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  • Screenwriter Chris Galletta Screens The Kings of Summer

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    Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 11.58.03 AM

    NYFA Instructor Ben Cohen with Chris Galletta

    On Tuesday evening, the New York Film Academy was treated to a special screening of the Sundance Grand Jury Nominated feature, The Kings of Summer. The film stars Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman, Mad Men’s Alison Brie, and Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally. The story revolves around three teens, who decide to escape their dull parents for the summer and build their own home in the middle of the woods. Despite their lack of experience in the wilderness, the boys do their best to “live off the land.”

    kosJoining us afterward was screenwriter, Chris Galletta, who answered questions from our moderator, Ben Cohen, and students. Surprisingly, Chris mentioned how this was his first screenplay and even he was surprised just how well the ball began to roll. The script gained Chris representation, was sold, was made, made it to Sundance, and will be released theatrically on May 31 by CBS Films. Clearly a testament to his talents, but self-admittedly some luck came into play. It was soon after Nick Offerman offered to play the father role that the film really became a reality. “I’m a huge fan of Nick’s,” said Galletta. “I love him on Parks and Recreation and couldn’t have asked for anyone better.”

    Like most screenwriters, Chris admits he is highly critical of his work. He says he was rewriting drafts of his script all the way up until the movie began shooting. “I wanted to keep it funny throughout. I didn’t want it to lose its humor in the third act, like a lot of other comedies I’ve seen where it just wraps up the plot.” Some sound advice. Know your genre and maintain its tone from beginning to end.

    Chris is currently working on a new comedy adventure, which is still being scripted.

    Be sure to check out The Kings of Summer when it is released in theaters on May 31st. 

     

     

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    May 8, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 6627

  • Spanish Goya Nomination for Jorge Laplace

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    ALFRED Y ANNA

    New York Film Academy screenwriting graduate, Jorge Laplace is the screenwriter behind the Goya Nominated Animated Short, Alfred & Anna. The Goya Awards, known in Spanish as los Premios Goya, are Spain’s main national film awards, considered by many in Spain, and internationally, to be the Spanish equivalent of the American Academy Awards. This is Jorge’s second Goya nominated script, the former being the documentary, 30 Years of Darkness.

    photo (11)

    Jorge Laplace

    Alfred & Anna was directed by Juanma Suarez with music by Roque Baños, whose known for his work in Sexy Beast and The Machinist.

    We’re very proud of Jorge on another wonderful accomplishment and wish him the best at the Goya Awards on February 17!

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  • Screenwriting Instructor’s TV Series Premieres Tonight!

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    New York Film Academy screenwriting instructor Jerry Shandy is looking forward to tonight’s premiere of the television show Perception. In addition to his staff writer credits for the series, the NYFA instructor penned an episode called Cipher that will air in August. The crime drama stars Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce, an eccentric neuroscience professor who helps the FBI to solve complex cases. The show, which also stars Rachael Leigh Cook and Kelly Rowan, premieres after The Closer tonight on TNT.

    Originally from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Jerry got interested in filmmaking because of the wildlife filmmakers that would visit his hometown. He initially attended USC with hopes of becoming a filmmaker, but soon realized screenwriting was the place to be. “I like screenwriting because it’s the creation of the characters,” says Jerry. “I wanted to get into directing, and in the long-term I still want to do that, but I always wanted to be the one generating the story. The filmmakers I admire are the ones who come from that background.”

    New York Film Academy screenwriting instructor, Jerry Shandy

    After working as a writer’s assistant on CBS’ Close to Home, and a series of PA jobs, including assisting producer Lawrence Bender, Jerry got an agent and sold a pilot to USA and Universal Cable. That pilot became his calling card, and the buzz around it got him meetings, and his most recent gig on Perception. He is also developing a feature script with a European production company, and is developing a television pilot with international television heavyweight Endemol.

    Jerry says he loves teaching courses at New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios campus, including One Hour Drama, Pitching for Producers, and Feature Workshops. “I feel like it’s complementary because I’m able to bring in the industry experience, and talk about what’s going on out there. I also get to go over the basics of writing every day. My ideal day is being able to write half day and interact with students the rest of the  day.”

