Author: New York Film Academy

Q&A With MFA Filmmaking Alum and International Production Manager Valéria Costa

New York Film Academy Los Angeles alum Valéria Costa was born to be in the film industry. After graduating from NYFA’s MFA Filmmaking program, Costa went on to produce work for Netflix, Uber, TLC, NatGeo, Twitter and Spotify. She also began to divide her time between the U.S and her native country of Brazil as a Production Manager for Brazil Production Services

Costa has worked on multiple projects both in Brazil and in the United States including Netflix’s Hyperdrive and 90 Day Fiance: The Other Way. She also worked on the NYC unit for the Brazilian feature film Minha Vida em Marte and on the set of the shoot for the Get to Know Me music video for Brazil’s biggest popstar, Anitta.

Costa recently worked on the Brazil Unit for Netflix productions of Sergio and Street Food: Latin America. New York Film Academy recently spoke with the NYFA alum to discuss some behind the scenes insight on these recent projects, as well as Costa’s role as a Production Manager, who specializes in working with foreign productions. 

NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum Valéria Costa

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us more about your background and how you got interested in filmmaking?

Valéria Costa (VC): I’m from São Paulo, Brazil and I’m 29 years old. While I was doing my Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, I took acting classes and, once I finished my acting course, I took an internship in a theatre company. During my time there, I had the opportunity to learn about all the other components of a play that wasn’t the acting itself. As we went through rehearsals, I learned from the director of the company how to design and operate the stage lighting of the show and also followed her process in choosing and building the play’s score, costumes and make-up. All those processes ended up interesting me a lot more than what I originally intended to do there, which was to act. But, I knew that I didn’t want to be in the theatre world only, so I decided to start exploring and studying the universe behind the film and television cameras.

NYFA: That’s a really neat story of how sometimes you find what you enjoy when studying something else; it’s all about discovery! So how did you end up coming to NYFA? 

VC: After I finished a post graduation course for Cinema in Brazil, I felt the need to learn the practical side of filmmaking. And I’ve always wanted to study abroad and improve my English, so I decided to apply to the Masters in Filmmaking at NYFA and kill two birds with one stone. 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your role as Production Manager with Brazil Production Services?

VC: At Brazil Production Services, we act in a very specific niche part of the film industry. I’m specialized in assisting American and other foreign companies that wish to shoot productions in Brazil, as well as Brazilian companies that wish to film productions in the U.S. Due to my experience in both markets, I’m able to understand my client’s expectations when they arrive in Brazil or when they plan to have a city in the US as a filming location. So, besides having the usual responsibilities of a Film Production Manager, such as building and managing the production budget, sourcing qualified local crew, overall costs negotiation, overseeing risk assessment and production insurance matters, managing the production’s legal paperwork, monitoring deadlines and the production schedule…I also advise my clients on the local filming requirements of the country that they are looking to film at and align their expectations based on the limitations that their chosen location imposes. 

Film poster for ‘Sergio’

NYFA: Can you go into more detail about your work in the Brazil unit for Netflix film Sergio?

VC: It was a great experience. We had several weeks of pre-production and the challenge to build a 100+ local Rio de Janeiro crew, being the main members bilingual so they could communicate with the American crew that flew to Brazil for this shoot.

We also had to build a temporary production office to accommodate the project needs and, after analyzing the production plan, we felt that the best place to have it was in the Ipanema neighbourhood, in the same hotel where the foreign crew was staying, so we ended up almost closing the entire hotel for the production.

Another big challenge in this production were the underwater scenes that we shot at the Reserva beach in Rio de Janeiro. For those scenes, we decided to bring in from São Paulo the best underwater camera operator in Brazil so we could make sure we were getting the best footage for those moments.

There were also some challenges with both art and wardrobe departments. The scenes filmed in Rio de Janeiro were written as Sergio’s flashbacks, so they were set during the 70’s and we had to make sure all scene components were true to that time, such as street signs, cars, beach wear, people’s wardrobe, accessories, etc. 

Valéria Costa (Second from left) with the production crew behind the scenes of a shoot

NYFA: What has been your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

VC: I have special care for two Brazilian movies that I’ve produced scenes for in the U.S, which starred a big Brazilian comedian, Paulo Gustavo: Minha Vida em Marte (translates to: My Life in Mars) and Minha Mãe é uma Peça 3 (translates to: My Mother is a Character 3). 

Respectively, I produced the NYC Unit for the first film and the Los Angeles Unit for the second film. It was a great experience and really fulfilling to produce for an actor that is so well known in my home country. 

Valéria Costa (Second from Left) prepping for a production

NYFA: You’ve shot predominately in both Brazilian and U.S markets; What are some of the differences or similarities between working on those two sets culturally or professionally?

VC: I think that, besides the language, the biggest differences between shooting in Brazil versus shooting in the U.S are the processes, especially the bureaucratic ones. For example, the Brazilian customs are very tricky and complicated to deal with, so every time a client wants to ship an equipment or any other goods to Brazil, I have to make sure everything is done the right way, or else we can have packages stuck at customs. 

On the other hand, film permitting processes are different in the US, it has more requirements, especially in LA, and the jurisdictions are more divided between each film commission. 

NYFA: In addition to production, you’ve also written and directed some of your own short films – how has that helped you as a Production Manager?

VC: The short films that I wrote and directed were all very small productions, which means I had to wear a producer hat also at times – even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I believe that helped me to learn how to produce with little resources and how to manage what I had the best way possible and I definitely use those skills today as a Production Manager.

NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming NYFA students?

VC: There’s a Brazilian saying that I believe summarizes working in the film industry for me. It says: “A rapadura é doce, mas não é mole não” which translates to something like “The candy is sweet, but it’s not easy to bite.”  What we do is definitely not easy. You work long hours, deal with extremely tight deadlines and budget limitations, but I really love making movies and dealing with all the moving parts of a set and once you can see the final product I can guarantee that it’s worth it.

New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA Filmmaking alum Valéria Costa for sharing more about her experience being a Production Manager and congratulates her on the latest successes of her projects; we look forward to what is next from the NYFA alum. 

Q&A With New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Student Kartik Venkatraman on His Film Festival Success and Upcoming Film ‘Tehravin’

It was not too long ago when the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking student Kartik Venkatraman decided to quit his day job in India and start a new career in filmmaking in the U.S. Now, his drive for storytelling and the decision to follow his dreams seems to be paying off with his film Tehravin already receiving festival buzz from the likes of New York Lift-Off Festival and the IndieFEST Film Awards. 

NYFA filmmaking student Kartik Venkatraman (Second from right)

NYFA was able to connect with the filmmaker and discuss his journey from Mumbai to the U.S, his upcoming film Tehravin, and the challenges he faced while shooting at the beginning of a global pandemic.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): So tell us a bit more about yourself and how you came to be a filmmaker!

Kartik Venkatraman (KV): I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India and raised in a middle class household. When all kids would go out to play during their summer vacation, I would make my own stories, convert them into a three hour screenplay, and act them out alone and sometimes with my friends. However, as I grew into an adult, I followed the traditional path of completing my education and taking up a day job, but the creative kid in me was still alive and I could not stop thinking of story ideas and converting them into screenplays. 

I would narrate the stories to my wife and my best friends and would usually get positive feedback for them. I ended up writing screenplays for two feature films. Once I wrote them, I wanted to give life to the screenplays and did a six month course in filmmaking, all while keeping my day job. I finally began to realize that I had it in me to become a filmmaker and tell my stories visually, and I couldn’t do so without proper training if. I finally made the bold decision to leave a well-paid job that I did not enjoy and follow my dreams. I was supported by my wife, who also encouraged me to take this opportunity as she believed in me. I did a lot of research and came to the conclusion that New York Film Academy (NYFA) would be best suited to help me enhance my skills as a filmmaker and thus I started my journey into the filmmaking world by moving to the U.S and joining NYFA.

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film Tehravin?

KV: Per Hindu rites, 13 days is a grieving period which helps in healing the pain of the loss of a loved one. Tehravin (Thirteenth in English) is about a man who follows this ritual to help himself come out of the pain of the death of a relationship. While doing so, he reflects back on his past and the good and the not-so-good memories of the person he lost. His struggle eventually pays off as he emerges stronger and sees the light at the end of this dark period.

NYFA: Where did you shoot Tehravin and what was that process like for you?

KV: I shot Tehravin over the course of five days in New York City and New Jersey. I had a few challenges while shooting the film, however. My actor backed out a day before the shooting and I had to find a new actor within a few hours to make sure I completed the shoot; I was lucky that I could find one (a student who was already taking a 8 Week Acting for Film course with NYFA).

The biggest challenge was that the global COVID-19 outbreak had become an official global pandemic a couple of days after we started shooting (I started shooting on March 8, 2020). I had three days of shooting left and was worried if I would be able to complete it, but my crew and my actors stuck with me and we made sure we completed the shooting in between the pandemic safely. 

It was my first major short movie (I had made a few class assignments before) and I believe the fact that I finished shooting it was the most satisfying part, especially considering the challenges.

NYFA: As writer, director, and producer for this film, what are you hoping the audience will understand or perhaps empathize with after watching Tehravin?

KV: The pain of the end of a relationship is akin to the death of a person. If we mourn the death of a relationship like we would mourn the death of a person, we should have the ability to emerge a stronger person at the end of the mourning period. 

The film also has no dialogue and is reliant on visuals and background music to tell my story. I hope the audience is able to relate to the pain of the protagonist and also learn that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to work your way towards it. There are some subtle nuances that I’ve tried to bring out through the visuals and the acting, and I hope the audience is able to get them. 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about the New York Lift-Off Film Festival?

KV: The Lift-Off Global Network is an organization encompassing worldwide live screening events, distribution initiatives, a seasonal awards ceremony, and an ever growing and active Network of indie film creators.

