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  • Taiwanese Celeb Attends NYFA Acting Workshop

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    Hannah Quinlivan recently finished a 8-Week Acting for Film Workshop at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. The Taiwanese-Australian actress first gained attention in Taiwan when she joined a successful girl group in 2008. Since then she has worked as a model, acted on a television drama, and has been a host on MTV and game shows. She recently landed her first major role in a feature film, and came to New York Film Academy to brush up on her acting skills.

    “I’ve had a really good time here. I really jumped out of my safe zone,” she says. “That was a really big step for me. And I really enjoyed my time shooting on the Universal Studios backlot. I used to really enjoy the Universal tour, and now I got the chance to shoot there!” Hannah says she loved the short-term program and looks forward to returning to New York Film Academy soon.

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  • Art Imitates Life for Horror Film Director

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    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with 'Smiley' Director Michael Gallagher at New York Film Academy

    Screenwriting Chair Eric Conner with ‘Smiley’ Director Michael Gallagher

    Director Michael Gallagher attended summer camps at New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios campus 3 times as a youngster. He started making short films, music videos, and documentaries while in high school. Since then, he has started a wildly popular web series called Totally Sketch, which has over 850,000 subscribers on YouTube.

    During a recent guest speaker event at New York Film Academy, Gallagher shared his recently-released horror film, Smiley, which was released in theaters nationwide. He described how his experience with internet shorts helped prepare him for his first feature length film. “Most of the sketches I shoot are like little scenes,” he said. “It was like 110 sketches in a row.” Working with a tight budget, the indie film was shot in just 15 days, and the filmmakers were shooting as many as 8 pages of the script per day. But as Gallagher puts it, “Horror movies fit the low budget. You can do a lot more with a little.”

    Gallagher cast friends and actors with large YouTube followings to help build buzz around the film. To date, the trailer has racked up over 21 million views on YouTube. At just 23 years old, his first feature length film was about to be released in AMC theaters across the nation. Things were going well until users of the website 4Chan got wind of the film’s plot.

    Gallagher said he was going for authenticity when he decided to make 4Chan users the villains of his film. In an interview with Huffington Post, he said, “I anticipated a minor backlash of people leaving harassing comments online.” But he didn’t anticipate the website’s users posting his home address, his personal information, and leaving dozens of death threats on his cell.

    After interviews with the TODAY ShowInside EditionVarietyPaste (and the FBI), 4Chan users realized they were only giving him free publicity. Just as the movie was released in theaters nationwide, the threats disappeared.

    Much to 4Chan’s chagrin, we’re happy to report the Smiley DVD is now available for pre-order.

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    December 14, 2012 • Academic Programs, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 7283

  • NYFA Alum Nominated for Latin Grammy!

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    Congratulations to New York Film Academy graduate Alexis Morante for his Latin Grammy nomination! Since his graduation in 2010, he has worked on a dozen music videos, racking up over 10 million views on Youtube. His most recent video, Licenciado Cantinas, is a 25-minute film with Spanish rock star Enrique Bunbury. It played in movie theaters and on television in 10 countries, and was nominated for Best Music Video – Long Format last week. “I’m very proud of the whole team, made up of several friends and fellows from NYFA,” says Alexis. “I hope this nomination, along with hard work and perseverance, will help me to develop a better career as filmmaker, especially in the American industry.”

    Alexis is no stranger to success. His first-year thesis film, Voltereta, was an official selection at over 70 festivals worldwide, winning over 20 awards. Alexis’ second-year thesis film, Matador on the Road, has played over 50 festivals, winning over 10 awards.

    But he wasn’t always so sure about a career in the film industry. Alexis was in law school in his native Spain when he decided to make his first short film. Soon after, he decided to pursue a degree in Communications. Then he travelled to Cuba and Sweden for short-term filmmaking courses. He chose New York Film Academy to earn his MFA in Filmmaking, doing his first year at the school’s New York campus, and the second year at the Universal Studios campus. “None of this would be possible without NYFA and the students here,” he says. “I’m still working with the students on a professional level.”

    Though he is thrilled to have success working on music videos in Spain, Alexis hopes to expand to more work in the U.S. “I see myself concentrating on movies, doing advertising and music videos in between. I also love documentary and travel documentary.” He is currently developing a feature length script, and will be ready to take it to market soon.

