary Pickford is finally getting the Hollywood treatment from the Hollywood she helped to create. Pickford, the curly-haired ingénue considered cinema’s first “America’s Sweetheart” was a huge star in the silent era and early days of Hollywood.
Pickford wasn’t just one of the first starlets of the silver screen—she was also a powerful force behind the camera. During her career, she co-founded two significant institutions. The first, with Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and her husband Douglas Fairbanks, was United Artists, a studio controlled by actors and filmmakers in an attempt to wrest power from the major studios. UA continues as a major producer to this day as part of MGM.
Pickford’s other contribution was even greater—she was one of the original 36 co-founders of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organizations of cinema’s professionals in all fields and provider of the annual Oscars. Pickford won two Academy Awards herself, a Best Actress Oscar for 1929’s Coquette and an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 1976.
It’s no surprise then that her fascinating life is being made into a film, adapted from Eileen Whitfield’s biography Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood. The movie is being scripted by Josh Fagin and directed by Jennifer DeLia. DeLia is producing the film with Julie Pacino, a New York Film Academy graduate who co-founded Poverty Row Entertainment with DeLia. The two also collaborated on Billy Bates, the haunting look at a tortured artist. Pacino, the daughter of Al Pacino, is the perfect choice to tell the story of a Hollywood legend.
A month after Netflix declared it was aiming to raise $1.5 billion worth of corporate debt, industry analysts got a better idea of where some of this money might be channeled after it was announced that the company had put down a competitive $12 million to acquire the global distribution rights to buzzed-about Beasts of No Nation, which it will premiere simultaneously both on the streaming service’s site and in theatres later this year.
Following its Emmy Award-winning successes in original programming like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black and releasing critically acclaimed documentaries—including the Oscar-nominated docs Virunga and The Square, which was DP’d by Documentary grad Muhammad Hamdy—this most recent purchase has many analysts speculating that Netflix is gunning for an Oscar. The film, which was helmed by Emmy Award-winning True Detective director Cary Fukunaga and stars acclaimed British actor Idris Elba, boasts an awards season-friendly plot that focuses on the plight of an African child soldier.
The fact that the company is seeking to show the film in theaters is indicative of its Academy Awards ambitions as a theatrical run is a requirement to be considered for an Oscar nomination. However, how wide of a release the film will receive remains to be seen as most major theater chains will not show films that do not honor the 90-day wait period between theatrical and home entertainment premieres. Furthermore, after the company announced plans to release a sequel to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in partnership with Imax, it was met with a planned boycott by the major theater chains as that film will also not adhere to the traditional 90-day waiting period.
Beasts of No Nation was also written by Fukunaga and produced for $6 million by Participant Media and Red Crown and filmed last year on location in Ghana. The fact that Netflix was willing to pay double to secure the global rights to the film further indicates that the company believes that this is a film that will be well-received by both critics and audiences as Elba’s performance is already being buzzed about for a potential Best Actor Oscar nomination.
The big story about this year’s Oscars winners may very well be what else they’ve won—namely, the Independent Spirit Awards. The ceremony, as usual, was held the day before the Academy Awards, and rewarded films with smaller budgets and not supported by Hollywood’s largest studios. The show typically has a looser, more fun vibe where its celebrities mingle and goof off, similar to the Golden Globes. This year’s show was hosted by Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell.
Like the Academy Awards, Birdman walked away with Best Feature. However, in one of the biggest differences from the Oscars, Richard Linklater was awarded Best Director for Boyhood. Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K. Simmons all foreshadowed their Oscar wins with acting awards, though Michael Keaton scored the win he couldn’t get Sunday for his starring role in Birdman. Citizenfour presaged its Best Documentary Oscar with a Spirit Award win in the same category. Even the Best Cinematography and Best Editing awards mirrored the Oscars, going to Birdman and Whiplash, respectively. Best Foreign Film winner Ida also got its Spirit Award equivalent for Best International Film.
