• A Woman’s Place is in the Industry: A Women’s History Month Discussion at New York Film Academy Los Angeles


    On International Women’s Day, March 8, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus welcomed 10 outstanding panelists for a dynamic and informative discussion entitled, A Woman’s Place is in the Industry

    The event was organized by NYFA Los Angeles Acting for Film Chair Lynda Goodfriend, and co-moderated by Head of MFA Feature Production Lydia Cedrone and Dean of Academic Advising Mike Civille.

    Panelists discussed the industry’s current climate, and offered their advice to students embarking on their careers. In a lively discussion, they shared both personal and professional reflections on their respective careers. 

    Each guest expressed her support of the New York Film Academy’s efforts to offer such a progressive and meaningful forum for women. 

    The evening ended with a lively Q&A with the audience. Several students asked pertinent questions about the direction the industry is heading, and learned from the panelists how the industry culture and women’s roles are changing — and how women can share an equal position in the industry.

    One student asked, “What is the most important thing that needs to change for women in the Entertainment Industry?”

    Actress Barbara Bain’s answer was to the point. “We need to pay women the same as men for the same work.”

    Dea Lawrence added, “We also need more women in positions of power … in the boardrooms, that’s where the decisions really get made.”

    The panelists suggested to our students that a greater emphasis on diversity in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the content that is written and released, would lead to richer creative output without affecting the bottom line.

    The all-female panel included:

    Barbara Bain

    Three-time Emmy award-winning actress Barbara Bain is perhaps most recognized for portraying Cinnamon Carter in the popular Mission Impossible television series. Also well known for her philanthropy work, Barbara is the founder of the Screen Actors Guild “BookPals” Program, which promotes reading to children in schools throughout Los Angeles.

    Kelly Gilmore

    Former Senior Vice President of Global Toys at Warner Bros Consumer Products, Kelly Gilmore is responsible for licensing intellectual properties such as DC Comics, Harry Potter, Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes to major global toy companies, including Mattel, Hasbro, Spin Master and Funko. When Kelly retired in 2016, her team had the biggest financial year of her career, winning a total of nine awards. 

    Ronnie Yeskel

    Casting Director Ronnie Yeskel’s numerous high-profile film and television credits include such iconic films as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction for director/writer Quentin Tarantino. In television, her credits include Curb Your Enthusiasm for Larry David. 

    Lisa Guerriero

    Camera operator Lisa Guerriero has worked on numerous films and television series as an operator and member of the camera crew. A trailblazer in this predominantly male-driven department, her credits include Suicide Squad, Mission Impossible and Fight Club, as well as the widely popular TV series Mad Men

    Elvi Cano

    Elvi Cano is the executive director at Egeda U.S. Elvi and her team in Los Angeles and Miami provide assistance to Spanish and Latin American filmmakers, and serve as a liaison between the U.S. film industry and those of Spain and Latin America. She is actively involved in the annual Platino Awards of Iberoamerican Cinema in Panama, Spain and Uruguay.  

    Jeanette Collins

    Veteran writer and producer Jeanette Collins began her writing career with partner Mimi Friedman on In Living Color, where they were nominated for an Emmy. Their many credits include A Different World, Suddenly Susan, Will and Grace, two seasons on HBO’s acclaimed Big Love, and Dirt. They are currently developing a mini-series for HBO about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

    Winship Cook

    Film, television and theater producer Winship Cook’s Paramount TV series credits include Down Home and Fired Up. She co-executive produced the Hallmark Channel movie The Family Plan.  Winship’s film credits include 102 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close and K-19: The Widowmaker directed by Kathryn Bigelow. She also developed and produced its off-Broad incarnation RFK, an award-winning show directed by Larry Moss. 

    Dea Lawrence

    As the Chief Marketing Officer for Variety, Dea Lawrence is responsible for driving Variety’s global branding and communications strategy — including overseeing the marketing and production of their 70 annual events and summits, and the Variety Content Studio, which creates storytelling for brands. 

