Author: New York Film Academy

Top 5 Films Every Actor Should See

The Godfather logo

Let’s be honest. All movies are not created equally. Some films stick with you long after you are finished watching them. A good film can touch your soul, evoke emotions, and teach you lessons about life. From an actor’s perspective, films can also teach the art of film acting, just as they can teach a director how to position a camera. When a person completely disappears into a character, something astonishing happens. They cease performing and simply become a living and breathing person. Here are five examples of films that capture beautiful acting that every aspiring actor should watch and learn from.

1. The Godfather

Regarded as one of the best films ever made, The Godfather provides a master class in film acting. The names on the cast list are almost ridiculous: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, and James Caan to name a few. Anyone of those actors can carry a film on their own, but together the sparks on screen are something to behold. Brando gives an especially moving performance, for which he won the 1972 Academy Award for Acting. Watch the scene that introduces the character Don Vito Corleone and be swept away.

2. Forrest Gump

A near perfect film all around, the epic journey of Forrest Gump provides plenty of substance for actors to sink their teeth into. Tom Hanks gives one of the most specific and nuanced performances of all time as the titular character, and he is surrounded by a cast that includes Gary Sinise, Robin Wright and Sally Field. Each of the characters is unique and damaged, and watching the actors navigate the challenges of their characters lives is something to behold.

3. Taxi Driver

Scorsese and De Niro. De Niro and Scorsese. No matter the order, you can’t go wrong with that pair of film legends. Taxi Driver is a tour de force of filmmaking and acting brilliance. Robert De Niro plays an insomniac with serious delusions and watching him descend into the darkness of his obsessions is truly disturbing. This is the film that gave the world the line, “You talkin’ to me?” and earned a 12 year old Jody Foster an Oscar nod.

4. The Dark Knight

The story of Heath Ledger is tragic, but his acting performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight was transcendent. He took an archetypical character, a character that had already been played, and made it his own. His tortured and brilliant take on the Joker is the highlight of an excellent film and will live forever as one of the best supporting performances in the history of cinema

5. Borat

Comedy is considered even more difficult to act than drama yet comedic acting is often dismissed a lesser art. Sacha Baron Cohen specializes in comedy and in Borat he gives his best performance. A mockumentary, in the film, Cohen is filmed in real life situations, duping people into believing his charade. It’s a side splitting comedy, so funny that the acting almost goes unnoticed but Mr. Cohen delivers a near perfect comedic character.

Watch them, enjoy them, and learn from them. The above films are incredible feats of art with acting performances that can teach actors a lot about their craft. Honorable Mentions: Anything with Meryl Streep or Daniel Day-Lewis.

Cable News’ Decline Provides Opportunities For Local Television

Decline in cable networks lends opportunity for local news networks

A recent Washington Post article highlights the decline in cable news audiences, reporting that since 2009, the median daily audience for the top three cable news channels—CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News—has fallen 19 percent. The decline during prime-time hours is even sharper, at 26 percent.  From 2013 to 2014, prime-time median viewership dropped eight percent.

Reasons Cable is Falling Behind

There’s no question the trend toward non-television sources of news, including social media and online sources, has affected TV news viewership in general.

However, according to a Pew Research Center State of the Media report from earlier this year,  local television viewership increased slightly overall in 2014, with a two percent gain in morning news and a three percent gain in early evening news viewership.

Local news also benefited from a rise in ad revenue, with its share reaching $19.7 billion last year. Meanwhile network news also experienced growth in 2014, with a two percent increase in average viewership over 2013.

So Why is Cable Struggling While Local and Network News Continue to Grow?

While consumers are generally getting more news from social media and other online sources, local and network have continued to gain, if at a more leisurely pace than ten years ago. Why aren’t local and network newscasts suffering as much from the rise of digital media?

It isn’t just because viewers are watching more news on their phones than on TV screens. The Washington Post article points out that cable’s problem may be a side effect of the digital revolution. Viewers are watching more than just news online. They’re streaming everything from soap operas to movies to sitcoms, and as a result some are canceling their cable subscriptions.

A consumer who browses the day’s news stories on her phone while riding the bus home from work might still turn on the TV to watch news when she arrives home, but if she canceled her cable last month, she’s going to be watching national and local news stories on a local affiliate.

Cable News Tries to Attract and Retain Viewers

Some of the programming cable networks produce to keep viewers interested may have the opposite effect. The Washington Post article details how CNN’s Jeff Zucker planned to attract and retain viewers by focusing on a single story or issue for hours, sometimes even days. While this certainly provides an in-depth look at the topic, it can also bore today’s viewer, who might read five news articles about five different topics on his phone while CNN is still on the same subject.

It is possible that local stations can gain a stronger foothold over cable by spending slightly more time on some of the bigger stories, and not just in sweeps month. We’ve all seen how stations run longer pieces during those times, and television is a fast-paced medium; no one wants to bore viewers by repeating what is often limited information about a current piece of news.

Certainly, you wouldn’t want your local TV station to spend the entire A block dissecting the finer points of the city’s new parking ordinance. But running slightly longer, well-reported packages about a few of the biggest news items can help your station gain and maintain viewers who have turned away from cable but still enjoy more involved reporting on a story.

Local stations can also use podcasts to provide a broader view on a topic. This has the advantage of giving viewers the option of spending more time on a story that interests them; with cable news, you have the option of watching whatever that network wants to talk about for an hour, whether it interests you or not.

News Fatigue: Another Problem for Cable?

Spending so much time on one story may be another reason for the downfall of cable. As any reporter who has ever struggled to make a story sound different during the five, six and ten o’clock newscasts with no additional information knows, big stories often have no new developments for hours, sometimes days. Local stations love to lead with “updates” about stories reported earlier or “new developments,” but sometimes there really aren’t any.

Cable networks have the same problem, except that they have to make repeat the same information over and over for hours instead of in a thirty-second package. Usually, they handle this by bringing on a panel of experts to discuss the situation. If they’re lucky, the experts get into a big argument the network can call “controversial” when posting the video to its website. If they’re not lucky, the experts simply talk in professional jargon or go off on tangents about things that are neither interesting nor relevant.

Another Opportunity for Local Television?

Many viewers have grown tired of dueling political experts and the repetition of a small number of facts on cable news. Some people simply don’t have time in their busy schedules to watch CNN pick apart the latest disaster for six hours straight. This may be another reason viewers spend more time watching local and national news: the most pertinent information is explained briefly before the newscast moves on to its next story.

Local stations have the opportunity to provide more detailed coverage of certain stories in a way that’s more relevant to viewers than cable news’ coverage by focusing on the local angle of national stories.

Local and National News in One Place

Fox News may be able to talk about Donald Trump’s latest viral comment for hours on end, but only a local station can give viewers an in-depth look at community issues, conduct person-on-the-street interviews about national topics, then provide a national news program.

Local TV stations can use this advantage by occasionally running sweeps-length, in-depth packages about local issues outside of sweeps month. Affiliates also have more opportunities to interact with younger viewers on social media.

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How To Prepare For A General Audition

If you’ve read our guide to finding an audition, you know hundreds of these auditions are posted online every day.

Once a year, most cities host a cattle call audition session that lasts for days and includes dozens of theater companies and hundreds of actors. In Seattle there’s the TPS Generals, in San Francisco they have the TBA General Auditions, and in Toronto they have the TAPA Generals. The various acronyms are not important, but what is important is the preparation, because general auditions are a little bit different than regular, invitational auditions.

What makes an Audition General?

Generally, auditors narrow the field of actors before they begin the audition process. They have characters in mind for the play or film they are casting and use those character types to select actors that might fit. If you’ve read our guide to finding an audition, you know hundreds of these auditions are posted online every day. In contrast, general auditions allow anyone, of any skill level or type, to audition, usually for a small fee.

The benefit of general auditions is the exposure. Because they are planned far ahead of time by a reputable organization, general auditions attract attention from theatre companies large and small who are searching for talent. In many cases, the audition room will contain film producers and agents as well.

What to Expect at a General

Actors typically sign up, pay their fee, and receive an audition time and place. The most important thing is to show up on time, ready to go. The time will probably be odd as they are scheduling auditions back to back, all day long. If something happens and you cannot make the audition, be sure to cancel in advance so you don’t look like a flake.

When you arrive, there will be a line. It’ll be full of actors of different ages and looks, unlike most auditions. You will get in line and wait. When you are on deck, you will be shuttled into an empty room and then you will be summoned to the audition. You will walk out on stage and have hundreds of eyes silently staring at you. People will scribble on their pads. They may yawn, because it’s a long day for everyone and you are just one of the hundreds of actors on the auditor’s list which has its advantages and disadvantages.

