Author: New York Film Academy

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Actors Influencing the World

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National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and according to the official website is a time for “celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we have outlined three Latino or Hispanic actors who have done positive work for their communities outside of Hollywood.

First, a brief history of National Hispanic Heritage Month. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson started the observation as Hispanic Heritage Week, and President Ronald Reagan expanded it in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.

Now, let’s join in the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and get to know some incredible people making a positive impact on the entertainment industry:

Eva Longoria

You may remember Eva Longoria as Gabriel Solis, the sultry housewife on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” which aired from 2004-2012. The actress has won a Screen Actors Guild Award, an ALMA Award, and has been nominated for a Golden Globe.

However, Longoria is more than one of Hollywood’s hottest Latino actresses. Hollywood Reporter named her “Philanthropist of the Year,” and she was selected as an honoree for Variety’s “Power of Women Awards.”

When Longoria isn’t filming, she is working with one of her many charities. She founded “The Eva Longoria Foundation” in 2010, which helps Latinas build better futures for themselves through education and entrepreneurship. She is also a spokesperson for PADRES Contra El Cancer (Parents Against Cancer), a nonprofit committed to improving quality of life for Latino children with cancer and their families. She also co-founded “Eva’s Heroes,” a nonprofit dedicated to assisting those with developmental challenges.

Longoria is currently working with United Farm Workers, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and the National Council of La Raza.

Dascha Polanco

In late 2016, Dascha Polanco, who you’ve seen as Dayanara on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” was honored at the K.I.D.S/Fashion Delivers annual gala and The DREAM Project (Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring Project). Polanco helped The K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers annual gala raise more than $1 million to help those affected by poverty and natural disasters.

Polanco is developing a theater and arts program for youth in the Dominican Republic, in collaboration with DREAM. For her contributions, the DREAM Project recognized Polanco as its “DREAMer of the Year.”

In an interview with Latina, Polanco said she did philanthropy work because it made her feel good: “This work enriches my soul. Some people think money and status are everything. Not me.”  

Tony Gonzalez

Anthony David Gonzalez, who goes by Tony, is a former tight end for Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons. Since retiring from the NFL, Gonzalez has been a sports analyst on Fox’s NFL pre-game show. When Gonzalez wasn’t playing football, he appeared on television shows such as “One Tree Hill” and “NCIS.” In 2017, he appeared in Vin Diesel’s “XXX: Return of Xander Cage,” as Paul Donovan.

Gonzalez adopted Marty Postlethwait’s nonprofit Shadow Buddies, and made it a main program of the Tony Gonzalez Foundation after his rookie year with Kansas City Chiefs. The organization represents different conditions ranging from heart defects to cancer, and diabetes to burns.

According to the Shadow Buddies website, the foundation creates and distributes customized dolls to children struggling with serious health issues to send them a message of hope and support: “Crafted from muslin and carefully researched to represent a child’s medical or emotional condition, Shadow Buddies offer seriously ill or medically challenged children the companionship of a friend ‘just like me.’”

Recently, the Tony Gonzalez Foundation has expanded the Shadow Buddies program to include senior citizens, with dolls customized to reflect familiar issues related to heart, vision, and day surgery. These dolls are aimed to provide comfort and companionship to senior citizens. More than 5,000 dolls have been delivered to senior citizens since the start of the program.

Do you know a Latino or Hispanic actor or director that has made a positive difference or influence in their community? Let us know below!

 

How to Make the Most of a Part with Minimal Lines

Every aspiring actor dreams of one day playing the lead roles. But whether you went through an excellent acting school or spontaneously gave it a shot, you’ll usually have to start at the bottom to reach the top. This means taking on small roles where, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to say some lines.

1. Remember that small parts are still important!

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Before you even show up to an audition or start practicing your lines, it’s good to keep one thing fresh in your mind: every part matters. And whether you have one line or one thousand, it’s important to do your work and know your part inside and out.

You don’t have look far to find A-list stars who began with bit parts, knocked it out of the park, and slowly worked their way up to build a strong reputation as a professional artist. For example, Robin William and Tom Hanks, two of the best ever to grace our industry, played various minor roles (both of them on “Happy Days”) before making it big.

Even as a day player, delivering excellent craftsmanship and making a good impression on set is always an actor’s first and foremost priority. Remember, any role can lead to future roles.

2. Prepare for the role.

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A big mistake many burgeoning actors make when given a “small” role is thinking it’ll be a piece of cake. Since they’re only reading one or two lines, they don’t take it as seriously as they should and fail to prepare. Whether you’re saying one line or many, a good actor always does the work to make sure their character has originality and depth.

Needless to say, you should definitely arrive to the job able to play your handful of lines without looking at the script.

3. Show up knowing you’re not the star.

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It’s easy to get excited about any role, but remember that although you did all your homework and are completely wrapped up in your character’s backstory, you’re there to collaborate. You will be supporting the work of the entire crew and fellow performers, including the stars. So forget about impressing the director, or worse of all, ditching the script to say your own lines. The last thing you want to do is put your ego first: do a great job, know your work, and support the story. That’s the surest way to make a great impression, after all.

4. Don’t ruin an opportunity.

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A minor role is a good way to sharpen up your skills and improve your own work ethic while showing you’ve got what it takes to create success in the industry. Small parts are a part of building a career, and it’s important to take them seriously. As actress Laura Cayouette, author of “Know Small Parts,” puts it: “One reason small parts are a big deal to me is that I make a living playing them.”

No matter how minor your role is, your work is an opportunity to not only strengthen your own professionalism, but to build relationships. Show gratitude for the opportunity by playing your role well, sure, but also by showing professionalism in how you handle yourself off-camera. This is your opportunity to build a reputation as being an actor everyone wants to work with. Don’t be the one slowing things down or giving the crew headaches.

5. Be present and connect.

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Every actor approaches their work differently. Some will want to connect and chat in between takes, some will want to remain in their process. One of the best ways to connect with other characters in your scene is respecting your fellow actors when the camera isn’t rolling, whether that means carving out space for yourself to do your necessary preparation or whether that means breaking the ice socially.

Either way, it’s important to make an effort to be respectful and acknowledge not just your fellow actors, but everyone you interact with throughout the project’s process — from the casting director to the crew. Listen to instructions and incorporate new ideas or directions when requested. Note that people who get called for another role in the future may have not been the “best” actors — rather, they were more enjoyable to work with and showed they can have good chemistry with others, functioning well in the environment of the set.

6. Give it your all.

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There’s a big difference between trying your best and, as we’ve already covered, overdoing it. Your work is not about your ego, so let those worries fade and focus on your craft. In fact, you’re less likely to get the part in the first place unless you truly commit during a reading and transform into the character. Even if it wasn’t the role you initially wanted, showing passion and enthusiasm both on and off the set can make a lasting impression and generate more gigs down the line.

What are your favorite tactics for developing your work in “small” roles? Let us know in the comments below! And study acting for film at the New York Film Academy.

 

6 American Documentary Film Funding Programs to Consider

Documentary films are generally far less expensive than fiction, but they do have a price tag.

Luckily, funding opportunities abound for the documentary filmmaker. Crowdfunding is especially successful for documentaries. And with a clear artistic vision, an articulate artist statement, and a team that you can call on when opportunity knocks, you may be in a good place to secure nonprofit or foundation funding. For some, you may need a fiscal sponsor, which is essentially any 501c3 organization that agrees to sponsor your project — there are also 501c3s with a specific mission to fiscally sponsor film funding. Often, it’s a great alternative to starting your own nonprofit, which allows you to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under your sponsor’s exempt status.

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As a general piece of advice, be patient and get organized! These programs can be tedious to apply to, with a lot of competition. Funders don’t just hand over money to anyone with a good idea. We all have one! Each application takes time and precision, but the payoff can be significant.

Many countries have funding set aside for film. And some of the American funders are open to a production from any country!

So take out your calendar and start thinking about which materials you need to compile, in order to meet program requirements and deadlines.

Get your story told!

