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  • CBS Pilot Pandas in New York Stars Ashley Tisdale & New York Film Academy Grad Dhruv Singh

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    New York Film Academy MFA Screenwriting alum Dhruv Singh will star in upcoming CBS pilot Pandas in New York with Ashley Tisdale.

    Dhruv Singh via his website http://www.dhruvudaysingh.com.

    Directed by Big Bang Theory’s DGA Award-nominated Mark Cendrowski, Pandas in New York centers on an empathetic young doctor, Rishi, and his loving if slightly overbearing Indian family — all fellow doctors who run a family practice in Manhattan and just want what they think is best for Rishi.

    NYFA alum Dhruv Singh portrays the series lead, who returns from a year with Doctors Without Borders in Cambodia and decides to pursue his passion for social justice by practicing medicine at a free clinic — a choice which he is trying to hide from his family. Ashley Tisdale plays opposite Singh as the tough but fair-minded clinic director, Maya — and rumor has it that sparks will fly between the two characters.

    According to Deadline, the series will also feature Nisha Munshi, Hina Abdullah, Dan O’Brien, Bernard White and Gita Reddy.

    Along with his training in the MFA Screenwriting program at the NYFA Los Angeles campus, Mumbai native Dhruv Singh has honed his comedy chops at the legendary improv studio UCB. An alumni of the CBS Diversity Showcase 2015, Singh has 22 acting credits to his name, including Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Adam Ruins Everything. He has performed in the ABC Talent Showcase; at UCB Maude night and with Queen George on Harold Night; and with The Groundlings Sunday Company.

    Congratulations, Dhruv! The New York Film Academy looks forward to catching Pandas in New York on CBS.

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  • Military Student Michael Valenzuela Overcomes the Odds

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    Valenzuela

    As an extremely talented musician at a very young age, Michael Valenzuela learned to play over 20 instruments. Performing in diverse ensembles comprised of choir, musicals, marching, jazz, rock, folk and contemporary bands, Valenzuela was nearly a prodigy. Despite that, his artistic talent took a back seat after graduating from high school due to his life-long dream of serving his country as a Naval Aviator.

    Valenzuela enlisted in the United States Naval Academy, even though he could’ve attended the Berklee School of Music. “I joined the Navy because I wanted to be a fighter pilot since I was a little kid and serve our country,” said Valenzuela.

    In 2000, Venezuela received his wings of gold and began a career as a carrier-based F/A-18 Strike/Fighter Pilot. Over the course of his military career between combat operations, Valenzuela was given the unique opportunity to be a Demonstration Air Show Pilot, VIP Liaison, and was introduced to the art of filmmaking by working in front of the camera on over 20 episodes of dramatized training films for the Naval Aviation community.

    His passion for the arts continued while stationed in San Diego. While taking commercial and acting for film workshops, Michael appeared in numerous television shows, movies, commercials, as well as documentaries, which inspired him to work on a travel series called Aviator’s Paradise. It was from there where Valenzuela’s life would take a drastic turn.

    “Unfortunately, both my aviation and acting careers were brought to a sudden and tragic halt due to a work accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down for a span of two years,” recalled Valenzuela. “After two major reconstructive surgeries and years of rehabilitation, I returned to the cockpit as an Advanced Aerobatic and Emergency Maneuver Training Instructor. During my recovery, I discovered Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP), becoming a Professional Athlete in the arena of SUP and Snowkiting, and recently became a Crossfit instructor.”

    Turning his life around tenfold, Valenzuela found a new calling in athletics and reaching out to other Disabled Veterans. He began volunteering a considerable amount of his time mentoring and coaching other disabled athletes. He essentially became an ambassador for Disabled Veterans in local and international competition and his accomplishments were featured on an AT&T Uverse Sports series about inspirational athletes.

    With a diverse range of hurdles and accomplishments behind him and with the help and guidance of the staff and students at the New York Film Academy, Valenzuela is enthusiastic about returning other passions of his: acting and filmmaking.