How to Prepare

Most importantly, take the time to prepare and be aware of the audition rules. Generals usually have a strict time limit around two minutes and actors must prepare appropriately. That is enough time to perform two, short, well-rehearsed monologues that show type and range.

Choose your audition pieces carefully. Avoid monologues that are overdone or contain offensive language. The overarching goal is to make a bunch of strangers like you, so try to make them feel happy and entertained. Your two audition pieces should be specific to your type and specialty. If you are a Shakespearean actor, do your best Shakespeare. If you aren’t, do a couple contemporary monologues. Whatever you choose, make sure you are comfortable and confident, because it will rub off on the auditors.

Take the time to thoroughly prepare for the audition. Read the entire play, research any words you do not know, and analyze your monologues intensely. Make interesting, motivated choices with your actions and words. At a general audition, the audience is full of professional artists who know good acting when they see it. Strong choices are an indicator of preparation and confidence, two qualities that casting directors want in their talent.

Remember, a general audition is an audition for the future. The audience is looking for type and ability to act. It is the opportunity to earn an invitation to audition for plays in the upcoming season so relax and hit it hard, you have nothing to lose. And, if you do mess it up, you’ll be forgotten in minutes and have the chance to make up for it next year.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Three Devastating Problems To Look Out For While Game Testing

Testing video games

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is for a game developer to playtest their game. We have even provided some advice on how to get the most out of playtesting since you want this process to not only go smoothly, but also be as beneficial as possible.

The purpose is, of course, clear: catch any problems that will ruin the players’ experience and lower the quality of your game before it actually releases to the public.

What exactly are you looking for, you ask? Some would answer this question with a generic “bugs and glitches” response, but there’s more to it. Here, we’ve covered some of the biggest problems you want to know about, whether it be you (the game designer) doing the testing, or someone else.

If any of the following are left in your game at launch, you may just have people calling your game two things you should dread to hear: nonfunctional and/or incomplete.

Loopholes

Loopholes are problems in the game that players can use to gain an unfair advantage. These exploits must be taken care of if they cause the entire experience to be ruined for every player except the one “cheating.” With so many games releasing with such loopholes that eventually require fixing, it’s no secret that detecting these can be quite a challenge.

A good example is a serious glitch that occurred in Jagex’s RuneScape MMO. Now known as the “Falador Massacre,” this exploit allowed players who achieved 99 Construction to create their own house and invite other players. The problem was that people who engaged in combat activities inside the house were still able to attack other players outside of PvP areas once they left.

Those affected were free to kill unsuspecting players in areas you normally cannot be attacked, which is a big problem in a game where getting killed by another player means you permanently lose most of your equipment.

The biggest problem about this glitch, and one you desperately want to avoid, is that it was all unintentional. The game provided a loophole that players happened to come upon and exploitso who is to blame, really?

Gameplay Problems

While finding game-breaking bugs and glitches is important, it is a very good day of testing when you discover a problem with the rules of your game that might frustrate players.

Since games are very complex systems, a designer shouldn’t be surprised when they act in ways you could have never predicted, simply because a new condition was introduced. In other words, you want to know if players are doing something you weren’t expecting (while still following all the rules of the game).

A perfect example is spawn camping, the bane of every competitive shooter player’s existence. Teams that are either very organized, or simply superior in skill, can eventually remain near the opponent’s spawn points and kill them as soon as they appear.

This, of course, causes extreme frustration for the players being camped since, despite the fact that the other players are not cheating or bending the rules in any way, they are now at a severely unfair disadvantage.

Your job as a designer is to figure out how to minimize the problem. Do you give the spawning players temporary invincibility, or maybe a shield that blocks incoming fire but still allows the player to shoot? Take a look at some of the top shooters today and you’ll see how they have attempted to solve this problem. For example, Uncharted 3 gives you the choice of spawning either on a spawn point or next to an ally who isn’t in combat.

Dead Ends

The last problem on this list, and perhaps most obvious, is the dead end. This, of course, ruins the gameplay experience as the player can no longer progress because the game doesn’t allow them to. Action-adventure, RPG, first-person shooter, real-time strategyany and all genresare susceptible to this problem. And it might just be the most devastating one on this list.

Of course, a dead end doesn’t just mean that the player fell inside a hole they can’t get out of. An example is one found in some copies of Twilight Princess, which is surprising since Nintendo is pretty good at releasing games without such problems. Basically, players would enter the Cannon room and save their game while inside. Upon restarting the game, a character name Shad would be gone, but Midna will act as though he is there. This means the player can neither leave the room nor warp out, forcing players to erase/restart a file.

Even if the glitch doesn’t cause a dead end, it can still cause frustration and should be fixed. When the acclaimed Banjo-Kazooie was re-released on Xbox Live Arcade, an infamous now-patched glitch was discovered where the player could not collect every Note in the game if they first completed a puzzle game. While it didn’t prevent players from finishing the game’s story, they could no longer collect all 900 Notes.

Make sure to look for these major pitfalls and glitches when playtesting, and keep games happy with your creation.

Learn more about the School of Game Design at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York and Los Angeles.

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Top Five Plays For Actors

Best plays for actors to read

Actors must familiarize themselves with the greatest works, analyze them, and learn from them to develop the timeless skills of the classically trained. Plus, odds are that you will come across them in your life time, so best be prepared. Without further ado, here are the top five plays for actors to read.

Waiting for Godot
By Samuel Beckett

Absurd, boring, unintelligible, and purely brilliant are words that describe Godot. Beckett considers the meaning of human life, the purpose of our existence, and the fact that we are capable of terrible things. Two main characters who do nothing, sparse dialogue, and a seemingly post-apocalyptic set design characterize the play. Yet, somehow, actors consistently have a special connection to this play about waiting for something to happen that never does.

A Streetcar Named Desire
By Tennessee Williams

This script won Oscars, Tony Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and it launched the career of Marlon Brando for good reason: Streetcar is legendary. Set in New Orleans, the play is the story of a young couple who take in a wayward family member and how the lives of all are changed forever. The central conflict occurs between the volatile and rage-filled Stanley, and the manipulative seductress Blanche.

The Importance of Being Earnest
By Oscar Wilde

Quite possibly the greatest comedy ever written, Wilde’s masterpiece is a master class in comedic acting. To be played properly, an actor must excruciatingly analyze the timing, innuendo, and playfully deceitful dialogue. No other comedy combines physicality and wit with enduring social messages in the way that Earnest does. There are roles for men and women, both young and old. All of them are funny, challenging, and well developed in a Wilde way.

The Cherry Orchard
By Anton Chekhov

This position could easily be occupied by another Chekhov play (Three Sisters, The Seagull, or Uncle Vanya), but The Cherry Orchard is special because of the long history of the play. It was written as a comedy, but interpreted as a tragedy; a dichotomy that makes the play a delicate balance between laughs and tears. The social issues, philosophical monologues, and nuanced characters present a challenge for actors of all ages. The Cherry Orchard is a play with a big cast with roles for both female and male actors, and any actor who works in the theatre will eventually come across it.

Macbeth
By William Shakespeare

A list sans The Bard is a list incomplete. The hard part is choosing the one play that is essential for all actors to read. Some would argue Hamlet, Richard III, or Romeo and Juliet, and they would have substantial support.

Macbeth, Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, is a fast-paced, intriguing play with tremendous fodder for actors to work with. The two lead roles, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, are absolute powerhouses that any actor would dream of playing. And, as one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays, Macbeth doesn’t linger on any plot point for long. Actors in the play must be flexible, dynamic, and able to shift objective on a knife’s point.

Honorable Mentions:

Death of a Salesman
By Arthur Miller

Few plays stick with you like Death of a Salesman. A challenge to the American Dream and a challenge to actors of all ages, Miller’s masterpiece is a must read.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?
By Edward Albee

Two epic roles for older actors and two great young roles, this American classic is equal parts hilarious and terrifying.

Miss Julie
By August Strindberg

Ironically, Strindberg was considered highly conservative, some even call him a sexist, but he wrote some of the greatest female characters of all time. Go figure.

August: Osage County
By Tracy Letts

No play in the last decade has had the impact of this dark comedy. It won a Tony and the Pulitzer, and if that isn’t reason enough, it’s one of the most popular productions in recent years.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

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Podcasting: A Growing Medium for News

Podcasting now widely used for news

NPR reports downloads of their podcasts were up 14% in 2014, according to the 2015 State of the News Media report. In fact, the number of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month has nearly doubled since 2008, from 9% of those surveyed to 17%. Top ranking news podcasts include “BBC Global News,” “CNN Debates,” “60 Minutes,” and “NBC Nightly News.”

