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  • Q&A with ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ Producer Matt Kaplan

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    On Tuesday, August 6, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a special Q&A with esteemed producer Matt Kaplan for our high school campers, following a screening of the Netflix all-time most-viewed original film, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Matt Kaplan is the founder and CEO of Ace Entertainment, focused on making feature films, television series, and digital content for youth audiences. Kaplan has produced incredibly buzzy YA films including the runaway success recent rom-com hit The Perfect Date, Spontaneous, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, starring NYFA alum Lana Condor. He is also behind the upcoming Are You Afraid of the Dark TV reboot based on the 1990s Nickelodeon television series. Kaplan’s past credits include features such as Before I Fall, The Lazarus Effect, and Viral. He is currently working on and next year’s sequel, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 2.

    Matt Kaplan

    Laiter started by asking Kaplan how he started in the industry. Kaplan talked about how he started making short form content after graduating film school. “YouTube was just getting popular, and so I started making short videos with my friends,” he told the audience. From there, he started as an assistant at Lionsgate, a job his YouTube videos earned him, and worked his way up to an executive position in charge of YA content. During his time at Lionsgate, he was a part of the team that made The Hunger Games. “But I knew as a younger executive,” said Kaplan, “that I wanted to be the one making the final decisions.”

    One student asked about where to start when producing a movie. Kaplan replied, “First, try to figure out what kind of movies you’re passionate about telling … typically we will option a book or buy an article or whatever it is, and then hire a writer—or sometimes you’ll ask a friend to write the script on spec. And then once we have the script, that’s kind of the jumping off point. Once you have a good script, amazing things can happen.”

    Another student asked how Kaplan had figured out that he wanted to be a producer. “I like putting things together. I just looked at what I was good at. When I was your age, I took writing classes, and directing classes … but I knew I was good at assessing material, and I knew I had an instinct for what I could sell, and market. And so I spent a lot of my time making relationships with great writers and great directors.”

    Matt Kaplan

    One student asked about how to make connections in the film industry. Kaplan said, “Someone gave me this advice: it’s follow-up … As long as you are passionate about seeking that out, people in this business want to help. Start off by trying to get experience under mentors, don’t just watch—try to make friends with these people, and be helpful. And I think once you start to do that, good things can happen.” 

    New York Film Academy would like to thank To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before producer Matt Kaplan for sharing his producing insights with our high school campers.

     

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    August 8, 2019 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 808

  • Q&A with CreativeFuture’s Ruth Vitale, Cesar Fishman, and Brett Williams

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    On Tuesday, April 23, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a panel and Q&A with Ruth Vitale, CEO of CreativeFuture; Cesar Fishman, Senior Vice President, Communications; and Brett Williams, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Vitale served as president of Paramount Classics and Fine Line Features and, collectively, her films have won three Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. As CEO of CreativeFuture, Vitale—with the assistance of her colleagues, Cesar Fishman and Brett Williams—works to ensure the protection of the intellectual property of filmmakers and workers in the entertainment industry as a whole.

    CreativeFuture

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Vitale about her start in the industry. “I ended up in the entertainment business by accident,” said Vitale, adding, “I became director of acquisitions at The Movie Channel and I knew nothing about movies.” Vitale shared that, though her initial role in the entertainment industry focused on sales, she ultimately got the chance to distribute independent films, a job she loved. “You could bring a new voice into the world … I get to share an amazing film with you, the audience.”

    Vitale was introduced to CreativeFuture in 2013; “The job was about advocating on behalf of artists’ rights and saying ‘Copyright is important; we need strong copyright protections and it matters,’” said Vitale. She shared the statistic that, “in 2018, there were 126 billion visits to pirate sites.”

    CreativeFuture

    Vitale also shared a way in which CreativeFuture combats piracy. “Around the world there’s something called site-blocking where, if a site is proven in a court of law … to have more pirated content on it than legitimate content, [then] the judge has the right to send a notice to the internet service providers that they have to block it in that country.”

    CreativeFuture teams up with schools across America to educate students of all ages about protecting creative property and they have found that the younger students are, the more likely they are to adopt lessons about fighting piracy in their everyday lives.

