Filmmaking

Our 2018 BAFTA Predictions

While the Oscars are still a few weeks away, the 71st British Academy Film Awards are finally upon us. The ceremony will be hosted by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley on February 18, at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.

The BAFTAs are one of the major award shows of the season. Because so many actresses, actors, and filmmakers come from the United Kingdom, the nominations and winners often overlap with many of the Golden Globe and Oscar categories. However, because the Academy is made up of different voters, sometimes the results can be wildly different.

Here then are the nominees for some of the major categories, along with our best guesses at who will be taking home the BAFTA award bronze mask statue this weekend — though like always, anything can happen.

The BAFTA Award
Leading Actress
Annett Bening – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

While Margot Robbie is considered the favorite for the Oscar in this category due to her stellar performance in the wildly enjoyable I, Tonya — the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan isn’t as much of a cultural milestone outside of the United States. This may give the edge to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, star of Lady Bird, a film with near perfect critical acclaim.

Leading Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kayluuya – Get Out
Jamie Bell – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Timothee Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Our Predicted WINNER: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

It’s hard to bet against Daniel Day-Lewis, especially in a thoroughly British role that may also be his last. But Winston Churchill is about as legendary as you can get in Great Britain, and Oldman’s performance as the Prime Minister in his finest moments has already won several awards.


Supporting Actress

Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas – Darkest Hour
Laurie Metcalfe – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

While Day-Lewis may not win, his co-star Lesley Manville certainly has a good shot just for being able to go head-to-head with him in several scenes, matching his intensity and emotional subtlety every time.

Phantom Thread

Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread

Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Hugh Grant – Paddington 2
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There’s a lot of momentum behind Sam Rockwell this season for his complex performance as a bigoted cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That momentum might be too much for any of the other very talented actors in this category, including co-star Woody Harrelson.


EE Rising Star Award

Daniel Kaluuya
Florence Pugh
Josh O’Connor
Timothee Chalamet
Our Predicted WINNER: Tessa Thompson

Daniel Kaluuya made a huge splash with his haunting starring role in Get Out, but we’ve got to give the edge to Tessa Thompson, the talented American actress who is quickly becoming an A-list movie star thanks to her scene-stealing performance in Thor: Ragnarok.

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Editing
Baby Driver – Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Blade Runner 2049 – Joe Walker
The Shape Of Water – Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Jon Gregory
Our Predicted WINNER: Dunkirk – Lee Smith

The editing in all of this year’s nominees was impressive, but Dunkirk’s style was a crucial part of the narrative — telling the evacuation of Dunkirk in three distinct timelines cut back-and-forth. The epic World War II film will probably come away with at least one award this weekend, and odds are it’ll be this one.


Special Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War For The Planet Of The Apes
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water is essentially a classic romance tale, except one of the romantic leads is a computer generated seven-foot fish creature. By making the character not only believable but emotionally relatable, the special effects team for The Shape of Water more than proved they’re worthy of this year’s award.


Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Ben Davis
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water – Dan Laustsen

Blade Runner 2049 is a dark horse in both the Special Effects and Cinematography categories for its fully realized portrayal of a near-future America, but The Shape of Water will probably come ahead in both. The film is a visual marvel in multiple ways, and slides between multiple styles and genres with ease.


Adapted Screenplay

Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin & David Schneider – The Death Of Stalin
Matt Greenhalgh – Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Simon Farnaby & Paul King – Paddington 2
Our Predicted WINNER: James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name

Paddington 2 is a smash success and both Aaron Sorkin and Armando Iannucci are screenwriting legends, but Call Me By Your Name manages to adapt the 2007 novel of the same name in a way that preserves all its raw emotion that audiences can’t help but be affected by.


Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele – Get Out
Steven Rogers – I, Tonya
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

Gerwig is making history as only the fifth woman nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and her film Lady Bird is easily considered one of the best of the year. It’s had a tougher time at the BAFTAs, so if the overall film gets recognized it’ll have to be here for its remarkable screenplay.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird

Animated Film
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette
Our Predicted WINNER: Coco

All three films are visual works of art, but it’s hard to bet against Pixar and their soulful, supernatural masterpiece about a 12-year-old boy trapped in the land of the dead.


Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro
Icarus
An Inconvenient Sequel
Our Predicted WINNER: Jane

Primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall is a hero and legend to naturists and to her fellow Britons alike. Jane, the 2017 documentary about Goodall, has already picked up several festival and critics awards and will probably get the BAFTA as well.


Outstanding British Film

Darkest Hour
Death Of Stalin
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Paddington 2

There might not be anything more loved and more British than Paddington 2, a film with a rare 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. While all of the other nominees could win as well, especially Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards or the Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour, the world really needed an adorable teddy bear in a raincoat —again— and Paddington 2 delivered.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2

Director
Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water leads the BAFTA nominations with twelve total — and it takes a masterful director to bring all of these nominated elements together into a fantastical tour-de-force. Guillermo del Toro already picked up a Golden Globe for his efforts, and while his competition is stiff, he’ll most likely pick up a BAFTA as well — even if the film falls short in other categories.


Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape of Water



It cannot be overstated just how important the Second World War is to modern Britain, and both films in this category dealing with the subject —Dunkirk and Darkest Hour — do so in masterful ways. For different reasons, Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards have connected with and sparked conversation for their audiences. But The Shape of Water has a slight advantage over its competition with its overwhelming amount of nominations this year, as well as its perfectly executed fairy tale with just enough of a twist to make it unique. It doesn’t hurt that avid movie buff Guillermo del Toro also managed to make the film a love letter to cinema. Look for this film to take home the biggest BAFTA of them all.

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

Stanley Kubrick & One-Point Perspactive

The title “one-point perspective” is so evocative of what the technique actually does: changing your perspective.

Hi, my name is Miguel Parga, and I’m a filmmaking teacher at the New York Film Academy. That sounds almost like I’m introducing myself at a Filmmakers Anonymous meeting and I guess that’s not far from the truth. Those of us who have the film bug understand that when you’re into film, mere marginal involvement is never good enough. It often turns into an obsession. For me it’s an addiction.

Fellini said: “Film is a disease. It’s cure: more film.” He was right.

But what is it exactly that we’re addicted to? For me, it has a lot to do with the way films make me see the world in a different light.

A one-point perspective shot is when all the horizontal lines in your frame, if you were to extend them infinitely, would disappear into a point, usually at the center of the frame. That’s the vanishing point. Think about looking at a train track disappearing in the distance.

It’s no secret to those who know me that one of my favorite filmmakers is Stanley Kubrick.

Kubrick used the shot endlessly, both static and moving. Here are some examples.

Humans don’t usually see the world in one-point perspective. It happens, but it’s not that common. If you’re in a room, your eye line usually sits a bit above where it would have to be for the lines in the room to disappear into one vanishing point in the center.

In order for this to happen ,  you have to lower your gaze by about a foot.

Go ahead. Try it. Get up. Go to the middle of the room, then crouch down about a foot, and look at the room from that vantage point.

Different right? Now, walk around looking for shots.

You just forced yourself to look at the world in a different way. This is what Kubrick is making you do. Whether you want to or not, he’s forcing you to do it.

Remember that scene in “Dead Poets Society,” where Robin Williams tells his students to get up on top of his desk, just to remind themselves that they must look at the world from a different point of view?

Kubrick and his one-point perspective shots force you to look at the world differently. When you crouch down, you’re looking at the world from the point of view of somebody of that height – a child perhaps. In this way the director forces not only a change of perspective, but a psychological change as well. He wants you to look at the world through the eyes of a child.

He wants you to remember what the world looked like from that height, when your imagination was open, and you saw the universe with new eyes.

Now go watch some movies! Kubrick ones!

 

5 New Ways to Execute Old Stories

From reboots of classic television series to new spins on known movies, franchises, remakes, and old stories keep resurfacing in Hollywood for better or for worse. So what’s the secret to revamping familiar stories?