Reaching Viewers in Between Newscasts

While the mobile market has allowed TV broadcasters to reach people in places and situations they never could before—in the car, on the bus, walking down the street—there are still situations where mobile video isn’t ideal. You might be able to watch a video on your phone, but you don’t want to be doing that while you drive down the road. You should probably avoid watching videos while you walk around, too—nobody wants to be that guy who runs into a wall because he’s glued to his phone.

Taking a Bite Out of Radio’s Audience

For years, radio has been the main news source for people whose eyes are otherwise engaged—especially people driving during rush hour, the coveted “drive time” space many advertisers like. But podcasts have risen in popularity the past few years because, like satellite radio, they give viewers the option of choosing what they want to hear.

Even with subscription radio services, most of the time listeners only pick the type of programming they want to hear. With podcasts, the audience can choose which individual news pieces they find interesting and listen to them. This not only gives the listener more freedom, but it gives the owner of the podcast valuable data to share with advertisers.

Podcasting: Not Just for Big Networks

Although the most popular news podcasts belong to large, national news organizations, that doesn’t mean that a small local station can’t benefit from podcasting. Some stations worry that podcasts will discourage viewers from watching the news, but this isn’t usually the case; live news broadcasts and social media feeds give the most-up-to-date or breaking news. Podcasts are usually added later. Television also shows viewers what’s happening right now. Podcasting can’t do that, but it does have other benefits.

How to Use Podcasts

Some stations choose to have reporters and anchors read stories from a recent broadcast, or simply upload the audio file from recent broadcasts. This isn’t a bad idea, but it also doesn’t offer the viewer anything special. Simply uploading the audio of a TV newscast can also confuse viewers, as some audio only makes sense with the accompanying video.

The better bet is to share video of regular news broadcasts or packages on the station’s website. Use podcasts to offer more in-depth information about some of the week’s bigger stories. Podcasts are a great way to supplement news broadcasts, even with people who aren’t driving or walking down the street.

For years, newspapers prided themselves on being the more detailed source of news. Over the last few years, however, newspapers have lost ground to online news sources with detailed written pieces. Podcasts are a way TV broadcasters can gain some of the newspaper industry’s lost audience. Without the time constraints of the nightly news broadcast, a podcast can offer additional insight on a topic.

An Easy Way to Use Extra A-Roll

A reporter/photographer team often spends an hour or more gathering video for what ultimately becomes a 30, 60 or 90 second package on air. An interview might last ten of fifteen minutes, and include lots of great soundbites, but the reporter or producer packing the story can only use the most important twenty or thirty seconds of it.

What happens to all that extra video? In most cases, nothing. Occasionally it might be used by a weekend producer desperate to fill time, but most of the time viewers never see it. Most TV stations don’t have time to put together extra packages for the station’s website, and if they do, it only happens occasionally and with the biggest stories. This typically leaves a lot of great content that can be re-purposed into a different delivery vehicle; for example, a podcast.

You can easily upload the audio file of an interview with minimal editing. There’s no need to pick out cover video, check for flash frames, or write anchor intros and tags. Simply write a brief, one-sentence description (such as “Podcast of our full interview with Mayor Jenkins about the new tax law”).

Use Podcasts to Engage with Viewers

Podcasting is also a good way to respond to viewers’ questions or requests for different types of stories. If, for example, your Twitter feed was inundated with questions after you ran a story about local outdoor attractions, you can use those queries to create podcasts with helpful information on topics like, “How to stay safe while camping” or “Outdoor activities for kids.”

Some of that information may be found in the leftover A-roll from the original package about a local attraction. You can also do some quick research and voice tips from experts to add to the story. This takes a few more minutes, but is still less time-consuming than editing a piece with both audio and video. An additional benefit of responding to viewers’ popular questions and the topics they find most interesting, is keeping them engaged with your station in multiple ways, making them more likely to watch your newscasts and visit your social media accounts.

Learn more about the School of Broadcast Journalism at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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How To Find Your Type As An Actor

Find your acting type

Let’s talk about type. It’s not who you are, or what you do, or what you know that counts. Type, for an actor, is simply about what other people think of you. For casting directors and producers, typing is a way to organize and categorize the thousands of names and faces they see every day. Therefore, knowledge of type is important for actors who are serious about landing roles in TV, film, and professional theatre.

An actor who knows their type well, and prepares to play a specific type of role by aiming their headshots, monologues, and auditions toward that type, will be more successful than someone who has no focus. Later on, after you are booking gigs and have a level of respect in the industry, you will be able to flex your range by playing against type. But, at the start, follow these directions to help find your type as an actor.

Knowledge and Honesty

In literature and film, there are thousands of characters, but most of them can be easily categorized by their broad type in only a few words. Some popular, recurring types throughout history include The Knight in Shining Armor, Mad Scientist, and Ingenue. Actors need to develop knowledge of the different common types in order to better identify themselves.

Common Types Today:

  • Leading Man
  • Leading Lady
  • Dumb Jock
  • Girl Next Door
  • Funny Best Friend
  • Angry Old Man
  • Reluctant Hero
  • Hot Blonde

There are many common types and all actors will fall into at least one category. Depending on age, gender, tone of voice, and other physical attributes, actors may be a blend of two types, or type might change during your career.

Because type has both positive and negative associations, actors must be brutally honest with themselves. Part of understanding your type is knowing that you are different in life than the characters you play on the stage or screen. Try to explore the good and the bad side of your type to infuse you performances with the truth that casting directors desire.

Ways to Find Your Type

  1. Watch – Watching TV and movies with an eye toward character type is one of the best ways to identify types. As you watch other actors, think about which roles you could play. Make a list of actors who play the same roles as you, and think about their type. What do you think when you look at them? What is your first impression? Odds are, people think similar things about you.
  1. Ask – Don’t just ask anyone. Ask people who work in entertainment that will be honest with you. Actor friends, coaches, and directors with whom you have a good relationship are the best for this. You may not like their answers, but it is important to listen and respect their opinions. After all, you may have a vision of yourself that is different from how the world sees you.
  1. Look and Listen – This is an exercise in self-education. Look in the mirror or at your headshot and observe your unique features. What emotion do you naturally project? What are your most prominent physical characteristics? What makes you different? Listen to your own voice. What do you sound like? Do you sound gruff, gentle, sweet, sarcastic, or something else?

The final step is to trust your research and the observations of others and apply these findings to your career. Surprisingly, actors audition for roles out of type all the time. Unsurprisingly, they don’t get cast. Discovering type is not just a good exercise in introspection, it is also a vital career move.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Six Games We Love That Were Released Before The 2015 Holidays

2015 games we love released before the holiday season

While most gamers can’t wait for the month of June to come around so they can see what’s coming at the next E3, there’s no denying that fourth quarter is the best time to be a gamer. The last few months of the year are when some of the biggest (and often best) games release just in time for the holidays. Like all the previous years, huge titles like Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Star Wars Battlefront are on their way.

Of course, it’d be a shame to forget all about the amazing games that kept us busy throughout the year. Below is a look at some of the most popular games that have been released so far in 2015, and why players can’t get enough of them….

Splatoon

Splatoon is the surprise hit that no one thought was going to be popular for a number of reasons. First off, it’s a new intellectual property on a Nintendo console. Since it isn’t Mario, Zelda, or Metroid, it was doomed to sell poorly. Secondly, Nintendo consoles have never been the home of competitive online shooters.

Of course, Splatoon proved everyone wrong by doing what Nintendo does best: taking an established genre and giving it a fresh spin.

Players can’t get enough of this third-person shooter for its interesting visuals, fast-paced matches, and unique approach to how you actually win. It’s easy to look past the lack of voice chat and little content upon release with a game as creative as this.

Bloodborne

Two games that were loved for the amount of challenge they offered last console generation were Dark Souls 1 and 2. In a time when people thought gamers wanted lengthy dialogue scenes, complex cut scenes, and moderately difficult gameplay, these two titles by FromSoftware sucked players into worlds where you were expected to die…a lot.

Bloodborne builds upon those two games by providing a gorgeous world to explore. In this world, players will find incredible challenges, captivating mysteries, and an incomparable sense of accomplishment. From addicting combat and excellent level design, to memorable boss battles, Bloodborne is sure to be a contender for Game of the Year in 2015 despite the heavy competition coming soon.

Rocket League

No one could have guessed that a game where you basically play soccer with vehicles would be such a hit. Rocket League is the perfect example of a game that takes a ridiculous idea and turns it into an exciting and captivating experience.

There’s just something about blazing across the field at full speed to block an opponent’s shot, then delivering an awesome pass that leads to the game-winning goal. From easy to learn controls and fast-paced matches, to tons of unlockables and a surprising amount of depth, Rocket League is without a doubt one of the biggest surprise hits of 2015.

Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

Depending on who you ask, today’s trend of remastering games is either awesome or ridiculous. While some will say it’s silly that we’re getting remakes of games released in the last five years (or just one year like The Last of Us Remastered), others are excited to replay great titles with updated visuals.

