Author: New York Film Academy

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

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.

6 Great Movies to Watch for the 4th of July

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After a long hot day of barbecuing and baking in the sun, you might want to step inside the cool dark indoors with a patriotic movie or two. To celebrate the 4th of July this year, we’ve compiled a list of Independence Day-themed films that are sure to satisfy every kind of craving: patriotism, thrills, alien invasions, disillusionment and more!

1. “Independence Day”

How can you resist coming together to fight alien invaders? This 1996 proto-summer blockbuster set the standard for well-hyped and fun movies exploding into theaters mid-summer. And, as ABC News put it, the film “sent Will Smith’s career into the stratosphere with a fist to an alien’s kisser and one simple line: ‘Welcome to Earth!'”

2. “Jaws”

This 1975 thriller based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel set out to be — and was — a tremendous hit. It also made Steven Spielberg a very rich young man, a household name, and powerful enough in the industry that he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. (That turned out to be “Close Encounters,” which he nursed with the help of “Jaws” star Richard Dryfus.)

Perhaps you’ve never seen this classic (gasp) or it’s been a while, and you’re like, “What’s the killer shark flick got to do with the 4th of July?” Well, just take a look at the opening scenes and you’ll realize that it’s the impending holiday that sets up the tragedy: A small town’s denial of the danger in the face of losing vacationers. Some might even say that the true force of evil here is greed, not a bloodthirsty shark.

3. “Born on the 4th of July”

Here’s a movie that might raise some patriotic eyebrows. A young Tom Cruise won his first Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of real-life disabled vet turned anti-war activist Ron Kovic. This 1989 film, set during the Vietnam War, offers a different take on patriotism: one that supports dissent.

4. “The Patriot”

For a more traditional take on patriotism, there’s this 2000 epic directed by Roland Emmerich, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, and Heath Ledger.

Sure, the movie was blasted for taking liberties with history, but most critics agree that it represents America’s ideals, if not its reals. Not to mention the nods for gorgeous cinematography and a monster performance by Gibson. And considering the fact that it’s set during the Revolutionary War, we couldn’t very well leave this one off the list.

5. “National Treasure”

And, lest you feel we’ve gotten too serious on this list, we offer a touch of the absurd and over-the-top ridiculous. Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, and Sean Bean star in this 2004 heist-with-a-twist: they must steal the Declaration of Independence as their first step on a high-stakes treasure hunt.

6. “John Adams”

This 2008 HBO miniseries about the first 50 years of the United States is for those who prefer to shun the sun this holiday weekend and binge-watch while learning a little American history.

Based on David McCullough’s best-selling biography and supported by a stellar ensemble cast that includes Paul Giamatti,  Laura Linney, and Stephen Dillane, “John Adams” has more Emmys under its belt than any other miniseries in television history.

What movies are you planning to watch this weekend? Let us know in the comments, and Happy 4th of July!

Ready to learn more about filmmaking? Apply to the New York Film Academy.

The Rise of Superhero Films

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“Wonder Woman.” “Iron Man.” “The Avengers.” “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The past decade or so has seen an influx of superhero films based on comic books — major big-studio movies starring the highest-paid actors in the world (think Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr.) and outperforming any other movies released. This week, the world will enjoy a new addition to the superhero film repertoire: “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” featuring the work of NYFA alumnus Francesco Panzieri on special effects!

While 1990s blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Braveheart” were standalone epics based on books or historical events, today’s highest-grossing films are primarily superhero movies, based on a combination of factors such as escapism, cutting-edge special effects, and an older, wealthier population of comic-book fans.

The most significant, and grim, factor behind the rise of superhero movies has been the economic crash of 2008. There were popular superhero movies prior to this, such as “Spider-man” and Christopher Nolan’s excellent “Batman” series reboot, but following the economic downturn — in which many people lost their jobs and homes — superhero movies went into orbit.

People suddenly wanted escapism into a different world where the hero always triumphed and where distinctions between good and bad were easy to tell. Blockbuster epics with tragic endings like “Braveheart,” and “Gladiator” fell out of fashion, as no one wanted to compound the grim economic situation with an equally depressing movie. Comic-book superhero movies, in which the hero triumphs over evil, became more appealing to the general public. (While our economic downturn is not as severe as the Great Depression, it’s notable that the popularity of comic books in the 1930s mirrors the popularity of superhero movies today.)

With the rise of computers, special effects have become more realistic and believable — something that previously limited superhero movies. Compare the stiff, lumbering shark of “Jaws” — a movie that had exceptional special effects for its day — to the beautifully computer-generated creatures and atmospheres of today’s superhero movies.

Special effects designers have a wider range of options to work with, as well as better software and technologies, than they did 20 years ago. Need Captain America to soar to the heavens? Stand the actor in front of the green screen and virtually create the sky behind him. Need Ant-Man to fly through Iron Man’s suit and sabotage it? That can be achieved realistically as well.

Whereas “Titanic” required a replica ship, today’s computer generated imaging can produce entirely believable superhero action scenes through the digital manipulation of pixels.

The third factor in the popularity of comic-book superhero movies is the older age of the audience. Today’s superhero movies — even if they’re rated PG-13 — are primarily made for adults who grew up on comic books and now have a disposable income. These adults are mostly Generation X-ers and Millennials who read comic books as children during the 1970s-1990s and now have the money to see films and buy paraphernalia. While kids can beg Mom and Dad to buy movie tickets and Mom might possibly agree, adults can always purchase tickets and attend films — creating a great source of potential viewers who have fond childhood recollections of their comic book superheroes and villains.

What are your favorite superhero films? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about creating incredible films, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

Here’s What It’s Like to Work for Walt Disney Animation Studios

For many who grew up watching Disney movies the opportunity to work at Walt Disney Animation Studios would be an incredible experience. Many aspiring animators wonder what it’s like doing what you love at the most accomplished and iconic studio in the world. To prepare for what could one day be your dream come true, here’s an idea of what you can expect:

Working for Walt Disney Animation Studios is all about…

Taking Big Risks

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No company has ever reached worldwide recognition by only playing it safe. People who want to make an impact know that success doesn’t come from only doing what’s expected. To truly stand out and raise the bar you have to be willing to take risks and hope it pays off.

No one knows this better than Darrin Butters, an animator who has worked on Walt Disney Animation Studio hits like “Tangled,” “Big Hero 6,” and “Frozen.” During a recent talk at the New York Film Academy 3D Animation School, Butters spoke about how the slow sloth scene from “Zootopia” required going against the top principles of good animation. Despite this, the scene ended up being one of the highlights of the film and well worth the risk.

Giving Your Best To Make Disney The Best

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Most would agree that Disney wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the Disney Renaissance. During this era lasting between 1989 to 1999, Walt Disney Animation Studios produced hit after hit with no signs of stopping. Some of the most admired animated films were created during this time, including “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Hercules.”

The animators that worked for Disney at the time inspired today’s animators to do one thing: make Disney the best. Working at Walt Disney Animation Studios means remembering that the competition is fierce, so you must always do better than before. Of course, it also requires passion and love for animation to walk under Mickey’s wizard hat while on your way to work each day.

Remembering The Fundamentals

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Whether you prefer working with 3D graphics or prefer 2D drawings, there’s a place for you in animation. This is because no matter how 3D-dominated the industry gets, animation will always need people who know the fundamentals. No one understands this better than Eric Goldberg, a man who has worked in the industry for 25 years.

