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  • 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: 5897

  • 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: 6432

  • 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: 6000

  • Screening of ‘Donnie Darko’ with Producer Adam Fields

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    Adam Fields NYFA LA

    Producer Adam Fields

    New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were treated this month to a screening of the cult smash hit Donnie Darko at Warner Bros. studios. Following the screening was a Q&A with the producer Adam Fields, moderated by Tova Laiter.

    Although there may be mass confusion as to the meaning behind Donnie Darko, most people can agree that, for one reason or another, they love it. This was the case for producer Adam Fields when he first read the script and decided to spearhead the project. Adam didn’t know exactly what the story was about, but he was deeply drawn to the project. Most notably, the dialogue of the struggling high school students felt more real and moving than anything else he had ever read in that genre. So Adam followed his gut and took on the project. Before he had secured any financing, he went out on a limb and announced a future shooting date in the trade papers. Agents began calling and asking to read the script, their clients loved the material, and soon everyone was interested. This momentum attracted money and eventually Drew Barrymore, who helped complete financing. By believing the project was definitely happening and acting as if it were, Adam Fields manifested the reality he desired.

    The value of “trusting your gut” was an important theme of the night. Trusting his gut is also something Adam did when deciding to produce the film Ravenous. Similar to Donnie Darko, this film was obscure and didn’t fit perfectly into any one particular genre like Hollywood likes, but Adam loved it. Without Adam’s enthusiasm for this offbeat script with cannibalistic content and humorous undertones, Ravenous would never have seen the light of day. He was eventually able to convince a studio executive to read the script. Although the executive told Adam that he “hated it,” he didn’t give up. While courting the executive over breakfast, he learned that he was a vegetarian, which explained to Adam why he wouldn’t like a script about cannibals. However, Adam cleverly spun the project as a “pro-vegetarian” piece. Adam was able to help the executive see what he saw in Ravenous and the project was green-lit.

    Adam Fields rise to the top was definitely an unorthodox approach. He didn’t care about what was popular or trending and simply pursued those projects that he connected with. His successes, (that he has either produced or supervised) — An American Werewolf in London, Six Weeks, Missing, Endless Love, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Great Balls of Fire, Ali, Brokedown Palace, Blue Crush, and Limitless with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro — were all the more satisfying because of this. This was an important lesson that Adam taught NYFA students.

    We wish Adam Fields the best of luck with his future projects such as Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Wedding Ringer, a TV series based on James Mangold’s Copland, and Gone Baby Gone from author Dennis Lehane.

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    April 28, 2014 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6327

  • Military Veteran Student Lands Associate Producer Job at Imaginary Forces

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    Paquita Hughes, who completed the One-Year Filmmaking and Photography programs at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, was recently hired at Imaginary Forces, a creative studio and production company that focuses on major film and TV productions.

    “I was one of 15 veterans selected to interview for 8 companies through the AICP (Association of Independent & Commercial Producers),” said Hughes. “We each had five minutes to pass our resume to the company representatives and give our 30 second commercial. I was the only veteran hired ON THE SPOT, in less than five minutes, as an Associate Producer for the company Imaginary Forces.”

    Founded in 1996, Imaginary Forces is a creative studio and full service production company specializing in creating and developing content for commercial advertising, digital and interactive platforms, feature films and film marketing, television, architectural spaces and global brands.

    Their body of award winning work includes the EMMY winning main titles for Mad Men, as well as the celebrated opening sequences for Boardwalk Empire, The Pacific and Nurse Jackie.

    The production company has created hundreds of main titles and content for films like Transformers, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, 500 Days Of Summer, Terminator Salvation, Seven, and Minority Report.

    In the commercial world, Imaginary Forces has directed and produced spots for Pepsi, Microsoft, Scion, Chrysler and Google through agencies like ATTIK, JWT, TBWA\Chiat\Day, and The Richards Group. They have also created brand identity for networks such as USA Network, Lifetime, Discovery and Hallmark Channel, and experience design for MoMA, Lincoln Center, The Oscars and Victoria’s Secret.

