Filmmaking

Friday Reads: Best Binge-Worthy Shows to Watch Before Your May Classes Start

NYFA’s upcoming intake dates in May 2017 mean that it’s almost time for you to begin your journey into the world’s most intensive, hands-on visual and performing arts education. With classes starting right around the corner, your television binging time will soon become scarce. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting the editing lab instead of the couch and writing scripts instead of changing the channels. So order some takeout and use the most of your precious remaining free time to get caught up on these great binge-worthy shows. You owe yourself a good binge, after all!

“Stranger Things” (Netflix)

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Believe the hype: this ‘80s throwback really is that good, and it features NYFA guest lecturer and board of directors member Matthew Modine! The show is a driven by a gaping, chilling air of suspense in a Goonies-meets-X-Files mystery that somehow manages to evoke nostalgia without retreading tired content. Fresh and eerie, “Stranger Things” is an easy binge with only eight episodes to tell its tightly-wound story. Especially of note are the fantastic performances, which recently garnered the cast the SAG Award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series.

“Santa Clarita Diet” (Netflix)

This 10-episode comedy-horror combines the disparate worlds of California real estate and … zombies? Flesh-eating realtor Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and her husband (Timothy Olyphant) navigate Sheila’s new reality of needing to feast on human flesh. Consider yourself warned: The show has been slammed for its graphic depictions of gore, but overall it’s been both a critical and commercial success.

“Westworld” (HBO)

This is a show you’ll want to binge on and then rewatch for all the subtle nuances that you may have missed the first time around. As one of the more original shows on television, “Westworld” (created by the fiendish imagination of Michael Crichton) is the story of a Wild West theme park where the tourist can do anything … yes, anything. It’s a chilling reflection on the state of humanity, made even creepier by the eerily conflicted figure of its creator (Anthony Hopkins). If you’re looking for a philosophical binge, “Westworld” may be your fix.

“Outlander” (STARZ)

Currently on its second season, “Outlander” is just plain fun to watch. It’s the entertaining drama of a World War Two-era nurse (Caitriona Balfe) who travels back in time to 1700s Scotland, only to fall in love with a handsome rebel Scot (Sam Heughan). Based on the bodice-ripping romance novel series by Diana Gabaldon, this addictive show features an attractive cast set against the gorgeous backdrop of both Paris and the Scottish Highlands. Less reliant on the fast-paced intricacy of “Game of Thrones” or the beguiling philosophical questions of “Westworld,” this show anchors its binge-worthy chemistry in Balfe and Heughan, who make an exceptional screen pair that you won’t want to miss.  

“Narcos” (Netflix)

If you haven’t watched the first season, make sure to get caught up on this show quickly! Both seasons make for a great two-day binge, especially Season 2 as the hunt for Pablo Escobar begins to heat up. Wagner Moura turns in a fantastic character performance as the heavyset and volatile Escobar, while “Game of Thronesactor Pedro Pascal serves as the lean and hungry officer determined to take Pablo down.

Don’t forget to check out our many programs beginning May 2017, and beyond.

Women’s History Month: Women to Know Behind the Camera

Who are the first people you think of when you hear “successful director, screenwriter, or producer”? Unfortunately for a lot of people, they may only know male names — but there are important women to know behind the camera. We’ve previously discussed gender inequality in film, but how can we all help to make more inclusive improvements in the entertainment industry as a whole? Start by educating both yourself and others about notable women who work tirelessly to bring you amazing film. 

In honor of Women’s History Month and bridging the gender gap in the entertainment industry, the New York Film Academy spotlights seven women who are behind-the-scenes of your favorite TV shows and movies:

Haifaa Al-Mansou

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The first Saudi female filmmaker, Haifaa Al-Mansour is a controversial director to some. Her films “Who?,” “The Bitter Journey,” and “Women Without Shadows” have touched on sensitive topics regarding women’s issues. Regardless of hate mail and criticism for being “unreligious,” Al-Mansour is unafraid to make outstanding films with touchy topics. One of her recent projects has been writing and directing the upcoming film “Mary Shelley,” set to release this year.

Julia Roberts

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You know Roberts for her roles in “Pretty Woman,” “Notting Hill,” “Runaway Bride,” and “Mystic Pizza,” but did you know she has also produced a few films? Alongside Canadian director Patricia Rozema and screenwriter Valerie Tripp, Roberts was in charge of producing the movie adaptation of the American Girl character Kit Kittredge called “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.” Roberts also produced the films for the American Girl characters Felicity and Samantha. She has also produced “Extraordinary Moms,” a TV documentary about motherhood as well as the film “Jesus Henry Christ.”

Mira Nair

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Starting her career off as an actress, Nair transitioned into directing a variety of different films including documentary shorts, full-length films, and more. She owns the production company Mirabai Films, which has produced specific films on Indian culture for a broad audience. The accomplished India-native most recently directed the Disney film “Queen of Katwe, about a young Ugandan girl who dominates the world of competitive chess.

Diablo Cody

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The “Juno” and “Jennifer’s Body” writer wears many hats, including screenwriter, producer, actress, and former exotic dancer. Cody’s writing often features a female character with daily insecurities and issues who also has an underlying major struggle. In the New York Times, Cody said, “The attitude toward women in [the film] industry is nauseating. There are all sorts of porcine executives who are uncomfortable with a woman doing anything subversive. They want the movie about the beautiful girl who trips and falls, the adorable klutz.”

Ava DuVernay

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DuVernay is an indie writer, producer, and director of all kinds of film mediums including TV shows, movies, and documentaries. She has been nominated for four Golden Globes and two Academy Awards for her work. Recently, her documentary “The 13th” has been a hit success on Netflix and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Political Commentary. DuVernay’s film “Selma” received critical acclaim and a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture.

Lana and Lilly Wachowski (The Wachowskis)

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Formerly known as the Wachowski Brothers before both coming out as trans women, the Wachowskis wrote and directed “The Matrix” and their sequels as well as other ground-breaking sci-fi films. You may know works such as “V for Vendetta,” the film adaptation of “Cloud Atlas,” and “Jupiter Ascending,” all films the sisters have written and directed.

Who are your favorite female film directors? Let us know in the comments below! And check out NYFA’s directing programs to learn more about becoming a film director.

How to Use Crowdfunding Sites Like Kickstarter & Indiegogo to Fund Your Film

Nothing speaks to the independent filmmaking spirit quite like crowdfunding. Not only can you get your project made without relying on traditional top-down sources, but also a successful campaign demonstrates your film’s marketability to potential distributors. Not all crowdfunding campaigns have the built-in fan base of the wildly successful “The Veronica Mars Film Project,” so we’ve gathered some tips and resources to help you make sure your crowdfunding campaign reaches, or even surpasses, its goal.

Do Your Homework

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As we mentioned in this article comparing crowdfunding sites, you need to know the particulars of the platform and choose accordingly. Kickstarter and Indiegogo both have track records of funding successful filmmaking projects, and looking at their film and video specific project pages makes clear that trending projects include feature films, documentaries and shorts. GoFundMe, on the other hand, has gone in another direction with the majority of its campaigns being personal rather than creative. Also, keep in mind that Indiegogo allows users to collect and keep funds as the campaign proceeds, while Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing game, where you must choose a deadline and a minimum goal that you must meet in order to collect funds.

Hit the Ground Running

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Do your research and have everything in place before your campaign starts. Whatever platform you choose, spend some time perusing projects, especially those that seem similar to your own. Both the successes and failures can help you.

Also, try to line up PR before launching. Doing the work before the campaign clock starts ticking will give you a better chance of success. According to this article at CrowdCrux.com, gaining the interest of strangers is most likely to occur within the first three days of launching: “At this stage, you will be in the recently launched tab and if you hustle and get supporters early, you can become a trending project.” After that window, it gets much harder.  

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Story

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Setting up your project page with a clear, concise, and compelling story including visuals and a realistic budget is vital. According to Kickstarter’s Creator Handbook, “there are some basic questions you should answer including: ‘Who are you? What are you planning to make? Where did this project come from? What’s your plan, and what’s your schedule?’” In other words, you want to transmit your passion and excitement to potential backers, while assuring them that you are qualified and capable of bringing the idea to life.