    SHOWREEL – 2016 – Alexis Morante from Alexis Morante on Vimeo.

     

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  • Brazilian Women Rock Behind the Cameras

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    Gabriela Egito is a New York Film Academy alumna living in Los Angeles, with a Masters in Film from Brazil. She has three short films running the festival circuit worldwide, with two winning prizes, all produced during NYFA’s filmmaking program in 2011. In addition to doing Brazilian outreach at NYFA, she writes a blog called Brazilian Girl in L.A. about her cinematic adventures in the U.S.

    2012 Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival winners Clarissa Campolina and Sara Silveira with the festival jury

    According to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women make up 24% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on domestically-produced feature-length films appearing at top U.S. film festivals. Does that sound low? In fact, it is substantially higher than the 16% of women who worked on the 250 highest-grossing films last year. But to the south in Brazil, the reality is quite different. Despite lacking official statistics on gender issues, judging by the films selected for the Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival, held early this month at the Egyptian Theater, women are rockin’ behind-the-scenes in Brazil.

    Of the 22 films screened at HBRfest, 17 have women in one or more key-positions. The feature-length winner, Swirl (Girimunho), was directed by film making partners Clarissa Campolina and Helvécio Marins Jr. Interestingly enough, three other films in competition were also directed by couples – men and women sharing the command on set. Director Clarissa Campolina doesn’t see these partnerships as unusual, saying, “We are all friends. Some of us attended film school together. We don’t think much of gender –we are all filmmakers.”

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    June 21, 2012 • Academic Programs, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 6495

  • Superheroes are Taking Over Hollywood (and I Feel Fine)

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     Eric Conner is the Chair of the Screenwriting Department for New York Film Academy’s Universal Studios – Los Angeles campus. With an MFA degree from USC School of Cinema and Television and a BA from UPenn, Eric is currently developing two TV pilots, a sci-fi feature, and trying to add to his collection of ironic snapshots with Stormtroopers. Feel free to email him at eric@nyfa.edu

    I often warn my students to avoid becoming “That Guy.” You know “That Guy.” He’s the one in the theater who complains about a director “crossing the 180 line” or using the wrong lens. He’s the one who LOUDLY critiques a movie in terms of “sequences” and “denouement.” Summer’s an especially difficult time for “That Guy” since the multiplexes are filled with Hollywood’s biggest, loudest, and franchise-iest products — though to be fair, there’s a Wes Anderson gem also playing in the theaters, but it’s on a screen smaller than your car. For my $14 (or $28 if you choose the couches and food service of iPic Theaters in Pasadena), I don’t watch a movie with a notebook or penlight. I go to the theaters simply to be transported.

    Sometimes it’s to the dark emotional wilderness of Into the Wild. Other times to see Kevin Bacon singlehandedly ignite the Cold War in X-Men: First Class. Please note: I’m pretty sure the Cuban Missile Crisis did not actually play out that way, especially since my own father was on one of the ships during those tense thirteen days in 1962. But that didn’t make me enjoy the scene any less. This likely goes back to why I work in the arts in the first place. Similar to many of my peers, I grew up on the films of Allen, Scorsese, Coppola, Ashby, Polanski, and Altman, and spent most of my college days working on one play or another. However, I also spent many hours in my native Delaware reading comics, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and — please don’t hold it against me or my department — watching professional wrestling! Meaning that I’m equally transfixed by the damaged honesty of The Descendants as when the Hulk mops up the floor with Loki. In fact, my favorite line of dialogue this decade came out of Bruce Banner’s mouth just as he got his green on. (No spoilers here!)

    With The Avengers approaching Titanic-level grosses, we’re likely to see even more superhero films in the future. And I’m here to tell you that’s okay. Some of them will be stinkers (I’m looking at you Ghost Rider), but others will give us the same thrill that George Lucas unleashed in 1977 with one unforgettable opening shot. For every Daredevil, Elektra, or Green Lantern, there’s a Superman or Spiderman 2. I still think  Magneto’s unorthodox escape from his glass prison — featuring a poor guard with “too much iron in his blood” — is as cinematic as cinema can get. Hopefully, the screenwriters who are developing the next mega-budget superhero adaptations remember the wonder they felt as kids, flipping through the pages of The Flash. Or take a cue from Chris Nolan, who’s been treating Batman like part of the Godfather franchise.

