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  • The Babadook: A Non-Nominee Worth Awarding

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    Babadook_612x380
    Image Credit: Matt Nettheim

    The Babadook, a thrilling horror flick and debuting film of Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent, has gained much praise by scary movie fans and the industry alike (the film has won a bunch of awards including “Best First Film” award from New York Film Critics Circle). So when the Oscars chose to ignore its existence, it had many wondering what does it actually takes to be considered as a nominee? Are scary movies out of the running?

    The film sees Essie Davies playing Amelia, a struggling mother, bring-up her son Samuel (impeccably played-by first-time actor Noah Wiseman) and a pop-up book. As Davies fights her psychological demons, the film gets darker, her son gets freakier and the pop-up book gets weirdly more intertwined into the family’s reality.

    Ok, to be fair, the Academy has paid tribute to scary movies in the past including awarding horror films The Exorcist and Silence of the Lambs, but it’s been some time and we think The Babadook should have been one of those films to crack the Oscars this year. Maybe they just expect a little extra from the genre and if so, we see Kent coming back with something freakier and scarier, so much so that the Academy will just simply not be able ignore.

    Check out The Babadook trailer and tell us what you think. Too weird? Should it have been a nominee consideration? Let us know your thoughts.

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    January 22, 2015 • Entertainment Australia, Entertainment News • Views: 4449

  • And This Year’s Oscar Nominations Are…

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    A collage of the 2015 Oscar Best Picture Nominees

    The 2015 Best Picture Oscar nominees, clockwise from left: The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Selma, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, American Sniper

    The nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced Thursday, Jan 15 with all of the nominees being announced live for the first time, with directors J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón announcing the first batch and actor Chris Pine and Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs announcing the second group of nominees. And while this year had predictors preparing for a by-the-numbers slate of nominees, the Academy threw more than a few curveballs our way, with Selma getting largely snubbed and Boyhood and Birdman cementing their likely domination come Oscar night with The Grand Budapest making a surprisingly strong showing with nine nominations, tying with Birdman for most nominations.

    Starting at the top, the nominees for Best Picture dropped to eight candidates from nine in the previous years with American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash competing for the main prize. While this category largely came down as expected, one can’t help but wonder if Foxcatcher was dropped to make it an even eight, not to mention the surprise that both Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel maintained momentum throughout the year despite early releases and buzz (the Academy tends to favor films released during the Fall).

    In the Best Actor category, the five nominees had all been favorites throughout awards season, though Bradley Cooper’s turn in American Sniper seemed to take out late-season favorites David Oyelowo in Selma and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. The full list of nominees are Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Michael Keaton in Birdman, and Steve Carell in Foxcatcher.

    Competing for best actress, the nominees, similar to their male counterparts, were mostly favorites throughout the season though one can’t help but imagine how Marion Cotillard managed to squeeze out Cake’s Jennifer Anniston for her turn in the Belgian film Two Days, One Night. One thing is for sure, both actresses gave incredible performances and as there can only be five, someone is always going to get the short stick. The nominees are Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Reese Witherspoon in Wild, and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl.

    However, the big shocker came in the Achievement in Directing category as Selma’s Ava DuVernay was snubbed, seemingly in favor of relative newcomer Morten Tyldum and his The Imitation Game. Also, for American Sniper making such a surprisingly strong showing, one can’t help but wonder if Bennett Miller and Foxcatcher pushed out Clint Eastwood. The nominees are Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman, Bennet Miller for Foxcatcher, Morton Tyldum for The Imitation Game, Richard Linklater for Boyhood, and Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

    One of the bigger surprises came in the form of Robert Duvall for his turn in The Judge, a role that had seemingly zero Oscar buzz going into the nominations. J.K. Simmons was of course nominated for Whiplash, where he continues to be the front-runner, with Edward Norton in Birdman, Ethan Hawke in Boyhood, and Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher rounding out the category.

