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  • New York Film Academy Highlights Acting Chair Lynda Goodfriend

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    One of the many enticing aspects of attending one of the New York Film Academy’s programs is the ability to learn hands-on from professionals who have and continue to have such a strong grasp of the professional entertainment business. The best teacher is someone with real life experience in his or her field. Our Los Angeles Acting for Film Chair, Lynda Goodfriend, oversees the acting for film school with a tremendously versatile and impressive background, having performed and acted in both New York City and Los Angeles.

    goodfriend happy days

    After college, Goodfriend started her career as a professional dancer and singer on Broadway, Off Broadway and, as she puts it, “Way-off Broadway.”

    “It was everything I’d dreamt of! One of the highlights was to work with a young performer just starting his career as well, John Travolta” recalls Goodfriend. “When I started to take my acting more seriously, I began studying with the master teachers Lee Strasberg and Sandy Meisner, which made me believe that my ultimate goal as a performer was to be a ‘dramatic actress.'”

    After being in a couple of very small roles in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro and The Front with Woody Allen, Lynda drove to Los Angeles with ambition and her SAG card. To her surprise, Goodfriend booked a variety of sitcom roles, rather than the dramas she was accustomed to.

    “I started classes at Harvey Lembeck’s comedy workshop and would come home crying after every class—it was so hard! But now I love comedy and appreciate the actors who do it well. Among my classmates was a young comedian who could not get work as an actor because he could not stick to the script, but he was brilliant at improv. A role came up on the series I was doing (Happy Days) and they could not cast the character, so I mentioned this guy from my class. He came in to audition, got the role, and the producers liked him so much they created a series of his own—it was called Mork and Mindy, and the actor, Robin Williams, became a huge star.”

    lynda goodfriend

    Lynda Goodfriend as Lori Beth Cunningham with Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham on ‘Happy Days’

    Lynda is most well known for her role as Lori Beth Cunningham in the hit TV series Happy Days. Along the way she did two other sitcom series, many guest star roles, and several roles in feature films working with such actors as Tom Hanks, Bette Midler, and Julia Roberts. One of her fondest moments, as she recalls, was working with Ray Bolger, the ‘Scarecrow’ from the Wizard of Oz, on an episode of Fantasy Island.

    Taking a break from television, Goodfriend started her own acting school, The Actors Workout in NoHo (North Hollywood, the Theatre District), and developed two schools and a Theatre. She was also the head of a management company, Young Artists Management for many years, working with clients from top talent agencies such as CAA, ICM and William Morris.

    She came back to teaching in 2006 at New York Film Academy, teaching Acting for Film and Scripted TV classes. In 2011, Lynda became—and still serves as—Chair of the Acting Department. “I feel like working in this position pulls together all that I’ve learned from my acting career, teaching and managing careers. And fortunately, since my daughter is a talent agent at one of the top agencies in LA, it’s easy to still keep up with the current trends in the industry, so I can help guide our students.”

    “My goal for the Acting Department at NYFA is to continue to find more techniques and approaches to help actors learn their craft, as well as to expand our students’ opportunities to be involved in the industry after graduation. I love our program and have the honor to work with so many gifted instructors. Since becoming Chair, I have had the opportunity to add the Student Directed Plays, the Studio Classes (advanced “extra” courses in Meisner, Method and Chekov), Alumni Scene Study classes, as well as our extensive list of Drop In Classes—Auditioning, Stage Combat, Improv, Yoga, Meditation, Dance, Accent Reduction, Singing and Ballroom Dance—to support their training.”


    “This program is an amazing gift for students who want to learn everything as an actor. When you graduate from this program you can hit the ground running! I believe that everything you do in life teaches you something about acting, so in my personal life I’ve always tried to do things that challenged me—I’ve raced airplanes, climbed mountains in the Himalayas, and am a competition rider along with my Swedish Warmblood horse, named ‘Othello.’ No matter what you do or pursue it’s all about the same thing—focus, hard work and commitment.”