The Lift-Off Season Awards is an annual event which celebrates the very best of indie film. Following each Lift-Off film festival, films which have excelled in their respective category are nominated and invited to attend the prestigious Lift-Off Season Awards, culminating at the end of the Lift-Off season.

Each year the Lift-Off Global Network of film festivals screen hundreds of incredible films from a diverse range of artists with huge talent that deserves recognition. Throughout the year, they aim to discover and publicize the very best of this pool of talent and give those filmmakers the recognition they deserve.

In addition to being selected for the New York Lift-Off Film Festival, I also recently got selected for the IndieFEST Film Awards

NYFA: Do you have any other projects in the works?

KV: I am currently working on my thesis film. It is, once again, a very sensitive film and is about child labour and helping poor children have access to education. I have locked my screenplay and look book for the film. I would start shooting it once we are out of quarantine and are allowed to shoot again as I would like to shoot the film in India. 

NYFA: What are some personal elements that you like to include in your stories as a filmmaker? 

KV: Most of my stories are about sensitive topics and about human connection. The thing that attracts me most about an idea is the “what if” part. For example: What if a person who has recently gone through a divorce treats the end of a relationship like he would treat a death? 

I like to take an existing concept and apply a twist to it, and then keep the audience unaware of the twist until the very end. Like I did with Tehravin– it starts with a person mourning a death. All throughout the film, the audience believes that the protagonist is mourning the death of a person and it is only in the end we realize that he was actually mourning the death of his relationship with that person. 

I also like to have subtle nuances in my film and not explain everything to the audience. 

NYFA: Do you have any advice to any incoming NYFA students?

KV: Believe in yourself and never stop dreaming and believing that anything is possible. Make sure you go out of your way to give life to your movie. A movie is like a child. It starts with an idea and then converting that idea to a story then a screenplay, and it does not end with the production and post production. You need to market your film, find a distributor, send it to film festivals, and make sure it gets all the visibility it needs. I did all of that with Tehravin and was lucky to find an audience who understood and related to my movie.

***UPDATE August 6, 2020 – Kartik Venkatraman won the Film Short (Student) Award at the IndieFest Film Awards.

Resources to Educate Yourself About Anti-Racism and Race

Throughout history, playwrights, filmmakers, authors and other creatives have used their stories and art to confront systemic issues and racial inequality. In light of the continued nationwide and global support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and the call to end systemic racism, NYFA recognizes that it is our responsibility to continue to educate ourselves on the black experience and celebrate the stories of black creatives, who seek to end racial violence and prejudice, and continue to work tirelessly to educate and inform.

Though this is by no means an exhaustive list, but we hope these educational materials (films, television shows, podcasts, books, and plays), selected by members of the NYFA community, serve as a starting point for us and others to continue to: confront racial inequalities within our society, recognize and applaud black stories and creators, and represent a brighter future in the film, media, and performing arts industries that promotes collaboration and inclusivity.

Films & TV Series to Watch:

Podcasts to You Should Hit the ‘Subscribe Button’ on:

‘The 1619 Project’ (Photo Credit: New York Times)

Books to Read:

Book cover for ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander (Photo Credit: The New Press)

Plays to Read and Study: 

If you would like to share the images in the above carousel, feel free to download by doing an easy right click to save the image.

Q&A with Actor and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Alum Anthony R. Mottola

Manila-born Anthony R. Mottola got quite the wake up call when he realized he wanted to go from musical theatre into becoming a screen actor. Mottola realized his dream of pursuing acting in 2014, when he enrolled in New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) MFA Acting for Film program to get hands-on experience working on set and honing his skills to make it in the business.

Since then, Mottola has booked television roles on shows like Netflix’s Friends from College, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Netflix special and is set to appear in the upcoming theatrical film Silent Retreat, starring opposite Sarah Goldberg (HBO’s Barry). New York Film Academy spoke with alum Anthony R. Mottola about his switch from musical theatre to screen acting, and how coming to NYFA was the first step in this new career: 

New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Anthony R. Mottola (AM): First off, this is my first interview/Q&A ever so thank you for reaching out. Also, if this constitutes that I’ve made it, welp, high-five to myself! 

I was adopted from Manila, the Philippines when I was a baby, and am the youngest of three boys. My middle brother was also adopted from a different part of the Philippines, Legazpi City. We were three very distinct children growing up in Central Pennsylvania. Oddly enough, I’d compare us to Alvin & The Chipmunks – me being Theodore literally because I was (and ALWAYS will be) the cutest.  I also have a little bit of Tigger from Winnie The Pooh in me. A couple months ago my brother found a home video of us in grade school. I was maybe around six or seven, and I was bouncing all over the place, quite literally.

At the age of five, my mother enrolled me in dance class, and I believe she was smart enough to know that there was a reason I had all this energy, and it WASN’T because I was a problem child. I was a creative mind, but I just hadn’t realized it yet. I started out as a tap dancer in first grade and, by second grade, I was on a competitive tap dancing team that won awards at NYC Dance Explosion. I was the only boy and I was the youngest team member. I also remember being OBSESSED with River Dance, which was a big thing at the time. 

As I got older, I didn’t exactly want to introduce myself to other teenagers as “Tony the tap-jazz-ballet dancer.” Then my freshman year of High School, my dance teacher choreographed the musical 42nd Street. I was so scared of getting made fun of by other students, and I remember being at the audition and shaking. Right before it was my turn to audition, I walked out. I walked right out of the auditorium and went home. When I got home, the phone rang and my dance teacher gave me the part of Andy Lee (the guy who tap dances) even though I walked out of the audition. I believe there are moments in one’s life that almost scream: THIS IS DESTINY. After that, I got my first professional musical theatre job (and my first paycheck) from a regional theater called Gretna Playhouse during my sophomore year of college in the musical The King & I

Here’s the thing though: I knew I was good and I did enjoy performing but, at the end of the day, I wasn’t ever quite fulfilled. That’s when NYFA came into the picture; when I really started to question what I really wanted to do, and why exactly I needed to perform.

NYFA: What was your experience like with the audition process for film and TV?

AM: I gotta say, auditioning for TV and film is a completely different world compared to auditioning for stage plays/musicals. Truthfully, post-graduation was a bit of an adjustment for me. I had moved back from LA around April of 2017 and decided to take a year off from the business altogether. Honestly, I was going through a tough transition and feeling a bit lost. I graduated from NYFA in 2016 and didn’t exactly hit the ground running after that. I hit the ground flailing until I decided to move back home. I essentially walked away for a bit and wasn’t sure I would go back. What people say is true, it [the entertainment industry] chews you up, and spits you back out. 

I just couldn’t stop thinking about acting, though. I kept thinking, “well, what if,” because I was working a retail management job, which I was grateful for, but let’s be honest, it was a bit of a dead-end job for me. 

I decided to put myself out there again and got new headshots. I chose a photographer based in Philly [Philadelphia], Vikrant Tunious, who was so welcoming and helped me feel at ease. At the end of my photo session, he gave me a four page PDF file of agencies on the East Coast and I emailed each one of them in hopes of getting myself back in the game. Well, NONE of them emailed me back. I was literally about to call it quits when I noticed that I missed one.

 

An agent named Will Ball had just formed his own agency named VIE Model & Talent. I tried to submit via his website, but my materials were not going through. I emailed him with no expectations he’d reply when, low and behold, he shoots me an email back the next day. We met in Fish Town, and he signed me! That was around May 2018. By the end of May, I had my first professional audition for this Netflix show called Friends From College, which was shooting the second season at the time. I essentially had no idea what to expect, but I went in, read the lines and, the next night, I booked it! Will called me and told me that I actually booked a role that I didn’t even audition for, which, looking back on the episode, I was so grateful for, because they showcased me even more in my new role than if I had booked the role I initially auditioned for. So that was my first screen audition ever. Booked it. Taft Hartley’d. It was insane.

Mottola (right) poses with actress Cobie Smulders on the set of ‘Friends From College’

I got to spend the day with Keegan Michael Key, Fred Savage, and Cobie Smulders, as well as the rest of the main cast. The whole day was a bit surreal. Keegan and Cobie were the first actors to welcome me on set and the director went right up to me after everything was said and done, shook my hand, and said I was hilarious. Best believe I cried that night with a glass of Pinot Noir. 

After that, I got to really experience the ups and downs of a working screen actor. Following Friends From College, I booked a co-star role on Comedy Central’s Broad City, a co-star role on FOX’s pilot show for Almost Family, and AMC’s Dispatches From Elsewhere. All great, and varying on-set experiences, where I learned a lot. My scenes were actually cut out from all three….well, I never even had any lines in Dispatches From Elsewhere, but I was contracted as a co-star. Seeing yourself cut out on TV is the toughest feeling but, to this day, you gotta remind yourself that it’s never personal. “That’s showbiz, kid!” I was VERY lucky and fortunate to get a 1.5 minute scene on Friends From College, and I’ll always be grateful for it. 

Mottola shooting the ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ interactive Netflix special

NYFA: Congratulations on your role in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt interactive Netflix special. What was the auditioning process like for that?

AM: Now, Kimmy Schmidt, that was something special. I LOVED the show beforehand, so the pressure was on for me. Especially because the tone of the show matched my brand so well. My scene was with Titus Burgess, so….yeah, “no pressure at all.” What I can tell you is the auditions are so fast; they’re like a blur. Most of the time you get the material 24 hrs before the audition time and, if you’re lucky, you get them maybe 48 hours in advance. Still, it’s maddening really, and the deadlines are much stricter than you would find for musicals/plays. People work faster because they have to! Also, you’re not exactly supposed to pay much attention to other actors in the waiting room, but a lot of times I can’t help it. I’m an observer/voguer at heart. 

I went in and Cindy Tolan [the Casting Director] seemed to be working quickly because she knew exactly what Tina Fey wanted. A few days later I’m on set in upstate New York with Titus Burgess and Jane Krakowski being funny. Titus was arguably the most welcoming actor I have met so far. I was fortunate enough to have him share some wise words with me, and he made me feel at ease during our scene. 