    “I wanted to continue working in the film industry and improve my skill set from a reputable institution. I am looking forward to exploring my passions for motion picture storytelling and have the ability and desire to not only act in front of the camera, but I look forward to collaborating with other artists in a creative environment, obtaining the all-around filmmaking experience to ensure my success within the profession.”

    As a current student, the sky is the limit in terms of what projects Valenzuela would like to pursue after graduation. Though, his interests as of now lie in commercials, travel shows, adventure documentaries and feature films.

    With Valenzuela’s proven track record of overcoming arduous obstacles, we believe he has a bright future ahead of him in the sometimes daunting pursuit of filmmaking and acting.

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    February 4, 2015 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5461

  • NYFA Student Writes and Directs Italian Web Series

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    Vera Bes

    Even though Francesco Mazza had already been writing for popular television shows in Italy, he decided to move to New York to challenge himself and become a better artist. “My interest in New York Film Academy came from the all hands-on idea,” says Mazza. “When you are in your early 30’s, you can’t afford to lose time, and at NYFA everything happens fast.”

    During Francesco’s first year in New York, he came up with the idea for a pilot and pitched it to a couple of Italian production companies. The pilot, Vera Bes, caught the interest of Matteo Scortegagna, C.E.O. of Zodiak Active Italy. From there, Francesco wrote the pilot and soon after the project was green-lit. Francesco was not meant to direct the pilot. It was only after he showed Scortegagna his NYFA first semester film, a comedy called Man-eaters, starring his fellow NYFA acting students. After viewing the short, Scortegagna hired Francesco to direct his own pilot.

    “The web-wise record-setting of $80,000 displays how important the project is for us, who strongly believe in the upcoming development of the web market,” said Scortegagna. “As we were half way through pre-production, I came to know that not only was Francesco a talented screenwriter with prestigious credits in our country, but he was also attending a one-year course in directing and filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. Therefore, I immediately offered him the directing of the pilot, a challenge that was brilliantly accomplished by Francesco last March.”

    Vera Bes is about a girl with a special power: using the mystery of “lucid dreams” leant by her grandmother, she is capable of getting into people’s dreams. In her spare time, Vera becomes a “dream consultant”- anybody affected by a recurring nightmare can come by her studio for a consultation. After investigating both in the world of dreams of the client and in reality, she climbs down the client’s unconscious to set him free from the nightmare. But Vera has a further motivation: finding and killing the evil presence who murdered her grandmother.

    “I like to think of NYFA as a toy or a musical instrument. If you apply yourself hard, you’re willing to do sacrifices, you humble yourself no matter what you did in the past and you constantly struggle to learn. And you are going to have real fun. Before studying at NYFA, I’ve always had lots of ideas, but it’s thanks to NYFA that I finally learned how to visualize and dramatize the stories I had in my mind. I would have never been able to direct a project like Vera Bes if I hadn’t had the possibility to learn the essential rules of screenwriting with Ben Maraniss or the importance of externalizing the characters’ struggle with Michael Sandoval. Not to mention all the priceless advice my directing teacher, Amos Poe, gave me throughout the year. I also fondly remember the speech [Filmmaking Chair] Claude Kerven gave us the very first day of school about the true meaning of being a filmmaker — something I’ll never forget.”

    Vera Bes is already part of the official selection for the upcoming 2014 Marseille Web Series Festival. Francesco’s goal is to create a character driven TV drama like Breaking Bad, American Horror Story, True Detective, etc. The idea of Zodiak Active is to find international production companies willing to partner up and produce an international product to be sold worldwide.

    VERA BES – Promo from Vera Bes on Vimeo.

     

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    July 30, 2014 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4549

  • NYFA MFA Screenwriting Alum Sells Thesis Pilot Script to ABC

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    In their second year of study, students in New York Film Academy’s MFA Screenwriting program choose to write either a feature film or a television pilot for their thesis project. While every student hopes to launch their career with a great writing sample, recent graduate Angela Ruhinda (Jan 2011 Screenwriting) took it one step further. Last week, Angela’s thesis pilot, Iman & Andy, sold to ABC with Whoopi Goldberg and Ben Silverman attached as producers.