With animated TV shows and movies like “Looney Tunes” and “The Simpsons” under his belt, Goldberg knows the importance of mock up, character design, and other animation tasks originally done by hand. During his exclusive preview of “Moana” at the New York Film Academy’s LA campus, Goldberg expressed that all animators who want a future at big studios like Disney should remember that many fundamentals of animation have held true for decades. It’s why a 2D animator like him can survive in a 3D animation world like today.

Doing Whatever It Takes & Loving It

 

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There’s nothing like watching a finished animated film after countless hours of hard work have been poured into it. While a lot of people assume creating animated characters and worlds is all fun and games, animators know how much hard work is required to make something special. If you’re not willing to push yourself in order to come up with something unique and creative then perhaps working for the “Mouse” isn’t for you.

In a guest post on Chronicle Books, Maggie Malone of Walt Disney Animation Studios talked about how one of the artists went above and beyond while working on “Wreck-It-Ralph.” This artist was tasked with building the world for the Sugar Rush candy go-kart scenes. In order to make sure her candy world was authentic and reliable, she spent weeks creating actual models out of real candy. This resulted in a deliciously wonderful scene that might’ve never looked as good if she hadn’t put in the extra mile.

What are your goals as an animator? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about 3D animation and visual effects at the New York Film Academy.

4 Groundbreaking Documentary Films to Note

Most of us consume quite a lot of TV and Netflix, and we tend to think of cinema as a means of entertainment. But the visual storytelling medium of film is capable of so much more, and there’s a dearth of real life stories and authentic and diversified representations of people on screen. This is where the documentary comes in. A documentary film is more than just educational non-fiction film: a well-made documentary can move the viewer as much as an Oscar-winning narrative film. Whether you’re a cinephile or a budding film maker, watching documentaries is an integral aspect of understanding how the cinematic medium works as well as for exploring its full potential.

Here are some groundbreaking documentaries that you just can’t miss.

1. “Super Size Me” (2004)

Directed by Morgan Spurlock, this film is built on a very interesting premise: Morgan decides to eat only McDonald’s food for 30 days straight! From Feb. 1 to March 2, 2003, he ate at a McDonald’s outlet three times a day, consuming around 5000 calories per day.

Given the rising obesity rates, the movie is an eye-opening look at how dangerous junk food is for one’s physical and mental health. It took Morgan over a year to lose all the weight he gained from the experiment. The movie was so successful it was nominated for an Oscar, and a comic book based on it has been released.

2. “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004)

The highest-grossing documentary film of all time, “Fahrenheit 9/11 ,” directed by Michael Moore, takes a cold hard look at the presidency of George W. Bush — especially the invasion of Iraq and the worldwide damage and chaos it caused. Coupled with intelligent humor and investigative journalism, the film displays a nuanced critical analysis of the situation.

Fahrenheit 9/11 made over $150 million. Among its many accomplishments, the film prompted several controversies, won the Palm D’Or, received a 20-minute standing ovation at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, and also featuired a cameo by Britney Spears. The movie’s title is of course a reference to Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451,” thereby ironically putting everything into perspective.

3. “Waltz With Bashir” (2008)

This autobiographical war film by Ari Folman is important for its innovative and heart-wrenching way of tackling its subject: the 1982 Lebanon War. Given that the documentary medium is primarily associated with realism, the film eschews the use of real people to talk about their experiences. Instead, most of the film is narrated via animation which has a gritty, graphic novel feel. When real footage is inserted in the narrative, suddenly, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

The style of the film not only challenges the traditional expectations of a documentary film, it also artistically conveys that some things are so violent and so depraved that it’s impossible to show them as they are.

4. “The Square” (2013)

A three-time Emmy Award-winner, this film depicts the ongoing crisis in Egypt. Marked by gritty cinematography, it begins with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 at Tahrir Square and showcases the daily reality that most of us tend to turn a blind eye to. Over 500 hours of footage was edited to make this film.

And we have another reason for you to watch it: this groundbreaking political documentary was shot and co-produced by New York Film Academy graduate Muhammad Hamdy! For his remarkable work, Hamdy won an Emmy for Best Cinematography.

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Now that’s inspirational!

This list is just scratching the surface, but it should give you an idea of how diverse, original and experimental the documentary genre is, using a myriad of styles and techniques to critically and innovatively show audiences dynamic, true stories that may otherwise go unnoticed.

So if you’re looking to take a filmmaking class at NYFA, why not give documentary filmmaking a shot?

 

The Rise of High Quality Video Game Trailers

The evolution of video game trailers is comparable to games themselves. While 20 years ago we were content running across 8-bit worlds, now we expect vast 3D areas with lifelike visuals. As the video game industry became bigger and better, so too did the most powerful way of marketing a new game.

In fact, publishers hire people that focus specifically on creating cinematics and trailers that will make the game look as attractive as possible. While how well a game sells will mostly be determined by its quality, a game trailer plays a major role as well.

The following is a brief look at where game trailers began and how developers have in time improved them:

The Odd, Early Years

In the early ‘90s it was all about the Super NES and Sega Genesis. Sega pulled out all the stops to compete with Nintendo, who up until then had dominated the industry. As the console war heated up, both companies realized they needed to step up their marketing by providing top-notch commercials for young gamers all across the globe.

But much like that decade itself, the commercials were all about being “dope.” Not satisfied with just showing the games in all their 2D glory, developers and their marketing teams went with intense, action-packed commercials with people to hype up the game.

They Get Better

As video game consoles got got better, so too did the visuals they could produce. Consoles like the Sega Dreamcast, N64 and PlayStation could produce breathtaking 3D characters and environments. Now with impressive graphics to show off, game companies finally decided to use them in their trailers.

Live adults were ditched in favor of quick cuts of gameplay to give players a taste of what they could be playing. The trend to add dramatic music that wasn’t specifically in the game, which is still done often today, also arose during this time.

They Become An Art Form

Video games have become one of the most powerful ways to tell a story. Games offer an interactive experience that lets you feel like you’re actually in an enchanted forest, heated battlefield, or wherever your favorite games take you. In order to make their games stand out above the rest, developers began trying to make their trailers do the same as the games themselves — evoke emotion.

Companies began creating cinematics made specifically for commercials, even if they never appeared in the actual game. Moving soundtracks combined with emotional scenes helped some of the best games of the 2000s draw thousands to stores. The following are perfect examples of trailers that despite showing little to no gameplay, draw you into its setting and characters.

The Rise of Misleading Trailers

The video game industry is more competitive than ever. This puts a lot of pressure on game developers who must sell X million copies just to break even or be given another chance at a new project. Unfortunately, this has caused a lot of publishers to become shady when it comes to what they show in their trailers.

There are many ways a trailer can be misleading. For one, they might show footage of a game that’s a vast improvement to what will actually be in the game. Other times we’re given cinematics that are a completely false representation of what you’ll actually be doing or seeing in the game. Below are a few examples, including one of the many infamous “Metal Gear Solid 2” trailers that fooled us into thinking Solid Snake would be the main protagonist.

Interested in learning more about game design? Check out the New York Film Academy’s Game Design School.

Game Storytelling: 3 Rules of Thumb That Work

By NYFA Instructor Felipe Lara

Adding storytelling to your game can help you connect emotionally to your players, add meaning to the experience, and increase long-term engagement. But stories can become more of a nuisance if not implemented properly. Following a few rules of thumb will help you add storytelling that does not clash with the rest of the experience.

