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  • 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: 778

  • 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: 1303

  • Producer Rob Cowan Speaks at NYFA Los Angeles

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    New York Film Academy was proud to welcome Producer Rob Cowan to the Los Angeles campus this past week. Cowan brought all the knowledge gained in his thirty-five years in the entertainment industry, as well as the pulse-pounding San Andreas. Denise Carlson, a Producing instructor, hosted the event.

    rob cowan

    Cowan’s lengthy career includes producing Life as a House, which netted Hayden Christensen and Kevin Kline a Golden Globe nomination. He also produced the Cole Porter musical bio-pic De-Lovely starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. From there he transitioned into horror and action films with Enough, starring Jennifer Lopez, and the Robert De Niro and Al Pacino led thriller, Righteous Kill. He next sought comedies with Tammy and The Boss, both starring Melissa McCarthy. His biggest win was in producing The Conjuring, the fourth highest grossing horror film of all time.

    After the San Andreas screening, Cowan sat down for a Q & A with the students. The first thing they spoke of was the logistics of filming the scene. “Every big sequence that there is in there, even the smaller ones are a big challenge on many levels. How do you make something look like it’s shaking when it’s not shaking? So we had to sit down with all of the teams and ask, ‘Ok, what’s visual effects? What’s special effects? What’s a real part of the set we need to do?’ Normally when you’re doing a movie you have to dress an entire set but the CGI guys would tell us ‘just give us a little rubble and we’ll destroy the rest,’ so that was nice.”

    rob cowan

    “Even up to the day we were going to do the shot the special effects guy wasn’t sure it was going to sink.” It was moments like these that Cowan described as, “the most fun.” He also mentioned a complicated one take where the set would be completely destroyed after the take. They only had once chance to get it right.

    They only had about seventeen weeks of prep. This may sound like a lot of time, but Cowan said, “I’m working on a similar film now and we have thirty-two weeks of prep.” Cowan was worried about getting the movie made so he sat down with the director, Brad Peyton, and asked, “Can you get this film done?” Peyton had a simple answer, “I’ll be decisive.” Instead of asking for multiple examples or tweaking last minute, Peyton trusted his team to give him the best options possible, then, he picked one and moved forward. This was key in finishing on time.

    Denise Carlson asked about Cowan’s background as a writer and how it affected his producing work. Cowan divulged that initially San Andreas was written as an homage to Irwin Allen, who directed disaster movies like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno in the 1970’s. These films would cast A-list actors and give each a storyline. But Cowan felt that left the story a little flat. He brought in Chad and Carey Hayes, who wrote The Conjuring, to punch up the script. They cut some of the characters, instead choosing to focus the story on Dwayne Johnson’s character. Then, they layered in a heart-wrenching story of a lost child. Suddenly the film was more than just a disaster film, it was a story.

    rob cowan

    Next, they spoke about the two largest challenges in filmmaking, money and time. Cowan relayed the story of Rocky. The scene at the ice skating rink was originally supposed to have multiple extras. The extras needed skates, prop food, a catered meal, all things that cost money the production no longer had. The producers went to Sylvester Stallone with the bad news. Stallone sent the extras home and decided that Rocky should just walk Adrienne around the rink. “It ended up being one of the best scenes in the movie. I always feel that story has value because you realize there’re different ways and better ways to do things when you’re challenged.”

    “James Wan, the director of The Conjuring, is great at that. If I tell him, ‘ Look, we can’t do it this way’ he energizes the team and always comes up with something better.” Cowan said, “One of your biggest challenges is time and money. We sunk it all into the set. And it was something we weren’t sure if it’s something we could pull off. That’s a character in the movie and we’re going to invest in that character.”

    The investment paid off. The Conjuring 2 was released nation wide in June 2016. New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Cowan for sharing his expertise with our students. Look for Cowan’s forthcoming films Aquaman and The Hollow Season.

