Robert De Niro
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  • “Men of Honor” Filmmakers Visit NYFA LA

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    Following a screening of Men of Honor, students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus welcomed Director George Tillman, Jr., Producer Robert Teitel, and Cinematographer and NYFA Cinematography Chair Anthony Richmond, for a Q&A. Men of Honor, starring Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Charlize Theron, is based on the true story of Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, a man who overcame racism and the amputation of his left leg to become the first U.S Navy Master Diver. NYFA’s Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon, moderated the event.

    tillman and teitel

    Director George Tillman, Jr. and Producer Robert Teitel

    George Tillman, Jr. is a director/producer/writer, best known for the Barbershop franchise, Notorious, a film about rapper Notorious B.I.G., Faster, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel, The Longest Ride.” Tillman also wrote, directed and produced the award-winning film Soul Food, with his producing partner, Robert Teitel. Teitel is a producer best known for his work on Tillman’s films, as well as Jayne Mansfield’s Car, and Nothing Like the Holidays (for which he wrote the story). NYFA Cinematography Chair and Cinematographer Anthony Richmond has had a long and illustrious career, starting in the 1960s with the Rock and Roll scene, working with, Jean-Luc Goddard, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and then making his way into features on films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, Legally Blonde, and The Sandlot, among many others. The tight-knit group reminisced about their experiences on Men of Honor, relating fascinating tales from the production, as well as invaluable words of wisdom.

    Tillman spoke very fondly of working with Robert De Niro. He related one episode on set in which the legendary actor picked up a phone while acting and the heavy prop struck him in the head. De Niro quickly regrouped and yelled for the cameras to “Keep rolling!” and to start the scene again. Without missing a beat De Niro recognized that this incident provided him an opportunity and he used the unexpected emotions to give a better performance in the next take.

    Cinematographer and NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond related a funny anecdote about his experience with the costume design for the film. A U.S. Navy ship provides the backdrop for the film, which of course means the story involves many sailors in uniform–white uniforms. Anyone who’s tried to film an actor wearing white knows that achieving proper exposure balance within the scene becomes very difficult. When Tony first got to set on the deck of the ship and saw a hundred extras wearing white under the blistering sun he said he almost had a heart attack. However, the highly skilled DP quickly found solutions to make all the shots work.

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    NYFA’s Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon, Director George Tillman, Jr., Producer Robert Teitel, and NYFA LA Cinematography Chair, Anthony Richmond

    Producer Robert Teitel related the importance of how film school supplies students with the opportunity to create a “calling card” with which to break into the business. This is what he did with his 30-minute short Paula, which won several awards, including the Student Academy Award. This is also when he forged what was to become his very successful long-term partnership with George Tillman, Jr., who directed the short. The short helped Robert and George raise $150,000 and produced Scenes for the Soul, a feature film that was shot in Chicago, using local talent and resources. Scenes for the Soul was sold to Jackson-McHenry at Savoy Pictures for $1 million.

    We thank George Tilman, Jr., and Robert Teitel for visiting our school and wish them the best of luck in their careers!

    written by Melissa Enright and Robert Cosnahan

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    June 23, 2016 • Cinematography, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 3602

  • NYFA Grad Directs “Hands of Stone” with Robert De Niro

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    Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 11.34.48 AM

    Jonathan Jakubowicz

    Over the years, boxing films have provided the cinema with many dramatic elements that make for an award-winning film. Directors like Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and David O’ Russell have showcased their remarkable behind-the-camera magic through the story of a troubled or underdog boxer that often undergoes a significant character arc. In New York Film Academy graduate Jonathan Jakubowicz’s most recent film, Hands of Stone, the Venezuelan-born director tackles the story of boxer, Roberto Duran (played by Edgar Ramirez) and his legendary trainer, Ray Arcel (played by Oscar Winning actor Robert De Niro). Coming off its impressive premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Hands of Stone will see its US wide release on August 26, 2016.

    After graduating from the Academy nearly 20 years ago, it was a pleasure to catch up with the director who has certainly come a long way since his film school days.

    Congratulations on your most recent film, Hands of Stone! Can you tell us a little bit about your film? In your own words, what is the film about?

