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  • With Diverse Casting on the Rise, Some Question Quotas

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    The cast of EmpirieThere is little doubt that the television landscape drastically changed this past season due to a vast increase in non-Caucasian actor-led shows such as How To Get Away With Murder, Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, Jane The Virgin, and Empire, all of which have done well to phenomenal, especially in the case of Empire, which has increased its audience every week it’s been on the air since debuting in January.

    Casting agents are now seeing a sea change in the demand for non-white actors, which is a complete 180 degree turn from past seasons when talent agents would call up casting directors to ask them to consider using a non-white actor for a role, only to be rejected.

    However, rather than letting the diversification of television play out in an organic, color-blind fashion, many shows have been specifically designating roles as non-white, leading one talent agent to speculate that nearly 50% of the roles in pilots now need to be racially diverse. This has led some to decry the new measures as catering more to quotas than casting the actors that deserve the part the most.

    This change has been most evident in the broadcast drama pilot department as more pilots than ever before have leads that have been written for African-American actors. Meanwhile in the sitcom world, following last year’s breakout success of Black-ish, ABC has two black family pilots in the worlds, including Delores & Jermaine and Uncle Buck, a television adaptation of the 80s comedy feature hit that starred John Candy, with Mike Epps taking over the titular role.

    While this certainly a reversal of fortunes for many young actors fresh out of acting school and part of a trend students at NYFA have certainly been witness to—NBC recently visited the Academy’s Union Square to promote its efforts to hire more diverse talent—some are worried that if many of these shows fail to perform next season, the pendulum of diversity on screen might swing back to a landscape where non-white actors once again will face enormous difficulty in landing television roles.

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    March 25, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4880

  • R.I.P. Sam Simon, Co-Creator of The Simpsons

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    Copyright The Hollywood Reporter

    Copyright The Hollywood Reporter

    Sam Simon, legendary TV writer and producer, has died after a long battle with cancer at the age of 59. His contributions to the television landscape cannot be overstated.

    Simon first started out in TV as a writer and storyboard artist at Filmation Studios before moving to primetime. There he worked as a writer and producer for such groundbreaking shows as Cheers, Taxi, and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. He also executive produced the infant Fox network’s The Tracey Ullman Show, a sketch show that involved intermittent animated shorts starring a yellow-skinned family named the Simpsons.

    The Simpsons proved popular enough for its own primetime half-hour spot, and so in 1989 the landmark sitcom was created by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and Sam Simon. The show went on to become a ginormous part of television and pop culture and still runs today, spouting its own streaming service, fan groups, podcasts, and megatons of merchandise, earning hundreds of millions of dollars for its creators.

    Sam Simon was the showrunner for the show’s important first two seasons and was given writing credit for nine episodes, though his contributions far exceeded that. He is considered by many to have defined many of The Simpsons’ trademark tone, wit and humor. Despite leaving the show in 1993, he has been credited ever since as executive producer and the groundwork he laid for the show remains in its DNA to this day.

    Simon worked in television on a few other shows after The Simpsons, but soon devoted much of his life to charity. He supported PETA, Save The Children, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and his own Sam Simon Foundation, which provided free meals to the hungry and sponsored a traveling animal surgery clinic. Before his death, he announced he would donate his entire fortune to charity.

    Sam Simon won nine Emmys and was part of several legendary TV series. He is mourned by millions—those he touched in a personal way, whether through his charity work or his incomparable contributions to television and pop culture. He will be greatly missed.

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    March 10, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4720

  • Emmys Announce New Rules for TV Awards

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    emmys

    Not content to let the Oscars get all the press, the Academy of Television has announced new rule changes and categories to their award ceremony, shaking up the game for some of the most buzzed about TV shows. The rule changes are a response to a diversifying mediascape as well as rumblings of discontent with perceived loopholes and miscategorization in previous years’ ceremonies.