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    September 23, 2016 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 4475

  • Producer Jack Rapke Brings “The Walk” to NYFA

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    New York Film Academy students in Los Angeles received a special viewing of The Walk (directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, and Charlotte Le Bon), which is not yet released to DVD or Blu-ray, and afterwards participated in a Q&A with the movie’s producer Jack Rapke. The Walk is a 2015 American 3D biographical drama based on the story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the discussion.

    jack rapke

    Jack Rapke took a rather roundabout path to get to where he is today. After graduating from film school he first aspired to be a cinematographer and tried hard to get into New York’s camera union. Finding it difficult to launch his dream Rapke considered other avenues into the film industry and after a series of loose connections found himself at an interview for a spot in the William Morris agency’s mailroom. A week after he was hired for the job he received an acceptance letter from New York’s camera union. Jack was faced with a life-defining choice—go back to New York and pursue a career as a cinematographer or stay in Los Angeles and try his hand at being an agent. Feeling he had an innate talent for it, Jack decided to pursue a career in representation.

    Rapke was quickly promoted from William Morris’s mailroom, eventually became a top agent, was head-hunted by CAA and rose to co-chair of their motion picture department. His client list included some of the biggest names in Hollywood such as Jerry Bruckheimer, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Michael Bay, John Hughes, Joel Schumacher, and Imagine Entertainment partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. Jack tells people, “The reason I was such a good agent was because I was not an agent.” By breaking the mold clients were comfortable with Jack and found him relatable. As a young assistant at William Morris an agent got in his face one day and told him, “Listen to me, if you want to represent them, you can not be scared of them!” Jack took this principle to heart and as he climbed the ranks he witnessed how every agent and manager surrounding him was deathly afraid of their clients. However, his ability to see his clients as equals gained him the respect of Hollywood’s most powerful players. Another trait that Rapke contributes to his success as an agent is that he always told the truth. He never danced around the issues or got someone else to do the dirty work with his clients—he was 100% up front. But being honest doesn’t mean being harsh, as an agent, and still to this day, Rapke is known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood and someone who will ALWAYS return your call. Jack believes that if someone calls him they’re essentially saying, “I value and respect you and what you have to offer” and not returning their call, which is the most basic form of respect in return, is a complete insult.

    After 17 years of being an agent Jack was faced with another life-defining choice—he could continue as an agent, and probably coast very well at that for the rest of his life, or he could pursue what he set out to do from the beginning which was actually making movies. Rapke was forced to look into the abyss and acknowledge that if he was to take the leap into film producing he risked falling from such great heights as a successful agent and being a massive failure. However, Jack knew if he didn’t answer the call he felt deep inside and continued living on the other side of the glass looking in on those doing what he wanted to do, it would destroy him. So Rapke partnered with director Robert Zemeckis and formed their company ImageMovers. He went on to produce a remarkable body of acclaimed films including Cast Away (starring Tom Hanks), What Lies Beneath (starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer), the Oscar-nominated Flight (starring Denzel Washingtion, Don Cheadle and John Goodman), the Ridley Scott-directed Matchstick Men (starring Nicholas Cage), Real Steel (starring Hugh Jackman) and movies utilizing Zemeckis’s pioneering performance-capture and 3-D technology including The Polar ExpressMonster HouseBeowulf, and A Christmas Carol. He also produced the Showtime series The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons. So to say the least, Jack’s decision to no longer be the guy representing the person who makes films and BE the person who makes films, paid off.

    rapke and laiter

    Producer Tova Laiter with Producer Jack Rapke at NYFA LA

    Jack Rapke’s journey to the successful producing career he enjoys today is as thrilling and twist-packed as one of his blockbuster films. At the end of the evening Jack got serious with the audience and said, “Look, there was always only two paths for me. I was either going to be accepted into this industry whatever form that took by the powers that be, and I still don’t know who those powers are, or they were going to have to kill me. It was binary. There was never any other choice.” While saying this Jack’s conviction, which got him to where he, was felt by everyone in the crowd and they broke out in applause.

    We sincerely thank Jack Rapke for stopping by the New York Film Academy to impart his wisdom on our students and look forward to seeing his next epic, inspiring work on the silver screen!

    Currently, Rapke is serving as Executive Producer on the upcoming “Untitled Steven Knight WW2 Project” starring Brad Pitt, to be directed by Zemeckis for Paramount Pictures.

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    December 24, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 5106

  • Oscar Nominated Producer Michael Shamberg Visits NYFA for Screening and Q&A

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    shamberg

    Michael Shamberg at New York Film Academy

    On October 6th, New York Film Academy in Los Angeles hosted renowned producer Michael Shamberg after a screening of one of his films, Out of Sight, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Following the film was an in-depth Q&A, moderated by producer Tova Laiter and Dean of Students Eric Conner.