    Finally, in the Best Supporting Actress category, the nominees were largely as expected, though Laura Dern’s flashback-heavy role in Wild edged out other late contenders like Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year and Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Dern will be competing against Emma Stone in Birdman, Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game, Meryl Steep in Into the Woods, and Patricia Arquette in Boyood.

    A few of the other big surprises coming out of LA this morning was The Lego Movie not even being included in the Best Animated Feature category, which was long considered to take the award. On the bright side, the fantastic “Everything is Awesome” was included in the Best Song category. Furthermore, while Rosamund Pike did score a Best Actress nom for Gone Girl, this early awards season heavyweight joined Selma in the snubbed category. Finally, in the Best Documentary category, the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, also considered to be a lock for the award, failed to even score a nomination.

    All in all, Oscar night just got a lot more interested and we hope you’ll join us when we Live Tweet the ceremony on February 22nd.

    Click Read More to see the full list of nominees below.

    Continue Reading

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    January 15, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 6136

  • NYFA Screens Best Picture Winner ’12 Years A Slave’ with Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt

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    Sean Bobbitt at NYFA LA

    Sean Bobbitt at NYFA LA

    A day after 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were treated to a private screening of the film at Warner Brothers studios followed by a Q&A with Sean Bobbitt, the film’s acclaimed cinematographer (fresh from winning the Spirit award for his work the previous day).

    Sean Bobbitt is a British cinematographer, born in America, but grew up all over the world including England where his father was in the oil industry and worked abroad. He spent years working as a news and documentary cameraman before moving into narrative. He met Steve McQueen thirteen years ago when the director of 12 Years a Slave was doing art installations. After seeing Michael Winterbottom’s Wonderland, Bobbitt’s first narrative feature, McQueen’s wife admired his work and encouraged McQueen to meet Bobbitt. During his first meeting with McQueen, Bobbitt recalls thinking the director was “Either an absolute genius or an absolute lunatic, but either way it was going to be interesting doing something with him.”

    Throughout the years, Sean Bobbitt and Steve McQueen have developed a potent cinematic language that is such a breath of fresh air. An example of this is their propensity for long takes. Regarding this, Bobbitt said, “I think a part of the reason it is so powerful is because of that simplicity. We’re not used to it anymore. We’re used to the edit, the edit, the edit, so when you walk away from that people really look at it because it’s unusual, it’s different. And I think by extending those shots, it draws people into the scene, hopefully.” In regards specifically to the long shot in 12 Years a Slave in which actress Lupita Nyong’o’s character gets relentlessly whipped Bobbit said, “What we think happens is by not putting an edit here, particularly in scene of extreme violence, the audience is pulled in further and further into the story. As soon as you put a cut in, they are subconsciously reminded that it’s a film and that they don’t need to be upset because it’s a film. If there’s no cut, there’s no escape.”


    Bobbitt discussed the thrill of exploring different techniques with different directors. Different from McQueen’s style, on “A Place Beyond the Pines” director Derek Cianfrance would run take after take and experiment with improve. “Derek is someone who you go into a scene and you just go at it. All handheld, thirty-five millimeter, two-perf, and we would literally just put another mag on a go and go. But he had a reason for that and a method to it that was so fascinating to watch,” Bobbitt said. “The actors were really able to explore the scene itself and come around to a performance.”

    After being asked about the sacred relationship between the cinematographer and director Bobbitt said, “From day one it has to do with personality. If you get on with a director and you see the same things, or you over time start to see the same things. It does take time and it takes effort from both people. It’s important as a cinematographer that you get as long of a pre-production period as you can. On average, if you do not have five weeks of pre-production with the director, you don’t have enough time. Because as you become closer to the (shoot) day, your access (to the director) becomes less and less. So you’ve got to come in with ideas.”

    A student asked Bobbitt what he looks for when choosing a project to work on, to which he said, “I have always been very choosy about the projects I’ve done. I have waited months, unemployed, for the right films. And I have designed my life so that I can go for months without an income. And I think that’s the key. Because you’re going to be giving your life, or you should be giving your life, to whatever film you’re going to be doing. So do the films you think are worth it, in any point in your career. The only caveat I would give to that is that in the early part of your career as a cinematographer, shoot anything. It’s about experience, and the only way you get experience as a cinematographer is by shooting. Nothing else.”