Majora’s Mask 3D, however, is a remake that fans have been begging Nintendo to make for years now. Despite being perhaps the most polarizing Zelda title for having a darker world and time limits, it is still regarded as one of the best games ever made, and was certainly welcomed when it released in early 2015.

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain was not only one of the most anticipated titles of 2015, but is also now one of the highest rated games of the year. In fact, as of this writing, it sits at the #1 spot on Metacritic’s list of top scoring games.

Why? Simply put, it is a masterpiece that embodies why we love games. It has captivating gameplay, plenty of different gadgets and weapons to use, and offers a near-endless list of options. As a sandbox action game, it is easily one of, if not the, best ever created in the genre. Of course, we expected nothing less from the last Metal Gear Solid designed by the legendary Hideo Kojima.

Super Mario Maker

The more people rave about Super Mario Maker, the more we’re left wondering how different things would have been if the Wii U had been released alongside this amazing title. While Nintendo Land and the other launches weren’t so great, they just didn’t demonstrate what the Gamepad was capable of in the same way Wii Sports showed us with the original Wii remotes.

Super Mario Maker, however, is a game that feels perfect with the Gamepad. More importantly, it offers an intuitive interface and fantastic design tools that have countless players across the globe making their own levels. There was really no better way for Nintendo to celebrate Mario’s 30th birthday.

Honorable Mentions

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Mortal Kombat X

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Handling Retransmission Fees; A Curse And A Blessing For Broadcasters

Dealing with retransmission fees

According to a 2015 Pew State of the Media report, retransmission fee revenue for local stations has been steadily growing since 2006, leaping up from $2.4 billion in 2012 to $4.9 billion in 2014. That amount is projected to double by 2020.

Retransmission Fees: A Curse and Blessing of the Digital Age

Retransmission fees have been around since legislation passed in 1992, requiring cable providers to obtain permission from broadcasters before carrying their programming. The recent hike in fees, however, is related to changes in technology.

While streaming is popular, you can’t really avoid all the commercials the way you can by fast-forwarding through a show on your DVR. Most importantly, many local TV stations still don’t offer complete broadcasts for streaming on their websites; those that do usually don’t upload them for several hours, although individual packages are typically available sooner.

VCRs are no longer widely used, and DVD recording never really caught on for TV viewers, so a cable or satellite provider is the best solution for viewers who want to record programs. For all of these reasons, cable/satellite providers still have some advantages.

Disputes Affect Viewers

While retransmission fees are an excellent source of revenue for stations, steadier than advertising, many stations have fallen into prolonged negotiations of contract renewals with providers.

More than one station has called the provider’s bluff and allowed it to stop transmitting. National news networks have also used this tactic, for example a 2013 dispute between CBS and Time Warner Cable, where Time Warner went a month without CBS’ programming. While the two companies eventually reached an agreement, Time Warner had already lost customers to competitors.

Know How to Pick Your Battles in the Local Market

The same thing can happen to a local station locked in a dispute with a cable or satellite company. While the station might eventually prevail, the situation can have consequences with a local audience. In May, Granite Broadcasting, owner of WEEK-TV in Illinois, got into a deadlock with cable company Mediacom. By June 11, a deal had been reached, but the station was off-air on Mediacom for almost two weeks.

Meanwhile, in late August, about 5 million Dish Network subscribers lost access to 129 Sinclair Broadcasting stations after a similar dispute over fees. In both cases, the local stations were owned by larger conglomerates that negotiated the retransmission fees and pulled programming when a deal couldn’t be reached.

Repercussions of Fee Standoffs

While the provider might eventually cave to a station’s demands, any time the affiliate is blacked out of a significant provider, it risks losing viewers. Once people get used to watching local news on a different channel each night, they’ll be less inclined to return to yours.

A change of habit isn’t the only reason you have to worry. Watching another station for a few weeks might give the audience a chance to notice your competitor has a fun new segment you don’t have, or a talented new on-air personality. Viewers might worry you’ll be off the provider again if you have another disagreement. They also might end up resenting you for interrupting their programming.

What to Do if It Happens to You

If you’re fortunate enough to be running an independent station that negotiates its own deals with cable and satellite providers, there are serious risks to consider before putting your foot down and insisting on higher fees from a provider. Is negotiating a better deal worth losing viewers? What’s the cost of gaining new viewers or re-attracting strayed audience members?

But most stations are owned by conglomerates, and your station may find itself dealing with a blackout, whether you want to or not. How do you handle angry viewers? How do you deal with potential bad press when the provider tells its customers that your station is “holding subscribers hostage”, as Mediacom did in the Granite/WEEK-TV dispute?

Communicate Your Position to Viewers and Offer Alternatives

While the parent company’s legal department may restrict what your station can say during a blackout, it’s important that you communicate something to viewers. Ask the parent company for a prepared statement from its lawyers that you can post to the station’s website. Viewers shouldn’t have to track down a big conglomerate to find out what’s happening.

Should you mention the blackout on-air? After all, your viewers are mostly people who still get your signal, right? Why make the station look bad?

Unfortunately, viewers will probably already know what’s happened through friends or colleagues who don’t get your station anymore. Refusing to discuss the issue at all can lend credence to the provider’s claims that you or your parent company are to blame for the situation.

If the conglomerate doesn’t forbid any discussion of the blackout, it can be a tough call. If you do choose to address the situation on air, you should briefly explain that your station is working to resolve the situation as soon as possible. More detailed explanation is not necessary. Quickly move on to alternatives for viewers who aren’t currently receiving a signal, like indoor antennas.

Prepare for Phone Calls and Emails

If you can’t discuss the situation on air, or choose not to, the receptionist or phone operator at your station should be given a list of suggestions for viewers who call; links to watch prime-time programming online, where they can buy an inexpensive antenna, a YouTube video explaining how to set up an antenna, etc.

The same list will be helpful when the station receives emails from viewers who have similar questions.

Learn more about the School of Broadcast Journalism at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

The Importance Of Goal Setting For Actors

Setting goals for actors

Stories of seemingly overnight success abound in show business. From living out of a car parked on a Hollywood side street one day, to headlining the biggest action film of the year the next; from sharing a studio apartment with six people in Brooklyn one night, to making a Broadway debut the next.

These rags to riches stories are popular with the media, and daydreaming actors everywhere, because they make for great entertainment. However, the expectation of overnight success is no way to approach an acting career.

As with any career, actors must take control of their own destiny by setting goals and striving to accomplish them. Most overnight success stories don’t include any details about the hard work that successful artists put in before they hit it big.

Truthfully, overnight success is a myth. It is the result of a series of accomplished goals that lead to new breakthroughs and, eventually for some, a life changing role.

Why Actors Should Set Career Goals

Acting is a difficult enough business for someone with direction, let alone someone who doesn’t have a target in mind. Specific, attainable goals give an acting career structure and focus. This is important because of the ebb and flow of acting work. It can leave actors overwhelmed with memorization or with nothing to do for months.

Having a goal in mind provides a consistent motivation and gives actors something to strive for, even when auditions aren’t coming in. There is always something that an actor can do to improve their chances of success.

Networking, taking classes, researching, and planning are all productive activities that an actor can do during dry periods to increase their chances of success when the next opportunity arises.

Specific, Possible, Planned

Anyone who sets a goal might as well do it the right way. Most importantly, a good goal in acting (and other walks of life) must be specific. Without specificity, an actor will fail to ever reach the goal, or they will not take the most efficient steps to accomplish it. Specific goals should be targeted at one industry, and be comprised of series of steps.

Another ingredient of a proper goal is that you should be able to accomplish it. There should be an appropriate amount of challenge involved, but it shouldn’t be uncontrollable. Once you accomplish the goal you will reevaluate and set newer goals to make new advancements.

A goal may be specific and possible, but actors won’t reach their goals if they don’t have a plan in place. Make a plan complete with a timeline, and checkpoints or “mini-goals” along the way. These steps should be things you can control and track rather than things that depend on the decisions of others (i.e. “getting cast” is not under your control).

Hold Yourself Accountable

Your goals are in place, and now it’s time to work toward them. One of the main reasons people fail to accomplish their goals is they do not hold themselves accountable for their efforts. Write your goals down and put them in a place where you will see them every day. A goal list on the fridge will give you a reminder every time you get a bite to eat.

Finally, a great way to hold yourself accountable is to share your goals with friends and family. Making goals public knowledge allows actors to discuss their goals and progress freely, and seek help if needed.

Overnight success is a myth. Now that you know that, go and pursue your own “overnight success story” by setting goals and striving to attain them. A little thought and planning can go a long way in an acting career, and make sure to involve your friends and family in the process for support and guidance.