Attract the Low Rollers

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Remember that the beauty of crowdfunding is that many backers with shallow pockets can take the place of one or two execs with deep pockets — but, they will also want return on their investment. According to this Entrepreneur.com article, the most popular pledge amount at Kickstarter is $25, so you want to make sure “the affordable perks don’t run out too fast, or you risk losing potential backers who can’t afford steeper offerings.”

Filmmakers are lucky to have built-in social media minions in the way of cast and crew. However, don’t rely on them to come up with their own mini-campaigns. Give them shareable items that they can customize for their own network. Most Kickstarter campaigns don’t go viral, but that doesn’t mean they don’t succeed. Don’t be shy to reach out to friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances and everybody you can think of that might be interested.

Have you managed a successful crowdfunding campaign? Tell us your experience in the comments below. And learn more about filmmaking and producing with a variety of short- and long-term programs at the New York Film Academy.

The Best Foreign Films to Watch Before You Study Abroad

As you prepare for study abroad with NYFA, no doubt there are a lot of items on your to-do list — but we’re here today to remind you of a pre-travel essential that you won’t want to forget. Whether you are preparing for a course from NYFA Florence to NYFA Australia or NYFA Mumbai, watching a film created in your destination country can be an enjoyable way to kickstart your international education experience. Certain well-made films exemplify their quality through their ability to captivate the audience. They draw us in. They make the real world — our own lives — fade away, and we are engulfed by the cinematic universe (the diegesis) of the film. Some of the most enjoyable movies take us to a new, entirely foreign place and make every detail of its people, rituals, landscape, and culture magical.

One of the best ways to get excited before studying abroad and prepared for your venture into a very different world is to watch films that are based on the places you may study or visit. Listed below are some of the most enchanting foreign films from across the globe.

“Amélie” (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

If you’re planning to study in France at NYFA Paris, this incredibly famous flick must not be missed. It follows Amélie, a quirky, imaginative romantic, who decides that her purpose in life is to help other people. The film traipses all over Paris, painting the city with wonder and mystery. It also nods, stylistically, to the films of the French New Wave, which, if you have time, are another essential as you prepare for your international education in film (see: “The 400 Blows” and “A Woman is a Woman”).

“Poetry” (Lee Chang-dong, 2010)

 

If you’re preparing to study in Asia at NYFA Beijing, NYFA Shanghai, NYFA Kyoto, or NYFA Seoul, this film may offer you extra inspiration. In this drama, a woman in her mid-60s signs up for a local poetry writing class. As she begins to fall in love with poetry, she discovers that she has Alzheimer’s disease. The reflective, emotionally electric film includes beautiful landscape shots of South Korean suburbs.

“Neighbouring Sounds” (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2012)

Ideal for students preparing to venture to NYFA Rio de Janeiro, this film, shot in the Brazilian city of Recife, follows a variety of characters around the neighborhood. Some residents are bourgeois, living in buildings with high security or gated communities. Others have little money, and they show their distaste for the wealth disparity by performing small acts of rebellion. The film is acclaimed for its artful uses of sound and cinemascope.

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)

Gearing up for a study abroad adventure at NYFA Berlin? Check out this film first. In this West German film, Emmi, a 60-year-old German hausfrau, and Ali, a younger Moroccan Gastarbeiter, fall in love, despite ideological backlash from family, society, and eventually, even each other. With beautifully crafted indoor and outdoor shots — particularly in the famous scene where Ali and Emmi sit in a park amidst a sea of yellow chairs — this film weaves together cultural contradictions in order to portray a deeper and more meaningful tale of forbidden love.

Studying filmmaking or acting for film with NYFA is an exceptionally rich and enlightening way for students of all backgrounds to expand their knowledge and gain a new perspective on the world. Interested in learning about all our NYFA international locations? Contact us, and begin your own study abroad adventure.

5 Great Filmmaking Podcasts for Film Buffs, Nerds, & Everyone Else

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Not all filmmaking podcasts are created equal. Browse the TV & Film category on iTunes and you will quickly be overwhelmed by the quantity and variability of quality. We’ve done the ear-work for you and found six podcasts that bring together practical information, behind-the-scenes insight, and great conversation to deepen your knowledge and appreciation of filmmaking.

1. WTF with Marc Maron

This may not be strictly a filmmaking podcast, but Maron‘s lengthy conversations with such influential directors as former NYFA guest speaker Ron Howard and self-producing comedians such as Louis C.K. are so in-depth, personal and full of stories about the biz and how projects get made, that you are unlikely to find a more educational show. Besides, we’re pretty sure no filmmaking podcast can say they interviewed Obama while he was president.

2. Filmspotting

A couple of guys geeking out, arguing about and analyzing movies to within an inch of their lives is what this film-crazed podcast is all about. Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen offer their dedicated listeners to best-of lists and lively arguments about the good, the bad and the unsung in cinema. You would have to be a professional film buff not to discover a new title in every show. A favorite episode includes a hotly debated review of “Ruby Sparks,” best-of movies-about-writers lists, and a marvelous analysis of “The Mirror as part of their Iranian Cinema marathon.

3. The Treatment

Film critic Elvis Mitchell always manages to get his illustrious guests to open up and talk intimately and intelligently about their craft. This is a show where you will hear multiple sides to the filmmaking story, for example, one episode features an interview with “Captain Fantastic writer/director Matt Ross and another with Captain Fantastic himself, actor Viggo Mortensen.

4. Monetizing Your Creativity

Canadian hosts Marvin Polis and Fred Keating interview actors, cinematographers, writers, producers, curators of film fests, and many more. Although it is not dedicated to filmmaking, you will find many charming, informational and succinct interviews that focus on “the success principles common to all disciplines.” Check out “Fargo” cinematographer Dana Gonzales (#110), and documentary filmmaker Viveka Melki (#104 to get a taste of this unique podcast’s wide-angle approach.

5. IndieWire – Screen Talk

This is a podcast for those who want to know how things work in the indie film world and beyond. Hosted by IndieWire‘s chief film critic Eric Kohn and Thompson on Hollywood‘s Anne Thompson, this no frills podcast fills you in on film fests, new releases and awards ceremonies big and small. Recent episodes consider subjects as diverse as the Foreign Language Oscar Shortlist and Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge.”

Do you have a favorite filmmaking or film buff podcast? Let us know in the comments below. To learn more about filmmaking, contact us for more information about NYFA’s Filmmaking School.

Black History Month Recap: A Q&A With NYFA Faculty

As Black History Month comes to a close, New York Film Academy celebrates the diversity and strength of its community. We had a chance to sit down with a few members of our faculty to hear their insights and inspirations in light of this important month. Joining the discussion are NYFA’s Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department Nancy Kwang Johnson; digital editing instructor and professional Hollywood editor Leander Sales; and film directing instructor and Chair of Community Outreach Mason Richards.

Here is what they had to say:

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Nancy Kwang Johnson

NYFA: Can you share a little about your career or journey in the entertainment industry, and what has driven your success? What makes you get up in the morning? What are you working for?

Leander Sales: I got into the industry because Spike Lee was determine to see more diversity in the film industry and I was determine to be part of this industry. The joys and duties of being a parent [are what get me up in the morning]. I’m generally a very optimistic person and I look forward to what the future may hold. [I’m working for] My kids and making more movies.

Mason Richards: The film industry is extremely rigorous and challenging because there is no real clear path to success, therefore it takes an extreme amount of tenacity and vigor to navigate. The industry is such that in order to be able to tell your own story, you have to work extremely hard. It’s also a great feeling when you get those opportunities to share your journey and tell the stories that matter most to you.

NYFA: Tell us about the first time you saw a character or story on the big screen that really resonated with you culturally and that you felt you could personally identify with. What was that moment like for you?

Leander Sales: Seeing “Cooley High” and getting a chance to meet the director, Michael Schultz.

Mason Richards: One of my favorite films of all time is “To Sir, With Love” directed by James Clavell — the film tells the story of an idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious high school students from the slums of London’s East End. One of the reasons I love this film is because it stars one of my favorite actors of all time, Sidney Poitier; and this film was the first time I saw someone on the big screen who was from my birth country, Guyana, South America. It was a great feeling then, and it’s always a great feeling when you see strong characters in leading roles that reflect your identity.