    Mr. Shamberg was the epitome of calm, cool and collected as he shared stories of his 35 year career as a producer of Hollywood favorites like Get Shorty, Be Cool, Pulp Fiction, Erin Brockovich, A Fish Called Wanda, Django Unchained and many, many more.

    Shamberg, previously a correspondent for Time Life, got a taste for film while working on experimental documentaries (or guerrilla television as he coined it). After moving to Los Angeles and reuniting with college buddy and beloved director Harold Ramis, Shamberg got his foot in the door producing the generational classic The Big Chill.

    After meeting actor Danny Devito and producer Stacey Sher, the three created Jersey Films production company, producing hit after hit like Matilda, Reality Bites and the night’s feature Out of Sight, which sparked a continual collaborative partnership with Steven Soderbergh.

    Shamberg postulated that the key to his successful movies is being commercially approachable with fresh aesthetics, and not necessarily execution-proof. He also noted the key qualities of a producer as a delicate balance of belief in the material, creative loyalty of the director, and a confident showmanship for the studio executives.

    Michael recalled a time when Soderbergh was adamant on shooting the meeting between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez’s characters in Out of Sight in one take. Though Shamberg initially supported the decision, studio executives hated the poor scores from audience screenings. He eventually made the call to reshoot with more coverage, and the scene became the legendarily steamy trunk scene that skyrocketed both Clooney and Lopez’s movie careers. “A producer has to make sure the movie is made and make sure the movie is made well,” Shamberg noted. “It’s not always the same job.”

    Shamberg has remained on the cutting edge of the rapidly changing state of media distribution. He was recently brought on as an advisor to the newly created Motion Pictures division of Buzzfeed, the wildly successful American Internet news media company. Michael describes Buzzfeed as a lab for filmmakers and studios, who can experiment with content in short form and see what sticks with the audience. In this way, creativity is maximized and nothing is lost if something doesn’t hit.

    We sincerely thank Michael Shamberg for his inspiring visit and wish him continued success in his career.

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    October 12, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 4436

  • Veteran Film Producer Tom Sternberg Joins Enthusiastic NYFA Students for Screening and Q&A

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    On September 15, New York Film Academy in Los Angeles hosted veteran film producer Tom Sternberg, where he joined students for a screening of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman, which Mr. Sternberg produced. A lively Q&A, moderated by Lydia Cedrone, Interim Chair of Producing and Head of MFA Feature Productions in LA, followed the screening.

    Tom Sternberg

    Mr. Sternberg gave an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film and of working with the highly respected director and stellar cast, including the discovery of Jude Law in his star-making role.

    He spoke of his collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola at Coppola’s American Zoetrope, where he produced the Academy Award-winning film “Apocalypse Now,” “The Black Stallion,” and “The Black Stallion Returns.” His conversation provided students with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the much-publicized, volatile set of “Apocalypse Now.” Sternberg also fielded several questions from the audience, and discussed his work with acclaimed director David Lynch, as producer of Lynch’s “Lost Highway.”

    sternberg

    NYFA’s Lydia Cedrone with Tom Sternberg

    In addition to his work with Coppola and Lynch, Mr. Sternberg’s credits as producer include Wayne Wang’s “Dim Sum” and “Eat A Bowl Of Tea”; Audrey Wells’ “Under the Tuscan Sun” starring Diane Lane; Hossein Amini’s “The Two Faces of January” starring Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst; and Kenneth Branagh’s “Sleuth” from a script by Harold Pinter and starring Jude Law and Michael Caine. Mr. Sternberg expressed his delight in working closely with the renowned Pinter on the development of the script for “Sleuth.”

    From there, Sternberg spoke candidly about the changes in the business of filmmaking from the 1970’s to the present day, and how several producers and production companies become attached to films. He spoke with much enthusiasm on his current project in development, and his own efforts in seeking funding and distribution in the modern landscape of the industry. He advised students to be passionate about each film he or she develops, and not to take personally the many rejections he or she will face on the journey of getting his or her film made.

    sternberg

    An inspiration to the many students in the audience, Mr. Sternberg has served as the American representative for many notable foreign film producers, selling the North American distribution rights to several important foreign-language films, including “Il Postino,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Mediterraneo,” “Europa Europa,” “Indochine,” “Jean de Florette,” “Manon des Sources,” “To Live,” “The Story of Qiu Ju” and many of the films of Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer.

