Tova Laiter
Posts

  • NYFA Welcomes Actor & Director Mark Webber to ‘Q&A-List’ Guest Speaker Series

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) was excited to host a virtual Q&A with actor and director Mark Webber to discuss directing his latest film The Place of No Words with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of NYFA’s Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Webber has been nominated for multiple awards for directing and acting. He is known for roles in films such as Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, A24’s Green Room, Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, and more. He has also come into his own as a fully-fledged director with his fifth film as director, The Place of No Words, receiving ‘Best Film’ at the Giffoni Film Festival and nominations at Tribeca Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, and the Philadelphia Film Festival.

    Webber’s unique, realistic approach to authentic storytelling began with his first feature, Explicit Ills, where he used elements from his real life and included family members in his cast. He has since cast all his movies that way.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Mark Webber (Right) for NYFA’s Q&A List

    Webber, who shared he was happy to be talking online with NYFA’s students, recalled his upbringing with his teenage single mother and growing up homeless, citing that as a filmmaker he benefited from how he was raised as it allowed him to connect with different groups of people in the community. “These are the things I care about most in my life and I know how grateful I am to be in this position [an actor/director] because I know how vapid the industry can be.”

    The NYFA students and Laiter praised Webber for his recent film and asked him multiple questions about directing, his original filmmaking style, and honing his craft. “I started this process called ‘reality cinema.’ After screening my previous film, The End of Love at Sundance, I felt like I really found my voice. I am particularly fascinated by realism and acting in my own films. I paralleled a moment in the film where I cast my real father, who I hadn’t seen in years, in a scene where we meet face-to-face in real-time. It is deeply fulfilling to get to work on things with people you love.”

    Still from ‘The Place of No Words’ – Mark Webber (Left) and Bodhi Palmer (Right)

    The Place of No Words, in which a three-year-old (played by his son Bodhi Palmer) take a fantastical journey into the wood, to grapples with his father’s (Webber) terminal illness – something he cannot make sense of in real-world terms. his wife, Australian actress Teresa Palmer plays the mother- a real family affair.

    Laiter, who remarked how incredible Bodhi was in the film, asked Webber about directing and being a dad at the same time while on set and working alongside his family. “I can never stop being a dad. I have my dad hat on at all times and Bodhi’s emotional well-being and safety is the top priority for me,” he shared. “Some of the scenes, we would shoot as improv. There are moments of takes with that spontaneity anchored in the framework of the context of the story, so it allows for these moments that feel so authentic and so real take place in this film.”

    The film, part real and part fantasy, creates a colorful world for a child to begin to understand the biggest question of all, “Where do we go when we die?” Webber explained that he wanted the fantasy elements to still feel like reality. “I wanted it to honor the way I see my child’s mind working. So many of the fantasy elements there are from stories that Bodhi and I would tell each other and from stories I tell my own children.”

    Webber’s film pays off, being hailed by the likes of Variety and The New York Times calling it “sweet and personal.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actor and director Mark Webber for sharing his directing experience with NYFA students and alumni and encourages everyone to check out his beautiful and emotionally rich film, The Place of No Words, now available to watch on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and other streaming service providers.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    October 28, 2020 • Acting • Views: 333

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Die Hart’ Actress Nathalie Emmanuel for “The Q&A-List Series”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On October 15, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with acclaimed actress Nathalie Emmanuel to discuss the acting craft and her latest project Die Hart (now streaming on Quibi) with NYFA students. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Nathalie Emmanuel is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after English actresses and well-known to many as ‘Missandei’ in the critically acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones. Emmanuel can now be seen in Quibi’s comedic series Die Hart, starring alongside Kevin Hart and John Travolta. The actress was recently seen in Hulu’s romantic comedy series Four Weddings and a Funeral and made her US feature film debut with the wildly popular Fast & Furious and is expected to appear in the ninth installment, F9.

    Emmanuel has also been heard as the voice of Deet in Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and starred in 20th Century Fox’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. Emmanuel is also set to star in Josh Friedlander’s directorial debut Holly Slept Over, alongside Ron Livingston, Josh Lawson and Britt Lower.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Nathalie Emmanuel (Right) for NYFA’s The Q&A-List

    Laiter began the conversation with the Die Hart actress by asking about how she started in the business. Stating she was a shy kid growing up, Emmanuel remarked how she got into the arts as a fun hobby until she finally got her big break on British TV show Hollyoaks.

    Now Emmanuel is known all over the globe and her most recent project, Die Hart, is the latest comedy from bite-size content streaming provider Quibi. Laiter, who also has experience with Quibi for the reboot of Varsity Blues, asked Emmanuel about her experience shooting the show and the unique breakdown of each episode. “It was a four week shoot and we shot based on where we were and what we could get and it can be quite challenging shooting out of sequence, but the script was so great I remember leaving it and laughing so much and my character was such a fun challenge for me.”