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Why Story

As I mentioned in a previous article, a combination of good art and fun game mechanics is a very effective way to attract players and create immediate engagement. But even good game mechanics can get repetitive and tedious over time unless they are accompanied by a larger meaning or drive, which is often provided by other elements like story and social connection.

Events are much more meaningful if they are tied to a larger story. When playing basketball, scoring a basket is fun, but the experience is much more meaningful and powerful if that basket is the winning basket at the end of a game against a long-time rival team, even more if winning will let us get a scholarship to a renowned college … and will make us the first in our family to get a college degree … which will eventually let us to help our family get out of poverty and … you get the idea.

What is so powerful about stories is that they can wrap up the combination of ideas and emotions that form our experiences in ways that we can easily understand and link to our values and other experiences in our lives. A story can turn an abstract goal into something that relates to our values and views of the world.

Here are three rules of thumb to help you determine if you have a story that works to make your game more compelling without annoying players:

Rule of Thumb 1: Start with a Clear Conflict

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There is one single element that fuels a good story: conflict, says Evan Skolnick in his excellent book “Video Game Storytelling, What Every Developer Needs to Know About Narrative Techniques.” He is right. Story is not a lot of blah blah blah, it is not fueled by details about characters, feelings, and places, it is fueled by conflict, by someone wanting something and not being able to achieve it because of something else. Make that conflict clear as soon as you can in your game.

The more your players can relate to the story’s conflict and to what is at stake, the more compelling your story will be for them. The faster you can introduce your players to that conflict and why it matters, the easier it will be for them to find meaning in the activities and goals they need to complete.

The conflict you show your players first doesn’t need to be the only one. It doesn’t even need to be the main one, but it should be the one that helps the player makes sense of what he/she needs to do in the game next.

Rule of Thumb 2: First Do, Then Show, Then Tell

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There is an old axiom in Hollywood that says: “show don’t tell.” If you want to communicate how courageous a character is, don’t say it: Instead, show the character doing something courageous.

In the same book for video game storytelling I mentioned above, Evan Skolnick says that in games, where the players are active participants, this axiom can be modified to: “do, then show, then tell.”

If you want to communicate how courageous and powerful a character is, give her powerful abilities and give her big challenges to face. Instead of telling the player the attributes of her character, let her experience them herself.

If you cannot find a way to communicate story through actions, then use visuals as a second option — and only if there is no other way of conveying important information that your player needs in order to make sense of what she is doing, say it through dialogue or text.

Rule of Thumb 3: Keep It Simple and Minimal.

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The right story makes the game more intuitive, but to do that it needs to be simple. It can get deeper and more complex as the game progresses, but the primary goal is to make your game’s goals and rules easier to connect with and easier to understand. If the story is not making it easier to play, chances are it is not the right story.

The story should also be kept to a minimum.

One of the main mistakes that game developers make when adding story is trying to communicate at the beginning of the game all the background of the story to the players. Players generally do not care about your story details or your characters until they are more invested in the experience as a whole. It is important to provide meaning, but you don’t have to provide the player with more information than the bare minimum to make your immediate goals and activities make sense.

The worst thing you can do is present your player with a bunch of information that they don’t yet care about. Long dialogues and explanations are usually skipped and all your work will be in vain.

Start simple, and add complexity only if the rules and goals of the game require it.

Evan Skolnick divides story facts into three categories: first, facts that you need to know right now to understand what you need to do in the experience; second, facts that will be important later in the experience but you don’t need to know yet; and third, facts that maybe add flavor but are not essential at any time in the experience to understand what you need to do.

As a rule, the only information you really need to give the player is the one related to the first category. Save the rest for later and even then try to convey it first through actions and visuals.

Chess

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Let’s look at chess as an example. It may be an extreme case but it exemplifies the points I am making.

The conflict is simple and easy to understand: you are a king with a court and an army, your enemy is another king with his own court and army and you need to defeat him. There are other details in the story about who is in your court, which characters are important and powerful, how big is your army, etc., but all that information is communicated through actions and visuals:

  • You know who your enemy is because your team is one color and your opponent is the opposite color.
  • You know that there are different characters because your pieces have different shapes.
  • You know who is in your court and how powerful they are because your different pieces have different attributes and behaviors, and some of these attributes prove to be more powerful.

The story in chess is simple and minimal. It helps us make the rules and goals of the game more intuitive; like the fact that only knights on horses can jump other pieces, or that the most important piece is the king — but the game does not give us additional information that is not essential to understand what to do next.

Conclusion

Story is an important tool to help us add meaning and connect emotionally to an experience. But the wrong story could turn into an annoyance to the player. By following these three rules you can avoid wasting time and resources developing stories that don’t help your game:

  1. Introduce a clear and easy to understand conflict as soon as you can.
  2. Communicate your story through actions first, visuals second, and only as a last resort through dialogue and narration.
  3. Keep the story simple and minimal, give you player only the information than helps him/her understand what he/she needs to do in the game at that point.

6 Simple Tips for Memorizing Lines

If you are a current student – or alumni – of NYFA, you understand that auditions are a normal part of life. But, what if your audition is tomorrow and you have a ton of lines to learn? We’ve compiled some tips to help you memorize your lines.

1. Write your lines out.

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Try writing your lines out by hand — do not type them. This method works well for long scenes with speeches. Writing your lines out by hand forces your mind to connect to the action of writing the lines down and seeing the lines. Make sure you focus on writing your lines out and your lines only. It will let you focus on you without having the distraction of other actors’ lines.

2. Run lines with someone.

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Running lines with a partner is one of the most well-known methods for memorizing lines. The key is to run lines with another actor — not your friend from down the street. Running lines with another actor holds you accountable. Allow the person to coach you and read stage direction to you. During the first run, you’ll want to listen to the words and absorb the script.

If you can’t find someone to help you run lines, try using the app Rehearsal 2. While the app is $19.99, it allows you to highlight lines in the app, record other characters’ lines, and use it as a teleprompter.

3. Quiz yourself.

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Use a scrap piece of paper to cover up everything but the one line you are trying to memorize. Continue to read the same line over and over again. Once you feel comfortable, try reciting the line without looking at it. If you can, move on to the next line and start the process over again.

4. Go for a walk or take a nap.

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In an article published by “Chicago Tribune,” Cindy Gold of Northwestern University suggests that after looking at lines, it is helpful to either go for a walk or take a nap. While you rest, the information your brain just processed moves from short-term memory to long-term recall, where you will be able to recall things easier. Also, when you walk, you are exercising muscles and that helps with memorization.

5. Use a mnemonic device.

You can use a mnemonic device to help you remember your lines. Try writing down the first letter of every word in your lines. When you look at those letters, it will help jog your memory and you’ll remember your line a bit easier. Think of the mnemonic device as a short cut.

6. Learn the cue lines.

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Not only should you learn your lines, but you should learn your cue lines as well — these are the lines that lead into yours. By knowing the cue lines, you will be more prompt and you’ll be able to deliver your lines in a timely fashion.

Interested in learning more than your lines? The New York Film Academy offers a variety of degrees — such as Master of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Associate of Fine Arts — and programs for students who are interested in acting for film. 

Do you have any tips that help you memorize your lines? If you do, let us know below! And learn more about acting at the New York Film Academy.