Nancy Kwang Johnson: I am Korean and African American.  My great grandmother on my father’s side is full-blooded Cherokee.  As a result, as a teenager, I would empathize and hold onto every word of Cher’s hit song, “Half Breed.”  

As far as languages go, I grew up in a household with two parents who were fluent in Korean.  As a result, my mother tongue is, and will always be Korean; it’s the only language that I can speak without an accent.  I teach in French and English, and I speak basic Albanian and Wolof.

Because of my mixed racial heritage, I always had two types of dolls when I was growing up – an African American doll and a Korean doll adorned in the national costume (hanbok).  As I did not have dolls that actually looked like me, I gravitated towards female role models on the silver screen – tv and film – who were also mixed like me.  

From the onset, I would gravitate towards my namesake, Nancy Kwan (of “The World of Susie Wong”) as she was my mother’s (Kwang’s) favorite actress and [she] had been on the set of “Susie Wong” during her pregnancy.  

As a child, I was a huge fan of the television show called “Zoom,” because one of the cast members was Puerto Rican, also named Nancy, and looked like me (for example, she wore her hair in two braids). As a teenager, I gravitated towards Irene Cara of the hit show, “Fame” (1980) and Tai Babilonia (the 1980s Olympics hopeful). Why? As a Korean and African-American female teenager, it was refreshing to see aspiring actresses and Olympic-calibre figure skaters break the boundaries of race and gender on the silver screen.

Throughout my college years at Vassar, I would have to say that the person who made the most impression on me would have to be Jennifer Beals of “Flashdance” (1983) for a number of reasons. Jennifer Beals, like myself, was bi-racial, had an upbringing in Chicago, and is also a fellow Ivy Leaguer. She attended Yale and I attended Cornell.  

In 2012, I was invited to the first White House Korean-American briefing.  On this momentous occasion, I would have to confess that of the 150 plus Korean-Americans in attendance I was one of two Korean-Americans who had an African-American parent.

The French have a saying, “…bien dans sa eau (to be comfortable within one’s skin).  With respect to images on and off of the silver screen coupled with the absence of images – that look like me – I am comfortable within my skin.

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Mason Richards

NYFA: Is there a particular film, piece of art, or Black artist that has had a profound impact on your life? Why?

Mason Richards: I’m inspired by the art of Jean Michel Basquiat, not only because of his use of color, form and medium, but also for his ability to tell his personal stories through art – this inspires me as a filmmaker. 

Leander Sales: James Baldwin’s books have been very important to me because while I lived abroad, I often found myself reading his book of essays “Nobody Knows My Name.” Why? His essays gave me deep insight into American and European racism.

NYFA: What stories would you like to see brought to the screen that are yet untold?

Leander Sales: There are many, but I would like to see more movies like “Hidden Figures,” “Malcolm X,” etc. I guess you would say historical which may be movies we may find on Netflix.

NYFA: How have you seen the industry shift or grow over time in terms of diversity in representation?

Leander Sales: Recently, things are getting very interesting after a few years of #OscarsSoWhite. We will see if this is temporary.

NYFA: What is your favorite moment from Black television history?

Leander Sales: I have to say my favorite moment was when I realized we, as a people, have a lot of work ahead of us. Why? We have so much to offer to this world. Our talents and genius has made this world a better place. Can you imagine America without African Americans?

NYFA: How does your culture, environment, and experience inspire your artwork?

Leander Sales: Many things have influence me, but visiting Africa six times really gave me a deeper understanding of who we are as a people and who I am as an individual.

Mason Richards: I like to tell stories that reflect the world we live in. Film is a beautiful medium to inspire, reveal, and share different views and perspectives of the world.

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Leander Sales

NYFA: Any words of wisdom for aspiring black artists and creators?

Leander Sales: Put in the work. Climb to the top and throw the rope back down.

Mason Richards:  It’s really important for any artist or filmmaker to tell their own personal truths; and although this can be intimidating and challenging at times, it’s an amazing feeling when you get to see your story, your personal truth, and your own narrative on the big screen.

NYFA: Is there anything we’ve missed that you’d like to speak on?

Nancy Kwang Johnson: Having lived abroad (namely, South Korea, France, Senegal, Canada, and Albania), I learned very quickly that the manner in which race is conceptualized in the U.S. differs greatly from its European, Asian, and African counterparts. As a result, I have become accustomed to the social construction of race, and know that in the U.S. people tend to fixate on the one-drop rule (if you have one drop of Black blood then you are black). For example, in the U.S., people tend to categorize me as Black albeit I self-identify as Korean and Black, or I will check the “other” box and list both Korean and Black.

On the other hand, all of the other countries that I have lived in (such as South Korea, France, Senegal, Canada, and Albania), I am deemed as the exotic “other” and racial mixing is more accepted. In South Korea, I have the same racial mixture as Hines Ward. In France, Parisians approach me and greet me in Polynesian. In Senegal, I am called “Madame Chinoise.” In Canada, I am classified as a Francophone and a First Nations member. And in Albania, I am dubbed the Francophone Ivy Leaguer with North Korean ancestry who is also biracial like President Obama.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Nancy Kwang Johnson, Leander Sales, and Mason Richards for taking the time to share a part of their stories with our community.

Not Just the City of Lights: What you Can Learn About Film in Paris

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There’s nothing wrong with studying film all your life in America. After all, cities like Hollywood and New York boast some of the best film schools in the world. But if you’re looking to study abroad and see the world through a different kind of lens, here’s why we recommend NYFA’s Paris location in the City of Lights:

Discover A New Place

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There’s something exciting about visiting the set of your favorite film. It’s the reason 2013 marked the 500,000th guest to travel all the way to Wellington, New Zealand, to see Hobbiton. Even if a place looks different in reality than in film, it’s interesting seeing how the filmmakers used the place to tell their stories.

Imagine walking through one of the most famous film locations of all time. The city of Paris is a sight to behold as you marvel in its historical beauty, fine art, and rich culture. Only by visiting yourself can you see why it’s more than a popular tourist location — it’s where movies have been shot since the dawn of filmmaking. You’ll have an opportunity to investigate and understand in new ways the choices of filmmakers who pioneered new styles and forms, including French New Wave.

As a filmmaker, you’ll no doubt gain new ideas and inspiration from a city known for its beauty and style.

Find Inspiration From of the Best Films of all Time

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One thing you can expect to do as a filmmaking student in Paris is to watch a lot of films. Like a game developer or musician, you should be studying other people’s work to learn different styles and techniques you may want to know and master. The only thing better than watching excellent films is getting out there and putting your own directing skills to practice. At NYFA Paris, you’ll have the opportunity to do just that, through a hands-on education that encourages you to create your own original work.

Some of the best movies ever made were filmed in Paris. These include recent critical successes like Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie,” winner of multiple BAFTA Awards, César Awards, and Best Film at the European Film Awards. “The 400 Blows,” which is considered the best French film ever made, is a 1959 drama film that was also shot in Paris.

Whether you’re exploring the vibrant streets or shooting your own project, there’s something special about knowing you’re in a city where other filmmakers created their masterpieces.

Explore the Top French Film School

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La Fémis, where NYFA Paris courses are held, is one of those schools every aspiring filmmaker should attend at least once in their lifetime. Established in 1943, the Paris-based film and television school and gone on to be ranked as one of the top international film institutions in the world. It was listed as third best by The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 and is part of a world-class federal research university named PSL Research University.

Previous alumni have also proven it’s one of the best places to discover your voice and master the art of filmmaking. Graduates have won everything from the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion, Cannes Film Festival’s Golden Palm, and Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear. It is currently the most rewarded film school in the world and follows a curriculum that constantly puts students behind the camera.

Where better to learn and grow as a filmmaker than in the city responsible for some of cinema’s greatest evolutions?

Visit Where New Wave Was Born

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In Paris, you’ll be where one of the most important movements in cinema’s history took place. To this day, techniques adopted by New Wave filmmakers continue influencing movies long after they were introduced. What started out in one city in the mid-1950s eventually spread throughout the globe.

A lot of the characteristics that defined New Wave cinema may not have emerged anywhere else. This is because France was in an economic crisis after World War II, and thus filmmakers had to approach their projects differently. New Wave films are recognized by their low budgets, on-location shots and sound, anti-authoritarian heroes, improvised dialogue, and unique Mise-en-shots and editing.