    CreativeFuture

    CreativeFuture also combats piracy with videos in which cast and crew members thank the audiences that are about to watch their films in theaters. This may seem like a small gesture but Vitale shared research by Disney that shows these videos caused a 20% decrease in piracy and a 20% increase in sales.

    Many of the student filmmakers in the audience were interested to know how they could safely share their films online; Vitale said that the best thing to do is to purchase secure links with unique passwords that will expire within a few days of being received.

    CreativeFuture

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank CreativeFuture’s Ruth Vitale, Cesar Fishman, and Brett Williams for advocating for artists and sharing their insights and advice about copyright protections in the entertainment industry.

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    April 25, 2019 • Guest Speakers • Views: 850

  • Artist Isabelle Adriani Donates Cinematic-Themed Artwork to New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    Isabelle Adriani, an Italian artist, author, and actress, recently generously donated her cinematic-themed artworks to the New York Film Academy and to the Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, Tova Laiter. On Friday, February 22, Adriani came to visit NYFA’s Los Angeles campus.

    Adriani donated a total of four pieces to the New York Film Academy; The two pieces donated to the Los Angeles campus are La Dolce Vita, which features images from the 1961 Frederico Fellini film of the same name, and Charlie, which features photos of the English silent movie era actor and director giant, Charlie Chaplin.

    Isabelle Adriani

    The two pieces donated to the New York campus are Once Upon a Time in America, which features images from the 1984 Sergio Leone masterpiece film of the same name, as well as one of star actress, Marlene Dietrich. 

    The four works are collages of photographs, posters, reviews, books and original accessories that Adriani has collected throughout her life from antique shops, fairs, and auctions all over the world. The way in which the media is arranged resembles modernists like Hannah Hoch and Mimmo Rotella and the use of color, subject matter, and desire to honor Hollywood’s history and pop culture are evocative of Andy Warhol’s quadtych-panels portraits. One of the things that distinguishes Adriani’s style from her predecessors is the “glassing” technique that she uses to make her works shine like glass and to protect the media material in the collages; Adriani keeps this technique a secret.

    Isabelle Adriani

    As an actress, Adriani has acted in over 30 Italian and American productions including The American (2010) with Academy Award winner George Clooney, Twice Born (2012) with Academy Award winner Penelope Cruz, and The Young Messiah (2016) directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M.) who also directed her in The Trial (tentative title) with with Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ). 

    She also produced the documentary Open Quantum Relativity (2014), which explored the concept of time travel with scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). 

    Isabelle Adriani

    Adriani has published 14 books and writes columns about the history of movies called Once Upon a Time in the Cinema. She also recorded two music albums of her unique Whistling to accompany her recent art collection called Tribute and To Movies with Love.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Adriani for her generous donation to the arts and the art of cinema for our students to enjoy for years to come.

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    March 19, 2019 • Community Highlights • Views: 1341

  • Ayelet Zurer Speaks With Tova Laiter at New York Film Academy

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn October 30, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with actress Ayelet Zurer following a screening of a third season episode from Netflix’s acclaimed series Daredevil. The Q&A was moderated by Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series.Ayelet Zurer

    Zurer is an award-winning Israeli actress whose career began in Israeli television and crossed over to mainstream American movies and TV, most notably Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005); Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid (2008); Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons, with Tom Hanks (2009); Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013); Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert, alongside Ewan McGregor; Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Ben Hur, and many more.

    Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking about Zurer’s early career; Zurer shared that she was artistic as a young girl and did not “fall in love with acting as a profession” until she studied acting in her hometown,Tel Aviv. She then relocated to New York City to study further and acted in numerous theatrical productions before being offered a large role on a television series in Israel, moving back home where she would work in the Israeli entertainment industry to great success and winning many awards.

    Ayelet ZurerWhile Zurer was working on a television show, In Treatment, that would later be adapted for HBO, she got a mysterious call to audition from an English casting agent who caught one of her random films. Zurer was apprehensive but then she was informed this audition was for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Zurer landed the role and this launched her career as an actress in American media. “Say yes to things!” Zurer advised the students in the audience.