 

National Pride Month: Movies and Stories That Deserve an A+ on Pride

“Angels in America”

This sweeping, breathtaking six-part HBO miniseries covers a number of important issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in the mid-1980s, including the rise of AIDS and lack of access to both knowledge and treatment regarding the HIV virus.

Based on the 1993 Tony Kushner play “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” this series delves into the lives of gay individuals in New York City and examines how politics, social change, and the terrifying AIDS epidemic affects the LGBTQ+ community.

“Angels in America” garnered much critical acclaim, winning multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards; it was the most-watched made-for-cable film in 2003.

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”

This 1994 Australian comedy-drama film follows the adventures of two drag queens and a transgender woman who attempt to cross the vast Australian Outback in a van named “Priscilla.” It became a surprise cult classic worldwide, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, for its positive and empathetic portrayal of queer and transgender characters.

The film was so popular that it was made into a Broadway musical and also referenced during the 2000 Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony, where a replica tour bus was adorned with a giant stiletto heel during an Australian popular culture scene.

“Viva”

Set in Cuba, “Viva” is a 2015 Spanish-language Irish drama written by Mark O’Halloran and directed by Paddy Breathnach. It stars newcomer Hector Medina as Jesus, a young gay hairdresser who dreams of being a drag performer.

Jesus’s life is turned upside down when his father, who abandoned him in childhood, comes back to live with him and is blatantly intolerant of Jesus’s drag queen activities.

The clash between father and son is portrayed well; Jesus’s father must come to terms with his son’s sexuality. “Viva,” the Irish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, made the December shortlist of nine films but was ultimately not nominated.

“Milk”

Gay rights activist Harvey Milk is spotlighted in this 2008 biographical film, which follows the career of Milk as he becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to California public office.

The film stars Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Milk’s assassin. Directed by Gus van Sant, “Milk” covered a number of important LGBTQ+ issues, as Harvey Milk fought for gay political rights against major opposition.

“Milk” ultimately received eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Penn).

“But I’m a Cheerleader”

While this satirical 1999 romantic comedy looks campy on the outside, it covers some important LGBTQ+ issues. Natasha Lyonne plays a high school cheerleader who is sent to conversion therapy camp as a cure for her lesbianism. She eventually embraces her sexuality and falls in love with another camper.

The film explores gender and sexual identity within a given social construct (the strict rules of the camp) as well as within a larger society (the outside world, which is much more accepting of homosexuality).

What are your favorite films and plays that celebrate LGBTQ+ pride? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

 

Inspiring Advice from 3 Top Animation Studios

No matter whether you’re about to start your program at The New York Film Academy’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) School or are already deep into your journey into the magical wizarding world of professional animation and effects, we are sure that the hard work and long hours you put into your work are motivated by a lot of passion and a lot of creativity.

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Because you work so hard at what you love, we rounded up some inspiring advice to give you a boost. So regardless of where you are on your path as an animator or effects artist — whether you’re gearing up for class, tackling a tricky challenge on a project, or hunting down your next professional animation job — we thought you could use some extra insight and inspiration from animators who work for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Dreamworks.

Here are 8 great tips to inspire your animation and effects work:

1. Research

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Just like actors who do research for their role, animators should do research too. Even if you’re just jumping into a shot, take the time to draw or do video research. Make sure that it becomes a habit.

2. Animation Motion

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Chances are that at some point in your career, you’ll have to animate something that you aren’t familiar with creating. If you need to, break the animation down into simple components to help you.

According to Andrew Gordon and Robb Denovan, directing animators for Pixar’s  “Monsters University,” the team had to color-code Terry-Terri’s tentacles to help during the process.

3. Drawing It Out

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Aaron Blaise, an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios, tweeted, “Try forcing yourself to draw by just laying single lines down. No searching lines. This will force you to think about every line.”

4. Mastering Technology

According to Scott Wright, an animator for Dreamworks, always look to enhance your skill set. He wrote on Twitter, “Technology changes fast. Don’t rely on mastering one program. You never know how the next software package will enhance your imagination.”

Don’t be afraid to use the different types of tools that you have. Computers and software can do CGI well. Put your efforts into the performance and let the computers help you fine-tune everything.

 

5. Polishing Your Work

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If you prioritize correctly, you will know what aspects of your project may need more polishing. Animation requires a great deal of time and effort to bring an idea to life, and you will need to spend a lot of time to achieve a level of work that is polished and ready to share.

6. Show Your Work

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It’s better to show your creation early on versus keeping it under wraps: you can gather valuable feedback, see your work from a new perspective, and find new opportunities to collaborate or flesh out an underdeveloped part of your idea. Creating solid animation is teamwork and that means being open to critiques.

7. Seek Out Advice

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There will be times when you feel stuck while working on an animation project, and there may be a time when someone else’s work fits better in a scene. If that is the case, go find the person who created the work and talk to them. Some animators will open up and go over scenes to show another animator how they made a scene work. Again, collaboration and critique are vital tools to help you grow and improve your work, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your colleagues and peers whose work you admire.

8. Live Your Life

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Animation is similar to acting in that it requires emotional understanding, a passion for storytelling, and an awareness of life experiences to develop believable characters.

Your creativity and discipline at work will draw from how you live your life, so take the time to travel or go see a show, watch people, and write about memorable experiences. Your own life can serve as a valuable resource and support for you as you develop animated scenes, whether you excel at creating funny scenes or subtle and dramatic scenes.

Either way, it’s important to learn to draw from real life, as that can give you immense insight into understanding what makes a scene entertaining for the audience. After all, your audience is full of people living their lives, too.

Do you have any inspiring advice for our animation students? Let us know below!

The Evolution of Film Over Time — A Brief History

Have you even noticed how much films have evolved during your lifetime? Over the past few decades, film technology has made major advancements. Just  compare the original “King Kong,” made in 1933, to the recent remake made in 2005.

Notice how lifelike the CGI King Kong looks in comparison to the stop-motion King Kong in the original film.

Here are some other films that have been remade … can you spot the changes in filmmaking technology?

“War of the Worlds”

“The Thing”

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

“Casino Royale”

“The Karate Kid”

“The Mummy”

“Ocean’s 11”

While some changes to filmmaking technology and the craft of filmmaking might be obvious, there are other things that are not so apparent. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the more subtle ways that filmmaking has changed over the past century.

Shorter Shots

James Cutting, a psychologist at Cornell University, was a panelist for the Oscars’ “Movies in Your Brain — The Science of Cinematic Perception” discussion in 2014, and has been studying perceptual and cognitive processing. Cutting examines how the brain’s processes relate to film components such as editing, frame rates, projection, and scene and narrative structure. He has been looking at shot duration over the past few years, and has found that the average duration of a shot is consistently shorter now than it was a decade ago.

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In an interview with “Wired,” Cutting said that the average length of a shot in 1930 was 12 seconds. Today, the average length is only 2.5 seconds. You may notice that in older films, directors added at least 1.5 seconds to each crowd scene, so the audience has time to look around and see who was  in the shot. That isn’t the case today.

Attention spans may have something to do with shorter shots and the different patterns as well. It’s human nature for someone’s attention to waver, no matter how hard we try to focus. According to Cutter, “People flake out every few seconds. You fluctuate in and out, and there’s a natural pattern to this.”

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Cutter argues — and some film scholars disagree — that different patterns of shots found in today’s films go better with natural fluctuations in human attention because each new shot forces the audience to refocus their attention. There is a fine line though: films with too many short shots require too much attention and films with too many long shots may allow the audience’s attention to wander. A strategic mix of short and long shots will help keep the audience engaged and entertained.   

