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  • Tips From a Commercial Talent Agent

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    Jennifer Boyce, the head of the Commercial Talent Department at The Savage Agency for 22 years, spoke to more than 60 acting students in the Welles Screening room at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. The Savage Agency has been one of the top agencies for young talent – from ages 3 to 40 – for over 35 years. They represent actors for theatrical, voice over, and commercials.

    Here are some of the facts that she feels are important for new talent to know:

    1. Having an awesome photo is important! If you are not known to the Casting Director, they have no imaginations. Have several pictures with different looks. Once the Casting office gets to know you, they will have an idea of your type.
    2. Be a “CAN DO” client. Jennifer said, “I work for free until you work, so if I worked for a year for you to finally get a job, that’s one day’s work. You will earn $627.00 at scale for a commercial. I will make $62.70. So I don’t make money unless you make it. So I want clients to work. If I make a suggestion you should pay attention to that. You have to show me you are passionate about this.”
    3. An audition is not a pedicure appointment. You have to really want it. If you don’t there are lots of others who do. Every audition is an opportunity! When you are starting out, you should be willing to do everything.
    4. Don’t just rely on your agent. Don’t just sit by the phone and wait, complaining that your agent isn’t doing anything for you. “I make 10%, so I always say I will do 10% of the work, but you have to do 90%. I get you in the door, but after that the rest is up to you.” It’s important to create your own work – be in plays, improv groups, get yourself out there.
    5. If something is not working, don’t blame your agent, look to yourself.
    6. At the end of the day your job is to audition. Some actors hate the casting process. Get used to it. They might pick somebody because they look like their sister or girlfriend, but that is what happens. You can’t control what they are looking for, but you can control what you do in the room. If you’re getting callbacks, you are doing your job. If you don’t get the job, it’s not on you. You can’t get involved in the politics. That’s the only way you can enjoy being in the business.

    CA1A5857The audience had many questions for her, including the following:

    Q: How do you choose new clients?
    A: I usually choose through referral. If it’s not a referral, I go off picture and resume submission. I look for a GREAT picture, lots of training, improv groups, Second City and Groundlings. A lot of commercials are improv and funny, so those skills are especially important to me.

    Q: How many head-shots should I have?
    A: Have one good headshot to get you to see the agent. But don’t spend a lot of money on it, because most likely your agent will want you to get new ones. Every agents has different taste. A theatrical headshot is different – you need one great one. For commercials, you should have several looks that show different types that you can play.

    Q: What do you look for in a headshot?
    A: For commercials, I look for a headshot to be well lit. I want it to “pop” and see what role you’re going to play.

    Q: How easy is it to get Non-SAG actors into auditions?
    A: It’s getting harder to get commercials for non-union actors. A production company has to write an “essay” about why they need to use you for a union production, and if they don’t have a good reason, they will be fined $750. Casting has become more competitive so the Casting Director is not as willing to bring in non-union actors anymore because of this. They are more likely to call in names and their heavy hitters that they know. So new actors have a harder time getting in. Not everyone gets in to every audition – no matter who they are.

    Q: What about sending candy or gifts to an agent in order to get a meeting?
    A: I never open anything from anyone I don’t know. Better to send a postcard. A postcard is a very nice way to introduce yourself, and I can see it without opening anything.

    NYFA thanks Jennifer for taking the time out to provide invaluable advice for our acting students. Her final words of advice could not be more helpful, “Be grateful and thankful for every opportunity you get.”

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    July 25, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 42893

  • Deciphering Stanley Kubrick at the New York Film Academy

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    Director and NYFA Editing Instructor Rodney Ascher recently returned from the Cannes Film Festival where his first feature film, Room 237, was one of only two American films in the Directors’ Fortnight. His documentary explores numerous theories about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film, The Shining, and its hidden meanings. The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and received glowing reviews from the major press. Here’s a roundup.

    • New York Times examined the documentary and called it an “intriguing” look at a growing subculture of Kubrick fans which has developed over the years.
    • “One of the great movies about movies…”  – Variety.
    • The Hollywood Reporter said, “Nutty, arcane and jaw-dropping in equal measure.”
    • On his blog, New York Magazine film critic Bilge Ebiri chose Room 237 as his Sundance pick. “The film expresses, better than any movie I can think of right now, the feeling of being lost inside the world of a film, and by extension being lost inside the world of film.”
    • “A brilliant work of alternative film criticism – and critique of criticism.” – LA Weekly.

