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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Maria Minguez

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Maria Minguez started out as a 2nd AD and assistant director in her home country of Spain, but her true passion was writing and storytelling. 

    Minguez decided to move to New York and attend the Screenwriting school at NYFA’s New York campus, where she learned the skills necessary to begin her new career as a writer.

    Since then, Minguez has found success back in Spain, and has written the upcoming feature film Vivir dos veces, directed by renowned Spanish filmmaker Maria Ripoll and starring Inma Cuesta, Nacho Lopez, and Argentinian star Oscar Martinez.

    maria minguez
    NYFA recently spoke with Maria Minguez about her film, her life before screenwriting, what drove her to become a storyteller:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Maria Minguez Vivir dos veces

    ‘Vivir dos veces’

    Maria
    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Vivir dos veces?

    MM: Vivir dos veces is a script I started to write at NYFA for the Feature Film workshop. So the first draft was built on the notes my teachers and my classmates gave me. When I returned to Spain I continued working on it, writing more drafts, until I sold it to a producer. It was shot in October 2019 and it comes out at the end of 2019.

    NYFA: What do you feel most comfortable writing, whether themes or elements of a screenplay? What do you feel least comfortable writing?

    MM: The genres I feel more comfortable writing are dramatic comedy, such as Little Miss Sunshine; and dramatic thriller, such as Mystic River. It doesn’t matter if it is TV or film. The genres I feel the least comfortable writing are action movies and horror movies.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MM: I have another feature film which will probably shoot at the end of 2019. And I have also been working on a miniseries for Tele 5, a Spanish TV channel, which is going to shoot in two months.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Vivir dos veces, or your work in general?

    MM: During the program we worked a lot on the structure of movies (three act structure, the eight sequencing system, etc.). It has been very useful to me. It is not easy to face a one-hundred-page script, but if you know how to structure it, you at least know the way you have to follow.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    MM: To screenwriting students I have just one piece of advice: to WRITE. 

    NYFA gives you the opportunity to have people giving you notes all the time, and that is something not that easy to find outside of school. The best way to learn how to write is writing. So write a lot, all the time, and take the material to class so teachers can read it and give you notes.

    NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

    MM: I would like to add that when you become a professional screenwriter, you realize that it is not just important to know how to write. You also have to know how to handle producers, contracts, etc. So I encourage the students to pay attention during the business courses of NYFA’s programs.

    New York Film Academy thanks Screenwriting alum Maria Minguez for taking the time to speak with us about her career and her film Vivir dos veces.

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    May 28, 2019 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 797

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Producing Students Give Notes to Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Tom Schulman

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    Academy Award Winner Tom Schulman, renowned for penning Best Screenplay Winner Dead Poets Society, engaged in a team discussion with New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Producing students over potential modifications on his new script, which is currently slated for production in the next few months.

    Over the course of more than two hours, Schulman listened with undivided attention as students dissected his script and offered detailed notes on its story, characters, and its world.

    The special opportunity for the students came as part of their Script Collaboration & Story Development class (MFA Program, 5th semester). The class is designed to teach students script analysis, and how to write and convey notes to a screenwriter professionally and effectively.

    NYFA instructor John Morrissey invited Schulman to participate not only as the recipient of the students’ notes, but also to offer our Producing students a rare opportunity to make a direct impact on the story of a professional film.

    Many times during the conversation–punctuated by laughter and meticulous detail-offering—Schulman jotted down students’ notes on a sheet of paper. When asked what he considered the best way for a producer to provide notes to a writer, he promptly responded: “The way we have been doing it here today!”

    He then shared with the students some inside stories on how studio executives give notes to screenwriters and praised the students for their genuine passion and thoughtfulness.

    New York Film Academy thanks Academy Award-winning screenwriter Tom Schulman for giving his time and advice to our MFA in Producing students.

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    May 8, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 776

  • ‘Boxing Girls’ Features Two New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni

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    Boxing Girls, a new Arabic-language drama from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) premiered earlier this year and is the screenwriting debut of New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Afnan Alqasimi. Additionally, the program features actress and NYFA alum Dana Al Salem.