    It’s the story of how Roberto Duran and his trainer Ray Arcel changed each other’s life. Two legends at the heart of the golden era of boxing, and what they went through to get to Duran’s battles with Sugar Ray Leonard.

    Why do you think Roberto Duran’s story is so important to tell?

    It’s an inspiring story that shows how Duran came from nothing and became a hero for his nation. The son of a US marine, Duran grows up dreaming to take revenge against the Americans who are occupying his land, and his American trainer enables him to become the best version of himself. It’s a movie about a Latin hero, and Hollywood usually only shows Latinos as drug dealers.

    How did this film come about and how did Robert De Niro become involved?

    It was a process of many years. From convincing Duran to trust us with his life rights, to writing the script and sending it to De Niro. Then working with De Niro on the script for half a year until he decided to play the part. Then raising the money outside of the system, because no studio would make a movie about a Latin boxer. And then the best part: making the movie.

     

    Would you say NYFA’s training was useful in terms of being prepared to direct films such as this and the others you’ve worked on?

    I went to the University in Venezuela and graduated with a major in journalism, but NYFA was the first exposure I got to any kind of formal education in filmmaking. It was my “ABC’s,” the first steps I took to make movies professionally. That was twenty years ago. There’s no doubt that what I learned at NYFA helped. It was very emotional for me to shoot a scene with De Niro and Ellen Barkin, two legendary New Yorkers, a few blocks from the school. It definitely felt like those two moments in my life, being a film student and directing my dream movie, were connected.

    What advice do you have for filmmakers looking to break into this industry?

    I would tell them to tell stories they are convinced they can tell better than anyone. Duran is Latino; Arcel, his trainer, is Jewish. I’m a Latin Jew. I knew both worlds. Not many filmmakers know both worlds better than me. And that allowed me to make the movie with confidence, and confidence is the only tool a filmmaker can trust. Breaking into the industry is the consequence of achieving a goal. The goal is making a good movie. Focus on that goal. Make a movie that shows you can do stuff others can’t. High quality consumer cameras and computers give you an opportunity no other generation has ever had. There are no excuses why you haven’t made your first film. If you feel you are ready, do it. And do a feature. You will learn more from a feature than from 30 shorts.

    Congratulations once again on this film and all of your success in this industry thus far. We’re looking forward to seeing Hands of Stone in theaters when it comes out this August 26, 2016.

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    June 17, 2016 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4345

  • New York Film Academy Highlights Acting Chair Lynda Goodfriend

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    One of the many enticing aspects of attending one of the New York Film Academy’s programs is the ability to learn hands-on from professionals who have and continue to have such a strong grasp of the professional entertainment business. The best teacher is someone with real life experience in his or her field. Our Los Angeles Acting for Film Chair, Lynda Goodfriend, oversees the acting for film school with a tremendously versatile and impressive background, having performed and acted in both New York City and Los Angeles.

    goodfriend happy days

    After college, Goodfriend started her career as a professional dancer and singer on Broadway, Off Broadway and, as she puts it, “Way-off Broadway.”

    “It was everything I’d dreamt of! One of the highlights was to work with a young performer just starting his career as well, John Travolta” recalls Goodfriend. “When I started to take my acting more seriously, I began studying with the master teachers Lee Strasberg and Sandy Meisner, which made me believe that my ultimate goal as a performer was to be a ‘dramatic actress.'”

    After being in a couple of very small roles in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro and The Front with Woody Allen, Lynda drove to Los Angeles with ambition and her SAG card. To her surprise, Goodfriend booked a variety of sitcom roles, rather than the dramas she was accustomed to.

    “I started classes at Harvey Lembeck’s comedy workshop and would come home crying after every class—it was so hard! But now I love comedy and appreciate the actors who do it well. Among my classmates was a young comedian who could not get work as an actor because he could not stick to the script, but he was brilliant at improv. A role came up on the series I was doing (Happy Days) and they could not cast the character, so I mentioned this guy from my class. He came in to audition, got the role, and the producers liked him so much they created a series of his own—it was called Mork and Mindy, and the actor, Robin Williams, became a huge star.”