Click here to learn more about: The School of Acting at the New York Film Academy.

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5 Tips For Choosing An Audition Monologue

Tips for choosing an audition monlogue

By the time an actor walks into the audition room, the audition has largely been won or lost based on their preparation. Thorough prep work leads to confidence, commitment, and, ultimately, a quality audition. Being unprepared, however, leads to the opposite result. Although most auditions these days happen with scripts or sides in hand, occasionally actors are asked to prepare and perform a monologue.

Monologue auditions are still common when meeting agents, performing at general auditions, and meeting theatre directors for the first time. Before actors can get to work on a monologue, they must choose one, and that can be a daunting task in itself.

How can an actor choose the monologue that is right for them? What are the different things to consider?

Follow the steps below to select a monologue that is right for you…

#1: Know Your Type

First, a monologue is an opportunity to show who you are as an actor, so knowing your type is important. Usually, actors are called in for parts that are within their type, and a monologue that matches offers directors a peak into your approach to the role.

Moreover, watching someone perform a monologue against type can be incredibly distracting. There is a time and a place to challenge the status quo, but the audition room is not it. Things to be considered: age, personality, physical description, accent, and so on.

#2: Are You Not Entertained?

Above all else, acting is about entertaining. Do everything you can to select a monologue that you believe in, while also entertaining to watch. That means finding a piece that has a story arc with a beginning, middle, and end.

That means there is change occurring in the character throughout the speech. That means that writing is “good,” and that the character has a motivation for speaking, apart from relaying information.

Tricks to entertain: choose a speech that has comedy and drama, look for a passage with a surprising twist, or select an uncommon monologue.

#3: Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Brevity is also the soul of a good monologue. An effective monologue should be around one minute, or 90 seconds max. Length goes hand in hand with entertainment, because you don’t want your audience to become bored.

It is far better to fill a 30 second monologue with great acting choices than to dredge on for 3 minutes of mediocre acting.

#4: Choose Something Familiar

Worked on a play with a great monologue? Have a favorite writer that you would love to perform? Familiarity with a piece can lead to faster preparation and a greater understanding of character.

However, actors should avoid monologues that are too famous and/or over-performed. Hints: Read the full script before choosing a monologue and don’t perform the battle speech from Braveheart.

#5: Who Is It For?

Lastly, think about who is going to watch you and what part you are auditioning for. Always try to match the role with the monologue (as stated in #1) so the casting folk can see a glimpse of you in the part.

Also, depending on the director’s style, monologue choices will vary. One director might be edgy, another more traditional, so try to choose a monologue that aligns.

Following these five steps will put an actor on the track to choosing a good monologue for themselves. But remember, once that’s done, the real work starts!

Click here to learn more about: The School of Acting at the New York Film Academy.

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Sony’s Turn To Excite Their Fans

Sony excites at Tokyo Game Show 2015

It was a little more than a month ago that Microsoft impressed us with some unexpected announcements at Gamescom 2015. While the best reveals were already given at E3, it was cool to see the Xbox team offer a few more surprises for their loyal fan base to look forward to. From our first look at Quantum Break and Scalebound 4-player co-op details, to the reveal of Halo Wars 2, we weren’t disappointed.

At Tokyo Game Show 2015, Sony attempted to do just the same by unveiling a host of exciting PlayStation news. Between the pre-show and conference itself, PlayStation 4 owners were no doubt left satisfied in knowing that, although Xbox looks to have more major title launches this coming holiday season, they too have plenty to look forward to.

Here’s a look at the biggest news and announcements from the Sony’s TGS conference…

The First Bloodborne DLC Expansion Announced

Bloodborne was the game everyone knew would be good, but instead got something great. The PlayStation 4 exclusive title by FromSoftware currently has one of the highest metacritic ratings of any game on Sony’s newest console; and for good reason, it takes the best of the Dark Souls series and combines it with a captivating world and punishing yet addicting combat system.

Fans of the game are excited to know that The Old Hunters will serve as the first DLC content for the acclaimed title and will be available November 24, 2015.

Tons Of New Games Revealed

One of the biggest new game announcements is a spin-off by Capcom titles Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps, a competitive shooter set in the Resident Evil universe. It will be available on both PS4 and PC.

Clap Handz also had a chance to show off the latest entry in their popular golf series Hot Shots Golf, or Everybody Golf outside of North America. Gravity Daze 2, whose name is subject to change in the U.S., was also released and is the sequel to a PlayStation Vita title known for its stylistically animated visuals and gravity-defying gameplay. Both these titles are slated for a 2016 release.

Other game reveals include 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim by Vanillaware, the makers of Dragon’s Crown and the Muramasa games. Also announced were The King of Fighters XVI (PS4), One Piece: Burning Blood (PS4, Vita), Toukiden 2 (PS4), Nioh (PS4), SaGa Scarlet Grace (Vita), Gundam Extreme VS-Force (Vita), and Danganronpa 3 (PS4, Vita). Last but not least, Sega’s Toshiro Nagoshi confirmed that Yakuza 6 was in development.

A Few Remakes And Western Releases

Perhaps the biggest re-release announcement from Sony was Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Prologue, a PS4 title that features an HD remake of Dream Drop Distance as well as 2 episodic titles that serve to connect the game with the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Yakuza series, the original title is also getting an HD remake that will release for PS4 in Fall of 2016, along with a demo of Yakuza 6. Gravity Daze will also land in Europe and North America in February 2016 as Gravity Rush.

New Trailers And Confirmed Release Dates

Ubisoft had a chance to show off new trailers for their big upcoming titles Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and For Honor. The For Honor trailer includes information on the first playable hero in the game, The Oni, while the AC: Syndicate trailer revealed a new DLC: “Jack the Ripper”.

Other trailers we got to look at for the first time were from Square Enix’s World of Final Fantasy and Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PS3, PS4) , as well as one from Dragon Quest Builders (PS3, PS4, Vita). The new Dragon Quest game will release on January 28 and the new Star Ocean on February 25 (both in Japan).

Other News

Sony is preparing to make it even harder for the Xbox One to succeed in Japan by dropping the price of the PS4 in the Land of the Rising Sun. The cut is 12%, which in U.S. currency means that Japanese gamers will be paying $292 (34,980 yen) instead of $334.

Project Morpheus has also had its name changed to PlayStation VR. Along with this announcement, Sony provided a demo reel of games set to release for the new virtual reality device.

Learn more about the School of Game Design at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York and Los Angeles.

Four Tips For Captivating Level Design

Tips for designing captivating levels

When you think about video game design, you can think of it in terms of a jigsaw puzzle. Not only does each piece need to be placed in the correct location, but they all eventually have to fit together. The end result is, of course, some kind of image that is now only visible because all the pieces of the puzzle are there.

While some people think the gameplay puzzle piece, or the story puzzle piece, is the most important, most would argue that the last puzzle piece you can’t do without is the level design piece. Good level design is in many ways the heart of a game; without it, everything else doesn’t work.

This holds true whether you’re talking about a high-profile action adventure game like Uncharted or a simple 2D platformer like the original Super Mario Bros. While good visuals are great, and breathtakingly detailed environments are cool too, all that will matter to players is how fun the levels are.

The following are a few tips you’ll find useful if you want to captivate players with not just your visuals, gameplay, and story, but level design as well…

Give Players Something New To Look At Once In Awhile

One way to guarantee that players get bored of your game’s levels is to make them look at the same things over and over. We know creating new objects, enemies, and other content takes time, so we’re not asking you to make every single thing in your game unique. However, players catch on when they kill the exact same enemy a thousand times, or see identical trees spread out throughout your game.

The fact is, gamers these days expect to see more variety simply because technology has advanced. However, offering players different scenery has always been important. Nintendo only had bits and pixels to work with, but that didn’t mean they made every world in Super Mario Bros. 3 the same; you have desert, water, clouds, ice, etc.

When it comes to story-driven games, changing the scenery is necessary to make players feel like they’re actually progressing or getting closer to a goal. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves did this well by having you go from the rain forests of Borneo to the war-torn streets of a Nepal city, eventually ending up in the snow-covered Himalayas.

Give Players Direction Without Holding Their Hand

One of the difficulties of designing levels is finding a balance between making sure players can figure out what to do (or where to go) next without forcing them. In other words, just as many players are likely to get frustrated over getting lost, as there are players who will get bored if the next step is always laid out for them.

Good level design means the player went down a certain path, or toward a direction, not because it was the correct way to go, but because something caught their interest. A good example of this is Banjo-Kazooie, a game that nearly twenty years later still boasts some of the funnest worlds of any 3D platformer.

No matter where you go in any of the nine words in Banjo-Kazooie, there is always something intriguing that urges you to explore. From a giant crocodile head in Bubblegloop Swamp and a haunted hedge maze in Mad Monster Mansion, to a dog-shaped Sphynx in Gobi’s Valley, you always want to investigate what each area has in store for you.