    Six major rule changes were announced:

    1. The number of series allowed in Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series has been increased from six to seven. This is a response to the greater number of content coming from more and more sources, though seven still may be not enough for some.
    2. The definition of “comedy” and “drama” are no longer based on content, but on running time. Any show over the length of thirty minutes is classified as a drama while any show less than thirty minutes is considered a comedy. This is seen as a blow to hour-long comedies like Orange is the New Black as well as dramas in general, as it expands the competition. Petitions can be submitted to move a show into another category, but it must be approved by an appointed Industry Panel.
    3. The Variety Series category is now split into two—between Outstanding Variety Sketch and Outstanding Variety Talk—to differentiate shows like The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. In effect, this doubles the nominees, and could be a boon to smaller shows in both categories like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Portlandia.
    4. The field of voters in each category’s final round has been expanded and requires voters to watch the content online before submitting their votes.
    5. The definition of a “Guest Actor” has been specified to be actors who appear in less than 50% of a season’s episodes, excluding many shows’ tendencies to have a recurring guest star all season long. Roles such as these would now be considered in Lead or Supporting Actor categories.
    6. “Mini-Series” has been redefined as “Limited Series” and excludes shows whose characters or storylines carry over into subsequent mini-series or seasons. This will affect shows like Sherlock, which are currently considered mini-series, as well as anthology seasoned shows like True Detective and American Horror Story, which fit the new Limited Series parameters.
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    February 24, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4071

  • Acting Advice From Instructor Robert Lipton

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    rob liptonBeing brought up in New York City with a passion for acting, New York Film Academy Acting for Film Instructor Robert Lipton was fortunate enough to have studied with both Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg. Like so many other successful actors in the business, Lee and Stella shaped Lipton as an actor and teacher of the craft. With an extensive list of film, television and theatre credits like Bullit, Die Hard 2, The X-Files, Melrose Place and many more, Lipton’s experience has been a valuable tool for blossoming actors in the classroom.

    “I love working with young people at the Academy — the changes are dramatic and it all happens very quickly,” says Lipton. “I believe great actors don’t happen by accident. They have a method, a technique, a way of working.”

    One of the most important pieces of advice Lipton stresses is not to go out into the “real world” of acting until you are truly ready. Rather, be sure you’ve mastered your craft through student films, small theater performanes, or other independent projects that provide you with real behind the camera experience. The reason being, when you go on auditions without having quite found your comfort zone, casting directors will notice and remember you. This makes it much more difficult when you keep coming across a casting director who has already dismissed you as a talented actor.

    Lipton 60s“I’ve known actors over the years who were talented but didn’t audition well. Most of them have moved on to other careers. It’s unfortunate, but a fact of life,” admits Lipton. “Don’t audition well — don’t get the part.”

    Having been on countless auditions throughout his career, Lipton has gathered this: to have a successful audition an actor must have a technique in place. It will give them confidence in their choices and allow them to become more relaxed and focused.

    While acting is in his blood for life, Lipton’s recent focus has been more toward screenwriting. He’s recently optioned a television series, which is semi-autobiographical, and has another project that he feels can be a success in today’s market. Knowing the material is crucial toward the overall success of the film, and plays hand-in-hand with the actors’ performances.

    “For me, it’s about understanding the material and the character’s relation to it. Most problems come from an actor not getting the logic of a scene and the character’s objective in it. Understanding a character’s overall objective in a script or play helps an actor to find meaningful choices that support the logic of the material.” Another valuable piece of advice that actors and filmmakers alike should understand before going into production.

    It has been a privilege to have Mr. Lipton as a member of our esteemed staff of instructors. It’s artists like Robert Lipton that continue to make the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film Program one of the most sought after institutions for aspiring young actors.

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    February 12, 2015 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 14827

  • Top Ten Reasons Late Night Will Change in September

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    Stephen Colbert10. CBS announced today Stephen Colbert will take over hosting duties of The Late Show for David Letterman on September 8, 2015

    9. It’s still unclear what Colbert’s take on late night will be, but rumors are he’s going to make it more of a variety show

    8. Colbert will follow primetime dramas Scorpion, NCIS: New Orleans, and Madam Secretary, all of which CBS has renewed for second seasons today

    7. Colbert will not be followed by Craig Ferguson, who ironically ended his stint on The Late Late Show the same week The Colbert Report ended

    6. Colbert’s spot will now be filled by The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, originally titled The Minority Report. The Nightly Show premieres next Monday, January 19