While studying in Paris, you’ll learn about the French New Wave from professors who grew up watching and idolizing these fantastic films.

Interested in studying filmmaking in Paris with NYFA? Learn more here.

What You Can Learn From Great Movie Openings

All movies aim to grab the viewer right from the start and keep their attention for the next couple of hours, but great title sequences can be the secret weapon to help a filmmaker achieve that goal. Great title sequences help set the scene, give insight into the main character, or set up the emotional tone for the film. The title sequences below are just a handful of the innovative openings great designers have created for films in a variety of genres.

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Saul Bass brought his graphic designer’s touch to the opening sequence of Otto Preminger’s “The Man with The Golden Arm” (1955) and helped change title sequences from a simple list of credits to another part of the storytelling. His philosophy was that films should engage the audience from the first frame and “create a climate for the story that was about to unfold.”

Catch Me if You Can” (2002) uses a fantastic animated sequence to visually sum up the film’s main character and theme. The bold color block animation by Oliver Kuntzel and Florence Deygas is a loving nod to the work of  Saul Bass, who designed sequences for Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese, among others.

The beautifully choreographed opening to “Raging Bull” (1980) features the lone figure of Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) warming up in the ring as flashbulbs pierce the haze of cigar smoke. The viewer has a ringside view and the ropes of the boxing ring give us the sense that LaMotta is a caged animal and we are lucky to be on the opposite side of the ropes from him. Title designer Dan Perri came up with the idea of mashing the two words of the film’s title together on screen to emphasize LaMotta’s driven, angry character.

Iginio Larandi designed the title sequence for “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” (1966), using stills from the film, a Western-style font, high contrast colors, and an animated horse and rider galloping along to Ennio Morricone’s theme that conjures up the sounds of the Wild West.

Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” uses a cleverly animated series of stained glass windows and a traditional narrator to explain the curse and open the storybook  world of magic, curses, and princes who need to find the meaning of love.

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Hawley Pratt’s opening to Blake Edwards’ “Pink Panther” (1964) was so popular, the cartoon panther was used in theatrical shorts, comic books, and a cartoon series. Henry Mancini’s theme song became instantly tied to the Pink Panther character.

And of course, no discussion of title sequences would be complete without mentioning the iconic James Bond openings. From Maurice Binder and Trevor Bond’s sequence for “Dr. No” (1962) to “Spectre” (2015), the franchise has always combined striking graphics, visual effects, and music that set the tone for the film and immediately engages the audience.

Want to know more about graphic design? Check out NYFA’s article Five Famous Graphic Designers Who Changed the Industry Forever. To learn more about filmmaking, visit New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking School.

A Q&A With NYFA Alumnus Denis Kulikov

New York Film Academy alumni Denis Kulikov has been hard at work since graduating. With dozens of shorts, a new feature, and a comedy television show under his belt, in just four years Kulikov has amassed a sizable portfolio. New York Film Academy’s Joelle Smith sat down with Kulikov to chat about his experience as a producer. Here’s what he had to share:

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NYFA: Hi Denis, great to have a chance to catch up with you about your post-NYFA experiences! Let me ask, what originally drew you to producing? 

DK: When doing my own short films, I figured that I had more pleasure organizing my shoots rather than directing. I started out as an assistant director working for my classmates, helping them in pre-production and coordinating their sets. Even though being an AD is mostly managing productions, I had created a side to it where I was consulting my classmates on locations, story, cast etc. That’s how I de facto became a producer on many shorts. After that, I was able to produce more short films.

NYFA: Tell us about your current project, “Johnny Red.” What inspired the work? Who are you working with on the project? What is the goal of making this film? Who does this story speak to? 

DK: I started working on “Johnny Red” almost a year ago with my partner Alex Kahuam, who wrote the script and will be directing it. In the movie, we follow a drug lord who despite his criminal activity has a loving family just like everybody else. What we want to show is the contrast. Criminals are multifaceted people with passion, friendships, relationships, and families, just like everyone else. Alex and I have already produced a feature together, so this will be our second big project and with all the people that we are currently getting on board. We are now headed to theaters.

NYFA: Do you think your time in NYFA’s Industry Lab helped you when it came time to look for a job?

DK: I think it definitely did, especially considering that Industry Lab focuses on projects that are coming to NYFA outside of school. Those definitely have different, much tougher requirements. After all, when working on Industry Lab projects, we represent the elite of the school and work with industry people. All the experience and connections that I was able to get while being in IL have helped me in my career.

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NYFA: A lot of students grow nervous as graduation approaches. What did you do to prepare for life after NYFA? 

DK: During my years at NYFA, I knew that once I was out, I would be on my own, therefore I focused on developing skills that would be in demand in the industry as well as throughout my life in general. I focused on assistant directing and producing student films, as it would develop needed skills for my career. I like creating something out of nothing, therefore being an assistant director or a producer was something that I was passionate about. Considering that most of my classmates did not like any of those positions, I had perfect opportunities to volunteer and build up my resume. By being proactive and opportunistic, I had the network and experience needed for myself by the time I graduated.

NYFA: You’re also working as a line producer on a new Adult Swim project, how did this come about? 

DK: The show I am working on is called “Bite Me!” I met its showrunner Frankie back in September and we started working on making the whole new season happen. He had already completed the first season for the web series. After we showed it to Cartoon Network, they signed a contract that upon delivery of another season, they will air the show on Adult Swim in 2017. As of right now, the shoot is almost over and we are excited for people to see it.

NYFA: Any advice to students looking to begin their careers as producers? 

DK: My biggest advice is in order to begin careers in Hollywood in general, you have to be an opportunist. Most of the time people tend to hire and work with people that they already know, so it is hard to break in when you don’t know anybody.

The way I built up my resume and network, is while being at NYFA, I was raising my hand and volunteering to be an AD and producer on projects that nobody else wanted to.

In addition, I tried to be involved in various activities outside of school during my free time volunteering for film festivals and other organizations. Being proactive is what a good career is based on in any industry.

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Kulikov for taking the time to speak with us. You can learn more about Denis Kulikov by clicking here. Also, be sure to check out NYFA’s Filmmaking School to kickstart your own creative journey.

What Does A Production Designer Do?

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Production designers may not be as well-known outside the film industry as directors, writers, and producers, but aspiring filmmakers learn very quickly that movies can never go from idea to the big screen without a talented production designer. If you’re a creative person with sharp visual awareness and great design skills, this career path might be perfect for you. To help you explore this option, here we’ll answer the first important question when considering production design: What exactly does a production designer do?

There On Day One

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As the head of the art department, the production designer is in charge of making sure each shooting location is perfect, prepared, and on point with the vision of the film. Film is a language of visual storytelling, and so the visuals captured by the camera matter immensely. Your locations, sets, costumes, lights, etc. all work together to create a world on screen, and this world is a crucial part of telling your film’s story. Having an incredible script and cast of actors onboard won’t be enough if what the audience will be looking at doesn’t tell a cohesive story. This is why the production designer’s job starts during pre-production alongside the director and producer of the project. The production designer takes the writer’s work, the director’s vision, and the producer’s plan, and synthesizes it into a visual story.

Together, the pre-production team formulate ideas and plan for the visual context that will be used to tell a captivating story. This includes deciding on colors, themes, compositions, and other visual elements that work best to evoke the emotions, themes, and actions of each scene and the project as a whole. With their strong knowledge of art and design, including color theory, lighting, and more, the production designer will have a significant influence on the final look of the movie — and, indeed, on how the audience experiences the story.

Doing the Homework

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Once the desired look and feel of the movie has been decided, it is up to the production designer to make it happen. This begins with research. Production designers help identify which places and assets will be needed to create the right atmosphere for each scene. Whether it’s a sci-fi adventure set in the year 3000 or a story about the conquest of England by Vikings a thousand years ago, the product designer makes sure every detail is considered when crafting a believable set.

Another big responsibility left in the hands of the product designer is the budget. They play a big hand in calculating the cost of materials and resources needed, including any CGI elements required for the movie. More often than not, the production designer is responsible for helping to steer a production around the common pitfall of a misallocated budget. Many film projects fail to bring a story to life in an enthralling way simply because money was spent unwisely, leaving certain departments with little to work with. Production designers must keep the whole film and the whole budget in mind at all times.