Of course, there are obvious exceptions. Both “Birdman” and “Gravity” have almost no visible cuts at all. However, both films take advantage of modern technology to move the camera in ways that would have been impossible even a few decades ago.

More Motion

Motion and action in a film help keep the audience’s attention. Have you ever watched an action movie and noticed your heart beating fast? Was your adrenaline pumping hard? It’s your body’s physiological response to motion within a shot. Filmmakers carefully and intentionally craft the motion we see on screen, to match the dramatic intensity of the scene.  

 

Changing Light

Modern, digital technology has allowed filmmakers to maintain better control over a more dynamic range of light. Movies today are often shot with much less light than their predecessors, allowing for more naturalistic effects. Take “Collateral,” for example, which was shot in the nighttime streets of LA with mostly natural light. Additionally, modern films are often much darker, than films made in the gold age of Hollywood. And even the application of color has been adjusted to suit the taste of modern audiences. As Cutter explained in his interview, bright colors have stayed the same but interestingly dark colors have gotten darker.

An example of this is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.” Notice that some  shots from the trailer, are extremely dark with only small focal points of light in the frame. Filmmakers use this technique to control where the audience looks and what they see.

Other Factors

There are other factors that have played a part in how film has evolved such as Blu-ray discs and IMAX theaters. Audiences can now also watch movies on smartphones, tablets, and computers, and stream movies through platforms such as Netflix.

Of course, these are just the changes in visual style that have been been made possible by new technologies. Perhaps the biggest changes are those brought about by changes in society. But that’s the subject for another article.

What do you think are the most impressive innovations in film over the last century? Let us know in the comments below! If you’re ready to learn more about filmmaking, study at the New York Film Academy.

NYFA Conservatory: Why a 1-Year Program Is Your Next Life-Hack

We’ve all heard inspiring rags-to-riches tales of celebrities who found their big break by being discovered in malls or whisked away from their ordinary job by a chance encounter with a talent scout, director or agent. While we can’t deny this fairy tale does sometimes come true in real life, for most professional visual and performing artists the road to success is paved with hard work — and excellent training. If you’re considering the arts, you may want to consider updating your training.

Whether your dream is to make magic behind the camera, on the screen, or in post-production, don’t wait for a chance encounter with fate: you can take matters into your own hands by pursuing hands-on training in the skills you’ll need to change your own life and learn to be an artist.

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Daydreams Come True

It’s never too late to pursue your dream, but it’s important to understand what tools you’ll need along the way. It can seem like there’s a huge gap between daydreaming at your day job and actually living your dream. The good news is that there is one secret weapon that can help you find your footing as you develop professional skills while saving time: a conservatory program.

Why a Conservatory?

Picture spending all day every day doing only what you love, all while working closely with and learning from people who are experts in what you want to do. That’s a conservatory: intensive artistic training in a creative environment designed to push aspiring artists to develop their skills to the highest level.

A conservatory program is a little bit different than traditional college. Rather than requiring classes in a core curriculum of all subjects, a conservatory allows students to focus exclusively on their subject. The intensive focus allows conservatory students to develop a unique depth of understanding for their craft and receive specific training relevant to their specialty in the arts.

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Why NYFA?

At the New York Film Academy, our conservatory programs offer students from all backgrounds the training and experience they need to rise to a professional level and build a body of original work. The New York Film Academy’s conservatory is unique because we believe in “learning by doing.” That defines everything we do, and our hands-on instruction helps our students learn to handle the real-world challenges of their chosen industry, whether that’s a working film set, an animation studio, a photography studio, or a Broadway stage. In one or two years at NYFA, students complete more training in less time through an intensive, project-based curriculum crafted to prepare professionals for the real world.

Hands-On Learning

Starting on day one, we put our conservatory students in real-world situations, whether that’s behind the camera, in front of the camera, or working with software to create their own digital works of art. Learning hands-on challenges our students to learn to think on their feet, adapt and problem solve — all skills that are essential for work in the arts. Collaborative projects allow our students to work together, build a strong network, and learn to see their chosen craft from every angle.

Industry Teachers

Our students learn from a faculty of working professionals who are still active in their fields. This means that our instructors offer a direct line to the heartbeat of current industry trends and provide vital insight to the business side of the professional arts.

Incredible Locations

If you’re excited about the idea of spending a year or two changing your life through one of NYFA’s conservatory programs, check out our campus locations:

NYFA New York

If you are looking for a sense of adventure, choose a conservatory program at NYFA New York City. Our campuses at 17 Battery Place and 26 Broadway place students in the heart of one of the world’s most diverse cities, the home of independent film, the proving ground for actors, and the theatre capital of the world. For the artistic soul, New York City is alive with unimaginable hope and inspiration, and students will recognize the setting of many beloved films and television series shot in the city, from “The Godfather,” “Ghostbusters,” “Taxi Driver” and “Do the Right Thing” to “Madmen,” “Broad City,” and “30 Rock.”

NYFA Los Angeles

NYFA Los Angeles is in the heart of Hollywood, the birthplace of American cinema and the heart of the film industry. From the sunny and inspiring city to the nearby beaches and mountains, students are in the perfect place to create their own original projects in the same city that served as the location for countless classic and contemporary films and television shows, from “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Graduate,” “Tangerine,” and “Nightcrawler” to “Star Trek,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Broke Girls.” And NYFA students have unique entertainment industry opportunities, such as working on the prestigious Universal Studios backlot and in Warner Brothers facilities. 

NYFA South Beach

“The Gateway of the Americas,” Miami is a city of diverse culture, sun, and energy, with gleaming white beaches, turquoise ocean waters, a beautiful Art Deco district, and a famed nightlife and restaurant scene that draws visitors, artists, and industry leaders from around the world. Located in the heart of the gorgeous South Beach neighborhood of Miami, NYFA South Beach offers conservatory students the opportunity to make art while exploring one of the most vibrant cities in the U.S. Miami has served as the location for many major films and television shows, including “Scarface,” “The Birdcage,” “Jane the Virgin,” and 2016’s Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, “Moonlight.”

NYFA Australia

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The New York Film Academy Australia has two campuses, in Sydney and Gold Coast, where conservatory students can can attain their CUA60615 – Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media or CUA51015 – Diploma of Screen and Media.

NYFA Australia: Gold Coast

Our Gold Coast (Queensland) campus is located in a state-of-the-art facility in Southport, directly across from the Gold Coast Broadwater with a popular waterfront promenade, large estuary and attractive parklands. We also have our own production studios on-site at the renowned Village Roadshow Studios, where our students have the opportunity to do their production work in the backlot, the filming location of international blockbusters including “San Andreas,” “Unbroken,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “The Shallows,” “Kong: Skull Island,” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” among many others.

NYFA Australia: Sydney

Australia’s largest and most famous city, Sydney is considered the jewel of the Southern Hemisphere, with one of the most beautiful harbors, great surf beaches, a magnificent opera house, and an eclectic film and music scene that adds to rich cultural environment. NYFA students have access to premier facilities and equipment and can create their own work throughout Sydney’s beautiful beaches, iconic buildings, historic landmarks, award-winning restaurants, and a uniquely vibrant culture. Sydney has served as the location for numerous blockbusters such as “The Great Gatsby,” “The Matrix,” “Stealth,” “Babe,” “Crocodile Dundee,” “Wolverine,” “Mad Max The Road Warrior,” and “Mission Impossible II.” 