    Nathalie Emmanuel and Kevin Hart in ‘Die Hart’ (Quibi)

    The discussion then opened to questions with one student asking Emmanuel about what she looks for in a script when deciding on a role. “I look for the challenges and aspects of the character that I can relate to,” she began. “As a woman and as a woman of color, I want to ask myself ‘what else can I bring to this?’ It’s also interesting to play people who are complex and when there is variety in the character’s journey.”

    Speaking of characters, Emmanuel shared with the audience some advice on how to further connect with their characters if they are feeling stuck. “Sometimes my character can be inspired by music or it’s as simple as putting on your character’s clothing, but it depends on the part and sometimes the day. Once I am sure I really understand the scene and what I am about to do, the character’s world and the people around them, then it helps me connect to my character quicker.”

    Nathalie Emmanuel in ‘The Fate of The Furious’ (Universal Pictures)

    When building out her characters, Emmanuel shared that the process is different each time depending on the story and motivation of her character. “It really depends on the story. My character is a badass in Game of Thrones, but in a different way from my character in Fast & Furious is,” she recalled. “I would just try to prepare the character and identify all their qualities and flaws. I try to treat each character as an individual person and focus on their actions and what they do.”

    Emmanuel also encouraged students who are making the move in the industry to have a solid support system nearby. “I’ve had to work hard at positive affirmation. I have control over the things that I can control in my career and there is a confidence that comes with that,” she shared. “You have to give yourself time though. Things won’t happen at the speed like someone else.”

    Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei in ‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO)

    Students were also able to ask Emmanuel about getting the part of her most iconic role, Missandei on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Emmanuel joked that she kept harassing her agent about to find a role to audition for on the show.

    After landing the role and winning over audiences everywhere, Emmanuel remarked that her favorite director on the series, Mark Mylod, was outstanding at making everything comfortable on set for an intimate scene with fellow actor Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm). “Mark took the best care of us and gave us his ideas and would allow us to provide feedback. He was so respectful and so wonderful and just helped us bring out the beauty of that scene to where we felt like we just earned this moment.”

    When working with directors, Emmanuel shared that she likes it when she can get direct feedback, even if it’s criticism. “As long as people are respectful to me when giving a note, I am fine with it,” she elaborated. “When it is laid out in a clear way, even if it’s negative, they [the director] are allowed to do that. Sometimes, you just have to work stuff out, get frustrated, and work through it.”

    Nathalie Emmanuel in ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ (20th Century Fox)

    At the end of the discussion, Laiter thanked Emmanuel for taking the time to speak with NYFA students and giving them insight into getting into character and working on set. “It was my pleasure honestly,” replied Emmanuel. “When I had seen the amazing talent of the people who have been on this series [Q&A-List], I was flattered to be here. I also get so excited about the talent that’s coming into the industry; you guys [NYFA students] are going to take hold of that whole shift that is happening.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actress Nathalie Emmanuel for taking the time to speak with the NYFA community and invite the actress to come back in the future as many times as she wants!

    Nathalie Emmanuel can be seen in Quibi’s Die Hart, now available to stream by downloading the Quibi app in the app store or through Quibi.com.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    October 20, 2020 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 279

  • NYFA Welcomes Filmmaking Alum and Director Antonio Campos for ‘The Q&A-List Series’

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On September 29, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with writer/director and NYFA Filmmaking alum Antonio Campos to discuss his latest hit movie on Netflix’s The Devil All The Time with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Antonio Campos’ other notable feature directing credits include the Sundance sensations Christine, starring Rebecca Hall, and Simon Killer, starring Brady Corbet. His debut feature Afterschool premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Caméra d’Or and Un Certain Regard awards. In television, he directed the pilot of the USA Emmy-nominated series The Sinner and served as an Executive Producer for the first season of the anthology series. He has other credits both in Film and TV as producer.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Antonio Campos (Right) for the NYFA Q&A-List Series

    Laiter opened the discussion with the NYFA alum by asking him about how he first got into filmmaking “I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker for a long time and it really started at New York Film Academy,” remembered Campos. He shared a humorous account of how he was too young (13!) to take classes so he posed as a 16 year old so he could take a 6-Week Filmmaking course at NYFA.

    “For six weeks I was living this other reality and my parents were comfortable with me staying up late to edit,” he joked. “My first short film I did at NYFA called Puberty and I remember this moment where I was so nervous to watch the film with an audience that I stayed in the projection room, and I didn’t know how people were reacting. Afterwards, I saw my father crying because he was so proud and it was validation and support that I could feel, so it’s one of the most important moments for me as a filmmaker.”