Making the Story Come Alive

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After countless design sketches and discussions with art directors, the art team is finally ready to turn all those drawings and ideas into reality. Since the art department is usually the largest on any film set, the product manager must have good management skills to make sure everything is being made with the same creative vision. This includes working with set designers, illustrators, graphic artists, wardrobe supervisors, set decorators, propmasters, makeup artists, special effects supervisors, and more.

Like any creative project, things don’t always go as planned. A product designer is often called upon to come up with quick, effective solutions on set, all while making sure the whole team stays motivated, creative, and productive. The best product designers have enough patience to lead their team amidst script changes or unexpected issues so that each milestone is reached no matter what.

Is Production Designer The Role For You?

As you can see, product designers hold a position of unique and important responsibility within a film. As a production designer, you’ll be expected to be fully present and fully engaged from start to finish, working long hours every step of the way in order to make sure the movie looks as intended. Without the production designer’s organization, creativity, and knowledge, every area of the art department would have trouble staying focused and on the same page. And without a cohesive design, the look of a film may not be strong enough to tell its story.

If you’re confident in your artistic abilities and boast a great amount of imagination, then the career path of production design may be just right for you. Even though it’s a demanding and exhausting job, few gigs in the industry offer more creative expression, fulfillment, and control than that of product designer.

What appeals to you most about working as a production designer? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about film production at the New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking School.

To Film Fest or Not to Film Fest: Creative Approaches to Distribution in the Digital Age

Film festivals used to be the only way for indie filmmakers to find exposure and, if lucky, a distributer. But with the explosion of video on demand (VOD), filmmakers have real choices to make: Should you premiere your project in a film fest? Should you release your film online in tandem with your film fest premiere? Or do you skip the film fest and concentrate your efforts on marketing your VOD release?

Here we offer insights into several alternatives to help you make the right choice for your project.

Option 1: Submitting to the Film Fest

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The film fest is the time-tested route for indie filmmakers to garner accolades and maybe even grab a distributer. NYFA maintains a comprehensive list of film festivals here. However, if you’re spending a huge chunk of time and money applying to festivals and not getting in, or not winning the awards, you may need to switch up your strategy.

Option 2: Getting Noticed Online

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It can no longer be assumed that film fests will deny entrance based on a film’s online status. In fact, this Raindance article suggests some film fests actively look to places like Vimeo to source films for their lineup.

Vimeo (as opposed to YouTube) is the professional choice for filmmakers. Even if a particular festival does not consider previously released videos, many more accept submissions as password-protected Vimeo links. Withoutabox streamlines the process of submitting online.

Option 3: Simultaneous Release

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Ok, so you got into a film fest, now how can you make the most of it? Take a cue from Sundance, who premieres select films on demand and at the festival simultaneously. This ensures a wider audience and a longer life for your film while taking advantage of the festival’s promotion.

Option 4: Straight to VOD

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Amazon Video Demand and Quiver Digital (which bundles on demand across several platforms including iTunes) offer obvious alternatives to the film fest. And, as Beyond the Film Festival demonstrates for the Pacific Northwest, there are also regional outlets that can get your film in front of eyeballs.

Option 5: Distribution DIY

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In the current VOD world, a filmmaker can take distribution into his or her own hands. As howtosellyourmovie.com puts it: “The films that get distribution packages don’t need distribution packages.” In other words, distributors don’t tend to take chances, and will gladly vie for projects that demonstrate their marketability.

A Cannes winner will not have much trouble finding a distributors, but these days, it’s not clear if it needs one. The big festival winners can have almost instantaneous worldwide distribution and fame via VOD. For example, Amazon creates “Demand Stars” by offering a million dollars shared profits (on top of the chosen revenue package) to its most popular television shows and films.

Secret Option 6 – Infinity?

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No matter what route you choose, it’s important to make your product appealing. A distributor is not the magic bullet any more than is uploading your film to Amazon. The difference these days is that you, as filmmaker, can take a lot more control of your film’s destiny and profits. And you have more options.

Do you have creative distribution stories to tell? Let us know your experiences in the comments below. And learn more at New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking School.

How to Hone Your Individual Style as a Filmmaker

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In a time when everyone wants to be the next great filmmaker, the task of standing out can seem daunting. The following are a few things every aspiring filmmaker should consider in order to develop their own style and make a name for themselves in the film industry.

Practice, Practice, Practice

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It’s a silly thing to try discovering your own voice as a filmmaker when you’re not even actively making films. It’s like trying to decide what kind of painter you want to be before creating enough works to know your strengths and weaknesses along with what you like. In other words, honing your individual style takes time and practice.

These days, there’s no excuse not to get behind the camera and see what you’re capable of doing. With today’s technology, you can grab a digital camera or even your smartphone and start learning how you want to one day convey your stories to your future audience. This goes beyond only doing film assignments in school and messing around with personal projects of your own.

Find Out What Tools and Techniques You Prefer

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It’s impossible to sharpen your individual style without understanding which techniques work best with your ideas. In fact, some of the most prominent and iconic filmmakers in our industry can be defined in part by the type of lenses they use. A film made by Stanley Kubrick, one of the most influential directors in cinematic history, will almost always employ wide-angle lenses, which arguably help his numerous long tracking shots evoke more emotion.

The more you play with different tools and techniques, the sooner you’ll nail down the combination of things that will make your films unique. You might find that the stories you want to share can make use of extra long takes, also like Kubrick. We also recommend learning what kind of lenses work best for particular types of movies.

Think About The Ideas You Want To Convey

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Honing your own style goes beyond the technical elements of filmmaking. Once you’ve mastered all the popular camera shots every filmmaker should know, you need to decide why you’re using them in the first place. Almost all of the biggest names in Hollywood showed a trend in terms of ideas and themes they preferred having in their stories, and so should you.

By studying Alfred Hitchcock’s films you’ll notice many recurring plot devices and themes he used throughout his career. These elements, along with his incredible talent as a director and producer, are what helped make him take the movie industry by storm. Film is arguably one of the most powerful storytelling mediums we have today — take advantage of this by injecting some of yourself into your work.

Become Effective At Communicating Your Vision To Your Team

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As an aspiring filmmaker, it’s important for you to realize that making movies is a team effort. Where some TV and cartoons portrayals might give the false impression that a director simply sits in a tall chair and yells action, a real-life director is responsible for many, many things — including making sure that everyone on the team understands the vision, the goals, and the strategy to be achieved. A good director is able to get the cinematographers, actors, and the rest of the crew on the same page so the script comes to life as intended.

There’s nothing worse than having an amazing idea in mind that doesn’t come through in the final cut solely because you failed to communicate it to your team. Getting good at communicating your ideals will help you hone your individual style by seeing it come to fruition time and time again. This is vital whether it’s your first film project or you already have a few under your belt.

What have you discovered about your individual style and voice as a filmmaker? Interested in learning more about New York Film Academy’s filmmaking programs? Let us know in the comments below!

Black History Month: Blazing Trails in the Entertainment Industry Part II

In the second part of this series, we’re bringing you six more (one is a husband and wife team) industry insiders who are blazing trails in the field.

Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil

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Mara Brock Akil and husband Salim are no strangers to television, with each respectively boasting a list of writing credits that include writing credits on ‘90s hit tv shows like “Soul Food,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” and “Moesha.” This duo has proven to have a winning formula for Hollywood success, having created and written other longstanding hits like “Girlfriends” and “Being Mary Jane,” which stars Gabrielle Union. In fact, their formula is so potent, that the couple most recently inked a multi-year development deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Donald Glover

This multi-hyphenated artist (actor, writer, singer, songwriter, rapper, comedian) who also goes by the stage name Childish Gambino is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, with a degree in dramatic writing. He has taken the industry by storm.

Early in his career, Glover submitted a spec script for “The Simpsons” which garnered him an invitation to write for “30 Rock,” a gig he held onto for three years while simultaneously working in stand-up comedy, rap albums, and a vigorous touring schedule on top of cameos on “30 Rock.” Later, he secured a series regular role on “Community.”