A lot of times, the pressure is on once you start your scene, but if you are lucky enough to establish a rapport with one of the stars, the whole scene shines! That doesn’t always happen, so I was blessed. I am blessed. And I’m eager to see the finished project!! 

NYFA: Can you tell us more about your NYFA thesis film Unrequited?

AM: I was assigned to write, produce, cast, and act in my own personalized short film. Not gonna lie, it seemed near impossible to pull off. Especially because I am not at all rich. I spent maybe $3,000, and my parents helped me. I can’t even begin to express the infinite gratitude towards my parents and my family for their support. I filmed it in my apartment, and my roommate/best friend was my AD. She kept me sane during the whole process, and I’ll never forget it. I cast two other actors who I met my first year back in NYC, and whom I trusted as actors.

Still from Mottola’s thesis film at NYFA, ‘Unrequited’

NYFA: What was the inspiration behind Unrequited?

AM: I had to think long and hard on what exactly I wanted to say. What exactly I wanted to put out there, you know? I wanted to say something I knew I would hold dear to me decades later. This short film was the result of at least six rough drafts. It won an award for Best LGBT Short that year and I still have the certificate and the statuette in my room right behind me! Growing up gay, adopted, and Asian in Central Pennsylvania in the 90s into the 00s was, well, it was something. 

I had a diary growing up and writing helped me express emotions I wouldn’t express outwardly. I wanted to write my script about a culmination of events and feelings I had endured from my adolescent years well into my young adult life. Unrequited love. Being taking advantage of and not caring about oneself. There was something beautifully cathartic to be said about the situations I put myself in and with the guys I choose to involve myself with. I remember just sitting in my bed, laptop in front of me, and just writing and quietly just crying. I had been so angry for years and I never told anyone. This was my heartache I had been putting into words and I believed, and still believe to this day, that when someone shares their trauma with the world, they have the ability to heal. Heal themselves. Heal others. Heal the world. I do plan on revisiting the topic later on in my life. I can see myself directing later on in my life, for sure. 

Mottola acting in his thesis film ‘Unrequited’

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

AM: That is such a loaded question! I feel like this will sound cliché and corny but you have to really look into your soul. Acting is more of a spiritual journey than anything. Ask yourself questions. If you’re doing this because you think it’s cool, you’re only skimming the surface. If you stick to the surface, I promise you that you won’t last. If it resonates within your soul, you’ll find your way. Take it from me. I’m about to be 31, and my life is just getting started.

New York Film Academy thanks actor and NYFA alum Anthony R Mottola for taking the time to speak with us and wishes him the best of success as his career continues to grow. Since this conversation, Mottola has landed a role in the upcoming theatrical film Silent Retreat, starring opposite Sarah Goldberg (HBO’s Barry). Mottola is repped by Will Ball (Vie Agency) and Matt Ilczuk (Entertainment Lab).

Editor’s Note: The Q&A with Actor and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Anthony R. Mottola by New York Film Academy has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

4 Tips To Create a Productive Study Space at Home

Everyone knows there are times when, for any number of reasons, you’ll have to study or work from your home as opposed to a communal space, office, library, or cafe. Unlike these other locations, studying from home–while convenient–poses its own issues, including distractions and creating a mood that pushes you more to relax than be productive.

With that in mind, New York Film Academy (NYFA) has put together these tips to create a productive study space in your home. Even the smallest touches can pay off dividends with your work, studies, and creative output!

productive study space

Ensure ideal lighting

One of the first things students at NYFA’s Filmmaking and Cinematography students learn is color temperature–sunlight has a bluish hue and indoor lighting typically has a warmer, orange hue. Even if you’ve never overtly noticed this, your brain subconsciously has, and studies have shown that your body responds to sunlight and can be both physically invigorating and beneficial to your mood. 

To that end, make sure you find a space that has access to natural light. Sometimes, this isn’t possible, but there are alternatives such as cool temperature bulbs and “happy lights” that you can place on your desk and keep you from getting the indoor doldrums.

Add some green

Have an empty surface or open area on your wall in your study space? Try adding a plant or two. Adding some green near your study area can make your personal space seem more serene and lively, making it perfect for staying focused. Plants may also add a bit of color and are said to improve indoor air quality, according to institutions like NASA. Having one or more plants in your study area can make for a peaceful, stress-free environment. 

Plant tip for beginners: All plants have different needs, so start out small with a low-maintenance plant like a succulent or tillandsia, then work your way up to a Chinese green, fiddle leaf fig, or a spider plant. 

Your area should be clean, and free of clutter

While messy areas can often be part of the creative process, sometimes you just need to focus and clutter can be distracting and disabling to that process.

Here are a few tips to get your creative process going by removing clutter:

  • Take what you need: When you’re grabbing things to take to your desk, kitchen table, bedroom, or any other space, make sure you only bring the essentials like your water bottle, a laptop, a notepad with your editor’s notes, and your camera to upload footage.
  • Toss & trash: If you don’t need something for that study session, move it or throw it away. Try and remove all trash from your study area before you begin so you don’t get distracted by it being there later on. After your study session, clean up your area so you don’t have to do it the next time you are about to study.
  • Create zones: Maybe your study area isn’t just one area and it involves multiple places to get things done. By organizing your projects to be done in a certain area on your desk or in your study area, you can organize and better prioritize your workload. In other words, when you mentally move, you physically move. For example: Perhaps the right side of the desk is for your computer and the left side of the desk is for handwritten notes, and maybe there is a couch nearby that is your designated space to focus on editing your projects.

Adjust the noise

Some of us love listening to music while working. Songs put us in a good mood, but it’s important to pay attention to the content we’re supposed to learn; otherwise, music can end up being counterproductive. It might be better to alter the type of music you’re listening to, trying tunes that help provide focus rather than distract from it. Try classical music, where large orchestras can produce pleasant mental effects without taking your mind off the words on a page. 

Click here for a playlist from New York Film Academy with some of our favorite classical music.

productive study space

Additionally, ambient noise, such as white noise, pink noise, etc. played in the background at a consistent level can help mask unwanted sounds. Some of these background noises can also include rainfall and waves crashing on the beach. 

Click here for a Spotify playlist that NYFA has created with some of our favorites ambient sounds.

productive study space

Alternatively, sometimes a change of music and turning up the beat can be all it takes to get you back into study mode, so click here for another Spotify playlist with some of our all-time favorite pop songs.

productive study space

**Extra Tip** – Snack healthy

Remember always to keep handy some healthy snacks and a bottle of fresh water to keep your mental and physical energy up. Try to avoid over-consuming sugar and caffeine while studying, as the resulting crash could be counterproductive. 

Here are some fantastic brain food snacks for studying:

Almonds
Dark chocolate
Air-popped popcorn
Hummus and veggies
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Nutella energy bites
Edamame
Carrots
String cheese
Roasted chickpeas

Q&A with Actress, Composer, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Xiren Wang

Canadian-born Xiren Wang is quite comfortable wearing many hats in the entertainment business–she is an actress as well as a composer, and has found success doing both. Wang first attended the 4-Week Musical Theatre workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) before pivoting to the 1-Year Acting for Film conservatory at our New York campus.

Since then, she has found work both in front and behind the camera, especially when it comes to scoring films and as well performing live. Her biggest project to date is scoring The Eyes, which aired on Showtime. New York Film Academy spoke with alum Xiren Wang about her eclectic work and how she first ended up at NYFA:

New York Film Academy (NYFA): The Eyes was released nationwide and had a run on Showtime. You scored and appeared in the film. Tell us more about this project and your experience working on it.

Xiren Wang (XW): After graduating from NYFA, I started taking classes at One on One, where I met Robbie Bryan, who directed the film. It was the first class that was back and running, because it was immediately after Hurricane Sandy, so I was one of the two people who actually showed up – and sometimes, showing up is that important. I met him as an actor, and invited him to the shows and concerts I performed in, and later on, when he needed a composer for the feature film, he thought the tone of The Eyes was a good match. The Eyes is a psychological thriller. Cerebral themes and dark emotions are definitely my genre of music. I write mostly for romance, drama, and yoga, all very different tones, but knowing your forte helps you define your sound, and film needs that specificity. Even though every trained composer, in theory, should be able to write for anything, doing something well is another level. Knowing your own sound helps carve out your sound world, and just like how there’s no actor who really can take every role, there’s no composer that is good for every general story. 

Xiren Wang

Because The Eyes was mostly filmed in one room, the sound world needed to be rich and multidimensional to keep the story moving forward. I blended classical sounds and electronic soundscapes to give each character another layer of identity, to speak to their backstories, and to expose a bit of what’s going on in their heads. I like to study the script and characters, and really get deep into the subtext and the headspace of what each character is holding back from the audience. 

Working on the film also afforded me the opportunity to learn about foley, and I was fortunate to have worked with the team at Skywalker Ranch for this. Because we had such a small team, I learned on the job what foley editing was about, and I’m glad to say that after the post-production process, I can handle any work that’s under the sound and music departments – usually consisting of a dozen or even hundreds of people, depending on the scale of the production. I’ve definitely started paying extra attention to the credits, just to see how the soundworld is sculpted for each film. I want to take what I’ve heard and then break it down into how it’s made, sort of like reverse-engineering, and then find ways to recreate something that sounds like the expensive output, but with a more resourceful approach, because most movies don’t allocate much budget or team to the music and sound departments. 