    Antonio Campos (Left) and Rebecca Hall at ‘Christine’ screening (Photo Credit: Variety)

    Campos then rooted himself in the indie film world, solidifying himself with hits like Martha Marcy May Marlene, which he produced, along with Afterschool and Christine, which he directed. “I made Christine and, in a lot of ways, it led me to getting The Sinner. That became a success and changed the perception of me as someone who can make things work beyond the art house. That’s just patience and letting things organically happen.” To the question of what contributed the most to the success of the movie, he attributed it to the fact that he always takes his time with the script, even if everyone else is impatient. That’s why it takes him four years between movies but ultimately, they get the response he intended them to have.

    Laiter then asked Campos to share more on the making of his hit film The Devil All The Time, which Campos adapted from the original novel and co-wrote with his brother. “The characters felt familiar, but also specific in how he [the author] was rendering the characters and getting into their heads to go to these places with awful people,” revealed Campos.

    Antonio Campos shooting ‘The Devil All The Time’ (Photo Credit: Netflix)

    “It’s an interesting movie to have gotten the wide reception it has. It’s a very disruptive film emotionally. When I talk about the movie, it should feel like you are breathless for two and a half hours until you get in the car with Arvin and then you can catch your breath,” explained Campos.

    With The Devil All The Time boasting a star-studded cast with the likes of Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, and more, one audience member asked Campos how he selects actors for his projects. “I like actors that take big swings and make strong choices, along with actors with distinct faces,” he replied. “I ask myself, ‘how do I feel when I meet them,’ because I will be spending a lot of time with them.”

    Antonio Campos (Left) with Robert Pattinson (Right) on set for ‘The Devil All The Time’ (Photo Credit: Netflix)

    Campos also reminded the directors in the audience to “always make your actors feel seen and heard” and reminded the actors in the audience to communicate with other actors on what they need and that a good actor “likes to be around other actors and feed off that energy.”

    With a stacked cast of celebrity actors in his own film, Campos shared that, regardless of star power, his film is, ultimately, character-driven and was “calibrated between people who were more well-known with other character actors or people you may have never seen before.” When it came to casting his film, he shared that he “knew that this film was very different for how we were approaching characters,” and it required the balance of both known and unknown performers, all of whom shine in this ensemble film.

    In one of the last questions of the night, one student asked for tips on how NYFA students can make the jump from student to a seasoned professional in the industry. Campos had this to share with the audience:

    “Everyone’s career is different and times out differently. Always expect that things may take longer than you expect, but keep your network of friends and collaborators close. In my case, it was about being open to getting involved with other filmmakers and their processes to make their movies. Keep making short films before you make your feature. Always try and be working. Short films are such a safe place to make mistakes and learn. Put yourself out there and submit to every film festival and embrace the networking aspect of being a filmmaker. You can be the most talented filmmaker in the world, but if you cannot convey your film into concrete terms, people will not be able to understand your vision.”

    Antonio Campos (Left) with the cast of his film ‘Afterschool’ at NYFF (Photo Credit: Godlis)

    As for what’s next for Campos, the writer-director reveals that he is adapting a comedy piece, as well as a new drama series starring Hollywood heavyweight Harrison Ford. “It’s called The Staircase, based on the documentary on novelist Michael Peterson,” he shared. “I’ve been working on it in some capacity for ten years and it never quite worked as a feature, so now it is going to be a series and it’s set up with HBO Max.”

    Campos closed the conversation by thanking Laiter for the enjoyable discussion and wished NYFA’s next generation of filmmakers the best of luck for their future projects.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank director and NYFA alum Antonio Campos for sharing his time and filmmaking experience with NYFA students and alumni, and looks forward to his upcoming projects including The Staircase.

    To watch Campos’ recent film, The Devil All The Time, the film is available to stream here on Netflix.

    To hear the full conversation, click the video below our watch on our YouTube channel here.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    October 1, 2020 • Acting • Views: 517

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Manager and Producer Risa Shapiro for ‘The Q&A-List Series’

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with manager and producer Risa Shapiro, where Shapiro shared her career expertise with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Risa Shapiro began her career in the entertainment business at The William Morris Agency in New York in 1981. She helped discover and cultivate the careers of such stars as Julia Roberts, Jennifer Connelly, Rosie O’Donnell, David Duchovny, Andie MacDowell and many more. In 1991, Shapiro left William Morris to join the ICM agency, where she continued to thrive as one of the most powerful female agents in the industry. In 2008, she decided to pursue management and production.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Risa Shapiro (Right) for NYFA’s Q&A-List

    As a manager, Shapiro continues to represent Cher, Jennifer Connelly, Heather Graham, Steven McQueen, Christian Madsen, and many others. She co-financed Saw (2004), was an executive producer on Burlesque (2011), and produced the television movies Dear Mom, Love Cher (2013) for Lifetime and Love At First Glance (2017) for the Hallmark Channel.