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    Lynda Goodfriend as Lori Beth Cunningham with Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham on ‘Happy Days’

    Lynda is most well known for her role as Lori Beth Cunningham in the hit TV series Happy Days. Along the way she did two other sitcom series, many guest star roles, and several roles in feature films working with such actors as Tom Hanks, Bette Midler, and Julia Roberts. One of her fondest moments, as she recalls, was working with Ray Bolger, the ‘Scarecrow’ from the Wizard of Oz, on an episode of Fantasy Island.

    Taking a break from television, Goodfriend started her own acting school, The Actors Workout in NoHo (North Hollywood, the Theatre District), and developed two schools and a Theatre. She was also the head of a management company, Young Artists Management for many years, working with clients from top talent agencies such as CAA, ICM and William Morris.

    She came back to teaching in 2006 at New York Film Academy, teaching Acting for Film and Scripted TV classes. In 2011, Lynda became—and still serves as—Chair of the Acting Department. “I feel like working in this position pulls together all that I’ve learned from my acting career, teaching and managing careers. And fortunately, since my daughter is a talent agent at one of the top agencies in LA, it’s easy to still keep up with the current trends in the industry, so I can help guide our students.”

    “My goal for the Acting Department at NYFA is to continue to find more techniques and approaches to help actors learn their craft, as well as to expand our students’ opportunities to be involved in the industry after graduation. I love our program and have the honor to work with so many gifted instructors. Since becoming Chair, I have had the opportunity to add the Student Directed Plays, the Studio Classes (advanced “extra” courses in Meisner, Method and Chekov), Alumni Scene Study classes, as well as our extensive list of Drop In Classes—Auditioning, Stage Combat, Improv, Yoga, Meditation, Dance, Accent Reduction, Singing and Ballroom Dance—to support their training.”


    “This program is an amazing gift for students who want to learn everything as an actor. When you graduate from this program you can hit the ground running! I believe that everything you do in life teaches you something about acting, so in my personal life I’ve always tried to do things that challenged me—I’ve raced airplanes, climbed mountains in the Himalayas, and am a competition rider along with my Swedish Warmblood horse, named ‘Othello.’ No matter what you do or pursue it’s all about the same thing—focus, hard work and commitment.”

    The most important words of advice Goodfriend can give any actor that is pursuing a career are:

    1. Work harder than everybody else
    2. Don’t burn bridges
    3. Do something every day to become a better actor: read scripts, plays or anything you can get your hands on, go to the theatre, watch great films, go to class
    4. Never, ever quit
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    April 28, 2015 • Acting, Faculty Highlights • Views: 10153

  • SNL Uses Super Bowl to Share Super 40th Anniversary Lineup

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    west & mccartney snl

    Kanye West & Paul McCartney are part of SNL’s 40th Anniversary Lineup

    Saturday Night Live’s 40th birthday is fast approaching—its Anniversary Special is set to air on February 15. If the celebration is anything like it’s star-studded 25th Anniversary, expect a mix of best-of clips, new material from a mix of former & current stars, and some touching tributes to cast members who’ve since passed. Considering that three out of the four new Ghostbusters came from SNL, expect at least a couple proton pack jokes, maybe even with the two former Ghostbusters who also got their start in studio 8H.

    While some of the lineup was already public, including Eddie Murphy’s surprise announcement that he’d be returning to the show for the first time in thirty years, a more extensive list was given out during the Super Bowl’s premium ad time.

    Confirmed for the big night are Fred Armisen, Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin, Jim Carrey, Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Robert De Niro, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Zach Galifianakis, Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, Derek Jeter, Norm Macdonald, Peyton Manning, Steve Martin, Melissa McCarthy, Paul McCartney, Seth Meyers, Garrett Morris, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Laraine Newman, Jack Nicholson, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Molly Shannon, Martin Short, Paul Simon, David Spade, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Christopher Walken, Kerry Washington, Kanye West, Betty White, and Kristen Wiig. Tom Hanks will also take a break from his new project at HBO to join the festivities.

    If you’re so excited you can’t wait two weeks, you can check out VH1 Classic’s current marathon of the entire series.