    Alqasimi hails from the United Arab Emirates and attended NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2012. Alqasimi previously worked on the animation short Homecoming. Al Salem is originally from Bahrain and enrolled in NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in August 2015. Al Salem previously appeared in The Sleeping Tree and the short film Canary.

    Boxing Girls is gaining buzz for its focus on female characters and stars several well-known Arabic performers, including Fatima Al Hosani, Ali Al Sherif, and Shaifan Al Otaibi. The program was directed by Saudi filmmaker Samir Aref and was produced by O3 Productions and twofour54 Abu Dhabi.

    Boxing Girls

    “This drama production is particularly unique, because it puts a real emphasis on the region’s young talent — both in front of and behind the camera,” says Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority, Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.

    The program was shot over two months across various locations in Abu Dhabi, before completing production in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additional cast members include Mila Zahrani, Abdul Aziz Skeirin, Alaa Shaker, Anoud Al Saoud, Abeer Sander, Noura Ezzer, Mohammed Meshaal, Rakan, Zuhair Haider, and Zara Al Balushi.

    Boxing Girls debuted in February of this year.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates workshop alumni Afnan Alqasimi and  Dana Al Salem on the production and success of Boxing Girls

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Abby Ajayi Featured in Largest Hollywood Reporter Photo Shoot Ever

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    Abby Ajayi, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. In a rebuke to the industry sentiment that it’s hard to diversify writers rooms because there aren’t enough women writers and writers of color to choose from, the industry magazine gathered dozens of women from the networking group Black Women Who Brunch.

    Black Women Who Brunch (BWB) was founded in 2014 by television writers Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Erika L. Johnson, and Lena Waithe as a way to get black female TV writers a chance to meet, support, and get to know one another. Their first meeting was in March 2014 and had 12 attendees. The current membership of BWB is now around 80.

    In addition to taking photos, many of the women shared their experiences and thoughts on being black women television writers—many of whom were the only person of color on their staff. NYFA alum Abby Ajayi was one of those at the shoot interviewed. Unlike many of her peers, she wasn’t the only woman or person of color in her writers room.

    Abby Ajayi

    “On How to Get Away With Murder,” Ajayi toldThe Hollywood Reporter, “there were seven women in the room and six were women of color. It didn’t fall on one person to be the voice of all women or all black people. Having multiple women from diverse ethnic backgrounds broadened the conversation, which in turn led to richer, deeper characters.” 

    Ajayi added, “It’s also inspiring to see the women higher up the ladder prove that there is a path.”

    Ajayi originally hails from Nigeria and attended NYFA’s Screenwriting school in 2011. In addition to How to Get Away with Murder, Ajayi has worked on Eastenders, Doctors, and Hetty Feather. She is currently co-producing Hulu’s limited series adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi on her current success and encourages everyone to read The Hollywood Reporter’s piece!

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    April 16, 2019 • Diversity, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 927

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Matt Harry

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    With his debut novel published last October and development underway for his animated pilot, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screenwriting instructor Matt Harry is making waves in the industry. A multi-hyphenate, Matt’s not only a writer—he’s an editor, director, and producer. Matt took some time to chat about his career, teaching, and the time he made a fool of himself in front of Tom Hanks.

    NYFA: Where are you from originally? 

    MH: I was born in West Virginia, but my parents moved around a lot. We ended up in Cleveland when I was in sixth grade.

    NYFA: Growing up, what did you want to be? 

    MH: I wrote a novel in seventh grade, so I wanted to be an author from a young age. Later I became interested in theatre, then filmmaking, but eventually I went back to writing. 

     

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What’s your professional background? 

    Matt Harry (MH): After I graduated, I spent 12 years working as an editor on shows like The Bachelor while continuing to write. I’ve written screenplays for various production companies and my feature film Fugue, which I wrote and produced, was named Best Horror Film at the Mississippi International Film Festival. My short Super Kids, which I wrote and co-directed, has over 3.7 million views on YouTube and is being developed into a feature by Temple Hill and Fox 2000.

    NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

    MH: A chance encounter with my former USC classmate Eric Conner at a coffee shop led to me to NYFA.

    NYFA: What are you working on right now? 

    MH: My novel Sorcery for Beginners was released last October, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’m also developing a TV adaptation of Sorcery as well as an animated pilot I wrote called Monster Cops. I also have a couple new book projects I’m finishing!

    NYFA: What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far? 

    MH: My short film Super Kids was the first project I worked on where the finished product looked almost exactly like what I imagined it could be. 

     

    NYFA: What is your favorite course to teach?  

    MH: The thesis screenwriting workshops.

    NYFA: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current students?  

    MH: Keep working. I’ve met very few artistic geniuses, but my own career is a testament to the fact that if you keep pushing, working and revising, you’ll improve.

    NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of teaching?  

    MH: Frequently I’ll be discussing a student’s project, and I’ll have a realization about not only their work, but mine as well. Thanks to the students, I’m constantly learning and improving.

    NYFA: What is most challenging about teaching for you? 

    MH: Finding enough time. I could talk about story development all day, but with less than three hours per class, we have to set timers to get to everyone!

    NYFA: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?  

    MH: “Stick with it. Even if you don’t make it, eventually everyone you know will make it, and you make it by proxy.” I have absolutely found this to be true.

    NYFA: Who has influenced you the most in life?

    MH: My wife Juliane. Her work ethic, morality, and positive attitude inspire me to be a better person.

    NYFA: What creators have influenced you the most? 

    MH: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, David Lynch, Edgar Wright, Colin Meloy, Madeline L’Engle, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Pullman, and Wes Anderson.

    NYFA: What do you do to take a break from work and teaching? 

    MH: Video games, going to restaurants, and hanging out with my family. 

    NYFA: What is an interesting fact about yourself your students and fellow faculty might not know about you?  

    MH: I interviewed Tom Hanks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when I was 15 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was incredibly gracious. I remember shouting out some inane question about Madonna, but he treated me like every other adult journalist there.

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    April 15, 2019 • Digital Editing, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 589

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Grads Attend Industry Pitch Fest Event

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    It was a time of celebration once again as graduating MFA New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held in the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles.  

    A catered event and mingling opportunity for students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrates the New York Film Academy’s graduating Screenwriting students, offering them a unique opportunity to jumpstart their professional development by pitching their Film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals. In addition, a very talented alum of the Screenwriting Department also joined in the event.

    2019 Pitch Fest

    Organized and hosted by Jenni Powell, Ashley Bank, and Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including Monkeypaw, MGM, Practical Magic, Paramount, Automatik, Grandview, and Gulfstream Pictures.

    The exceptional writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructor Ashley Bank in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and other members of the Screenwriting department, preparing and fine tuning their pitches.  

    The students’ dedication and passionate love for their work shone as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had developed for nearly a year. Students left with new contacts, excitement about the scripts they’d worked so hard on, and a sense of what it’s like to meet with industry professionals.  

    Their hard work paid off as the talented and creative students pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, VR, TV and film production executives in a relaxed, roundtable environment.

    “My experience at Pitch Fest was excellent to say the least,” shares David Barbeschi, one of the graduating MFA students at the event. “Nothing like pitching to people who listen to these things as a job to better yourself and see where you stand in the immense LA Film Industry.”

    The New York Film Academy wishes to thank all of the Industry Pitch Fest participants, particularly our industry guests without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA graduates and wish them the best of success as they move forward in their professional journeys!

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    March 12, 2019 • Screenwriting • Views: 999

  • Broadcast Club at New York Film Academy (NYFA) Work the WGA Awards Red Carpet

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailEarlier this February, members of the Broadcast Club at New York Film Academy (NYFA) got to see some Hollywood stars up close and personal on the red carpet at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards. Even better, they got to interview some of them!