While there are a lot of ways to execute old stories, here are five approaches to reviving old tales that will help make your own adaptation a success. (For a great example, check out Magnificent Seven starring NYFA alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.)

1. Add New Twists

If you plan on revisiting a well-known story, ask yourself a lot of what-ifs to get new ideas.

What if the main character was of a different gender?

What if the story was told from another character’s perspective?

What if the time setting was different?

What if at least half of the supporting characters were female?

Even the tiniest details can make a big difference when it comes to imagining something new.

2. Make it Modern

Having old characters react to or live in the modern world is a fun way to recreate an old tale.  A story’s lessons are what tend to speak the loudest to an audience, so show how versatile the lessons and themes can be by setting a remake in contemporary times.

One great example a timeless story finding applications in many retellings is the various adaptations of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, first published in 1813. The Bridget Jones’s Diary series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Bride and Prejudice, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are just a few examples of adaptations with a modern time period or cultural update.

No matter what story you want to retell, having classic themes and characters interact in the modern world or with modern ideas can be a smash hit.

3. Challenge Harmful Stereotypes

A lot of old stories have problematic themes that might have been acceptable at the time, but aren’t now. If you’re building on or reimagining a dated story and run into racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in the story, consider how you can challenge or transform these elements. Leave out the harmful stereotypes, or update the story to draw awareness to a social justice issue.

For example, leave the days of having a charming prince rescue a helpless maiden and have her rescue him. Allow for more opportunities for diversity characters to thrive in your story for something fresh and much-needed in the world of entertainment.

4. Don’t Copy What Others are Doing

Don’t feel the need to conform to the way other people approach adaptations. Sure, there are expectations that people may have about how a familiar story should be approached, but doing the same exact thing as other retellings gets very boring.

If you have a new idea or something unconventional to bring to your genre of focus, then take a chance on it! You never know if it will work until you test it out for real!

5. Have a Clear Focus

Ultimately, you need to ask yourself why you want to remake an old story. Too many people try to revive an old tale without taking the time to realize why they want to remake it.  Are you doing it because you have a genuinely thought-out take to the story, or are you just feeling pressured to do what other creators are doing? Share the idea with trusted colleagues who can help you shape your adaptation into something special and truly innovative.

Finding your creative spark doesn’t have to be hard. The New York Film Academy offers 15 programs for up-and-coming creative minds. Explore professional-level programs in the visual and performing arts today.

Super Bowl Sunday: Innovative Ads That Have Changed the Game & What You Can Learn From Them

Apple’s “1984”

There’s two types of people that watch the Super Bowl—those who want to watch football, and those who want to watch the commercials. Either way, that’s a lot of people—the NFL’s championship game is typically highest-rated event of the year, and 19 of the top 20 most watched TV broadcasts of all time are all Super Bowls (the M*A*S*H finale being the only exception at #9.)

It’s hard to stand out from the crowd of countless ads that have aired in the previous 51 games, though dozens have managed to become iconic—including the dancing Pepsi bears, the Budweiser frogs, and the screaming squirrel.

But only a few commercials have actually changed the game when it comes to advertising or filmmaking, introducing new concepts and employing out-of-the-box techniques. By doing something unique and influencing future spots for years to come, these game-changing ads are lessons in themselves.

Here’s five such Super Bowl ads, and what you can learn from them:

1. Apple’s “1984”

“1984” is possibly the most famous commercial of all time, Super Bowl or not. Released the same year as both the Summer Olympics and the 1984 cinematic adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” it was a relevant short film that audiences easily identified with, and introduced Apple’s Macintosh desktop PC, which would shortly go on to revolutionize the home computer lifestyle.

The commercial, while signifying major change, was also a short film — a dark, moody, science fiction epic directed by the perfect person for the job, Ridley Scott. Scott was fresh off his own dark, moody, science fiction epics “Alien” and “Blade Runner.”