    Bobbitt said that he reads every script that he receives and that, “The first time I read it I don’t read it as a cinematographer. I just read it… thinking is this a good story? Did this move me in some way? Is this interesting, is this original, is there something here that’s worth the effort?”

    What was blatantly apparent during the Q&A was how extremely authentic Sean Bobbitt is. Clearly this permeates through his work and allows him to create such meaningful art. It was a pleasure to hear him speak and he offered sage advice to the audience who clung to his every word. A giant within his craft, Sean Bobbitt’s work has elevated the cinematic art form and his future is now brighter than ever.

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    March 5, 2014 • Guest Speakers • Views: 6088

  • Your ‘InstaShort’ Could Be on Good Morning America!

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    86th oscars

    In honor of the upcoming Oscars, New York Film Academy students, alumni and faculty are invited to participate in an exciting Instagram video-making opportunity for a chance to have their InstaShort aired on ABC’s Good Morning America.

    good morning americaInterested students, alumni and faculty are asked to make an “InstaShort”: A 15-second Instagram short film remaking a movie that’s been nominated at this year’s 86th Academy Awards. Participants are required to upload their finished film to their Instagram account with the hashtag #GMAInstaShorts, the film title, NYFA members involved, and tag @NewYorkFilmAcademy.

    ABC will be airing selected shorts and combine all submissions into one video that will be shared across all of our social media channels with a blog post of credits (school, students involved, parts they played, etc.).

    For your chance to have your video aired on ABC’s Good Morning America next week, simply post your “InstaShort” on your own Instagram account AND send your video clips to marketing@nyfa.edu by Tuesday, February 25th.

    If you have any questions, please email marketing@nyfa.edu.

    We look forward to seeing your entry!

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    February 20, 2014 • Acting, Contests, Filmmaking • Views: 4316

  • NYFA Documentary Alumni Highlights

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    Muhammad Hamdy NYFA The Square

    The Academy Award nomination of Director of Photography and Co-Producer Muhammed Hamdy‘s (’12) The Square is just the tip of the iceberg of Documentary Dept. Alumni success stories.

    Two more noteworthy graduates are giving back to their alma mater by investigating how their fellow alumni are making use of their New York Film Academy educations. So far, the resulting online series by award-winning Producer/Director, Maria Stanisheva (’12) and globetrotting Cinematographer, Marco Vitale (’11) features stories about Louis Mole (ʼ12), who produced and shot the television series, “Serial Swindlers,” a year after graduating; Todd Leatherman (ʼ12) who worked on two of this yearʼs Sundance selections; Susanne Dollnig (ʼ12) of Austria, who was promoted to Editor at The House of Trim only seven months after graduating and Louisa Merino (ʼ11) currently Senior Editor and Director at David Lynch Foundation.

    Note: By clicking on the students’ names above you can watch short interview pieces (like the one below) created by Maria Stanisheva.

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    February 4, 2014 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 4850

  • Gender Inequality in Film

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    To view the updated Gender Inequality in Film infographic released in 2018, click the banner above.

    In light of the record-breaking opening of the female-led action film Hunger Games: Catching Fire this past weekend, the New York Film Academy decided to take a closer look at women in film and what, if any, advancements women are making. After reviewing the data, it is clear that Hollywood remains stuck in its gender bias. Of course, it’s not all disparaging news and there are a number of female filmmakers, characters, and emerging talent challenging the status quo. In addition, in the independent sphere, women made up roughly half of the directors at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, yet still struggle when it comes to films receiving a wide release. By shedding light on gender inequality in film, we hope to start a discussion about what can be done to increase women’s exposure and power in big-budget films.