ITVS Open Call

Independent Television Station (ITVS) is one of the biggest players when it comes to funding documentaries, but applicants take note: this is not a grant. ITVS acts as a co-producer, investing in your film and providing creative development, feedback, and in some cases, the publicity and marketing needed to help get your film seen. They’ll also work on your behalf with public television programmers to get your film programmed on their networks.

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To date, ITVS has funded 533 films, with each one receiving an award of $150,000 to $350,000.  Many have aired on PBS series like Independent Lens, POV, American Masters and Frontline.

With the next deadline in February, this is one program that can certainly offer a great reward if you can take the time to complete the application, which generally, can take 1-2 weeks.

And if you don’t get accepted the first time, keep applying. Persistence rules the game!

(Check out the ITVS Diversity Development Fund and Digital Open Call while you’re there)

Jerome Foundation

Started in 1964 by artist and philanthropist Jerome Hill, The Jerome Foundation offers production grants, of up to $30,000 for emerging film, digital production and video directors who reside in NYC or Minnesota.

These grants support specific projects, and only production and post-production expenses (not pre-production, marketing or distribution costs) are supported. Deadline is August 24th.

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BONUS

The Jerome Foundation also has a Travel and Study Grant Program which, for the 2018 cycle, will support emerging artists who create new work in dance, film/video/digital production, and literature. This program is meant to provide support to periods of domestic and/or international travel for study, exploration and growth.

So if you are still in the development stage, for example, where you are deciding which questions to ask in your documentary, who is best to answer them, and perhaps, how to give your story a definitive arc, this program may be well suited to helping fund this critical period. Eligible activities include preliminary research, the development of collaborations (whether artistic or organizational), taking part in specific non-academic training programs, time for reflection and individualized study, and field investigation.

Deadline is Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm Central/5:30 pm Eastern.

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Catapult Film Fund

Catapult Film Fund offers grants for up to $20,000 each and requires both a written and online application. Meant to catapult filmmakers’ careers, funds are intended to help in the crucial next steps in the development of films, which include a first shoot and editing pieces for production fundraising. Once accepted, recipients also have access to an informal mentorship program with Catapult’s co-founders, particularly in areas that include story development, production process, fundraising and distribution strategy.

This is definitely one of those funding programs that will require you to have a fiscal sponsor, as Catapult will only make grants to 501(c)(3) organizations.

National Endowment for the Humanities

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National Endowment for the Humanities (or NEH) offers a media production grant with an application deadline coming up on August 9th. Meant to support projects that engage general audiences in the humanities such as history, art history, film studies, literature, drama, religious studies, philosophy, or anthropology, grants help filmmakers inspire their audiences to explore the broader significance of pertinent issues. Projects can be short form or broadcast-length video.

Filmmakers with programs intended to encourage cross-cultural and international collaboration with scholars based in the U.S or abroad, can also receive support by working with an international media team. While partnerships should address broad cross-cultural perspectives on proposed topics, they should be geared primarily to a U.S. audience.

BONUS (again!)

NEH also offers a development grant for film projects with the same August 9th deadline. And while these are just two grant programs, NEH has an online database which allows you to search for a plethora of grant opportunities that may better suit your subject and the current stage of your project.

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New York Foundation for the Arts

With a longstanding commitment to supporting artists from diverse cultural backgrounds at all stages of their professional careers, the New York Foundation for the Arts’ (also known as NYFA, just like us!) grant cycle is also one to look at. In 2017, NYFA awarded 92 grants to 95 awardees with 3 collaborations totaling an amount of $644,000.

NYFA Artist Fellowships, are awarded in fifteen different disciplines over a three-year period, with $7,000 cash awards made to NYS or NYC based artists for unrestricted use. While these fellowships are not project grants, they are meant to fund an artist’s vision or voice, regardless of the artist’s development level.

Notable alumni of the NYFA fellowship include Junot Diaz, Tony Kushner, Suzan Lori-Parks, and Spike Lee. Application period opens in fall 2017.

New York Foundation for the Arts also will act as a fiscal sponsor for selected projects.

Fledgling Fund

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With an open rolling application process, Fledgling Fund offers grants to support outreach and engagement for documentary films that have the potential to inspire positive social change on some of the most critical social issues.

The filmmaker must complete an online application with a project description and its goals for social change. Generally, films must at least have a rough cut.

While grants typically range from $10K – $25K, Fledgling supports strategy building for outreach and engagement and can also be used for a project that is already complete and is ready for launch. Grants are NOT available to support production or post-production.

And they make it very clear: the film must in some way inspire, educate, and mobilize audiences to create positive social change. To apply, filmmakers must have a fiscal sponsor.

Are there any other documentary film funding opportunities we neglected to include on this list? Let us know in the comments!

 

How to Craft the Perfect Movie Pitch

A moving, persuasive pitch can be the difference between seeing your story idea come to life on the big screen or leaving it in your mind to be forgotten. There are few industries as competitive as film, which means your movie pitch needs to impact the listener and stand out from the thousands of others. The following are a number of ways you can bring that pitch of yours as close to perfection as possible.

1. Use the power of emotion.

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Just like every novel ever written or song ever recorded, the purpose of a film is to elicit emotion. People want to play games, watch movies, and read books that will make them feel something that they can’t or normally don’t feel as powerfully in their own lives. Similarly, a successful story pitch is one where you give the listener a positive emotional experience by convincing them that your idea will either be a hit or something they’d enjoy watching. Instead of saying that you’re passionate about the project, let it show in the way you describe your story.

2. Show your personal connection with the film.

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Sometimes even the best ideas can fall flat if those at the helm of the project are driven only by money or fame. Film is arguably one of the most powerful storytelling mediums out there, and some of the most iconic films of all time were made by people with tremendous passion toward the idea or emotion they wanted to share. In other words, a movie pitch is the perfect time to show your personal connection to the story and its themes. Make it clear why this story needs to be told and why you’re the filmmaker destined to help tell it.

3. Make it clear why your film is unique yet bound for success

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While agents and offices do look out for film ideas that are creative and special, it’s not always enough. You have to make sure your unique pitch is also something that will most likely attract diverse groups of people and thus, be a success. A good exercise to prepare you for this is to write down why your film is unique along with a second list of reasons why your film would be a hit in today’s market.

4. Comparisons are OK, but don’t over do it.

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A lot of people are afraid to compare their film idea to similar existing films for fear of sounding unoriginal. However, comparisons can be a powerful way of giving your listener a clearer image of what your movie is all about. The trick is to not overdo it or confuse your listener by saying your film is a mix of “The Fellowship of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” without explaining how or why.

5. Avoid telling your whole story.

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When pitching your idea to an office or agent, you’ll rarely get more than a few minutes of time. A common mistake is to waste most of your time by trying to tell your entire story as quickly as possible from start to finish. For one, trying to do so only leaves you with less time to convey why the idea is good. But more importantly, if your story can actually be told in as little as five minutes then it’s probably not a great story. Do your best to give the important plot points and details without boring the listener while misusing your time.

6. When you think your pitch is done, forget it and come back later.

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A movie pitch isn’t something you prepare in one night. Just like Stephen King would put away a rough draft for weeks before rereading and improving it, you should step away from your pitch for a while to get it out of your head. Coming back to it with a fresh mind will help you trim off the unnecessary while improving the stronger points. There’s nothing wrong with rinsing and repeating this process until you feel satisfied.

7. Happy with your latest pitch? Now record and practice it.

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Recording your own pitch and listening to it is one of the best ways of figuring out what needs to go and what can be said better. It may seem awkward listening to yourself but doing so will give you a good idea of how you’re presenting your idea. Do video recording if you’ll be pitching in person to make sure you have the right expressions and look when convincing the listener to consider your project.

Broadcast Journalists: Why You Should Spend a Year in NYC

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It’s fair to say that nothing is more exciting than being a broadcast journalist in New York City. Aspiring anchors, presenters and reporters from around the world flock to this capital of commerce, entertainment, and industry, seeking to make a mark and gain experience alongside broadcast giants.