Have you enrolled or completed one our conservatory programs? Let us know about your experience below! Learn more about our conservatory programs and continuing education at the New York Film Academy.

The Table-Top Gaming Revolution: Just 40 Years in the Making

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by NYFA Instructor Andy Ashcraft

So, as some of you may have noticed, table-top games — board-games and card games — are really popular right now. You can find dozens of new games in the big box stores like Target, Walmart and Toys-R-Us, and even find well-stocked selections in the big bookstores. Local specialty retail shops are everywhere, and always have people inside playing a game or two. Board-game cafes are springing up in cities around the world, where you can enjoy a beverage and a snack and borrow a game to play from some pretty extensive libraries. In Glendale, my favorite local game café called GameHaus boasts a library with about 1500 games, and is packed full of people on a Friday and Saturday night. What is happening here? When did this start?

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Even though it seems to have sprung up overnight, our seemingly newfound love of table-top games has a history going back about 40 years.  In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll outline a timeline that shows how this hobby has grown to what it is now.

Pre-1974:  Wargames, Family Games and Abstract Strategy Games.

Prior to, say, 1976, the world of tabletop gaming could be split into these three reasonably distinct categories:

Family Games

Family games were those that you could easily find in a Toy-R-Us or in a small area near the toys in a department store. These are titles I’m sure you’ll recognize: Monopoly, Candyland, Stratego, Clue (or Cluedo), Trouble, and Scrabble. You would be hard-pressed to find any suburban home in the U.S. that didn’t include at least one of these games.  (My grandfather was a huge Scrabble fan, and taught me to play just as soon as I could read. Perhaps I come to my love of games through him!)

Abstract Strategy Games / Traditional Games

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Abstract strategy games are much older than many of the family games above, like many card games using a traditional deck of cards. They include games like chess, checkers, dominoes, backgammon, Pente, and Othello. Many of these games are old enough to not require a license, and therefore different manufacturers could make games for different market segments: kid’s versions, travel versions, or expensive, hand-crafted versions that are left out as objets d’art. Similarly, anyone can publish a standard deck of playing cards, with which literally hundreds of games can be played. You can buy decks of cards at dollar stores, or find very expensive and beautifully illustrated decks, depending on your taste and budget.  

Wargames

This last type of game is the lesser-known cousin of the other two, and in many ways, the predecessor of the gaming boom we’re experiencing today. Wargames were a niche hobby for adult men (generally white) who enjoyed strategy and history. Many of these games were set in a particular historical battle. Avalon Hill was a major publisher of many of these strategy games like Tactics, Blitzkrieg, Gettysburg, and a railroad game called Dispatcher. These games typically used tiny cardboard tokens on a map to illustrate the action.

Wargaming with these tokens led to using miniatures (usually cast in lead or pewter) as nicer-looking replacement game pieces. In 1970, medieval wargame enthusiasts Gary Gygax, Jeff Perrin and Don Lowry teamed up to create a medieval miniatures wargame called Chainmail. As “an afterthought,” Gygax added a section at the end dealing with fantastic and mythological creatures, notably elves, goblins, wizards and dragons. This turned out to be quite popular and lead to the first big breakout hit for this industry.   

1974-1994:  D&D, Hobby Games and Game Stores

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In 1974, Gygax (and some others) created a company called TSR and released Dungeons & Dragons, an expansion of Chainmail where each player played as just one hero character instead of as the commander of an army. It was the first role-playing game (RPG) and was enormously influential and innovative. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of table-top RPG’s published since then, and an equally vast number of computer RPGs. A great deal has been written about Dungeons & Dragons so I won’t get into too much detail, except to point to this moment as a big expansion in the hobby.

At this point, game conventions began to grow from small gatherings where groups of friends spent the weekend playing games together to the 90,000+ people that are expected to attend GenCon Indy this year, it’s 40th anniversary. Gen-Con, the “best five days in gaming,” brings more money into Indianapolis each year than any other event outside the Indianapolis 500. Los Angeles alone hosts three much smaller game conventions each year.

These game conventions became fertile fields for design-oriented players to start making and sharing their own games, and some cult classics first appeared in these venues, often as self-published packages sold in ziplock bags: Wiz-War, Talisman, Cosmic Encounters, Battle Stations, and Insecta are examples of these “early” hobby games.

Another direct spin-off of Dungeons & Dragons is the British company named Games Workshop. Early on, this company had the license to publish D&D (and other American games) in Europe. They were both a publisher and a brick-and-mortar retailer, with a rapid growth during these 20 years. Games Workshop also published their own games, like Fury of Dracula and, more importantly to them, Warhammer and Warhammer 40K.

Warhammer (and the 40k variant) are a return to miniatures-based war-gaming, with players commanding large armies of elves, orcs, and other fantasy creatures. They teamed up with a miniatures manufacturer named Citadel Miniatures to create a line of figures that were a requirement to play the game. These fantasy tabletop wargames became their core business.  

During this time, the hobby began to acknowledge the best games for their excellence. The Germans were the first to start awarding prizes in the field of game-design. The Spiel de Jahres was awarded in 1979, and two other awards started in 1989/1990: the Kinderspiel de Jahres (for children’s games) and the Deutscher Spiele Pries. That same year, the American Mensa organization would also begin awarding the Mensa Select to games that promote thinking and learning. In 1991, Games Magazine gave their first Game of the Year award.

1994-1999:  The Years of Magical Thinking

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In the mid-’90s, the industry saw two big shifts that would help swing this niche hobby into the mainstream — Magic: The Gathering, and a simultaneous surge in creativity from Europe.

Magic: The Gathering debuted at Gen-Con in 1994. At the heart of this game was a then-revolutionary idea: what if there was a game you could play with trading cards? Instead of buying the entire game at once, players would buy smaller packs of cards, trade individual cards with each other, and play with the cards that they had collected. Each “booster pack” of 15 cards included one rare card, three uncommon cards, and 11 common cards. It was a huge hit, selling out their first few print runs, and ultimately changing the business of tabletop gaming across the U.S.

The game’s setting was a fantasy world, much like Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer. Each card had a beautiful illustration, and the game itself could be played in 15-30 minutes. It took the company, Wizards of the Coast, a year or so to come to grips with their nigh-instant popularity and get their production pipeline flowing. The game — colloquially called “Magic” or shortened even more to “MtG” — was inherently open-ended so that Wizards of the Coast could release new sets of cards that could be added to each player’s collection. The growing community of players created a rich secondary market for the most useful cards, and some of these cards would be instantly worth 10 times the cost of the booster pack they’d be found in.  

Within two years, most tabletop game retailers were making the lion’s share of their income selling only these card packs. I remember hearing stories of game shops that were burglarized during this time where the thieves took nothing except boxes of unopened Magic cards.   

The market for this game was typically young men, and Wizards of the Coast realized something important: they were bringing new people into the hobby. They followed this success in 1996 by publishing a similar trading card game, slightly simpler, and based on a video game series popular among both boys and girls: Pokémon. The game’s slogan told you exactly what they wanted you to do: “You gotta catch ‘em all.”  