    Laiter opened up the discussion by recalling how, when Laiter was working as Co-President at Imagine Entertainment, Shapiro was just introducing the world her new upcoming client, Julia Roberts, who because her brother was already famous, “knew her way around the set and knew what actors were like and I knew she will go places and signed her,” remembered Shapiro.

    Laiter then commented how Shapiro has such a keen eye for talent and asked whether she was born with it, or if it was something learned. Shapiro explained that it’s something you develop over time and it’s about loving actors and the movies. From there, she explained, it’s about “finding those roles [for your actor] that you can then show to the next director, and the next director, and the next one to get them (the clients) to that next big role.”

    Film poster for ‘Burlesque’ (Produced by Risa Shapiro)

    As for the role of a Manager vs Agent, (and she was both) Shapiro explained that, in her role as a Manager, she is charged with being the point person to help guide her client’s career but an agent has most of the information from staff meetings so the ideal is to have both. She then shared a time when she received a producer credit on Burlesque without even pursuing one because, ultimately, the director knew that Shapiro was the reason that Cher [her client] remained there shooting the film and was a huge comfort for the actress.

    Shapiro explained that one of the biggest challenges actors are facing now in the business is competition. She shared that, due to the high volume of talent and availability, actors have to “be really great these days,” and reminded NYFA students: “You’re not going to do a great job on your own. You have to stay in class and you have to get a coach.”

    (Left to Right) Producer Donald De Line, restaurateur Victor Drai and executive producer Risa Shapiro

    A student then asked about how someone would go about finding an agent if they are new in the business and Shapiro had this advice to share:

    “Put together a reel you are proud of and just remember: People in the entertainment business have a short attention span, so don’t make it too long. Then, go online and find the names of managers and agents and make sure they are relatively young and send material on yourself to them (your picture, resume, reel, where you went to school, etc).”

    Laiter then added “make friends with the assistants of those people,” to which Shapiro agreed, noting that you should always get to know the people around the point person you are trying to reach when finding an agent. Laiter and Shapiro also suggested that actors and others should invest in IMDBPro so they can keep up with who represents who in the industry.

    Another student looking for advice from Shapiro asked, if they have other talents other than acting, whether they should begin looking for representation as an actor first, rather than for all the other disciplines.. “Don’t be spread too thin,” Shapiro replied. “Try and get an agent as an actor and then branch out. When you work on a set as an actor, you’re going to meet people that will help you in other areas later on.”

    Shapiro closed the conversation by encouraging students to create using the resources they have today. “People in the industry today can make a movie by themselves on their computer. You could write and star in your own movie, but always have something to show people that will make others impressed.” Laiter agreed and added, “use this time in school to do the best short, broadcast segment or project that you can be proud of.”

    Actors Amy Smart and Adrian Grenier in ‘Love at First Glance’ (Produced by Risa Shapiro)

    Laiter closed the conversation by thanking Shapiro for sharing her time and vast knowledge of the business side of the movie industry.Shapiro expressed her enjoyment of the conversation and wished NYFA’s students the best of luck in their future endeavours.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Manager and Producer Risa Shapiro for sharing her time and expertise with students and alumni looking to explore the business side of the film industry as actors, filmmakers, producers, and more.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    August 28, 2020 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 535

  • Award-Winning Actor Alec Baldwin Holds Live Q&A on Acting Technique for NYFA Students

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with award-winning and celebrated actor Alec Baldwin to discuss the acting craft with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Alec Baldwin has received a Tony nomination for his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, a supporting actor nomination at the Oscars for The Cooler (2004), and he has won three Emmy awards, three Golden Globes and seven consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards for ‘Best Actor in a Comedy Series’ for his role as Jack Donaghy on NBC-TV’s 30 Rock.

    Tina Fey (Left) and Alec Baldwin (Right) pose with their SAG Awards for ‘30 Rock’

    Baldwin’s filmography also includes the critically acclaimed film The Hunt for Red October, for which NYFA’s Founder, Jerry Sherlock, was Executive Producer, as well as Glengarry Glen Ross, It’s Complicated, The Departed, Pearl Harbor, Blue Jasmine, Still Alice, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and many more.

    More recently, Baldwin has gained critical acclaim and popularity surrounding his portrayal of President Donald Trump for Saturday Night Live, joining the cast regularly for ongoing appearances as the 45th President.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Alec Baldwin (Right) for The NYFA Q&A Series

    Laiter began the Q&A by asking Baldwin about his successful career and finding his place in Hollywood. “In the beginning, you have a boyish gratitude [on set], similar to being a guest in someone’s house,” he began, “everyone on the set knows more than you, but that changes later on when you are on a film and someone says something to you and you go ‘no, I think it’s this,’ as you begin to understand what will make a scene work.”