    A couple years later, Zurer has the opportunity to act in the film, Angels and Demons; she was anxious about the magnitude of the film but when she sat down with Tom Hanks to run lines, “I don’t know what happened; it was really magical; I was not nervous…” 

    Laiter inquired about the lessons Zurer learned from working with Hanks. Zurer replied, “The tone is set on a film by its leader. Tom was relaxed, intelligent, and generous. When he had an idea, he didn’t pester the director with it but suggested it in the right time… you have to have patience… he really set the tone.”

    Laiter asked Zurer about the lessons she has learned as an actress. “One of the things I’ve learned is to be very present because… that’s the most important thing for an actor and for a person in life, period.” Between “action” and “cut,” “…in that moment I [am] able to eliminate everything out there; the sound of fear, the self-doubt…” continued Zurer, while illustrating to the students a technique she uses just before she goes on stage or set.Ayelet Zurer

    To a student’s question of how she prepares for a role, Zurer talked about first learning the lines until they are embedded, doing research, and focusing on the storytelling; she asks herself: “What’s the beginning? Where [am I] coming [from]? What do I wanna say? What [does the] story [want] to say? What’s my job in that story? What is my role; what kind of a device am I?”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ayelet Zurer for sharing her entertainment industry wisdom and acting expertise with our students!

     

     

     

     

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    November 2, 2018 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 1482

  • Silicon Valley’s John Altschuler Speaks With New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On August 15, 2018, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of HBO’s Silicon Valley followed by a Q&A with creator and showrunner John Altschuler. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, moderated the event.

    As a student at University of North Carolina, Altschuler created the first comedy sketch show on the university student TV. He and his co-writer, looking to capitalize on their venture, sent written material in three boxes to three owners/editors of the National Lampoon magazine, adding a dollar to each to get their attention. It worked! He became a writer for the most iconic humor magazine of its time, until he moved to Hollywood.John Altschuler

    After moving to Los Angeles however, he realized that his previous work was not going to magically open doors in the industry, so he worked odd jobs until he started getting gigs as a production assistant. He was careful not to pitch himself, instead concentrating on the job at hand. He told students, “Whatever job you get, just do that well… make their lives easier and they will look out for you; they will want to help you because you made their day that much easier.”

    His first writing job, on HBO’s The High Life, led to his becoming an executive producer and showrunner on FOX’s King of the Hill for 12 years and the relaunch of Beavis and Butt-head for MTV. He then co-created Silicon Valley for HBO, and Lopez for TV Land, starring George Lopez. He’s also produced Mike Judge’s film, Extract (2009) starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis and Ben Affleck, and co-wrote Blades of Glory (2007) starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.

    A student asked Altschuler about his inspiration for Silicon Valley. He replied, “I was reading a biography of Steve Jobs and there was a quote in there where Bill Gates was ridiculing Steve Jobs: ‘The guy can’t even write code!’ Altschuler thought: “The guy created the biggest brand in the world and there’s somebody up in Silicon Valley sniping at him; I was like, “This is hilarious!'”

    To the question of whether the creators knew Silicon Valley culture or only did research when they wrote the pilot, the answer was, “Both.” Altschuler had family members who were engineers, but they also did further research:

    “We went up to Silicon Valley… and it was so funny, because… everybody kept talking about how they were making the world a better place… The sanctimony was so thick that I thought, ‘well this is something to make fun of.’ It’s… fun to take on the big guys and try to deflate them.”

    John AltschulerLaiter noted that sometimes it’s easier to make fun of something when you’re outside of it, and Altschuler concurred.

    One student asked about Altschuler’s tips for pitching a show or movie to a producer. Altschuler advised, “[When] you go in, have your story and try to start off with a topic sentence or a personal story… try to make it a conversation, not a laundry list of ‘first this happened and then that happened.'”

    Altschuler imparted to the students that no matter what, they have to like what they’re making or no one will want to consume it. And when they write, and a scene doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to let it go. “If it’s really great, it will get its way in back later.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank John Altschuler for sharing his industry expertise and advice for our film school students!

