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  • NYFA Welcomes Producer Hilary Shor to The Q&A-List Series

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with producer Hilary Shor to discuss her work as an executive producer on the Oscar-nominated film The United States vs. Billie Holiday with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Hilary Shor is a producer who has worked on multiple critically acclaimed films including Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. Shor has had a longstanding relationship with Oscar & Emmy nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious, Empire), and has worked with him as producer/executive producer on The United States vs. Billie HolidayThe Butler with Oprah Winfrey, Forrest Whitaker, Lenny Kravitz, and The Paperboy starring Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron. She has also served as an executive producer on Eye of The Beholder, starring Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd.

    Hilary Shor (Left) and Tova Laiter (Right) for NYFA’s Q&A-List Series

    One of Shor’s first big productions, Children of Men, came to be after Shor optioned the book and held on for nine years. It was a testament to her ability to see a story worthy of being made and betting on the talent. It paid off when the-now-Academy Award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón directed the film and went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards.

    Hilary Shor (Right) on set of Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy”

    Shor has also had a longstanding relationship with her frequent collaborator and friend of 30 years Lee Daniels. “Back when we were both agents, [Daniels] would always try to sign my clients behind my back,” joked Shor. Eventually, Shor and Daniels began working together on his films, noting their shared love of humor on set, for Daniels’ films The Butler, The Paperboy, and now The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

    “It’s the first music-driven film I have worked on and it was really wonderful to see the period come alive,” Shor shared about working on The United States vs. Billie Holiday. “There’s such a richness. It was really wonderful to gather this extraordinary cast including the incredible Andry Day, who is nominated for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars.”

    “Emily in Paris” star Lily Collins (Left) and Hilary Shor (Right)

    Laiter also commented on Shor’s ability to focus on people, remained a trusted friend among Hollywood’s top talent including Nicole Kidman, Lily Collins, Charlie Hunnam, and more. “My role as a producer is to protect the environment [on set]. Talent instinctively knows who is a safe resource. I love them [the actors] and I really see them. When I work on a film, I want the actors to know I am really there for them and I’m in their corner.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Hilary Shor for sharing her time and invaluable knowledge of the producing world with NYFA students and alumni and showing students that, no matter how high you climb in the business, taking your ego out of the equation will always get you farther.

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    April 13, 2021 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1104

  • NYFA’s Q&A-List Welcomes President of MGM Motion Picture Group Pam Abdy

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    NYFA had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with the President of MGM’s Motion Picture Group, Pam Abdy, to discuss the film production process with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Abdy is the current President of MGM’s Motion Picture Group and oversees the development, production, and post-production for all MGM and Orion films. Abdy is currently developing a multitude of films such as Fiddler on The Roof, Project Hail Mary, and Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, amongst others.

    At her previous position, Makeready Films/eOne, the company financed and produced Queen & Slim from director Melina Matsoukas and writer Lena Waithe and A Million Little Pieces from director Sam Taylor-Johnson. Previously, Abdy served as President of Production at New Regency, where they released the acclaimed Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Academy Award-winning Birdman, David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, Adam McKay’s Academy Award-winning The Big Short, and Iñárritu’s The Revenant in 2016, which received twelve Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Pam Abdy (Right)

    Laiter began the conversation by asking Abdy what a day in the life of the President of MGM Motion Picture Group looks like. Abdy explained that most days consist of hours of Zoom meetings from pitching and financial planning to meetings with production staff and discussing forward slate planning. “It’s an all-encompassing job especially being at home with my daughter in the next room,” shared Abdy. “It’s a little chaotic, but that was just today. Every day is different.”

    Abdy, whose original plan to be a dancer got derailed by injury, got her first big break as Danny DeVito’s assistant, after working at the front desk at DeVito’s Jersey Films. “It was a life-changing opportunity for me,” she remembered. “He is a mentor to me and a second father. I learned how to make movies at that company and was given space to grow and they [the whole team] really taught me how to make films and be on set.”

    Sometimes the best education is watching and observing something Abdy does to this day, even as President at MGM Motion Picture Group. She urged NYFA students to remember that no job is too small to do no matter how many years of experience you have. “It doesn’t matter what I have to do. Every job is meaningful and nothing is beneath me,” said Abdy. “I will do whatever it takes to navigate a problem. I feel like some people think things are not their job, but to be a great producer, you have to manage so many different personalities and money. It’s an incredible responsibility that doesn’t get enough credit.”

    Part of being a great producer means being able to collaborate with the director, something Abdy mentioned as being one of the most important parts of putting a movie together and in production. “It’s everything to find the right director for your film,” she emphasized. “If it’s not the right director the film won’t have the right point of view. The best day of a producer’s life is getting the director on the movie, but it’s also the worst day because it becomes the director’s and you may not agree with everything they do. Your vision may not be their vision. But when that person comes on and they elevate that, there’s nothing better.”