    The conversation then switched to Baldwin’s successful career as not only a dramatic actor, but a comedic performer, where Laiter brought up Baldwin’s hilarious and well-timed character Jack Donaghy on NBC’s critically acclaimed TV series 30 Rock. “The show, to me, is one of the ultimate examples of me being the beneficiary of very good writing,” he shares. “The writing was the best I had ever seen in terms of comedy and it was natural to me.”

    Baldwin on set for Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’

    One student asked Baldwin about how he chooses the right script as an actor. Baldwin responded: “I try to decide ‘is this movie a movie I want to make or I want to see?’ Then, I look at my character. I’ve played parts where my character wasn’t the biggest role or well-served in terms of page count, but there was an opportunity to me where I could see that character having an impact on that film.” When it comes to looking at a script, Baldwin explains that it’s about the quality of storytelling and the impact of your character that matters.

    Another student asked Baldwin about what it can be like for an actor when giving a performance in a film versus acting in television series.

    Baldwin as President Donald Trump for ‘Saturday Night Live’

    “Moviemaking is intense because you have to narrow everything down to what is worthwhile and what works,” he shares. “Television allows for more time to spread your character arc or story along. There is more complexity involved because there is more time. If not in this episode then in the next…”

    To the question of whether one should try everything or stick to the one that already works, Baldwin recommended that when you are just starting out and you are young, to try everything to become the actor you can be and want to be, Baldwin reminded students that it isn’t just about finding an agent, “making it,” or getting everything “right” after studying acting: “Join a rep company. Do as many shows as you can. Do as many roles as you can off the beaten path so you can make your mistakes under the radar before you get typecast.”

    Steve Martin (Left) and Alec Baldwin (Right) host the 82nd Academy Awards

    Baldwin also provided profound advice to students when auditioning for a role. “Remember they asked you there.” He explains that it can be easy to go into an audition with a “people pleasing attitude,” but “they want what you have; they invited you to come to audition and they need you. You are a professional and they are looking for someone to play a part, and you give everything you’ve got in the audition. Once you walk into the room and realize no one is doing anybody any favors, it’s business, and you’re a part of that business, then everything is going to change for you.”

    Baldwin closed the conversation by thanking Laiter for the conversation and the students for their time, and expressed that he hoped his words were helpful to those looking at a career in acting.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the talented Alec Baldwin for sharing his time and acting experience with NYFA students and alumni.

    To listen to the full conversation, click the video below or check it out on our YouTube channel here.

    podcast

     

     

     

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    July 27, 2020 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 527

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Acclaimed ‘American Beauty’ Actress Mena Suvari for The NYFA Q&A Series

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Tuesday, July 14, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to hold a live video Q&A with critically acclaimed actress MENA SUVARI to discuss her acting career with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Mena Suvari is an award winning actress known for her roles in hits such as American Pie (1999) and the five-time Oscar-awarded American Beauty (1999). Directed by Sam Mendes, her genuine and moving performance as the character Angeles Hayes in American Beauty earned her a ‘Best Supporting Actress’ nod by BAFTA and a SAG Award for ‘Best Ensemble Cast.’ Suvari also won a Movieline Award for ‘Breakthrough Performance’ for her role.

    Following the success of American Pie, she reunited with Jason Biggs in Amy Heckerling’s romantic comedy Loser (2000) and continued to show her acting range in projects like Jonas Åkerlund’s cult-classic Spun (2002), Rob Reiner’s Rumor Has It (2005), Tony Scott’s Domino (2005), and Factory Girl (2006), amongst others.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Mena Suvari (Right) during live Q&A

    Laiter opened the conversation by discussing Suvari’s career in the entertainment industry, which began with Suvari booking modeling and commercial jobs, which then turned into guest star roles on television. After booking her first film, Nowhere (1997), other indie film gigs soon opened up for the actress, eventually leading her to her biggest break yet, a lead role in the cult-classic, blockbuster film American Pie.

    Suvari recalls the audition for high school chorus student Heather being very relaxed and not as intense as her audition for American Beauty. After shooting American Pie, Suvari remembers going into film Sam Mendes’ heavily awarded film American Beauty, playing a more dramatic role as Angela Hayes, known for her iconic, risqué rose petal scenes throughout the film.

    “I honestly remember thinking, at the time, ‘I’m so happy to have a job’ not necessarily the big names around me and they [American Pie and American Beauty] saved me at the time during a very personally challenging moment in my life.”