    5. English actor, comedian and writer James Corden will take over The Late Late Show on March 23, 2014. Ironically, his hiring was announced a year before Colbert’s premiere date—September 8, 2014

    4. Before Corden officially takes over, The Late Late Show is being guest hosted by a wide variety of celebrities—including Judd Apatow, Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Kunal Nayyar, and Jim Gaffigan

    3. Jay Leno is happily retired and Conan O’Brien’s job is still safe

    2. David Letterman will have his last Late Show on May 20, 2015, ending an era for late night talk shows

    1. Colbert is not expected to do any Top Ten lists, probably because they would seem lazy and anyone making a Top Ten list would just look like they were ripping off the great David Letterman

     

    Do you have another reason? Share it in the comments below!

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    January 12, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4635

  • So How Do You Get a TV Series Off the Ground?

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    dytman

    One of the most crucial steps into the film and television industry for any writer is finding and landing the right agent. It’s one of the first obstacles for any film student, especially after graduation. So, the New York Film Academy was excited to hold an informative Q&A with the Senior VP of Gersh Agency, Jack Dytman. His long list of clients include TV series show-runners, executive producers, story editors, staff writers and feature writers in all aspects of the business. His clients have worked on network and cable television series such as Breaking Bad, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Walking Dead, Desperate Housewives, Castle, Criminal Minds, Hawaii 5-0, Smash, Lie To Me, Frasier, Without A Trace, Law and Order: SVU, X-Files, Alias, Hill Street Blues, Suddenly Susan, Murphy Brown, Boston Legal, Barney Miller, Law and Order, Chicago Hope, NYPD Blue, Married with Children, Carnivale, and more. Numerous clients have been nominated for Emmy Awards, ten clients have received Writers Guild Award nominations, and four have won. In the last five years his clients have received nine Producers Guild Award nominations.

    Given his background, Jack provided much insight into the world of the business. He spoke about the current popularity of television, noting, “I have a long line of feature writers trying to get into television, but TV is different…you need to be able to lay the pipeline for 100-150 episodes. It’s not just three acts and an ending!” He also stated that the people that you may need to pitch to are “smart and have heard everything, so the work needs to be unique.”

    dytman2

    Tova Laiter with Jack Dytman

    One of our students asked Jack the popular question, “How do you get your foot in the door at a network show?” He suggested that, “If you want to get in the door, be a writer’s assistant. If you can’t do that, do something else – sweep if you have to!” Typically it can take up to ten years to develop a writing career for networks, but there are exceptions. One exception he mentioned was the creator of Burn Notice, who had never written for a show. So while it’s rare, it can happen. “You should find your niche and focus on that genre. Understand the networks and cable  – what are they branding? Understanding the difference between ABC, CBS and SHOWTIME is important.”

    While Jack admits it was difficult to predict what shows would become hits, he knew Magnum PI was going to be. However, other shows such as Pushing Daisies simply didn’t catch, even with the top people on board. Then there was Seinfeld, which took about three years to turn into a good show. Go figure.

    Jack also walked our audience through the Development process for TV shows, which was quite telling.

    1. Writer goes to agent with AN IDEA.
    2. If agent says “it’s great” they go to a studio or network.
    3. If it moves forward, they will create or develop a creative team together.
    4. The team will, among other things, BRAND the show. An incredibly important part of network television (each studio and network have branding branches.)
    5. If all goes well, the pilot is picked up once written.
    6. The pilot WILL receive notes, accept them and work with them!
    7. Hopefully pilot gets made, then shown, then repeated.
    8. This process repeats itself annually.

    If you don’t like receiving notes, you’re in the wrong business. Jack stressed the importance of being able to take notes and establishing a relationship with producers and executives. The old cliche about the industry being, “Half about ability and half about like-ability,” is true. “A lot of it is about relationships – you have to network constantly.” He closed with these words of advice, “Have someone refer you when trying to get your work out there.”