Reward Players Whenever They Deserve It

When your average player discovers a hidden path that’s easy to miss, or a tall object that took time and skill to get onto, they expect some kind of reward. It can be more health, ammo, an extra life…anything as long as the spot isn’t empty.

That is why a lot of games feature some kind of collectible that isn’t necessary to complete the game but still makes players feel accomplished for collecting them. Some examples are the Green Stars in Super Mario 3D World, feathers in Assassin’s Creed 2, and all the extra spaceship parts in Pikmin.

You can even go the extra mile and offer special rewards like a secret room, optional boss, or something that adds to the story. The Bioshock games, for example, have audio diaries hidden throughout each area that aren’t needed to complete the game, but offer narrative details that you otherwise would never learn about

Don’t Throw Your Levels Together

One of the easiest things to do when it comes to level design is just start placing random content in hopes that it turns out. You start grabbing whatever looks neat from the built-in library of the game engine you’re using, and start dropping rooms, corridors, enemies, and more.

Like anything else that just gets tossed together without any planning, your levels are going to be less than stellar if you do it this way. Since the purpose of levels are to move the game forward and keep players interested, you should always create them with the utmost care and thought.

You can tell a level was carefully designed when it offers different paths for players to reach the same goal and gives players various options to choose from. Even the very first world of Super Mario Bros. has moments where you can either continue forward or go down a pipe; hop across a gap or take the high ground by jumping on blocks.

 

Three Optional Ways To Make Sure Skilled Players Have Fun Too

Optional ways to provide a bigger challenge in your video game

One of the hardest things for a developer to balance out in their own game is difficulty. This is because developers are almost generally pretty good at actually playing games. This comes as no surprise, considering that if you actually want to make games for a living, then you probably spend a good amount of time playing them already. This also means that you’re going to eventually be very efficient at playing your own game, since you’ve been working on it and testing it for months, if not years.

Thus, it is very important to have beta testers check out your game. Since they are new to the game, and didn’t spend hours upon hours developing it, they’ll be the key to discovering if it has a balanced difficulty curve or if it needs some adjustment.

More importantly, you as a designer, should strive to find fun ways of making sure players are being tested at the level that they want to be.

However, a lot of times developers tend to forget that there are, in fact, a lot of gamers out there looking for a challenge. Instead of applying simple changes like making a boss stronger, or giving the player less health, here are various ways of making sure talented gamers find your game fun, while avoiding frustrating your casual audience…

Add Optional Collectibles

Collectibles that players don’t have to pick up to complete the stage or game are very common in games, and for good reason: they work. Whether you’re talking about finding treasures in the Uncharted series, going for the green stars in Super Mario 3D World, or grabbing all the golden KONG letters in Donkey Kong Country, a lot of big games have optional collectibles because they not only offer a new challenge, but add replay value as well.

More importantly, no one is forced to collect them. This is vital because these collectibles tend to require more skill on the part of the player to find.  Of course, you should also consider providing a cool prize to players who do take the time to collect whatever you scatter across your game’s levels and world.

Present A Harder Way To Play

If you’ve ever played the original Bioshock, you know all about “Little Sisters”. They are always accompanied by large “Big Daddies” that serve as some of the toughest enemies in the game. Once you defeat these brutes, the Little Sisters’ fate rests in your hands: be harvested or be set free. The former gives the player more ADAM than the other choice, and having more ADAM makes the game easier since, you’ll be able to utilize more Plasmids in combat.

Bioshock puts this choice completely in the hands of the player every time they come across one of the 21 Little Sisters. While harvesting them makes your life easier, saving them makes you feel like a better person, and earns you a much more satisfying ending. At the same time, having less ADAM means the game will be slightly more difficult. In other words, players can choose to do things the hard way and get rewarded for it.

Include Optional Bosses

Another way of allowing players to really see if they have mastered your game is with the optional bosses. These powerful enemies are usually much stronger than the ones players will face in the main story, but do not have to be defeated to complete the game. A few memorable optional bosses that come to mind are Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts, Culex in Super Mario RPG, Pokemon Trainer Red in Pokemon Gold/Silver, and Ruby/Emerald Weapon in Final Fantasy VII.

Super-hard optional bosses are great because they’re not meant to be for everyone, and players know it. Those with lower skill levels will have no problem avoiding these strong enemies, while those who want a greater challenge will certainly see if they’ve got what it takes to bring them down.

As always, it doesn’t hurt to reward players with something cool for their efforts.

Learn more about the School of Game Design at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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How To Find Your Next Acting Audition

Find acting adution

You have a resume. You have a headshot, or something close. You have ruthlessly prepared a monologue, or maybe two, just to be safe. You know what type of character you play best, but you need a chance to perform in a real production.

One of the sobering facts of the acting biz, especially for beginners, is that roles don’t come to actors; actors must go to roles. The only way to land a role is to audition, and to audition, actors have to find the opportunities. Some actors have agents who do the bulk of the search for them, but even represented actors can pursue auditions for themselves.

How does an aspiring actor find the role that makes them a star? Where are new auditions posted? We all have to start somewhere. Conveniently, hundreds of auditions are posted online every day. Some require a fee to gain access, but many are free to submit, you just have to know where to look.

Pay to Play

At the top of the audition listing food chain is Backstage.com. Since 1960, Backstage has been the “most trusted name in casting” for a reason: they are the best in the business.

They post daily, nationwide auditions for film, theatre, singers, and dancers; from studio productions to independent web series. The only catch is that a subscription to the service costs $19.95 per month, or the equivalent of $11.66 monthly if you buy a year’s worth of access up front. On their site, Backstage also offers articles and tips for actors, and is a valuable resource for established actors.

Similarly, Casting Networks is a national, subscription-based casting service that is commonly used by professional casting directors. Represented actors can create a basic account for free with a valid agency code. Unrepresented actors are subject to various fees upon registering. Currently, a $25 yearly membership fee gives you access, with various add-ons available for additional fees. Perhaps best suited to the represented actor, Casting Networks is a premium auditions website that can even help unrepresented actors find an agent. But of course, you’re going to have to pay.

Free Casting Resources

On free, public casting call boards actors cannot expect to see big budget jobs, but for beginners and intermediates, these are excellent resources to find work.

Facebook is the king of social media and has something for everyone these days, including casting boards for actors. Every major city across the country has a Facebook group used by industry workers to fill roles, hire crew members, and post notices. These are publicly moderated forums that are usually trustworthy because they are policed by respected industry professionals. Do a Facebook search of audition and casting calls in your city, or ask around to see what Facebook groups your actor friends have joined.

Craigslist is Facebook’s less responsible younger brother when it comes to auditions, but sometimes there are hidden gems. There are two places where auditions are primarily posted on Craigslist: under the “Jobs” tab, in “tv/film/video” and under the “Gigs” tab, in “talent.” It might be worth scouring the posts as a last resort, but be cautious of scams and “Adult” content. Never give out personal information beyond what is required to audition, and trust your judgment. The organization and professionalism of a casting call is a good indicator of the production as a whole.

Spin Work into More Work

Actors can find many casting resources for offline as well. Schools like the New York Film Academy not only train actors, but filmmakers and writers as well, and are generally a great environment to network and ask for advice and help. Search out artists in other disciplines who may be interested in collaboration.

No matter where you find an audition, or what project you are cast in, maintaining a professional reputation is vital. Believe it or not, the best way to get work in the future is through your work in the present. Be polite, professional, and well prepared, and casting directors, producers, and filmmakers will return again and again for your services.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How To Adjust For The Increasing Popularity Of Early Morning News

Early morning news is increasing in viewership

Morning news viewership for local TV news has been steadily increasing since 2012, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2015 State of the News Media report. Early morning news viewership rose from approximately 11.3 million viewers in 2012 to about 12.2 million in 2014—an increase of roughly 900,000 viewers.

Meanwhile, late night news viewership has been declining, falling from approximately 24.2 million viewers in 2012 to 23.9 million viewers in 2014. On the surface, the numbers look close together, but they equate to a loss of roughly 300,000 for the time slot.

The Earlier, the Better in Morning News

Very early morning news saw the sharpest increase, with a 6% viewership increase in 4:30 AM broadcasts. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that many stations moved back the start times of their early-morning newscasts. Some stations that previously began their morning programs at 5 or 5:30 AM rolled back to an earlier start time of 4:30.

Other stations are continuing to experiment with even earlier start times. Some test out 4 or 4:30 AM broadcasts during sweeps months to determine which time slot grabs the most viewers. If your station wants to try an earlier start during sweeps, it’s better to test over more than one period. Other factors can affect viewership during a ratings sweep, so one month of increased viewership can’t automatically be attributed to an earlier start time. If ratings for the “wake up” newscast remain higher after the second or third sweeps period, a permanent move may be a good idea.