    A most gracious and inspirational guest, Mr. Sternberg was met with much applause and gratitude at the end of the Q&A, as he took time to pose for several photos with students. We sincerely thank him for his visit and wish him much success with his next film.

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    October 7, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 3953

  • A History Lesson from Emmy Award-Winner Robert Wuhl

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    robert wuhl

    Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, comedian and actor Robert Wuhl (Arliss, Bull Durham, Batman) came to New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles Campus and educated the students in the way he knows best: with comedy.

    On Friday October 10th, Mr. Wuhl came to NYFA and presented his unique, insightful and hilarious take on History to a group of screenwriting students and faculty. Held in NYFA’s new state-of-the-art theater, Mr. Wuhl’s workshop presented history through the perspective of storytelling becoming fact and how sometimes the best story wins. This concept of story and history being tied together was inspiring for the students. Mr. Wuhl brought history to life by telling stories that often revisited “Historical Fact” with the stories behind the “Fact.” Mixing story with audiovisuals and a juxtaposition with contemporary popular culture, Mr. Wuhl filled the New York Film Academy Theater with laughter.

    wuhl at nyfa

    Following the often outrageous one-hour workshop, Mr. Wuhl opened the floor to a Q&A by the screenwriting students. He discussed his process from research through presentation. At one point when discussing his research process he joked a certain research site was “90% correct 10% of the time.” He talked about where ideas come from and how to build stories from ideas. One student asked Mr. Wuhl if he had any stories about Nunzio DeFilippis (Chair Of Screenwriting) and Christina Weir (Screenwriting Instructor), who worked on the writing staff of Arliss and were instrumental in bringing Mr. Wuhl to NYFA. Again he joked, admitting that he probably shouldn’t share them with the students.

    As a thank you for the student’s time and laughter Mr. Wuhl and his producing team brought pizza for the students and while the students ate, Nunzio, Christina and Mr. Wuhl reminisced about their time on Arliss.

    Robert Wuhl’s visit to NYFA gave the students a fresh look at history, but also allowed them to see how comedy works from an actor/writer/director with decades of experience in the industry. Hopefully, it will not be his last visit to the campus.

    wuhl at nyfa la

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    December 3, 2014 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 5370

  • NYFA Alum and Original Film Exec Visits Business of Screenwriting Class

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    Toby AscherOn September 9th 2014, New York Film Academy alum-turned-Original Film exec Toby Ascher joined our Business of Screenwriting class. Ascher was a student in NYFA’s Summer Filmmaking Program in Los Angeles back in 2001. With early aspirations to direct, Ascher soon fell in love with producing after college. His story of becoming a rising star at powerhouse producer Neal Mortiz’ production company is a fascinating one, which we were fortunate enough to have him share with us.

    “My very first gig was working as an intern on the Montel Williams Show,” Ascher explained. “My job was to keep the secret surprise guests separate from the regular guests, so that panelists on the show would have no idea their cheating wife or husband, or backstabbing best friend was waiting backstage… In retrospect, it was a lot of responsibility and pressure for an intern,” Ascher joked with the class.

    Ascher’s next stint was working for literary agent Todd Hoffman at the then Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann (BWCS) agency. “I learnt a lot on that desk,” Ascher remarked, “Todd was representing some of the hottest TV and film writers and directors in town. Guys like [Breaking Bad creator] Vince Gilligan… I knew I didn’t want to be an agent, but it was an invaluable experience nonetheless.”

    From there, Ascher went to work for Dimension Films. Here, he really got to understand the different divisions and inner workings of a mini-major studio, he explained. But, it was his next job, landing at Original Film, where Ascher finally found his niche. “Neal makes the types of movies that I grew up loving, the types of movies I was beyond excited to start putting together myself.”

    In his 7+ years working at Original (first as an assistant, then as a producer with a first look in-house deal, and now currently as an executive), that’s exactly what Ascher has done – develop projects with writers and put movies together.