Not only is the city bursting with millions of stories, but it is also the headquarters for an astounding concentration of leading new media and traditional news companies. If you’re wondering why New York City might be the right place to spend a year studying broadcast journalism, we’ve rounded up some great reasons:

News Happens Here

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From Wall Street to Broadway, from the Bronx to Staten Island, the world pays attention to stories that center on events in New York City. For example, New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism students Ljuba-Lada Marinovic and Kyle Morris were able to make it to the scene to cover breaking news regarding a tragic car accident in Times Square, shooting a story for European media giant RTL. New York City is the right place to be if you want to be where news breaks first.

Feeding Your Passion

Broadcast journalists, first and foremost, are storytellers — and that requires passion and craft. What better way to feed your passion for journalism than by living in New York, a major global city packed with thriving culture, diversity, incredible art, amazing food, awe-inspiring landmarks, jaw-dropping skylines, and enough sizzling energy to inspire you and your work for the rest of your life?

Industry Connections

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As Forbes notes, most national media outlets are centered in only a handful of major cities, and New York is at the top of the list! Here, aspiring journalists are in the heart of the world’s leading new media companies, such as theSkimm, Group Nine Media, SheKnows, Gimlet Media, Refinery29, Mic, NewsWhip, and News Deeply.

And, if you want to go the more tradition route, there’s ABC, Univision, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CNN, Telemundo, ESPN, MTV, and more.

From morning shows to late night news, from new media to The New York Times, the city provides an incredible opportunity for aspiring broadcast journalists to experience their industry at its zenith.

Learn from the Best

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At the New York Film Academy, aspiring broadcasters learn from a faculty of working industry professionals who remain active in the field. And, in addition, NYFA students may have the opportunity to enjoy special master classes and workshops taught through our Guest Speaker series. Past broadcast journalism guests have included MSNBC primetime host Rachel Maddow, Emmy award-winning journalist Bob Dotson, and photojournalist Stanley Greene.

As a NYFA student you’ll talk with network Executive Producers, as well as top producers from digital news publishers, who visit NYFA to give our Broadcast Journalism students insightful “off-the-record” briefings. Students in the conservatory program get an exclusive “behind-the-scenes” tour of NBC News. Our instructors have local, national, even international production credits.

Community

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New York City is a wonderful environment to not only pursue a new professional life, but also to be able to plug in with like-minded people who are passionate about shared interests besides your work. You’ll be able to meet and develop relationships with many of the best and brightest fellow broadcasters in the world; As one of the most diverse cities on the planet, New York offers burgeoning broadcast journalism students opportunities to grow and flourish not only in their professional pursuits, but also in their personal lives. Here, the world is at your fingertips.

Incredible Training Opportunities

Most of all, New York City itself offers aspiring journalists incredible opportunities to roll up their sleeves and get busy crafting content. At the New York Film Academy’s conservatory program, broadcast students are making their own stories hands-on from day one. You’ll learn from working industry professionals and get plenty of practice covering stories from every angle with some of the latest technology. Most importantly, you will find your own “editorial voice,” the qualities that make you stand out as unique.

Ready to start your journey as a broadcast journalist in New York City? Check out NYFA’s broadcast journalism programs.

 

A Quick Guide to Movie Production Incentives

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Sometimes movie producers are encouraged to film their projects in specific areas for reasons that go beyond the gorgeous scenery. To help stimulate economies and create jobs, many places across the globe tempt producers by offering them financial incentives to shoot within their respective territory. The Irish Film Commission, for example, offers a 32% tax credit on local Irish expenditures as long as the production company shoots there.

These incentives can make all the difference for a film with few resources. In fact, offering tax benefits to film producers here in the United States all started in the 1990s when many movie productions began moving their projects to Canada to reduce costs. In an effort to keep film and television production in the U.S., each state began implementing their own incentives to entice and attract productions.

Types of Movie Production Incentives (MPIs) in America

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The following are the five main types of MPIs offered by states here in America. Please note that each state differs in terms of the requirements needed to qualify for the incentives:

Tax Credits

If a production company meets the minimum spending requirements, they are eligible for a tax credit for a portion of the income taxes they owe the state. This is similar to a cash rebate except the production company has to file a state tax return in order to obtain the funds. Companies can do more with less by earning back some of the money they used on local expenditures such as wages and production costs.

Cash Rebates

Many states bring in production companies by offering a cash rebate. The money received is usually a percentage of the company’s qualified expenses. The more the company spends on productions costs, labor, and other services, the more they get back.

Grants

Although uncommon, there are a few states that offer grants to production companies just for filming there. In 2016, the state of Montana provided $500,000 in grants to support the production of 11 films.

Sales Tax and Lodging Exemption

Not having to pay any sales tax on production costs is a huge plus for many production companies, which is why certain states offer sales tax exemptions. A number of of states also allow companies to not have to pay lodging taxes for all their guests— usually the requirement is that they stay for more than 30 days.

No Fee Locations

A small but valuable incentive some states offer is letting production companies film on state-owned property for free.

Proponents and Opposers of MPIs

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Although offering MPIs sounds great, some argue that they actually have no (or a negative) effect on the state’s economy and are, thus, a waste of money. Below are the main arguments for those in favor of production incentives in the film industry and those who oppose them.

Pros: MPIs have a positive impact on local economies.

Since the filmmaking process can require a lot of laborers, services, and resources, having a big-budget movie produced in a certain area can have a positive effect on the local economy. This includes the creation of jobs, infrastructure, and small businesses along with the generation of tax revenue. States also enjoy the increased tourism that comes from people wanting to see where their favorite movies and TV shows were filmed.

To get an idea, consider that the average studio feature takes with them around 100 crew members and then employs another 100 locally. This means the company will spend millions of dollars on wages but also expenditures such as food, lodging, everyday sundry, etc. Local employees are also left with hands-on training by the traveling production crew, increasing the chance of local film production.

Cons: MPIs don’t actually improve the state’s economy in any way.

Some argue that film production incentives don’t actually help create jobs since they’re only temporary. Unless a state has a steady stream of productions, the jobs created by the film and television industry are short-term thus, leave specialized employees with no work once the production wraps.

People who oppose MPIs also point out that many states are overeager to offer incentives based on tailored reports of success from other states. In other words, states rely too much on perceived success in other states failing to properly assess how a major film production will affect their own economies.

 

NYFA Celebrates Women’s Equality Day

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Women’s Equality Day is a holiday to mark the day in 1920 in which the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, granting women the right to vote. Today, while “feminism” is a word that many people have mixed opinions about, most can agree that equality for women and girls is an enormous, continuing human rights issue around the globe.

Globally, according to OXFAM’s New Zealand site:

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  • 60% of the world’s chronically hungry are women and girls.
  • Two-thirds of all children denied school are girls, and 75 per cent of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women
  • Women hold only 21 per cent of the world’s parliamentary seats, and only 8 percent of the world’s cabinet ministers are women.
  • Only 46 countries have met the UN target of 30 percent female decision-makers.
  • One in three women around the world are likely to be victims of gender-based violence in their lifetime.

While there has been a lot of progress towards gender equality worth celebrating since the U.S. passed the 19th amendment, there is still a very long way to go to achieve true gender equality — even in the United States. For example, as NYFA showed in our Gender Inequality Infographic, only 30.8% of speaking characters in film are women. And even outside of the entertainment industry, there is still a gender pay gap in the U.S., with women earning roughly 80% of men’s salaries.

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Even in the face of this reality, the way many people view the movement for gender equality today is challenged by social stigmas and misconceptions. For example, the word “feminism” is often perceived as divisive. This is largely because the movement of feminism itself has changed a lot over the last century. In the 1960s, second wave feminism focused on a range of issues including reproductive rights, sexuality, and domestic violence. Today, third wave feminism focuses on the intersectionality of issues surrounding women’s equality, including race, culture, and gender identity.

Gender equality is not just a western movement anymore, it’s now a global movement. The idea of feminism today is that it’s a movement for all people, everywhere. Gender equality is human equality.

Let’s take a closer look at how gender equality intersects with the entertainment industry.

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The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC Annenberg completed a study that focused on 1,365 content creators. The study found that 7.5 percent were female directors, 11.8 percent were female writers, 22 percent were female producers and less than one percent were female composers. The report concludes, “There has been no meaningful change in the percentage of girls and women on screen between 2007 and 2015.”