    Kevin Spacey (Left) and Mena Suvari (Right) in ‘American Beauty’

    Suvari, who has experienced shooting some intimate scenes across her filmography, also touched on what it can be like for actors on set when filming a very sensual or more explicit scene.

    “It can definitely be awkward sometimes,” she laughs, “I have worked in all types of scenarios, but when you are shooting intimate scenes you want to keep the crew as small as possible and make everything feel very considerate.” For American Beauty, Suvari recalls everything being handled very professionally and carefully and remembers that Mendes was “very supportive” throughout the process.

    Mena Suvari in ‘American Pie’ (1999)

    A student then asked Suvari how she personally gets into approaching a role when reading a script. “It depends on the project,” she shared. “I am currently working on a project now, for example, where there is a tight family dynamic and I am trying to understand where the characters are coming from and their motivations.”

    Ultimately, Suvari explains, approaching a script is really about collaboration, as well. “I want to approach the writer, the director, and whoever I can to understand the genesis of the story and what it means to them, and ask as many questions as I can.”

    Mena Suvari (Left) and Alicia Silverstone (Right) in ‘American Woman’

    Suvari closed the conversation, by sharing some advice with NYFA students that has always stuck with her throughout her career while she was shooting Orpheus in 2007. “It was something that you think would be so simple, but the director [Bruce Beresford] just said ‘listen, listen listen,’ which can be tricky if you think about it, because you already know the script and what will happen because you are familiar with everything, but you need to be as present as possible in the moment.”

    Laiter then thanked Suvari for joining the conversation and giving students some excellent insight for their future productions in front of the camera or for those directing actors, while Suvari exclaimed she was so happy to be part of the conversation and to speak with the students.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actress Mena Suvari for sharing her time and her experiences working on set from being a young actress to a seasoned performer. NYFA encourages everyone to check out Suvari’s upcoming film Grace and Grit, set to release later in 2020.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    July 15, 2020 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 568

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Director Tânia Cypriano and NYFA Student Jude Washock for a Q&A on Groundbreaking Documentary ‘Born to Be’

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a live video Q&A with the talented documentary filmmaker Tânia Cypriano to discuss her much admired and trailblazing documentary film Born to Be. Cypriano was also joined in conversation by NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory student, and consultant for the film, Jude Washock. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Director Tânia Cypriano has been working between her home country of Brazil and the United States for over thirty years. Her films and videos have won international awards including ‘Best Documentary’ at Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino in New York, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, and Fespaco in Burkina Faso. Her work has been shown in the world’s most prestigious institutions including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Hong Kong Arts Center, the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival.

    (Clockwise) Tova Laiter, Tânia Cypriano, and Jude Washock for Q&A Series

    Her television credits include documentaries for PBS, the History Channel, NHK in Japan, GNT in Brazil and Channel 4 in England. Cypriano has co-organized a series of films with the MoMA, the Anthology Film Archives, Exit Art, the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, and the Grazer Kunstverein in Austria. She has also previously worked on productions for Bill Moyers, Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones and Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

    Dr. Ting walks with one his patients in the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery wing of Mount Sinai Hospital (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano’s latest documentary, Born to Be, follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City —where, for the first time ever, all transgender and non-binary people can have access to quality transition-related health and surgical care. The film received critical acclaim upon its original release in the 2019 festival circuit and was hailed by Variety as “a lively and moving documentary,” and “a film that distinguishes itself with a sensitive, human portrait” by Hollywood Reporter.

    A patient awaiting consultation from Dr. Ting (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano remembers wanting to make this documentary after hearing about the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York from her producer, noting it was “a historical moment for New York City, and also for healthcare.” After deciding she wanted to do this documentary, Cypriano recalls staying in the clinic and documenting the surgeries with the crew, noting how many of the characters in the film “understood the importance of that moment [of filming] because these surgeries were just made available, and the importance of them was so great to the [transgender] community.”

    Washock, a SAG-AFTRA member and NYFA student who served as a consultant for the film, explained that his role was “to ensure that the stories being told by the characters, who were receiving surgery, were portrayed in a humane way and were not damaging or exploitive.” Consultants like Washock are especially important for documentary filmmakers so they can ensure they do the subject matter, and story, justice.

    Dr. Ting posing with one of his patients (‘Born to Be’)

    One student asked Cypriano how she was able to compose herself during the documentary shoot. “It was a tough one,” she recalls, “I think that is why I chose to live outside of my family because it was emotionally draining, but nothing compares to what I imagine Dr. Ting goes through because he is over there listening to those stories everyday.”