The reality of Hollywood orchestras recording for Hollywood films is not the reality we live in today, and a lot of production teams want skeleton crews and one-(wo)man powerhouses to take care of “everything”. Unless the director is keen on music, they often don’t know what creating a score really entails – composing is just one step of the journey, which then goes to recording, editing, mixing, matching to picture, etc. It’s a full suite of work, for many people, and having gotten my sound design start at NYFA really helped me understand this world, so that when I was hired as a composer, I could double as the sound designer as well. Understanding foley and other audio elements of the film is also crucial, and important lessons I learned from working on The Eyes

I’m fortunate to have worked with director Robbie Bryan, who trusted me enough to have this be my first feature film score. The soundtrack is also available to stream and buy on most digital retailers, but definitely get the whole experience on Showtime.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: You also music directed and performed live concerts at venues ranging from Arlene’s Grocery to Carnegie Hall, in which you also performed original music. Is your approach to composing music for your concerts different from the one you have for composing original film scores? How?

XW: Definitely. Music for film and music for picture is driven by story and frame. Music for live concerts is standalone music, driven by the pulse of the music itself, removed from the frames that anchor what it should be about. When I’m scoring a film, everything has to serve the story, and I believe a good film score should carry you further along and deeper into the story. A good film score makes you sink into more of your feelings and more of the story, it shouldn’t distract you with sounds that take you out of the story. It’s like a piece of fabric, tailored to the script and to each frame of what’s going on visually. 

Film music isn’t standalone music, it has to serve the story, and whatever doesn’t, is cut, like so much visual footage, as well. Composing for live concerts is where the musicians are the rockstars, and the performance itself is the story, so it’s a completely different mindset and landscape. Using the fabric analogy again, this time without a “body” of work to adhere to, the fabric can form its own shape and dynamics. 

I’m fortunate to be able to switch back and forth, because an actor-composer brings an extra set of eyes to the film, I feel. And being and actor-musician, I’m able to play with style, lighting, and the overall design of the music in a way that is storytelling, so this hybrid definitely heightens the production value, as it creates a multi-layered and multi-sensory experience. After all, whether we are actors or musicians, we are delivering an experience, and we want to make our work memorable.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

XW: It was a talent scholarship to the Musical Theatre program, and then an extended talent scholarship for the Acting for Film Program. But there was definitely a distance between learning about NYFA and receiving the scholarships. 

I first came to New York when I was still in high school (2005!) at the time–I competed as a junior actress at IMTA (boosted as the talent convention where Katie Holmes and Ashton Kutcher got their start), and one of the girls in our group received a scholarship to NYFA, which for her was a huge deal, and for me, that meant more than the callbacks I got from the various modeling agencies in both LA and NYC. It was more valuable because it offered a journey, a journey of becoming something more, and of self-actualization. 

In 2010, I went to IMTA with one goal in mind, and that’s to get a scholarship from NYFA. As fortune would have it, one of the callbacks I received was from NYFA, and Steven Chinni, whose offer really changed my life, helped me make the transition to move to New York. One of the lines he said during the callback, I’ll never forget, was  “as an actor, you can be whoever you want.” And the possibilities of living a full and rich life, that line offered, meant the world to me. 

By August, that dream became a reality, and I did a record amount of student films while in the program. Working with the cinematography class also afforded me friends who not only gave me reel material, but helped me cut my first reels, some clips which remain in my material today! When I was in the Acting program, I was also taking composition classes at Juilliard, and I saw a NYFA filmmaker’s poster on the bulletin board asking for original music scores. So, I made a lot of posters saying that I could score your film, and put them all over NYFA, and I ended up scoring a lot of student films, and my first sound design job also came from that, and it was something NYFA instructor Paul Warner had produced. 

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What was the most valuable takeaway from your time at NYFA both artistically and personally?

XW: The education I received at NYFA made me a better human being. It introduced me to the entire spectrum of human emotions and taught me what empathy is. I learned about human behaviour, and about darker emotions, and confronting them in a safe place was something so rare – it doesn’t happen outside of school. It gave me access to emotions I never knew existed or knew what to call them. It taught me how to speak clearly, so that my voice lands. It taught me what subtext is, and what pathology is, and life is richer when you understand these layers.

NYFA: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and composers?

XW: First of all, this is not an easy life! If you’re going after fame and celebrity, then it won’t take long to realize that the craft of both acting and composition is really hard work, on so many levels. I’m fortunate to still count myself in the business, but I’ve done a lot of work to get here, juggling multiple careers as an actor, musician, fitness model, composer, sound designer, VO artist, and radio host/producer. You’re constantly competing with people better looking than you, and surviving in the industry requires a lot of inner work, work that we have to do every day, long after we’ve graduated. Because keeping our tools sharp is just one part of the puzzle, having a strong mental game is so necessary. 

Lastly, this is a piece of advice that was given to me, and I finally started to apply it: to create your own content. Find your voice, know what you’re about, and start creating your own work, because most people are waiting for work, and waiting is not a way to live. It’s most disempowering. So figure out what fuels you, and be proactive about life and career, because this really is a marathon, not a sprint. Art comes from life, and in every stage of life, there is story. It’s easier now than ever to create content, but not everyone who has a Canon5D is a great photographer! Continue training, always be learning, and learn about business and look at this as an entrepreneur.

New York Film Academy thanks actress, composer, and NYFA alum Xiren Wang for taking the time to speak with us and wishes her success as her career continues to grow!

Major Trends in Animation in 2020

The top five grossing films of 2019 had one thing in common: they all relied heavily on visual effects & 3D animation

The top five–Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel, Frozen II–all used the cutting edge of what computer imaging had to offer in 2019. So as we dive headfirst into the new year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) surveyed our instructors and alumni who worked on dozens of movies, games, and television shows this year to find out what 2019’s biggest trends were and how they will lead to the big trends of 2020.

Paradigm Shift in Buyers

If you want to pitch an animated show, you are lucky as there have never been more producers buying animated works. In the recent past, the main purveyors of animated series were Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox, and Comedy Central. A good amount of those developed internally use a library of existing IP. 

But with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon now major players in the industry, more series than ever are being made. Hulu, TBS, Apple, Disney+, HBO Max, and Quibi have also thrown their hats in the ring, and more major and minor services are right on their heels. Because the streaming competition is international and because animation (generally) travels well overseas and is not ballooning in cost like live action productions, animated series are becoming a staple of streaming services.

2020 Animation Trends VR

Virtual Production

Visualizing the final film before it shoots it has never been more difficult. Modern tentpole films require more and more VFX, digital sets, CG characters, which means what you capture on set is bits and pieces of plates, as well as green screens that will need to be stitched together in post. This makes it hard for directors and other creatives to ensure what they are getting in camera is right for what they want.

That’s where virtual production comes in. Virtual production is when you use real-time 3D tracking and visualization to approximate what the final set extension or 3D VFX will look like in post, on set while capturing actors reacting to them in real time. A rudimentary form of this  technology has been used in line broadcast for decades, like the first-down line on a football field that is keyed to the ground and matches perspective across mulit-cam cutting; or the real time weather graphics that respond to the meteorologist’s movements. However advancements in game-engine and real-time rendering has allowed franchises like The Lion King to use VR technology, like that NYFA Game Design alum Guillermo Quesada helped develop, to visualize what a fully CG set looks like when captured using conventional directorial and lensing techniques.

Work Stations in the Cloud

Despite decreases in GPU costs, a modern top-of-the-line workstation can still set an artist back $5000. This spread across hundreds of artists can mean quite a costly investment for traditional VFX companies, which is why some artists and VFX houses are turning to “cloud” computing.

The most resource-intensive part of most shows is rendering. If a company does not need to own a render farm or even need to use a RAM farm that can generate previews, they would be able to have hundreds of thousands of dollars and spend more time on the art rather than the computing. This is where cloud computing comes in. Artists, companies, and supervisors are able to “rent” time calculating the preview or render of the shot they are working on, only paying for what is needed from more advanced computers to visualize what they are working on and then switching back to their home (local) stations for tweaks and then sending to a cloud farm for finishing. This process will allow boutique houses to compete with bigger competitors while keeping most of the money on the screen.

Real-Time Technologies

One of the most time-consuming parts of the VFX and/or animation process is rendering. For the first Frozen film, it took 30 hours to render a single frame, and with 24 frames a second, the render times add up fast. Video games on the other hand have been rendering at 60fps for decades but not quite at the quality expected for broadcast or theatre experience. The Unreal game engine is changing this. With strides in real-time rendering driven by the success of Epic Games (Fortnite) pouring resources into real-time rendering for use in animation and VFX, it is possible to render media in seconds what previously would take hours. For those looking to learn the tools of this future, Unreal is the software for you.

2020 Animation Trends

 

AI and Machine Learning

“Deepfakes” and “machine learning” have become daily terms in our newsfeeds, and they are affecting the VFX industry as much (if not more) than anything else. Being able to do head replacement, digital doubles, or de-aging, or having an actor give a postmortem performance as see with Peter Cushing in Star Wars: Rogue One, requires a tremendous amount of frame-by-frame pixel perfect work across dozens of software packages. This year, a deepfake plugin was released for After Effects, allowing artists to use this tremendous technology of machine learning to “photo-realistically” create deepfakes with little to no coding knowledge–training the algorithm yourself on your home machine. 

written by Matt Galuppo, Associate Chair of NYFA 3D Animation & VFX

What is Adobe After Effects?

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a motion graphic designer, you’ll quickly find Adobe After Effects to be essential software. After Effects artists are split between motion graphic designers and visual effects artists.

Adobe After Effects is a digital visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing application and is used in the post-production process of both filmmaking and television production, in live action and animation alike, with a wide variety of different uses.

Artists who create title sequence designs that begin almost every movie or television show you’ve ever seen, as well as animators will need to know After Effects. Similarly, artists who create informational graphics that explain complex circumstances visually can utilize the program. In the commercial world, motion graphic designers are tasked with animating logos for companies or creating stylistic lower thirds to introduce speakers in interviews.

Adobe After Effects

In contrast, visual effects artists use After Effects to mix computer generated elements with live action footage. This is known as compositing. Artists use After Effects to track, rotoscope, and key footage to create otherworldly environments that one might see in fantasy and science fiction films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Captain Marvel. After Effects can also be used to create stunning visual effects seen in films such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as Avengers: Infinity War

After Effects has dramatically affected the digital editing industry by increasing the quality and frequency of visual effects in entertainment. What used to require expensive and dangerous practical effects such as puppetry and pyrotechnics is now typically done by visual effects artists. 

