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NYFA welcomes Kevin James and alumnus Michael Soccio

NYFA Welcomes Kevin James, NYFA Alumnus Michael Soccio, and Producer Leo Severino

July 26, 2016 Students were delighted with the most recent Guest Speaker Series event, which welcomed comedian and actor Kevin James, along with former New York Film Academy student Michael Soccio, who has written for several of James’ projects, including The King of Queens, Hitch, and the upcoming CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait. Also joining the panel was producer Leo Severino, who produced the award-winning film Bella and is developing a film based on the biblical character, Mary.

Kevin James at New York Film Academy

Moderated by Acting for Film Chair, Glynis Rigsby, the talk began with James discussing how he originally broke into the business. After being unsure of what to do with his life while in college, James built up the courage to write and perform stand up material. From there, he never looked back, eventually building a successful career as a comic and, ultimately, landing his own sitcom deal. With The King of Queens being a major success, James took his first big step onto the big screen with his role opposite Will Smith in the smash hit, Hitch.

James then teamed up with friend Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and would go on to star in several other films, including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Zookeeper, and more.

Though he’s reached a level of success that few in this business can compare to, James stressed the importance of a filmmaking education. “I wish I had this experience,” James said to an audience full of film and acting students. “If I could go back to school, I would learn every aspect of filmmaking.”

NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio with Kevin James

Former NYFA student Michael Soccio added, “You can never learn too much. I went [to NYFA] for directing. That quite honestly is what made me a better writer.”

James, Soccio, and Severino stressed the importance of developing a solid working team around you. Find other talented people who can elevate your work to the next level. James says it is important to know and understand the big picture when working on a project, noting his own faults when he can become a bit narrow minded on a scene. Again, it’s about finding the right people who understand the whole landscape of the filmmaking process.

Tying back into the notion that one can never stop learning in this business, or any business for that matter, a student asked James, “When did you know you mastered your craft?” James replied, “I’ll let you know when I get there.”

NYFA looks forward to continuing to watch James, Soccio, and Severino’s work in both film and television. You can see James star in his newest TV series Kevin Can Wait, with Soccio on board as a writer, premiering this September on CBS.

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