Filling Time in the Early Morning Slot

Regardless of when your morning show starts, your producers will probably have a lot more time to fill than those working on an evening broadcast, as morning shows usually run for more than 30 minutes. Even the latest-starting early newscasts typically run for at least an hour before ceding to national morning programming like Good Morning America or The Today Show. If you choose to start at 4:30 AM, you’ll find yourself with even more time to fill.

This can be problematic, as the news front is often quiet overnight, especially in smaller markets with lower crime rates. Yes, some mornings you’ll be able to report on an overnight fire, robbery or accident, but many mornings you’ll discover that nothing newsworthy happened overnight. In this case, you have several options.

Weather, Weather, Weather

One of the main reasons viewers watch morning newscasts is to find out what the day’s weather will be. In the absence of harder news, morning shows often spend a great deal of time on the weather forecast.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to drag out a forecast if you’re predicting seven days of sunny, clear skies, when there isn’t much of interest to point out on a radar map. Sometimes the meteorologist can fill less active forecasts with statistics about how this year’s weather compares to last year, how it might affect allergy sufferers or gardeners, and so on.

You can also break the weather forecast into segments, like “The Bus Stop Forecast,” “Best Day for Outdoor Activities,” or “Workweek Weather.”

Rehash Last Night’s News

Producers hate having nothing new to report on a news story, but sometimes this is the case, and it’s not always a bad thing. Viewers who watch a 4:30 AM newscast in the morning are most likely in bed asleep before the late-night news airs, so last night’s stories may be new to them.

Resist the urge to just re-run all the packages from the previous night’s newscast. While this can be done in a pinch—if, for example, the morning crew is busy setting up for a live shot or covering breaking news—it should not become a habit.

While early morning viewers may not have seen the 10 PM newscast the previous night, they might have seen the 5 or 6 PM broadcast—and producers frequently reuse packages from those broadcasts for late-night news, as they have less time to turn around a new package.

So what should you do if there are no new developments in last night’s biggest stories, and nothing new to cover?

Try to find a new angle on yesterday’s events, or provide a more in-depth look at the situation. Often plenty of B-roll is left out of evening news packages due to time constraints. Shorter soundbites or fewer soundbites from interview subjects are favored when packing a 30- or 60-second story.

On the other hand, morning shows have more time to fill, so a 30-second package can often be expanded into a 60- or even 90-second story. You can now include soundbites that might have been interesting, but couldn’t be squeezed into a shorter package.

You can also take a look at how the issue affects different viewer segments. For example:

“How will the new tax that passed yesterday affect local businesses?” or
“Last night’s accident on the corner of Fifth and Main has many viewers wondering what they can do to prevent further collisions at that intersection. We spoke with…”

Interviews

Morning shows are a great place for interviews with local authorities on a variety of subjects: the economy, tourism, cooking, etc.

Again, you should try to keep the interview focused on how viewers at home might respond to an issue.; tips on improving gas mileage during a price hike at the pump, for example, or advice on how to maintain a garden during a drought.

Interviews are also a great way to present seasonal stories or information…

“Up next, a local chef tells us how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving turkey!”
“Want your Fourth of July cookout to go smoothly? Local barbecue expert Jane Doe tells you what to avoid.”
“Unsure what to buy that hard-to-shop-for person on your holiday list? A local personal shopper has some suggestions, next.”

Learn more about the School of Broadcast Journalism at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Five Tips For Planning Stretch Goals

Stretch goal tips

While there are plenty of opinions floating around when it comes to crowdfunding, one thing’s for certain: plenty of great games have seen the light of day thanks to it.

From retro inspired Shovel Knight and console RPG Divinity: Original Sin, to upcoming spiritual successors like Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have certainly impacted the industry.

To no one’s surprise, we now have countless teams looking to convince gamers all over the world that their project is worth funding and creating. If you’re planning on running your own campaign soon, definitely check out our 5 Brief Tips To Successfully Leverage Kickstarter To Fund Your Video Game piece.

If you’ve already done your crowdfunding homework, however, and want more information on stretch goals, then you’ve come to the right place.

A term that probably didn’t exist before Kickstarter, a “stretch goal” is an extra goal creators offer as long as a certain amount of money is raised. Though uncommon at first, they skyrocketed into popularity to the point where almost every project now has one or more of these stretch goals.

While stretch goals can certainly be an effective tool for maintaining momentum during a crowdfunding campaign, and for getting more cash, it can also add some unexpected pressure to you as a developer. Here are a few stretch goal tips to help you reach your main goal and beyond…

1. Avoid Day 1 Stretch Goals

By announcing stretch goals as soon as you launch a campaign, you are setting yourself up for disaster, and there are several reasons why.

The first is that you can potentially discourage backers from tossing cash your way because they think your game won’t be any good unless a certain stretch goal is met. Since they made up in their mind that this specific stretch goal will not be reached, they don’t even bother trying to help you get to your main goal.

For example, you can offer an awesome RPG game idea for $150,000. The mistake comes when you add a $200,000 stretch goal from the get-go that adds a second playable character, new class, or other cool element. Now some people might consider the $150,000 version incomplete, and thus will only pledge when they see that the $200,000 goal is a possibility.

2. In Fact, Avoid Early Stretch Goals Altogether!

If there’s one thing every project creator realizes during their first campaign, it’s that it is very difficult to maintain interest and momentum. The first few days you’ll see a bunch of cash come in, mostly from friends and relatives usually, but then it will slow down after a week or so. By the midway point, you’re starting to scratch your head and wonder why no one is inviting their friends to also back your project.

If you announced a bunch of stretch goals the first few days of your campaign, you already wasted the perfect tool for reigniting interest. People have already seen the stretch goals, and thus won’t get excited hearing about them again. Instead, you could have waited a week or two before announcing an awesome stretch goal that would draw in a new crowd and get people talking again.

3. Never Offer Too Many Details

Another big no-no creators live to regret, either during their campaign and/or development, is making their stretch goals too specific. Once you say that you’ll add exactly 10 more weapons, or 2 new dungeons, backers will hold you to it. Anything less than 10 weapons or 2 dungeons will be seen as a failure on your part to deliver what you promised. It’s a good idea to be a bit more vague with stretch goals.

Also, don’t be surprised if you run into an adamant backer who insists on reminding you about your stretch goals. Feel free to say you’re not ready to discuss the details until your project is funded. Be sincere and courteous while urging them to follow up on your announcements instead of consistently leaving messages and comments.

4. Choose Your Stretch Goals Wisely

It can be quite devastating to discover late in development that a stretch goal you promised (and reached) is going to take more time and money to implement than you expected. Now you’re forced to either apologize to backers for delaying your game in order to add the extras, or apologize for the fact that they will not be included to meet your deadline and budget. Neither scenario is very fun for a developer.

Instead, add common stretch goals that are exciting, but won’t take too much effort: new bosses, weapons, costumes, etc. This, of course, depends on the type of game you’re making.

Things like porting to a new platform, adding co-op mode, or online multiplayer are often tougher and more expensive than they sound to add. Physical rewards are great too, but they can take more money than you’d expect out of your development budget.

5. Study Other Crowdfunded Games

This tip will be short and sweet but basically we recommend that you look at other campaigns that have succeeded. While doing so, study the types of stretch goals they offered and how many backers pledged at that level. Seeing as the indie game scene is full of people willing to share their experience and advice, don’t hesitate to shoot emails at fellow crowdfunding campaigners as well.

Learn more about the School of Game Design at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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In Favor Of The 48-Hour Film Festival For Actors

Benefit of 48 Hour Film Festival for Actors

All across the land, one competition is taking filmmaking by storm. The 48-Hour Film Festival challenges production teams to make a short film in only two days’ time, which will then screen publicly in front of a panel of judges. Winning films from each city move on to be screened in Los Angeles, and the top 10 worldwide screen at Cannes the following year.

To start, each team receives a random genre, and a prop, character, and line of dialogue that must be included in their film. Then, over one weekend, writers craft a script, a director breaks it down, actors perform, an editor cuts it, and the producer turns in the final copy. For actors, the challenge is a great way to practice on camera, gain material for a reel, and meet industry folk. Never before has one weekend done so much for your acting career…and it’s fun!

Advantages for Actors

Scheduling film shoots is always a difficult proposition, and when working in indie film, is a common reason that shoots get pushed back. With the 48-Hour Festival, scheduling problems are reduced because everyone knows about the weekend in advance. This means that Festival teams are often more organized and dependable than the average independent production team.