    Angela Ruhinda

    Angela Ruhinda

    The sitcom is about an interracial couple who are forced to team up on a relationship advice vlog, with their whole office and millions of viewers following their relationship.

    NYFA Associate Screenwriting Chair, Adam Moore caught up with Angela, who is back home in her native Tanzania at the moment, to ask her about the experience.

    Where did the idea for ‘Iman & Andy’ come from?

    Iman & Andy was an idea I came up with during my second and final year at NYFA. I chose the TV option for my thesis because I’ve always wanted to create my own sitcom. I love romantic comedies but it’s not very often that you see a really good one on television anymore. I wanted a really fun couple that people could relate to. I was a big fan of the show ‘Dharma & Greg’ and love the Yin and Yang dynamic of their relationship. I wanted to update the concept by making them inter-racial and involving social media. The main statement I want to make is that online dating in the social media age is awkward, crazy and stressful no matter what color you are. 

    How did the script get from your thesis workshop to Electus?

    I entered the Storyboard TV screenwriting contest in October 2012 and became a finalist by January 2013. I lost the competition by just a few votes but Amanda Krentzman, one of the judges on the panel who happens to work at Electus Productions, loved my script so much she contacted me after the contest was over and expressed interest in selling it to a major network. 

    Did the script change from your thesis draft to the one that eventually sold?

    I sat down with Electus…and I just talked to them about season arcs and characters. They already understood the concept. Pitch workshop [part of Business of Screenwriting 3, a second-year screenwriting course taught by Adam Moore] did help me with my nerves in the room. I was able to speak clearly about my ideas and charm the crap out of them. Electus gave me a few notes on characters and one or two scenes before we decided to send out the script to networks. Thankfully, I only did two re-writes and ABC liked the concept and script enough to buy it as soon as they read it. 

    What’s one piece of advice you’d give to current students?

    Don’t knock screenwriting competitions! They can change your life and kickstart your career!

    How excited are you right now?

    They haven’t created a word yet that describes how I’m feeling!

    Well, there is a word for how we at NYFA are feeling – PROUD. Speaking about their former student, Thesis Advisor Jerry Shandy and Thesis Instructor Eric Nelson had this to say:

    We’re proud of Angela because she worked really hard on this pilot in the Thesis Workshop class. With her workshop mates’ support, she continued to develop her idea, writing and rewriting until it was singing. That’s what we strive to do in screenwriting workshop classes here at NYFA: take a good idea and refine it until it’s a piece of material the writer is proud to take out into the world.

    Congratulations, Angela!

    -Adam Moore

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    December 5, 2013 • #WomenOfNYFA, Diversity, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6171

  • So How Do You Get a TV Series Off the Ground?

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    dytman

    One of the most crucial steps into the film and television industry for any writer is finding and landing the right agent. It’s one of the first obstacles for any film student, especially after graduation. So, the New York Film Academy was excited to hold an informative Q&A with the Senior VP of Gersh Agency, Jack Dytman. His long list of clients include TV series show-runners, executive producers, story editors, staff writers and feature writers in all aspects of the business. His clients have worked on network and cable television series such as Breaking Bad, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Walking Dead, Desperate Housewives, Castle, Criminal Minds, Hawaii 5-0, Smash, Lie To Me, Frasier, Without A Trace, Law and Order: SVU, X-Files, Alias, Hill Street Blues, Suddenly Susan, Murphy Brown, Boston Legal, Barney Miller, Law and Order, Chicago Hope, NYPD Blue, Married with Children, Carnivale, and more. Numerous clients have been nominated for Emmy Awards, ten clients have received Writers Guild Award nominations, and four have won. In the last five years his clients have received nine Producers Guild Award nominations.