    Pam Abdy (Left) with the cast and crew of “Queen & Slim”

    One of the career highlights for Abdy has been the vision of Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe, with whom she worked with on Queen & Slim. While on the film, Abdy learned a very important lesson that has stayed with her to this day. “I usually have to be part of everything and find solutions. That movie wasn’t about that. It was about creating a safe space and giving Melina and Lena the floor while I stand in the background to help navigate things as they needed them,” she began. “What was so joyful about that film is both of those women are such visionaries. Allow artists and visionaries to have the space to tell their stories. Don’t impose your own on their process. I learned about creating space for artists’ voices and it was the greatest joy of my career.”

    Abdy, like many others in the film industry, is continuing to adapt to the film industry facing restrictions due to the COVID pandemic. “Before, you hustled, made major movies, dealt with your budget, and put the movie together which – sometimes things took longer. Now, you don’t have the luxury of time anymore. You are locked down. If you are not working in a pod, then you leave the set. It’s not as fun,” she laughed. “Sometimes magic happens when you are making a film and I worry that the new rigidness may impact that work. There’s no answer right now as to when this part is going to stop, and it’s so expensive. What it’s doing is putting a burden on film budgets for COVID costs. There is a danger that good movies won’t get made because the cost is too burdensome.”

    Pam Abdy during promotion for Zach Braff’s “Garden State”

    One student asked Abdy how to become a better producer. Abdy urged them to get their hands on as many scripts as possible, even the one that got made already. “Study filmmakers. Filmmakers love to know their producers understand other filmmakers’ work. Take time and watch how filmmakers grow. See what changes. Watch the language and understand the common thread of their films throughout. Then, define your taste and identify what actually is your taste.”

    As Laiter closed the discussion and thanked Abdy for her generous wisdom, Laiter asked Abdy what has made her so successful in her career. Abdy replied it’s all the positives and the negatives about herself combined. “As I get older I recognize my flaws and I’m trying to do better with delegating. Be kind and be generous to everyone. This whole business is based on relationships and the experience of those relationships.”

    Abdy’s upcoming slate includes Joe Wright’s Cyrano, Ridley Scott’s Gucci, Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin’s Dog, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s untitled upcoming film. New York Film Academy would like to thank Pam Abdy for sharing her time and invaluable knowledge of the film business with NYFA students and looks forward to welcoming her back again in the near future.

    To watch the full conversation, click here or view the video below:

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    February 18, 2021 • Acting • Views: 755

  • NYFA Community Among Shortlist for 93rd Academy Awards

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    After teasing the annual announcement of shortlists for this year’s upcoming Oscar nominations, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally announced nine categories of shortlists on Tuesday afternoon. Included among the list in the Documentary Feature category was All In: The Fight For Democracy from NYFA alum and producer Lisa Cortés; Boys State from Documentary Cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke; and Dick Johnson is Dead from Cinematographer instructor John Foster. 

    The shortlists for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced for: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International Feature Film, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song), Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film and Visual Effects.

    NYFA alum Lisa Cortés

    Cortés co-directed and produced the documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy, released September 18, 2020, on Amazon Prime. The film follows Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and the struggle against voter suppression. As of February 10, 2021, the film holds an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been met with widespread critical claim with Kevin Crust from the Los Angeles Times writing “All In manages the triple-E feat of being entertaining, educational, and enlightening.” 

    This past year, Cortés attended the NYFA’s Rock The Vote Rally rally in October, where she brought a special sneak preview of Janelle Monae’s end-credit song, “Turntable,” song written exclusively for the film. Cortés also spoke about how her NYFA Producing education proved to be valuable in pulling together a project like All In during such challenging times. 

    Lisa Cortes, Lee Daniels, and Mo’Nique (Photo Credit: WireImage.com)

    The producing alum has had an extensive career prior to her success with All In. Cortés co-produced NYFA guest speaker Nicole Kassell’s film The Woodsman, co-directed The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion, produced The Apollo, and executive produced Academy Award-winning film Precious from Lee Daniels. 

     Documentary Cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke was an additional cinematographer on the set of the shortlist contender Boys State from A24. The film follows an unusual annual experiment in Texas that joins together a thousand 17-year-old boys from across the state to build a representative government from the ground up. The film won the U.S Documentary Competition Grand Jury at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and is currently available to stream on Apple TV+.

    Shortlist contender Dick Johnson is Dead was worked on by Cinematographer instructor John Foster.  The documentary film directed by Kirsten Johnson focuses on Johnson’s father Richard, who suffers from dementia, portraying different ways—some of them violent “accidents”—in which he could ultimately die. The comedic and heartfelt film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Lisa Cortés, Claudia Raschke, and John Foster for their films making the 2021 Oscars Shortlist for Best Documentary Feature and wishes all the projects that made this year’s Academy shortlist the best of luck when the full list of nominations are announced on March 15, 2021.