To this day, the “1984” commercial is a testament to spectacle — influencing countless advertisements that went very, very big to make themselves heard.

Apple's "1984"

Apple’s “1984”

2. GoDaddy’s Teaser Ads

GoDaddy, the company that web hosts and sells and registers domains, doesn’t typically offer highbrow advertisements; indeed, they’ve gotten a lot of flack for tasteless, sexist commercials on more than one occasion. Several of these have been rejected for the Super Bowl, so GoDaddy’s marketers came up with an innovative solution — using their 30 seconds of Super Bowl time to advertise their full-length, real commercials online.

By playing teasers of their actual ads, GoDaddy made a name for itself purely on buzz, while also incorporating social media into advertising well before most of the industry had caught on to the Internet’s potential in such regards. While their actual content was nothing worthy of emulating, this unique innovation has led to an entire industry of “commercials for the commercials.”

3. Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene”

One of the earliest iconic Super Bowl ads came in 1979, though it had already premiered a few months earlier before making a splash during the big game. This Coca-Cola ad featured NFL star “Mean” Joe Greene chugging a bottle of Coke in the halls of a football stadium before tossing his towel to a 9-year old fan.

The heartwarming moment was a perfect storm of Americana, celebrity, and — of course — football. By using a celebrity most of the television audience already idolized and combining it with a cute kid and some good ol’ fashioned sentimentality, the advertisement formed the basis for countless imitators, including other Coke ads.

If a commercial can give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, the “Mean Joe Greene” ad argues, then maybe so can the product it’s advertising?

"Mean" Joe Greene

“Mean” Joe Greene

4. Nike’s “Hare Jordan”

Michael Jordan was as famous for his TV commercials as he was for his basketball skills, but the “Hare Jordan” spots that advertised his Nike-brand Air Jordan sneakers took marketing to a whole other level. By appearing on screen with an animated Bugs Bunny in modern-day “Looney Tunes”-style shorts, Jordan changed yet another game.

Cutting edge special effects and combining live action with animation was typically only seen in the movies (and in the latter case, only very rarely.) By putting money and unique visuals into their advertisements, Nike proved the investment could be worth it. The ad first hit the Super Bowl in 1992, when computer-generated effects were just hitting the mainstream but were still a rarer, more expensive option than traditional hand-drawn animation.

The ad ended up being a harbinger of the special effects-heavy commercials that would follow in the next two decades as CGI became cheaper and easier to implement. A Super Bowl doesn’t go by these days without several CGI-assisted commercials, but Nike’s hand-drawn/live action combo “Hare Jordan” can be considered the grandfather of them all (and the predecessor to Jordan and Bugs Bunny’s feature-length collaboration, “Space Jam.”)

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

5. Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl”

For 10 years, the Doritos approach to their Super Bowl ads was to hold a “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, where anyone could film and submit their own Doritos commercials. The winner of the contest would have their amateur project aired for TV’s biggest audience.

The ads were highly successful. By opening up their commercial pitches to millions of amateur filmmakers, Doritos also had way more choices to choose from than any advertising firm could offer. And audiences could connect to the DIY-style low-budget ads — it was a democratic solution that showed that anyone could potentially be seen or heard.

Aspiring filmmakers, advertisers, and just funny people who liked Doritos instantly had a shot at the big time. In the age of YouTube and Instagram stories, Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign couldn’t be a more relevant, decentralized way of telling stories — even if those stories were selling Nacho-flavored tortilla chips.

Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl"

Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl”

 

Interested in learning the skills to make your own Super Bowl commercial one day? Check out NYFA’s filmmaking program here.

Film Technique: How A Master Uses Image Systems

An image system is an image or a motif that is repeated during a film. The audience is watching it but they’re not aware of it. The image system is there, but the director hides it enough so that the audience is not really aware of what they’re looking at, unless somebody points it out.

But wait a minute … if the audience is not aware of an image system, then what difference does it make?

Aha! Great question. Well, just because an audience is not aware of an image system doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect them.