There were many other collectible trading card games that followed these two, but none as popular.   Wizards of the Coast created a rich and stable platform for a brand new generation of gamers. By 1999, Wizards of Coast had purchased the flagging Dungeons & Dragons publisher, TSR, and released a new version of that game, too. Wizards of the Coast has since been purchased by Hasbro, and now you can purchase Magic and Pokémon cards in very mainstream retailers like Toys-R-Us and Target.

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Meanwhile, in Europe, an explosion of creativity was also happening around board games. The story I heard, which may be apocryphal, is that a German marketing company did a survey asking young adults what they liked to do best on a Friday night. They expected to get answers regarding drinking and night-life, and were surprised to find out that a very large number of people liked to stay home and play games with the friends and family. It’s not clear from the story whether this caused publishers to pour money into tabletop games, or was the result of publisher money spent. What I do know is that by the late 1990s, a tidal wave of European board and card games were showing up in my local game stores, and they were wildly different than anything we had seen before.  

Some of these early “euro-games” were Settlers of Catan, Agricola, Carcassonne, Bohnanza, and Tigris & Euphrates.  These games were richly detailed, beautifully made, and introduced us to entirely new game mechanics. These were games made for people who liked deep strategy but with brand new themes: you could play as a tribe of people settling an island, or a plantation owner, or a city planner, and have that same strategic experience that had been mostly relegated to war-games.

1999 – Present:  The Mainstreaming of Games

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And so we come to what I consider the current era of gaming, a golden age for sure! I think it is also important to make two small digressions:  

  1. Gaming has grown in prominence in parallel with the popularity of manga, science fiction, fantasy and the supernatural genres on TV and at the box office.  
  2. Globalism (and the internet) has made it much easier for a small game publisher to make a much more high-quality product than was possible even in the 1980s.  

But let’s talk about the games themselves, the kinds of fun they create, and the affect they have had on the hobby.

Cooperative games have had a resurgence in popularity. There were a few early games (Dungeon! and Arkham Horror) that fit this description; games in which players work together to win or lose the game collectively. The title that really broke this type of game out is Pandemic, where the players are CDC (Center of Disease Control) Agents racing around the world attempting to find cures for rapidly growing, and thankfully abstracted, diseases. One of my other favorites is Red November, where you play as the grog-drinking Gnomish crew on a sinking submarine.  The fun of these games is intensely social, and their steep challenge — the players frequently lose these games — creates their delicious tension.  

Werewolf (and the similar game called Mafia) originated as party games that you could play with a group of people and a few normal playing cards. These are called social deduction games, where the players attempt to figure out which one (or more) of them are secretly playing against the rest. In the case of Werewolf, most players play as villagers, but among them are also secretly werewolves. Each round, the entire group of villagers can eliminate one player in the hopes of getting rid of the werewolf, then, while everyone else’s eyes are closed, the secret werewolf eliminates one other player. The popularity of Werewolf spawned a multitude of other social deduction games in a wide variety of themes. These games are meant to be played as party games, and are fun as purely social events.

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Magic: The Gathering is still going strong, of course, and the publisher of that game has refined its approach to the community of players. They have defined a suite of tournament types to appeal to different types of players. The truly hard-core players can play in “Unlimited” tournaments, which allow almost every card ever published to be used in the game. This appeals to those collector/players who have spent years and/or fortunes collecting the rarest and best cards. The “Standard” format only allows cards published within the last two years, basically, which means that newer collector/players can compete. “Booster Draft” tournaments are the most casual; players do not need to own any cards at all to play because they will “draft” cards from a brand-new booster pack before passing the remainder to the next player. Afterwards, they use these cards create their decks and play. They also created a world-wide database of players and track their wins and losses, ultimately leading to world championship tournaments that only the best players are invited to.

A few other new genres of games spun out of the collectible card games, like MtG. 7 Wonders is an example of a “card-drafting” game, where the entire game is just “drafting” cards — players choose cards from sets being passed around. Another game, Dominion, was the first of many “deck-building” games, where you start with a small set of cards and acquire more cards to add to your deck as the game progresses. Both of these game mechanics are part of the larger Magic game, but as these clever game designers realized, could be fun experiences on their own.  

One of the most recent innovations in game design is the Legacy game. The first Legacy game was Risk Legacy, developed in-house at Hasbro by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis and published in 2011. Risk Legacy takes the classic Risk strategy game-play and adds elements that persist from one game to the next. For example, a faction might gain an ability, or a territory space on the board could be modified in the first game, and that change would persist through the games that followed. These games are meant to change and evolve as they are played, and generally have a limited number of plays in them before the game once again becomes static and unchanging. This idea of persistent changes is at the heart of most tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, but had never been applied to board games before.  

As a counterpoint to that, some tabletop games are role-playing games reimagined as board games, card games or dice games. These experiences have pre-made player characters, pre-written adventures, little (or no) persistence, and tons of interchangeable tiles and miniatures. Good examples are the traditional fantasy-themed Descent and Thunderstone, or the adorably anthropomorphic Mice & Mystics.  

All this innovation brought new players to the table and the hobby continued to grow. In 2000, a website called Board Game Geek was founded and hosts a vast, user-edited database of table-top games, reviews of games (and an important game-rating system), tutorials on how to play and/or make games, pictures of games, and discussion forums.  Gamers can share their game collections and their experiences with others around the world.   

Now: The State of the Union

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Finally, since we’re talking about the internet, we must include Kickstarter. Kickstarter, launched in 2009, is a popular crowdfunding site that, has really clicked for the hobby games community. The first tabletop game sold on Kickstarter (Alien Frontier, I think) funded in April of 2010 for about $15k. As of this writing, the largest amount of money raised for a complete game was $8,782,571 for a game called Exploding Kittens. There are, as of this writing, 245 different table-top game projects with active Kickstarter campaigns.

$8.7 million is an outlier of course, but it does show how big the market for a game can be. Typically, the budgets for games are much, much smaller. The average publishing deal, in which a game designer licenses a game to a publisher to publish, is for five years. That publisher will print maybe 3000 copies of the game, which is just enough to get a few copies into most specialty retail shops and sell a handful at conventions.

An average MSRP for a game is around $40, so math tells us that an average game is expected to earn about $120,000 over five years, which must cover the cost of goods (and shipping) and also pay the retailer, the distributor, the publisher and the inventor/designer. That is to say, no one is making a lot of money on these games. This is still a hobby market, even if the entire industry earned $1.2 billion in 2016 (according to this article), a 40 percent increase over 2015.

The biggest change over the last 30 years has been the cultural change: where games are played and who is playing.

I’ve already hinted at this, but to be more explicit, this hobby is now multi-generational. The kids who are playing games now have parents who still play those same games. My friend has a boy, who at 6 years old was a fanatic about trains. He couldn’t have cared any less about games until he saw us playing Ticket to Ride, and now at 14, he is a gamer. This also illustrates that there are games themed for everyone now, from war-games to gardening-themed games.

Because more kids are playing more games as they grow up, and because the parents of these kids are still playing games now, the biggest change has been in the gender-balance of the players. In short, more females are playing games now than ever before. Thirty years ago, games not for kids/families games were made for and by men. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. There has been an active push by the community to make the hobby more accepting of, and attractive to, women. As a result, the places we play have become more open, cleaner and friendlier spaces to be in. Gone are the dimly lit retail stores stacked to the ceiling with games. Gone are the dank basements where mom never wanted to go.