2016 proved to be a big year for Glover. He was cast in“Spider Man: Homecoming,” and debuted his series “Atlanta,” which follows a Princeton University dropout trying to make a name for himself in the music industry. The show, which he created, stars in, writes, and executive produces, has already met rave reviews in its first season — and was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Music or Comedy TV Series.

Kenya Barris

Writer and producer Kenya Barris is no stranger to television. The creator of several shows including “America’s Next Top Model,” he also co-created and co-produced and “The Game.” His most recent series, “Black-ish,” chronicles a black family living in an upper-class and predominantly white neighborhood, and has received critical acclaim — as well as a Golden Globe win for lead actress Tracee Ellis Ross. Ross was the first black woman to win the award since 1983.

Mr. Barris’ work behind the scenes has been meant working up the ranks from staff writer on shows like “Soul Food,” “Are We There Yet,” and “Girlfriends,” to producing. Now, Barris has added director to his already impressive list of credits, having directed episodes of “Black-ish” just this past year.

Misha Green

Former staff writer for “Heroes” and “Sons of Anarchy” Misha Green, together with fellow “Heroes” writer Joe Pokasky, created the WGN hit “Underground.” This is a true-to-history thriller about a group of slaves planning to escape a Georgia plantation. The show, soon to be in its second season, and for which Green is also executive producer, boasts a score by R&B crooner John Legend, and has been hailed as a harrowing portrayal of plantation life and the journey to freedom for thousands of African-American enslaved people. 

Gina Prince-Bythewood

Screenwriter-turned-director Gina Blythewood has been contributing to great television and film since her days as a staff writer on the show “A Different World,” where she met her husband and sometime partner, Reggie Rock Bythewood, also a screenwriter. Her first film, 2000’s “Love and Basketball” starred Sanaa Lathan and was developed at Sundance Institute’s directing and writing lab. Soon to follow would be “The Secret Life of Bees,” based on the bestselling book by the same name, and “Beyond the Lights.”

In 2016, it was announced that Prince-Bythewood would direct an adaptation of frequent NY Times contributor and author, Roxane Gay’sAn Untamed State,” with whom she would also co-write the script.

Which industry trailblazers have made your list of inspiration during Black History Month? Let us know in the comments below!

NYFA Looks Forward to the 2017 Oscars

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The Academy Awards has finally unveiled their exciting list of nominees. Much like every year, a mix of expected and surprising nominations have breathed an air of excitement into the industry in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. Here’s what you need to know:

Two NYFA Students Are Academy Award Nominees

 

NYFA alumnus Jean de Meuron was executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated short film, “La femme et le TGV.” The film, directed by Timo von Gunten and starring César Award nominee Jane Birkin, is a tale about a lonely woman who, through poetic and thoughtful letters, connects and builds a close relationship with a TGV train driver that passes her house at 190 mph every single day. As the two anonymous souls share their worlds by writing to each other, one fateful day the train does not pass her house, leading her to embark on a journey away from the place she calls home in search of that lost connection.

In a nonfiction category, NYFA alumna Raphaela Neihausen is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. Raphaela Neihausen, along with Kahane Cooperman, is nominated for “Joe’s Violin.” The film’s website describes the documentary as follows: “A Holocaust survivor donates his violin to a local instrument drive, changing the life of a schoolgirl from the nation’s poorest congressional district.” Ms. Neilhausen is also a NYFA partner in Stranger Than Fiction series at IFC and will be joining NYFA as a master class instructor after the Oscars.

NYFA Guest Speakers’ Work Nominated for Best Animated Feature

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This year, NYFA was honored to welcome two Disney animators as guest speakers, who have now had their work nominated in the Oscar’s Best Animated Feature category.

Disney animators and NYFA Guest Speakers Eric Goldberg and Darrin Butters visited NYFA for two separate Guest Speaker Series events. Mr. Goldberg offered NYFA students a behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s Oscar-nominated “Moana.” And Darrin Butters also hosted an exclusive screening for NYFA students, offering them a preview of Oscar-nominated “Zootopia.”

“La La Land” Makes History

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One film you can expect to win big this year is the highly acclaimed “La La Land.” It goes into the awards with a whopping 14 nominations, tying the record held by both “Titanic” (1997) and “All About Eve” (1950). If it manages to win 11 of those, it would tie the record for most wins alongside “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (2003) and “Ben Hur” (1959).

If that weren’t enough, “La La Land” also earned the honor of being the first musical with original story and music to be nominated for best picture since 1979’s “All That Jazz.” In fact, the only other film like them to get nominated was “Anchors Aweigh” (1945). Mildred Iatrou Morgan and Ai-Ling Lee also became the first female duo to be nominated for their sound editing work.

Are you interested in movie musicals? NYFA is the only school in the world offering musical theatre students the chance to perform in fully produced musical films. Learn more about our program.

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NYFA would also like to congratulate documentary alumni Susi Dollnig and Nina Thomas, who recently worked with GQ to provide a behind-the-scenes video with “La La Land” star Ryan Gosling at a photoshoot at the Gellért Thermal Bath in Budapest. Both Susi Dollnig and Nina Thomas work at the post-production company House of Trim, which provided the post-production for the video. Dollnig was the colorist and Thomas was the assistant editor.

No #OscarsSoWhite This Year

The 2017 Academy Awards is already being praised for offering the most diverse list of nominees in its history. A total of seven actors of color were nominated — six black and one Indian. This is a stark contrast from the previous two Oscars, where all major acting categories were 100 percent white. This year’s nominees include:

  • Denzel Washington for “Fences” (Best Actor)
  • Ruth Negga for “Loving” (Best Actress)
  • Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures” (Best Supporting Actress)
  • Viola Davis for “Fences” (Best Supporting Actress)
  • Naomie Harris for “Moonlight” (Best Supporting Actress)
  • Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” (Best Supporting Actor)
  • Indian actor Dev Patel for “Lion” (Best Supporting Actor)

“Moonlight” has received eight Oscar nominations, while “Fences” has received four.

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NYFA recently had the pleasure of welcoming “Fences” actor Russell Hornsby as a guest speaker and special workshop instructor. Read more about Mr. Hornsby’s NYFA visit to NYFA.

The Most-nominated Performer Returns

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For most in the movie industry, getting one Oscar nomination in their lifetime would be a dream come true. That dream came true for Meryl Streep when “The Deer Hunter” (1978) earned her her first acting nomination. Yet Streep went on to make history: Fast forward a few decades and Streep’s unquestionable talent has made her the most-nominated performer. Her 20th nomination is for her role as the titular character in “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016).

Streep won her first Oscar for best supporting actress in “Kramer vs. Kramer” and second for best actress in 1983’s “Sophie’s Choice.” Her third win for best actress in “The Iron Lady” (2011) made her the fifth actor in history to win three Academy Awards.

More Significant Firsts

Even before the show begins, there are a handful of new countries that are already proud to see one of their own as a nominee for the first time at this year’s Oscars. 2015’s “Tanna” is the first Australian-Vanuatuan film to be nominated for best foreign film. The film depicts the actual story of a couple who, much like the classic “Romeo and Juliet,” fall in love with each other instead of obeying their parent’s arrangements.

Black women who work behind the scenes can also gain inspiration from Joi McMillon. Her editing work on “Moonlight” makes her the first African-American woman to be nominated for the category.

Other Interesting Facts

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  • The last fully animated film to be nominated in the visual effects category was 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” This year, animated films make a triumphant return thanks to “Kubo and the Two Strings” being nominated.
  • “O.J.: Made in America” makes history by receiving a nomination for best documentary. It’s running time of seven hours and 47 minutes earns it the honor of the longest film to get nominated.
  • Damien Chazelle, who is only 32, has the chance to become the youngest director to win best director this year. He’s also the second youngest to get nominated in this category — the first is John Singleton, who was nominated for “Boyz n the Hood” at the ripe age of 24.
  • In the past, only two people had ever been simultaneously nominated in the categories of best picture, acting, and writing. That changes this year, when Matt Damon becomes the third. He is nominated for those categories for his work on “Manchester by the Sea.”

NYFA would like to offer congratulations to our animation alumna Alexandra LoRusso, who worked on the visual FX for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which is nominated for an Oscar in the Best Costume Design category.

Which Oscar nominations are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!