Images have the power to bypass the part of the brain that does the judging and get straight to the part that feels. This is one of the things film does very well, and an image system is one of the way in which it does it — a highly effective way. We hide the images in plain sight, so that the brain can’t analyze them and catalogue them. In that way, they affect you without filters, raw.

The image system usually reinforces a thematic concern of the film by repeating an image that has connotation for the story. Let me explain: The film “Casablanca,” for example, has an image system of prisons.

There’s an airport tower light in Casablanca that rotates like a prison guard tower light, as if it was searching for somebody. This reinforces the idea that the residents of Casablanca are prisoners in their own country.

The characters are often seen through bars, or through the shadows of bars. There are even scenes in which characters are wearing stripes.

This is all part of the design of the film, and as you watch it, you don’t really notice it. You can watch the entire film and never become aware of the image systems. (Now that I’ve pointed them out, next time you see the film, you’ll notice for sure!)

Another one of my favorite image system examples is “Michael Clayton.” In “Michael Clayton,” written and directed by Tony Gilroy, the color red represents the truth. (At least that’s what I think. I’ll have to ask Tony one of these days.) And as the tagline of the film suggests, in this story, the truth can be adjusted.

There’s a book in the film that plays an important part in the story. This is a book that the son of the protagonist is reading, that he wants his dad to read. The book has a red cover.

There’s a scene in which Walter, one of the main characters of the film, is talking to the woman he’s in love with on the phone. He’s wearing a red robe. She talking on a red phone. She’s talking from a room that has red wallpaper.

Right before the scene starts the director shows you an image of a farm in the winter. Most of the frame is white with snow, except for a big red barn.

Michael, the protagonist, finds a major clue to the murder of his friend, in a document his friend had photocopied and bound. The binding of the document is red.

Inside of Walter’s fridge there’s nothing more than a bottle of champagne and some containers of red jello. The inside of the van that takes away the equipment from a failed restaurant venture Michael is trying to auction off, is red.

Over and over, the color plays an important part of the story. Mr. Gilroy masterfully inserts the image system into the fabric of the film and you’re never really aware he’s doing it.

Here’s another instance, and this might be stretching it a bit, but I’m going to go for it anyway: the protagonist’s son, the only thing true and pure in his life, is a read head.

When you’re watching the film, you don’t notice these things unless you’re looking for them, and even then, they can be so subtle it can still be hard to identify them. I sometimes play a game with my students. I tell them there’s an image system in the film. I explain to them what an image system is, but I don’t tell them what it is, and 90 percent of students can’t figure it out, even though they’re looking for it.

Once I point it out, they can see it no problem.

This is because the image system works best when you’re not aware of it, when your brain can’t edit it and interpret it. It affects you in a much more powerful way. Once I point it out then it loses most of its power: Now you can identify it as a device. (My apologies to Mr. Gilroy for spoiling the fun. His film is superb and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, spoilers or not.)

It is the mark of the amateur filmmaker to show you the metaphor up front, to make it visible. To say, “Look, this means something!”

The pro puts the metaphor somewhere in the back, to enhance the story, but never leads with it. The story always comes first. Remember that. Story, story, story.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can have some fun with the other stuff as well.

NOTE: All production stills are the property of Warner Brothers and used here for editorial purposes only.

 

Groundhog Day: Our Favorite Binge-Worthy Time-Warp Movies

Ah, Groundhog Day — it’s everyone’s favorite holiday, from the cute little mammal to the intermittent time travel.

Time travel?! Yes, that’s right: you may not have heard, but ever since the seminal 1993 classic found Bill Murray reliving “Groundhog Day” over and over again to comic perfection, the holiday itself has become the perfect excuse to get your time-warp on — film buff style.

If you’re in the mood for some Groundhog Day fun but can’t quite figure out how to travel through time, we’ve created a movie list that will make you wish every day was Groundhog Day. If you haven’t seen them, stop the clock: these beloved time-travel movies will rock your socks and maybe even save the world.

“Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Okay, okay, this movie may not involve an actual time warp … but then again, are you sure?