    In fact, our writing department in Los Angeles has even begun to address this head-on by adding comic book writing and game design to our curriculum. Both of these mediums have provided some of the greatest modern writing around. As long as there’s money to be made and stories to be told, Hollywood will continue to look for new films from these existing properties. Some films will anger the aforementioned “That Guy.” But other films will sweep him up in their worlds and remind him why he came to film school in the first place. If you want to discuss this with me, I can be found at either the Ahmanson touring production of War Horse or the opening weekend of Dark Knight Rises

    Eric Connor in a tiff with Darth Vader.

    Learn more about NYFA’s screenwriting program. Click here for more info! 
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    June 14, 2012 • Academic Programs, Screenwriting • Views: 9411

  • Casting Advice From a Pro

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    Casting director Nancy Nayor recently visited students at New York Film Academy following a screening of The Grudge. She began her casting career off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club before moving to Los Angeles to become President of Feature Film Casting for Universal Studios, and working on films for Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, and John Hughes. “The first year was kind of a shock, to have that position at 24,” she laughed. She spent 14 years there before opening her own freelance casting company. Since then, she has cast movies including Road Trip, The Whole Nine Yards, Exorcism of Emily Rose, When a Stranger Calls, and Scream 4.

    Nayor spoke about the love of her job, saying, “It’s great because you’re around actors all the time, and you get to think like an actor, and you get to read with the actors, and you’re in the arena of filmmaking or theater, and it’s just fantastic.”

    Following a brief interview, Nayor answered questions from students, offering lots of helpful advice. “You need to have footage of yourself and you have to be able to email links,” she said. “It’s great to make your own reel. Tape your own scenes or monologues. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. I just want to see talent. If you’re constantly taping yourself, and the camera becomes your friend, then when you’re in the audition room you’re not automatically nervous. It helps you go into an audition room and be relaxed.”

    Do you have other helpful tips or advice for auditions? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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    June 1, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 6054

  • Pietro Schito on Cultivating Ideas

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    Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson with Pietro Schito on the set of Little Boy 

    “Ever since I learned what screenwriting was, I have always wanted to do that,” explains screenwriter Pietro Schito. “That’s the most important thing for any movie. That is where the message is.” While studying in his native Milan, Pietro’s first short film, Horror Kitchen, won a national contest at the Future Film Festival in Bologna. Shortly after, he left for Mexico to work for CSPC Filming the Ineffable, an international project working with young filmmakers. He was about ready to return to Italy when he received a scholarship from CSPC.

    Pietro decided to attend a 1-Year Screenwriting course at the Universal Studios campus in 2010. “The program was great and all the instructors were too,” he says. “I loved it. They push you to the limit. It was tough but worth it. The workshops and teachers are hands-on and thought provoking. [The instructors] have a real connection with the students. If we had problems or questions they were always available for consultation.”

    After graduating from New York Film Academy, Pietro found steady work as a script consultant. He also landed an internship with Metanoia Films. “One day, having lunch with the producer, I got to pitch my movie,” he explained. He shared his project 98.Vocho, a story he had developed while attending New York Film Academy. “As soon as he heard the story, he was really interested and asked if I was ready to pitch to directors. I got to pitch it several times in the Business of Screenwriting class, so I had some practice. They took me to [director] Alejandro Monteverde. He said I had an original plot, solid characters and structure. He also told me that my style of writing reminded him about Life is Beautiful, and I was really happy to hear that because Life is Beautiful is the movie that inspired me to become a filmmaker.” Pietro worked on a 20-page treatment and pitched it to another producer at Metanoia. The producer said, “If everything is like this, we’re going to produce your movie.” They asked him to stay on with the company to develop the project. But Pietro decided to follow his heart, and went back to Mexico to get married. “I thought I would lose the opportunity of my life,” he says.