    The most important words of advice Goodfriend can give any actor that is pursuing a career are:

    1. Work harder than everybody else
    2. Don’t burn bridges
    3. Do something every day to become a better actor: read scripts, plays or anything you can get your hands on, go to the theatre, watch great films, go to class
    4. Never, ever quit
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    April 28, 2015 • Acting, Faculty Highlights • Views: 9321

  • Remembering Cinematography’s Prince of Darkness

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    Cinematographer Gordon Willis on set preparing a shot

    A cinematographer occupies a unique position in the creation of a film in that he or she must translate a director’s vision into shots that are both in service to the story while injecting his or her own vision into the film. Renowned cinematographer Gordon Willis, who died on Monday at the age of 82, perfectly captured this tension when he said a director of photography’s (DP) duty is to “fit the punishment to the crime,” meaning that a DP should render the material in an aesthetic manner that marries his or her own unique perspective in service of the film. To say that Willis accomplished this goal is an understatement as he was responsible for pioneering a style of 35mm cinematography that became synonymous with the golden era of Hollywood film in the 70s, working closely with three of that decade’s most notable auteurs—Alan J. Pakula, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen.

    Donald Sutherland stares out the window in Klute

    Starting his career as a DP with 1970’s End of the Road, Willis first came to prominence in Pakula’s neo-noir thriller Klute in 1971. Throughout the film, Willis makes use of long shots and unusual zooms and angles to essentially estrange the viewer, creating an unsettling mood through his imagery. In addition, Willis started to flex his more innovative and ambitious muscles. For example, in one scene the film’s protagonist Peter Kable stares outside his window upon the city when the camera effortlessly moves forward and appears to almost drop out of the window to create a dizzying shot that uses the building’s massive height, leaving viewers scratching their head at how such an impressive shot could be made to look so effortless.

    Having served as the cinematographer on Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, The Godfather was a watershed moment not just in Willis’s own career, but for cinematography as a whole. The film’s opening scene is famous for its reserved use of light as the film’s bright wedding scene contrasts with Vito Corleone’s dimly lit office in which Marlon Brando’s eyes are almost completely obscured. It was this film that earned him the nickname of the Prince of Darkness as he parted with many of Hollywood’s conventional lighting techniques in favor of heavy underexposure and an orange palette that would become a hallmark of subsequent period films.

    Library of Congress in All The President's Men

    Willis was never afraid of using inventive and new techniques to create the right tone for the films he worked on. One incredible example of this was his re-teaming with Pakula for All The President’s Men in which he placed a winch he placed in the dome of the Library of Congress, allowing a remote-controlled camera to film a full view of the library in a single shot. Throughout the film, his mastery of light is seen as the above shot, showing the library cast in natural light, with the shadowy world of darkness, as exemplified in the under-lit scene in which Robert Redford meets with Deep Throat in a menacing parking garage.

    Having first hooked up with Allen in 1977’s classic Annie Hall, his camera work in 1979’s Manhattan served as a love letter to his hometown. Filmed in a 2:35:1 anamorphic black and white format, Willis managed to help make a modern tale of romance look positively timeless; just take the film’s opening sequence in which iconic sights of the city are fantastically shot and paired with George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” But if one is to call to mind one particularly memorable shot from the film, it would undoubtedly be the scene in which Allen’s and Diane Keaton’s characters sit on a park bench and gaze at the Queensboro Bridge cast against a foggy dawn. Willis chose to emphasize the gigantic nature of the city, which can often make its inhabitants feel like ants, as the viewer only sees the backs of Allen and Keaton, creating a definitive statement on the beauty of both the city and love.

    Remarkably enough, Willis was never nominated by the Academy for any of his work in the above films—although he did receive an honorary Oscar in 2009—but in the hearts of cinephiles and cinematographers alike, his work will continue to inspire and evoke awe for the foreseeable future.

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    May 20, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 6161

  • Abe Altman: Accountant to the Stars

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    Abe Altman

    Abe Altman at NYFA Union Square

    As Abe Altman greeted a packed house at the New York Film Academy’s Union Square screening room, he humbly admitted, “I’m an accountant, and usually the conversation ends there.” While the ice breaker may not work in most social settings, Abe assured the audience that his profession was much more exciting than it sounds. Abe was right.