    Ready to make your mark in screenwriting? Check out New York Film Academy’s screenwriting programs today!
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    July 9, 2012 • Academic Programs, Screenwriting • Views: 4190

  • Pixar’s Rules for Great Storytelling

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    Pixar Animation

    Thanks to department chair Eric Conner of the screenwriting program for this great tip! A story artist at Pixar Animation Studios had been tweeting a series of “story basics” which illustrates the kind of talent that exists at Pixar. Their overwhelming success is easily demonstrated by the numbers. 7 out of 12 Pixar films were nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars and the company won the Animated Feature Academy Award 6 times. They have 13 consecutive box-office toppers and 2 Best Picture nominations. If that’s not proof of their genius, then we don’t know what is. Steve Jobs purchased the studio in 1986 for $10 million. It was originally a hardware company with only one animator on its staff. Now it’s widely reputed to be one of the best film studios on the planet. Here’s a quote on Deadline from the producer of the latest Pixar hit Brave, which debuted at number 1 at the Box Office this weekend. They attribute their phenomenal success to the basic wisdom that story trumps all.

    It was not easy. The biggest challenges at Pixar are always the stories. We want really original stories that come from the hearts and minds of our filmmakers. We take years in crafting the story and improving it and changing it; throwing things out that aren’t working and adding things that do work. All of that  is just the jumping off point for the technology and how we are going to make this happen.

    Without further ado, here are 22 pointers from Pixar’s story artists for creating a compelling story and building a mega-successful franchise. Don’t forget to learn more about our animation curriculum and become a top-notch animator for Pixar. Click here to request more information on the program!

    1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

    2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

    3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
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    June 25, 2012 • 3D Animation, Film School, Screenwriting • Views: 3476

  • Superheroes are Taking Over Hollywood (and I Feel Fine)

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     Eric Conner is the Chair of the Screenwriting Department for New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios – Los Angeles campus. With an MFA degree from USC School of Cinema and Television and a BA from UPenn, Eric is currently developing two TV pilots, a sci-fi feature, and trying to add to his collection of ironic snapshots with Stormtroopers. Feel free to email him at eric@nyfa.edu

    I often warn my students to avoid becoming “That Guy.” You know “That Guy.” He’s the one in the theater who complains about a director “crossing the 180 line” or using the wrong lens. He’s the one who LOUDLY critiques a movie in terms of “sequences” and “denouement.” Summer’s an especially difficult time for “That Guy” since the multiplexes are filled with Hollywood’s biggest, loudest, and franchise-iest products — though to be fair, there’s a Wes Anderson gem also playing in the theaters, but it’s on a screen smaller than your car. For my $14 (or $28 if you choose the couches and food service of iPic Theaters in Pasadena), I don’t watch a movie with a notebook or penlight. I go to the theaters simply to be transported.

    Sometimes it’s to the dark emotional wilderness of Into the Wild. Other times to see Kevin Bacon singlehandedly ignite the Cold War in X-Men: First Class. Please note: I’m pretty sure the Cuban Missile Crisis did not actually play out that way, especially since my own father was on one of the ships during those tense thirteen days in 1962. But that didn’t make me enjoy the scene any less. This likely goes back to why I work in the arts in the first place. Similar to many of my peers, I grew up on the films of Allen, Scorsese, Coppola, Ashby, Polanski, and Altman, and spent most of my college days working on one play or another. However, I also spent many hours in my native Delaware reading comics, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and — please don’t hold it against me or my department — watching professional wrestling! Meaning that I’m equally transfixed by the damaged honesty of The Descendants as when the Hulk mops up the floor with Loki. In fact, my favorite line of dialogue this decade came out of Bruce Banner’s mouth just as he got his green on. (No spoilers here!)

    With The Avengers approaching Titanic-level grosses, we’re likely to see even more superhero films in the future. And I’m here to tell you that’s okay. Some of them will be stinkers (I’m looking at you Ghost Rider), but others will give us the same thrill that George Lucas unleashed in 1977 with one unforgettable opening shot. For every Daredevil, Elektra, or Green Lantern, there’s a Superman or Spiderman 2. I still think  Magneto’s unorthodox escape from his glass prison — featuring a poor guard with “too much iron in his blood” — is as cinematic as cinema can get. Hopefully, the screenwriters who are developing the next mega-budget superhero adaptations remember the wonder they felt as kids, flipping through the pages of The Flash. Or take a cue from Chris Nolan, who’s been treating Batman like part of the Godfather franchise.

    In fact, our writing department in Los Angeles has even begun to address this head-on by adding comic book writing and game design to our curriculum. Both of these mediums have provided some of the greatest modern writing around. As long as there’s money to be made and stories to be told, Hollywood will continue to look for new films from these existing properties. Some films will anger the aforementioned “That Guy.” But other films will sweep him up in their worlds and remind him why he came to film school in the first place. If you want to discuss this with me, I can be found at either the Ahmanson touring production of War Horse or the opening weekend of Dark Knight Rises

    Eric Connor in a tiff with Darth Vader.