    Currently, he’s working on projects such as the romantic comedy Save the Date, a new spin on Robin Hood entitled Merry Men, a movie adaptation of the popular trading cards Garbage Pail Kids, the sci-fi project, Leviathan, a sports drama based on the rise of Dallas Cowboy Jesse Holley, and a potential family film franchise based off of Sega’s beloved, Sonic the Hedgehog, amongst others.

    Ascher explained the complex process of turning pre-existing IP (intellectual property) into film projects, and the many steps the movie must go through first, from brokering deals with the rights holders to developing the screenplay in a way that’s faithful to the original IP, while still entertaining as a motion picture.

    Ascher also was honest about what he’s learnt about the projects he takes on over the years. “Truthfully, with experience, I’ve become a lot more resistant now than I used to be. If I can’t see the poster, if the project doesn’t have a clear high-concept hook that I can understand in the one-sheet, I usually don’t get involved, as marketing is a very big part of the process. And should be in today’s climate.”

    As for the types of writers he works with, however, Ascher closed out with some good news for the students, “So long as you’ve written a great piece of material, regardless of the genre, you’re someone I want to potentially be in business with. Look, it’s a collaborative process, particularly on studio films, and the writer’s job is to execute a great screenplay. My job is to help get the writer to the movie that we the producers envision so we can all tell an unforgettable story.”

    Ascher currently works at Original Film and was recognized in 2012 as one of Hollywood’s New Leaders by Variety.

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    September 22, 2014 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5943

  • Producer John Zaozirny Joins Business of Screenwriting Class

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    John ZaozirnyOn August 5th, film and TV producer John Zaozirny sat down with New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class to discuss advice he could offer writers, tips on breaking into the business, and his own perspective on what it takes to succeed.

    Zaozirny spoke first of his early days interning at Miramax, while still a student in Manhattan, and then later at Village Roadshow Pictures in Los Angeles. “I’m Canadian, so I knew the challenges facing foreigners looking to break into Hollywood”, Zaozirny shared. “My goal was to beef up my resume as much as I could early on, so I’d have a real shot. Internships also gave me a network, which helped put me on a path towards eventually getting a job…”

    That first opportunity came when Zaozirny landed a development desk working for the President of Production at Appian Way, Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company. “One of the most important things I learnt working at a star-driven company is that so many movies get made simply because movie stars want to be in them,” Zaozirny explained. “That’s the difference between a movie in theaters and a script sitting on the shelf. So, write a script that a star actually wants to star in. Make your protagonist, love interest, and antagonist’s roles as dynamic and interesting as you can.”

    After Appian Way, John went on to work for screenwriter Andrew Marlowe (AIR FORCE ONE, HOLLOW MAN), and illuminated students on the responsibilities of being a screenwriter’s assistant — including doing copious research, proofreading, and also being a fly on the wall to the creative process. “It was a rare, invaluable experience, which I’ll always be grateful for.” From there, Zaozirny landed as a writer’s assistant on ABC’s Castle and explained to students the different ways one can break into TV, as he sees it. He also shared what a writer’s assistant does day-in and day-out and the fast-paced reality of working on a network TV procedural.

    In 2010, Zaozirny launched his own production company, Bellevue Productions, after realizing he was growing more interested in producing than writing. “As a writer, you should be churning out three new pieces of material a year. I realized I wasn’t doing that, but I also had far more ideas than three that I wanted to be a part of and build from the ground up.” It was a smart bet. Since then, Bellevue has set up numerous projects at the studios, including Cristo at Warner Bros., Capsule at Fox, and Warden and New Line Cinema, as well as numerous other projects with financiers. Bellevue also got its first movie made last year, a found-footage horror movie entitled The Operator, which is currently in post-production.

    These days, Zaozirny continues to develop projects from the ground-up, working collaboratively with established and up-and-coming writers helping crack their stories in the room. After discussing this creative process, Zaozirny closed by emphasizing the most important element he looks for when beginning the journey with a new piece of material — “Concept”, Zaozirny proclaimed, “is honestly most of the battle. Having a great concept with a fascinating protagonist that offers maximum conflict — given the idea. You have to remember no one gets in trouble for saying no, for passing, so you need to have a piece of material that’s conceptually undeniable.”

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    August 12, 2014 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 5585