    New York Film Academy's Gender Inequality in Film Infographic

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    November 25, 2013 • Infographics • Views: 427362

  • Pixar’s Rules for Great Storytelling

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    Pixar Animation

    Thanks to department chair Eric Conner of the screenwriting program for this great tip! A story artist at Pixar Animation Studios had been tweeting a series of “story basics” which illustrates the kind of talent that exists at Pixar. Their overwhelming success is easily demonstrated by the numbers. 7 out of 12 Pixar films were nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars and the company won the Animated Feature Academy Award 6 times. They have 13 consecutive box-office toppers and 2 Best Picture nominations. If that’s not proof of their genius, then we don’t know what is. Steve Jobs purchased the studio in 1986 for $10 million. It was originally a hardware company with only one animator on its staff. Now it’s widely reputed to be one of the best film studios on the planet. Here’s a quote on Deadline from the producer of the latest Pixar hit Brave, which debuted at number 1 at the Box Office this weekend. They attribute their phenomenal success to the basic wisdom that story trumps all.

    It was not easy. The biggest challenges at Pixar are always the stories. We want really original stories that come from the hearts and minds of our filmmakers. We take years in crafting the story and improving it and changing it; throwing things out that aren’t working and adding things that do work. All of that  is just the jumping off point for the technology and how we are going to make this happen.

    Without further ado, here are 22 pointers from Pixar’s story artists for creating a compelling story and building a mega-successful franchise. Don’t forget to learn more about our animation curriculum and become a top-notch animator for Pixar. Click here to request more information on the program!

    1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

    2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

    3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
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    June 25, 2012 • 3D Animation, Film School, Screenwriting • Views: 3671

  • The Importance of Learning Your Audience

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    Ron Tippe is the department chair of the Producing department at the New York Film Academy. He is best known as the animation producer for the smash hit Space Jam. He managed the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Paris, France while producing the short film Runaway Brain which was nominated for an Academy award. He was also responsible for pre-production on Shrek and worked with George Lucas in collaboration with Universal Studios on Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. 

    I must be a lucky guy. After 27 years in Hollywood with a successful career in the film business, I’m now the Chair of Producing for NYFA. First off, I get to work with some very special people. My fellow colleagues come from various countries which offer different perspectives from a variety of cultures around the world. That said, the commonality is their love of cinema. Almost to a person, the level of passion is infectious and energizing. This attitude towards the art of filmmaking is what constitutes success as a film producer.

    • KNOW WHO YOUR AUDIENCE IS. In the entertainment business, nothing is decided at the studio level these days. At least not without going through marketing, branding and PR first. The goal for a studio is to maximize financial gain and stem any losses. Focus groups are de rigeur. In the independent world, film festivals and smaller theatrical releases often depend on word-of-mouth in addition to ever-expanding social media campaigns.
    • GRAB THEM IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES. When looking for a film to produce, make sure that the first 10 pages of the script are compelling. Introduce the main characters and make sure we understand what the protagonist wants. And then how the antagonist prevents that from happening. Comedy or drama, action or fantasy, a great story is imperative to grab the audience. The sooner the better!
    • WE ARE GLOBAL. The box office is increasingly getting two-thirds of their money  internationally. Producers, it’s a global marketplace. Know it. Own it.
    • WORD OF MOUTH IS A MOVIE’S BEST FRIEND. If an audience is satisfied, he or she will tell others. Facebook, Twitter, Email. You name it, they will use it.  Social media is where it’s at.
    • AUDIENCES ARE NOT STUPID. They are very culturally savvy, increasingly educated and obviously fickle. They know what they like and dislike.

    A producer is someone who works insane hours under very difficult conditions. You’re always inside the pressure cooker. You’re constantly nudged by studio executives with their myriad of concerns—most of which are related to budgets and finance. How is this related to being a teacher of film? Passion is absolutely essential in the making a film, or at least in providing a great experience during the making of that film. The same is true in the classroom. A passionate teacher is infectious, and that passion often manifests itself in motivated and inspired students. A great producer can make or break that wonderful experience. After all, the producer is who a crew looks to for leadership. It’s a high standard. The same is true in the classroom here at NYFA. We aim to attain the highest standards and “shoot” for it every single day.