    Learn more about NYFA’s screenwriting program. Click here for more info! 
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    June 14, 2012 • Academic Programs, Screenwriting • Views: 6341

  • Pietro Schito on Cultivating Ideas

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    Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson with Pietro Schito on the set of Little Boy 

    “Ever since I learned what screenwriting was, I have always wanted to do that,” explains screenwriter Pietro Schito. “That’s the most important thing for any movie. That is where the message is.” While studying in his native Milan, Pietro’s first short film, Horror Kitchen, won a national contest at the Future Film Festival in Bologna. Shortly after, he left for Mexico to work for CSPC Filming the Ineffable, an international project working with young filmmakers. He was about ready to return to Italy when he received a scholarship from CSPC.

    Pietro decided to attend a 1-Year Screenwriting course at the Universal Studios campus in 2010. “The program was great and all the instructors were too,” he says. “I loved it. They push you to the limit. It was tough but worth it. The workshops and teachers are hands-on and thought provoking. [The instructors] have a real connection with the students. If we had problems or questions they were always available for consultation.”

    After graduating from New York Film Academy, Pietro found steady work as a script consultant. He also landed an internship with Metanoia Films. “One day, having lunch with the producer, I got to pitch my movie,” he explained. He shared his project 98.Vocho, a story he had developed while attending New York Film Academy. “As soon as he heard the story, he was really interested and asked if I was ready to pitch to directors. I got to pitch it several times in the Business of Screenwriting class, so I had some practice. They took me to [director] Alejandro Monteverde. He said I had an original plot, solid characters and structure. He also told me that my style of writing reminded him about Life is Beautiful, and I was really happy to hear that because Life is Beautiful is the movie that inspired me to become a filmmaker.” Pietro worked on a 20-page treatment and pitched it to another producer at Metanoia. The producer said, “If everything is like this, we’re going to produce your movie.” They asked him to stay on with the company to develop the project. But Pietro decided to follow his heart, and went back to Mexico to get married. “I thought I would lose the opportunity of my life,” he says.

    After returning to Mexico, Pietro wrote the pilot for an animated TV series called Maria Bambina. He also worked for a Spanish television series called Mi familia y yo, and has an animated feature called Lucha Rooster in development. He found out that Metanoia Films was working on a big-budget period film called Little Boy, and that they would be shooting in Baja California. Pietro was brought on as a writers’ assistant. He soon found himself assisting the director as well. Then he was  asked to film and direct a making-of documentary to be featured on the Blu-ray release.

    Inspired by the paintings of Norman Rockwell, Little Boy is a period piece about a boy who believes he can bring his father back from World War II. It stars Sean Astin, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin James, Emily Watson, and Michael Rapaport. “It was an amazing experience, being there and seeing the process,” says Pietro.”They were really happy about the work I did, helping with outlines and reviewing scripts and storyboards.”

    Since wrapping the film, Pietro has been offered a job with Metanoia Films. “They invited me here for a staff position in writing and development,” he says. “I’m really happy being back in LA with that company. I like the way they think and organize their team. It’s a huge accomplishment, and it’s just the beginning. They have a lot of projects in development.”

    Pietro offers the following advice for students thinking about New York Film Academy: “Have an idea. Come here with an idea. Work as much as you can. The story you have in your heart: cultivate it. And don’t be discouraged by Hollywood.”

    Emily Watson and Pietro Schito with Jakob Salvati, star of Little Boy

     

    Pietro Schito working with director Alejandro Monteverde and producer Eduardo Verastegui on the set of Little Boy
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    May 30, 2012 • Film School, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4998

  • Dreaming of an Electric City

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    New York Film Academy MFA Film graduate Nick DeRuve is in pre-production on his first feature film, Electric City. As Nick describes it, “[It] is a gritty drama about a thirteen-year-old who attempts to keep his family intact when they receive an eviction notice. I spent my pre-teen years chasing my older brother and his friends around the city of Schenectady. They were teenagers, and I was trying my hardest to fit in with their crew. I experienced a lot of things kids that age don’t, such as violence, crime, and witnessing a lot of drug use.”