     

     

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    August 17, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 2544

  • Q&A With High School 9-1-1’s Tim Warren and Kelli Joan Bennett


    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus welcomed director Tim Warren and producer Kelli Joan Bennett for a Q&A following a screening of their award-winning, impactful documentary, High School 9-1-1 for summer high school students. NYFA Director of the Q&A Series Tova Laiter moderated the event.

    The doc follows a year in the life of the members of EMS-Post 53, a volunteer student-run ambulance service in the small town of Darien, Connecticut, where Warren himself had volunteered as a senior in high school. 

    Tim Warren is an American film and television producer whose credits include popular reality programs such as Bar Rescue, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and more. Kelli Joan Bennett is an actor and writer, who recently produced and starred in the feature crime-thriller Collusions, alongside Tom Everett Scott. Together, Warren and Bennett formed Boomerang Production Media in 1996, and it was under this banner that High School 9-1-1 was ultimately produced. 

    Laiter started the night off by inquiring after Warren’s motivation for pursuing the film, so many years after he had experienced life at Post 53. “I was sort of thinking,” he explained, “if I die tomorrow, what would I regret not doing? And ultimately, I always thought about doing a documentary on this organization that was so positively impactful on my life. And even though I didn’t go into the medical field, the things that I learned on the ambulance thirty plus years ago, I still use today as a producer and director.”Tim Warren and Kelli Joan Bennett

    Many of these lessons, Warren noted, came in the form of mantras from the organization’s beloved founder, Bud Doble. “One of them was, ‘Be prepared for what you find, but be prepared to change your mind.’ And that applies to not only when you’re on the ambulance, but when you’re in television and film.” Warren went on to paraphrase, “You need to have a plan. You need to have an idea of what you want to do. But you can’t be so married to that plan that you either miss a greater opportunity, or don’t see a problem that’s coming at you.”

    Over the course of several years following their almost year-long stage of principal photography, that lesson would come into play in more ways than one. The first cut of High School 9-1-1 was upwards of six hours, followed soon thereafter by a two-hour cut. After screening the film for an audience, and being told it was still too long, the two of them cut it down by another fifteen minutes. “We submitted the one hundred and four minute cut to the top ten film festivals,” Warren began. “We were [resoundingly] rejected. So we’re now seven, eight years into this process, a mountain of debt, and nobody loves us.” 

    Warren and Bennett returned to their professional lives for a time, until their collective spark was reignited after Bennett ran into the program director for the LA Film Festival. “The program director says, ‘Oh, I remember that film — great film. Too long. But don’t give up on that film.’ And she said that the film needed to be under 90 minutes. So, that reinvigorated us.”

    The pair then cut the film down to 86 minutes and launched a successful festival tour, screening at Heartland, Kansas City, New Haven, and more, as a part of the American Film Showcase program. After nearly ten years put into the project, its success was well-deserved. But documentary film, as Warren later attests, isn’t necessarily about success.

    “The thing with documentary that I always say is… you have to be really passionate about the subject matter.  And you have to go in pretty much knowing that it’s not your ticket to riches… If you’re thinking about doing a documentary, you have this feeling that, ‘I have to tell this story, and I’m going to tell this story — really — at any cost.’” 

    High School 9-1-1 is currently on a world-wide tour, screening at high schools and within communities, with the ultimate intention of “empowering young people through responsibility.” For behind the scenes, screening information, and more, visit here.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    August 9, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 2102

  • Hollywood Costume Designer Teaches Costume 101

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    Last week New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were treated to a special lesson on “Basic Costume 101” by renowned costume designer Deborah Nadoolman-Landis followed by a discussion with her. Deborah’s distinguished career includes the classics Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Coming to America (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), and the groundbreaking music video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller. She served as a two-term president of the Costume Designer’s Guild, Local 892 and is a Governor of the Academy of Motion Picture and serves on the Executive Board of the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Foundation. The discussion following Deborah’s lecture was moderated by producer Tova Laiter.