    NYFA Broadcast Club WGA Awards 2019
    The Writers Guild of America is the largest guild for Hollywood and industry screenwriters. Along with other major guilds, like the Directors Guild, Producers Guild, and Screen Actors Guild, the WGA gives out a slate of awards during the height of Tinseltown’s Awards Season, with an obvious focus on the scripts and screenplays of the year’s top productions.

    In attendance at the WGA Awards were Broadcast Club president Derek Johnson, II; vice president Eric Alt; PR head Valeriya Mashynets; record keeper Chris Desiderio; and members Anatolii Panchenko and Skylar Duhe.

    The Broadcast Club members got to hone their chops by interviewing celebrities about their craft, including Ed Helms (The Hangover, The Office), as well some of the award winners. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates the Broadcast Club on a job well done! Check out some photos of the students hard at work below!

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    February 22, 2019 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights, Student Life • Views: 385

  • Q&A with NYFA Instructor and ‘Project Blue Book’ Creator David O’Leary

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    On Tuesday, January 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of the pilot episode of Project Blue Book, a new original series from HISTORY (formerly The History Channel) that adapts the real-life US Air Force investigations of UFOs in the 1950s. The screening was followed by a Q&A with creator and former NYFA screenwriting and producing instructor, David O’Leary, moderated by NYFA Producing instructor, Ashley Bank.

    O’Leary is a former development executive who has worked for Bellevue Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, Kopelson Entertainment, Rogue Pictures, Warner Bros., and Industry Entertainment. He is also a producer on two features set for release this year, Parallel for Bron Studios and Eli for Netflix. Additionally, O’Leary is adapting a sci-fi book series for A+E Studios.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    Bank opened up the Q&A by asking about how O’Leary became a writer. He shared that he started his career as an intern at New Line Cinema and decided he was interested in development, so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with a friend at Village Roadshow Pictures. From there, O’Leary worked his way up from the mailroom to assistant jobs and became a development executive, himself, at the age of 28. He realized, however, that his true dream was to be a screenwriter. “I pivoted and I’m a big believer in pivoting,” said O’Leary.

    O’Leary shared that even though he knew he was passionate about becoming a professional writer, that wasn’t enough. “Honestly, I had to get good at being a writer; I was not a very good writer when I made that choice.” He continued, “I think the way that you get better at being a writer is you have to keep writing, but you can’t keep writing in a vacuum; you have to keep showing your work to people and you have to keep getting feedback… you need people you trust to tell you ‘Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and here’s why.’”

    O’Leary added that working as a screenwriting instructor at NYFA required him to be extra knowledgeable about professional screenwriting. “It really forced me to practice what I was preaching,” he said. O’Leary then shared that something that helped him stay positive while he worked toward becoming a successful professional screenwriter was “celebrating small victories” because trying to be successful in the entertainment industry is a long and arduous process and one needs to have stamina to make it all the way to their end goal.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    O’Leary made it clear to the audience that hard work is important but sometimes luck also plays a role in success; with Project Blue Book, “It was sort of the right idea at the right time at a network that was looking to grow and move into scripted series.” The simplest way that O’Leary could sum up the show to pitch it to producers was “X-Files meets Mad Men,” which was a concept that had not really been explored before.

    One of the members of the audience inquired about navigating a narrative based on real events. “Every week we look at a real-life case… so it has that kind of ‘based on true events’ cache,” said O’Leary. “[Lead character] Hynek was a real-life guy; we ended up recruiting both [of] his sons as consultants on the project… I really want the show to be entertaining, but I also want to educate people on this phenomenon.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank former instructor David O’Leary for sharing his experiences and advice for writers as well as details about the development and production of Project Blue Book.

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    February 12, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 838

  • Q&A with ‘A Country Christmas Story’ Filmmakers

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    On Friday, December 14, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of A Country Christmas Story (2013) followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor Eric Bross, and writer and NYFA instructor Steven Peros, moderated by NYFA student, Bakyt Zhumadilova.

    Bross is known for directing Affairs of State (2018), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and Peros is known for writing Footprints (2009), The Undying (2009) and The Cat’s Meow (2001).