    “I would say around the age of thirteen is when I started having initial thoughts about making a film about two brothers stuck in an urban setting,” he explained. “When I was thirteen my family moved, not far from Schenectady, but to the suburbs, and that’s when I realized what I had experienced was different. Over the years I knew who the film would be about, but I still didn’t know what the film would be about, so I could never get the idea out on paper.”

    Nick was no novice when he began at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. “I had been a working gaffer in NYC for four years after completing my undergrad,” says Nick. “My passion was to direct, so I spent that time on set studying everything that was happening. I decided to go back for my MFA to continue after my goal of being an indie filmmaker, and experience filmmaking in LA. No matter what my experience was prior I wanted to absorb everything my teachers had to offer. I developed good relationships with my teachers, who have great knowledge and experience.”

    After graduation, Nick developed the feature length script for Electric City, and reached out to his former advisor, NYFA instructor Brendan Davis, for feedback. Brendan raved about the script, saying, “He nailed the tone, the arcs, and the characters, and kept it real while keeping hope. He’s done a really exceptional job on it and has the chance to make an exceptional film. To me this is a… studio quality drama with award-worthy writing. The roles in this piece are something that serious actors would fight to play. But the material speaks for itself.”

    Though they have secured some funding for the film, they have also started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Twenty-percent of the proceeds will go to support Small Can Be Big, an organization that supports victims of domestic abuse and families in need. “It’s a social issue that we have to stare in the face everyday,” says Nick. “Why not try to help people as much as we can, whenever we can, because at the end of the day, that’s the goal. Make a difference, make a change, even if it’s for just one kid who needs a reminder that even when times are hard, we can never give up on ourselves and our goals.”

    When asked about future plans, Nick said, “Right now my main focus is getting Electric City in the can, and screening at festivals by 2013. I’m not really thinking about any other projects. I have a wallet full of receipts, ticket stubs, and business cards that I use to jot notes down on. When the time comes to start developing a new story, I’ll have that as my resource. For now, all I got is this script, and a pocket full of dreams.”

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    May 14, 2012 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4622

  • The Importance of an “Indelible” Screenplay

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    Melanie Williams Oram is the department chair of Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Campus. Melanie wrote and directed SHOOK, a short film that Showtime acquired and airs. SHOOK won several awards including Best film of the Festival at the inaugural Juneteenth Festival. Her feature length version of SHOOK was an Urbanworld Screenplay Competition Finalist. She has produced several award winning shorts including A-Alike, which won the Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards and a DGA Award. She has won both an Emmy and a Peabody for her work at HBO Sports. Currently she is producing her first independent feature film, Indelible.
    Indelible
    I am nearing the end of the production phase on my first feature film IndelibleThis film tells the story of El Bonds, an African American female scientist who races to find the cure for a disease that killed her husband and threatens to take the life of her teenage son. As the producer on this project, I am struck by how important a solid script is to creating a quality film. Yes, the feature film arena is one where the director is clearly the ruling monarch, and I’ve always preached that without a good script, the director, even a great director, has nothing. Now after nearly finishing the production phase of Indelible, I see in practice that a well-structured script is the engine that powers the rest of the filmmaking train.

    Our process on Indelible has been truly collaborative. Our writer, Mikki del Monico wrote the script and asked Randy Dottin, the director to attach himself to the project. Randy and I had collaborated on several short film projects together and he asked me to come onto the project as a producer. As a team our first step was to apply for a production grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Mikki already had an established track record with Sloan and had previously won a $10,000 screenwriting grant for an earlier draft of Indelible.We were fortunate enough to win the $100,000 production grant and then our journey to make a feature film began. I worked with Mikki and Randy for about two years on developing the script and getting it ready to shoot. Mikki wrote countless drafts and we had several meetings about how to clarify the want of the protagonist, increase the intensity of the obstacles created by our antagonist, and shape subplots that were both engaging and well-crafted.

    We went into production confident that our script had all the elements of a good drama. We completed our initial shoot and managed to stay true to our original vision. After a fairly lengthy break in production, we cut together an assemble version of the film and re-evaluated the script. It was clear that we needed to do some pick-up shoots. We were facing some challenges as a production because we didn’t have access to some of the key talent that we needed. We wanted to finish the film strong and so we were faced with the task of altering the script again. Our new script needed to create a softer side of our protagonist by deepening some of her personal relationships. This process included broadening the role of some characters, minimizing the role of other characters, and even recasting one of Indeiible’s major players.