Nothing is as it seems in this popular cult classic. Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick) blow a tire and find themselves stranded at the spooky castle of the mysterious Dr. Frank-N-Ferter (Tim Curry). Hilarity and weirdness ensues — including the actual musical number, “The Time Warp,” to help you get your Groundhog Day started right.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

In this adrenaline-packed action flick, Wolverine goes back in time to save the world. What more do we need to know? We’re watching it:

“Time Bandits”

No self-respecting child of the ‘80s could put together a time-travel movie list without including Terry Gilliam’s inventive brain-child.

When a troop of time-travelling pirates (who, oh yeah, are dwarves) bumble into a young boy’s life looking for treasure, our hero finds himself unable to avoid tagging along through time on a series of misadventures that just might save the universe…

“Edge of Tomorrow”

Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself dying on the same day over and over again. The loop continues until he can build the skill and strategy to work with warrior Rita (Emily Blunt) to fight off an alien invasion and save the world:

“Dr. Strange”

For those who like their time-loops in another dimension and with a heavy dose of sarcasm, step into the weird and wonderful world of unlikely hero Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) — the caped cynic who survives a debilitating accident and discovers that he can learn and practice magic. SPOILER ALERT: His ultimate feat is triggering a time loop to — you guessed it — save the world:

“The Time Traveller’s Wife”

Take a break from the high stakes of time-travelling-to-save-the-world movies and refresh your palate with this sweeping romance.

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, time-travelling Henry (Eric Bana) can’t control his strange powers or his fate as a time-traveller. But that doesn’t stop true love  — it just complicates it — as he pursues his wife Clare (Rachel McAdams) through time in this lush tear-jerker:

“Arrival”

Ready for an Oscar-winner? This riveting 2016 sci-fi, adapted from Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life,” was nominated for 8 Oscars, and won for Best Sound Design.

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in to break the language barrier with aliens that arrive on earth, preempting an apocalyptic global crisis. Yet while figuring how to communicate with the visitors, Louise discovers that alien language has some important side-effects … including a life-altering effect on time.

“Happy Death Day”

For those who like their time-loops with a side of horror, this flick provides mind-bending chills.

College student Tree (Jessica Rothe) is murdered on her birthday, and then wakes up again to re-live the ordeal on loop until she can figure out who is after her. It’s a horror puzzle sure to thrill fans of time loops and terror alike.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

Eva Green stars as Miss Peregrine, who runs an orphanage for children who have inherited a rare recessive gene of “peculiarity” that grants them powers that are … unusual, to say the least. With the help of a time loop, they live together in relative safety and secrecy … until the time loop is no longer enough, and young Jake must learn to use his powers to become the protector.

“Safety Not Guaranteed”

Starring New York Film Academy alum Aubrey Plaza, this flick follows a sardonic magazine intern as she investigates a local man (Mark Duplass) who places a classifieds ad seeking a time travel companion. Complications ensue when she goes undercover in this quirky indie adventure.

“Groundhog Day”

The movie that started it all … Phil (Bill Murray) is a cranky weatherman who finds himself trapped living the same day over and over again — until he gets it right!

“About Time”

Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) life changes when his Dad (Bill Nighy) reveals a family secret: men in their family can time travel! Tim revels in his newfound ability and its possibilities to help him bolster his love life with wife Mary (Rachel McAdams, who can’t seem to avoid marrying time travellers), solve problems, and excel at work … until he discovers that some of life’s most bittersweet moments just can’t be time-hopped around.

“Back to the Future”

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes back to the 1950s in a Delorean to save the life of his friend, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). But in the process, he disrupts the time space continuum — and jeopardizes his own existence — when he accidentally interrupts his parents’ first meeting. Forget getting back to 1985: the real question is, can Marty make his mom fall in love with his geeky dad, and get a chance to exist at all?

Marty McFly may not exactly save the world, but this is the greatest time-travel adventure of all time. It’s official.  