Additionally, competing in short film festivals gives actors the chance to play a variety of different roles. Producers must recruit their cast before they know what the story and genre will be, so actors often have the chance to play against type, or in an atypical genre. For instance, horror, western, and sci-fi are genres that are included in every drawing, but rarely will actors come across them on public call boards.

Finally, the popularity of 48-Hour Film Festivals draws many professional production teams in every city. This gives actors the chance to work with established, local, film industry pros, which is crucial for networking. Beyond the networking, these teams bring a high-standard of production value with cameras, lights, microphones, and other equipment that would otherwise only be found on the best short film shoots.

Reel World Experience

All of the above traits make short film competitions a viable option for actors in need of resume and reel building credits. On-camera experience is important for all aspiring actors, and a credit from a 48-Hour Festival is definitely worth the time.

If the final product is polished, there is also a good chance that footage can be obtained for use on a reel. This is further encouraged by the quick turnaround time. In only two days, an actor can gain a credit and a scene for their reel, talk about efficiency.

Besides all of this, 48-Hour films are fun yet challenging to work on. Actors must build a character quickly and perform under constant time pressure, similar to the stress experienced on studio TV and film productions. And, with The 48, there is always a guarantee that if completed on time, actors will get to see themselves on the big screen and gain exposure to local audiences.

Advice for Finding a Team

Don’t despair if you are an actor without a team for an upcoming competition. If you are interested, chances are that you can find a team. The 48-Hour Fest has a mailing list on its website that anyone can sign up for, and they also host mixers for teams and prospective members. Signing up and/or attending those events is one way to find a team. Another proven way is to hit the local casting services and social media groups for teams in need.

Importantly, the festivals are all open to anyone, and volunteer-based, so payment is never provided. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the actor to screen teams for quality and find the right one for themselves.

Things to Look for in a Team:

  • Experience – Always helps if they have done this before.
  • Organization – They should seem knowledgeable and prepared.
  • A Full Crew – It’s a lot of work. If others have signed up, that’s a good sign.
  • Similar Vision – Ask them why they are doing the project. Ask what their goals are. Ask to see their past work and be prepared to answer their questions about yourself.
  • Familiar Names – If they have an artist on their team that you recognize, that’s a good sign of legitimacy.
  • Matching Personalities – To work closely and successfully in a high-stress environment, it helps to be comfortable with the people around you.
Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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A Look At The Only 12 Steam Games That Sold More Than 500k

Bestselling games on Steam

As a game developer, it never hurts to look at what titles are selling like hotcakes, especially on a platform you’re considering releasing your own project on. Over the years Steam has grown exponentially for, among other reasons, being one of the most developer friendly platforms out there. Between the “Steam Greenlight” and “Early Access” programs, it’s no surprise why many devs – both indie and big-budget – strive to release their games on Valve’s digital marketplace.

It may come as a surprise, then, that despite Steam boasting 125 active users and 10 million concurrent users, only a dozen games have broken the 500,000 sales mark. In fact, only 6 of those 12 have reached a million units sold. These stats are according to Sergey Galyonkin, founder of Steam stat tracker on Steam Spy. Here’s the list of games:

More Than 1 Million Sold

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • ARK Survival Evolved
  • H1Z1
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Rocket League
  • Besiege

More Than 500,000 Sold

  • Dying Light
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Stranded Deep
  • Killing Floor 2
  • Total War: Attila
  • Pillars of Eternity

Below are a few things we noticed about this list that may just be interesting, or may actually prove useful when deciding which kind of project you’d like to release on Steam someday…

Some Of Those Games Are Still In Early Access

Despite still being considered “incomplete,” Besiege, H1Z1, ARK Survival Evolved, Stranded Deep, and Killing Floor 2 have managed to sell a lot of copies. For those unfamiliar, Early Access allows developers to get vital information by releasing a beta version of their game. Thus, players know they are not playing the final version of the title, and should expect changes (mostly for the better).

The benefits of going with an Early Access release are not without their risks. However, we’re still seeing many players interested in paying money to play games that are still in development. Clearly, gamers are intrigued by the idea of playing a game and, with their help, watching as developers work out kinks, fix bugs, and add content the players themselves suggested.

Pretty Much Any Genre Can Make It Big On Steam

While we doubt an educational or erotic game will ever join the list above, it’s cool to see some variety in terms of genre when looking at the best selling Steam games. Instead of being only first person shooters and action adventure games, we have survival sandbox, city building, computer RPG, strategy, and even a physics based vehicle soccer game.

It’s also worth noting that a good mix of single player and multiplayer games found success on Steam. While the list is dominated by MMOs and games with multiplayer options, fans of one player games have clearly been enjoying The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Cities: Skylines, Stranded Deep, and Pillars of Eternity.

Most Of The Top Selling Games Were Not Indie

It would have been pretty exciting to see the list above dominated by small teams. Who wouldn’t want to see several indie teams find success after risking it all, while sacrificing time and money to finally create a game of their own?

While there are plenty of success stories out there just like this, the truth is that most of the games above had big budgets and publisher support.

The biggest ones are, of course, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto and CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, both of which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make. The majority of the other titles didn’t have budgets of that size, but still had decent amount of cash to spend.

The good news is that a few of the titles on the list were developed by smaller teams with smaller budgets.

The Mean Average Cost Of These Titles Was Around $30

It only takes a couple of minutes browsing through Steam’s marketplace to see how many games are available for a few dollars. If your budget is only between $10 and $20, you’ll have no trouble finding plenty of good titles – and not just during sales.

However, keep in mind that, just like Google Play and the App Store, many of these cheaper titles aren’t even worth the $5 you paid for them.

Judging from the top selling list, players are clearly willing to pay top dollar for the best experiences possible. GTAV, The Witcher 3, and Dying Light are a $60 download, but still have found success. The same goes for like Total War: Attila and Pillars of Eternity, with their $45.99 price. The rest of the games are between the $15 and $30, with only Besiege being less at $6.99.

Learn more about the School of Game Design at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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The Actor as a Craftsman

The Craft of Acting

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a craftsman as, “a person who makes beautiful objects by hand” or “a person who is very skilled at doing something.” The definition goes on to specify that a craftsman is “one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts.”

Usually, when a person thinks of a craftsman, they think of a sculptor or carpenter who takes raw materials and creates something functional or artistic. But, as acting is a craft we can think of actors as craftsmen as well…

Acting as a Craft

A stage play, film script, or audition side is only words on a page. The words are the same words that appear in newspapers, novels, and on street signs. They are not a performance in themselves, but a guideline that requires the interpretation of an actor to come alive. Scripts are the raw materials that an actor works with to gradually craft a performance.

There are hints within a script, just as there are hints within the raw materials of other craftsmen. Carpenters use different types of wood, and sculptors different types of clay, to build the products they desire. An actor too must take heed of their raw material and adapt to its needs. Different subjects, genres, and mediums require different approaches. Acting may not fit the description of a “manual art,” but it is, at the very least, a physical art.

Craft as a Process

No matter what actor you ask, they all start somewhere. Each has a specific process from which they build a character. For example, Robert De Niro says, “I just try and find out as much about what that character is. Usually from real people…” He subscribed to a Lee Strasberg’s method and built the foundation of his characters on his observation of real people and the personal experiences that he had himself.

The point is that everyone starts in the same place, with the same script, but must build a character through their craft. As intimidating as that may sound, craft offers the advantage of being a gradual process.

Actors start with the script and make initial observations about the character. In subsequent reads, actors observe the stage directions and other characters dialog about their character to further inform their creation. Then, actors apply their own past and their own world views to the character. In the same way that De Niro observes the world around him, all actors can add seasoning to their characters through observation.

How to Build a Character

The craft of acting follows a different order for everyone. Actors must experiment and find the process that works best for them. However, as a general guide, actors should start with the script and continue improving until closing night.

Craft a Role from the Start

  1. Read the script several times – An actor must know the entire story better than the audience. Each time you read the script, observe something new about your character and add it to your performance.
  2. Research the script – Find out about the time period, location, political atmosphere, and history of the world of the play or film. Apply all of this information to change the way a character moves, speaks, and acts.
  3. Collaborate – Listen to your director’s notes, and listen to your fellow actors performances. Everything that they say and do is a hint to help you put the finishing touches on your character.
  4. Continue to Discover – After opening night, or after the first take, continue to learn about the character. Take lessons from each scene and apply them to the next scene. Continual learning makes stage performances vibrant throughout the run and film performances captivating from start to finish.

Actors may not be the best at building houses or throwing ceramic pots, but that does not mean that acting is not a craft.

All craftsmen start with something rudimentary and alter it until it becomes something of value. Acting is the craft of building a physical performance from words. When practiced with passion, acting definitely fulfills one of Merriam-Webster’s definitions: “a person who is very skilled at doing something.”

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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