The New York Film Academy (NYFA) College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Division of Veterans Services (DVS) recently welcomed NYFA’s veteran students and alumni, together with members of Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME), to a screening of the hit animated series Rick and Morty. Following the screening, the audience was treated to a Q&A with casting director extraordinaire, Robert McGee, C.S.A.
The event was part of the NYFA DVS series of events that includes guest speakers, film screenings, master classes, workshops, and employment trainings — all of which promote industry engagement for NYFA’s veteran students, as well as the wider veteran communities, in Los Angeles, New York City, and South Beach (Miami).
In addition to Rick and Morty, McGee has cast such hit shows as The Cleveland Show and Wizards of Waverly Place, as well as successful films such as The Virgin Suicides and World’s Greatest Dad, which starred Robin Williams. McGee is currently casting the newest rendition of The Adams Family, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Oscar Isaac, Nick Kroll, and Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron.
With over 20 years of experience in the casting business in both live action and animation, McGee enjoyed sharing valuable insight on the casting process for both live action and voice over work. McGee is very passionate about the casting business and enjoys meeting actors.
“The Q&A with Mr. McGee was very insightful,” said NYFA BFA Producing student and U.S. Navy veteran Jonathan Garza. “As a Producing student it was very informative, learning the complexities of what a casting director goes through and how intricate the casting process is.”
The New York Film Academy thanks Robert McGee for his generosity and willingness to help veterans pursuing careers in the film industry.
The New York Film Academy (NYFA)’s New York City campus recently hosted nearly 50 veterans, active-duty military personnel, and dependents for an evening master class in the application and principles of light in digital photography.
Chair of the NYFA Photography Program David Mager facilitated the three-hour workshop.
Professor Mager’s lecture Principles of Light served as a great introduction to the laws and active principles behind the lighting of any scene. Attendees learned to approach a shoot with a pre-visualized idea of what story they want the light to tell.
Both the lecture and hands-on exercises guided attendees to see what different types of light look like, and how to think about lighting as an essential tool in image creation. See more photos from the day here.
NYFA’s Chair of the Veterans Advancement Program, The Honorable Colonel Jack Jacobs, treated the participants to welcome remarks.
NYFA provided this photography workshop at no charge to the veteran participants as part of the institution’s support of service members residing in the communities where NYFA has U.S. campuses: Los Angeles, New York City, and South Beach (Miami). In the past two years, NYFA’s Division of Veteran Services has provided more than a dozen such free masterclasses in various filmmaking related disciplines including Acting, Screenwriting, Filmmaking, and Acting for Film.
The Austin Convention Center housed the daylong event and featured a six-hour interactive instructional seminar, titled Anatomy of a Scene, presented by NYFA New York City Chair of Short Term Programs Jonathan Whittaker. The seminar included lecture, screening, and group participation, to coach on writing, breaking down, and directing a scene. The seminar explored all aspects of filmmaking, including cinematography, producing, editing, acting, and screenwriting.
From left to right: Stephanie Whallon, Incentive Program Manager, Texas Film Commission; Cruz Montemayor, Deputy Executive Director, Texas Veterans Commission; Colonel Jack Jacobs, Chair, NYFA Veterans Advancement Program; Allen Bergeron, Veterans Program Administrator, City of Austin; John Powers, Director, NYFA Division of Veterans Services
On hand to greet the nearly 70 military participants were the honorable Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient and on-air military strategist for NBC/MSNBC and Chair of the NYFA Veterans Advancement Program; Cruz Montemayor, Deputy Executive Director, Texas Veterans Commission; Allen Bergeron, Military Veterans Program Manager, City of Austin; Minhu Vu, Senior Marketing Coordinator, Texas Film Commission; and Stephanie Whallon, Incentive Program Manager, Texas Film Commission.
A highlight for NYFA was the presentation to Colonel Jacobs of a Special Proclamation by Austin’s Mayor, Steve Adler, declaring April 14 as “NYFA DAY” in the City of Austin!