    The full shortlists for each announced category can be found below:

    DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

    “All In: The Fight for Democracy”
    “Boys State”
    “Collective”
    “Crip Camp”
    “Dick Johnson Is Dead”
    “Gunda”
    “MLK/FBI”
    “The Mole Agent”
    “My Octopus Teacher”
    “Notturno”
    “The Painter and the Thief”
    “76 Days”
    “Time”
    “The Truffle Hunters”
    “Welcome to Chechnya”

    DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

    “Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa”
    “Call Center Blues”
    “Colette”
    “A Concerto Is a Conversation”
    “Do Not Split”
    “Hunger Ward”
    “Hysterical Girl”
    “A Love Song for Latasha”
    “The Speed Cubers”
    “What Would Sophia Loren Do?”

    INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

    Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Quo Vadis, Aida?”
    Chile, “The Mole Agent”
    Czech Republic, “Charlatan”
    Denmark, “Another Round”
    France, “Two of Us”
    Guatemala, “La Llorona”
    Hong Kong, “Better Days”
    Iran, “Sun Children”
    Ivory Coast, “Night of the Kings”
    Mexico, “I’m No Longer Here”
    Norway, “Hope”
    Romania, “Collective”
    Russia, “Dear Comrades!”
    Taiwan, “A Sun”
    Tunisia, “The Man Who Sold His Skin”

    MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

    “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”
    “Emma”
    “The Glorias”
    “Hillbilly Elegy”
    “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “The Little Things”
    “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
    “Mank”
    “One Night in Miami…”
    “Pinocchio”

    MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

    “Ammonite”
    “Blizzard of Souls”
    “Da 5 Bloods”
    “The Invisible Man”
    “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
    “The Little Things”
    “Mank”
    “The Midnight Sky”
    “Minari”
    “Mulan”
    “News of the World”
    “Soul”
    “Tenet”
    “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

    MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

    “Turntables” from “All In: The Fight for Democracy”
    “See What You’ve Done” from “Belly of the Beast”
    “Wuhan Flu” from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”
    “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
    “Never Break” from “Giving Voice”
    “Make It Work” from “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”
    “Io Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
    “Rain Song” from “Minari”
    “Show Me Your Soul” from “Mr. Soul!”
    “Loyal Brave True” from “Mulan”
    “Free” from “The One and Only Ivan”
    “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami…”
    “Green” from “Sound of Metal”
    “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

    ANIMATED SHORT FILM

    “Burrow”
    “Genius Loci”
    “If Anything Happens I Love You”
    “Kapaemahu”
    “Opera”
    “Out”
    “The Snail and the Whale”
    “To Gerard”
    “Traces”
    “Yes-People”

    LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

    “Bittu”
    “Da Yie”
    “Feeling Through”
    “The Human Voice”
    “The Kicksled Choir”
    “The Letter Room”
    “The Present”
    “Two Distant Strangers”
    “The Van”
    “White Eye”

    VISUAL EFFECTS

    “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”
    “Bloodshot”
    “Love and Monsters”
    “Mank”
    “The Midnight Sky”
    “Mulan”
    “The One and Only Ivan”
    “Soul”
    “Tenet”
    “Welcome to Chechnya”

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    February 10, 2021 • Diversity, Entertainment News, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1427

  • New York Film Academy Hosts Q&A with Executive Producer and UPM Nathan Kelly

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    On Tuesday, August 13, the New York Film Academy hosted a Q&A with Executive Producer, Producer, and UPM, Nathan Kelly. Kelly was joined by a creative executive for Working Title Films, Dana Himmelstein, and the event was moderated by NYFA instructor Denise Carlson.

    Kelly’s line producing credits include Destroyer, Certain Women, Short Term 12, and he just finished production on Covers for Working Title / Focus Features. Recently, Nathan served as the Unit Production Manager on Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood and White Boy Rick.

    Carlson began the Q&A by asking Kelly and Himmelstein to share how they got started in the industry. Kelly shared his journey through film school in which he took part in many different aspects of the film industry before deciding he wanted to become a producer. “I thought I wanted to script supervise then quickly realized I wanted to be more on the producing side of things,” Kelly stated, adding, “So I found my way into becoming an assistant to producers and I worked for a music manager, television producer, celebrity manager in LA for a bit and just learned the general details on how to get things done and navigate problems.”

    When asked to share his experiences in performing multiple aspects of production, from executive producing to serving as a unit production manager, Kelly shared, “Each role has a lot of overlap. It’s really unique to the movie and it’s unique to the people you’re working with. It all kind of filters into this idea of being kind of like a team leader and overseeing, helping to manage the budget, the logistics, and the overall methodology of the production and how you’re gonna shoot the movie.”

    Working as collaborators on Working Title / Focus Features’ latest project, Covers, a film about the music industry, Kelly and Himmelstein were asked to share what the development process was like. Nathan began by saying, “This script had an unusually high amount of rewriting  for a production which had nothing to do with the script. The challenges were related to production, and when the movie gets cast a lot of times you may rewrite the roles to fit these different actors that you never anticipated coming on.” Dana added, “There’s a difference in what makes a really good script and what makes a really good movie. Once you’re in production mode, the goal post just moves.”