That’s not good news.

According to Dr. Stacy Smith, who led the study for MDSC Initiative, five films with female leads in 2015 were over 45 years old. But there were 26 movies in 2015 featuring leads or co-leads with males at least 45 years old.     

Women of color are also at a great disadvantage in the entertainment industry. From 2007-2015, only three African-American women and one Asian woman directed films listed in the top 100 films. Overall, only 5.5 percent of 886 directors examined for the study were African-American, and only 2.8 percent were Asian or Asian American.

In the last few years UN Women has kicked off its gender equality campaign HeForShe. The campaign aims for a solidarity movement for gender equality. Men and boys can engage through a targeted platform to achieve gender equality. This new approach recognizes that men and boys can be partners for women’s rights, and how they will benefit from equality.

In addition, Harvard University has launched their own campaign, Side by Side, which aims to promote awareness and action against gender-based discrimination on campus.

The entertainment industry is slowly moving in the right direction. However, we all need to continue to fight for awareness and progress towards gender equality both within the entertainment industry, and the world.

Become a part of the change by learning to create your own films at the New York Film Academy.

10 Reasons Why Hitchcock Will Always Be One of the Great Directors

Alfred Hitchcock is arguably one of the most well-known directors in the last century. Born Aug. 13, 1899, the English film director created more than 50 movies before he passed away in 1980. There is no denying that he changed the way audiences watched films — for example, Hitchcock demanded specific start times for “Psycho,” and audiences were asked to not give away the end of the movie.

Hitchcock may have never won an Oscar for best director, but in honor of his birthday, we’ve outlined 10 reasons as to why Hitchcock will always be one of the best directors.

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Visual Storytelling

Hitchcock started out as a silent film director, so he was always finding ways to add information to his films. The practice led to constant innovation of storytelling, which is something that Hitchcock maintained throughout his film career.

Mise-en-scène

A mise-en-scène is a term for a group of elements that composes a shot. While the audience may not pay attention to all the elements in a particular shot, the combination of elements helps the audience dive into the film’s story. Hitchcock used mise-en-scène to build suspense, climax, curiosity and the likeness of his characters.

Themes

Hitchcock liked to focus on themes that revolved around obsession and morale. Among other elements, sub-themes in Hitchcock’s movies included voyeurism, authority, death, sexuality, guilt, and family. He used these sub-themes to add depth to his storytelling and build strong relationships with the audience.

Scriptwriting

Through innovative scriptwriting, Hitchcock was able to exercise control over the audience. He would often put an emphasis on psychological characterization of his main and secondary characters. In his films “Rebecca” and “Shadow of a Doubt,” he uses voice over for the opening sequences to cast a gloomy and mysterious shadow over the entire film.

Use of Music

Hitchcock was very specific about how he used music in his movies, whether it was to create excitement, heighten tension, or build toward a climax. Even his characters are fascinated by music, and, as the New York Times’ Edward Rothstein points out, it can be argued that music itself functions at the level of a character in Hitchcock films.

Film Editing

Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn 1949

Hitchcock believed that film editing could only do so much for a film. But if you cut the scene correctly, used the right music, and the mood was set correctly through storytelling. Some of the best film editing done by Hitchcock can be seen in “Rope,” “Under Capricorn,” and “Sabotage.”

Actors’ Performances

Hitchcock held the actors’ performances in high regard, yet is known to have been a very controlling and visionary director on set, allowing little time or room for input from his actors. A very particular director, Hitchcock famously did not set much stock in method acting or improvisation and kept a tight reign on the action on set. He was also known to frequently collaborate with the same actors.

Keep the Story Simple

Simple, linear stories allow the audience to easily follow along. Removing excess material and keeping each scene crisp was essential for Hitchcock. He knew that a confusing or abstract story would bore the audience, and streamlined his films to maximize suspense.

Contrasting Situations

Hitchcock loved to build tension into a scene by using contrasting situations — two unrelated things happening at once. When an audience focuses on one event that is building momentum, another interrupts. The second event is usually a meaningless distraction, meant to throw the audience off. One example is in Hitchcock’s 1956 film, “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day are in the middle of a tense phone call when guests, who are laughing and joking, start to arrive. The arrival of the joyful guests serves as a foil and complication for the real momentum of the scene.

Camera Movement

Camera movement is one component that supports visual storytelling, but it’s important to note why Hitchcock valued it so much. He believed that the camera should take on human qualities: it should roam and playfully look around the room for anything important.

By panning a room and showing close-ups of objects, the camera allows the audience to see certain plot elements and feel like they’re involved in uncovering the story. The importance of camera movement stemmed from Hitchcock’s days of working in silent film. Without sound, directors relied heavily on ways of telling the story to the audience visually.

Happy birthday Alfred Hitchcock! Do you have a favorite movie directed by Hitchcock? What are some reasons for watching his films? Let us know below!

 

All You Need To Know About This Year’s Asian American Film Festival

The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), held annually in New York, is the industry’s one-of-its-kind first and longest-running cine fiesta that is devoted to showcasing great work by both emerging and experienced Asian and Asian American filmmakers. This year, the 40th AAIFF was a week-long affair from July 26- August 6, spread over three venues. Along with screening both shorts and features films, the festival had several interesting panel discussions. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of all things AAIFF and films you should totally check out from this year’s festival.

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The AAIFF’s been around for quite some time.

Although we talk of the importance of diversity and multi-ethnic representation in Hollywood as a more or less recent phenomenon, the need to promote and preserve alternate styles of filmmaking has been around for much longer. In fact, the AAIFF was the brainchild of four media activists: Peter Chow, Danny Yung, Thomas Tam and Christine Choy. They founded the Asian CineVision (ACV) in 1975.

In an industry that had little representation of Asian Americans, the organization helped raise cultural awareness about the Asian American experience, and in 1978, it celebrated the Asian American Festival, which included 46 films and videos that focused on the rising trends in Asian and Asian American cinema. The festival has continued successfully ever since.

FilmGOOK” was screened at the opening night.

The festival kicked off with the screening of “GOOK” that details the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, wherein two brothers come into contact with a young African-American girl. As per the website, “Although relations between Korean-Americans and the African-American community were hostile and flammable in 1992 Los Angeles, ‘GOOK’ showcases a relationship between the two races that was overlooked by the mainstream media.’

Some of the most incredible video shorts were showcased.

The eclectic selection this year at AAIFF included films that explored LGBTQ experiences, unique narratives from Japan, the work of under-21 media makers, the Asian in New York, and the evolution of Chinatowns. Some of the notable shorts presented were Christine Choy’s “From Spikes To Spindles”(1976), Karan Aryaman Marwaha’s  “Punjab”(2016) and “Howie Lam’s Fade” (2013).

The feature films were culturally diverse as well.

For example, under “Class of 97” category, which screened films from the 1997 festival, there were gems such as the political drama “Strawberry Fields” and the thriller “Shopping For Fangs.” Other films that were well-received were Shikha Makan’s “Bachelor Girls”(2016)  and Li Yuhe’s “Absurd Accident” (2017). In short, there was something for everyone, irrespective of genre.

The AAIFF also provided an interactive platform for further collaboration and dialogue

In this age of globalization, where cultural appropriation often goes unacknowledged, the AAIFF arranged for relevant panel discussions, Q&A sessions with directors and designers as well as a high-profile competition for those whose voices are neglected by the mainstream media. The panel discussion on “Women Take Charge” probed what it’s like to be a female filmmaker working in the media industry. Another set of directors examined the “Asian American New Wave” trend, and the encounter of young Asian Americans with the western culture that both allures and marginalizes them. There was also a special screenplay reading of “Helen Ever After” that focused on a trans woman’s coming out story.

In an age where cinema is still largely dominated by Hollywood, the 40th AAIFF’s grand success points out that there are alternative ways of storytelling that are just as important and interesting as their mainstream counterparts and that culturally-diverse experiences must be acknowledged as well.

Ready to learn more about filmmaking in a diverse and nurturing environment? Check out our filmmaking programs at New York Film Academy.