In part, the Proclamation reads:
Be it known that
The New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) seeks to promote and advance the art of visual storytelling through film and related media including staged performance as a transformational and ennobling vehicle to both the creator and audience; and
This art has a profound impact on the individuals, communities and global society and therefor NYFA seeks to make visual storytelling education accessible to the most diverse, international, and broadest possible spectrum of people from all backgrounds who one day will serve the visual storytelling arts as industry leaders; and
We appreciate NYFA for their innovative efforts in the film and arts industry and for supporting members of the Military who are currently serving and have served our country along with their families. Austin is proud to be called home to many of the brave men and women who serve(d) in the Military and to have the opportunity to explore various aspects of filmmaking through NYFA; and
I, Steve Adler, Mayor of the City of Austin, Texas,
do hereby proclaim
April 14, 2018
NYFA’s President Michael Young expressed gratitude to Mayor Adler, stating, “We are incredibly honored and humbled to receive this proclamation from a city that does so much veterans, for film, and for the arts. The New York Film Academy hopes return to Austin frequently to partner on these efforts.
NYFA’s Division of Veterans Services has been privileged to enroll and support more than 1,500 veteran students and military dependents at its U.S. campuses since 2009. Many NYFA programs are approved for Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits, and the Los Angeles and South Beach campuses also participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
Few people have the grit and the determination to become a Navy SEAL, but New York Film Academy alum Kenny Sheard has shown that no matter what he sets his mind to, he brings in the full force of his incredible work ethic, talent, and stamina. After honorably serving in the Navy for 12 years and attaining a place with the world famous, elite Navy SEALS, Sheard has managed to forge an entirely new and challenging path for himself in the civilian world as an actor and stunt performer in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters and series.
Sheard booked his first stunt job in the Transformers franchise while still actively serving in the reserves, and from there, came to NYFA to master new skills in Filmmaking. Since then, his creative career has skyrocketed, with stunt credits in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Fear of the Walking Dead, Logan, and the upcoming Avatar 2, among many many more. His acting credits continue to build up as well, with his most recent appearance alongside Chris Hemsworth in 12 Strong, now available to stream on Amazon.
NYFA alum Kenny Sheard via IMDB
Through it all, Sheard has worked hard to keep learning, stay humble, and encourage fellow veterans as they transition to civilian life. Here, he shares his best advice and some of his story with the NYFA Blog. Check out what he has to say:
NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?
KS: I’m originally from Miami, FL, and attended College in Newburg, NY, for a few years, but didn’t finish. I moved home, joined the military in May of 2001, and served on active duty until May 2013. In 2010, while assigned to a training command, I was given an opportunity to use my saved up leave (vacation time) to play a minor stunt/acting role on Transformers 3. That experience and a multitude of things that followed are what ultimately lead me to the Filmmaking course at NYFA.
NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most about film? What stories are you most passionate to tell?
KS: Films have entertained and inspired me as far back as I can recall. I enjoy reading; however, films have had a more substantial impact on me. In my experience, I’m able to feel and perceive the world through this visual medium in ways that I might not ever have had the chance to, like through a mother’s loving eyes or a tormented serial killer. Personally, I prefer fiction over reality-based stories. That said, some of the most influential films I’ve seen have also been “based on true story” movies. The stories I’m passionate to tell lean on the darker and grittier side.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?
KS: I don’t have any favorite standout moments, but I got a ton out of the experience. The teachers were knowledgeable and went above and beyond.
NYFA: As a veteran, what is your best advice to fellow veterans and active service members interested in transitioning into the visual and performing arts?
KS: My advice would be to stay focused on your goals/dreams, be true to who you are always, and destroy the ego. Use the discipline, structure, and attention to detail you’ve acquired from your time of service and apply it to your new creative ventures in life.