What are your favorite time-loop movies for Groundhog Day? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

How to Learn From Other Filmmakers by Watching Films

Anyone with dreams of becoming a successful filmmaker has probably seen a good number of movies in their lifetime — in fact, for many of us, watching movies inspired our own desire to make them.

If you’re a movie buff who wants to take their cinephilia to the next level, try these useful exercises to help you improve your knowledge about filmmaking and pick up new skills and inspiration — all while watching films!

  1. Study the filmmaker’s use of their signature trademarks.

Many filmmakers have their own distinct patterns that can be seen across their works. This can include anything from specific types of shot to a focus on certain body parts.

For example, if you’re watching a Michael Bay movie then you can expect — you guessed it — explosions and fast action scenes.

From Hitchcock’s voyeurism effect and Tim Burton’s dark color schemes to Spielberg’s iconic extreme close-ups, the best filmmakers have trademark methods we’ve come to know and love. Watching their masterpieces to study why they rely on the same techniques is a great way to start developing your own style.

  1. Do a shot breakdown of an important scene.

If there’s one exercise that every ambitious filmmaker has to do at least once in their life, it’s the shot breakdown.

Although it’s a long and arduous process, it’s one of the most effective ways of mastering the complex language of film.

More importantly, you’ll gain a stronger understanding of editing when you consciously watch with the question in mind of why filmmakers and editors chose to cut where they did. A shot breakdown is also great way to study and learn the basic shots and angles in the industry and their best uses.

  1. Focus on camera movement.

The director’s role is to position the camera where they think it will better capture their vision on film. Pay attention to where the camera is and the distance between the camera and subjects. Why did the filmmaker go from a very wide shot to a close zoom for a specific moment? Asking and answering these questions as you watch a film will help you make your own decisions when it’s time to choose how your camera will tell your stories.

  1. Pay attention to new things.

The power movies have to enchant us is all due to the numerous elements filmmakers have at their disposal. Of course, directors want all these parts and pieces to blend together so well that audiences are too busy being captivated by the story to notice how or why the movie is keeping their attention so firmly. But as someone who hopes to improve their own craft while watching films, you should be able to shift your focus to notice and study new elements of the films you watch.

How are they using sound to sculpt a mood? What is going on with the lighting? Shadow? Texture? Are there subtle changes in grade/coloring? Does a certain color continue popping up, and does it have any symbolic meaning? What role does the landscape, city, or setting play? Camera angle?

The list goes on and on. Challenge yourself to notice and question new elements as you watch film to try to understand the choices the filmmakers made behind the scenes.

  1. Examine the most important character action.

There’s a reason why the film industry pays its leading actors well: They’re often the part of a film the audiences connect with first, embodying the characters who drive the story forward and delivering performances that bring scripts and storyboards to life.

Everything audiences see characters do on screen — and includes background extras — plays a part in telling the story of a film. That is why a director’s style with actors plays such an important role in guiding the story.

Who can forget the way Joker laughs in “The Dark Knight”? Or the way Frodo looks at Sam when refusing to destroy the ring at the end of “The Return of the King”? These moments came out of a collaboration between the director and the actors. As you watch, ask yourself how you would direct your actors to reach the performance you envision.

  1. Watch a new movie thrice.


When a good movie comes out that you want to learn from, watch it the first time purely as a cinephile. Throw all your knowledge and vocabulary out the window so you can simply be entertained by the film’s story and mood.

During the second viewing you can focus on the things we covered above to sharpen your understanding of excellent filmmaking.

The third time you sit to watch the film is to catch things you didn’t before, such as foreshadowing, what background characters are doing, and how sets are arranged.

 

How do you learn while watching films? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’re ready to learn even more, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

The Art of the Long Take

If there’s one thing every aspiring filmmaker should consider if they want to achieve success, it’s learning to take chances and be persistent. Not giving up on risky creative ideas is what separates the good films and their makers from the great ones.

Right now, people can’t stop talking about the latest Star Wars film to release — a franchise that wouldn’t exist if the young George Lucas hadn’t gambled his career at the time to see his vision come to life.