Digital visual effects can be done cheaper and safer and can be integrated into any scale of project. There’s nothing that can’t be visualized on screen now–the only limitation is one’s imagination and knowledge of software such as After Effects. 

Examples of television shows and movies that have utilized skills that will be taught in the After Effects workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) include the title sequences for Stranger Things, The Leftovers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and American Horror Story. Similarly, we will explore and mimic the compositing seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the visual effects seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as the visual effects seen in Captain Marvel.

New York Film Academy’s Digital Editing school offers workshops that provide students with hands-on instruction in editing theory, techniques, and the fundamentals of digital editing, as well as hands-on experience by editing various projects with footage provided to them in class. Apply today to upcoming workshops in 2020 to learn and strengthen your digital editing skills!

Written by Nate Garcia
Digital Editing, NYFA After Effects Instructor

The History of ‘Star Wars’ on TV

Star Wars has become one of the most iconic cinematic franchises of all time, spawning three hit trilogies to date, as well as two big-budget side adventures. But Star Wars has long since become more than just a movie franchise—it has spawned countless books, comics, toys, merchandise, and more. 

But perhaps closest to the film universe of Star Wars is its presence on television, including numerous shows that are now canon. Most of these series were or are animated, however with the dawn of Disney+, live action shows set in the galaxy far, far away will be coming very soon, with budgets and special effects that look like they’d fit just as well on the big screen.

With the first of these shows, the hotly-anticipated bounty hunter series The Mandalorian, about to arrive, New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a look at the history of Star Wars on TV:

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

The Star Wars Holiday Special has cult status among Star Wars fans—it came right on the heels of the massive success of the first film, included cast members and sets from the film, and was notoriously awful, so bad that it was never released and only exists in bootleg form. Rather than a Christmas special, the television movie is a series of vignettes based around the Wookie holiday Life Day and the family of Chewbacca, and features appearances from cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and James Earl Jones, as well as non-Star Wars stars Bea Arthur, Richard Pryor, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, Harvey Korman, and classic rock group Jefferson Starship. While the special is regarded as a silly flop, it did introduce two very important elements to the Star Wars canon—the Wookie planet Kashyyyk and the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

 


The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour (1985)

The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour is mostly held in little regard by Star Wars fans, perhaps because the series revolves around some of the series most controversial characters—but it was the first in a long line of animated series for the franchise. The show was actually two separate prequel series, one based around C-3PO and R2-D2 and one based around the teddy bear like creatures from Return of the Jedi.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

A series of short animated films that fleshed out the massive Clone Wars event that first began in Episode II on the big screen later begot a serialized animated series with the same name. The latter focused on Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, but also gave a ton of time to world building and showing the various Clone Wars battles across the galaxy. Also included was the return of Darth Maul and deep dives into the Mandalorian culture, the Galactic Senate, droids, Count Dooku and the Trade Federation, the Jedi council and Jedi culture, and the Clone troopers themselves, some of whom become fully fleshed-out characters despite being identical copies of the same person–not to mention some of the greatest lightsaber duels in the entire canon.

 


Star Wars: Rebels (2014)

The follow-up series to The Clone Wars was more focused, centering around a single ship and its crew, that included a former Jedi and his apprentice, years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and only shortly before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. The series managed to expand the mythology of the Jedi and the Force, and also served as a direct sequel to The Clone Wars, bringing back fan favorite characters like Ahsoka Tano, Darth Maul, and Clone trooper Rex. The series also introduced expanded universe villain Grand Admiral Thrawn into the proper canon, which delighted Star Wars fans.

Star Wars: Resistance (2018)

The next animated series switched up its style and shifted towards more anime and cel-shading visuals, and was also the first series to take place after the original trilogy (but before the events of The Force Awakens.) Oscar Isaac reprised his role from the new trilogy as Poe Dameron, and the series, aimed towards younger audiences, follows a young boy named Kazuda Xiono, who finds himself involved in the early days of the Resistance as General Hux and Captain Phasma bring the nefarious First Order closer to the events of Episode VII.

The Mandalorian (2019)

With a pilot directed by NYFA guest speaker Jon Favreau, and a cast boasting the talents of Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Espositio, Werner Herzog, and Nick Nolte, The Mandalorian has a lot to prove as the first serialized live action Star Wars series. The show will also dive into the state of the galaxy between the original and latest cinematic trilogies as well as shed light on the criminal underworld of the universe, something typically only fleshed out in expanded universe books outside of Han Solo’s storyline.

 


Untitled Cassian Andor series (upcoming)

Rogue One star Diego Luna will reprise his role as Rebel spy Cassian Andor in this prequel series, one that will show the famous original trilogy’s Rebellion from a different angle—its darker, spy side. Alan Tudyk will also be reprising his role as fan-favorite droid, K-2SO. The show is expected to debut in 2020.

Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi series (upcoming)

A Star Wars story film featuring Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi has been rumored for years, but now that Disney and Lucasfilm are shifting from the big screen to the smaller screen, it looks like Obi-Wan’s story will be told on television instead. One of the most famous and important Star Wars characters ever, little is known about what Obi-Wan was up to in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope—this series will fill some of that in. Presumably, Obi-Wan is dealing with the aftermath of the Jedi’s extinction, as well as his new life as a hermit on the desert planet Tatooine, where he is keeping a close watch on the baby Luke Skywalker. While nearly nothing is known about the series, other than McGregor’s involvement, many fans hope and expect Darth Maul to return for a final showdown with Kenobi, now that Solo has confirmed the Sith warrior is still alive and well.

It’s a Good Time To Be a Comics Fan

These days, comic books are synonymous with summer blockbusters, with box office records constantly being broken and high-profile names in the film industry vying for a chance to be a part of major cinematic universes and perhaps cementing a legacy akin to Tony Stark, aka Robert Downey Jr.

That’s right. RDJ’s performance as billionaire playboy with a heart, Tony Stark, has merged with the actor and for the public eye become a single persona of the larger-than-life hero that he plays. He’s not the only one–comic book fans around the world now see these actors embodied by the characters they portray and it is simply because they were able to bring to life the stories that they have grown up with. 

The different incarnatoions of Hulk

Stories have molded many a reader from the shy, unpopular kid who can relate to Peter Parker and Spider-Man to the person who feels out of place in society because of their appearance or sexual orientation who empathize with the trials of discrimination in the pages of X-Men. 

Many comic books represent the most important topics affecting contemporary society. It wasn’t always this way though. Comics started as a way for struggling writers and artists like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to make a living by coming up with characters with funny names and weird backstories and placing them in the most ridiculous outfits they can think of. A perfect example would be the original costume for Batman, who first started out wearing red tights with black underwear and bat-like wings. It wasn’t until his revolutionary creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, decided to take these stories and make them mean something more. 

Today you can look to Captain America for moral high ground, Batman for discipline and dedication, or the many female characters leading the charge for all young women seeking equality, recognition, and empowerment–including Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Supergirl, and She Hulk, to name a few. 

Gal Gadot

The recent renaissance big-budget comic book adaptations and the performances of perfectly cast actors, paired with years of character development in the pages of comic books are now truly amazing cinema audiences. 

Take the upcoming film, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Arthur Fleck,is a failed comedian spiraling into insanity, who eventually becomes the titular homicidal clown. The film generating so much buzz before its release that it is already an Oscar contender, and broke October box-office records in its first weekend of wide release.

No longer are comic books regarded as silly pulp magazines for kids to entertain themselves with. They now represent the individual reading them, they connect emotionally, and inspire generations of people who strive to tell the stories that can impact people and change their lives. Together, comic books and the film industry has become a juggernaut–with no slowing down in sight. 

It truly is a good time to be a fan of comics.

 

Written by Gabriel Marte

7 Must-See Films of Pedro Almodóvar

Whenever anyone talks about Spanish cinema, it’s impossible to ignore the achievements of Pedro Almodóvar, one of the most internationally successful Spanish filmmakers of all time. Born in 1949, Almodóvar has won countless awards for his work, including two Oscars, five BAFTAs, six European Film Awards, two Golden Globes, nine Goya Awards, and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the French Legion of Honour and the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Recently, he was awarded with an Honorary Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival.

Barely 18 years old, Almodóvar moved from his rural hometown to Madrid to pursue his passion for filmmaking, and worked several jobs to support his art. Interested in experimental film and theatre, Almodóvar became a key figure in La Movida Madrileña (the Madrilenian Movement), a cultural renaissance that followed the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. 

Here is a look at some of the most important films of Almodóvar’s decades-spanning, award-winning, groundbreaking career as a director:

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Pepi, Luci, Bom was Almodóvar’s first feature as a director, but it was 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that launched him into the cinematic pantheon. The dark dramedy starred Carmen Maura and was an early breakout role for Antonio Banderas, who has remained a collaborator with Almodóvar to this day. The film, about a woman who is abandoned by her married boyfriend, was nominated for the 1988 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won five Goya Awards.

 

All About My Mother (1999)

In the eleven years between Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and 1999’s All About My Mother, Almodóvar continued to make films that were critical and commercial hits, including Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), High Heels (1991), and The Flower of My Secret (1993). All About My Mother is his best known film from the 1990s however, and opened the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, where Almodóvar won Best Director. The awards kept coming for the film, which explored themes of sisterhood and family, and earned Almodóvar his first Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as a Golden Globe, two BAFTAs, and six Goya Awards.

Talk to Her (2002)

Talk to Her received nearly universal critical acclaim when it was released, employing unconventional cinematic techniques for mainstream films like modern dance and silent filmmaking. The film tells the story of two men who bond while taking care of a comatose woman they both love. Almodóvar won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director, cementing his status as not just an internationally respected filmmaker but one of the best in the industry.

Bad Education (2004)

Starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, Bad Education was a drama about child sexual abuse and mixed identities, and employs unconventional storytelling structure in its screenplay. The film opened at the 57th Cannes Film Festival and, among other awards, won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release, in part for its deft portrayal of transsexuality.

 

 

Volver (2006)

Volver was a very personal film for Almodóvar, who used elements from his own childhood to craft a story about three generations of women as they deal with sexual abuse, grief, secrets, and death. The film was anchored by a powerful performance by Penélope Cruz, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the first Spanish actress to do so in that category. 

The Skin I Live In (2011)

The Skin I Live In was Almodóvar’s first foray into psychological horror, and is loosely based on a French novel by Thierry Jonquet. The film stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon haunted by tragedy who is obsessed with creating burn-proof skin, and ends up keeping a prisoner in his mansion to achieve this. The film reunited Banderas with Almodóvar for the first time since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and employs a variety of cinematographic and editing techniques inspired by genre filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and David Cronenberg. 

Pain and Glory (2019)

Almodóvar’s latest film was released earlier this year and debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or. Pain and Glory tells the story of a film director whose career has peaked, and again stars Antonio Banderas, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his work. The film was unsurprisingly a critical hit, and became the highest-grossing Spanish film of the year.

 

What’s your favorite Pedro Almodóvar film? Let us know in the comments or @ us on your favorite social media platform! 

8 Books Every Screenwriter Should Check Out

Screenplays, whether for short student films or Hollywood epics, typically follow a fairly rigid format. However, the art of screenwriting, and what you’ll learn in screenwriting school and by workshopping your scripts with your instructors and fellow students, comes down to mastering all the nuances that reside within that format.

A great supplement to the hands-on, intensive training you’ll receive at screenwriting school is of course a good book—after all, who better to write about writing than, well, writers?

screenwriting competitions

There are countless books on screenwriting so it can be hard to choose ones that are worth your time and that will complement your in-class training. Here are a few tried-and-true books that won’t waste your time:

The Tools of Screenwriting: A Writer’s Guide to the Craft and Elements of a Screenplay
by David Howard and Edward Mabley

David Howard and Edward Mabley get to the very core of screenwriting with this book, focusing on the principal elements of a script, like plot, structure, dialogue, setting, character development, and imagery, and how they specifically relate to the medium as opposed to other forms of writing. By using specific examples found in famous scripts like Citizen Kane, E.T., and The Godfather, they show how these elements look when masterfully applied.

The 21st Century Screenplay: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Tomorrow’s Films
by Linda Aronson

While many, if not most, books illustrate screenwriting through the traditional three-act structure, with some going as far as telling you where story beats should be page by page, The 21st Century Screenplay focuses on breaking the rules once you’ve mastered them. By using popular, contemporary examples of Hollywood films that employ various types of alternate screenwriting techniques, including–Pulp Fiction, Memento, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind–the book shows you how to write unconventionally in a way that makes sense and doesn’t alienate your audience.

Psychology for Screenwriters: Building Conflict in Your Script
by William Indick

One of the first things any writer is taught is that conflict is the core of drama, so it goes without saying that a good screenplay needs good conflict. Psychology for Screenwriters focuses on this specific goal, instructing writers how to better understand human behavior to drive their script, and providing readers with theories of personality and psychoanalysis, along with writing exercises, guidelines, and a ton of examples from classic movies.

The Nutshell Technique
by Jill Chamberlain

Unlike most screenwriting books, which teach you the beats of a story linearly, producer Jill Chamberlain (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Crimson Peak), offers The Nutshell Technique. The heart of her technique involves eight core elements of a story that all tie into one another. Cracking the code will crack your story, and Chamberlain demonstrates this with infographics that break down the stories of famous scripts like Pulp Fiction, Casablanca, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine, using her patented technique.

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting
by William Goldman

Screenwriting legend William Goldman is behind some of the biggest and best Hollywood movies of all time, and readers were eager to read his insights when he first published Adventures in the Screen Trade in 1983. However, instead of getting a step-by-step writing manual from one of the masters, they got a personal, fascinating look at the mechanics of how Hollywood worked, from the Golden Age studio era to its transition into New Hollywood and beyond. The book is considered a must-read not just for aspiring screenwriters but anyone who ever plans to step foot in the Los Angeles movie-making machine.

Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
by David Mamet

David Mamet made his name on his unique style of dialogue-heavy writing, including his Oscar-nominated screenplays for Wag the Dog and The Verdict. His book, Bambi vs. Godzilla, offers an insider look at Hollywood written with his trademark subversive wit, but with a focus on screenwriting, including who in the studio system actually reads your script. It is incredibly informative, but not afraid to have fun, asking questions like “How is a screenplay like a personals ad?”

Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!
by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant

Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant met in film school, where they and their friends co-founded the comedy group The State, which spawned a generation of film and TV stars like David Wain, Michael Ian Black, and Ken Marino. While also starring as sketch actors and on shows like Reno 911!, Lennon and Garant became successful Hollywood screenwriters, penning many big budget action-comedies and other films, including Night at the Museum and Baywatch. The book offers insight in how to make blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood while also keeping the reader entertained with the hilarious joke-writing skills they bring to their comedy careers.

5 Cinematography Books Filmmakers Should Check Out

While there are plenty of YouTube videos and other visual aids to supplement your cinematography school education, there’s a tried-and-true source that works even when the wi-fi is down—books.

What’s great about books is that you can study each page at your own pace, and often books on cinematography come with simple yet informative visual aids. Also, if they are still in print, there’s a good chance they’ve had the time to prove themselves a useful resource.

Here are some books on cinematography you can check out:

Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors
by Blain Brown

A lot of the core tenets of cinematography have stayed the same for the last 100 years or so, but with the advent of digital filmmaking that is no longer the case. Blain Brown’s definitive 2016 book covers a broad range of cinematography topics and includes much of the modern, digital equipment and techniques that come along with them. This book makes a great basic blueprint for you to familiarize yourself with the craft before honing your skills in a hands-on cinematography program. In general, you should always try to get the most updated print; currently, Brown’s book is in its third edition.

FilmCraft: Cinematography
by Tim Grierson and Mike Goodridge 

By working on set with state-of-the-art equipment, cinematography school is a great way for you to master a complicated craft. However, the value of some books is how they can hone in on very specific projects or people, and use these examples to explore the practical techniques you’ve learned. FilmCraft’s Cinematography book is a prime example of this—by looking closely at iconic films like Psycho, Chicago, and Hero, and through discussions with veterans of the art form like Vittorio Storaro and Christopher Doyle, this book lets you see cinematography in action.

On Suspiria and Beyond: A Conversation with Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli
by Luciano Tovoli

Even more specific is On Suspiria and Beyond, a book that focuses on one specific director of photography, Luciano Tovoli. By devoting an entire book to an interview with Tovoli, you can get firsthand knowledge from a veteran who has worked with such esteemed and talented directors as Dario Argento, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrej Tarkovskjj, Julie Taymor, and many others. Tovoli was passionate about the use of color and goes into vivid detail about specific sequences from his work on the mind-bending horror film Suspiria. This book looks at cinematography in a hyperfocused manner you won’t find elsewhere.

Painting with Light
by John Alton

Academy Award-winning director of photography John Alton (An American in Paris, The Big Combo) first published Painting with Light in 1949, but his writings on the art form still hold a lot of weight. Once you’ve mastered the tools and craft in cinematography school, Painting with Light will help you explore how to use image making to determine the visual mood of a film, incorporating lighting, camera techniques, location choices, and more. As a plus, the book is not afraid to use non-technical language, so even beginners can delve into Alton’s work, perhaps as a precursor to taking cinematography classes.

Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers
by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salivate

This book features fifteen conversations with modern cinematographers to give a firsthand look at how directors of photography work on set and approach their jobs. Authors Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato are both film critics, while the newest edition of Masters of Light features a preface by veteran cinematographer John Bailey. This is a must read for anyone looking to get inside the heads of contemporary cinematographers.

8 Summer Camp Packing Tips

Even if you packed weeks in advance, the morning before you head off to summer camp can be a stressful one as you check all your pockets and bags and wonder if there’s anything you forgot to bring. Maybe you won’t realize until a week into camp! By packing early and packing smart, you can do your best to avoid these stresses and focus on having the best time possible at your next camp. Here’s a few tips to help you pack for camp:

Check What the Camp Will Provide

Find out what will be provided for you at the camp by checking the camp’s website or the Packet you received after enrolling, or by calling your admissions counselors. That way you don’t have to burden yourself with redundant items. Packing light doesn’t just make your life easier; it helps you keep better track of everything you’re bringing.

Don’t Forget Shoes!

If you’re wearing a comfortable pair of shoes to travel on the day you leave for camp that are ready to fall apart, or are in a comfy pair of flip flops, you better remember to bring a better pair of shoes to survive the duration of your camp. Make sure they can survive some bad weather and will keep you comfortable—you’ll be on your feet most of the time because going to camp isn’t about sitting around playing video games all day!

Bring a Book

Bringing a book isn’t just a good idea for your trip to camp—it can a great way to unwind and relax in your downtime between camp activities. Even if you’ve brought your phone, a good old-fashioned book can do wonders. Taking your eyes off the screen and your mind out of social media can be exactly the break your brain needs at times.

Books on acting

Bring a Good Water Bottle

Staying hydrated in the heat or on a film set (which can get very hot very quickly under stage lights) is a must. New York Film Academy (NYFA) has water fountains scattered around campus, as do the parks you might find yourself in outside, so make sure you have a sturdy water bottle that can be filled at a moment’s notice.

Leave the Games At Home!

Whether it’s an iPad loaded with the best new gaming apps or a Nintendo Switch, there’s no reason to bring your favorite games to camp. Camp is about meeting new friends, learning new skills, and getting away from the trappings that surround you at home. You’ll be surrounded by fun, high-tech film equipment you can use to make your own movies, or if you’re attending NYFA’s Game Design camp, you can work on your very own video games! You may miss playing Fortnite with your buddies, but Tilted Towers will be waiting for you when you get home. You may even find the games more enjoyable after taking a much-needed break from them!

Make Sure You Have All the Gear You Need

Depending on which camp you attend at NYFA, you may need to bring certain items or types of equipment with you from home. Carefully check your camp website or check in with your admissions counselors to make sure you have exactly what you need, and don’t forget to bring everything the morning you head off for camp!

Bring the Right Bag

It’s not just important what you’re packing, but what you’re packing it in. Your bag should be large enough to fit everything with a little room to spare—just in case you need to add something last minute. It should be sturdy and able to hold everything you’re carrying, ideally with its own space for a water bottle so you can keep hydrated. Finally, you should check for any tears or holes—the last thing you need is something you remembered to pack falling out on your way to camp!

Make a List

Whether it’s a shot list or an annotated screenplay, lists are always a good practice. It’s also a great way to make sure nothing was left behind the day you leave for camp. For a week or two before you head out, start compiling a list of everything you’ll want to bring. When it comes time to pack, use this master list for a quick and painless packing session, and before you head out the door double check the list to make sure everything made it into your bags!

8 Reasons to Go to Summer Camp

Thinking about going to a camp this summer? Whether it’s a filmmaking camp, acting camp, screenwriting camp, or any other kind of camp, there’s a slew of reasons why this year you should pack your bags and head to camp! Here’s just a few:

Meet People From New Cultures

At New York Film Academy (NYFA), you’ll meet campers your age from all around the world. Whether collaborating on a short film, acting in a scene together, or hanging out in your down time, your experiences with these new cultures will only broaden and expand your own knowledge of all the world has to offer.

Boost Your Self-Esteem

Camp can be a great boost to your self-confidence. Making new friends with similar interests can be hard during the school year, but at camp this happens all the time and is a great reminder that your hobbies and passions are well worth your time! Working on new projects will show you just how much you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

Learn Problem Solving Skills

Whether it’s breaking down a script, mapping out how to shoot a scene, or learning your lines, working in the visual arts constantly requires you to use your problem solving skills. The skills you’ll pick up at camp will help you solve problems in everyday life as well, giving you patience and a mastery of critical thinking.

Problem Solving Puzzle Rubick's Cube

Find New Interests

A great thing about attending a NYFA camp is that you will be exposed to campers from other programs working on all sorts of different projects. Maybe you came to NYFA to learn how to act but discover you prefer working behind the camera instead. By seeing several visual arts being taught at once, you’ll have many opportunities to explore new interests you may not have ever considered before!

Learn Collaboration

When working in the visual arts, it is essential that you learn how to work well with others. Indeed, most movies come from the creativity and hard work of several people working together, constantly bouncing ideas off one another and workshopping problems together. NYFA camps will help you work with other campers to make the best projects possible, and teach you valuable skills you can use in life outside of camp.

Kid Child Singing Podcast

Use the Creative Side of Your Brain

During the school year, you may find yourself focusing more on math and spelling and history tests, exercising the left side of your brain more than the right. Attending a NYFA camp during the summer will help give your creative side some love, exercising your imagination and preparing you for a more well-balanced education later in the year!

Get a Head Start on the Digital Media Landscape

Digital media is constantly changing, from hardware to software to artistic and visual trends in cinema, television, and web content. NYFA camps will teach you solid fundamentals in the visual arts that will help you keep up with all the new equipment, techniques, and trends that will continue to evolve as you grow older and pursue a career.

It’s a Great Way to Spend the Summer!

While you could spend all day indoors boosting your Fortnite skills, what better way to spend the summer than trying something new and meeting a bunch of people who share similar interests! By the start of the new school year, you could have new friends and new skills in something you’re deeply passionate about—whether it’s acting, filmmaking, animation, photography, or everything else NYFA can teach you at camp!

Summer Camp Campfire Beach

7 Activities to Beat the Heat This Summer

Attending camps at New York Film Academy (NYFA) will give you all sorts of new skills and experiences, no matter which program or location you choose. While you might be coming to make new friends with shared interests and learning a particular set of skills, you’ll still have time for extracurricular activities in the evenings or during your downtime.

Here’s just some of the activities you might find yourself doing at a NYFA Camp this summer:

Game Nights

Game Nights are a favorite for NYFA campers during weeknights, where you might find yourself trying new games or teaching your friends your personal favorites! The filmmaking industry can be competitive—but not nearly as much as a game of Monopoly!

Sightseeing

Depending on the location you choose for your NYFA camp, you might be seeing a brand new city for the first time. Organized sightseeing visits with your fellow campers and counselors will show you some of the coolest places these locales have to offer.

Sightseeing Hiking Tourist

Seeing New & Classic Movies

After a long day of working hands-on with some serious film equipment, a great way to boost your filmmaking skills in a different way is to watch the masters at work. By going on trips to local movie theaters to see the latest blockbuster, or watching a classic movie from before you were born, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself and pick up some ideas for your own projects.

Museums

Similarly, going to museums can be a great way to expand your knowledge and culture, inspiring your work in ways you may have never considered. Art and history come in many forms, and the wider your repertoire the stronger your own creativity will be no matter what your discipline.

Museum Art

Cool Places to Eat

Museums can be awe-inspiring, but they don’t always have the best cheeseburgers. Camp counselors will bring you to the coolest and most interesting places to eat around town. After all, what better way to learn a new city than by trying the local cuisine!

Beaches & Theme Parks

Most NYFA camps are held during the summer, so a trip to the beach is usually a great way to beat the heat, whether it’s enjoying the sea breeze or diving into the cool, refreshing waves. You can also expect trips to local theme parks where you can challenge your new friends at boardwalk games or see who’s up for the scariest rides.

Guest Speakers

One huge advantage to attending NYFA camps is having access to NYFA’s great guest speakers. Throughout the year, actors, directors, writers, producers, animators, photographers, and other luminaries from every discipline will come and speak to NYFA students. If they happen to be speaking during your stay at NYFA, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to learn directly from the greats!

Adam Driver

Student Essay: How NYFA Counseling Services Helped Me

The following is a short piece written by Pooja Sudhir, a 2018 graduate of New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking in New York City. When she left NYFA, Pooja said she wanted other students to know what it was like to try therapy on our campus.

I moved to New York City in January 2018. I had just turned 22.

It was the first weekend of March, the initial excitement of my new life had died down and the that fact that this was my new routine had slowly started to sink in.

I came home after classes (I had Monday off and we didn’t have class until 3:40 pm on Tuesday) and it was the first time where I had no assignments that kept me occupied, and no distant relatives visiting me. It suddenly occurred to me that I knew no one apart from a few friends I had made at school.

The weather was bad for me to go and explore the city; most people seemed to prefer staying indoors. This is completely contrary to how my social life was back home in Bangalore, India. Keeping in touch with people back home was hard because of the time difference. It became less about communication and more about exchanging information.

By then, I had already started noticing that I had started to fidget—something I never did before.

I used to wake up every morning feeling extremely anxious for no specific reason. There was this constant physical stress I felt, constant agitation and restlessness.   

On that day, my left hand started to shiver. I am usually someone who respects personal space but, for the first time, I felt like I wanted to hold somebody’s hand. Even watching something on Netflix seemed like a task. That was the day I decided to write to NYFA’s school therapist, Jacky.

I didn’t really understand the reality of relocating to a new country until a few days after it happened. I constantly pressured myself to believe that I was happy and that I was okay, because I genuinely believed I had no reason not to be “okay.”  

My loved ones were extremely supportive of my decision to seek out help, so I had no inhibitions about reaching out. I started my journey wanting to address homesickness and through the process, Jacky and I touched upon many minute chapters of my life—stories and secrets that’ll stay safe with my therapist forever.

For anyone wanting to reach out, I’d like them to know that there is nothing wrong or weak about asking for help. Throughout my journey, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was okay to admit that I wasn’t okay. I was suddenly comfortable being vulnerable when I needed to be.

In my last session with Jacky, I promised myself that I will never hide the fact that I have reached out for help from professionals, and that I will always encourage my friends and family to seek out help when they need it, even if they have apprehensions about doing so.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and has been observed in the United States since 1949. New York Film Academy urges all students, alumni, staff, and faculty to prioritize themselves and their own mental health, and throughout May will host a series of events to both raise mental health awareness and provide a therapeutic outlet for those in need.

The Best Tips For Making a Short Film in a Short Amount of Time

[The 72-Hour Shootout is accepting submissions as March 1, 2020, up until the start of the competition on June 5. People can participate from anywhere in the world. For more information, or to register today, click HERE!]

There are any number of reasons you might have a limited amount of time to create a short film (even from scratch), including intentionally for competitions like the Asian American Film Lab 72-Hour Shootout. Time is one of the most valuable resources a filmmaker can have, so creating a short film in a crunch can be quite the challenge.

New York Film Academy has pooled advice from the chairs and faculty of our many different departments—including Cinematography, Producing,Filmmaking, and Digital Editing—to give a well-balanced list of offered tips and best practices for creating the best possible short film in a short amount of time:

Story

Try to come up with a great idea that works in a few minutes. Keep the concept simple and focused. A good logline can help you focus your idea and keep you from wandering too far off course.

Come up with a story that can believably occur in a very short amount of time, even ten minutes. Your actual film’s running time doesn’t need to be that long, but you will be able to dramatize shorter events in a more grounded way.


Actors

Cast carefully. Some actors may be more comfortable with ample rehearsal time, so make sure they know the time restrictions of your shoot.

Allow your actors to contribute. If they’re inventive, give them a chance to improvise. Shoot takes with alternate lines of dialogue. This can be especially effective in comedies.

When directing your actors, remember these tips:

Let your actor know what their objective in each scene is.