Have a work hard, hustle attitude, with a positive and open mind. Don’t ever hang your choice to serve over anyone’s head, ever.
Sounds like a cheesy poster, but hey, get after it!
NFYA: You launched your career in the Transformers franchise while still serving in the reserves. What was that experience like?
KS: Being a part of Transformers was awesome. I met Michael Bay and Harry Humphries through a friend, Echy.
I can’t say enough great things about Bay and being exposed to a film set like that. I enjoyed every moment, and it came at a time when I had no idea what to do next in life. If I tried to put words to the whole experience and what it’s meant to me, it would degrade it.
NYFA: You’ve worked in some incredibly successful, major films — from John Wick to 13 Hours and Transformers: Age of Extinction. What is your best advice to our students to prepare for the transition from school to a large-scale blockbuster set?
KS: That’s a tough one. I think some people get it, and some don’t. I can’t imagine anything I write here might shatter any glass for readers. See my advice to veterans; it applies to all.
NYFA: Acting and stunts — how does your preparation process change depending on your work?
KS: These are two very different worlds, which I’m on the bottom of the barrel in both. When it comes to acting, I’m just playing myself. Other than knowing my lines, which have yet to be extensive, there’s not a ton of prep for me.
Stunts, on the other hand, require a ton of prep. I think I need to point out here that I’m relatively green in the stunt world. The pool of talent I’ve had the honor of working with in the stunt world is insane, and I’m far from being considered anyone of a high caliber. My tactical background has helped me out tremendously, but I’m still learning a ton every project I’m on.
NYFA: What is your favorite part of working in stunts? Have there been any surprises and challenges along the way, and how do you overcome them?
KS: My favorite part of working in the stunt community has been the people. Every project I’m on, I’m always impressed with the talent and comradery. I can’t say that I’ve ever been surprised, but it’s always challenging and fun.
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about 12 Strong? What was that filming experience like?
KS: 12 Strong was an outstanding experience. From meeting the guys whom the story was about, to working with all the talented actors and stunt team, it was awesome. I wouldn’t know where to start, the director and producers were solid to work for as well.
It’s a hard thing telling a true story, and I think Nicolai Fuglsig did an exceptional job. The men who the story is about were very pleased with it, and you can’t ask for anything better than that. I was deeply honored to play Bill Bennett, a medic who later lost his life overseas in Iraq in 2003.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kenny Sheard for taking the time to share his story with the NYFA community. 12 Strong is available to stream on Amazon.
NYFA Veteran Students with Col. Jack Jacobs (NYFA Chair of Veteran Advancement Program)
Everybody knows by now that the Internet is filled with countless blogs, from globally famous media companies to ones covering even the tiniest of niches. But there’s at least one blog that’s doing great work serving an often overlooked yet large and vitally important demographic—the United States military community.
The blog, We Are The Mighty, is for veterans, servicemen and women, and their families, and covers everything from military news to pop culture, with both thoughtfully penned articles and silly, amusing listicles. Overall, WATM’s mission statement is “Celebrating military service with stories that inspire,” but in doing so, it’s also provided a way for the community to congregate, communicate, and share their ideas and views through its site and social media.
NYFA BFA Filmmaking and MFA Screenwriting Alum Tim Kirkpatrick
Tim Kirkpatrick is one of the writers for We Are The Mighty, and has already built an impressive portfolio of articles. Kirkpatrick is a Navy veteran, having entered as a Hospital Corpsman in 2007. In the fall of 2010, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines.
After coming back stateside, Kirkpatrick enrolled at the New York Film Academy and earned his AFA degree in filmmaking from our Los Angeles campus. Honing his skills even further, Kirkpatrick followed his filmmaking education with NYFA’s 8-Week Screenwriting workshop.
One of his most recent pieces is about the New York Film Academy itself, highlighting the Academy’s relationship to the Military and veteran community. As Kirkpatrick mentions in his article, “At any given time, NYFA caters to over 200 veterans in the student body and the school takes pride in putting a camera in their hands on the first day of class,” while also adding that NYFA has enrolled over 1500 veterans and dependents of veterans in total.