    Carlson then inquired about Kelly’s biggest project and the summer blockbuster hit, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, asking him about the environment on set and working with the points of views of well-known filmmakers and acclaimed actors. Kelly stated, “It taught me so much about different ways of thinking about filmmaking. The way that the set functioned was as a big movie, but it also had an intimate energy to it as if it were an independent film. Everybody cared so deeply about what they were doing and the level of dedication that was there was not just from the crew, but also on the cast side as well. Everybody was just insanely dedicated, on time, and available. It was really easy to adopt that same attitude throughout the process.”

    Kelly’s shared some wisdom on what encompasses a great producer, asserting, “You have to protect the movie from every aspect. It’s basically a really careful process of communicating with everybody and allowing the ideas to be out on the table, but making sure to squash all the ones that take away from the film.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kelly and Himmelstein for sharing their experiences and entertainment industry advice with students.

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    August 26, 2019 • Film School, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2564

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Congratulates Producer Dana Lustig on the Release of Feature Film “Look Away”

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) encourages everyone to check out the new psychological thriller Look Away, which releases this October 12, 2018 on VOD and in theaters nationwide. In a Hollywood culture currently dominated by epic franchise films and sequels, Look Away is an independent film crafted by passionate filmmakers and actors looking to tell an exciting, new story without the luxury of a $200 million budget. The film was directed by Assaf Bernstein — known for the hit Netflix series Fauda — and produced by prolific filmmaker and celebrated New York Film Academy (NYFA) lecturer Dana Lustig.

    Look Away is a thriller-horror about an alienated teenager who switches places with her evil mirror image. It stars Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, Star Trek: Discovery, The Death of Stalin), and India Eisley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager). Eisley is starring next in the television miniseries I Am the Night with Chris Pine (Star Trek, Wonder Woman), produced and directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster, Wonder Woman).

    Lustig was born in Israel and has directed five feature films and produced over twenty independent features, working with many high-profile actors, actresses, and filmmakers. Embodying the modern female filmmaker archetype that is finally getting the recognition it deserves in Hollywood, Lustig balances her career in the industry with her occasional lectures at New York Film Academy and other institutions, as well as with being a full-time mother.

    “Filmmaking is a 24-hours-a-day job, it never stops,” Lustig tells NYFA, continuing, “You might find your next story at the dinner table or dreaming at night. It is a lifestyle.”

    As for the types of narratives she pursues, Lustig says that she looks for stories that are “diverse, creative, and moving. Even if it’s a period film, it needs to be current and relevant to today.”Dana Lustig

    The true survival story Jungle, starring Harry Potter lead Daniel Radcliffe, was produced by Lustig and released earlier this year. The film shot both in Colombia and Australia’s Gold Coast, where NYFA has another location with access to the Village Roadshow backlot.

    Lustig directed the dark love story A Thousand Kisses Deep starring Dougary Scott (Mission: Impossible 2) and Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block, Broadchurch). Whittaker herself has been making headlines this week as she debuted as the Thirteenth Doctor — and first female Doctor — in the long-running smash British series Doctor Who. A Thousand Kisses Deep was nominated for a British Independent Film Award.

    In addition to A Thousand Kisses Deep, Lustig also directed the comedy Wild Cherry starring Rob Schneider, Kill Me Later starring Selma Blair, Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Wedding Bell Blues starring John Corbett. Additionally, Lustig was a partner at Berman Lustig Productions for ten years, along with producer Ram Bergman (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.) BLP produced the hit Rian Johnson indie Brick as well as Dancing at the Blue Iguana, directed by Oscar nominee Michael Radford.

    Dana LustigLustig tells NYFA that she feels the urge to always keep moving and looking forward to the next project, saying “We can never really be satisfied as storytellers.” She is currently executive producing Spider in the Web with Ben Kingsley and Monica Bellucci and has just wrapped filming the second season of Israeli hit series Very Important Man. She is scheduled next to direct the remake of the Israeli film The Man in the Wall.

    And still Lustig finds time in between projects to speak with film school students at NYFA. One piece of advice she gives to aspiring filmmakers that comes from her roles both as a director and as a producer is to “Find the next great story to tell — one that is financially viable in the current market, both commercially and artistically.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates producer, filmmaker, and lecturer Dana Lustig on her long list of successes and looks forward to the many still to come! Look Away releases nationwide this October 12.

    Dana Lustig Look Away

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    October 11, 2018 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 2891

  • “Unbroken” Sequel Screened For New York Film Academy (NYFA) Veterans

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    On August 13, 2018, the New York Film Academy’s Department of Veteran Services, was honored to host an advanced screening of the next chapter in the Louis Zamperini story, Unbroken: Path to Redemption. The film is the sequel to the 2014 film, Unbroken, directed by Academy Award Winner®, Angelina Jolie, and hits theaters later this year. Following the screening, producers Matthew Baer and Luke Zamperini, son of Louis Zamperini, treated the audience to a Q&A moderated by Navy veteran and New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Acting Alumnus, Ron Ringo.

    The event was part of the NYFA DVS series of events that includes guest speakers, film screenings, master classes, workshops, and employment trainings — all which promote industry engagement for NYFA’s veteran-students and the wider veteran communities in Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami (South Beach).