NYFA Celebrates International Entertainment: An Infographic

As the world hotly anticipates the already record-breaking 89th Annual Academy Awards, New York Film Academy recognizes that the entertainment industry is an increasingly international and diverse community. The beauty of the medium of film is its ability to tell captivating stories — and its ability to allow audiences to identify with and imagine themselves a part of these stories. That is why it is vitally important to acknowledge the multiplicity of stories to be told, stories from all over the world, and stories for audiences all over the world: the stories of people from all countries, ethnicities and cultures.

This year, as we look forward to Hollywood’s event of the season, NYFA recognizes and celebrates the fact that Hollywood itself is one part of an international story. The entertainment industry is, in fact, an international industry:

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NYFA Welcomes International Students: An Infographic

In an increasingly interconnected, global world, the U.S. has continued to grow as a magnet for people from all backgrounds seeking to build a better life and a better world, as well as talented students from all nations who are driven to seek out the best educational opportunities possible. Higher education institutions are discovering the significant importance of fostering and cultivating a diverse, international student body. At New York Film Academy, we’re proud to help students from around the world reach their educational goals as they pursue their dreams and form lifelong relationships with peers and teachers. Which is why we’ve created an infographic to illustrate the vital contribution that international students continue to make in U.S. higher education.

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Interested in learning more about NYFA’s thriving international community? Contact us for information on our degree, conservatory, workshop, and youth camp programs.

Predictions: What Will Be New in Filmmaking in 2017?

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Each year we see the movie industry evolve in order to continue giving us films to love and enjoy. And while 2016 was a great year for all of us film lovers, below are four reasons why 2017 is shaping up to be even better. If you’d like to be on the cutting edge of filmmaking in 2017, check out New York Film Academy’s programs. We’ve rounded up some of the industry trends we’ll be watching out for this year:

Hollywood Tests The VR and Augmented Reality Waters

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In the video game world, virtual and augmented reality have already had a big impact. Who can forget last summer when you couldn’t go outside without seeing someone playing Pokemon GO, a location-based AR game that turned into a global phenomenon. Several VR headsets have also entered the market, including PlayStation VR, which so far have received positive receptions for providing one of the most captivating visual experiences possible.

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show gave us a glimpse of how filmmakers would like to use these two technologies in the future. Qualcomm showed off a “Power Rangers” AR app that put you at the controls of a giant Zord, while Twentieth Century Fox demonstrated their own “Planet of the Apes” experience using the Oculus Rift VR headset. Fox had several other VR and AR projects at the show and even announced a VR experience called “Alien: Covenant” to be produced by Ridley Scott himself.

A Step Closer Toward Equality & Diversity

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It’s no secret that gender equality is still an issue in most, if not, all entertainment industries. But the fact that filmmakers still prefer the same gender and ethnicities despite moviegoers belonging to so many different cultures and races is mind-boggling. As Jessica Chastain put it during a talk with HuffPost Live in 2015, “We need more diversity. We’re not telling the stories of many, we’re telling the stories of few.” She went on to point out that wage gaps and lack of diversity is as much a problem in front of the camera as it is behind it.

The good news is that many women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals in the industry are growing more vocal about this issue than ever before. The fact that the 2017 Golden Globes boasted one of the most diverse list of winners recently is perhaps a sign of good things to come.

A Wave of Potential Breakout Stars

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Nothing draws attention to a film more than knowing a proven, experienced actor or actress will be starring. But had they never been given the chance at first, your favorite stars wouldn’t be who they are today. That’s why it’s exciting to see so many movies in 2017 starring new faces that may become new Hollywood royalty.

While it’s impossible to name them all, some of the many newcomers we’re looking forward to watching are Ray Fisher as Cyborg in “Justice League,” Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers in “The Dark Tower,” and Brenton Thwaites as Henry in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Potential breakout ladies include Annabelle Wallis as Maid Maggie in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet in “The Mummy,” and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

The Love For Superhero Flicks Continues

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Moviegoers have always had a fascination toward films starring their favorite comic book heroes. After “Star Wars, renewed people’s interest in fantasy and superheroes, successful films like “Superman” and Tim Burton’s “Batman” paved the way for countless other hero movies. Interest increased in the first decade of 21st century, leading to a superhero film proving a box-office success almost every year since then.

In 2017, the trend continues as many anticipated superhero films will finally arrive. Some of the most iconic heroes return to the big screen with “Logan,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and of course, “Justice League.” Our excitement for superhero movies doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, which means perhaps we’ll soon see more less-popular heroes receive their own deserved adaptations.

What are your predictions for filmmaking trends in 2017? Let us know in the comments below! 

Black History Month: Blazing Trails in the Entertainment Industry Part I

Celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February, Black History Month is a dedicated time to honor impactful people and events in the black diaspora. And while there have been countless contributions of African-descended people to world history, here at NYFA, we’re recognizing those who are blazing trails in the entertainment industry as they pursue their craft.

On the heels of the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards (SAG) and as we gear up for Oscar season, we’ve compiled a list of five history-makers to watch right now in 2017. So without further ado, drumroll please…

1. Mahershala Ali

An Oakland, California native, Ali was raised Christian by his mother, an ordained minister, before converting to Islam and changing his last name from Gilmore to Ali. While attending St. Mary’s College of California on a basketball scholarship, Ali decided to go into acting and landed an apprenticeship at the California Shakespeare Theater. He went on to enroll at NYU, where he earned a master’s degree in NYU’s graduate acting program.

Until this year, Ali was perhaps best known for his appearances in “House of Cards,” “Luke Cage,” “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,” “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Now, Ali’s performance as a supporting character in “Moonlight,” which follows the coming of age of an African-American gay youth, earned him the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor in December 2016. This was followed by the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor and an Oscar nomination in 2017.

2. Issa Rae

This former NYFA student was born Jo-Issa Rae Diop in Los Angeles to a pediatric doctor from Senegal and a teacher from Louisiana. Eventually attending Stanford University, where she majored in African-American Studies, she wrote and directed plays, music videos, and even a mock reality series while still in school. Fellow Stanford classmate, Tracy Oliver, would eventually produce “Awkward Black Girl” and star on the show.

After accepting a fellowship with The Public Theater, Rae joined Oliver in taking classes at New York Film Academy, while they continued to develop and produce “Awkward Black Girl” for YouTube, raising $56,249 through a Kickstarter campaign to release the rest of the first season due to popular demand. Rae continued to write, produce, and edit original content on her YouTube channel, working on Ratchet Piece Theater, ”The ‘F’ Word,” ”Roomieloverfriends,” and ”The Choir.” Rae partnered up with Pharrell to premiere season two of the series on his YouTube channel, ”iamOTHER.” Rae also began releasing other content on her original channel, predominantly created by and starring people of color In 2013, she began writing a comedy series pilot with Larry Wilmore, which was eventually titled ”Insecure” and was picked up by HBO. This year, the show — which Rae also produces — earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical.

3. Ava DuVernay

Hailing from Long Beach, California, Ava DuVernay attended UCLA, where she majored in African-American Studies and English. Pursuing journalism at the start of her career, she was assigned to cover the O.J. Simpson trial, eventually turning to public relations and opening up her own firm, The DuVernay Agency, while producing documentaries to learn and hone the craft.

Her feature films include “I Will Follow” and Martin Luther King Jr.-based “Selma.” She was the first African-American woman to win Best Director at the Sundance 2012 festival for her feature, “Middle of Nowhere.” In 2010 DuVernay began AFFRM (the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement), her own company to distribute films made by or focusing on black people, after which she later rebranded the company under a new name, ARRAY, to include a focus on women filmmakers as well.

Most recently, DuVernay’s documentary “13th,” which explores the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and our nation’s disproportionate incarceration of African Americans in prisons, was met with critical acclaim, as it sheds light on America’s history of racial inequality.

4. Raoul Peck

Born in Haiti and fleeing the Duvalier dictatorship as a young boy with his family to Kinshasa, Congo, Peck studied electrical engineering and economics at Berlin’s Humboldt University before attaining a degree in film from the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin. With a focus on socio-political themes in his documentaries and narrative films, Peck is well known for his feature films “Man by The Shore,” about the Haitian Duvalieriste regime, and “Lumumba,” which covers Congolese independence from Belgium. Both of these, along with his other films, were produced through his production company, Velvet Films.