The Military and veteran community is an important part of the NYFA family. Kirkpatrick mentions in his article the Academy’s V.S.A., or Veteran Student Association, where vets from different branches of the armed forces come together over their shared love of film and the visual arts.
Kirkpatrick also shouts out the venerable Colonel Jack Jacobs, who in addition to being a Medal of Honor recipient and on-air military strategist for NBC/MSNBC, is the Chair of the NYFA Veterans Advancement Program.
The Military and the film industry are a more natural pairing than some may suspect. Kirkpatrick writes, “As in the Military, the film industry uses a precise chain of command for its operational purposes, so vets feel right at home on set — hierarchy and order (and yes, even paperwork) have been branded into their solid work ethic.”
You can check out Tim Kirkpatrick and the other writers at We Are The Mighty here.
On October 21, New York Film Academy (NYFA) held a special day-long professional development workshop with Hire Heroes USA, an event open to New York City’s diverse array of veterans seeking careers in film, television, and broadcast journalism. This training session follows a very successful NYFA Hire Heroes USA event that was held at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus.
Hire Heroes USA is a highly successful nonprofit organization that provides free career coaching and job sourcing to transitioning U.S. military members, veterans and military spouses. To date, Hire Heroes USA has found more than 20,000 jobs for veterans.
Together with NYFA, the organization tailored the day’s instruction and training uniquely for the media and entertainment industries. The training also included a panel of industry professionals with a plethora of experience in major motion picture production, start-up production company management, entertainment law, pitching and network building.
Veteran participants with Colonel Jack Jacobs at the NYFA NYC Hire Heroes USA training.
“The men and women who make up the United States Armed Forces are some of the world’s most highly trained professionals. But when service members transition out of the military one of the most common questions they ask me is, ‘Which of my skills from service are transferable to a civilian career?’” stated NYFA Veterans Services Coordinator Chris Paparis, one of the workshop’s principle organizers. He continued, “In many cases, veterans discount how much their service in the military has already prepared them for careers in the entertainment industry.”
NYFA’s Chair of Veteran Services Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.) provided insight into his own career in television as the on-air military strategist at NBC/MSNBC, which he began after a successful venture in the finance industry. Colonel Jacobs is an advocate for all veterans seeking to break into the film and television industry. He readily advises students on their career paths, and even has NYFA veteran students visit the NBC Studios in NYC for a behind-the-scenes experience.
Attendees worked through a busy lunch hour, which included the opportunity to have professional headshots taken by NYFA staff photographers to accompany the LinkedIn skill-building portion of the seminar.
Gileon Clarke, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and graduate of NYFA 1-Year Acting Conservatory, noted that the class “focused on modern concepts … we learned how to use LinkedIn to build our personal brand, and [how] these new ideas can really help build one’s network and overall impact in the job market.”
NYFA greatly appreciates the partnership with Hire Heroes USA, and especially wants to thank Elena Comperatore, Jamie Rimphanli, and Molly Giles, who provided the accompanying lectures to the event and provided the skills training.
Recently, the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) Student Veteran Organization (SVO) of the NYFA Los Angeles Campus organized a new student welcome event at the local Burbank VFW Ship. The morning began with a breakfast for a Burbank scout troop that was organized by a NYFA alumnus who is also a veteran.
Veteran students from all branches of service and disciplines met to network and to develop the camaraderie that many service members felt while in the military. The NYFA Student Veteran Organization facilitates these events to build on the vet-to-vet interaction that helps many of our returning warriors as they transition out of the military.
Those who attended were able to connect with fellow NYFA veterans and military dependents. “The Burbank VFW is a great resource for our student veterans as they have welcomed all of our veterans with open arms and serve as liaisons to the local community, said Vincent Cugno, NYFA BFA Acting student who also serves as the SVO President.”