Make sure you and your actor are on the same page about their character and their motivations. If you disagree, take a few minutes to discuss, listen, and compromise.

Be there for your actor. While some actors may prefer to do things their own way, most seek and thrive on direction, even if it’s just pointing them the right way, metaphorically speaking.

Or literally speaking! Blocking is very important not just for your framing but for the intensity of the scene itself. Work with your actors to find the right blocking for each scene–what feels right for them and what looks best for the camera.

Producing

Make sure your schedules are detailed out to the minute and remember that communication between cast and crew is key. By having everyone’s contact information and by communicating clearly where everyone is expected to be and when, you can avoid unnecessary delays in production. Give them directions and expected travel times to the set.

Organize your days so you can shoot several scenes in one day. If you have multiple locations, select the key location for the day and then find your other locations in the immediate area.  Moving locations can be a killer and waste tons of time. Try to group scenes together that use the same cast members and costumes. Be efficient in your scheduling and don’t be afraid to shoot out of order or out of sequence. Schedule your exteriors first—that way, if it rains you have the option of delaying those scenes until the following day. And have a cover set (or interior) waiting to go, so you can move inside and not lose a shooting day

Equipment

Put together an inexpensive but effective equipment list. Your story won’t be improved with more pixels, but you also don’t want your camera breaking down in the middle of your shoot. Test all the gear before you leave for the set.

Once you’re on location, if something breaks and has to be replaced, you’re going to lose valuable time. Don’t be afraid to be inventive. You may not have a professional dolly but some of the most inventive directors come up with novel solutions that actually make their shots more interesting.

Make sure all batteries and other accessories are charged before the shoot, and spares are being charged during the shoot. Remember, with only three days to shoot, every minute counts and every delay needs to be avoided at all costs.

Acting Audition


Cinematography

Don’t be afraid of using natural lights and don’t be afraid if not everything is lit and bright. Often enough, beauty lies in the darkness. Silhouettes, high contrast, backlighting, and dramatic shadows can create a very dynamic and powerful cinematographic look.  

When shooting a scene, start with your biggest shot first and then shoot all your closer shots looking in the same direction. Then turn around and, again, start with your biggest shot and work progressively closer.  

Sound

Sound, on the other hand, is another issue. Bad sound is often said to be the hallmark of amateur filmmaking. If your audience is struggling to understand what your actors are saying, there won’t be much room left for emotional involvement. So do everything you can, within your limitations, to get the best sound/dialogue recorded on the set. Whoever said, “we’ll fix it in post,” must have had tons of money, so erase those words from your vocabulary.

Keep sound in mind before you even begin filming–make sure the locations you choose and even the story you tell will be make your sound recording as easy as possible. If you can, have a good portion of your film dialogue free, with scenes that can use music or non-sync sound in their stead, as sync sound will always take longer to shoot.

Digital Editing

When working in post-production, remember it’s ok to be ruthless–do not be afraid to cut, even if it means undoing hours of work. Always, always, always back up your project and footage in different locations. Save often so you don’t lose any time due to a computer error. Learn to say goodbye to your mouse and learn keyboard shortcuts to become a faster and more efficient video editor–with only three days to make your film, every second counts!


GENERAL PRODUCTION DO’s AND DON’T’s

Keep your productions simple. Limit the number of cast members. Limit the number of locations. Avoid big scenes with elaborate sets, costumes and props. Stay away from period pieces, children and animals—they are far too unpredictable. And be as professional as you can be. Although you may want to break the rules when it comes to content, there’s a good reason professional shoots are organized the way they are. The better prepared you are, the more likely you will capture your vision.

Apply Now for a Filmmaking Program

Acting Scams: How to Identify and Avoid Them

With lots of actors and performers looking for a job, the film industry can be a treasure trove for many scam artists which are incredibly adept at taking advantage of decent people. Aspiring actors who have recently graduated from drama and acting schools are more likely to fall for the hook of con artists due to a lack of professional experience.

Acting Scams

However, if actors just starting out know how to spot and fend off these cons, they have no reason to worry. Especially for those vulnerable recent graduates, experts from Vip-Writers have collected and described some of the most common acting frauds an average performer usually has to deal with at the beginning of their career:

Manager Scams

In the film industry, there can be many swindlers who pretend to be legit managers. They usually ask aspiring actors to pay a “submission fee.” They convince their victims that they are using their funds for submitting them for acting roles and that performers should cover these costs themselves. Meanwhile, these con artists rarely try to actually help the performers get their careers started.

Both fresh grads and experienced performers should note that honest managers never ask performers to pay them anything but an industry norm of 10-20 percent cut of what actors earn while being promoted by them.

Talent Agent Scams

This scheme is very similar to those used by those pretending to be legitimate managers. The latter introduce themselves as talent agents and give naive performers big promises and false hopes since “they are very talented and have all the chances to succeed professionally.”

These scammers blow smoke at aspiring performers telling them about many superstars they claim to have found and represented. In fact, every actor should be weary of all offers that seem to be too good to be true.

These “professionals” usually give actors their contact info and lots of promises. Once these performers call these agents to get more info about an offer, they are always asked to pay additional and/or random fees they probably weren’t told about ahead of time. These excess fees are a clear red flag you should always be weary of.

Online Scams

Since the Internet has become a primary source to find casting calls, and since it is very easy to set up fake websites and social media accounts, many scammers perpetuate their fraud online. There are many scam-like platforms charging a fee to performers to post their headshots, and many in the end do little to nothing with these resumes.

To fend off online fraud, performers should only use well-known, legitimate websites, and keep away from services asking them to pay unnecessary fees!

Contract Scams

Another type of fraud very popular with shady agents can happen to new actors and seasoned ones alike. For all performers, it is important to be alert when signing off on any official documents. Therefore, they should ask a legal counsel to read the fine print before agreeing to the contract terms–no matter how legitimate their prospective talent agent or manager seems.

There are many impostors tending to include outrageous terms on these contracts, which green performers may be willing to accede to. It can often be worth paying extra money for legal counsel; otherwise, these actors take the risk of signing away their rights to scam artists.

No honest professional will be insulted by performers asking for a few days to familiarize themselves with a document and show it to a legal counsel. Legitimate professionals also know about these frauds and thus are flexible with the actors’ requests. If someone insists on a contract being signed right away, then this is definitely a red flag.

The longer acting school graduates pursue their profession, the better their gut instinct will get at identifying and avoiding various types of acting frauds. Since fresh grads are just starting their career, they should take every offer with an abundance caution–better safe than sorry!

Interested in Applying? Click Here

 

From Book to Screen: Adapting Philip Roth’s ‘Indignation’

On Thursday, December 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a guest lecture by producer, production attorney, and NYFA board member, Avy Eschenasy. Eschenasy is the principal of Eschenasy Consulting, which provides advisory services in connection with all business aspects of motion picture production, financing, and distribution.

Previously, Eschenasy was a senior executive at Focus Features from 2002 until 2013, where he was Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning, Business Affairs and Acquisitions. Eschenasy is known for producing Indignation (2016), Casting JonBenét (2017), and A Prayer Before Dawn (2017).

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy began the lecture by discussing how the book Indignation by Philip Roth, was optioned to be produced as a feature film. In order for a producer to option a book, they must pay the publisher an “option fee.”

“That fee entitles [producers] to exclusively have the opportunity to buy the rights [to produce the book as a film]” said Eschenasy, “for a limited time period, usually 12 to 18 months” if the producer can find a production company or movie studio that wants to produce the optioned book as a film.

If the producer can find a production company or movie studio that is interested in producing the book as a film, then they would pay the publisher an additional fee for the exclusive opportunity to produce the book as a film. That means that once Eschenasy purchased the rights to produce Roth’s Indignation, Roth’s publishing company was not allowed to sell the option or production rights to any other producers.

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy went on to discuss turning the book into a screenplay. In order to get a book adapted to a screenplay, the producer must negotiate with a screenwriter, usually a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

In the contract with the screenwriter, the producer outlines fees paid for the first couple drafts of the script and many times will pay an additional fee if the film makes it all the way to production and distribution. The fees paid to a writer also depend on how they are credited: for example, a writer that has written a script alone would be paid more than a writer that co-wrote a script with one or more partners.

Once the script is finalized, it is time to focus on production. The producer needs to have a “package” ready to prepare for launching production, said Eschenasy. “The script, cast, the director, and the budget.”

Avy Eschenasy

The budget is put together by a line producer and then the producer must try to raise that amount of money to make the film; with independent films like Indignation, this money is typically raised with “pre-sales” to distributors. A “pre-sale” is a contract between the production team and distributors that outlines stipulations that the production team must follow in order to secure financing from the distributor; usually the distributor’s agreement is contingent upon the producer promising a script and a known actor. A way to save money during production is to shoot in a state or a country with tax credits for film and television productions; because of this and a few other reasons, Indignation was shot in New York.

For Indignation, a big part of the production “package” was the actor, Logan Lerman, best known for starring in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). Eschenasy needed a name like Lerman to get distributors interested, but he also needed to make Lerman and his representatives feel confident in Indignation as a production; producers get actors and their representatives to trust their productions with contracts. The contract outlines the shoot schedule, the actor’s “billing” (much like the writer’s “credit” discussed earlier), the fee paid to the actor (including bonuses if the actor wins awards for the role), and perks if applicable.

After all the negotiations and contracts were completed and all of the necessary funds were raised, Indignation went into production. Everything went well during the production phase and then it moved to post-production. Once the final cut of the film was finished, Indignation was entered in the Sundance Film Festival, where it was received very well by critics. Lionsgate Entertainment made an offer to distribute the film in the United States and Sony Pictures Entertainment made and offer to distribute the film to the majority of the international market. After all of their hard work, the Indignation production team got the film made, critically acclaimed, and distributed all over the world.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Avy Eschenasy for sharing his industry expertise and experiences getting Indignation produced with our students!