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    August 1, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 6819

  • New York Film Academy’s Silu Yu Shines In China

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    Silu YuActress Silu Yu (余思潞) has found success after finishing New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Acting program in New York City. She explains, “After graduating in 2009 from NYFA, I moved to Los Angeles for work. I got my talent agent after an audition and I was very lucky to been approved by the SAG union after working three months. Due to family reasons, I moved back to China in 2010 and was signed by Star Shining International Talent Agency through a friend, one of the top talent agencies in China, and started the first steps in my acting career in China.”

    Since then, Silu landed a role in the big-budget Chinese feature film Scheme With Me. She is also currently in production on 30 episodes of the television program Shanghai Forest. The young actress has a hectic schedule, going from the set, to media interviews, as well as doing promotion for her recently-completed film.

    In an interview via email, Silu explained the difficulties of working in the film industry in China. “In Hollywood, the camera speaks for you,” said the actress. “The talent agency selects the idea candidates who may match the characters then you still need to go through an official audition to get the role. In China, you not only need an audition but also need a personal network and relationships.”
    “I really enjoyed myself a lot while I studied at NYFA!” said Silu. “Due to the culture and language difference, it took time for adjusting to others. I learned during this adjustment period and the lessons taught me so much about myself. Don’t lose confidence or question your appearance and flaws. A real artist will affect the audience with her soul and spirit, not just simply her looks.”

    Silu went on to share her thoughts on acting. “People always say that a good actor must be good at lying, but I think a good liar is not really a good actor. A real professional actor is performing the truth even truer than the truth. If an actor couldn’t believe the situation himself, how could he persuade the audience?  Being actors, we need to feel it from our hearts and make an authentic performance for the audience. So, don’t think we are liars!”

    Chinese readers can keep up with Silu’s growing success on Baidu and her official fan site.

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    March 14, 2012 • Acting • Views: 5990

  • 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: 2221

  • New York Film Academy’s Crystle Stewart On Her Way With Tyler Perry

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    Crystle StewartActing for Film graduate Crystle Stewart has kept a busy schedule since her recent graduation. She stars on the TBS show For Better or Worse, which was just picked up for another 35 episodes. Last year, it was named basic cable’s #1 sitcom, and was the most-watched show on any network for African-American adults.

    Crystle is a former pageant winner, claiming the title of Miss Texas USA before winning Miss USA 2008. She went on to represent the US in the Miss Universe competition. Soon after, she decided to pursue a career in acting by studying at New York Film Academy. In a phone interview, Crystle said, “I wanted to give it a try and decided to move to Los Angeles. I really enjoyed it. The teachers were fantastic! To me, you either have experience or you get an education. New York Film Academy totally prepared me for my role.”

    Crystle landed the role after a chance meeting with Tyler Perry. “I was eating at a restaurant in Beverly Hills and he came in. My boyfriend introduced me and Tyler said, ‘Have a seat. Are you an actress?’ The next day, I got a call from his casting director!”

    She soon booked the part of Leslie on For Better or Worse. She explains, “I love the character. She’s the peacemaker on the show. I’m more the mellow person that calms everyone down. I speak the truth to them, even if they don’t want to hear it. It’s more of a drama, but it’s not Tyler Perry if there’s not some comedy thrown in!”

    Crystle also had a small role in the film Good Deeds, which is currently in theaters. She spoke glowingly about working with the stellar cast that included Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Rebecca Romijn, and Gabrielle Union.

    After news that the show was renewed, Crystle says she is ready to get back to business. “I’ve never been so excited to go back to work!” she said. “We start shooting this month and new episodes should be airing in the fall.”

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    March 7, 2012 • #WomenOfNYFA, Acting, Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6999

  • New York Film Academy Cinematography Graduate Shoots in Singapore

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    Thirty Second [NYFA Commercial] from Michael Zaw on Vimeo.

    New York Film Academy graduate Michael Zaw is actively working in the Singapore television industry as a Director of Cinematography. Since graduating from the January 2011 one-year cinematography course in New York, Michael has worked for the History Channel, Crime and Investigation Channel, Channel News Asia, and Singapore Local Channels.

    Michael says that formal training helped him to distinguish the choices he can make in filmmaking and the differences between techniques and elements. He adds, “I am proud that I was in NYFA…I miss NYFA and NY very very much. I kept in touch with all my classmates, I love them so much.”

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    February 9, 2012 • Acting • Views: 5407