    Unbroken Q&A

    Photo Caption: (left to right) Ron Ringo, Matthew Baer, and Luke Zamperini discuss their experience in creating Unbroken: Path to Redemption.

    Baer and Zamperini shared their experiences creating the film, as well as stories about Louis Zamperini himself. With having only 20 days to shoot the entire film, Baer addressed the challenges that he faced along with sharing a lot of valuable information for aspiring filmmakers. Zamperini shared stories of his father and explained how powerful it is seeing his father’s inspirational story depicted on the big screen for everyone to experience. Being on set and seeing his family members being portrayed by actors was incredibly surreal to him. 

    BFA Producing student and US Navy veteran Jonathan Garza commented, “Louis Zamperini’s inspirational and powerful story should be seen by everyone. He is a true American Hero.” He added, “I also enjoyed hearing from Matthew and his insight from years of producing. He mentioned that he still runs into the same problems producing studio films that he did when he was in film school, but on a larger scale.”

    Luke Zamperini is the President and CEO of the Louis Zamperini Youth Ministries Foundation.  Matthew Baer’s other producing credits include The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington, City by the Sea with Robert De Niro and James Franco, and the first chapter in the Louis Zamperini story, Unbroken — among many other successful films. 

    The New York Film Academy thanks Matthew Baer and Luke Zamperini for their generosity and willingness to share their stories and to help students pursuing careers in the film industry.

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    August 21, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2310

  • Q&A with Filmmaker Ned Dougherty

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    It’s often said that family members should never work together. This certainly is not the case for Ned and Michael Dougherty, a father and son filmmaking duo who’ve been successfully working on films together for the past few years. They have just recently finished a feature film titled Love & Everything in Between. “I can’t stress this enough,” Michael shared, “it’s all because of my parents that this is even on screen. That’s the truth.”

    The New York Film Academy invited Ned and Michael Dougherty to do a special Q&A with students following a screening of their film, where they shared with the audience how the movie came to be, from the writing process to the marketing of the film. The film has already earned several awards and nominations from the festival circuit, including wins for Dramatic Original Feature and Best Feature Film – Romance from WorldFest Houston.

    One student asked what it was like to screen the movie in the Hamptons, where the movie is set. “It was a great turn out,” Michael answered.

    His father Ned added, “That was our quiet, low-key premiere at the Southampton United Artists Theatre last July, to a standing room of more than 300 friends.” Another student, Roberto, approached the microphone, and Ned immediately recognized him — they both attended a producing workshop together a couple years back, and Roberto had helped to create the thesis for Love And Everything in Between.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Robert shared, “We were classmates… as a matter of fact, we actually shot a short film, a thesis for this movie… it was actually the dinner scene…. it was so fun.” Roberto continued, “I don’t really have a question, I just want to say congratulations because I know… I was kind of a witness to how much work you put into this project. And I think that it’s a big motivation for me, because I can see closely how dreams actually become true.” According to Ned,  that statement made his night.

    Prior to the screening, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had an opportunity to ask Ned Dougherty a number of questions pertaining to Love and Everything in Between (LEIB), concerning the struggles he and his son faced, his experience as a producer, and any insight he could give to aspiring filmmakers:

     

    NYFA: How did you get involved with this film?

    Ned Dougherty: Following [his] high school graduation, my son Michael Dougherty studied acting for two years at Stella Adler in New York City and then came to Los Angeles in late 2012 to pursue an acting career. After several years of “pounding the pavements” in L.A., Michael decided to promote his career by creating his own projects through his own production company, Hampton Filmworks.” Michael’s first project is Love & Everything in Between, written primarily in 2015.

    Here is the key: Michael’s mother Ginnie and I both fully supported Michael’s decision to pursue his dream, including our financial support. We are both co-producers with Michael and I have been actively involved as a full-time creative filmmaker and business-end producer. Initially, we hired a line producer in January 2016 who prepared a $250k budget. In February 2016, I completed the NYFA Los Angeles Producing Program. The principal cinematography was completed over six weeks in Fall 2016 with pick-up scenes filmed in May 2017.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about this film’s success?

    ND: When Michael initially wrote the screenplay in 2015 without ever attending a screenwriting course, I read it and said: “Son, you have written The Graduate for the Millennial Generation.” Michael had never heard of or seen The Graduate (1967) at that time. Both films feature a recent college graduate trying to find himself, complimented by a beautiful music score, but the similarities end there. Michael was passionate about writing Love & Everything in Between and his passion for the story, as well as the location settings, is evident in his storytelling.

    Michael grew up in the Hamptons and I taught him to swim and surf at the same beach which is the opening scene location. Michael created a “Romeo & Juliet” in the Hamptons story and his knowledge of the Hamptons provided him with the beautiful Hampton scenery as well as the inspiration for a compelling Romance/Drama which morphs into a Romance/Thriller.

    NYFA: What has been the hardest part of completing this film?

    ND: We are currently marketing the film, attending film festivals, seeking distribution opportunities, etc., to successfully monetize the project. Finding a successful route to making the film financially viable seems to be the greatest hurdle for first-time filmmakers.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty


    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with cinema?