    Imaginary Forces is comprised of over 70 artists and creative professionals: directors, designers, writers, animators, editors, and producers. Their studios are located in both Los Angeles and New York City.

    Not only that, Paquita’s short film about sexual assault in the military (all female crew) titled Breaking The Silence, which she directed for the 48hr Film Contest last year, was selected for the GI Film Festival in Washington, DC!

    Big congrats to Paquita on her recent successes!

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    April 3, 2014 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5410

  • MFA Producing Grads’ Feature Horror ‘Rabid Love’ Available On Demand

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    Rabid LoveIf you grew up on 80’s horror, slasher films like Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, and American Werewolf in London, you will want to check out the film Rabid Love. Its throwback to the classic slasher genre is both refreshing and entertaining. The film stars Hayley Derryberry, Hannah Landberg, and Paul J. Porter, who is a graduate of the New York Film Academy. Porter is essentially the Woody Allen of Rabid Love as he is not only the lead actor, but also writer, director, and producer of the film.

    Porter teamed up with other NYFA alumni including Executive Producer Paul Hutchens and Associate Producer Rob Thorpe. Porter initially met Hutchens online after realizing that both of them were veterans stationed at 29 Palms Marine Base. They officially met, face to face, on the first day of their MFA in Producing class.

    “I feel like any school, and especially a film school, it’s going to be what you make of it,” says Porter. “Some of the producing classes I took were especially helpful in being able to work in the industry as a producer, such as the business/contracts, distribution, and budgeting/scheduling courses as well as the producing roundtable and the guidance of Lydia Cedrone. But I wasn’t content to just go to class and try to coast through the projects–I wanted to start my career as a filmmaker. So, the entire time I attended NYFA, I was working full time as a freelance producer, production manager, actor, or whatever else I could do on set–but the most important thing was graduating with my own feature under my belt as a producer/director.”

    Porter’s persistence and work ethic has given him a head start on the rest of the pack. His film, Rabid Love, is available on Netflix and many video on demand platforms, or can be purchased as a DVD on Amazon.com.

     

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    March 20, 2014 • Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3810

  • NYFA LA Screens ‘Burning Palms’ with Manager & Producer Oren Segal

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    Oren Segal at NYFA

    Oren Segal

    On February 12th, the New York Film Academy hosted a Q&A at Warner Bros. Studios with renowned talent manager and movie producer Oren Segal. Beforehand, the students watched Burning Palms (2010), the latest film produced by Oren on the big screen, starring Zoe Saldana, Rosamund Pike, Paz Vega, Lake Bell, Nick Stahl, Jamie Chung, Anson Mount and Dylan McDermott. The film contains five connected shorts about lifestyles taken to the extreme in Los Angeles with the tagline, “Five stories that will mess you up for life.” Dark, twisted, and unforgivingly original, the movie set the tone for a one-on-one with a Hollywood player equally as refreshing.

    Oren began by explaining how he became involved with Burning Palms. As fate would have it, he befriended writer and director Christopher Landon’s sister in an art class. She told him, “You’ve got to read my brother’s script. It’s really crazy but I think you’ll like it.” After reading the script and meeting with Christopher, Oren felt he had found something very unique that could break the Hollywood mold. Oren teamed up with Christopher as producer of the project and helped him hone what were eight connected shorts into the five most cinematic ones. After five years of arduously searching for financing he finally raised private equity and made the film.

    Within the entertainment world, Oren climbed the ranks quickly by taking on a string of internships right out of high school with the William Morris talent agency, director Nancy Meyers, producer David Friendly, and director and producer Gregory Hoblit. After college, Oren decided to work in management because he wanted to represent actors, writer, and directors as well as produce. Oren joined Media Talent Group, where he was soon promoted to a manager and represented actors, writers and directors that included Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton. After seven years, Oren partnered with manager Carol Bodie to form Radius Entertainment where they work with a list of talent that includes actors Kim Basinger, Kate Bosworth, Shannyn Sossamon, Paz Vega, writers Milo Addica and Neil Strauss, and directors Peter Bogdanovich and Michael Polish.