    “Kubrick was my first favorite filmmaker,” says Ascher, “and one whose work has stuck with me throughout my life – The Shining in particular. The first time I saw it, I managed to sit through about 10 minutes. The music in particular filled me with an overwhelming sense of dread and doom that was more than I could take. It soon became one of my favorites.”

    Ascher says the idea for the film came after a chance Facebook posting. “My friend, Tim Kirk, who went on to become a producer of the film, posted an analysis of [The Shining] on my Facebook page. I became interested in the phenomenon — lots of people bringing up radical ideas. I thought we could make a pretty comprehensive field guide to what was in the film. It soon became clear that we could only get the tip of the iceberg.” Room 237 shares theories about The Shining from five people, told through voice over, film clips, animations, and dramatic reenactments. Ascher describes it as “not just a demonstration about how it has captured people’s imaginations, but also how people react to movies, and literature, and the arts in general.”

    The film was chosen to screen as part of the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes alongside Michel Gondry’s The We and the I. Room 237 is being distributed by IFC in North America and Wild Bunch in France. Watch for a theatrical release later this year. “It’s very exciting,” says Ascher, “I’d been used to being sort of an outcast with short films, screening to more … select groups. It was great. The screenings were packed, we were in a gigantic theater, got great press … I’m sure anyone would be excited.”

    See yourself premiering your movie at Sundance, screening it at Cannes, and getting fawned over by critics? Then look into our school and decide if it’s the right path for you.

    Rodney Ascher at Cannes Film Festival.

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    June 7, 2012 • Community Highlights, Digital Editing • Views: 5937

  • New York Film Academy’s Top 5 Robert De Niro Acting Roles

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    Roger Del Pozo is the Director of Acting Admissions at the New York Film Academy. In addition to his work at NYFA, he has also been a casting director in New York for the last 10 years. In that time he has cast hundreds of television commercials, as well as films, plays, voice overs, video games, music videos and industrials for many of the top casting companies and advertising agencies in New York.

    1. MEAN STREETS — The original! De Niro’s first movie with Martin Scorsese is certainly one of his best. Johnny Boy jumps off the screen with such vitality and menace that it seems almost “too real” to be simply called a performance. Both hysterical and frightening, De Niro created a character that set the precedent for gritty, urban performances.  Some may argue he defined American acting from the 1970’s forward.
    2. TAXI DRIVER — De Niro’s iconic role is memorable for so many reasons. The delivery, the transformation, the impact on popular culture… The mohawk! Travis Bickle was immortalized as “God’s Lonely Man”. He frightens because he is so effortlessly real. Nothing about this character feels like a performance. De Niro famously drove a night-shift cab for months to prepare for this role. It shows. We don’t doubt him for a minute. Who can look at cabbies the same way again after watching this? 
    3. RAGING BULL — Of course the famous weight gain is impressive. Everything else about this powerhouse performance, however, also shines. De Niro won his first Best Actor statute portraying the troubled pugilist Jake LaMotta, and he definitely deserved it. The fight scenes are some of the most realistic ever filmed. Most importantly, he humanizes a man with very few redeeming qualities. A classic in every way.
    4. THE GODFATHER 2 — De Niro had huge shoes to fill playing the young version of Vito Corleone, a role made famous by his hero Marlon Brando. He didn’t disappoint. Winning his first Academy Award, he spoke entirely in Sicilian which he learned for the role. De Niro portrays a young Don driven by his need for power and revenge. It’s a study in quiet strength and menace. Undoubtedly, this role solidified De Niro as an actor for the ages. 
    5. GOODFELLAS — De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese once again. As the leader of career gangsters, he is chillingly and darkly hilarious. One of my all time favorite films, this film would’ve sunk without De Niro’s performance. Jimmy Conway is so vibrant and memorable that De Niro has parlayed his later career playing a version of this role in subsequent roles. 
    Do you agree with Roger? Give us your thoughts. Moreover, don’t forget to learn more about the acting program here.
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    March 8, 2012 • Acting • Views: 2089