    Costume is monumentally important in a movie. It speaks volumes about a character before the character even opens their mouth. However the irony is that it is often the least thought-out (or not thought of at all) aspect of low-budget and student filmmaking. This is a travesty, and Deborah Nadoolman-Landis has made it her life mission to educate filmmakers as to the importance of costume design in all levels of filmmaking.

    tova and nadoolman

    Tova Laiter with Deborah Nadoolman-Landis

    Deborah began the night by calling four student volunteers to the front of the room and asked each student, “Where are you from?” However, Deborah wouldn’t accept a generic answer; she insisted on being told the exact street address of the home they grew up in. Deborah then proceeded to address every article of clothing on each student from their feet to their heads. She asked them where they bought the article of clothing, how much it cost, who was with them when they bought it, and why they choose to buy and wear it, or who gave it to them if it was a gift or who lent it to them if it was borrowed. After this lengthy process, the audience had a much greater understanding of who these people were and what their motivations in wearing these particular clothes were. Deborah explained that she engaged in this dramatically long exercise to prove two very important things: 1) Every article of clothing on every character in your movie must be consistent with their story, and 2) Character details are not general but specific.

    Deborah then asked all of the students in the theater to stand up and group themselves in the four corners of the room depending on whether they were wearing white, black, neutral and subdued colors, or bright colors. It was a rather unorthodox, yet amusing, experience for students who are used to remaining in their seats for the whole NYFA event. Deborah then pointed to the people wearing neutral colors and said, “These are your background extras.” To the people wearing bright colors she said, “this is the cast of Glee.” Deborah explained to students how they could stage their extras and supporting characters in the foreground, mid-ground, and background according to where their main character is in order to draw attention to them. Of course, she stressed the importance of making this color choreography appear random since groups of people never divide themselves naturally according to the color of their clothing.

    thriller

    Following these exercises, Deborah gave an hour-long keynote presentation that she had made for the Hollywood Costume exhibit she curated at the LACMA. This presentation emphasized the undeniably important role costume design plays in shaping character and just how powerful of a storytelling tool it is. During the Q&A after the keynote presentation, Deborah explained how she designed the iconic outfit Michael Jackson wore in Thriller. She explained that “design is reductive,” meaning you start with all that choices that are obviously wrong and you begin whittling down your options. Michael Jackson was as 5′ 9″ man who weighed less than 100 pounds and her job was to turn him into a powerful sex symbol. His jacket had to make him stand out in front of the rows of zombies he danced in front of. Black, blue, orange, purple would not have worked. “It had to be red,” Deborah said, “There was just no other choice. It had to be red.” She designed the leather jacket to hold padding in the shoulders and included strong lines creating a V to project masculinity. The straight black pants helped to elongate his body. The result speaks for itself as one of the must iconic costumes in history.

    The evening with Deborah Nadoolman-Landis was a truly valuable experience for NYFA students of all disciplines in the audience. If you missed her lecture don’t worry, Deborah has preserved much of her knowledge in educational texts. As a historian with a PhD in design from London Royal college of art, Professor Landis’ books include: Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration, FilmCraft: Costume Design, and the award winning 2012 catalogue for the landmark exhibition, Hollywood Costume, which she curated at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and exhibit recently at the LACMA museum in LA to great success. We sincerely thank Deborah for visiting and look forward to what kind of waves in the costume design world she will inevitably make in the future.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 22, 2015 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4960

  • Iconic Actor Al Pacino Speaks at New York Film Academy

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    New York Film Academy students received the rare opportunity to participate in an intimate Q&A with one of the greatest actors in film history Al Pacino this past Thursday, December 4th at the Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, CA. The discussion took place after a special advanced screening of Pacino’s new film The Humbling. In this, funny, observant, erotic comedy, Pacino plays an aging actor who feels he is losing his craft and after a breakdown becomes involved with a much younger woman but soon finds that it’s difficult to keep pace with her and makes the ultimate performance. The film was highly received by the students for its content and Mr. Pacino’s amazing performance in it. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the Q&A.

    Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winning Al Pacino took the stage to an uproar of applause and a standing ovation from students. The legendary actor, who’s entertained and inspired us with iconic performances in The Godfather, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Scent of a Woman, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Heat, to name just a few, was tremendously gracious for the warm reception. Pacino was all smiles and full of life, emanating that vivacious energy we’ve come to love him for.

    In a profound statement about the actor’s process, and artistic process in general, Pacino stated, “I love the line that Michelangelo said in a poem when he was doing the Sistine Chapel, he said, ‘Lord, free me of myself that I may please you.’ Meaning, get to that place in us where we’re not censoring ourselves or trying to do it good or right but rather connect with whatever it is we’re trying to say in our work. Become. Become it, absorb it and let it come out and let the unconscious free. And I strive for that. And I rarely, rarely get it. If I do it’s for a moment or two… Sometimes I’m given a role… Then I have to look at the empty canvas and I say, ‘Wow, I don’t know anything about acting. I don’t know anything about anything. What am I gonna do?’ And you start. And the hope is that instead of figuring it out, you find it.”

    But it wasn’t all serious talk. Pacino revealed the origins of his “Hoo-ah!” line in Scent of a Woman in an amusing story: “That came because I was learning to assemble and disassemble a .45 in forty-five seconds. And that ain’t easy. And I worked literally weeks on that, months, just with this Lieutenant Col. who would say to me every once in a while when I did it well, he would just say to me (pointing) ‘Hoo-ha!’ And I finally said to him, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Well, you see that’s the way I talk to the troops. If they get in line and their suits are straight and their metals are straight, I just go up and I say ‘Hoo-ha!’ And that got into the movie. That wasn’t written.”

    In closing, to the question of what the most important thing acting has taught him, Pacino answered, “It taught me to love people more. I feel more a part of the world. And that we’re all actors. Only some of us can really do it. Some of us have the ability to do it…and the desire to do it. And it taught me that desire can sometimes trump talent. Think about that. So that you may not have as much talent as you think you have, but if you have the desire, your talent will find you.”

    When the Q&A ended, Al Pacino thanked and waved goodbye to students as they all stood and cheered once again. It was a wildly entertaining and inspiring night that was a special gift to NYFA. In a cosmic coincidence, Pacino’s daughter Julie Pacino, an alumna of NYFA, showed her movie to NYFA students at our Union Square square campus the same day!

    We thank Al Pacino for sharing his time with us and look forward to the success of The Humbling (which Mr. Pacino also produced), directed by Barry Levinson. The film opens in theaters in limited release for a week on December 5th and wide release January 23rd, 2015.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 8, 2014 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 12230

  • Screening of ‘Donnie Darko’ with Producer Adam Fields

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    Adam Fields NYFA LA

    Producer Adam Fields

    New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were treated this month to a screening of the cult smash hit Donnie Darko at Warner Bros. studios. Following the screening was a Q&A with the producer Adam Fields, moderated by Tova Laiter.

    Although there may be mass confusion as to the meaning behind Donnie Darko, most people can agree that, for one reason or another, they love it. This was the case for producer Adam Fields when he first read the script and decided to spearhead the project. Adam didn’t know exactly what the story was about, but he was deeply drawn to the project. Most notably, the dialogue of the struggling high school students felt more real and moving than anything else he had ever read in that genre. So Adam followed his gut and took on the project. Before he had secured any financing, he went out on a limb and announced a future shooting date in the trade papers. Agents began calling and asking to read the script, their clients loved the material, and soon everyone was interested. This momentum attracted money and eventually Drew Barrymore, who helped complete financing. By believing the project was definitely happening and acting as if it were, Adam Fields manifested the reality he desired.

    The value of “trusting your gut” was an important theme of the night. Trusting his gut is also something Adam did when deciding to produce the film Ravenous. Similar to Donnie Darko, this film was obscure and didn’t fit perfectly into any one particular genre like Hollywood likes, but Adam loved it. Without Adam’s enthusiasm for this offbeat script with cannibalistic content and humorous undertones, Ravenous would never have seen the light of day. He was eventually able to convince a studio executive to read the script. Although the executive told Adam that he “hated it,” he didn’t give up. While courting the executive over breakfast, he learned that he was a vegetarian, which explained to Adam why he wouldn’t like a script about cannibals. However, Adam cleverly spun the project as a “pro-vegetarian” piece. Adam was able to help the executive see what he saw in Ravenous and the project was green-lit.