With nearly every major winner of the Spirit Awards going on to win their categories at the Academy Awards this weekend, the Oscars overwhelmingly went to films not directly produced or financed by the major studios. Is this a sign of the times, a decentralization of film’s powerhouse auteurs, or just a fluke? Evidence seems to point to the former—after all, five years ago Spirit winner The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar for the Best Picture, but only time will tell. Basically, let’s start the 2016 Oscar predictions!
Here’s a full list of the winners:
BirdmanProducers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole
BEST MALE LEAD
Michael Keaton, Birdman
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Citizenfour Director/Producer: Laura Poitras
Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
Ida (Poland), Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
BEST FIRST FEATURE
NightcrawlerDirector: Dan Gilroy; Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Justin Simien, Dear White People
Tom Cross, Whiplash
Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens; Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy
LENSCRAFTERS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD The Kill Team, Director: Dan Krauss
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD Chris Chison
KIEHL’S SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD H., Directors: Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia
Tova Laiter with screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
This past Tuesday, February 17th New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were admitted into a special screening of Foxcatcher — nominated for 5 Oscars, (starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo) and participated in a Q&A with screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman who received a nomination in the upcoming Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. E. Max Frye won an Edgar Award from WGA for his first screenplay, Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme. As a writer on HBO’s Band of Brothers, he received a Christopher Award, a Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy.
Dan Futterman was nominated for a 2005 Academy Award, a BAFTA Film Award, as well as a Writers Guild of America Award for his screenplay for the film Capote. He also won an Independent Spirit Award and shared the USC Scripter Award with Capote biographer Gerald Clarke. Dan and his wife and frequent writing partner, Anya Epstein, were show runners for the third season of the HBO series In Treatment and are currently writing and producing a new series for Fox TV, Gracepoint. As an actor, Dan has appeared on Broadway’s Angels in America and Off-Broadway, at Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club. His film acting credits include A Mighty Heart, The Birdcage, Urbania, and the upcoming Kill the Messenger. The Q&A was moderated by producer Tova Laiter.
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman gave invaluable advice to aspiring screenwriters and storytellers in general. Shedding light on his writing process E. Max Frye explained that he scribbles down his original drafts as quickly as possible on a legal pad. This allows him to get the story in his mind on paper in the most uncensored way possible. He doesn’t do a traditional plot outline, but rather starts from the concept of character and expands from there. He emphasized the importance of rewriting and never showing anyone of consequence the script until it is in it’s absolute final form. The reason for this is that there is no one in the industry that will read a script twice, so you have one shot only to impress.
In contrast to E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman talked how he likes to structure like crazy. The process of writing Foxcatcher took six years and the breadth of his notes over the course of that time was “insane.” It was a particularly meticulous process working with a director such as Bennett Miller for whom this screenplay was written. Bennett is not a writer himself, so Dan would have to glean what Mr. Miller wanted from the trial and error process of providing ideas and talking about what does and doesn’t work.
The information E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman provided to NYFA students, many of which were in the screenwriting program, was incredibly beneficial. We sincerely thank Max and Dan and wish them the best of luck at the upcoming Oscars!
In addition to the prestige and recognition that the Academy Awards provides for actors, filmmakers and artists, it’s also served as a platform for political and social outcry. Last night’s 87th Annual Academy Awards were no different than its predecessors, with Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette calling attention to the lack of equal pay amongst females not only in Hollywood, but throughout the job market.
Her call for wage equality for women was received with a large ovation at the awards ceremony, particularly by 19-time Academy Award nominated actress, Meryl Streep.
“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” said Arquette. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Arquette’s profound words come at a time when actors’ wages have become more transparent, especially after the unfortunate Sony Pictures hack revealed Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams earned substantially less than their male co-stars for the film American Hustle.
In 2013, the New York Film Academy tackled this issue with an in-depth infographic, highlighting gender inequality in film. One of the many issues that has stood out, was the fact that Angelina Jolie was the highest paid female actor with $33 million — almost the same amount earned by the two lowest ranked men in 2013.
Our hope at the time was to shed light on this issue in the hopes of pushing the conversation further. With a speech at the Oscars, we think we’re on the right track.