The SVO used this opportunity to host its first meeting of the fall 2017 semester and to introduce the new incoming class of NYFA veteran students and also to discuss ideas as to how to engage the veteran community and to organize events to support their fellow veterans. The SVO plans on creating a Veteran Production team within the College in conjunction with the VFW.
The New York Film Academy student population is incredibly diverse just as is the US military. NYFA’s enrollment is more than 50% international students who come from many different countries, backgrounds, and all have unique life experiences. The SVO intends to bring NYFA veteran students together with their classmates from around the world to tell stories in collaboration.
The SVO is collaborating with the NYFA Service Learning Department and the City of Burbank – Thank A Soldier event on 21 October.
From left to right, Jack Kennedy (VME), Jon Levy, Jason Kennedy, April Webster, Paul Dinh-McCrillis, Tricia Wood, and Russell Boast
The event was held under the auspices of CSA’s “Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion”. CSA’s Diversity Initiative has the mission of providing knowledge and opportunities to many different populations including veterans who are pursuing careers in the entertainment industry.
The attendees were treated to an inspiring two-hour discussion that provided an in-depth look at how casting directors approach the process of audition and selecting actors for roles in film, television, and commercials. The esteemed panel of casting directors also spoke about how veterans’ military and life experiences can help during the casting process and when the actor is on the film set. Veterans are often highly disciplined and very capable of working in a team environment.
“NYFA was proud to host this event on our campus and to collaborate, once again, with the membership of Veterans In Media And Entertainment, and now with CSA in support of the veteran community in our area”, stated Michael Kunselman, Veterans Coordinator at NYFA’s Division of Veteran Services.
“The panel discussion with the CSA was an excellent learning experience and extremely informative for me as a new actor. I appreciated the opportunity to have been given the chance to hear from some of our leading casting directors from the industry. They all had useful information to share and some of the main points that resonated with me were to trust myself, learn to be my authentic self and the importance of knowing and connecting with the material,” said Douglas Prideaux, US Army, BFA Acting student at the New York Film Academy.
NYFA has been honored to support over 1300 veterans who have studied at the College since 2011. This collaboration is just another step in supporting this newest generation of veterans who are pursuing their aspirations to be successful in the entertainment industry post-military service.
This month, NYFA Veterans were invited to attend an exclusive pre-release screening of feature film “Dunkirk,” through the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund’s (MPTF) Veteran Benefits Assistance Program. NYFA Veterans William Grodnick and Luis Camacho attended the special screening of “Dunkirk” in New York City and have shared their experiences with the NYFA Blog. Please note: this blog has been edited for clarity and length.
The New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) facilitated an exclusive, hands on Game Design workshop for service members and veterans that were interested in pursuing an education in the field of game design and game engineering. Veterans from across Southern California, including Los Angeles and San Diego, met at the College’s campus located in Burbank, CA.
“Veterans working together to build a game during the workshop”
Bryan Parent, Founder of Team Push, and a workshop participant, stated, “These types of events are important to our veterans; it is an opportunity to learn how their military skills can be used in a civilian setting, where they can work together as a team with other veterans and co-workers, and to break apart any assumptions we have leaving the military, or what others think we are coming out of the military. NYFA put all of that into an easily digested workshop that left all of Team Push Up’s members asking for more.”
The College’s Veterans Services Department organized the event; Chris Swain, NYFA’s Game Design Department Chair facilitated the workshop. Swain is a seasoned game designer and game design engineer, who has authored 50+ games for Activision, EA, Sony, Microsoft, Disney and many others.
“The New York Film Academy has a long history of supporting veterans and while this workshop was geared towards those interested in learning more about the burgeoning game design industry, the occasion also provided an opportunity for veterans to network with each other and be around those with similar life experiences,” said Eric Brown, US Navy Veteran and Veterans Coordinator at NYFA.