    Film poster for ‘Born to Be’

    In addition to discussing the film, Cypriano also encouraged NYFA students to tell stories because they can. “You have to put yourself out there, work hard, be patient, and persevere. If you hang in there, you can do it.” Washock, who got involved in the project just by talking to Cypriano at an event added, “put yourself out there and have conversations with people and just talk, you would be surprised.”

    Washock also encouraged students in the New York City area to look into volunteering or becoming a member at IFP (Independent Filmmakers Project), where Washock praised his experience there networking and attending informative panels.

    Cypriano thanked Laiter and the NYFA students for joining the call and also extended gratitude to NYFA student Jude Washock for joining the conversation.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the talented Tânia Cypriano for sharing her time and expertise with the students and NYFA Acting for Film student Jude Washock for sharing his experience as a consultant on Born to Be. NYFA also encourages everyone to keep an eye out for the forthcoming theatrical and streaming release of the film.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Golden Globe Nominated Actress Beanie Feldstein

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Monday, May 11, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure of hosting a live video Q&A with Golden Globe American actress Beanie Feldstein on the occasion of the national release of her latest film How to Build a Girl, in which she has a starring role. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Beanie Feldstein grew up with a love of theatre and the arts, which led her to pursue musical theatre and eventually a career in acting. “I was obsessed with musicals,” she tells Laiter. “It was all I ever wanted to do [to perform]. I did community theatre my whole upbringing.” After her senior year of college studying Sociology, Feldstein decided to begin auditioning for acting roles and eventually landed her first speaking role on Orange is the New Black in 2015 followed by Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Female Brain, and the HBO pilot for The Devil You Know; launching Felstein’s screen actor career.

    Tova Laiter & Beanie Feldstein discuss Feldstein’s prep for her latest film ‘How to Build a Girl’

    Feldstein’s SAG nominated performance in Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-worthy Lady Bird that Feldstein cemented her rise to prominence. That same year, she starred as Minnie Fay in the Broadway revival of Hello Dolly! alongside Feldstein’s hero and Broadway legend, Bette Midler. The musical went on to receive a Tony Award for “Best Revival of a Musical” and Feldstein received critical acclaim for her performance on the live stage.

    Feldstein was then cast in the highly anticipated film Booksmart, which served as actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut and Feldstein’s first role with top billing. The role earned her a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” and the film went on to win the 2020 Independent Spirit Award for “Best First Feature.”

    Beanie Feldstein as Johanna Morrigan in ‘How to Build a Girl’

    Following a screening of the film’s trailer, Laiter opened up the Q&A by commenting on how Feldstein was able to nail her British accent and asked her how she first came to be involved with the production.

    Feldstein read the script for the film while she was still performing onstage for Hello Dolly!. As she read the script, Feldstein recalls that she couldn’t help but feel that she knew this character. “She loves the world, she loves to write, she really is a giving and imaginative spirit, and I just knew her even though I grew up in Los Angeles and was born in the ‘90s. Caitlin’s writing is so deeply felt and it sparkles.” When Feldstein called her agent back, she remembers telling him, “I’ve never been more scared of anything in my life, ever, but I HAVE to try.”

    After co-starring with Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart, Feldstein remembers being really nervous and excited all at once for landing the starring role and leading the entire cast for How to Build a Girl. “I thought, ‘What do I want the crew and the cast and Coky [Giedroyc] to remember me by?’ Then I remembered I’d rather be kind than good in a scene.”

    Saorise Ronan (left) and Beanie Feldstein (right) in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Ladybird’

    A filmmaking student then asked Feldstein how directors can better work with their actors when on set, to which Feldstein responded, “the greatest gift all of the beautiful and incredible directors that I have worked with have given me is a feeling of stability and calm.” Feldstein then recalled her time working with Olivia Wilde on Booksmart and how Wilde would say, “sets are like construction sites.”

    “Stay very calm and clued into what they [your actors] are doing and what they are feeling because there is so much beautiful chaos on a set, especially when you are in a time crunch,” Feldstein replied. “The greatest gift you can give is to just say ‘it’s you and me, I’ve got this, and I’m here for you’.”

    Feldstein on set during the filming of ‘Booksmart’ with co-star Kaitlyn Dever

    Feldstein then concluded that, overall, no matter what role you play on a film set, take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, and if you lose a job, put yourself in another person’s shoes. “You might be perfectly right for something, but if not, it’s the other girl or guy’s best day of their lives. If you don’t get something, it’s the best day of another person’s life.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the gracious Beanie Feldstein for sharing her time and expertise with the students and encourages everyone to watch her latest starring role in How to Build a Girlnow available to stream, and to keep an eye out for Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: Impeachment, which has yet to start production.