    I’m proud of my teachers and students. We are motivated and inquisitive. Most importantly, we work hard. The students will become great producers for the next generation of moviegoers. Because producers have a strong hand in the filmmaking process, we should be proud of the education that the students are getting here at NYFA. Frankly, we should let the world know how good we are. Time to get the word out. Producer. Teacher. Leader. Motivator. I must be a very lucky guy. Stand by to roll.

    Action!

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    April 24, 2012 • Producing • Views: 6778

  • Whatever Happened to Francis Ford Coppola?

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    Francis Ford CoppolaLast week was the 40th Anniversary of The Godfather. I don’t know if you saw it but the AMC channel aired it repeatedly during the week. Watching those films again, it made me wonder…

    Whatever happened to Francis Ford Coppola?

    The Godfather was a huge influence. I mean everyone went to see it. I remember I had a friend who was ushering at the movie theater and would sneak me in. It didn’t even matter what part of the movie you came in at, you’d just watch it from there to the end. Sometimes I’d even stay to watch the beginning of the next show. We used to refer to the film as, “the Beast.” That’s how much respect we had for it. A few years later, as a film student, Scorsese became my guy (he was the filmmaker that made me want to be a filmmaker.) The Godfather was still the benchmark and with all due respect and deference to good ol’ Marty, he never made “The Beast”.

    Coppola followed up with Apocalypse Now. The stories about making that film are legendary—the enormous amounts of money, equipment, and insanity that went on in the jungles. But whether you like the film or not, you can’t help but be impressed by the enormity of the undertaking and the execution. It is unquestionably the work of a master filmmaker. And then… What? What happened? He never again fulfilled the promise of his early films. It makes me sad. What went wrong? Where did Francis Ford Coppola jump the shark?

    It started with a film called One From the Heart. You’ve probably never seen it. Few people have. It was a musical fantasy set in Vegas, and even though it pioneered some video-editing techniques, it was a disaster with audiences. Then there were The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. It seemed to us as young directors as the work of a desperate filmmaker who lost one audience and was trying everything he could to connect with a new one. Next he tried a Godfather knockoff, The Cotton Club. An epic crime drama, it even had the same sort of violent montage at the end. A pale imitation and another box office disaster. And finally, Godfather 3, the last ditch effort to recapture past glory. I don’t even have to tell you what a disappointment that film was.

    How did such a great filmmaker lose his way? Was it the disappointing loss of Zoetrope Studios? In 1969, Coppola decided to buck the studio system, which he felt had stifled his artistic vision. He created Zoetrope to fund off-beat films by first time directors. It didn’t work. Was it the pressure of paying off the huge financial debt in which he found himself? Coppola has declared bankruptcy three times. It’s not easy holding onto a personal vision while digging yourself out of a financial hole. Or was it the tragic death of his son? Personal tragedy has a way of putting ambitions of glory in perspective. In the end, perhaps it was just the unimaginable pressure of having to equal something as great as The Godfather.

    The Godfather

    It’s hard not to reflect on the somewhat tragic trajectory of his life. Early success does have its pitfalls. Compare the careers of directors like Spielberg and Scorsese. They all started out at the same time. They were part of an avant-garde group of filmmakers that were revolutionizing Hollywood. But where Spielberg and Scorsese are viable, influential, Academy Award nominated filmmakers to this day, Francis Ford Coppola has sadly vanished from the scene. I can easily imagine him filled with deep satisfaction and appreciation of what he’s accomplished. I can also imagine him with deep regret at what could’ve been. Ultimately, I’d like to think that with age comes perspective, if not wisdom, and maybe even acceptance. What do you think? Every filmmaker has to come to grips at some point with this issue of art and commerce. How have you handled it? Or how do you envision handling it? I’d like to know.

    Click here to learn more about the filmmaking program.

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    March 16, 2012 • Filmmaking • Views: 11890