    ND: In my youth, I read classic American novels (by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, and James Michener) and developed an appreciation for great storytelling that morphed into my interest in great films. Among my favorites: Casablanca, It’s A Wonderful Life, To Kill A Mockingbird, Dr. Strangelove, Rocky, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Forrest Gump, and ironically The Graduate.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about producing?

    ND: I prefer to introduce myself these days as a “filmmaker,” rather than as a “producer.” I am more passionate about the creative side (filmmaking) as opposed to the business side (producing). Michael has allowed me to creatively participate in his project, and I have really cherished that opportunity to work alongside my son from creation to distribution. I have been primarily a businessman for most of my life, so I had that experience to offer Michael, but both Michael and I have had to learn the business by trial and error.

    NYFA: What advice do you have for young producers?

    ND: As trite as it sounds, follow your dream! If you are not “passionate” about your project, take a pass! Optimally, strive to balance your energies between your dual responsibilities as a creative filmmaker and as a business-oriented producer. While Michael was pursuing his acting career, I encouraged him to take college business courses to develop a business sense and an understanding of basic business principles.

    NYFA: Why should people see Love & Everything in Between?

    First of all: Location! Location! Location! The Hamptons has a global appeal to moviegoers and LEIB is a cinematic treat for the eyes with spectacular drone shots and scenery of the Hamptons and Montauk that — and I say this with all humility — has never been achieved before in previous Hamptons’ films. At our World Premiere, the Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, the judges agreed; we garnered the “Best Cinematography” award (Thank you Red Dragon!)

    While your eyes are being dazzled by the scenery, story, and character development, the romance/drama unfolds unexpectedly into a romance/thriller that never stops moving while accompanied by an outstanding musical score that appeals to all generations.

    Secondly, LEIB is a socially relevant story. In writing LEIB, Michael never intended to create a controversial film, but so it is — much to our surprise. The controversial aspect of the film, which deals with sexual assault, became obvious in test screenings that we held at several Hampton libraries. At these events, college students wanted to know if they could bring LEIB to their campuses as a teaching or learning tool for students. As a result, we have developed a program to provide public service screenings for colleges and universities, particularly during “April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” utilizing TUGG.com and TUGG.edu.

    There is one word that continuously surfaces from viewers: “Amazing!” A sure sign that LEIB made a significant effect on viewers was the consistent feedback from many viewers that the story and the music stayed with them days later. I often heard “I can’t get the music (or the story) out of my head!”

    As a matter of fact, LEIB was selected and screened at the Socially Relevant Film Festival NYC in March 2018. In February 2018, LEIB received The Grand Prize – Best Feature Film at the Silicon Beach Miami Film Festival and has already been nominated as a finalist for a REMI Award as Best Feature Film at Houston Worldfest in April 2018.

    NYFA: What projects are you working on next?

    ND: We have a number of projects and several episodic series in various stages of development to be filmed primarily in the Hamptons and Los Angeles. Michael’s personal next feature film preference is The Butterfly & the Butcher, a colorful character crime drama to be filmed primarily in the Los Angeles Artist and Warehouse Districts. Followed by a paranormal love story to be shot on location on Shelter Island, New York. The Marakesh Story is my personal true story of my experiences as a nightclub owner (played by Michael) in the Hamptons and Palm Beach during the champagne/cocaine-fueled disco era of the 1970s-80s,  with additional shooting locations in New York City, Washington D.C., the Cayman Islands, Central America, and other locations.  TV episodic series include South Beach Spirit and an untitled Hamptons project Michael is developing. However, film financing and future producer/partner relationships may determine the scheduling of our next projects.

    NYFA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I could not have effectively assisted my son as a producer without the NYFA Producing Program and have great respect for the professionalism of the administration, staff, and faculty at NYFA L.A. I view this opportunity to screen LEIB at NYFA as a way of “giving back” by sharing more details of what it is like to be a first-time filmmaker. I am developing a “Dos & Dont’s” list for the Q&A Session on June 7, 2018, following the NYFA L.A. screening of LEIB.

     

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ned and Michael Dougherty for graciously attending this Q&A and sharing their story with our students. They are a true example of teamwork and great minds coming together to collaborate on a project for which they hold a great deal of passion. We look forward to continuing to follow their journey and watching the rise of their success that undoubtedly awaits them in the future! 

    If you are interested in attending a NYFA program, you can find more information here

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

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    July 11, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 2883

  • New York Film Academy Alum Made Head of Development at October Films

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    New York Film Academy alum Louis Mole has been promoted to Head of Development US at production company October Films, along with colleague Matt Dewar, who’s been made Head of Development UK.

    Mole enrolled in NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary Program, chaired by Andrea Swift, in September 2011 at our New York City campus. In the program, Mole learned to conceive, pitch, produce, direct, and edit various types of documentary shorts, as well as gain experience as cinematographer, sound recordist and assistant camera.

    Of his time at NYFA, Mole said in 2013: “You come out of the program with the fundamental expertise of every single aspect of making a film – which is so unique.”