    Valorie Massalas

    Casting director and producer Valorie Massalas’ numerous credits include such blockbuster films as Back to the Future 2 & 3 directed by Robert Zemeckis, Indiana Jones, and Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. 

    Jana Winternitz

    Award-winning producer and actress Jana Winternitz has worked with Legendary, 20th Century Fox, Disney and Focus Features. Jana enjoys generating strong and complex female roles for the screen. 

    We thank each guest for her participation!





    March 20, 2018 • Acting • Views: 3152

  • On Set of ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ with NYFA’s Acting Students


    New York Film Academy Acting students recently had the rare opportunity of stepping onto one of the busiest sets in television, NCIS: Los Angeles as well as visiting their post production facilities on the Paramount Studios lot with Acting for Film Instructor, Melissa Sullivan.

    Paramount set

    Paramount set

    Our gracious host, Eric Whitmyre, Producer and head of the Editorial Department, discussed the show’s processes for each episode from production to post-production. Students got a first hand look of the editorial facilities, meeting editor Ed Sailor and the assistant editor Eric Lucas, before touring the sound stages that include a massive two-story set piece of the main headquarters in the show.

    Eric Olsen

    Eric Olsen

    Eric Christian Olsen, who plays ‘Detective Marty Deeks’ in the show, gave us a few minutes of his time and kind words about his life experiences as an actor.

    Students were also greeted whole-heartedly by LL Cool J, who plays ‘Special Agent Sam Hanna.’

    A big thanks to Eric Whitmyre and the NCIS: Los Angeles family for the visit and their time.

    -Shawn Dawes


    December 12, 2013 • Acting • Views: 10347

  • Head of Casting for Paramount Pictures Gives Advice to NYFA Acting Students

    Joseph Middleton

    Joseph Middleton

    Tuesday night, Producer Tova Laiter brought us Casting Director Joseph Middleton to Warner Bros Theater 4 and we had yet another full house of New York Film Academy students. Middleton is one of the most celebrated and established casting directors in the United States. He began his career casting for ensembles, so that the films he worked on would garner more attention. He was an independent Casting Director for years after starting out in the business and is currently the Executive of Casting at Paramount Pictures. Middleton is always on the look out for undiscovered talent, and has an uncanny ability to spot the next big thing. Some of his most recognized credits include Old School, American Pie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Bring It On and Legally Blonde.

    Joseph says casting is often about looking for organic, truthful and talented performances. He also talked about the “3rd eye” — a gift that you likely either have or you don’t have when it comes to spotting talent.

    He playfully compared casting to the culinary arts, saying it’s like looking at different flavors and styles. He admitted he had had some luck with his career and how one project leads to another, but stressed that one must really stay on top of their game in order to stay relevant. You need to be constantly looking for talent, watching films and plays, seeing what is out there.

    Joseph accidentally fell into casting. He went to American University to study International Relations and had a dream of going into the service as a secret agent. He came out during his college years and admitted that being gay wasn’t exactly conducive to the culture of the service at the time. Someone suggested he take a gig as an assistant accountant on the film Mississippi Burning and off he went. One day he found himself telling the Director Alan Parker that he thought someone looked “too contemporary” for a scene in the film. Parker told him he had “a keen eye.” From there, the career of a Casting Director was born.

    So what is it that Joseph is looking for?

    “I may be looking for something specific, but if the actor can make me pick their view or vision, then that might be it. Guide yourself toward the Casting Director’s tone, and if you have done your homework, you know what that is.”

    Deal-breakers or examples of such are when actors come in to audition and do not pay attention to what feedback they are getting from the Casting Director. Also, having good energy is quite important, Joseph notes. And don’t try to read the room too much – focus on your job – acting!

    How can an actor get discovered with no real credits or an agent?

    “Don’t wait, create something! Make content, build your reel, develop it if you have to. Nowadays it’s all about having footage or ‘tape’.” Joseph also advised students to get a good headshot that “really looks like you.” Attach video to anything online and figure out WHAT IT IS THAT YOU SELL!

    Any advice for minorities trying to break into the acting business?