    Given his background, Jack provided much insight into the world of the business. He spoke about the current popularity of television, noting, “I have a long line of feature writers trying to get into television, but TV is different…you need to be able to lay the pipeline for 100-150 episodes. It’s not just three acts and an ending!” He also stated that the people that you may need to pitch to are “smart and have heard everything, so the work needs to be unique.”

    dytman2

    Tova Laiter with Jack Dytman

    One of our students asked Jack the popular question, “How do you get your foot in the door at a network show?” He suggested that, “If you want to get in the door, be a writer’s assistant. If you can’t do that, do something else – sweep if you have to!” Typically it can take up to ten years to develop a writing career for networks, but there are exceptions. One exception he mentioned was the creator of Burn Notice, who had never written for a show. So while it’s rare, it can happen. “You should find your niche and focus on that genre. Understand the networks and cable  – what are they branding? Understanding the difference between ABC, CBS and SHOWTIME is important.”

    While Jack admits it was difficult to predict what shows would become hits, he knew Magnum PI was going to be. However, other shows such as Pushing Daisies simply didn’t catch, even with the top people on board. Then there was Seinfeld, which took about three years to turn into a good show. Go figure.

    Jack also walked our audience through the Development process for TV shows, which was quite telling.

    1. Writer goes to agent with AN IDEA.
    2. If agent says “it’s great” they go to a studio or network.
    3. If it moves forward, they will create or develop a creative team together.
    4. The team will, among other things, BRAND the show. An incredibly important part of network television (each studio and network have branding branches.)
    5. If all goes well, the pilot is picked up once written.
    6. The pilot WILL receive notes, accept them and work with them!
    7. Hopefully pilot gets made, then shown, then repeated.
    8. This process repeats itself annually.

    If you don’t like receiving notes, you’re in the wrong business. Jack stressed the importance of being able to take notes and establishing a relationship with producers and executives. The old cliche about the industry being, “Half about ability and half about like-ability,” is true. “A lot of it is about relationships – you have to network constantly.” He closed with these words of advice, “Have someone refer you when trying to get your work out there.”

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    August 1, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 5348

  • Acting Grad on a Roll: True Blood, Grey’s & Californication

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    Since landing the Lifetime film William & Kate, New York Film Academy Acting Conservatory graduate, Camilla Luddington, has been on a major roll. She starred in an entire season of Showtime’s Californication as Lizzie, joined the cast of Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Jo Wilson, and has been on six episodes of HBO’s True Blood. Not only that, Camilla has been tapped to play Lara Croft in the newest incarnation of the Tomb Raider video game franchise.

    “I was in the first ever one year acting class at the New York Film Academy in 2003 and I am so thankful for the experience,” said Camilla.

    Camilla initially lost out on a role in ABC’s pilot, Gilded Lilys. However, while she was promoting Tomb Raider at Comic Con San Diego, she heard ABC was looking for a new doctor on Grey’s. “I was asked to come read for it with six other girls, and then heard maybe two days later the role was mine. I think meeting Shonda Rhymes [at ABC] during that pilot season helped though. I think as an actor sometimes you focus on the immediate (aka not getting that role) but you never know what opportunities can come back around, or how one role can actually lead to the casting of another. As was the case for Grey’s Anatomy.”

    [UPDATE]

    Check out our most recent interview with Camilla Luddington where she talks about her role on Grey’s Anatomy, what it was like to play Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and her upcoming film The Pact II.

     

     

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  • The Power of Pitchfest

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    Pitchfest are events at New York Film Academy are held shortly after graduation for MFA and AFA students in Screenwriting and Producing. A culmination of their studies, graduates pitch their thesis projects, usually a TV pilot or feature screenplay, to television and film professionals. It’s a great opportunity for students to start developing relationships in the industry. About 15 producing students held their event on campus in March, pitching their projects to industry professionals including guests from HBO and Network Television, and even George Gallo, writer of Midnight RunBad Boys, and The Whole Ten Yards. Twelve screenwriting students held their event at West Hollywood’s luxurious Andaz Hotel. By the end of the evening, each student had pitched to about 20 companies.

    Since the event, a number of students from both departments have gotten interest from companies. Congratulations to our recent Screenwriting and Producing graduates!

    NYFA PitchFest

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    April 5, 2012 • Acting, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 4432