8 Things High School Students Can Do to Become Broadcast Journalists

More than ever, high schoolers are urged to make big career decisions as early as possible. In a competitive career like broadcast journalism, making smart choices before you even get to college is immensely helpful. If you want to have a career in media, follow these tips to set yourself apart from other applicants when the time comes:

Start a blog.

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Being able to show a wide variety of writing clips is essential, even if you would rather work on radio or television. Proving you can communicate news or other information through writing demonstrates you are able to effectively and creatively process your thoughts. There are plenty of free blogging sites like WordPress, Tumblr, Weebly, and Wix. Choose a blogging platform that is best for you, and make regular blog posts.

Volunteer to write for your school’s newspaper or literary journal.

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If your school has its own student-run publication, volunteer as a writer or editor. Just like writing blog posts, having a portfolio consisting of a variety of writing or editing examples heightens your chance of finding a job in journalism.

Work on the morning announcements.

Some schools also have morning announcements that appear over the intercom, maybe even a special channel that airs on schoolwide televisions. Ask if there are any openings or a class to enroll in so you can get involved.

Become an editor of your school’s yearbook.

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If you want to prove you can help produce a great collaborative media project, then consider joining as an editor of the school yearbook! Not only is it mass produced and seen throughout the entire school, you’ll have your own copy as a portfolio piece!

Follow news media, both on screen and in print.

Too many students interested in pursuing journalism think they don’t need to follow current trends in media. In an ever-changing career, keeping up with local, national, and international media is incredibly important. Making a regular commitment to watch and read the news will keep you learning and motivated every day.

Seek out opportunities for experience, paid or unpaid.

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You may notice a lot of entry-level broadcast journalism jobs require a good deal of experience. Keep an eye out for internships at local news or radio stations. In high school, you may only find unpaid experience. While you might not want to give up extra free time without monetary compensation, investing your time into a career-related opportunity is worth your attention. Once you graduate college, strictly pursue paid opportunities. After all, you’ll be a pro by then!

Look for great journalism programs in higher education.

When searching for the right college, ask yourself if the colleges you are considering have reputable journalism programs. How many of their alumni have found jobs within their field of study? How prepared did they feel? Consider reaching out to someone who graduated the program to ask these questions.

The New York Film Academy’s Broadcast Journalism School offers students a competitive edge as multi-media producers, with hands-on training in writing, producing, filming, editing, and distributing their own stories.

Don’t take rejection as a completely negative experience.

Rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough to do broadcast journalism. It means that you need to pursue another opportunity, no matter how many times you need to do it. Even with a lot of experience, broadcast journalism is a tough career to break into. Consider expanding your options to other opportunities within journalism. If you’ve had your heart set on being a television anchor, give radio a try. You might find that you actually like radio more, or vice versa.

BONUS: Attend a NYFA Summer Camp!

If you’re really itching to get genuine journalism experience in the heart of the industry — New York City itself — you may want to apply to NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism Camp for Teens. You’ll learn from broadcast journalists who are active in the field in one of the world’s most competitive cities, while you learn real-life skills and write, shoot, and edit your own projects. Each student produces two projects, shot with single-camera setups and edited on industry-standard editing software. This intensive workshop provides a strong introduction to necessary digital and journalism skills.

 

The Minority Report: Is Minority Representation in Films Getting Better in 2017?

Minority representation in films and other entertainment mediums have been heavily discussed, with a focus on the industry’s lack of inclusion for women and minorities. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently admitted it’s largest-ever group of new members, reflecting a commitment to work toward the goal of doing a better job at including minority actors in film and television.

So the question today is, has Hollywood diversified? Are we moving forwards? Sure, movies like “Hidden Figures” and “Fences” were widely praised at the Oscars, but we still have to ask: is minority representation really getting better in films, or is there a lot more work to do?

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According to a 2016 study titled “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment,” only 33.5 percent of speaking roles were given to females and under 30 percent of non-white roles involved dialogue. Major film distributors like Disney, 21st Century Fox, Sony, and NBC Universal failed inclusivity evaluations. Those are not very encouraging numbers for an industry that is supposed to be embracing more diversity.  

Worse, stories continue to percolate that the input and feedback given by minorities on film projects is often ignored. During the filming of Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous Six,” Native American actors hired for the film walked off the set, finding some of the humor in the script greatly offensive. It was reported that their concerns were not taken seriously, and Netflix also defended the decisions of the filmmakers to include the content. Accurate and improved minority representation is hard to achieve without listening to concerns voiced by professionals who are, in fact, minorities.

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However, not everything is completely hopeless for diversity in film. In February, the premier of the highly anticipated social-thriller “Get Out” broke several milestones. Jordan Peele’s debut made him the first black writer-director to achieve a $100-million film opening. It surpassed “Paranormal Activity” as the highest-grossing film for Blumhouse Studio, and maintained an impressive theater turn-out throughout its run. Peele has several more social thrillers in the works, pointing towards more great and diverse movies to enjoy soon.

Audience plays a huge role in representation as well. Want to help push for inclusion in Hollywood? Actively support diversifying film by watching films written and produced by women and minority filmmakers. Challenge yourself to watch more films by women and non-binary writers and directors, or filmmakers who are not white. Hollywood will be closer to representing all kinds of people when you demand more inclusiveness.

6 Movie Ad Libs that Became Classics — And What You Can Learn From Them

Some of the most well known lines from movies, and even scenes, are actually ad libbed, or improvised. Improvisation actually has many benefits for actors.

Below are six famous movie scenes that you may have not known were improvised.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“Casablanca,” 1942

Most people are familiar with Humphrey Bogart’s line from the 1942 movie, “Casablanca.” Bogart was teaching actress Ingrid Bergman how to play poker between takes when Bogart first said the famous line. Once they were back on camera, the line came out spontaneously during one of the flashback scenes in Paris.

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

“The Godfather,” 1972

Everybody loves cannoli! Francis Ford Coppola, the director of “The Godfather,” added the line, “don’t forget the cannoli,” last minute to the script. But Richard Castellano decided to take Coppola’s line and make it his own.

“Are you talkin’ to me?”

“Taxi Driver,” 1976

One sentence in the screenplay, which reads, “Travis looks in the mirror,” led to Robert De Niro improvising the entire scene in the movie.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

“Jaws,” 1975

After Roy Schneider encounters the Great White shark, the scene was supposed to close. Instead, Schneider made up this line to help bring closure to the encounter.

“Son of a b****, he stole my line.”

“Good Will Hunting,” 1997

When Robin Williams goes to the mailbox to read a note, Williams said a different line for each take of the final scene in the movie because nothing was scripted. Co-star Matt Damon, who co-wrote the script, told Boston Magazine in 2015 that after Williams said the well-known line, “It was like a bolt, it was just one of those holy s*** moments, where, like, that’s it.”

Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

“The Shining,” 1980

Nothing is scarier than Jack Nicholson, who portrays Jack Torrance, busting a door down with an ax. During that scene, Nicholson’s character sticks his head through a hole in the door, and says, Heeeeere’s Johnny!” Nicholson’ joke, which referenced Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” was almost cut because director Stanley Kubrick, who is from England, didn’t know the reference.

What are some of your favorite movie ad libs? Let us know below! Want to learn more about acting techniques? Study acting at the New York Film Academy.

5 Reasons Why Major Movie Stars are Taking Their Acting Chops to Streaming Services

Aspiring actors dream of being on the big screen, just like their favorite movie stars. Or do they? More major actors are creating and starring in exclusive projects for various streaming services. So what is going on? Today, we explore five different reasons why big name actors are flocking towards streaming services for new movies:

Reaching a wider audience.

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There are people who go to midnight premiers of movies. Others wait until the movie is on their favorite streaming service. Some people do both. Having movies appear exclusively in theaters and exclusively on streaming sites means more people who are likely to see a movie starring a major name.

Streaming is not going away anytime soon.

Mainstream television viewing and movie theater attendance have been declining. Meanwhile, streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are growing in popularity. Why?

For one thing, consumers are finding that it’s simpler and more cost-efficient to pay a set price each month for unlimited streaming than it is to physically go to the movies. Netflix alone added over a million new subscribers in 2016, and it has been projected that over half of the American population will have more than one streaming service by 2018.