    To listen to the full conversation, click the video below our check it out on our YouTube channel here.

    podcast

     

     

     

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    May 18, 2020 • Guest Speakers • Views: 618

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes ‘The Black Godfather’ Producer Nicole Avant

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Tuesday, February 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to host Nicole Avant, former US ambassador and producer of the award-winning Netflix documentary The Black Godfather. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event. 

    Tova Laiter & Nicole Avant

    Nicole Avant produced The Black Godfather after collecting stories about her father, Clarence Avant, who has held significant influence on dozens of the world’s most high profile entertainers, athletes, and politicians. The film charts the exceptional and unlikely rise of Clarence, who became a powerhouse negotiator amid extreme racism in America, a music executive whose trailblazing behind-the-scenes accomplishments impacted the legacies of icons such as Bill Withers, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, and Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

    Nicole Avant was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to be the 13th Ambassador to The Bahamas. On September 9, 2009, she was sworn in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, becoming the youngest as well as the first African American woman to hold the position. Avant’s successes in The Bahamas earned her a nomination for the Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service. 

    Following a screening of The Black Godfather, Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Avant how she started in the business. Avant shared, “My parents made me do every kind of job all my life and one time my father said he had gotten me an internship at Warner Bros. television. He told me I should learn all the different types of business because all of entertainment is one business, so it is important to learn the different facets.” She continued, “So I went and did the internship and I have to say, I loved it and I learned everything. I went to work for all the different departments and met so many people that helped me understand the business.”  

    Producer Nicole Avant

    Laiter then asked Avant how the documentary came to fruition. Avant revealed, “This documentary happened because I was trying to figure out a way to tell my dad’s story. I said something to my husband [Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos] one day about how I wished there was a way to tie in sports and movies and television and activism and civil rights and all these elements into a character and film. He then pointed out that the character I had just described was, in fact, my father.” 

    Speaking about her director and collaborator Reggie Hudlin, Avant expressed, “I knew Reggie for a very long time and we would talk about African American history and get frustrated that no one really understood our history and no one had seen documentaries on us or knew enough. It was always simplified to ‘all Black people in America live this way, eat this food, and do these specific things’ and it would drive Reggie and me nuts. Therefore, I figured he would be a great person to direct this documentary.”  

    The Q&A was then opened up to students. One student asked Avant, “What do you think are the most important changes for the African American community in the entertainment industry since the beginning of your father’s career.” 

    Avant imparted, “The biggest changes and the most important changes were putting people in a position of power where they could therefore make decisions and control their destiny and in turn, open the door for other people to come in.” She added, “When I was younger, Billboard used to have the Top 100 charts and the Black charts. They used to separate them all. It was really important for my dad to say ‘Why can’t Black people and women be in charge of certain departments that are run by only one type of person? It should be everybody.’ So I think the most important thing is that you started to see more people of color, in general, really having high-level positions that they otherwise would have never had.” 

    Laiter concluded the Q&A by thanking Avant for coming amidst a very busy Oscar season. Avant remarked, “I was really looking forward to this night more than anything else, because humans have to tell stories to each other and connect with each other and I think these events are very important.” 

    New York Film Academy would like to thank producer and former US Ambassador Nicole Avant for joining sharing her time and expertise with our students!

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    February 21, 2020 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1221

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Top CAA Agent Chris Andrews

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Tuesday, December 3, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to host Chris Andrews, top talent agent at the industry-leading Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Chris Andrews

    Andrews is based in Los Angeles and represents many of the Hollywood’s leading actors, including Daniel Craig, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Saoirse Ronan, Nicole Kidman, Jon Hamm, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Blunt, and Edgar Ramirez, among others. He has been instrumental in the development and advancement of his clients’ careers around the globe.

    Laiter opened the Q&A by asking Andrews how he became an agent and started with CAA. Andrews discussed his history in the industry, from working in the mailroom (“you meet everybody—agents and clients”) to his current work as one of the company’s top agents. Through his story and the entire session, Andrews emphasized the importance of hard work and ambition. 

    One student asked Andrews for advice on how to get an agent when first starting out in their craft. Andrews replied,  “Work brings work … if you can get one job it’ll lead to something else. Anybody you meet – write their name down, get their phone number, get their email address, remember that … keep it handy so that you have it. Don’t be like ‘Oh, I think I met her’… You should know who you’ve met along the way … you never know who you’re going to meet.”

    Chris Andrews

    Andrews left the students with some inspirational words. “Time is precious. It goes by really, really fast … Take it in … If you love film, if you love acting, if you love producing, if you love writing—read great writers, watch great directors, watch great actors. You will learn something, because it’ll teach you where the bar is higher … You have to live in that hope, still, of dreaming of ‘I can be better’ … that’s what propels me.”

    New York Film Academy thanks CAA agent Chris Andrews for taking the time to share his experience and expertise with our students.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 6, 2019 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1710