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    February 14, 2014 • Guest Speakers • Views: 14627

  • Recent NYFA Guest Gaby Tana’s ‘Philomena’ Nominated for Best Picture

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    Gaby Tana

    Gaby Tana

    The New York Film Academy Producing Department congratulates Industry Speaker Gaby Tana on her Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Philomena. Besides four Oscar nominations for this film, Gaby’s other film in current release, The Invisible Woman, also received an Academy Award nomination (Best Costume Design).

    Gaby recently spent an evening with our students discussing all aspects of the producing process. Congrats and good luck, Gaby Tana!

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    January 31, 2014 • Producing • Views: 4308

  • How to Land a Literary Agent Out of Film School

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    radmin

    Linne Radmin

    Tuesday night, we had a packed house at New York Film Academy Los Angeles for our guest speaker — brought in by Producer Tova Laiter — Literary Manager, Linne Radmin. Radmin spent seven years at ICM as a senior literary manager before founding the Radmin Company, a boutique literary management and production company based in Beverly Hills that represents screenwriters and directors. She has worked with a diverse range of clients which include Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Leslie Dixon (Mrs. Doubtfire), and Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street). The Radmin Company’s current clients include Student Academy Award winner Shawn Wines, who is working on a comedy pilot for Warner Bros, Cinco Paul and Ken Saurio (Despicable Me), Todd Alcott (Antz), and several more.

    When Linne was asked by Tova how she decides whom to represent, she responded, “I have to be in love with the work and believe that I can help the writer.” Tova then asked her to expand on how the writer/manager relationship works and how it’s formed; Linne responded, “Crafting a query! The initial letter – and it needs to be intelligent, clear, creative, decisive. Be bold, but not obnoxious.”

    The film school students, many of which were screenwriters, had very specific questions for Linne. Lawrence, a writer, wanted to know where in a screenplay does Linne expect to find the inciting incident. Linne, without hesitating, responded, “page 12 or 13!”

    She also admitted that although good writing is often timeless and just plain good, there are definitely topical trends which affect or are affected by the marketplace. Currently? “Rom-coms are out, emotional sci-fi is in!”

    Linne admitted that today’s market is tough for film school students and emerging writers, encouraging them to have both an agent and a manager. “Agencies have so scaled back – so better to have more voices in the marketplace by having both an agent and a manager, ideally a manager first. Eventually, also, a lawyer!”

    Linne added that in all of this, branding is highly important! When asked by a student how she sifts through all the material she examines she said, “Passion for the material coupled with an idea, notion, plan about how I can use this is the marketplace. Branding matters.”

    Asked by Diego, an MFA Filmmaking student from Columbia, how directors carve themselves out when looking for representation, she said, “Shoot, shoot and shoot! Put it online, do a webseries. Just keep shooting!” Having a reel is obviously of utmost importance for directors, whereas screenwriters should be more concerned with GOOD WRITING.

    Stephanie, a Swedish screenwriting student asked Linne what is important to think about for those looking for a manager. “Hopefully you will have choices here. You want to feel that the manager listens to your ideas. Also, what feels right is probably the way to go!” She also said it’s okay to be your own advocate, “If you feel your manager’s involvement is too little or too much, speak up!”

    About the influx of lucrative quality television, Linne said, “Now some managers are strictly working in TV, but less are only in features. There is some great programing on TV now, so it’s good to be open.”

    Asked by a student about getting into a TV writing room, Linne admitted this is highly competitive and usually the Showrunner (Executive Producer of TV show) hires his or her writers.

    Some general tips that came out during the evening:

    1. Become a writer’s assistant if you can

    2. Agents and managers should take 10%

    3. Enter legitimate writing contests

    4. Brand yourself! Once you have a hit, you will have more freedom to write something within a different genre

    Linne also noted that the Radmin Company is always looking for interns!

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    January 17, 2014 • Film School, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 6257

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

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

    Paramount set

    Paramount set

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

    Eric Olsen

    Eric Olsen

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

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

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

    -Shawn Dawes

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    December 12, 2013 • Acting • Views: 6063