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Add to that, the personalized control of streaming services allows media lovers to choose their content, and their timing in watching it. Want to binge-watch an entire series? Go ahead. More in an action-movie mood? Got that too. Streaming allows everyone to tailor their media consumption to their own tastes and timeline.

The money’s streaming in…

Netflix makes $504 million per month off of regular subscribers. That means they have plenty of income to pay actors. For his role on “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey makes $500,000 for every episode, just $25,000 less than Mark Harmon makes for his role on NCIS. And that’s just for their popular television series. “War Machine” starring Brad Pitt had a $60 million budget, and while no one has disclosed Pitt’s salary for his role, we are certain he was well compensated.

Film success on streaming services are not strictly determined by views.

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Traditionally, a movie’s success depended on the amount of people who came to see it opening weekend. With a streaming service, a film’s reputation depends on both viewership and user-assigned ratings. This means that original films released on streaming services have two different chances to impress, and feedback can be generated even faster with the option to instantly review a film at the conclusion.

There are more opportunities to grow creatively.

When major studios decide not fund new and daring ideas for movies, streaming services may take more of a risk. For example, former NYFA Guest Speaker Kevin James starred in Netflix’s “True Memoirs of an International Assassin,” an action-packed comedy with a very different tone than his sitcoms “King of Queens” and “Kevin Can Wait.” Thanks to the creative freedom allowed by streaming services, the actor was able to demonstrate a wider range of acting skills that never would have been seen otherwise.

What are your favorite original films and series on streaming platforms? Let us know in the comments below! And learn to make your own original content at New York Film Academy.

Helen Mirren & Sandra Bullock’s Most Iconic Performances

Over the last few decades, Hollywood actresses Helen Mirren and Sandra Bullock have starred in so many diverse roles that’s it’s hard to typecast them, but we bet you didn’t know they have something else in common: a birthday!

Mirren, from west London, got her break at the age of 22 in “The Extravaganza of Golgotha Smuts,” a television movie. As for Bullock, her career kicked off with the movie, “Hangmen,” but it wasn’t until “Speed” in 1994 that Bullock had the chance to shine in her breakout role.

If Mirren and Bullock’s longevity and diverse roles aren’t enough, they both have taken home several awards.

Mirren has won one Academy Award, one British Academy Film Award, two Critics’ Choice Awards, one European Film Award, one Golden Globe Award, one Satellite Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three British Academy Television Awards, and four Emmys.

Bullock has won one Academy Award, three Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, one Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and several audience and critics’ awards.

Whew! That’s quite a list of accolades!

To celebrate these remarkable actresses’ shared birthday, we’ve put together a list to reminisce and celebrate some of their most iconic performances.

Helen Miren (1945)

“Prime Suspect” (1991-2006)

Mirren starred as Jane Tennison in “Prime Suspect,” a British police procedural television drama series. Mirren’s character, Tennison, is one of the first female inspectors in Greater London’s Metropolitan Police Service. Tennison also faces institutionalized sexism as she rises through the ranks to Detective Superintendent. Mirren’s performance on the television series led her to win two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, and three British Academy Television Awards.  

“The Madness of King George” (1994)

Children’s history books claim that George III was the “mad king who lost America.” This film was a biographical historical comedy-drama based on the story of the king’s deteriorating mental health. The film also focused on his declining relationship with his son, the Prince of Wales. Mirren played Queen Charlotte and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress.

“Calendar Girls” (2003)

“Calendar Girls,” was a British comedy directed by Nigel Cole, and produced by Buena Vista International and Touchstone Pictures. The movie is based on the true story of a group of women from Yorkshire who produced a nude calendar to help raise money for Leukaemia Research. Chris Harper, played by Mirren, was the driving force behind the creation of the calendar.

“The Queen” (2006)

“The Queen,” directed by Stephen Frears, was a British fictional drama portraying the British Royal Family’s response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on Aug. 31, 1997. Mirren starred in the title role of Queen Elizabeth II. The film received general, critical, and popular acclaim, and Mirren won numerous awards for her role, include the Academy Award for Best Actress. HM The Queen herself invited Mirren to dinner at Buckingham Palace — but Mirren was not able to attend due to filming commitments in Hollywood.

Woman in Gold” (2015)

The story of Gustav Klimt’s painting “Adele Block-Bauer I” is an intriguing one. The mesmerizing gold-flecked painting, worth more than $100 million, was seized by the Nazis in the midst of World War II. Mirren portrays Maria Altmann, a relative of Bloch-Bauer, in her fight to retrieve the family heirloom from the Austrian government.

Sandra Bullock (1964)

“Speed” (1994)

Bullock portrayed a charming woman, named Annie, who helped SWAT agent Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) drive a booby-trapped bus through the streets of Los Angeles. Her believable portal of Annie launched Bullock’s career on the silver screen. Bullock’s chemistry with Reeves helped imbue the action-adventure with a mix of intelligence, humor, and humanity.

While You Were Sleeping” (1995)

In Jon Turtletaub’s charming romantic comedy “While You Were Sleeping,” Lucy, played by Bullock, pretends to be the fiance of a man who is in a coma, but ends up falling for his brother. Bullock brings out the true potential of the film with her endearing performance.

“Practical Magic” (1998)

Who doesn’t want midnight margaritas? Bullock plays Sally, a woman with magical powers who just wants to lead a normal life, in “Practical Magic.” The film follows two sisters who band together to confront the past and end a curse that condemns every man that they have ever loved to death. The supernatural comedy is a mixture of romance, slapstick, magic, and drama. One of Bullock’s most iconic moments in the film comes while drinking margaritas at midnight with costars Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, and Dianne Wiest: a family-centric, positive scene played out by true powerhouse actresses.

“Miss Congeniality” (2000)

 

What happens when you send a female FBI agent undercover to a beauty pageant? You get Gracie Hart. Bullock’s character, Hart, infiltrates the beauty pageant to prevent a bombing. Hart doesn’t work well with her coworkers, kicks back with her pageant costars, and even has a shot at love.

“The Blind Side” (2009)

Bullock plays Leigh Ann Tuoghy, adoptive mother to Michael Oher, a homeless young black man who earns a college scholarship and eventually is drafted by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. While the real Michael Oher had mixed feelings about the film, Bullock’s endearing performance earned her the SAG, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards for Best Actress that year, and is a testament to her ability to find humanity in any character she portrays.

What is your favorite performance by Helen Mirren or Sandra Bullock? Let us know below!

The Evolution of Space Movies

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July 20 marks the 48th anniversary of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon — prompting the well known quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But that wasn’t the first or last time that space played a major role in motion pictures.

Today, we’ll look at some significant moments for space in film, beginning with the New York Film Academy itself.

In celebration of the 48th anniversary and the launch of JSWT, here’s a list of space movies in Hollywood and how they’ve evolved over the years.

“Apollo 13” (1995)

Ron Howard directed the 1995 docudrama space adventure, “Apollo 13,” featuring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris. The film dramatizes the 1970 mission for American’s third Moon landing. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise aborted the mission, after an on-board explosion left the astronauts without most of their oxygen supply and electric power.

“Apollo 13” was considered a technically accurate movie—Howard sought NASA’s assistance in astronaut and flight controller training for the cast. Howard even had permission to film scenes aboard a reduced gravity aircraft to give a more realistic feel to the movie.

The movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

“Mission to Mars” (2000)

“Mission to Mars,” directed by Brian De Palma, takes place in 2020 when a manned Mars exploration mission goes wrong. An American astronaut, played by Gary Sinise, coordinates a rescue mission to save those who were on the exploration missions.

The film employed special effects that involved the NASA spacecraft and Martian vortex, which were created by various digital effects companies. More than 400 technicians were involved in the production of special effects, which ranged from visuals to miniatures, and animation.

“Gravity” (2013)

 

What happens when a space shuttle is destroyed after mid-orbit destruction? Director Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 movie, “Gravity.” Sandra Bullock and George Clooney portray two American astronauts who are stranded in space and can’t return home because of their damaged space shuttle.