    To date, we have completed two pick-up shoots and we plan to do one more in the late spring/early summer.We are editing a new cut of the film that incorporates all our footage from all three (3) periods of our production phase (initial production + two pick-up shoots). We will look at the cut and determine not only which scenes need to be reshot but what scenes need to added to the script to ensure that we enter into Indelible’s post production phase in the strongest possible position. We have pledged that we will not embark on this final pick-up shoot until we believe the newest version of the script is solid. As a team we are still committed to the idea that a strong, well structured script provides a blueprint for making sure that ultimately we produce “a good story that is well told.”I believe that my experiences as a professional filmmaker, and definitely my work with the Indelible project have shaped my teaching in the classroom. As an instructor, I try to bring together theory and practice. I’d be curious to hear your ideas on screenwriting theory and how you’ve put those ideas into practice. What are your experiences with developing and/or producing your own scripts either for shorts or feature films? 

    To learn more about NYFA’s Screenwriting program, please click here.

    Indelible Movie On Set Indelible

    On Set Indelible2

    On Set Indelible3

    All Photos Taken By Gregory Costanzo

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    April 16, 2012 • Screenwriting • Views: 7863

  • The Power of Pitchfest

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

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

    NYFA PitchFest

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    April 5, 2012 • Acting, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 4283

  • Whatever Happened to Francis Ford Coppola?

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    Francis Ford CoppolaLast week was the 40th Anniversary of The Godfather. I don’t know if you saw it but the AMC channel aired it repeatedly during the week. Watching those films again, it made me wonder…

    Whatever happened to Francis Ford Coppola?

    The Godfather was a huge influence. I mean everyone went to see it. I remember I had a friend who was ushering at the movie theater and would sneak me in. It didn’t even matter what part of the movie you came in at, you’d just watch it from there to the end. Sometimes I’d even stay to watch the beginning of the next show. We used to refer to the film as, “the Beast.” That’s how much respect we had for it. A few years later, as a film student, Scorsese became my guy (he was the filmmaker that made me want to be a filmmaker.) The Godfather was still the benchmark and with all due respect and deference to good ol’ Marty, he never made “The Beast”.

    Coppola followed up with Apocalypse Now. The stories about making that film are legendary—the enormous amounts of money, equipment, and insanity that went on in the jungles. But whether you like the film or not, you can’t help but be impressed by the enormity of the undertaking and the execution. It is unquestionably the work of a master filmmaker. And then… What? What happened? He never again fulfilled the promise of his early films. It makes me sad. What went wrong? Where did Francis Ford Coppola jump the shark?

    It started with a film called One From the Heart. You’ve probably never seen it. Few people have. It was a musical fantasy set in Vegas, and even though it pioneered some video-editing techniques, it was a disaster with audiences. Then there were The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. It seemed to us as young directors as the work of a desperate filmmaker who lost one audience and was trying everything he could to connect with a new one. Next he tried a Godfather knockoff, The Cotton Club. An epic crime drama, it even had the same sort of violent montage at the end. A pale imitation and another box office disaster. And finally, Godfather 3, the last ditch effort to recapture past glory. I don’t even have to tell you what a disappointment that film was.

    How did such a great filmmaker lose his way? Was it the disappointing loss of Zoetrope Studios? In 1969, Coppola decided to buck the studio system, which he felt had stifled his artistic vision. He created Zoetrope to fund off-beat films by first time directors. It didn’t work. Was it the pressure of paying off the huge financial debt in which he found himself? Coppola has declared bankruptcy three times. It’s not easy holding onto a personal vision while digging yourself out of a financial hole. Or was it the tragic death of his son? Personal tragedy has a way of putting ambitions of glory in perspective. In the end, perhaps it was just the unimaginable pressure of having to equal something as great as The Godfather.

    The Godfather

    It’s hard not to reflect on the somewhat tragic trajectory of his life. Early success does have its pitfalls. Compare the careers of directors like Spielberg and Scorsese. They all started out at the same time. They were part of an avant-garde group of filmmakers that were revolutionizing Hollywood. But where Spielberg and Scorsese are viable, influential, Academy Award nominated filmmakers to this day, Francis Ford Coppola has sadly vanished from the scene. I can easily imagine him filled with deep satisfaction and appreciation of what he’s accomplished. I can also imagine him with deep regret at what could’ve been. Ultimately, I’d like to think that with age comes perspective, if not wisdom, and maybe even acceptance. What do you think? Every filmmaker has to come to grips at some point with this issue of art and commerce. How have you handled it? Or how do you envision handling it? I’d like to know.

    Click here to learn more about the filmmaking program.

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    March 16, 2012 • Filmmaking • Views: 9839