    After returning to Mexico, Pietro wrote the pilot for an animated TV series called Maria Bambina. He also worked for a Spanish television series called Mi familia y yo, and has an animated feature called Lucha Rooster in development. He found out that Metanoia Films was working on a big-budget period film called Little Boy, and that they would be shooting in Baja California. Pietro was brought on as a writers’ assistant. He soon found himself assisting the director as well. Then he was  asked to film and direct a making-of documentary to be featured on the Blu-ray release.

    Inspired by the paintings of Norman Rockwell, Little Boy is a period piece about a boy who believes he can bring his father back from World War II. It stars Sean Astin, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin James, Emily Watson, and Michael Rapaport. “It was an amazing experience, being there and seeing the process,” says Pietro.”They were really happy about the work I did, helping with outlines and reviewing scripts and storyboards.”

    Since wrapping the film, Pietro has been offered a job with Metanoia Films. “They invited me here for a staff position in writing and development,” he says. “I’m really happy being back in LA with that company. I like the way they think and organize their team. It’s a huge accomplishment, and it’s just the beginning. They have a lot of projects in development.”

    Pietro offers the following advice for students thinking about New York Film Academy: “Have an idea. Come here with an idea. Work as much as you can. The story you have in your heart: cultivate it. And don’t be discouraged by Hollywood.”

    Emily Watson and Pietro Schito with Jakob Salvati, star of Little Boy

     

    Pietro Schito working with director Alejandro Monteverde and producer Eduardo Verastegui on the set of Little Boy
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    May 30, 2012 • Film School, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6528

  • Dreaming of an Electric City

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    New York Film Academy MFA Film graduate Nick DeRuve is in pre-production on his first feature film, Electric City. As Nick describes it, “[It] is a gritty drama about a thirteen-year-old who attempts to keep his family intact when they receive an eviction notice. I spent my pre-teen years chasing my older brother and his friends around the city of Schenectady. They were teenagers, and I was trying my hardest to fit in with their crew. I experienced a lot of things kids that age don’t, such as violence, crime, and witnessing a lot of drug use.”

    “I would say around the age of thirteen is when I started having initial thoughts about making a film about two brothers stuck in an urban setting,” he explained. “When I was thirteen my family moved, not far from Schenectady, but to the suburbs, and that’s when I realized what I had experienced was different. Over the years I knew who the film would be about, but I still didn’t know what the film would be about, so I could never get the idea out on paper.”

    Nick was no novice when he began at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. “I had been a working gaffer in NYC for four years after completing my undergrad,” says Nick. “My passion was to direct, so I spent that time on set studying everything that was happening. I decided to go back for my MFA to continue after my goal of being an indie filmmaker, and experience filmmaking in LA. No matter what my experience was prior I wanted to absorb everything my teachers had to offer. I developed good relationships with my teachers, who have great knowledge and experience.”

    After graduation, Nick developed the feature length script for Electric City, and reached out to his former advisor, NYFA instructor Brendan Davis, for feedback. Brendan raved about the script, saying, “He nailed the tone, the arcs, and the characters, and kept it real while keeping hope. He’s done a really exceptional job on it and has the chance to make an exceptional film. To me this is a… studio quality drama with award-worthy writing. The roles in this piece are something that serious actors would fight to play. But the material speaks for itself.”

    Though they have secured some funding for the film, they have also started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Twenty-percent of the proceeds will go to support Small Can Be Big, an organization that supports victims of domestic abuse and families in need. “It’s a social issue that we have to stare in the face everyday,” says Nick. “Why not try to help people as much as we can, whenever we can, because at the end of the day, that’s the goal. Make a difference, make a change, even if it’s for just one kid who needs a reminder that even when times are hard, we can never give up on ourselves and our goals.”

    When asked about future plans, Nick said, “Right now my main focus is getting Electric City in the can, and screening at festivals by 2013. I’m not really thinking about any other projects. I have a wallet full of receipts, ticket stubs, and business cards that I use to jot notes down on. When the time comes to start developing a new story, I’ll have that as my resource. For now, all I got is this script, and a pocket full of dreams.”

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    May 14, 2012 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6031

  • The Importance of Learning Your Audience

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    Ron Tippe is the department chair of the Producing department at the New York Film Academy. He is best known as the animation producer for the smash hit Space Jam. He managed the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Paris, France while producing the short film Runaway Brain which was nominated for an Academy award. He was also responsible for pre-production on Shrek and worked with George Lucas in collaboration with Universal Studios on Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. 