The cinematography, musical score, Bullock’s performance, visual effects, and the use of 3D all contributed to the critics’ positive reviews. “Gravity” received 10 Academy Award nominations and won seven, and was awarded six BAFTA Awards.

“Interstellar” (2014)

“Interstellar” is a movie focusing on the survival of mankind—a team of astronauts travel through a wormhole to find a new planet that can sustain human life. The science fiction film was directed, co-written, and co-produced by Christopher Nolan. The movie’s cast included Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, and Michael Caine.

The film was shot on 35 mm in anamorphic format and IMAX 70 mm in Alberta, Iceland, and Los Angeles. Extensive practical and miniature effects were used in the film, and Double Negative created additional effects.

“Interstellar” won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and was nominated for Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design.  

“The Martian” (2015)

Matt Damon portrays a stranded astronaut in the 2015 film, “Martian,” directed by Ridley Scott and based on Andy Weir’s novel, “The Martian.” The film follows Damon, whose character is presumed dead and left behind on Mars, and struggles to survive while others attempt to rescue him.

Twenty sets were built on a soundstage in Budapest, Hungary, and Wadi Rum, Jordan was also used as a backdrop for filming. The movie won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture and nominated for seven Academy Awards.

NYFA & NASA

Did you know the New York Film Academy has worked with NASA?

In 2014, the New York Film Academy collaborated with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help raise awareness for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

NYFA, NASA, and Northrop Grumman used visual storytelling to give the audience insight into the development of JWST. The telescope is scheduled for completion and launch in 2018 — and JWST will replace the famous Hubble Space Telescope. New technology will allow scientists to continue studying galaxies, the formation of stars and planets, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Do you have a favorite movie about space? Let us know below! Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

Best Free Game Engines and Development Software

Is the only thing keeping you from transforming your great game idea from dream to reality your wallet? Well then, you will be happy to hear that there are excellent free / open source software packages in every discipline you need to build a great game. Sections include game engines, 2D art, 3D art and animation, sound design, and project management. Everything on the list below is used by professional game developers.

Best Free Game Engines – Unity and Unreal

One of your first key decisions as a game developer is which game engine you will use. Game engines provide you ways to quickly implement core game functions like physics, rendering, scripting, collision detection, and much more without the need to custom code them. They provide tested, reusable components that allow you to build more quickly and focus on making a great player experience.

The most prevalent platforms used by professional game studios today are Unity and Unreal. Amazingly, both platforms are now free to develop in. Both are great and do many of the same things, so deciding between the two comes down to user preference.

#1: Unity 

Our platform at NYFA Games is Unity for two reasons.

Firstly, Unity gives developers to build functioning games with little coding — e.g. through use of drag and drop features. However, it also has the full power of object oriented programming through scripting languages with the most prevalent choice being C# (pronounced “C sharp”).

Secondly, Unity allows developers to write their programs once and output to the top 25 game platforms including Windows, Mac, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Oculus Rift, and many more. Games made with Unity include: “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft,” “Deus Ex: The Fall,” “Assassin’s Creed: Identity,” “Temple Run Trilogy,” “Battlestar Galactica Online,” and many more.

#2 Unreal 

Unreal was created for it namesake (the Unreal franchise) and is a top of the line game engine through and through. When using this tool you are given the full force of a AAA tool. Games developed with Unreal include “Gears of War,” “Borderlands 2,” “Batman Arkham City,” “Bioshock,” “Mass Effect 2,” and more.

Honorable Mention: Amazon Lumberyard

Lumberyard is a relative newcomer to the game engine space. It is a free AAA engine that is deeply integrated with the Amazon Web Server (AWS) platform and Twitch.

All of the engines we recommend are fully documented and come with a slew of tutorials online.

Best Free 2D Art Software – GIMP

Compelling art is the make-or-break point on whether a new player will be willing to try a new game.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the open source version of the industry standard graphic design program, Adobe Photoshop. GIMP is a freely distributed program for image authoring, graphic design, and photo manipulation. Use GIMP to start your game art. Check out a world of tutorials on the web.

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Best Free 3D Art and Animation Software – Blender

MAYA, MAYA, MAYA — is all everyone says these days when it comes to 3D asset creation, and for good reason! Yet Maya’s price tag of $180 / month leads some developers to the great, functional open source alternative, Blender.

What GIMP is to Photoshop, Blender is Maya. It is your one stop shop for 3D modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, and more.

Special note for those who have a .edu email address: MAYA reduces its price tag to $0 for three years! All you need is a .edu email and you can hang with the best of them. More info here.

Best Free Sound Design Software – Audacity

With the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality, the demand for great sound design is stronger than ever. This is especially true because of the need to communicate location in VR and AR to create an immersive experience. The open source leader today is Audacity

This software is being used by game developers, musicians, podcasters, filmmakers, and other creative people. It is approaching its year 10 anniversary and going strong, so you know it isn’t going to disappear any time soon.

Best Free Project Management Software – Trello

There are many free online collaboration tools. Trello is our current favorite because of it’s ease of use, flexibility, and ability to integrate other platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Trello also lets you run AGILE development and SCRUM with a little know how. Check it out here.

5 Unconventional Life Lessons That You Can Learn at Film School

Film school is unlike any other educational experience in its multidisciplinary demands to master technical skills, collaborate with others, critique your own and others’ work, balance ideas with practicalities, and so much more. If you work hard, you can leave film school with the skills to make great films. But not only that, you’ll also graduate film school having learned some brilliant life lessons that can help you both on and off set.

1. Point of view.

Seeing the world from the perspective of people unlike yourself is key to making great films — and being a good human.

Although the Internet is cluttered with DIY info on filmmaking, only film school will force you to learn your craft in a hands-on, supportive and critical environment, away from your cheerleading friends and family. 

2. Beyond desire there must be hard work and time.

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Film school requires a commitment of not only money, but also time. And time is exactly what’s needed to master a craft.

As this IndieWire article puts it, “Depending on who you ask, researchers currently contend that it takes anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Whether those numbers are perfectly accurate is moot; the takeaway is that filmmaking, like painting, athletics, playing the piano or being a rocket scientist, takes a massive amount of time and dedication to master.” Film school gives you the opportunity to study and practice your craft.

3. Success depends on collaboration…

And collaboration depends upon your ability to communicate your ideas in a clear and compelling way. There are many walks of life that benefit from great communication skills, but few other educational tracks demand excellent communication as film does.

As we stressed in this previous article, “Filmmaking is a communal craft.” It can’t generally be approached in solitude the way you might in writing novel or painting a canvas.

To ensure your crew and talent understand and feel motivated to help you capture your vision for the screen, you must be able to walk the line between communicating passionately and clearly, which is a fine line to walk!

4. Freedom within constraints.

There is tremendous freedom allowed in film school, but it is within the structure of classes and projects and under the supervision of teachers who are experts in their field. Negotiating the territory between complete freedom for experimentation and limitations placed on you by deadlines, budget, and project parameters might very well be the most important lesson you can learn as a creative person.

As this IndieWire article put it, “When you rebel against film school it’s therefore often a sign that film school is working; an indication that you’re defining your own values and your own unique view of cinema.”

5. Don’t fear failure.

We know this intuitively or we’ve heard it out of the mouths of those we admire: we learn more from our failures than our successes. Film school gives you a chance to learn this lesson before you get out into the real world where mistakes and failures can cost millions.

By giving you the opportunity to try things that you might not get a chance to try again — crazy things that no producers would ever back you on — and succeed or fail, you will be the better for running the risk.

What have been your greatest life lesson takeaways from your time in film school? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you’re just about ready to begin a new film school adventure, apply today for the New York Film Academy.

 

Celebrating People With Disabilities in Film & Television

by Dr. Leona Godin

On July 9, New York City hosted the 3rd Annual Disability Pride Parade. We at NYFA love diversity and wanted to take the opportunity to highlight people with disabilities in film and television, past and present. And to appreciate the industry’s growing interest in employing actors with disabilities to tell stories of people with disabilities.