    Mole put the education to good use, heading to Singapore after graduation and writing three episodes for the docuseries Asian Swindlers. He then joined October Films in 2014 within their London development team, and later came back to the Big Apple when he transferred to the New York office of October Films.

    October Films is an award-winning, fast-growing production company based in the US and UK that focuses on independent content from a variety of genres — including documentaries, dramas, and entertainment and reality programs.

    Some of their recent projects include Eight Days That Made Rome, Dangerous Borders, Annie: Out of the Ashes, Motorheads, and From Russia To Iran: Crossing The Wild Frontier. October Films also has series in production for the BBC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, the Science Channel, and Channel 4.

    Before his promotion to Head of Development, Mole worked on multiple projects for October Films, including Mygrations for the National Geographic Channel, Trailblazers for Discover Channel, and a seven-part series for Lifetime.

    Louis Mole has also paid it forward to newer students at the New York Film Academy, speaking with them as a guest lecturer, and offering his solid expertise.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Louis Mole on his well-earned success, and looks forward to seeing where his career heads next!

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    February 9, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2957

  • New York Film Academy Alum & Associate Director of Recruitment Screens Powerful Documentary “I Heart Jenny”

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    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny” at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Theatre

    “I Heart Jenny,” a heart-wrenching and beautiful documentary by producer and director Blake Babbitt, had a special screening this December at the New York Film Academy’s recently opened New York City Theatre. The film follows Babbitt’s close friend Jenny Rie Vanderlinden as she struggled with and eventually succumbed to a rare form of ovarian cancer. More importantly, the documentary focuses on the powerful positive spirit Jenny embodied, inspiring her friends, family, and eventually total strangers with her optimism and zestful love of life.

    In a piece written about Jenny, the Huffington Post wrote, “Jenny doesn’t seem terrified of this thing that is so far beyond us, this thing that none of us can now see… Instead, she’s investing her unconquerable energy in living the spectacular life she’s always lived—skiing, canyoneering, rafting, traveling and raising four amazing children—with a bit more urgency.”

    “I Heart Jenny” started documenting Jenny’s journey over a year after her diagnosis, and followed her right up until her untimely end, a death she refused to allow to shadow her life. Babbitt was inspired to make the documentary after seeing the “I Heart Jenny” stickers their mutual friends began posting frequently as badges of support.

    "I Heart Jenny"

    “I Heart Jenny”

    The initial idea of the documentary came to Babbitt during a pitch session that was part of his curriculum while attending the New York Film Academy’s Evening Producing workshop. From there, he started a years long journey, utilizing the skills, resources, and colleagues he met while at NYFA. “I had never made a film before,” said Babbitt, “but I was able to use the resources at NYFA to get my feet underneath me. At NYFA I was surrounded by people who really knew what they were doing. I felt supported by NYFA the entire way.”

    Shooting the film took two years, and was in post-production for another three—a long, laborious process that is not uncommon for documentaries, especially works of passion and as personal as “I Heart Jenny.” During this time, Babbitt not only applied the skills he learned at NYFA, but also used the connections made there to help his film see the light of day. In addition to being a distinguished alumnus, Babbitt is also currently the school’s Associate Director of Recruitment. With this notable position, he is able to guide incoming students as they look to grow as artists and filmmakers in their own right.

    Blake Babbitt

    Producer & Director Blake Babbitt

    As a result of the relationships formed at the New York Film Academy, Babbitt was able to recruit a strong, talented crew for “I Heart Jenny”—many alumni and staff from the school—including:

    Kathleen Harris – DP/Producer
    Brad Gallant – Lead Editor/Producer
    Zena Wood – Associate Producer
    Mike Diaz – Editor/Story Producer
    Chris Hayes – Editor
    Mike Walls – Camera Operator
    Shani Patel – Sound recordist/2nd Camera Operator
    Lexi Phillips – Colorist

    It was only fitting then that “I Heart Jenny” had its initial preview at the New York Film Academy. Babbitt continued, “It was an honor to be able to host my first screening in our stunning new screening room.”

    Andrea Swift, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Documentary Filmmaking, was in attendance, and was very impressed with Babbitt’s debut film. “It takes extraordinary passion, commitment, and talent to make a film like this.” She added, “This film can do real good in the world.”

    The specific cancer that took Jenny’s life was related to the BRCA gene, a sequence of DNA that has become more and more noted in recent years for its ominous relationship to many types of cancer. While making “I Heart Jenny,” Babbitt linked up with Jonathan and Mindy Gray, founders of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine. The Basser Center is the first of its kind to focus specifically on BRCA-related cancers, and Babbitt has tied his film to their worthy cause, helping to raise donations for further research (click here if you’d like to support the Basser Center as well.)

    While it’s been a long, winding road for Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” their journey is far from over. Babbitt’s goal is to get the documentary into the Telluride Film Festival, based in Colorado where Babbitt is from and where he first met Jenny. According to Babbitt, “If it gets in, she wants me to bring a cardboard cutout of her—LOL!”