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    February 3, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 2907

  • Discussion with Renowned Matte Painter Syd Dutton and Special FX Supervisor Bill Taylor

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    cape fear

    New York Film Academy Los Angeles recently screened Martin Scorsese’s remake of the classic film Cape Fear. The guests for the event were master matte painter Syd Dutton, who was responsible for creating the stunning settings throughout the film including the iconic shot of De Niro leaving prison. This image left such an indelible sense memory for movie goers that it was parodied in a Simpson’s episode where Side Show Bob leaves prison. Our other guest was visual effects supervisor Bill Taylor, who oversaw the trick camerawork on the picture. By happenstance, the moderator was our co-chair of animation Mark Sawicki, who had worked with Syd and Bill on the picture and was responsible for shooting the final composites of the matte paintings.

    The conversation started with insights into the prison shot. Bill said that the shot was originally designed for De Niro, playing “Max Cady”, to walk below the frame but Scorsese wanted him to walk directly into the camera. A special ramp was built that allowed the actor to do just that. Mark shared that the last few frames of the shot cut from the film showed De Niro (always in character) apparently licking the lens. Because of the compositional change, the shot became much more complex, involving hand drawn silhouettes of the actor allowing him to appear in front of the painting. Mark recalled that the shot took eight hours to execute, with a fan blowing on the camera motor that had to run at extremely slow speed to prevent it from burning out.

    Syd said that the older studio system allowed for tremendous care and planning to create the seamless shots that appear in the film. One thing he shared with the current generation of matte painters is to always remember that the Earth only has one sun and one horizon line. Adhering to these facts is essential to create a believable and realistic painting.

    Bill related that lighting De Niro on fire was accomplished by a stunt double. The principal actor pretended to be on fire with nothing more than interactive light hitting the set. At a later date, a stunt double dressed in black against a black background, was set on fire and photographed. The stuntman mimicked De Niro’s performance and the footage of the animated flames were then composited over De Niro.

    In closing, Bill shared the value of control and advocated that shooting the real thing as much as is possible, limits variables and allows the image to remain based in reality.

    Thanks Syd and Bill for sharing a master’s approach for creating seamless visual effects shots in a classic film!

    mark sawicki

    NYFA Instructor Mark Sawicki (left) with Bill Taylor and Syd Dutton.

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    October 7, 2014 • 3D Animation, Guest Speakers • Views: 9003

  • 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: 6401

  • New York Film Academy’s Top 5 Robert De Niro Acting Roles

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    Roger Del Pozo is the Director of Acting Admissions at the New York Film Academy. In addition to his work at NYFA, he has also been a casting director in New York for the last 10 years. In that time he has cast hundreds of television commercials, as well as films, plays, voice overs, video games, music videos and industrials for many of the top casting companies and advertising agencies in New York.

    1. MEAN STREETS — The original! De Niro’s first movie with Martin Scorsese is certainly one of his best. Johnny Boy jumps off the screen with such vitality and menace that it seems almost “too real” to be simply called a performance. Both hysterical and frightening, De Niro created a character that set the precedent for gritty, urban performances.  Some may argue he defined American acting from the 1970’s forward.
    2. TAXI DRIVER — De Niro’s iconic role is memorable for so many reasons. The delivery, the transformation, the impact on popular culture… The mohawk! Travis Bickle was immortalized as “God’s Lonely Man”. He frightens because he is so effortlessly real. Nothing about this character feels like a performance. De Niro famously drove a night-shift cab for months to prepare for this role. It shows. We don’t doubt him for a minute. Who can look at cabbies the same way again after watching this? 
    3. RAGING BULL — Of course the famous weight gain is impressive. Everything else about this powerhouse performance, however, also shines. De Niro won his first Best Actor statute portraying the troubled pugilist Jake LaMotta, and he definitely deserved it. The fight scenes are some of the most realistic ever filmed. Most importantly, he humanizes a man with very few redeeming qualities. A classic in every way.
    4. THE GODFATHER 2 — De Niro had huge shoes to fill playing the young version of Vito Corleone, a role made famous by his hero Marlon Brando. He didn’t disappoint. Winning his first Academy Award, he spoke entirely in Sicilian which he learned for the role. De Niro portrays a young Don driven by his need for power and revenge. It’s a study in quiet strength and menace. Undoubtedly, this role solidified De Niro as an actor for the ages. 
    5. GOODFELLAS — De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese once again. As the leader of career gangsters, he is chillingly and darkly hilarious. One of my all time favorite films, this film would’ve sunk without De Niro’s performance. Jimmy Conway is so vibrant and memorable that De Niro has parlayed his later career playing a version of this role in subsequent roles. 
    Do you agree with Roger? Give us your thoughts. Moreover, don’t forget to learn more about the acting program here.
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    March 8, 2012 • Acting • Views: 1855