Micah Fowler

Micah Fowler of the current hit TV show “Speechless” is the Grand Marshal of this year’s Disability Pride Parade. Born with cerebral palsy, Fowler started acting when he was five. In a Vulture interview Fowler said, “I think it is sad that less than two percent of actors on screen are themselves actually disabled. Growing up a huge television and movie fan, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of representation of both disabled actors and disabled characters being portrayed on television. So I am so very excited that ‘Speechless,’ a prime-time network-television show, conquers both of those missing links by having both an actor actually living with cerebral palsy as a main character and by having a ‘character’ in the storyline living with a disability.”

Deanne Bray

This deaf actor, discovered dancing with “Prism West,” is best known for starring in the title role in “Sue Thomas F.B.Eye,” based on the real life of a deaf agent who worked for the F.B.I. as a lip reader.

Lou Ferrigno

The bodybuilder turned “Incredible Hulk” in the iconic ’70s TV series lost most of his hearing when he was a child. According to DeafLinx he attributed much of his ambition and success to his disability: “It forced me to maximize my own potential.”

Kitty McGeever

McGeever was the first blind actor to star in a British soap. Having trained at RADA, she lost her sight at the age of 33, shortly before landing her role on “Emmerdale.” She described her character as “naughty” and “manipulative in the extreme” to the BBC, and added Lizzy “uses her disability to her advantage and then disregards it to her advantage whenever and whichever way she chooses.”

Daryl Mitchell

Mitchell was an established actor before a 2001 motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. With support from friends, including Denzel Washington and Chris Tucker, he has continued his career and now stars in “NCIS: New Orleans.” He is an advocate for employing actors with disabilities. In an Ability Magazine interview Mitchell says, “You meet with these Labor Department guys, and you can tell everybody is enthused and ready to go. That’s the main thing, really. Their willingness to fly out from Washington and see us in Los Angeles and speak with us says a lot about them. But it’s really a matter of what we need to do, what we’re willing to do as people with disabilities. We need to be more boisterous. We need to let the world know that we’re here.”

NYFA welcomes people with all kinds of abilities. Check out our acting, filmmaking and producing programs, and start changing the face of film and television today!

Get Started With Storyboarding Software

There’s an old saying that goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Well, there’s no such thing as totally free storyboarding software. However, there are several programs that offer free, limited versions that will give you a taste of how the program works before you commit to purchasing it.

Many of the programs offer similar features like drag and drop editing, drawing, feedback and other collaboration tools. Most also give you the option to save the project as a PDF that can be printed or shared digitally.

Storyboard Pro is used by studios worldwide and it is a robust program that allows you to do all of your work in one program — from thumbnails to camera angles. Toon Boom currently offers a 21-day trial of the program that allows you to explore the full program before committing to the hefty $38 monthly subscription price.

Plot was created by Adrian Thompson, who drew on his previous experience creating animated videos to design a quicker way to organize and revise storyboards. Plot is free for your first three projects and you can work with one collaborator. After that, it is $8.30 per month for unlimited projects and several features that don’t come with the basic, like unlimited projects and collaborators, print and PDF exports, and email support.

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Frustrated animators also gave rise to Boords. Tom Judd and James Chambers of Animade came up with the software to streamline the layout process. If you just want to do some basic storyboarding and sharing, Boords offers team collaboration, drawing and photo uploading, and sharing through PDFs and team links.

The ACMI Generator is a free, basic storyboard creator. You can build your own storyboard or look through the gallery of uploads from other creators to get inspiration. Hosted by The Australian Centre for the Moving Image’s website, the program requires you to register with the site first if you want to save your storyboards.

Storyboard That has templates for creating books, films, comics, etc. The basic version has built-in scenes, characters, shapes, and other items that allow you to put together full storyboards pretty quickly. There are several subscription plans that offer features like collaboration and sharing.

Well, maybe some things can be had for free. Storyboard Fountain and Video StoryBoard Pro are both free and are pretty solid options if your budget is tight.

Storyboard Fountain is open source software available for most operating systems. It offers in-line script editing, drawing tools, and the developers are working on export capability for FinalCut and Premiere. The drawing tools are designed to respond to Wacom sensors as well.

Atomic Learning’s Free Video StoryBoard Pro is freeware software that features the ability to create, save, and print storyboards. However, it does not come with much support.

Ready to go from storyboarding to shooting? Check out How to Plan an Effective Shooting Schedule. Thinking about exploring animation? Get started with The Best Free/Open Source Animation Software.

Learn more about filmmaking and animation at the New York Film Academy.

 

 

Stars Protecting the Earth: Celebrities Who are Environmental Activists

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Summer is a time for playing in Earth’s beautiful spaces, near oceans and lakes or in mountains and forests, so we thought we would pause to honor those celebrities who look beyond their own star-status to protect our environment.

By using their considerable wealth and influence to create public awareness, create organizations, make films to highlight dangers, or teach by example with glamorous green homes and environmentally friendly vehicles, celebrities who care make a big difference! Today, we celebrate the environmental contributions of some names and faces you’re sure to recognize.

Matthew Modine

NYFA Board Member and award-winning actor Matthew Modine is a passionate crusader for protecting the earth. The actor, who currently stars in Netflix’s Original Series “Stranger Things,” has actively promoted environmental causes in many ways, from serving as a guest editor for Metro’s Earth Day edition to founding the Bicycle For a Day movement. As Modine said in his Metro piece, “Environmental compassion, if it is to have any tangible significance, requires vigorous minute-by-minute action by each and every human we share the Earth with.”

Ted Danson

Beaches on oceans and lakes are prime spots for summer fun, and there is perhaps no one on this list who has dedicated himself so consistently to issues concerning Earth’s water than Ted Danson, the man who won our hearts as the lovable recovering alcoholic bartender on “Cheers.” Danson focuses his environmental attentions on all aspects of this life-sustaining natural resource. He even helped write an educational book on the subject called “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”

Daryl Hannah

She’s the iconic mermaid of “Splash” and an activist who’s not afraid to create waves! Hannah has been arrested several times for her activism, including during protests against the Keystone Pipeline. She lives off the grid, drives a biodiesel car, and blogs about environmental issues at DHLoveLife.com. She was also the executive producer of “Greedy Lying Bastards,” a 2012 documentary that hits hard at climate change denial.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Following the tremendous success of “The Titanic” (1997) and his leap to superstardom, DiCaprio established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, “dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all Earth’s inhabitants.” The non-profit organization focuses on global warming, preserving Earth’s biodiversity and supporting renewable energy. It also produces web documentaries to promote public awareness such as “Water Planet” and “Global Warning.”

Pearl Jam

It’s not only actors who’ve embraced environmental concerns, but also bands like Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam crisscrosses the globe on tours, doing their best to minimize their negative impact. According to One Green Planet, “Pearl Jam has also partnered with numerous organizations to help offset the carbon emissions of the estimated one million fans driving to and from the band’s concerts and provides information about other initiatives on their website. In 2011, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism and their large-scale efforts to decrease their own carbon emissions.”

Cate Blanchett

In the land down under, the Elvin ruler of “Lord of the Rings” fame “lives off the grid in a ‘green’ house.” During her time as artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company, Blanchett “spurred the installation of solar panels on The Warf Theater,” according to One Green Planet. “She is also responsible for the theater’s installation of one of the world’s largest rainwater collection systems.”

Brad Pitt

Besides being the quintessential A-list celebrity and tabloid focal point, Pitt has an ongoing interest in environmental concerns, especially having to do with sustainable architecture. He narrates “Design: e2,” a PBS television series focused on worldwide efforts to build environmentally friendly structures. In 2007, as a response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Pitt founded Make It Right to organize housing professionals to finance and construct sustainable, affordable houses in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward, and has since expanded its mission to create and promote “healthy homes for communities in need.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the many celebrities in the entertainment industry that have used the spotlight to promote environmental activism. Margaret Atwood, Robert Redford, Sting, and James Cameron are just a few of the other names that could have been on this list.

Tell us your favorite environmental celebrities in the comments, and we at NYFA wish you a green summer!

Ready to learn more about visual and performing arts? Check out the many program offerings available right now at NYFA.