    “We just had a ‘China Week’ at the studio. China is a big market for Hollywood studios and I’m always looking for Chinese actors who speak English. The movies are now global and the opportunities are there, but it is not the accent that is the problem, but the diction (so the audience can understand you). Focus on what you have and can offer. If you are young, beautiful and athletic, work on those skills, because stars (like Tom Cruise) often prefer actors who can do their own stunts/ action.”

    Can you give actors some general advice?

    1. Stay healthy – set hours are long and you must be fit for all that work!
    2. Educate yourself in the craft, take classes
    3. Know content, watch films and plays!
    4. Learn letter-writing skills and remember that people like sincerity
    5. Keep your energy good, loosen up if needed
    6. Remember the assistants and associates in the business and BE NICE to them!

    Overall, Joseph was a truly great speaker: informative, sincere and fun.

    Joseph Middleton with Tova Laiter

    Joseph Middleton with Tova Laiter


    December 12, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 20160

  • ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ Screening with Taylor Hackford

    Taylor Hackford

    Taylor Hackford at NYFA LA

    Last Wednesday, at the Warner Bros theater in LA, New York Film Academy students were treated to a screening of the classic Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves film, The Devil’s Advocate. Following the screening, director Taylor Hackford dropped by to talk about the film and his career on a whole. Taylor, who directed such films as An Officer and a Gentleman and Dolores Claiborne, says he developed an interest in film during his time in the peace corps in Bolivia. He saw many films there and shot his own on super 8 film. After coming back from the peace corps, he went to law school for two weeks, but then quit because he decided he really wanted to work in the film industry.

    His first job was in the mailroom at the Los Angeles TV station KCET. He began writing copy, editing, shooting and reporting for their news program. Working as a journalist really helped Taylor develop as a director–learning how to tell people’s stories and make them feel comfortable enough to open up. He also learned how to “deliver on a deadline” with the high turnover rate in news. He eventually started making documentaries for the news station and became passionate about the stories he was telling.

    taylorTaylor also has a love for music and it’s no surprise that his films are known for their great soundtracks. In An Officer and a Gentleman, Taylor knew that music was important to the working class people the movie was about. Taylor went to great lengths to find the right music and especially in convincing the producers to spend the money on the soundtrack. His persistence didn’t stop there. In order to convince the studio to shoot the opening of An Officer and a Gentleman in the Philippines (which sets up Richard Gere’s backstory), he agreed that any expenditures that went over budget for the additional shooting would be taken out of his own salary. Paramount never realized what an amazing movie they had, until it sold so well and became such a success. “Nothing is ever predictable,” Taylor told the students. “All you can do is keep your vision. That is all you have.”

    While shooting The Idol Maker, Taylor was not as experienced as a director. He came onto set with a very detailed plan as to how he wanted to shoot everything. However, his cinematographer and 1st AD had different opinions, and since they were much more experienced than him, Taylor ended up using their ideas. When he saw the dailies two days later, Taylor realized he had made a big mistake–the drama wasn’t there and the shots didn’t mean anything. After that, Taylor remained firm in following his own vision. There was a reason he was hired to direct the movie. “You have to make decisions. If you must, ‘get on with it’ and you can’t ‘take your time.’ Time is money with filmmaking. Preparation is key–you can work through most of your potential mistakes if you think it out ahead of time.”

    Taylor now directs a scene without providing blocking instructions to his actors and tells them to “do the scene.” The actors typically find a few great moments that Taylor will incorporate into the scene. This way the actor feels like he is using their ideas and he’s able to include some spontaneous moments that he hadn’t thought of. Directors have to learn how to work with an actor until they can catch them in an authentic moment. Taylor used the example of working with Keanu Reeves who is not, at first, as spontaneous as Al Pacino. He would have to do eight takes with Keanu before he would break out of his preconceived notions of how to perform. This is a tactic that he had to employ as a director, which worked for this particular scenario.


    September 23, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 9956

  • Actress Nia Vardalos Visits New York Film Academy



    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.



    May 2, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 8435