    A Country Christmas Story

    Zhumadilova opened the Q&A by asking Peros about his inspiration for the screenplay. Peros said he started by researching the history of country music and its prevalence in the South, then adding layers of complexity to the story by making the protagonist both a child of divorce and biracial within that world. 

    Peros also wanted the film to be about the various characters’ relationships with music and the arts and added that the music teacher in the film was inspired by a teacher he had when he was a kid.

    Zhumadilova inquired about what it was like for Peros to write A Country Christmas Story star Dolly Parton’s lines knowing she was going to be playing herself in the film. “The funny thing about writing her was, I had written this thing… and suddenly I’m on set going, ‘I’m about to meet Dolly Parton!’ Is she gonna come up to me and say, ‘Well, first off, Steven, I don’t talk like that at all,’” joked Peros. “But she didn’t at all! She didn’t want to change anything… so I was somehow channeling my inner Dolly Parton.”

    “I just thought he really captured her voice,” added Bross.

    Peros shared that Parton suggested that she sing instead of just introducing the music contest at the end of the film. “She just kept giving us gifts.” said Bross.

    A Country Christmas Story

    Peros shared that one of the most notable moments of the shoot was when Parton sang in between takes to entertain extras in the audience. “She knew that all those extras who were there pretty much for free… were there for her,” he said. “She never left the stage… she sang ‘Tennessee Waltz’… and it was like a moment out of a movie; one by one, everything started to get silent.”

    The discussion then moved onto producing a film like A Country Christmas Story on a tight shoot schedule and a tight budget. Bross advised filmmakers to keep the frame focused on the actors as much as possible when working with a small budget because sometimes it’s difficult to afford full, dressed sets. This way the story would still be the center of the film.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank A Country Christmas Story filmmakers Eric Bross and Steven Peros for sharing their entertaining anecdotes from the shooting of the film, as well as their production advice for students.


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    January 4, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 728

  • Recent Success For New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen has had a productive 2018. His sitcom screenplay, The Library, recently made the 2nd Round at the 2018 Austin Film Festival. Additionally, it was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest.

    Cohen hails from Decatur, Georgia and is currently based in Brooklyn. He has studied at various institutions across the globe, and has honed his comedy chops at Upright Citizen Brigade, among other theaters and playhouse troupes. 

    In addition to writing and performing, he currently teaches for the Filmmaking school at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus, where he has gained a reputation for being incredibly devoted to both his students and his fellow faculty members. He is also a great role model for the aspiring film school students he teaches, as he balances his position at NYFA with a working career in the film and comedy industry, much like most of the Academy’s experienced, industry-savvy faculty members.

    It’s no surprise then that his script for The Library made it to the 2nd Round of the 2018 Austin Film Festival (AFF). The AFF was founded in 1994 and has a focus on screenwriters, and has had judges from Warner Bros., Pixar, ABC Studios, and Nickelodeon in past years.

    Ben Cohen

    Ben Cohen Hosting 2018 NYFA Emmy Party in NYC

    Cohen’s script was also a finalist for the New York Screenplay Contest, a premiere global screenwriting contest that has introduced numerous talented and unique voices to the industry. Being named as a Finalist or Winner of the contest is a coveted, distinct honor.

    Cohen has remained modest about his recent achievements, telling NYFA, “It’s nice to see my writing get some recognition, but it’s important for folks to know rejection isn’t the negative — it’s the norm.” 

    Expounding on this, he continued, “Much more of your creative life is spent being told that you’re not good enough, but you have to keep writing, and more importantly, keep sharing your writing. I’ve learned to appreciate the good days (like this one) and just keep going. It helps to care about other things. My students know I’m just as happy to talk sports or Bowie as I am to talk about writing.”

    Additionally, Cohen was recently featured in a PBS Documentary produced by NYFA alum Ashton Brooks, and he plans to continue writing and pursuing gigs in the industry. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking instructor Ben Cohen on his recent successes and looks forward to those still yet to come! Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail