Acting

Q&A with Actor, Producer, Writer, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Gina Parris

NYFA MFA Acting for Film alum and Trinidad and Tobago native, Gina Parris, has had more than a decade of experience in the entertainment industry as an actress, writer, and producer. Her interest in the entertainment world began by writing poems, which then evolved into writing her own monologues that she would then perform on stage. 

During her early days as an actress in Trinidad, Parris would perform in the World Laugh Festival (2011, 2012, 2013), Yangatang Tent, Caribbean Woman (Dir. by Trinidad native Hollywood actor Sullivan Walker), Treasure Island: The Musical, and T.V series Starvey’s Angels, where she played Gaga the Witch. 

Her talents springboarded her into other creative avenues like writing screenplays and going from stage acting to acting in film and television. Since her early days in the performing arts, she has lived by the motto, “take your career into your own hands,” and it was that drive that led her to create her own production company, Gina Parris Entertainment Ltd, which will celebrate its 10th Year Anniversary this August.

New York Film Academy had the opportunity to speak with Parris about everything from her award-winning career to the many upcoming projects Parris is involved with:

New York Film Academy (NYFA): You’ve had many opportunities and had some previous training before coming to New York Film Academy. Tell us more about what brought you to study at NYFA?

Gina Parris (GP): I came to the New York Film Academy to pursue a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) in Acting for Film (I graduated with Honors). The school was highly recommended by one of my friends from Trinidad, who had studied at the New York campus. I ended up deciding to attend NYFA at the Los Angeles campus because I would have eventually transferred there during my last year of study, and there felt like more opportunities for film acting in LA.

Before NYFA, I received formal training in acting with Trinbago icons such as Freddie Kissoon, Raymond Choo Kong, multiple Cacique award-winner Penelope Spencer (the Cacique award is the most prestigious acting award in Trinidad and Tobago), and Talent Factory Film, founded by talent manager and CEO of Question Mark Entertainment Ltd. Simon Baptiste. I still, however, wanted a professional degree in the field, especially since I have an entertainment company named Gina Parris Entertainment Ltd. I am also a member of the group Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT). PLOTT is a prestigious group of business women that support each other.

I am currently being mentored by celebrity Lisa Wickham, a media producer-director-TV personality in Trinidad and Tobago, and also creator of The Now Morning Show, which can be found on Facebook, Instagram and TTT (Broadcast channel in Trinidad and Tobago). 

While in the U.S, I became a member of Women in Film, where I was fortunate to be mentored by Sara Scott VP, of Production and Development at Universal Studios, and Randi Richmond SVP Production at NBCUniversal.

NYFA Alum Gina Parris

NYFA: Can you tell us about your short film A Twist of Life

GP: A Twist of Life is my thesis film, as well as the first short film that I ever wrote a script for and produced. I also acted as the lead. A Twist of Life is  also part of the official 2020 selection for the Palm Bay Caribe Film Festival. 

The film is about poliomyelitis victim Avyanna Wolf, who is unable to use her hands because they became deformed as a consequence of the disease. She has the ability to draw with her feet, but further complications arise when she is taken in from being being homeless by someone who takes advantage of her.

Acting in the lead role of Avyanna was a unique experience for me. As part of my role, I wore prosthetics created by Alonso aka Al Domino. I was on an extremely low budget, therefore instead of removing the prosthetics in between takes, I kept the prosthetics on from morning, until we wrapped at night, so I literally could not use my hands. My production assistant and classmate even volunteered to pull my pants down and back up (along with my underwear of course) when I had to use the bathroom. 

I also struggled to feed myself, so one of my cast members fed me, and when I was sniffling from a cold, my friend, Joy Ellison, put a tissue by my nose and said “blow.” Joy was also kind enough to let me use her house to film and, since she is a dialect coach, helped me with my American accent. 

I had an amazing crew and the director, Shashank Varma, was excellent at executing my vision. I also had the pleasure of working alongside my amazing cast, including Trinidad actor and writer Gerry Bednob, known for films such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Encino Man, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, amongst others. My cast also included talented NYFA alumni, including Natalie Whittle, known for films such as Much Ado About Nothing, Orbital Redux, and Speak Now. NYFA alum Chloe Paige Flowers, known for MVB Films’ Halloween Horror Stories Vol II and Public Relations. 

The film premiered at the Indie Night Film Festival in Hollywood and also screened at the Equality International Film Festival. A Twist of Life won the 2018 Excellence award from Metro Film and TV Film Festival, making me an award-winning filmmaker and my first trophy I have ever received for a film. 

In the future, I plan to develop A Twist of Life into my first feature film.

Poster for ‘A Twist of Life’

NYFA: Can you tell us about your short film Gangsters?

GP: Gangsters was the first short film I ever co-produced in the U.S. The co-creators of Gangsters are Freddie Basnight and Tiffany Lewis, who are also NYFA alum. 

I am proud of how the film project turned out, and it went on to win 12 awards across the following festivals: Mindfield Film Festival, Albuquerque, Queen Palm International Film Festival, Hollywood Guild Awards, Hollywood West Wing Film Competition, Pinnacle Film Awards, Indie Best Films Festival, LA Edge Film Awards, Hollywood Sun Awards, Hollywood Forever Film Festival, Alpha Film festival, and Dreamachine International film festival.

Poster for ‘Like a Dog With a Bone’

NYFA: Can you tell us about your latest series Like a Dog With a Bone?

GP: Like A Dog With A Bone: A Visual Guide to Surviving in the Entertainment Industry was influenced by my own homeless experience. When I moved into my car because of financial difficulties, I began filming my experience. It is an unfortunate reality that a lot of individuals become homeless while pursuing their dreams in entertainment. The series shows individuals that hit rock bottom, have experienced homelessness in the past, and those currently trying to make it in the entertainment field. 

I felt the need to create a series like this, so that other people can look at it and learn from the lives of others. Hopefully, in that way, they would not have to suffer like I did and they can use the survival skills that we implemented. 

Like A Dog With A Bone also features the following talented individuals: 

  • Ravyne Demyra Payne (actress, director, NYFA Alum): Known for her work on films such as: Moonlight Magnolia, Cover Girl, Honor Empty, and Casanova
  • Taromi Lourdes (actress and director from Trinidad and Tobago): An award-winning actress [World Wide Women’s Film Festival, Palm Bay Caribe Film Festival] and filmmaker, she has acted in films screened at Cannes, Los Angeles and London. She has also acted alongside NAACP nominee and Trinbagonian–American actor Winston Duke (Black Panther, Us).
  • Ayanna Cezann (producer, TV host, actress from Trinidad and Tobago): Ayanna is known for A Story About Wendy 1&2, ‘Til Death, and The Honest Honestest Truth.
  • Byron Knight (host, dancer, actor): Byron was also a cinematographer for The Honest Honestest Truth.
  • Louis Brown (producer, director, writer, NYFA alum): Louis is known for his work on The Lady in the Red Dress and Charleston Harbor. He has also done work on the show Black Lightning, and recently finished directing his series Forbidden Fruit.
  • Charles Parris (actor, cinematographer, director, radio host, editor from Trinidad and Tobago): Charles is another editor for Like A Dog With A Bone and is also known for his projects such as J Prince: Blood, J Prince: Turnaround and Trinity Isle, The Honest Honestest Truth, and A Twist of Life.
  • Freddie Basnight (actor, producer, director, writer, NYFA alumni): Freddie has appeared in Monster’s Club, Aftermath, Karl and Riley Parras. Freddie also enjoys creating his own content and is the co creator of the award winning short film Gangsters.
  • Errol Fabien (television/radio personality from Trinidad and Tobago): He has over 40yrs in the entertainment industry and has showed his talent in the acting and comedic arena. Errol, along with Banyan Ltd, started the first community television station named Gayelle The Channel; where he is currently the CEO, Chairman and Co- Founder.

NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

GP: Like A Dog With A Bone is currently in production and I am still looking for more funding.

The pilot for my TV series,The Honest Honestest Truth, aired on national television in Trinidad and Tobago in 2016 and 2017, and it is considered by The Guardian Newspapers as the first crime drama in T&T. As the creator, producer and writer for The Honest Honestest Truth and my first major project under my company, Gina Parris Entertainment Ltd., I plan on continuing the series. 

I was fortunate to have an amazing cast, including: Rebecca Foster (@bexfoster), who also did the posters for The Honest Honestest Truth and Like A Dog With A Bone, Kearn Samuel, Allan Ferreira, Allan Alvarez, Ayanna Cezanne, the late Brett Bengochea, Dillon Jimenez, Lester Torres, Eirnil Harry, Alister Edwards, Charles Parris and Roxanne Omalo. 

The cast also included celebrities from Trinidad and Tobago such as Errol Fabien, Allan Emmanuel aka Cyclops, and Jason Williams aka J.W. I was also honored that the first black Miss Universe, Trinidad and Tobago’s Janelle Penny Commissiong, showed her support for The Honest Honestest Truth

I will be collaborating with Jamaican born actress, producer, director and NYFA alum, Sherando Cupid, to bring Caribbean stories through film for the world to enjoy. Currently, Sherando and I are working on the film Caribbean Jew, which will be directed by Mikhail Marks and will be filmed in the U.S and Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to being one of the producers for the film, I will also be acting in it as well.

I am currently in discussions with Ms. Lesley- Ann Nelson, president of the Non-Profit Organization, Save Our Children Foundation, in Trinidad and Tobago about doing projects together to benefit children around the world. Ms. Nelson is also a member of Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT).

I will also be producing and acting in projects with Gold Piece films Inc. a production company founded by director, producer, writer and actor Andrew Lloyd Preston. I will be working with Gold Piece Films as a producer and actress for upcoming projects Brand and digital series Choices.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work since graduating?

GP: I was fortunate that while pursuing my MFA in Acting for Film, I was taught various aspects of the film process. I applied the acting techniques editing skills and filmmaking fundamentals that I learned to my work after I graduated. These teachings also helped me while I was judging/screening films for Diversity in the Cannes Short Film and Web Series Showcase, which is supported by Oscar, Tony and Emmy award-winner Viola Davis and her husband.

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

GP: Come with an open mind. Do not only learn about what you are majoring in but also learn other areas of the filmmaking process and focus on creating your own content. In the entertainment industry, you will notice that a lot of celebrities that excel do not only focus on one entertainment discipline. People take up various roles in the entertainment industry in order for their talent to be showcased. 

Do not depend on someone else to make your dreams become a reality; take your career into your own hands.

New York Film Academy thanks actress, producer, writer, and NYFA alum Gina Parris for taking the time to speak with us and wishes her success in the near future as her career continues!

To keep up with NYFA alum Gina Parris, take a look at her social/contact links below:
Instagram: @gina_parris
Instagram (Like A Dog With A Bone): @likeadogwitha
Website: www.ginaparrisactor.com
Website (The Honest Honestest Truth): http://thehonesthonestesttruth.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Mottola shooting the ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ interactive Netflix special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYFA: What was the inspiration behind Unrequited?

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

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

Mottola acting in his thesis film ‘Unrequited’

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

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

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

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

Remembering the Life and Work of Hollywood Legend Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas, Academy Award winner and icon of Hollywood ’s Golden Era, passed away at the age of 103 on Wednesday, February 6. With a life that spanned over a century, Douglas made a name for himself as an actor, writer, and philanthropist, as well as the patriarch of an award-winning Hollywood dynasty. 

Douglas was born in Amsterdam, New York in 1916 to a large and impoverished immigrant family, and as a young man entered the United States Navy during World War II. He had a passion for acting from a very early age and had already decided to become a professional actor before graduating high school.

After being medically discharged from the Navy after an injury at sea, Douglas found work in the New York acting scene, specifically in theatre and radio, including commercials and soap operas. It was his friend Lauren Bacall that convinced him to try acting in the movies; her recommendation to director Hal B. Wallis earned Douglas his debut screen role in the 1946 film The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, opposite Barbara Stanwyck.

Kirk Douglas

The Champion (1949)

Douglas filmed several roles after that, including the 1949 film Champion, where he played a hardened boxer. The film earned him his first Academy Award nomination and taught Douglas how to boost his career by pairing his intense, muscular physicality and steel blue eyes with suitable tough guy roles.

The next two decades saw Douglas rise to become one of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars, in big studio films like Young Man with a Horn (1950), Detective Story (1951), Along the Great Divide (1951), Ulysses (1954), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), The Vikings (1958), Lonely are the Brave (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), and The Arrangement (1969).

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas

Several of his films have stood the test of time, including 1951’s Ace in the Hole, director Billy Wilder’s first credit as both writer and producer, which went on to win Best Foreign Film at the Venice Film Festival. Douglas earned another Oscar nomination for his role in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), directed by Vincente Minnelli. Douglas paired with Minnelli again for 1956’s Lust for Life, playing tragic artist Vincent van Gogh, earning him his third Academy Award nomination in a seven-year span.

Douglas wasn’t afraid to use his star power for political statements. He produced two films directed by auteur Stanley Kubrick, both of which bucked from the trend of Hollywood’s Golden Era; 1957’s Paths of Glory was one of the few anti-war films of the period and 1960’s epic Roman slave rebellion story, Spartacus, was written by Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.

Kirk Douglas

Spartacus (1960)

Even after his star power faded with age, Douglas still acted in dozens of films from 1970 to 2008, including There Was a Crooked Man… (1970), The Final Countdown (1980), The Man from Snowy River (1982), Tough Guys (1986), and both an episode of The Simpsons and a television adaptation of Inherit the Wind in 1996.

After suffering from a severe stroke in 1996, Douglas underwent years of physical therapy and returned to acting in 2003 alongside several of his family members in It Runs in the Family. The film co-starred his ex-wife Diana Dill, his grandson, and his son, Academy Award winner Michael Douglas. At the age of 101, he appeared onstage to present Best Screenplay alongside his daughter-in-law, Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones. Shortly after his 1996 stroke, Douglas received an honorary Academy Award in person.

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas

More than just an actor, Douglas and his wife Anne donated millions to numerous charitable organizations, schools, medical facilities, and much more. Douglas was also a writer, and penned the 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son and the 2002 memoir My Stroke of Luck, detailing his recovery from his stroke. Douglas was even blogging on platforms such as Myspace and The Huffington Post as late as 2012. 

Through acting, writing, producing, and his broad philanthropic work, Douglas’s impact on Hollywood and the world-at-large over the past several decades is immeasurable. His death in Beverly Hills was first made known by his son, Michael.

“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” wrote Michael Douglas on his Instagram. “To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the Golden Age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

New York Film Academy is deeply saddened by the loss of Hollywood legend and Academy Award winner Kirk Douglas and passes along our sincere condolences to his friends and to the Douglas family. Rest in Peace.

View this post on Instagram

It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to. But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband. Kirk's life was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet. Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday and which will always remain true. Dad- I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son. #KirkDouglas

A post shared by Michael Douglas (@michaelkirkdouglas) on

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

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

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

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

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

Xiren Wang

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

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

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

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

Xiren Wang

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

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

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

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

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

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

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

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

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

Xiren Wang

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

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

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

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

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

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

These 8 Horror Movie Performances Will Leave You Unsettled

For some people, the fall season means sweater-wearing weather, pumpkin carving, hayrides, and snuggling under the covers in the morning. For other people, autumn  means haunted houses, creating spooky Halloween costumes, and binge watching horror movie classics. 

We can all agree that an on-screen performance can either make or break a movie—and horror movies are no different. Here are some actors and actresses with performances that left us shaking to the bones.

Don’t worry either, these performances are so good that you can watch these movies year round so you don’t have to wait for Halloween.

Toni Collette in Hereditary

In 2018, Ari Aster made his feature directorial debut with the bone-chilling, toe-curling nightmare, Hereditary. The film itself will rattle audience members to their core, but actress Toni Collette tackles the role of Annie, an artist turned wife turned mother, without missing a beat and takes her fictional character’s inner life beyond the lines of storytelling. Collette’s Annie is not just a victim in the film–she’s the soul of it, too, and possibly even its devil–she is pure terror.

There is one scene in the movie when Annie tells her son, “I never wanted to be your mother.” At that moment, past the heartbreaking cruelty and honesty, Annie slaps her hand to her mouth just a second too late in the realization that what she said can never be taken back. The words she uttered aren’t just sadistic; it’s sadistic because there is a semblance of truth that is spoken. Collete successfully portrayed the amalgam of backbreaking roles in Hereditary while struggling to deal with traumas left behind by her recently deceased mother. The way that Collette portrays panic and grief in such a visceral way won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Lupita Nyong’o in Us

12 Years a Slave and Black Panther star Lupita Nyong’o gives a chilling performance in Jordan Peele’s Us, his followup to Oscar winner Get Out. Nyong’o portrays both Adelaide Wilson, a mother with an unclear past, and Red, Adelaide’s evil doppelgänger. Early in the film, the audience is introduced to Red and her family who are clad in red jumpsuits and eerily resembles each member of Adelaid’s family. The doppelgängers are there to exact vengeance on the Wilson family but Peele doesn’t let the audience know why until near the end.

The most chilling part of Nyong’o’s performance as Red was her voice. To make her doppelgänger stand out, she drew from real-life psychosomatics. In an article published by Variety, Nyong’o said, “I was inspired by the condition spasmodic dysphonia, which is a condition that comes about from a trauma—sometimes emotional, sometimes physical—and it creates this spasming in your vocal cords that leads to an irregular flow of air.”

Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs

Anthony Hopkins was only on screen for 16 minutes as convicted serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 classic, Silence of the Lambs, but his performance was so memorable and superb in that brief amount of time that Hopkins ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Actor. However, there was a lot of suspense and anticipation that was built up around Lecter even when Hopkins wasn’t on screen. 

During the film, the audience is fed bits of information that helps heightens Hopkins’ on-screen performance and makes Lecter more grounded as a character. To the audience, Lecter is a villain yet not the villain–a mentor, maybe even a friend to the protagonist FBI agent played by Jodie Foster, but an opponent to her as well. The ability to portray a complex and technical character demonstrates why Hopkins was worthy of an Oscar for this role. It’s worth noting that Foster received an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in the film as well.

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Many little girls growing take dance lessons or even dream of being a famous ballerina. In Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, Natalie Portman portrays Nina, a young ballet dancer with a driving ambition so disturbing it makes the audience uncomfortable. Nina is a perfectionist willing to push herself over the edge for the sake of her art. 

In order to bring the prima donna to life, Portman spent hours a day training with the world’s best dancers, coaches, and teachers. Portman’s performance as the dancer who falls into madness is so convincing that it’s hard to remember that it’s just fiction. While Portman may not be able to completely relate to the dancer’s obsessive ambition, there is one thing Portman shares with Nina–Portman told Vanity Fair in 2011 there is a connection between the actress and her character: “The quest for perfection and the need of an artist to sort of please yourself and find your own way, not to be just trying to please other people.” 

Sissy Spacek in Carrie

A lot of people don’t recall their high school days quite as fondly as others may. Brian de Palma’s Carrie, released in 1976, plays on that teenage angst to an extreme degree in this Stephen King adaptation about a young abused girl who possesses very strange and terrifying powers. Actress Sissy Spacek portrays Carrie and Piper Laurie portrays Carrie’s religious fanatic mother. 

At 27 years old, Spacek received an Oscar nomination for role as Carrie. The audience can feel Carrie’s desperation and insecurity in every scene throughout the movie. Spacek was able to show the audience what everyone feels at some point in their life–feeling like an outsider and not being able to fit in. As a teenager, it can be very traumatizing to not fit in. Spacek was able to successfully deliver a frightening performance of a variety of emotions, including a great deal of frustration and fear. By the time of her–and the film’s–violent climax, the audience can see exactly how and why Carrie has been pushed to such a point.

Anthony Perkins in Psycho

A good horror or thriller doesn’t need to depend on violence, gore, or the supernatural to make it successful–or scary. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, featuring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, is a testament to that fact. In an interview with The Record in November 1990, Perkins, who portrayed the titular killer Norman Bates, said, “There’s no place to hide in Psycho.”

Perkins made his fame by playing the deranged motel owner, and went on to play Bates in several sequels. As a product of being a tormented child in Hollywood, Perkins was able to take his experience and pour it into his acting career–especially in roles where he needed to portray the darker side of nature. He played the role of the tense and repressed man well because he drew from personal experiences. Despite being soft-spoken and eerily calm for most of the movie, Perkins made Norman Bates one of the most famous and frightening horror movie monsters of all time.

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween

More than forty years ago, executive producer Irwin Yablans asked director John Carpenter to make a low-budget movie about babysitters getting murdered. Carpenter told The New York Times in 2018, “It was a horrible idea. But I wanted to make more movies, so I said, ‘Great!’” One of the greatest slasher villains of all time, Michael Myers, was born. 

Halloween helped launch a career for actress Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh, the aforementioned star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Curtis’s teen protagonist Laurie Strode was meant to be an innocent, repressed teenage girl who is quick on her feet. Her inner strength comes out as she’s forced to go toe-to-toe with an unstoppable killing machine, and Curtis made the role her own by the end of the first film. Since then, Halloween has spawned several sequels, remakes, and reboots, and Curtis has gone on to reprise the role of Laurie Strode in several subsequent films in the franchise: Halloween II, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection, the 2018 Halloween, and its upcoming sequel, 2020’s Halloween Kills.

Jack Nicholson in The Shining

Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson gives one of the most famous horror movie performances of all time in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, with multiple iconic scenes including Nicholson smashing through a door with an axe and screaming “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!”

Nicholson is not only an actor, he’s written and directed as well, and had the opportunity to write an entire scene for The Shining. He recalls being berated by his wife when he would be at home writing, telling The New York Times, “That’s what I was like when I got my divorce. I was under the pressure of being a family man with a daughter and one day I accepted a job to act in a movie in the daytime and I was writing a movie at night and I’m back in my little corner and my beloved wife Sandra walked in on what was unbeknownst to her, this maniac—and I told Stanley about it and we wrote it into the scene.”

Pulling from his own personal experiences at home, Nicholson was able to ground his growing supernatural insanity with the foundation of everyday pressures–talk about great acting!

Q&A with Filmmaker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Alum Dr. Ariel Orama López

Dr. Ariel Orama LópezNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Dr. Ariel Orama López has been incredibly productive since graduating from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, and has the accolades to prove it. His latest film, One, revolves around the incredible devastation his homeland of Puerto Rico suffered from during and after Hurricane Maria. 

López has been and written about by VoyageLA and other publications, distinguished for his achievements. Here are just a few quotes about him and his work:

Denis McCourt (Director of Conservatory & Outreach Programming in Coachella Valley Repertory & Former NYFA-LA Associate Chair for Performance Studies): AG Orloz (Dr. Ariel Orama López) brings a very important voice to story telling through film. Especially at this time in American history. He’s a brave and truthful artist.”

“AG Orloz (Dr. Ariel Orama López) aporta una voz muy importante a la narración de historias a través del cine. Especialmente en este momento en la historia de Estados Unidos. Es un artista valiente y de gran verosimilitud.”

William Lurh (Author and Professor – Film & Gender – NYU Seminar): “An impressive filmmaker.”

“Un cineasta impresionante.”

José R. Pagán (Journalist Primera Hora/GFR Media): “Artist in many ways, Orama is a graduate student of New York Film Academy and was awarded a scholarship by NYU in New York in an intensive summer workshop (about Film and Gender). He was able to share his published book on creativity, neuroscience and virtuality with Lin Manuel on his visit to the Island … He not only directs, but also stars in his stories … The plot of One interweaves poetry and other elements of art with aesthetic value to carry a message about the constant battles that Puerto Ricans fought almost two years ago. Their motto responds to the idea that not all stories/lives have been told.”

“Artista en muchos sentidos, Orama es egresado de New York Film Academy y fue becado por NYU en Nueva York en un intensivo de verano. Recientemente, pudo compartir su libro publicado sobre creatividad, neurociencia y virtualidad con Lin Manuel en su visita a la Isla. La peculiaridad de Orama es que no solo dirige, sino que también protagoniza sus historias … La trama de One entreteje poesía y otros elementos del arte con valor estético para llevar un mensaje sobre las batallas constantes que libraron los boricuas hace casi dos años. Su lema responde a la idea de que “no todas las vidas han sido contadas.”

Damaria Hernádez Mercado (Journalist El Nuevo Día/GFR Media): “The short film One, made in a surrealist tone, has received international praise and awards.”

“El cortometraje One, realizado en un tono surrealista, ha recibido elogios y galardones a nivel internacional.” 

América TV/Puerto Rico: “A tribute to the lost lives and the battles won after the passage of Hurricane Maria through Puerto Rico knocks on the doors of the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

“Un tributo a las vidas perdidas y las batallas ganadas tras el paso del huracán María por puerto rico toca las puertas de la Academia de Artes y Ciencias cinematográficas de Hollywood.”

Nicole Chacón (Publicist/News Anchor/Social Media – WAPA TV/WAPA America): “Without a doubt, Orama is a talented young man who makes his way telling our stories in international cinema.”

“Sin duda, Orama es un talentoso joven que se abre camino contando nuestras historias en el cine internacional.”

 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

 

New York Film Academy spoke with Dr. Ariel Orama López about the film, as well his next project Ysla, his deep connection to Puerto Rico, and his advice for current and future NYFA students:

El alumno de Actuación para Cine de la New York Film Academy, Dr. Ariel Orama López, ha estado trabajando imparablemente desde su graduación en el campus de Los Ángeles, y sus premios así lo prueban. Su última película, One, trata sobre la increíble devastación que sufrió su tierra natal, Puerto Rico, durante y después del huracán María. 

La New York Film Academy habló con el Dr. Ariel Orama López sobre su película, y sobre su próximo proyecto, Ysla, su conexión más intensa con Puerto Rico, además de sus consejos para todos los alumnos de la NYFA:

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

Dr. Ariel Orama López (AL): I am Dr. Ariel Orama López and AG Orloz is my artistic name. I have combined my formal studies in clinical psychology with additional training in film, literary creation, anatomy, media, paralegal studies and contemporary culture. Currently, I am a professor of psychology and acting, added to an extensive career of personal and professional achievements in different media and educational contexts, particularly as a writer, actor for commercials, television series and voiceovers, principal actor of independent movies and certified coach for artists. I have been an actor since 2001, professionally licensed, and started my duties as an independent film director in 2009. Recently, I was named as one of the Top Young Persons of Puerto Rico.

La New York Film Academy (NYFA): Para empezar, cuéntanos un poco más sobre ti. ¿De dónde vienes, y qué te llevó a la New York Film Academy?

Dr. Ariel Orama López (AL): Soy el doctor Ariel Orama López y AG Orloz es mi nombre artístico: he combinado mis estudios formales en psicología clínica con formaciones adicionales en cine, creación literaria, medios, estudios paralegales y cultura contemporánea. Actualmente, soy profesor de psicología y actuación, sumado a una trayectoria de logros personales y profesionales en distintos medios del país y espacios educativos, en las facetas de escritor, actor para comerciales, series, “voice-overs”, protagonista de proyectos independientes y coach certificado para artistas. Ejerzo como actor desde el 2001, con licencia profesional y comencé mis funciones como director de cine independiente en el 2009. Recientemente, recibí uno de los Premios Juventud de Puerto Rico. 

NYFA: Can you tell us about your film One

AL: One is an experimental Puerto Rican short film with a surrealist tone that represents the strong voice of the thousands of lives lost and the battles won after the ravages of the historic Hurricane Category 5 Maria. Recently, the project celebrated its first year with a continental tour, and has already earned 36 international laurels, two special invitations (Los Angeles and Spain) and 10 international prizes. It is in the process of eligibility for the Oscars, after an invitation to participate in a collective of short films that will be exhibited in Los Angeles in a Premiére block: One is the only Puerto Rican film in the collective, a great reason for celebration for all the Island. One has been praised and awarded in distinguished contexts of the world. The news of its eligibility process at the Oscars has been reviewed in different news media of the country, two years after the arrival of the Hurricane and in full analysis of the weather changes that are projected, worldwide.

NYFA: ¿Nos puedes contar más sobre tu película, “One”?

AL: One es un cortometraje puertorriqueño experimental con un tono surrealista que representa la voz contundente de las miles de vidas perdidas y las batallas ganadas luego de los estragos del histórico huracán Categoría 5 María. Recientemente, el proyecto cumplió su primer año con un recorrido continental, ya, con 36 laureles internacionales, dos invitaciones especiales (Los Ángeles y España) y 10 premios del Mundo. Se encuentra en su proceso de elegibilidad para los Oscars, luego de una invitación a participar de un colectivo de cortometrajes que se expondrán en Los Ángeles en un bloque Premiére: One es el único proyecto de Puerto Rico en el colectivo, motivo de gran celebración para toda la Isla. Ha sido elogiado y galardonado en contextos distinguidos del Mundo. La noticia de su proceso de elegibilidad ha sido reseñada en distintos medios impresos y noticiosos del país, ya en la fecha de los dos años de la llegada del Huracán y en pleno análisis de los cambios climatológicos que se proyectan, a nivel Mundial. 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

NYFA: What inspired you to make One?

AL: I experienced the ravages of Hurricane Maria closely: I live in the Eastern zone of Puerto Rico, the most devastated, so I could closely experience the collective and individual needs of Puerto Ricans. As a media writer, I distinguished the efforts of artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda, whom I had the privilege of meeting recently: he received my published book on neuroscience and creativity and I have the opportunity of briefly telling him about my next project, my first complete film called Ysla. The biggest inspiration for One? The thousands of lives lost and, above all, the first person who died probably east, near the ocean and in a heartbreaking way: there was born the character of One.

NYFA: ¿Qué te inspiró a crear “One”?

AL: Viví los estragos del huracán María de cerca: resido en la zona Este de Puerto Rico, la más devastada, por lo cual, pude experimentar de cerca las necesidades colectivas e individuales de los puertorriqueños. Como escritor de medios, distinguí los esfuerzos de artistas como Lin-Manuel Miranda, a quien tuve el privilegio de conocer, regalarle mi libro sobre neurociencia y creatividad y platicarle brevemente de mi próximo proyecto, mi filme Ysla. ¿La mayor inspiración para One? Las miles de vidas que perdieron su vida y, sobre todo, la primera persona que murió que, en teoría, hipotetizo que fue en la zona este, cercano al océano y de una forma desgarradora: allí nació el personaje de One.

NYFA: What was it like filming One?

AL: One is a project with an intensity aura and bright in images. One year after Maria, in our Eastern coastal areas, the ravages still perpetuated, visible in ocean waters and vegetation. Within all this revitalization process, the sargassum emanated a golden color when exposed to the sun: it was there that I thought that, in so much darkness, our surroundings always shone, despite all that has happened. Just at that moment, the mass media began to present the reality of the thousands of lives lost on the Island; I did not hesitate a second to create the story, become a spokesperson for this overwhelming message worldwide and join forces with actors and singers from the Island recognized in the international scope, combined with new blood on acting and producing. 

It is important to point out that I direct and star in my stories: it is a double challenge. Thank God, all the independent films in which I have worked in both roles have been awarded and recognized worldwide. I find it very difficult to define my line of protagonist and director: my commitment is complete, in both roles. And so it has been evidenced by all the beautiful acknowledgment we have received.

NYFA: ¿Cómo fue para ti grabar “One”?

AL: One es un proyecto con un aura de intensidad. A un año de María, en nuestras zonas costeras del Este aún se perpetuaban los estragos, visible operacionalmente en las aguas del océano y en la vegetación. Me llamó la atención que, dentro de todo ese proceso de revitalización, el color del sargazo emanaba un color dorado al exponerse al sol: fue allí donde pensé que, dentro de tanta oscuridad, siempre brillaba nuestro entorno, pese a todo lo vivido. Justo en ese instante, los medios masivos comenzaron a presentar la realidad de las miles de vidas perdidas en la Isla: no dudé un segundo en crear la historia, convertirme en portavoz de este mensaje contundente a nivel mundial y aunar esfuerzos con actores y cantantes de la Isla reconocidos en el ámbito internacional, sumado con sangre nueva en actuación y producción. Es importante precisar que yo dirijo y protagonizo mis historias: es un doble reto. Gracias a Dios, todos los filmes en los que he fungido en ambos roles han sido galardonados y reconocidos a nivel mundial. Me resulta muy difícil definir mi línea de protagonista y director: mi compromiso es cabal, en ambos roles. Y así ha sido evidenciado.

NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

AL: I am in the postproduction phase of a movie titled Ysla (Ysland) (2020). The film aims to present the stories of a current Puerto Rican in his look towards 2020. It is a collaboration of Puerto Rico, the United States, Colombia, and Spain that takes the Christmas season as its starting point. It is a project of great conceptual aesthetics, musicality, poetry and national sense, without ignoring our universality.

 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

 

NYFA: ¿Tienes otros proyectos en los que has estado trabajando o que estás preparando?

AL: En estos momentos, me encuentro en la fase de postproducción de la película completa titulada Isla (Ysland) (2020). El filme pretende presentar las historias del puertorriqueño actual en su mirada hacia el 2020. Es una colaboración de Puerto Rico, Estados Unidos, Colombia y España que toma como partida la temporada de la Navidad. Es un proyecto de gran estética conceptual, musicalidad, poesía y sentido patrio, sin ignorar nuestra universalidad.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on One, or your work in general?

AL: I remember my experiences in NYFA with great enthusiasm. The opportunity to create short films on the Universal Studios backlot in Los Angeles and the learning acquired to work the acting process for cinema, from the verisimilitude and the internal search, were fundamental to create, through the direction and starring roles. Thank God, I already have more than 60 laurels in my career—and have worked on more than 200 creative projects—adding to awards in acting, production, direction, composition, and script. Being Puerto Rican, in times of political transition to situations that had such a worldwide impact and after a such predominant devastation with a Category 5 hurricane, is a heroic event. 

Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón inspire me; the ability to love his homeland enough to develop a project as wonderful as Roma (Cuarón), with such aesthetics and love for its roots is admirable—Mexico has always been close to my heart. I had the opportunity to share physical space with immigrants friends and they were the first ones who supported me while I was traveling through the streets of Los Angeles, on my way to NYFA, inspired by faith and a precise dream: to be part of the history of cinema in Puerto Rico, from a nontraditional perspective and with a different prism. I feel that I have already done it and I thank God for it.

NYFA: De todo lo que aprendiste en NYFA ¿Que ha sido lo que más te ha ayudado creando One, o en tu trabajo en general?

AL: Recuerdo mis experiencias en NYFA con sumo entusiasmo. La oportunidad de crear cortometrajes en los estudios universales y el aprendizaje adquirido para trabajar el proceso actoral para cine, desde la verosimilitud y la búsqueda interior, fueron fundamentales para crear, a través de la dirección y la actuación principal. Gracias a Dios, ya poseo más de 50 laureles en mi trayectoria -con más de 200 proyectos creativos-, sumado a premios en actuación principal, producción, dirección, composición y guion: ser puertorriqueño, en tiempos de transición política ante situaciones que tuvieron tanta repercusión a nivel mundial y luego de una devastación tan predominante, luego de un huracán tan impresionante, es un hecho heroico. 

Guillermo del Toro y Alfonso Cuarón me inspiran: la capacidad de amar a su patria para gestar un proyecto tan maravilloso como Roma (Cuarón), con tanta estética y amor a sus raíces es admirable: México siempre ha estado cercano a mi corazón: tuve la oportunidad de compartir espacio físico con amigos inmigrantes y ellos fueron los primeros que me apoyaron mientras transitaba por las calles de Los Ángeles, de camino a NYFA, inspirado por la fe y un sueño preciso: ser parte de la historia del cine en Puerto Rico, desde la mirada no tradicional y con un prisma diferente. Siento que ya lo he logrado y le agradezco a Dios por ello.

 

Dr. Ariel Orama López

 

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

AL: For students who start at NYFA—enjoy the process, every moment. Be open to work with colleagues from different parts of the world. May they open themselves to the experience of converting their art into their mission of life and that they understand the immeasurable value of the seventh art as a vehicle for healing. As a powerful tool to create new paradigms. As an ingenious space to realize dreams and great purposes. As a great alternative to understand the environment and to create new horizons. As a free and eternal space to dream an immense universe and an optimal world.

NYFA: ¿Qué consejo le darías a los estudiantes que acaban de comenzar sus estudios en NYFA?

AL: A los estudiantes que inician en NYFA, disfruten del proceso, en cada instante. Que estén abiertos a trabajar con colegas de distintas partes del Mundo. Que se abran a la experiencia de convertir su arte en su misión de vida y que entiendan el valor inconmensurable del séptimo arte como vehículo para sanar. Como una herramienta poderosa para crear nuevos paradigmas. Como un espacio ingenioso para materializar sueños y grandes propósitos. Como una gran alternativa para entender el entorno y para crear nuevos horizontes. Como un espacio libre y eterno para soñar un Universo inmenso y un Mundo óptimo.  

NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

AL: Thank you very much for always appreciating my experiences in fine arts: tons of blessings for my colleagues and friends from my alma Mater, NYFA. And let’s pray for the Oscars nomination for Puerto Rico!

NYFA: ¿Hay algo más que te gustaría comentar?

AL: Muchísimas gracias por siempre apreciar mis experiencias en las bellas artes. Muchísimas bendiciones para todos mis colegas y amigos de mi Alma Mater, NYFA. ¡Y recemos por la nominación para el Óscar para Puerto Rico! 

New York Film Academy thanks Acting for Film alum Dr. Ariel Orama López for taking the time to speak with us and encourages everyone to check out his socially and culturally important work!

La New York Film Academy agradece al alumno de ‘Actuación para Cine’ Dr. Ariel Orama López por su colaboración y por su tiempo contestando nuestra preguntas, y anima a todos nuestros lectores a revisar su trabajo, que es muy muy importante a nivel social y cultural. 

New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Alum Ludovic Coutaud is a ‘Lunatic Clown’


ludovic coutaud hdFrench actor Ludovic Coutaud knew within minutes of stepping into New York Film Academy (NYFA) that he was destined to study acting at the school. He did just that, and now the Acting for Film alum is back in Marseille, France, and writing, producing, and starring in the unique abstract series showcasing the art of clowning, Lunatic Clown in Colors.

The multi-talented actor is also a writer for New York Film Academy’s Student Resources page, and is currently at work on another season for his webseries. New York Film Academy spoke with Acting for Film alum Ludovic Coutaud about his time at NYFA, the art of clowning, and what advice he has for current and future acting students of New York Film Academy:

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

Ludovic Coutaud (LC): Hello there! I am from the land of cheeses, I mean France, the south in Marseille. I visited New York with my parents during the tough winter of 2010 and never had in mind to come live here. I remember we were walking past the former main campus in Union Square; we entered the building and right away the welcome was wonderful! We went upstairs and met with the Director of Admissions. After a few minutes, I already felt absolutely right at home. 

The same evening we returned to our rented apartment and I recalled having one of the most relaxed sleep of my life, already dreaming of applying to the school. When I landed back in Marseille, still in contact with the staff, I started the application to join the Acting for Film program in March 2011.

NYFA: Can you tell us about your webseries Lunatic Clown in Colors?

LC: Of course! It is an original abstract show, filmed in Marseille and showcasing all the unique colors the company represent. Indeed, I value expressions, eccentricity, and folly—all through vibrant colors. Each episode of Season One introduces a spontaneous and yet structured Lunatic Clown in a real location. It is for all, and a way to escape into other codes of communication and through physicality. The mission is to “transport the audience in an imaginary box”—hear their thoughts and minds.

NYFA: What inspired you to make Lunatic Clown in Colors?

LC: My crazy mind, like my friends say. I would say the audiences in general, and their feedback maybe, who felt particularly interested in knowing more about these likable clowns. When I returned to France, I wanted to keep creating in a new medium, involve the style and work with all that I learned at NYFA mixing other works—my own technique in this brand new show. When I did finish the first episode, I remember thinking of my very first Acting for Film class and the fun we had. Clowning is a very loud, active, misunderstood art but it is absolutely narrowed down like any other through film.

NYFA: What are your plans for Lunatic Clown?

LC: I am currently filming Season Two with the same crew and some new members. This time I intend to release nine episodes. I also have the Lunatic Clown Classes that I will teach in partnership with one company in Marseille starting September, and privately as well. The Lunatic Clown travels, always, and five new cities are set for release on social media, starting with Brussels, then Lisbon, a passage in Madrid, then Moscow and St. Petersburg for their own series. Each city has their own hashtags and can be seen daily on Instagram.

NYFA: You write, act, and produce this webseries. Do you have a preference for any particular discipline? If so, why?

LC: I honestly love the struggle—each discipline represents a great challenge. I say ‘struggle’ because I do all of it myself and it can be hard at times… or a lonely ride. Nonetheless, I never get bored and always can bounce back with a new hat.

Creating a new show on paper is a small percentage of it, then comes the producing game that I like to call ‘team hunting’, gathering the ideal team for a special project. The clowning part is actually the most relaxed or the one that happens the least, which is funny when I think of it. 

It is worth every moment when I put on the makeup—I know it is happening for real and with the people I love.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Lunatic Clown, or your work in general?

LC: My love went directly for the Voice and Movement classes naturally, yet all the classes have in time helped me improve in front of the camera, including text analysis or even going ‘simple’. Like I said above, the different techniques that the faculty taught me for TV and film mainly had a strong impact in the making of Lunatic Clown in Colors. 

After graduating, during my OPT and while on an artist visa, I had the chance to experiment, work, try, fail, and find my stamp onto the artistic world. NYFA embraced my energetic Frenchness and was very open to see where it was going throughout the program. I will never, ever forget the memorable human creative voyage NYFA was for me. Hooray Acting for Film March 2011 Section B!

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

LC: Make the most of it! Listen to everything everyone tells you, especially the teachers. They are there for a reason and have done it themselves. 

Go audition for every possible student film, even if they are very short or unpaid. The program is there for you to practice while your acting muscle grows. Your craft will never be perfect but it will be sharp if you keep learning. Go listen to the Q&As even if you don’t know the panel and the person—every department is very important in the making of a project and you need to be aware of it. 

Be on time and finally have fun in class. After all, it is acting!

NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

LC: I also write in French for the Londres Mag, a magazine for the French community in London, and I am part of the creative team for the production company Vuelven en Vida, based in Merida (Mexico). By the way, they did experience the Lunatic Clown technique too! I also teach English and self-development classes as well. All my work and contact info can be found on this fresh and vibrant website: http://ludoviccoutaud.com/

I also keep in touch with all my New York City contacts, theatre companies for future theatre productions, and workshops involving clowning. I plan on developing the clown with Season Two and Season Three. There are endless beautiful simple stories to tell and I aim to produce as much for now. Three seasons seems enough content to broadcast the work abroad.

NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

LC: I look forward to introduce Lunatic Clown to New York Film Academy one day, that would be such a delightful moment for me! Thank you NYFA and enjoy Lunatic Clown in Colors on YouTube! Find me on all other social medias and remember clowns aren’t just serial killers or freaky folks or work in a circus—they also have a heart full of love!

New York Film Academy thanks Acting for Film alum Ludovic Coutaud and encourages everyone to check out his YouTube webseries Lunatic Clown in Colors!

Getting Yourself Ready for Your International Acting Audition

New York Film Academy (NYFA) boasts a diverse, international student body with aspiring performers and visual artists coming from over 120 countries, with campuses and locations around the globe. Students studying at NYFA are gaining experience from day one that will help them later on as professionals in the industry–working with international collaborators.

Whether Americans auditioning abroad, or international actors auditioning in the United States, there are certain extra steps to take when preparing for your international acting audition. Here are some of them:

international map plane

Your website

A personal, polished website is incredibly important as your digital calling card, and you should make sure it is available to the most amount of people. Since Hollywood, New York, Australia, and the UK are major hubs for film work, it goes without saying that in addition to your native language, your website should be available in English. Ideally, you can even add extensions that translate your site into multiple languages, in case any auditions pop up in Paris or Tokyo, for example!

Your reel

The same goes for your reel. Adding subtitles is a smart idea and relatively simple, but you can do more. A reel should broadly showcase your talents, and for international auditions, you should include various accents as well, to show you are adaptable to projects in different locations. Put all your talent out there for the industry to see.

Familiarize yourself

If you are auditioning in a location you’re not too knowledgeable about, you should familiarize yourself with major works and names from that region. For example, if you are auditioning for a French production, learning the masters of French cinema, as well as contemporary French actors and actresses, will be a huge plus because it will allow you to be on the same page when communicating with producers, directors, and casting directors. 

Use the internet

While sites like Backstage.com are an invaluable research tool in New York and Los Angeles (and even London), it’s not as useful in locales like Paris or Sydney. Don’t despair though–every major city and region will have similar sites to help you find auditions and gigs. Using a search engine to find these services shouldn’t be too difficult, but you can always start simple with Craigslist, Facebook, and other international websites that know no borders.

Get your passport ready

Make sure you have a valid passport that hasn’t expired, because you never know when your agent might call with the perfect gig. It would be a shame if it turns out you’re unable to fly to the shoot and perform, so always be prepared to jump on a flight–you can learn your lines overnight, but you can’t get a passport that quickly! 

If you’re interested in attending the acting school at New York Film Academy, you can find more information on our programs here.

Tips to Become an Audiobook Narrator

Audiobooks have become an increasingly popular medium with the advent of smartphones and apps like Audible that have evolved into the literary equivalent of Netflix and Hulu. Indeed, there is now a much larger avenue for voice actors to find work–reading or performing novels, short stories, biographies, Shakespeare, and everything else that can be transcribed into audio.

These voice actors have to treat their auditions and jobs differently than film or stage actors. Here are five tips for actors who are interested in becoming an audiobook narrator.

Mic Microphone Recording Studio

Create a unique demo

No different than your reel, a voice demo is key to landing an audition or a job in the voiceover business. The quality of the audio is perhaps even more important than if it were a video reel, and including a diverse array of genres and media will give you broader options for audiobook projects. Be sure to update your demo regularly as works come up to keep your brand fresh and relevant.

Get some lip balm 

Staying hydrated is one major thing to never forget as a working actor, especially for voice actors. But quenching your thirst with a constantly full bottle of water isn’t all it takes–you’ll need to make sure your lips stay just as moist as your tongue and throat. Keep moisturizing lip balm in your bag and don’t forget to keep it close to you and your mic while in the recording booth. 

Preserve your stamina

Audiobooks can be incredibly lengthy–A Dance with Dragonsthe 1,016 page-long fifth book in the Game of Thrones series, is 48 hours and 55 minutes long, for example. Since obviously a project like this wouldn’t be finished in a single recording session, you will need to prepare for hours of exercising your voice. Everything from smoking to eating cheese could have an effect on your vocal cords, so doing everything you can–including minimizing speech outside of work leading up to the gig–is important. You’ll also need plenty of rest and sleep to make sure your energy never wanes during these epic recording sessions.

Read More

Reading more books in the genre you’re working in, whether it’s mystery novels or military histories, will help you get a feel for the rhythm of the writing, something you will be translating in your own tone and cadence. Of course the best thing to do before an audiobook recording is to read the actual book you’ll be working on–that way no surprises show up, whether they are tough pronunciations or an author’s awkward sentence structure. Unless you’re doing a cold reading, you normally would review a script before performing it; audiobooks are no different.

Communication

Behind every great audiobook is a great director, monitoring their performers closely from the control room, or perhaps even from within the recording booth itself. Make sure to take their direction closely, and also to work with them–like any other performance, two-way communication with your director is key to bringing out your best. This is especially important in fiction audiobooks, where often you’ll be performing scenes that would fit right in on a stage.

Actors That Didn’t Get the Part and Bounced Back Better Than Ever

For actors, auditioning for parts is a numbers game–the more you audition, the better shot you have at being cast in a role that’s just right for you. This numbers game also means there are a lot more no’s than yes’s, and that goes for just about any actor, even world famous megastars and Oscar-winners. For many of these stars, they worked their way up to the A-list from the very bottom, coming close to a star-making turn that just wasn’t meant to be.

Kate Winslet

Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Shakespearean adaptation Romeo + Juliet cast Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the doomed title couple. Kate Winslet was up for the role but missed out on the chance to star in an epic romance with DiCaprio… at least until a year later when she was cast by James Cameron to star in Best Picture and box office record smasher Titanic.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Winslet’s casting as Titanic’s Rose meant another actress was out of luck–Gwyneth Paltrow. However, that probably freed her up to audition for other films, including Shakespeare in Love, which won Best Picture a year after Titanic. Two decades later, Paltrow appeared in another box office juggernaut, Avengers: Endgame, which recently broke Titanic’s record and could be the highest grossing film of all time by the end of the summer.

Henry Cavill

Cavill had a few roles to his name before being cast as ultimate superhero Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel, but he would have been a lot more familiar to movie audiences a lot sooner if he had won another iconic role–James Bond. When 007 producers were looking to reboot the spy franchise in 2005, several young actors were considered, including Cavill, who made it to a shortlist that included Hugh Jackman, Karl Urban, and Goran Višnjić. According to director Martin Campbell, Cavill was seriously considered for the role, but at 22 years old, was too young. However, it’s not too late for him to land the role in the future

007 James Bond

Renée Zellweger

Zellweger was considered for the role of Satine in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge but Nicole Kidman was cast instead. Zellweger bounced back quickly though, scoring the lead role in the beloved adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary, for which she received her first Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. The successful franchise returned in 2004 with Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Bridget Jones’s Baby in 2016. Most recently, Zellweger wrapped up biopic Judy in which she plays Judy Garland.

Tom Hiddleston

Hiddleston was close to being cast as Norse god Thor in the title Marvel film, so close that he even filmed screen tests with a prop hammer and blond wig. The role ultimately went to Chris Hemsworth, but Hiddleston didn’t leave empty-handed–he scored the role of Thor’s brother, Loki. Over the course of three Thor films and three Avengers films, Loki has become a fan-favorite anti-hero and Hiddleston a Hollywood A-list household name.

Acting Scams: How to Identify and Avoid Them

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

Acting Scams

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

Manager Scams

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

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

Talent Agent Scams

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

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

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

Online Scams

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

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

Contract Scams

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

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

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

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

Interested in Applying? Click Here

 

7 Tips for a Perfect Self Tape

Self-tapes are what many actors and casting directors refer to when an audition is done through digital casting–rather than trying out in person, performers submit video of their audition. For some actors, this can be more daunting than an in-person audition while for others, it can be less stressful. In either case, it’s important to remember some tried and true tips, including the following:

Read everything you’re given

Depending on the production and the script, specific details can be including in a casting notice to help the actor, including information related to text analysis questions: who, what, where, when, and why?

Highlight the parts you will be trying out for and circle any important verbs or words to stress or overplay. Throughout your sides, focus all attention on any physical details put in by the writer. If none are present, make bold choices and be a risk-taker.

Acting Audition

Find a reader

Teamwork can be key to success for self-tapes. Ask a fellow classmate or friend for help, feeding you lines and handling the camera while you focus on performance. Acting with a partner can help you disappear more into the scene.

But it’s okay if you can’t

However, if no friend, classmate, or teacher can be found, rehearse the scene a few times on your own before you turn the camera on, and then record at least three different takes, including different acting choices if possible. This will give you options to choose from when sending out the tape. Even if you can’t get feedback in the moment, feel free to send the footage to a trusted friend or colleague for notes before sending out the final version to casting.

Don’t forget to slate

In the process of recording a self-tape audition, it is expected to slate, which means introduce yourself. Be natural when giving your name and contact information, and be clear so if your performance goes well, you will already have made a memorable impression. Shift down your head at the end of your slate for a small pause to transition from your introduction to the scene itself.

Act for film

Unlike an in person audition, you will need to do a little self-directing for the camera. Find your mark on the floor (use tape if necessary) to make sure you are standing where you need to be in frame. You can put tape on the wall or a piece of paper behind the camera as well to provide yourself an eyeline.

Make sure the most important thing we see in the video is you, ideally in front of a plain wall to avoid visual distraction.

Dress appropriately

This doesn’t mean renting out a Victorian corset if it’s a period piece, but make sure what you are wearing isn’t distracting from the performance, in the same vein as the background behind you. Avoid any flashy colors, patterns, logos of any sorts or any shapes of forms. Less is more like when walking in for a live audition. Make up as well should be a minimum except if the role demands more. The less external distractions there are, the more casting will focus on you and your performance.

Follow up!

Finally, the follow up on these auditions is just as important as any other job interview. Be clear and concise in your emails or voicemails, following up a few days after submitting your tape. You won’t come off as needy or desperate–following up is standard procedure and will make sure you weren’t forgotten or lost in the shuffle.

Interested in Applying? Click Here

6 Tips For Building Your Film Portfolio

Even with all the connections in the world, and the most expensive camera money can buy, you probably won’t go too far in the film industry without a great body of work. Your portfolio is arguably the most important asset you have, and in order to gain the attention of the people you want to meet and work with, your portfolio must be relevant and meaningful.

How do you build this portfolio? If you’re struggling on how to get your portfolio in motion, here’s six useful tips for getting started:

Stay Active in School

As a film student, it can be easy to get caught up in exciting plans for the future (or even the weekend), but you should keep in mind that the school projects you’re currently working on aren’t just for a grade – they are your time to build a portfolio.

Your time in film school, while it can sometimes seem neverending, is perhaps one of the few times in your entire career where you sit down and entirely focus on YOU. Not your clients, your boss, your producer – no, you are focusing entirely on self-improvement during film school. Taking advantage of this time and taking it seriously will be the biggest way to get a jumpstart on your portfolio.

Get ahead in school and make the most of it by:

  • Quit procrastinating and get started early. Act like you’re getting paid to work on every project.
  • Stay humble and assume your work needs improvement whenever possible.
  • Ask instructors lots of questions and don’t be afraid to bug them.
  • Volunteer to assist other classmates with shoots and edits.
  • Ask for feedback on your work from classmates and instructors.
  • Attend extracurricular workshops and events whenever possible.

Search the closest job boards and attend school functions to connect with your most experienced teachers or fellow students. Initiating relationships with these people will provide you with a valuable network of directors, editors, and actors. Your network will follow you when you graduate.

YouTube

Start a YouTube Series

When you’re competing for gigs in the film industry, it’s highly advantageous to showcase a multifaceted skill set. Soon after graduation, challenge yourself to write, produce, and direct an original series. Execute the entire process from inception to final product to marketing it.

Regardless of the success, completing this project will give you real world experience creating and producing a project from end to end. It will also send the message to potential hiring producers that you have the work ethic and diligence to finish what you started. Many people coming out of film school have never put together their own project or have what it takes to see something through outside of film school. Don’t get too caught up in view counts or trying to launch the next Stranger Things, the key is that having the ability to show that you can produce a whole series will speak volumes.

IMDb Pro

IMDb pro is a useful resource for obtaining the contact information of nearly anyone in the film industry. There is a monthly membership fee, but you will benefit greatly from being able to reach thousands of producers, directors, editors, and crew. The service provides filmographies and credits for millions of titles along with access to in-development projects not listed on IMDb. Many of these features will gain importance as you progress in your career and must evaluate track records, cast relationships, and search for casting alternatives.   

When you’re first developing your portfolio, you should use this tool to contact people you’re interested in working with. Get creative on how you can become a part of their network and give them a call. Rather than spam the entire catalogue, do your homework on the person you’re contacting and know the right time to make your move. Lead with your strengths and learn to project confidence rather than desperation. If you are genuine and effective, doors will open.

Start In Commercial Work

Every artist would like full-time film work, but sometimes things don’t line up immediately. Commercial & corporate video work can help keep you active in the general video production industry. Apply for corporate video jobs or offer services to business owners in your personal network to make web videos, commercials, marketing content, and other videos they might need. Even if you make a few thousand dollars, it’s money that can be used to refine your portfolio even further. You can pull shots from these videos that look more film-like to build your overall demo reel and they’ll never know it was a small business video.

48 Hour Film Project

The 48 Hour Film Project is a multi-city contest in which teams of participants draw a genre from a hat and then write, shoot, and edit a movie in 48 hours. Teams have full control over plots except for a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film. The award for Best Film and a cash prize is awarded to entries that demonstrate artistic merit, technical merit, and adherence to the assignment. Films are then premiered at a local theatre for friends and family.

An event like this is a fun way to add a completed project to your portfolio. Additionally, if you produce a good piece, there’s always a chance you could win. Contestants have gone on to have success in other film festivals and others used recognition of their film to get paying work. Film Festivals are also great vehicles for making connections with people in your craft, particularly those who have an interest in your preferred genre. Make the most of the platform these organizations provide in order to get new people talking about your work.

Photo Editing Photoshop Lightroom

Produce Music Videos

Music videos are one of the more fun ways to bring good work to your portfolio. There is constant demand for this service from young people who are rappers, singers, or in bands. Building a network of music artists is considerably easy to do via Twitter or Instagram. As you acquire more paying clients, shooting music videos can turn into a solid source of money for new equipment. It is actually much easier to get funding for these videos than a short film.

Creating videos for music artists allows you to explore creatively and will add things to your portfolio that commercial work won’t. Try to find artists who are looking to incorporate elements of film to their videos. While music videos are generally 2-3 minutes long, they usually welcome obscure or artistic concepts. It’s the perfect chance to showcase precise visual storytelling, and to capture a few extra shots for your demo reel.  

 

Article by Mike Clum.

Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 16 full-time video production professionals.

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2019 Oscars: Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role:

Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Mahershala Ali appeared as a regular on the television series Crossing Jordan, Threat Matrix, and The 4400 before pivoting to films with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Predators, and The Place Beyond the Pines. He has still acted in many high profile television series roles since, including House of Cards, Luke Cage, Treme, Alphas, and True Detective. This is his second nomination; he previously won in this category for Moonlight in 2017.

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Adam Driver came to fame for his supporting role in HBO’s Girls, around the same time he appeared in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. The NYFA guest speaker became a Hollywood superstar after being cast as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Additional credits with high-profile directors include Paterson, Inside Llewyn Davis, Midnight Special, Logan Lucky, Frances Ha, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, and Silence. This is his first Oscar nomination.

Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born

This is the first Oscar nomination for Sam Elliott, despite the actor having appeared in countless roles since his film debut in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Just a few of his credits include Road House, Mask, Gettysburg, Tombstone, The Golden Compass, Hulk, Thank You for Smoking, and his iconic role as The Stranger in The Big Lebowski. His television credits are not sparse, either—he’s appeared as a regular or recurring character on Justified, Mission: Impossible, Grace and Frankie, and currently stars on Netflix’s The Ranch.

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Richard E. Grant has been appearing in films for over three decades with credits including L.A. Story, Henry & June, The Player, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Age of Innocence, Spice World, Gosford Park, and Corpse Bride. He has been taking on more high-profile roles of late, including roles in Logan, Doctor Who, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. This is his first Oscar nomination.

Sam Rockwell, Vice

Sam Rockwell has been acting since the late 1980s, slowly gaining recognition and prominence through a series of roles in films including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lawn Dogs, The Green Mile, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His supporting role in Galaxy Quest and starring role in George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind helped certify Rockwell as a household name, and he’s since appeared in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Matchstick Men, Iron Man 2, Seven Psychopaths, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This is his second Oscar nomination; he won in the same category last year for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams, Vice

This is the sixth Oscar nomination for Amy Adams, though she hasn’t yet won the award. The Academy first recognized Adams for her supporting role in 2005’s Junebug. She received nominations in the same category for Doubt, The Fighter, and The Master. Her sole nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role came in 2014 for American Hustle.

Marina de Tavira, Roma

Roma has brought international recognition to Mexican actress Marina de Tavira, whose credits include Efectos secundarios, Los árboles mueren de pie, and Sexo y otros secretos. This is her first Oscar nomination; she was previously nominated by Mexican Cinema Journalists for Efectos secundarios and Los árboles mueren de pie, as well as for Roma at the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Awards.

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Regina King first got her start as a teenager on the hit sitcom 227. Since then she’s appeared regularly on television series such as 24, The Leftovers, Southland, American Crime, and The Boondocks, and will be starring in the new HBO adaptation of Watchmen. Her film credits include Friday, Jerry Maguire, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Ray, and the sequels to Miss Congeniality and Legally Blonde. This is Regina King’s first Oscar nomination.

Emma Stone, The Favourite

The three leads of Best Picture nominee The Favourite are all nominated for acting Oscars, including Emma Stone. Stone’s credits include Easy A, Superbad, Zombieland, The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man, Battle of the Sexes, and the Netflix series Maniac. She was previously nominated in this category for Birdman, and in 2017 Stone won the Academy Award for Actress in a Leading Role for La La Land.

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Rachel Weisz previously appeared in The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster. The English actress broke into Hollywood in 1999’s The Mummy; her credits since include Enemy at the Gates, About a Boy, Runaway Jury, The Fountain, The Lovely Bones, The Brothers Bloom, My Blueberry Nights, and Disobedience. Weisz was previously nominated and won the Academy Award for her supporting role in 2005’s The Constant Gardener.

 

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

2019 Oscars: Best Actress and Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Actress and Best Actor in a Leading Role:

2019 Oscars

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

This is not only the first Oscar nomination for Yalitza Aparicio — it’s her first role as an actress, period. Previously, she has pursued a career in early childhood education. The 24-year-old lead in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is the first Indigenous woman (her parents are Mixtec and Triqui) and second Mexican woman ever to receive a nomination in the category. While her father is Mixtec, Aparicio had to learn the language for her role in Roma.

Glenn Close, The Wife

Glenn Close has never won an Academy Award to date, despite being nominated six previous times, including three years in a row in the early 1980s. The NYFA guest speaker has been recognized by the Academy for her roles in The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and Albert Nobbs. Close has already won the Golden Globe and SAG Award for her role in The Wife.

Olivia Colman, The Favourite

English actress Olivia Colman started her career in comedy, including roles in Peep Show, Look Around You, and Hot Fuzz. She began receiving critical acclaim for her dramatic acting after numerous nominations and awards for her role in Tyrannosaur in 2011, followed by the smash television series Broadchurch in 2014. This is Colman’s first Academy Award nomination.

Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

Lady Gaga was already one of the world’s biggest pop stars when she started acting in films like Machete Kills and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and the television series American Horror Story. She was still somewhat of a surprise casting choice by director Bradley Cooper for the lead role in A Star is Born, however. Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, was previously nominated by the Academy for Best Song for the 2015 film The Hunting Ground and is additionally nominated in that category again this year for “Shallow.”

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy’s first Oscar nomination for acting came in 2011 for her star-making turn in Bridesmaids, a rare honor for a purely comedic role. This year, her lead role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? as real-life writer Lee Israel is a more traditionally dramatic one, and has earned McCarthy an abundance of praise. Other credits for McCarthy include Spy, Identity Thief, Ghostbusters (2016), and the television series Mike & Molly.

2019 Oscars

Christian Bale, Vice

Method actor Christian Bale is barely recognizable in his prosthetic-assisted role as former Vice President Dick Cheney. Bale previously won the Oscar for his first nomination — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for David O. Russell’s The Fighter. He was nominated in the category again for 2015’s The Big Short, by Vice writer/director Adam McKay. Bale was also nominated in this category for his lead role in  Russell’s 2013 film, American Hustle.

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper wears many hats for the latest remake of Hollywood classic A Star is Born — and he’s been nominated for several of these roles. Cooper has previously been nominated for his leading performance in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and supporting performance in Russell’s American Hustle, as well as for his lead role in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. Cooper also has a Best Picture nomination for American Sniper for his role as producer, and is additionally nominated this year for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Veteran actor Willem Dafoe has been nominated three previous times by the Academy, including last year for his supporting role in indie hit The Florida Project. He was also nominated in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role category for his roles in 2001’s Shadow of the Vampire and 1987’s Platoon. His portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh is his first Oscar nomination for a leading role.

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

This is the first Oscar nomination for Rami Malek, who plays rock legend Freddie Mercury in biopic and Best Picture nominee Bohemian Rhapsody. His breakout role came in 2015 for the USA series Mr. Robot, though he’d earned several high-profile roles before then. His credits include Night at the Museum, 24, The Pacific, Battleship, The Legend of Korra, The Master, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Viggo Mortensen has been nominated twice before, both in the Leading Role category just as this year, for starring in Captain Fantastic and Eastern Promises. He famously played Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s groundbreaking The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His Green Book co-star, Mahershala Ali, is nominated this year for Best Supporting Actor.

 

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

Famous Stars Who Started On Netflix

With over 137 million global subscriptions as of the third quarter of 2018 – adding nearly as many subscribers within a single year as HBO did in its first 40 years – Netflix has become an undeniable force within the film and television industry. It transformed the way in which audiences consume their media and consequently conquered the industry to the point where it earned the most nominations at last year’s Emmys. Netflix knows what audiences want and their exponential growth has not only resulted in a healthy sum of revenue for the streaming giant, but also in a healthy amount of talent.

As its CEO Reed Hastings stated in this year’s shareholder report, “we’re the new star factory.” And he’s not wrong. Hollywood is now heavily influenced by social media, to the point where follower counts on Instagram are becoming the new Nielsen ratings for executives, and actors are launching successful careers from their mobile phones.

So let’s delve in and take a look at some of those who have Netflix to thank for their current level of success – be it significantly large social media followings, endorsement deals, new roles, awards, etc. It’s worth noting that Netflix wasn’t necessarily the first gig for many of these performers, but it certainly gave them their big breaks:

Netflix Stars

Millie Bobby Brown

The 14-year-old breakout star of Stranger Things had multiple gigs since her acting debut in 2013, guest starring in ABC’s fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. However, it was her role as escaped telepath Eleven in Netflix’s 2016 science fiction phenomenon that skyrocketed her career straight from unknown into superstardom.

Brown’s meteoric rise saw her receiving in the low $20,000 range per episode in the first season to an estimated $300-$350,000 per episode for its upcoming third season. She was also the youngest recipient in history to be honored on Time magazine’s Time 100 list and has 23 total nominations in multiple award categories including two Emmys. She’s won nine awards in total, which include a SAG – awarded to the entire cast of Stranger Things, and two MTV awards.

In addition to this, she currently has 18.2 million Instagram followers* – gaining her first million in a single day shortly after the launch of Stranger Things, has a modelling deal with IMG, multiple brand endorsements including Calvin Klein, Converse, and Moncler, and is the youngest person ever appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Finn Wolfhard

Brown’s fellow Stranger Things cast member who plays Mike Wheeler, the de facto leader of the Demogorgon-fighting kids and Eleven’s romantic interest, has also seen a significant rise in fame since his Netflix debut. Like his co-star, Wolfhard also earned a whopping pay raise for the upcoming season almost 12 times his original earnings per episode in season one.

Wolfhard’s band, Calpurnia, released their first EP in April this year after being signed by Royal Mountain Records in 2017, the same year he appeared as fast-talking Richie Tozier in the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It. He’s already signed on for the 2019 sequel to the horror hit, as well as snagging a coveted role in the upcoming movie The Goldfinch alongside Nicole Kidman. His Instagram following is currently at 11.2 million from a 100,000 pre-Netflix debut.


Katherine Langford

After her breakout role as Hannah Baker in Netflix’s controversial, albeit ground-breaking series 13 Reasons Why — for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination –, Langford has since appeared in comedy/drama films The Misguided and Love, Simon.

Langford is also set to star in the lead role of Arthurian Netflix series Cursed, due for release in 2019, as well as a role in the highly-anticipated follow-up to Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, expected to hit theatres in May. Her Instagram follower count is currently at 12.9 million; before her Netflix debut, it was around the 100,000 mark.


Claire Foy

The seasoned British actress was a household name in the UK with gigs on multiple BBC miniseries, but it was her portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown that shot her to international fame seemingly overnight. The critically-acclaimed series is reported to be Netflix’s most expensive production yet, which has certainly paid off after winning the Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Drama, as well as a Best Actress win for Foy.

Since her Netflix debut, she’s starred alongside Andrew Garfield in Breathe (2017), Steven Soderbergh’s horror/thriller Unsane (2018), Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man (2018), as well as playing iconic, tattooed protagonist Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018). Her Instagram follower count may not be nearly as large as the slightly younger and social media-savvy generation above (she’s currently with 30,767), but with the amount of coveted roles she’s garnered since her Netflix debut, there’s no question she belongs on this list.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Noah Centineo

After his role as sensitive jock Peter Kavinsky in the hugely successful teen rom-com To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB), the 22-year-old Florida native saw his Instagram followers increase from 95,000 to 2.4 million within just a few days of the film being streamed. And that number is currently at 16.1 million only a mere four months later – and counting. The film has proven a boon to the careers of both Centineo and lead actress of TATBILB and New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Lana Condor.

Centineo’s role as the leading man in another teen rom-com, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, released just three weeks after his Netflix debut, only exacerbated the dizzying speed at which his rise to fame transpired. Famously referred to as the “Internet’s Boyfriend”, Centineo is booked for the much anticipated sequel to TATBILB (release date unknown) and has three projects in the works for 2019, including a key role in the new reboot of Charlie’s Angels, which will be directed by Elizabeth Banks.

 

Lena Waithe

The screenwriter/actor/producer, named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “TV Breakouts,” made history when she became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2017 (and then blew everyone away with her speech).

Waithe was awarded the award for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode on Netflix’s Master of None in which she also plays Denise — the queer black woman at the center of the story who comes out to her family during Thanksgiving – a hilarious rendition of her personal experience.

She’d been writing for Fox series Bones for 12 years, but her level of success skyrocketed since comedian and creator of Master of None Aziz Ansari rewrote the character of his best friend from a straight, white male to a character specifically tailored for Waithe. Since her time in the role, she’s gone on to create critically-acclaimed Showtime drama The Chi, wrote a pilot — Twenties — for TBS, starred in Steven Spielberg’s new blockbuster Ready Player One, been named on this year’s Time 100 list, and has graced the cover of Vanity Fair.

[*Note – Instagram numbers are reported as of December 2018]

7 New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Acting

Happy New Year! Though 2019 isn’t that new anymore, as the days are already turning into weeks and soon into months! So, have you managed to keep your New Year’s resolutions so far?

It’s never too late to start — whether it’s January 1 or any other day, and a good resolution to make is one devoted to improving something you’re passionate about. For actors, there’s plenty of things and habits you can change to improve your craft, and what better time to begin than the New Year.

Here are some New Year’s Resolutions to make you a better actor, ones you can start implementing even today:

Watch more foreign films

The beauty of New York Film Academy (NYFA) is how international this school is. Make the most of that! Be curious and ask them about celebrated artists and movie stars from home countries, and what the entertainment industry is like there.

American cinema has been inspired by foreign films, and vice versa. You can learn from them, too. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, watch more than the latest Netflix shows when countless productions from overseas are being offered. There are beautiful stories told from every corner of this world. If you don’t know where to start, go to the “International” section of your preferred streaming service, or select any countries that fascinate you and go from there!

Have a physical routine

Voice and movement are keys to a great performance, both on stage and screen. Working on your breathing and practicing a new physical theatre technique can only make you a stronger performer. Rather than prep before each audition, you should incorporate a physical routine into your daily lifestyle.

Attending workshops or programs from acting schools like New York Film Academy can give you the tools you need to learn the basics of a physical routine and help you customize the perfect one for your own needs. Adding simple stretches before getting up, or warming up a cup of tea and taking a moment to relax and meditate before dealing with your morning commute can make all the difference. Little details can change the rest of your day.

New Years Resolutions

Get out of your surroundings for at least a day

If you’re trying to break into acting, chances are you live in a big city, and big cities can become overwhelming and exhausting. New scenery can literally be a breath of fresh air, even if it’s just for a weekend, even if it’s just for a Sunday afternoon. If this isn’t possible, even cities like New York still have quiet, hidden corners. Changing your surroundings can do wonders for internalizing your own thoughts and feelings.

Stay in touch with your family and friends

As a foreigner myself, I know what it is to be driven and determined in order to succeed in New York. You quickly stop realizing that there’s a larger world out there. Be careful not to dissociate from your roots. Your focus and dedication are indeed vital to your craft, but calling your peers by sharing the steps of your journey will help open your horizons to get some solid advice from people who know you and want you to succeed. And it feels good.

Staying connected to your social network of loved ones can help you stay emotionally grounded and keep you from becoming lost in the challenges and complexities of an artist’s life. Many illustrious actors will tell you that the support of their friends and family was key to their success.

Connect to the larger world around you

While internalizing your own thoughts and staying connected to your close network of friends and family are very important, so is looking outward to the world around you, a world which is increasingly complicated and troubling these days. Being aware of social and political issues dominating the news cycle, as well as concerns of climate change and other current events that affect the world will conversely keep you connected to humanity as a whole.

This is important when becoming a character — one who doesn’t just exist on the page but one who exists in a larger world. By connecting your humanity to a larger context, you can find it easier to connect to the humanity of your audience.

New Years Resolutions

Take care of yourself

Socializing can often involve going out and partying, and while having fun with friends is valuable, you must take care not to overdo it. Physically, your voice, body, and mind are the tools you work with as a performer, and wearing them out has obvious consequences. But it’s important to take care of yourself mentally as well — inhabiting another character on stage or screen will be incredibly more difficult if you’re own sense of self is struggling.

Don’t forget that by being very respectful to your needs and listen to your body. Make sure to sleep and eat well while you’re at it, even if you’ve got that 5am call time!

Learn something new about yourself

As both an artist and a person, you’ll be learning and evolving until your last breath. But go out of your way this year and see if you can find one thing about yourself — whether it’s related to your personality, your habits, what motivates you, etc. — that you never realized or put into words before.

Maybe you’ll find this out from your close social network, or while getting away from it all outside the city, or while you’re in the middle of a deep work out. That’s the great thing about having multiple New Year’s resolutions — they can all affect one another and help you keep all of them, all the way to 2020. Have a Happy New 2019 and best of luck on your journey as an actor!

9 Blockbuster Films Breaking Gender Norms

Gender equality in Hollywood (as well as everything else) has been an important issue for 2018, and while the results haven’t been as clear-cut as many would like, there have been some notable changes.

For one, more and more movies are not shying away from having a female lead, finally no longer afraid of the myth that the majority of moviegoing audiences are men who want to see men lead a film.

But just as important as the quantity of female-driven films is the types of films women are starring in. More and more action films, as well as comedy, horror, thriller, and other genre movies, are starring women when typically they would star men. Having broader, more diverse types of films and protagonists is incredibly important for providing audiences, especially girls and young women looking for cinematic role models, and the following films have been shown woman can be just as successful in typically male-driven movies, if not more.

Star Wars

The new Star Wars trilogy has put Daisy Ridley’s Rey front and center, the first prominent female Jedi in the 40+ year old live action franchise. The filmmakers of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have also avoided sexualizing the character in a way many women leads tend to be in Hollywood films, which is fine — after all the series is foremost made for younger audiences.

Rey isn’t the only female Star Wars protagonist to hit theatres since Disney took over the series in 2012. Rogue One, the first one-off “Star Wars Story” to get a theatrical release, stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, an outlaw loner who eventually devotes herself to a larger Rebellion.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a smash success from the start, winning over audiences of all genders and ages when she was given her own starring vehicle in 2017. The Amazonian princess wasn’t a damsel in distress but the hero of her own film, and performed the same mind-bending acts and explosive stunts as any male action hero would be expected to.

Notably, the film was also directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, another unfortunate rarity for blockbuster films that will hopefully be remedied soon. Both Jenkins and Gadot will return for the film’s sequel, Wonder Woman 1994, out next year.

Captain Marvel

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has released twenty films in the last ten years, and not a single one of them have a female superhero as its lead. That will finally change next year, with the 21st installment of the MCU — Captain Marvel. Academy Award Winner Brie Larson has been tapped to play the space-faring superhero, who has been said by Marvel to be the most powerful character in the fictional universe.

Shortly after the release of Captain Marvel, which will take place in the 1990s and co-star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Larson will return as the character in a key role for Avengers 4.

Untitled Terminator Reboot

Another Terminator in the film is in the works, following 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Like some of the previous films, this new iteration will once again star female action icon Sarah Connor, played for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2 by Linda Hamilton.

Just as exciting is the casting of Mackenzie Davis as co-lead, rumored to possibly be playing the newest iteration of a Terminator robot. Davis has previously starred in Tully, Halt and Catch Fire, and Black Mirror episode San Junipero.

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer, a live-action feature based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series, is currently filming, and will starring Isabela Moner in the title role. Moner previously starred in Instant Family and Transformers: The Last Knight.

The film was very important for younger girls as well as girls of color looking for a positive role model in Hollywood films. Unlike most of the other films on this list, Dora the Explorer will be appropriate viewing for all ages.

Halloween (2018)

The latest sequel/version of the classic Michael Myers slasher film had a very successful theatrical run this October, and was notable for having three generations of women as its leads. Myers faced off against original lead Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as her character Laurie Strode’s daughter and granddaughter.

The film wasn’t just a success for female-driven films but also women of a certain age — another issue Hollywood has struggled mightily with — with this version of the spooky story now the highest-grossing debut for a horror movie with a female lead over 55 in history.

Mulan

Disney has been making live action remakes of their most popular animated films for a few years now, but Mulan will be the first with an action-oriented female lead. Even more importantly, the studio searched far and wide for the perfect casting, and avoided any controversial “white-washing” of the role of Mulan, a Chinese folk hero. The part eventually went to Yifei Liu, a Chinese star surely soon to be an international movie star.

8 Tips for Actors Looking for an Agent

Among many other duties and responsibilities, talent agents have the important function to book and connect their clients to roles and auditions. While being proactive comes with the territory, there’s a wide variety of personalities and strategies in the field. Ideally, you’ll find the agent that best suits your needs and own personality as an actor, but at the end of the day you’ll at the very least want anyone who can get you in the room.

So how do you find an agent? The major talent agencies have their largest offices in Los Angeles and New York, so if you’re aiming for the top, these cities might be the best place for you to start out.

  1. If you are registered on IMDbPro, you will be able to find names of agencies, as well as their client lists. From there, you can figure out which agency best fits you and prioritze your first, second, and third choices, all down the line. You should make a long list – settling for your tenth choice isn’t rare at all.
  2. Many international actors prefer bicoastal agencies or already work alongside an agent from their home country.Even if this doesn’t apply to you, being open to expanding your network can prove advantageous.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask around! If you’re acting, you’ll be working with other actors who might have experience or even some connections with agencies you are interested in. If you’re just starting out and attending acting school you can ask your fellow students. Some may already be signed with agents. Others may already be elbow-deep in their own research and you can compare your notes.
  4. Be prepared! Know exactly how you will present yourself if you do get a meeting with an agent, because there’s a chance they might book one with you immediately after receiving your submission. So don’t reach out to an agency until you know you’re ready to meet with them!
  5. Get your headshots in order — not just the right poses and looks, but also a proper resume of your credits to go along with it. You will want to look professional — most agencies won’t want to bother with people they feel are too inexperienced in the industry or don’t know what they’re doing. If you’re on a tight budget, try finding an eager photography student from photography school and let them practice their craft for a discount or pro bono rate!
  6. Even better than a list of credits would be your demo reel. Make a highlight video of your work so far. Agents will want to know what your presence is on camera. While NYFA teaches acting students the importance and basics of putting together a demo reel, you can also enlist the help of amateur editors or editing school students at low cost — or more professional editors, if you’re willing to spend the money. At the very least, try to use three scenes that best showcase your range and abilities. If you haven’t garnered much screen time yet, talk to filmmaking school students and audition for as many student films and short films as you can!
  7. Follow up! Agents and their offices are often very busy and may not even address every submission they receive. If you haven’t heard back after a couple weeks, follow up and send a quick reminder, asking if they received your submission yet or if they have any other questions or need more information from you. Don’t be afraid to invite agents to a show, screening, or event of yours. They may be impressed with your confidence and who knows — might even show up.
  8. Keep your chin up! It’s perfectly normal for most actors just starting out to be without an agent. Don’t feel dejected if you’ve been ignored or rejected numerous times. Stay active and most importantly, build your career by meeting people and networking as much you can. Keep adding to your resume to build experience, credits, and better footage for your demo reel. Sooner or later, you may just find the agent perfect for you.

4 Essential Poses for Actor Headshots

Every actor needs headshots, and often it’s a good idea to have more than one look or pose. But which poses?

Headshot
When getting your headshots done, it is very important to be aware of your everyday look, your “types” for future auditions, and the goal behind getting these photos taken in the first place. Headshots can be expensive, but they’re worth every penny if you get them done right.

First and foremost, make sure you sleep well the night before your photo shoot, and make sure you arrive early enough to be fully relaxed and ready to shine!

Headshot

Poses will vary depending on what you want to play and the career you are targeting. But the following essentials are some go-to poses that may help you get more auditions:

  1. A smiling pose: It is key that you genuinely smile for at least one of your poses. If smiling doesn’t come naturally to you, make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If it helps you to lean casually against a wall, or stand on your toes, do it! And remember: smile with your entire body!
  2. An everyday pose: Usually when someone tells you to “act casual” you struggle to do anything but. However your casual, everyday pose — the look you might have if someone saw you lost in thought or reading your phone — says a lot about you and your screen presence.
  3. An emotional pose: Explore what you know is your most challenging emotion. Treat your photo session as it’s an audition, or even a scene, and don’t hold back. Feel free to be vulnerable, loud, and truthful. Even if you don’t think this will play well for photo stills, there’s a very good chance a talented photographer will capture a few perfect moments for you. Get intimate with the lens.
  4. A neutral pose: A neutral pose is what it sounds like — a resting, unemotional look. You might think this is the same as your everyday look, but for most people, the two poses can be very different. Unlike your everyday pose, which is you out of your own head and acting naturally, a neutral pose usually means you’ll need to actively contort your muscles and cancel any emotions on your face. Become a blank slate that casting directors can fill with their own ideas for the role. Remember: neutral doesn’t mean natural!

Headshot

There are countless expressions that fall on the spectrum between these poses (and many  that are completely out-of-the-box.) Explore them all, practice in the mirror until your face is numb and you’re sick of looking at your face. The work will pay off and soon acting for your headshot photographer may just turn into acting for a film or stage director!

If you’re interested in taking classes at NYFA’s acting school you can find more information here.