Further, because of the immense popularity of Magic, these retail stores have had to change their business models. A store that only sells games is not competitive anymore; your store must also have space to play games. On Friday nights, you need to have space for Friday Night Magic, the weekly MtG “booster draft” tournament. During the rest of the week, you want to have people in your store playing games, or painting miniatures. In short, retail spaces have become the gathering spaces for gamers.  

A recent game prototyping event I attended, called Protospiel, was held in a retail shop in Mountain View, CA. It was a little crowded, but the store had enough space to hold 50 tables, each with room for 6 players. The amount of space this store dedicated to play-space was much larger than the amount of space dedicated to selling games (and snacks).  

And in conclusion…

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I wanted to provide an overview of why this hobby has suddenly (over the last 35+ years) exploded in popularity. I’ve given you the long answer, but the shorter answer is this: The time was right for innovation along multiple fronts — creative, business and technological — to turn a very niche hobby into a much more mainstream hobby. New games are being made, and the best games (and designers) are praised for their excellence, which raises the challenge to the next game designers to make even better games, which then attract even more people to the hobby.  

This is also a good place to add that many of us spend much of our day slaving over a hot keyboard or staring deeply into the soul of a computer screen. Perhaps tabletop gaming provides exactly what we need right now: fun, safe, human interaction.

A Guide to Getting Your First Film Made (On The Cheap)

Alright, so you’ve just graduated and you’re eager to make your first feature film. And you’re broke. Let’s just assume everyone reading this is broke. Where do you go from here?

Here are some tips to help you get started on your quest to create your own low-budget feature film, outside of the comfort of school:

Rule #1: Make a List of Everything You Have

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So you have a script written, but you need actors, a cinematographer, editor, costumes, craft services, and maybe even a director.

We all know that filmmaking is expensive, but if you’re a first-time filmmaker on a shoestring budget you’re far from a Hollywood level of production quality. So take some time to make a list of all the locations, equipment, actors, crew members, or props you might already have access to for little or no costs at all.

See if any of your friends have time or tools. Got a camera? That’s somewhere to start! And once you’ve made a list of everything you have that you can make a film with, that leaves…

Rule #2: Make a List of Everything You Need

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Reverse budgeting works: figure out what or who you need. That’s all a budget is. Now, itemize everything and everyone on that list. Do your research. Figure out how much you’re able to get for cheap or zilch.

There are three ways people pay for the budgeted line items:

  • pay now (cold-hard cash)
  • pay later (deferred payment based on profits made from the film)
  • pay through product placement (sometimes referred to as “in kind,” or the “you scratch my back/I scratch yours” deal).

Rule #3: Locations Are Expensive

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Ever wonder why so many low-budget movies seem to take place in just one location? Rodrigo Cortés’s “Buried.” Steven Knight’s “Locke.” Steve McQueen’s “Hunger.” Michael Snow’s utterly sublime Wavelength. Even Barry Jenkin’s Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” with a story that takes place throughout many decades in a character’s life, only has a handful of on-screen set locations throughout.

Every time you add a location to your story, you add in more costs and even more time. Keep that in mind when budgeting. Always remember your paperwork too. Paperwork is super important.

Rule #4: Sound is King

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You may be fretting about whether you have the most streamlined, high-tech, newest and hottest camera on the market for your first film project, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: Having good sound is equally important.

Just look at any documentary to see how good-quality audio can make a professional difference. You can find more creative solutions to shoot compelling visuals with a cheaper camera or very little lighting equipment, but audiences will be far less forgiving if your audio is impossible to listen to.

Rule #5: Have the Rights to the Music

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If you know someone who can do your soundtrack, if you can hire someone for cheap, or if you can make music yourself, go that route for sure.

But definitely, definitely do not use music that you have no rights to.

There are so many urban myths surrounding fair use laws and licensing, but the simple truth is that you can’t use anyone else’s music effects or soundtrack without their permission. Charles Burnett’s “The Killer of Sheep” wasn’t released for nearly 30 years for this very reason.

Get permission in writing if you can.

Rule #6: Thinking On Your Feet Is Okay

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If you went to film school or made some short films in the past, you’re probably well aware that it is often the case that things don’t go as planned when on set or in the editing room.

You may have spent months or even years writing the perfectly crafted script or creating storyboards and shot lists that are detailed to the teeth, but all of that is likely to change any given minute you spend on set. Let’s be real: problems happen all. the. time.

All legendary filmmakers have had to deal with this. What is their secret? They see these “problems” as creative opportunities. And as most film junkies know, some of the best scenes in movie history were completely improvised.

Rule #7: Marketing

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For most filmmakers, this is the hardest part. You’ve spent sweat, blood and tears making your baby, and now you need to deliver it to the people.

The toughest part after your film is made is getting people to care. We wish there was a catch-all tip for marketing indie movies, but there isn’t. However, we will say that marketing is something you need to be thinking of from day one, when you first begin writing the script. Throughout the process, reach out to professionals and hire a professional if you can.

What is your best advice for first-time feature filmmakers? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

 

First Day of Summer: 5 Awesome Movies To Watch Before Starting Your Summer At NYFA

Are you starting a course at NYFA this summer and wondering how best to use your time before you come for class? Here’s a tip — celebrate the summer doing what you love: watching films!

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There’s no happier way to spend a summer afternoon than by watching an awesome film with popcorn and a cold drink. Here are some fun movies you might want to check out to beat the heat.

1. “The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants” (2005)

At first this may sound like the average teen movie: four girls who are going to be separated for the first time over the summer all promise to stay in touch with each other. While shopping, they come across a pair of jeans that fits each of them perfectly, and they decide to share the pants among their group over the course of their summer holidays.

Yet the traveling pants serve another purpose: to teach the girls important lessons and infuse their lives with magic, miracles and the things that matter. This is a film about love, heartbreak, identity and facing adulthood that you won’t forget too soon.

2. “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997)

If romantic comedies or drama aren’t up your alley, and you like the taste of thrill, this horror/mystery flick may be what you need.

Once again, we have a group of four teenagers. This time, they’re covering up a car accident. A year later, they are stalked by a murderer. Drawing from the urban legend of The Hook, this film’s got quite a cult following, with two sequels and a great soundtrack of rock songs to chill out to.

3. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008)

Of course, you can’t go wrong with a Woody Allen comedy flick. Here, two American women are on a trip to Barcelona, where they encounter an alluring artist who’s into both of them … as well as his ex-wife.

Complete with a beach holiday in beautiful Spain, polyamory and stellar acting, this film has a dreamy and intoxicating quality that’s perfect to watch in summer.

4. “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006)

If you like road trips, this film is a safe bet. Meet the dysfunctional Hoover family, who are convinced that the youngest member, Olive, needs to win a beauty pageant. To that end, they embark on a cross-country journey in a VW bus.

Hilarious and heartbreaking, this gem of a film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two, including the prize for Best Original Screenplay.

5. “500 Days of Summer” (2009)

Not a summer film per se, but it deftly examines a lot of themes connected to our idea of an ‘endless summer’: true love, a perfect relationship, this period of joy we’re convinced shall never end, intoxication, childhood daydreams and so on. The film reverses the typical ‘boy meets girl and falls in love’ trope where the boy is hopelessly in love and the girl isn’t and is told in non-linear flashbacks.  This is a film about wanting something you can never have and being okay to live without it. Summers always end, but we need to keep on living and this movie will show you how.  

What’s your idea of a perfect summer? Are there any other films you need we should add to the line-up? Let us know in the comments below! Spend the summer studying visual and performing arts with NYFA.