    Adam Fields rise to the top was definitely an unorthodox approach. He didn’t care about what was popular or trending and simply pursued those projects that he connected with. His successes, (that he has either produced or supervised) — An American Werewolf in London, Six Weeks, Missing, Endless Love, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Great Balls of Fire, Ali, Brokedown Palace, Blue Crush, and Limitless with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro — were all the more satisfying because of this. This was an important lesson that Adam taught NYFA students.

    We wish Adam Fields the best of luck with his future projects such as Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Wedding Ringer, a TV series based on James Mangold’s Copland, and Gone Baby Gone from author Dennis Lehane.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 28, 2014 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6489

  • NYFA Screens ‘The Monuments Men’ with Writer / Producer Grant Heslov

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    Grant Heslov NYFA

    Tova Laiter with Grant Heslov at a full house

    Grant Heslov, Academy Award winning Writer/ Producer (Argo) and George Clooney’s partner at Smokehouse, was the guest tonight at the New York Film Academy for a sneak preview of the upcoming SONY Pictures release The Monuments Men! Over 220 eager students participated in the Q&A, which was moderated by Producer Tova Laiter.

    One of the first questions on Tova’s mind was how the film came about. Grant, a very funny and charming speaker, told the students that, “I was traveling, forgot my book at the hotel, so I went to the airport bookstore. I really loved it. It was a story I’d never heard before and George (Clooney) and I decided to make it. You never know what you’re going to find in an airport!”

    When asked by Tova how he and Clooney met Grant described his college days. “It was the summer of my freshman year, when I was about 19. I took an acting class and George was in it. We’ve been friends ever since.”

    grant heslovGrant earned a BFA in Theater and Acting at USC and was an actor for 20 years. He feels that his education in acting has been a great base for much of the work he does in terms of writing and character, being on sets, and observing how it’s all done.

    A student asked Grant about the writing process and specifically about handling a writing block in the middle of a project. Grant admitted that writing is challenging. “The middle is always hard. I’m lucky that I write with a partner. You have to turn off your editor mind and just write whatever.”

    Steven, a student, asked Grant what drives him, especially now that he is an accomplished actor, writer and producer. “The desire to tell good stories is the drive.”

    Grant plays a doctor in The Monuments Men, although this was not planned. He told the story of a British actor whose wife went into labor and pulled out of the project at the last minute. George Clooney suggested Grant jump in and play the doctor. “I still have my SAG card,” he joked.

    Student, Marielle asked Grant about the responsibility involved in telling real stories, which he has done plenty of in recent film projects (Good Night and Good Luck, Argo, and now The Monuments Men). Grant explained, “We aren’t making docs or docu-dramas, but you try to stay true. In Good Night and Good Luck, for example, we had access to the newscasters as they were still around. In Argo, we stuck pretty close to the story except for the end. In this film, there were hundreds of Monuments Men. Then you are trying to piece it all together, and we changed the names so we can get into the flaws of the characters more.”

    Asked what were his biggest assets and obstacles in becoming a filmmaker, he joked that in both cases it was, “being an actor.”

    A student asked Grant what was his relationship with art and history as a storyteller. “I love art and I love history. I am interested in World War II –as it was a defining moment in history. I’m Jewish, and there is a connection.”

    Clearly Grant and George have a good system in place working together. He shared with the audience that all of their films have been produced and completed under budget. The Monuments Men finished $5 million under budget and they wrote it in 3-4 months.

    Finally, Grant told another comedic story about having a hard time naming their production company, Smokehouse Productions. He said that his and George’s office was directly across the street from the restaurant in Burbank, and that they used to go there to drink at the bar (It is also across the street from one of the NYFA buildings in Burbank). One day, George called him and suggested they name their production company after the restaurant.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    February 3, 2014 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4992