    In addition to submitting the film to as many festivals as possible, Babbitt is also hoping to get distribution, hoping the more people who see the film, the more they will take home its poignant message and look to support the fight against BRCA-related cancers. Babbitt continued, “We’ve had so many supporters along the way, and anytime I felt dejected or lost in the process, I would just think about our supporters and Jenny. I knew I couldn’t let her or them down.”

    Supporters of the film can follow updates on Facebook as well as on Twitter. You can also follow Babbitt’s filmmaking exploits on Instagram.

    The New York Film Academy is proud of Blake Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” and wishes him the best of luck as he continues the legacy of Jenny Rie Vanderlinden and her powerful story.

    I Heart Jenny Promo- Extended Version from Blake Babbitt on Vimeo.

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  • TV Executive Jerry London Visits NYFA LA

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    On Monday, October 9th, 2017 the New York Film Academy was proud to welcome TV Executive, Jerry London. London is best known for producing “Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Doris Day Show.” He’s directed over three hundred episodes of television, eleven miniseries, and forty TV movies throughout his lengthy career. In addition to working on “Chiefs” with Charlton Hesston and “Ellis Island” with Richard Burton, London earned an Emmy nomination for his work on the twelve-hour mini-series, “Shogun.”

    London screened a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Shogun” for students at our Los Angeles campus. The Q and A was hosted by Associate Chair of Filmmaking, David Newman. The evening’s conversation began with Mr. London’s childhood. On Saturdays, when London was five, he would accompany his uncle to work at the RKO studio lot. “I became fascinated by it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew I wanted to be in the movie business.”

    Jerry London Visits NYFA LA

    At first, London tried his hand at art design but found admission to the union difficult to obtain. “You had to be a son or daughter of someone who was already an art designer,” he explained. His uncle thought he ought to try editing. On the RKO lot, London learned to splice film on the Moviola. At nineteen, he landed his first Hollywood gig as an Apprentice Editor on “I Love Lucy.”

    After eight years on “I Love Lucy,” London moved to Fox to edit the television program, “Daniel Boon.” The producer of the show, Ed Feldman, then asked London to cut a new pilot. The pilot was “Hogan’s Heroes.” The show ran for six years and London edited every episode.

    Feldman altered the course of London’s life once again when he suggested that Jerry become a director. London was not convinced he could direct actors. “I didn’t know much about staging. I knew cameras because I used to shoot stills. I knew editing. What I didn’t know was actors or stage direction. I didn’t have the confidence.” He thought about it and began taking acting lessons. Soon he was directing plays and getting to know the ins and outs of the craft.

    After a year, he was still struggling with his confidence when it came to actors. He decided to take psychology courses at a local college. “That was the most valuable thing I ever did in regards to becoming a director. The whole course was about dealing with people, how to understand their thinking, and how to make them have confidence in your speaking.” Now, he was ready to direct. In season four of “Hogan’s Heroes,” London directed his first episode of television.

    Jerry London

    From there he directedThe Partridge Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” and “The Brady Bunch.” These multi-camera comedies were a lot of fun to film, but London aspired to challenge himself with more serious work. “Comedy is a writer’s medium,” London said, “and drama is where the director can move the camera and really set the tone for the piece.”

    He decided to take one of the comedy scripts he was hired to direct and shoot it like a drama. He convinced the Director of Photography to take a chance with the network. “At this point, I’d shot 40 episodes (of “Love: American Style”). If I don’t make another one it will be okay.” Six weeks later ABC sent him a letter. He was concerned they hated it and he would be out of a job. Instead, he was hired to direct his first drama.

     

    Now, he was bouncing around back and forth between noted dramas like “Kojak,” “The Rockford Files,” and “The Six Million Dollar Man.” “It was a great education. In those days you shot in six days. As a director, you’re a problem solver and you have to come up with an answer. By the end of those two years, I had a lot of confidence.”

    When it was time for questions one student asked, “On a scale of one to one hundred, how much of an actor’s performance is his, and how much is the director.”

    “I would say eighty percent of it is his.” London responded.

    He said that it is important to give an artist space to create. When he worked with Faye Dunaway on his film, “Ellis Island,” she took out a mirror while rehearsing marks to check up on the work of the Director of Photography. This way she could examine how she looked on camera. The Director of Photography, Jack Hildyard, who also worked on “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” was furious. No one wants to be second-guessed by someone outside of his or her expertise on set.

    London did not want to upset or embarrass Dunaway. For the first day, he decided to let it go. As he was watching the dailies he was stunned to discover that Dunaway looked twenty instead of forty. Hildyard was incredible at his job. The following day when Dunaway asked about the dailies London let her know how good she looked and politely told the Academy Award winner she did not need the mirror. Dunaway agreed and they got along famously for the rest of the shoot. “It was the smartest decision I had ever made.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. London for taking the time to speak with our students. His book, “From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘Shogun’ and Beyond: Tales From the Other Side of the Camera”, is now available on Amazon.

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    October 19, 2017 • Guest Speakers • Views: 2777