    I must be a lucky guy. After 27 years in Hollywood with a successful career in the film business, I’m now the Chair of Producing for NYFA. First off, I get to work with some very special people. My fellow colleagues come from various countries which offer different perspectives from a variety of cultures around the world. That said, the commonality is their love of cinema. Almost to a person, the level of passion is infectious and energizing. This attitude towards the art of filmmaking is what constitutes success as a film producer.

    • KNOW WHO YOUR AUDIENCE IS. In the entertainment business, nothing is decided at the studio level these days. At least not without going through marketing, branding and PR first. The goal for a studio is to maximize financial gain and stem any losses. Focus groups are de rigeur. In the independent world, film festivals and smaller theatrical releases often depend on word-of-mouth in addition to ever-expanding social media campaigns.
    • GRAB THEM IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES. When looking for a film to produce, make sure that the first 10 pages of the script are compelling. Introduce the main characters and make sure we understand what the protagonist wants. And then how the antagonist prevents that from happening. Comedy or drama, action or fantasy, a great story is imperative to grab the audience. The sooner the better!
    • WE ARE GLOBAL. The box office is increasingly getting two-thirds of their money  internationally. Producers, it’s a global marketplace. Know it. Own it.
    • WORD OF MOUTH IS A MOVIE’S BEST FRIEND. If an audience is satisfied, he or she will tell others. Facebook, Twitter, Email. You name it, they will use it.  Social media is where it’s at.
    • AUDIENCES ARE NOT STUPID. They are very culturally savvy, increasingly educated and obviously fickle. They know what they like and dislike.

    A producer is someone who works insane hours under very difficult conditions. You’re always inside the pressure cooker. You’re constantly nudged by studio executives with their myriad of concerns—most of which are related to budgets and finance. How is this related to being a teacher of film? Passion is absolutely essential in the making a film, or at least in providing a great experience during the making of that film. The same is true in the classroom. A passionate teacher is infectious, and that passion often manifests itself in motivated and inspired students. A great producer can make or break that wonderful experience. After all, the producer is who a crew looks to for leadership. It’s a high standard. The same is true in the classroom here at NYFA. We aim to attain the highest standards and “shoot” for it every single day.

    I’m proud of my teachers and students. We are motivated and inquisitive. Most importantly, we work hard. The students will become great producers for the next generation of moviegoers. Because producers have a strong hand in the filmmaking process, we should be proud of the education that the students are getting here at NYFA. Frankly, we should let the world know how good we are. Time to get the word out. Producer. Teacher. Leader. Motivator. I must be a very lucky guy. Stand by to roll.

    Action!

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    April 24, 2012 • Producing • Views: 8113

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes “Rocky” Director John G. Avildsen

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    Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen joined students at New York Film Academy for a Q&A following a screening of his film, Rocky. The excited students filled the theater to capacity, and cheered when the opening credits started rolling.

    john avildsenDuring his on-stage interview, Avildsen spoke about the film, saying, “When I first heard about it, I said, ‘Boxing is really dumb.’ But it’s a beautiful love story – a great character study. He’s a very engaging guy. The boxing is the background. It’s about a guy and a girl, and it’s a delightful story…. You have to have a great story.”

    He talked to students about his long career, and his films that helped launch the careers of Sylvester Stallone, Peter Boyle, and Susan Sarandon. He also gushed about working with Jack Lemmon on 1973’s Save the Tiger, for which Lemmon won the Academy Award.

    The energetic director offered up advice to his gathering of young filmmakers, saying, “The audience is very smart and they have nothing else to do but sit there an judge [your film]. Make sure you have your bases covered and make sure they believe it. When you do, they get their money’s worth.”

    When asked why he chose to become a filmmaker, Avildsen responded, “It’s not work. I’ve worked. I’ve been behind a desk and punched clocks. It’s make believe with all of these creative people. They hang lights up, and try to find strange little props. They’ll find you a great jacket, better than anything you could have thought of. People laugh, they cry, and respond to things, and it’s amazing.”

    Avildsen was extremely generous with his time, and stuck around after the event to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and give advice to eager students.

     

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    April 9, 2012 • Cinematography, Filmmaking • Views: 5263