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  • Hollywood Stunt-Coordinator and AD Discusses His Craft at NYFA

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    andy armstrong

    Last week, the New York Film Academy welcomed seasoned Hollywood stunt-coordinator and Assistant Director, Andy Armstrong. The night began with a screening of Andy’s reel, which included clips of epic action scenes from Season of the Witch, The Amazing Spiderman, Thor, The Green Hornet, the remake of Planet of the Apes, Galaxy Quest, Stargate, and Hoffa to name just a few.

    Andy began his film career in 1972, in England and France, as a vehicle stunt performer. Andy’s time was primarily focused on vehicles stunts. In 1973, Andy decided to make use of his organizational skills and become an assistant film director. This proved extremely successful and Andy enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of third, second and eventually first AD to become one of the world’s most highly paid AD’s. This work took him all over the world. Specializing particularly in very large international productions that involved complex, dangerous and logistically difficult stunts and action sequences. From 1973 to 1987, Andy worked as an Assistant Director on more than 70 International Movies. As First Assistant Director, Andy has coordinated and directed some of the largest action sequences ever achieved on many international productions. Andy even directed, wrote and produced his own TV movie, Moonshine Highway (1996).

    armstrong nyfaAs Andy spoke to the students, what quickly became apparent was how incredibly diverse his stunt-coordinating career has been. In Season of the Witch he replicated large-scale battles from the Crusades using only thirty stunt men and CGI techniques. In The Green Hornet he supervised the building of stunt vehicles that would make any car enthusiast’s jaw drop. In The Amazing Spiderman he designed unprecedented aerial stunts, including intricate cable systems strung over New York City streets. One would assume that different stunt coordinators, each with their own specialty, would have been hired to execute such assorted undertakings. However, Andy has proven to be quite the Jack-of-all-trades in the stunt world.

    What was also impressive was the degree of creative input Andy has had with acclaimed directors. During the making of Hoffa, Andy worked closely with director Danny DeVito to design the Teamster riot scenes. They studied the behavior of individuals in a riot and replicated these historic uprisings with twelve hundred extras on set. Andy noted that someone is more likely to sneak up behind you and hit you over the head with a bottle, then they are to duke it out with you face-to-face in a riot. It was this attention to detail that made the teamster riot scenes in Hoffa feel so real.

    Many of the students in attendance that night were actors interested in stunts. Andy’s advice to these students was to become an apprentice to a stunt man/woman or coordinator as soon as possible. He said stunt work is one of those old-fashioned professions for which there is no substitute for real world experience.

    With an action-packed career covering five decades, Andy Armstrong is the definition of a stunt coordinator with real world experience. The kinds of stunts he can create on screen seem to only be limited by his imagination. We can’t wait to see what Andy Armstrong thinks up next.

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    October 28, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 6303

  • 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: 6572