    Having started out as a typical accountant, making a decent salary and supporting a family, Abe yearned for more in life. After several years of establishing himself as a reputable accountant at a standard firm, he thought it was time to branch out into something more exciting. Abe ended up landing a job with an accounting company that focused on entertainment clients. This provided a needed fulfillment, and Abe never looked back.

    After several years of working with clients from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and even Tom Cruise, Abe started his own firm. Now his company, “Altman, Greenfield, and Selvaggi,” is one of the most prominent entertainment accounting firms in New York City, with a branch in Los Angeles. His roster of clients include major talents like Sarah Jessica Parker, John Goodman, John Turturro, and many more. Abe understands the struggles of an actor and says, “As long as you’re an actor, I’ll take you on as a client.” Having witnessed firsthand the blossoming careers of many A-list actors, Abe understands the value of a struggling actor who is genuinely motivated.

    A rather interesting story that Abe shared with us, was when he offered his support for John Turturro, who finally raised funds to film a personal project called Mac. Abe was so excited for John, he was willing to help out on set in any fashion. He told John he would leave work at 3:00PM everyday, even if it meant serving coffee for his crew. A few weeks later, John reached out to Abe, only it wasn’t to serve coffee. Turturro felt Abe could play a small part in his film as a hardware store owner. Considering Abe was a business owner, John felt he was the only one who could truly grasp the role. And so Abe was cast in his first film. It didn’t stop there, however. Abe was recently cast as a rabbi in John Turturro’s upcoming film, Fading Gigolo, which stars Woody Allen, Liev Schreiber, and Sofia Vergara. Indeed his world of accounting was much more thrilling than the norm.

    Abe was a gracious host with an abundance of insightful “Hollywood business” knowledge. His advice for actors, and any person pursuing a career for that matter, was to “Keep moving forward and keep plugging away.” Abe is a true believer in the notion that if you know what you want to do in life, you can achieve that goal through patience and persistence.

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    October 17, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 14916

  • Martin Landau Discusses His 60 Years in the Business

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    martinlaundau

    On August 1, the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles welcomed Academy Award winning actor Martin Landau for a screening of Ed Wood (1994), followed by a Q&A between Mr. Landau and NYFA students.

    Mr. Landau, 85, has worked on stage and screen for 60 years, appearing in films such as North by Northwest (1959), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and Tucker: A Man and his Dream (1988). His television credits include the classic 1960s show Mission Impossible and more recently, several episodes of Entourage.

    Mr. Landau explained to students that he left his early career as a cartoonist to join 2,000 other applicants who auditioned for the Actor’s Studio in New York, ending up as one of only two students selected for admission (the other was Steve McQueen). Offering a history of the Actor’s Studio, Mr. Landau also described his instrumental role in creating Actor’s Studio West in Los Angeles, where he still serves as Artistic Director.

    laundauWith such a rich history in the entertainment industry, Mr. Landau told stories of working with Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Tim Burton. He spoke candidly about the actor’s job, and explained that actors must always be observant of what is around them, making their daily lives a preparation for various roles. He demonstrated his own lifetime of observation by precisely impersonating Hitchcock, or by speaking with the Irish and Italian accents of his childhood friends. He said that only bad actors pretend to laugh or cry, and that instead, it’s the actor’s job to prepare and focus on the details and emotions of each character in each moment.

    To that end, Mr. Landau encouraged students to enjoy the filmmaking process as it’s happening. He even showed that he still subscribes to this idea – when asked by a student which of his films was his favorite, Mr. Landau quipped, “Whichever film I’m working on now.” Wrapping up, he told students to reach for the stars: tired of seeing “robots…and more robots” in today’s movies, Mr. Landau convinced the young filmmakers in attendance that it was up to them to once again make movies about real people.

    The NYFA students and staff in attendance were awed by the talent and humor of Mr. Landau, and appreciated his time and important advice.

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    August 6, 2013 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 6768