  • Producer Chris Brigham and His Road to "Inception"

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    Chris Brigham NYFAChris Brigham isn’t your typical “Hollywood” producer, which comes as a surprise, considering he produced global blockbusters such as Inception, The Aviator, and Analyze This. He doesn’t even live in Hollywood.“New York is a great place for a producer right now, especially with the tax breaks. There are more shows here now, which means more jobs.” Aspiring filmmakers looking to develop stories, however, should still consider Los Angeles. Everyone’s path will be different. It’s up to each individual to recognize which is one’s true calling.“Not everyone will have the chops for this business.”

    As the guest speaker for our Q&A on Thursday, Chris shared with us his journey from a P.A. in New York to the Hollywood powerhouse he is today. Hustling his way to the top, there was much to be learned in terms of film production. Most importantly, he learned quite a bit about dealing with people, which is something he credits to the Teamsters.The motto? “Money talks. Bullshit walks.” New York is a ‘show me’ city where you have to back up what you’re saying. Chris realized his ability in handling people and their problems was a valuable skill in the industry. Soon he began finding steady work as a line producer.

    So what is a line producer? “It’s a critical job. You are the eyes and the ears managing the movie. Being a line producer demands entrepreneurial skills.”Highlighting some of the details of his job, one learns it’s not your typical 9 to 5. Being a freelance line producer requires a lot of travel, networking, and wisdom to find the right project. “It’s better to work on quality projects but it’s a lot of hard work.”

    His recommendation for filmmaking success? “Get your foot in the door. Make phone calls and start out as a P.A. on set.” Eventually you’ll build a reputation and, who knows, you may end up waking up one day with a call from Christopher Nolan’s team to work on Inception. Luck may play a part, however, this game is a foot-race and the last person standing is the one who makes it in this business. Whether it’s writing, directing, acting or producing, there are thousands of people trying to do the same thing you want to do. The key is not losing sight of your dreams.

    What about maintaining a family and some sort of normalcy? Chris recounted some of his struggles balancing career and family. He recalled a shoot in Montreal where he drove six hours to see his wife and kids on the weekends. Character is indispensable. It seems kindness, too, can pay off in a business with a bad reputation for its conceited personalities.

    Twitter was abuzz for Brigham’s appearance. Irrefutably, the most submitted question of the night was “Is film school worth it?” In response, Chris cited his very first film class in college learning about Fellini and Kurosawa. It sparked his passion for the craft. He encouraged our students to collaborate, build bonds, and sustain a network. In this industry, it’s crucial to meet the right people. Create a foundation for yourself. Film school is what you make of it.

    After the Q&A, Chris handled individual students with personal questions, ranging from “Can I meet Christopher Nolan?” to “How do I get my screenplay funded?” Chris stayed for a good 45 minutes afterwards, patiently handling questions and proving to us how integrity can go a long way.

    Chris Brigham Q&A at NYFA

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    March 5, 2012 • Producing • Views: 6566

  • New York Film Academy Graduate Appears in Movie with Robert De Niro and Forest Whitaker

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     Hilary Cruz

    NYFA Graduate Hilary Cruz, former Miss Teen USA 2007

    New York Film Academy Graduate Hilary Cruz, former Miss Teen USA 2007, has been keeping busy since graduation. Cruz, who starred in Donald Trump’s reality show Pageant Place in 2007, recently shot national commercials for McDonalds, Sleep Studio, DSW, and shoe retailer Deichmann. She also filmed scenes for the 2012 film Freelancers starring Robert De Niro, Forest Whitaker, and 50 Cent. Comments LA-based Cruz:

    “Tara Conner (Miss USA 2006) and I are best friends and Katie Blair (Miss Teen USA 2006) is my other best friend in LA! Things are good – very busy and exhausting but good!”

    Cruz plays character Erin in Sand Sharks, a Sci Fi Channel original movie in post-production. She is also signed with Ford Models and recently shot for several brands.

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    August 2, 2011 • Acting • Views: 3515