In 2016, amidst the political and racial strife in the U.S., Peck released his “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on 30 pages of an incomplete manuscript by renowned African-American writer James Baldwin, which examines race in America from the Civil Rights era to the Black Lives Matter movement. This documentary has already earned him an Oscar nomination for best documentary feature.

5. Viola Davis

Born in St. Mathews, North Carolina, Viola Davis attended Rhode Island College and The Juilliard School, where she studied drama. After years of playing supporting roles in both television and film, it was Davis’ one scene in the film adaptation of “Doubt,” starring Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, that earned her Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Soon after, Davis was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Davis’ role in “The Help” earned her two SAG awards, a second Academy Award nomination, a BAFTA nomination and a Golden Globe award. Currently starring in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” she is the first black woman of any nationality to earn a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  

While 2016 has been quite a busy year for Davis — she starred in and executive-produced the courtroom drama ”Custody” as well as performing in the DC Comics adaptation “Suicide Squad” — it was her role opposite Denzel Washington in “Fences” that won her the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, yet another SAG Award, and her third Academy Award nomination. As she is continuing to expand her work behind the scenes through her production company JuVee Productions, Davis has just put a comedy series into development with ABC.

Stay tuned for a list of five more people to watch as we continue to honor Black History Month at NYFA.

10 Top-Grossing Romantic Movies to Enjoy this Valentine’s Day

Are you feeling alone this Valentine’s Day? Or do you and your lover want to spend the 14th of February in a simple no-frills manner at your home? Either way, watching romantic movies is a great way to spend the evening or night, accompanied with chocolates, good wine and popcorn. Here are some of the highest-grossing films that celebrate the beauty and the magic of love, to suit everyone.

1. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002)

Box Office: $ 368.7 million
One of the highest grossing romantic comedies of all time, this film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The movie follows the adventure of 30-year-old Toula, who struggles to fit the stereotypical image of a “good Greek girl” who is expected to marry a Greek man, have Greek babies, and care for everyone till her dying day. Things turn upside down for Toula when she falls for handsome school teacher (and non-Greek) Ian Miller, to the chagrin of her large Greek family. Praised for its eccentricity and script, the film that spawned a TV series is a perfect way to start a romantic evening.

2. “There’s Something About Mary” (1998)

Box Office: $369.9 million
If high school romances are your thing, you’ll definitely love this movie starring Cameron Diaz as Mary, a woman much sought-after by three men: Ted (Ben Stiller), a high school sweetheart;  Dom (Chris Elliott), his best friend; and Pat (Matt Dillon), a private detective. Laugh-out-loud funny, this is one movie that guarantees a fun and hilarious evening.

3. “Notting Hill” (1999)

Box Office: $364 million
A British romantic comedy, this is a story of a small-time bookseller who meets and falls for a celebrity actress. Written by the same screenwriter as “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” this film stars Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts and is extremely satisfying and beautiful, especially for a date night.

4. “Enchanted” (2007)

Box Office: $340.5 million
Princess Giselle is banished by her stepmother from her fantastical world of Andalasia to the real world, where she meet and falls for a cynical lawyer. Combining fantasy and romance, the film has great musical numbers, gorgeous CGI and a heart-warming story.

5. “What Women Want” (2000)

Box Office: $374.1 million
Nick is your average advertising executive and chauvinist. Then something extraordinary happens to him: after a freak accident, he discovers the ability to hear what women think. Starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, the movie is quirky and good fun, with splendid performances from the cast.

6. “Runaway Bride” (1999)

Box Office: $309.4 million
Maggie Carpenter just can’t seem to make a commitment, as proven by multiple past fiances abandoned at the altar. But now, she’s determined to tie the knot with her current squeeze … until jaded reporter Ike Graham shows up, determined to write an expose about her heartbreak hit-and-runs. Unexpected sparks fly, but will Maggie make it down the aisle? Starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, this romantic comedy makes for a decent watch.  

7. “The Proposal” (2009)

Box Office: $317.4 million
Top executive Margaret Tate’s visa has expired and she faces deportation. Determined to hold onto her job as editor in chief, she gets her assistant Andrew Paxton to temporarily play her fiancé. But unexpected love blossoms and things get complicated. Watch it for the amazing chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

8. “Jerry Maguire” (1996)

Box Office: $273.6 million
Jerry Maguire is a sports agent who is fired from his job and, as a result, decides to start his own agency. However, he manages to get only one client. And things take an unexpected turn for him when he meets single mom Dorothy Boyd. There are many good things about the movie, including Tom Cruise in the lead, the magical performance by Cuba Gooding Jr. (who also won an Oscar for his role), the beautiful story, and the iconic quotations — including lines like “Show me the Money,” and “You had me at hello,” and “You complete me.”

9. “Shakespeare In Love” (1998)

Box Office: $289.3 million
For those who absolutely love period drama, this is a picture-perfect film that imagines a young Shakespeare in search of his muse. And he finds her in the feisty Viola, who is already betrothed to another man. Part imaginary and part historical, the film constantly alludes to Shakespeare plays and has won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

10. “50 First Dates” (2004)

Box Office: $196.5 million
This film is a rather unconventional story of Henry, a vet, who falls in love with Lucy. However, Lucy has short term memory loss, which means that Henry has to romance her every day, afresh. Starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, the movie is a laughter-ride through the exotic island of Hawaii.

So which are your favorite romantic films of the lot?

4 Exciting Things About the 2017 BAFTA Awards

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The start of each year is a thrilling time to be a fan of film. In January, we always kick off with the Golden Globe awards that honors the best films and American shows of the year prior. At the end of February we also see which movies and talented individuals get to take home their own shy Oscar that night.

Right in the middle of those two shows you have the biggest film awards show outside of the United States: the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. The following are only a few of the many reasons why we’re excited about the upcoming 70th BAFTA Awards.

Gosling finally makes it.

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Gosling is one of those Hollywood stars that needs no introduction today. But before becoming one of the biggest in the business, he got his start much like other notable celebrities: “The Mickey Mouse Club.” His success as a child actor landed him a leading role in “The Notebook,” which helped catapult his career into what it is today.

So far, the Canadian actor has been nominated by the Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Academy Awards. But 2017 will mark the first time Gosling receives an invitation to the most recognized non-American film awards in the world. His part in “La La Land” will see him competing for the Best Actor BAFTA Award against Viggo Mortensen, Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The rising stars.

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Much like any other film awards show, at the BAFTAs most of our attention will be on the big names in the business. We’ll have our fingers crossed as we find out if our favorite actors win the award/s they deserve. With so much talent in the run for each category, there’s no telling who will win or what surprises might be in store for us.

Of course, it’s also fantastic to see an award that puts the spotlight on the future. The Rising Star category is a chance for a number of fresh faces to gain the recognition that will make them the next big A-lister. This year there are several promising names in the running, including Laia Costa, Tom Holland, Lucas Hedges, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Ruth Negga.

A musical might be the big winner.

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As if making history by earning 14 nominations at the Academy Awards weren’t enough, “La La Land” can also leave the BAFTAs as the biggest winner this year. Damien Chazelle’s film starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling received the most nominations this year with 11. As the world’s only school offering musical theatre students the opportunity to perform in movie musicals, NYFA will be watching with high interest.

The only other films that came close to “La La Land” in terms of the amount of nominations were “Nocturnal Animals” and “Arrival,” which both received nine nominations. Categories for “La La Land” nominations include for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Film, and Best Director. Soon we’ll find out if the highly-acclaimed musical can pull off what it did at the 74th Golden Globe Awards — win every category for which it was nominated.

Mel Brooks receives the highest accolade.

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Each year, only one person receives arguably the most important prize given at the BAFTA awards. The BAFTA Fellowship is a lifetime achievement award commemorating individuals who have helped shape and transform the entertainment industry. Past recipients include filmmaking icons like Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin, acting legends like Elizabeth Taylor, and even famed game developers like Shigeru Miyamoto.

A 90-year-old Mel Brooks will receive this high honor this year, as he receives his own BAFTA Fellowship. As one of the most multi-talented people to ever grace the industry, with a career spanning decades of success, it’s easy to see why Brooks will be presented with the award. The legendary comedian is also one of few people to ever win a Tony, Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy.

Will you be watching the BAFTA Awards this year? Let us know in the comments below!