Such is the essence of the long take, a technique that offers great benefit to those willing to put in the effort and take a chance.

Risk = Reward

When you consider that today’s movies are made up of several thousand editing cuts, putting together typical shots comes with enough challenge. But while a typical final cut rarely exceeds three seconds per shot, a true long take can last several minutes — or even last for an entire film, as in “Russian Ark” (2002).

These tracking takes involve complicated camera movement, countless hours of rehearsing, and enormous amounts of patience, as a single mistake forces the team to prepare and shoot the scene all over again.

Of course, long takes almost always stand out from the rest of the film when done right. Whether it’s an elaborate action sequence or an establishing shot, viewers love watching a scene unfold without any visual interruptions. This is why many directors pay close attention to long shots, even if it might cost them valuable time and resources.

The Many Uses of a Long Take

There are many ways this powerful technique can be used in filmmaking

A common one is for an establishing shot that introduces the audience to a new scene or location. Since there aren’t any cuts, a long take smoothly draws us into the space via continuous look at the setting and moving parts. For example, the first shot in 2015’s “Spectre” lasts a breathless four minutes as we follow a masked man moving through a Dios de Los Muertos party and up onto a rooftop before revealing the identity of the man we’ve followed.

Long takes are also a fantastic tool for when a director wants to instill suspense into a scene. The best example is also one of the earliest uses, in Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil,” as we begin by watching a man place a timebomb in the trunk of a car that then drives through busy city streets. The long shot allows tension to simmer as the audience waits to see when and where the clock will run out.

Many action directors strive to create intense scenes through the use of complex choreography that goes uninterrupted. If you’ve seen 1992’s “Hard Boiled” then you no doubt remember the incredible shootout scene as two men blast away several mobsters while moving down corridors, using an elevator, and tearing the place apart.

These are only a handful of the various uses of the long take.

Recipe for your Long Take

If you’re a fan of long takes and hope to utilize one in a project one day, we applaud you. The following are a few questions to ask yourself before jumping in:

  1. Do You Need A Long Take?

Although an exciting challenge, the long take shouldn’t be used just for its own sake. In other words, take time to evaluate your planned film and decide where, if at all, a long take would be the optimal choice. It’s better you realize early that a long take won’t actually make the scene more impactful.

  1. Are Your Actors Ready?

There’s more pressure on actors when one mistake can lead to hitting the reset button on a scene lasting several minutes and you may need extra preparation and rehearsal. You should make sure you have enough time available to budget in everyone’s schedules for rehearsals prior to shooting.

  1. Do You Have The Equipment?

Unless the action will be circling the camera like in 1992’s “The Player,” you’ll need a budget or access to the essential equipment that will enable the camera movements to allow for a long take. You’ll also need audio equipment that can pick up sounds throughout the take as well as the ability to light the entire thing so it looks good. NYFA students have access to one of the largest equipment libraries in the world, so your time spent training here may provide the perfect opportunity to create the long take you envision.

  1. Can Your Crew Handle It?

Composing long takes requires extra effort from everyone involved, and that is doubly true for your crew members who are handling the camera equipment. If they’re up to the task, make sure you plan for breaks between long takes so exhaustion and stress doesn’t play a role in ruining a long take and leaving your team upset.

What are your favorite long takes in films? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

How Film School Can Help Your YouTube Channel

YouTube ChannelWhether you are putting together a web series to showcase your comedic talents or nurture dreams of being the next beauty, gamer, or  film vlogger superstar, having filmmaking skills will help your YouTube channel achieve a professional look. Camera skills, the ability to work with sound, lighting, and actors, and good editing skills, all lend themselves to creating content that inspires viewers to subscribe instead of moving on to someone else’s offerings.

Starting Strong and Slick

Most viewers determine whether they will watch a YouTube video in the first few seconds, according to WikiHow, so it’s vital that your intro is compelling and professional. Whether you use music, title cards, voiceover, or a teaser, film school gives you the production, design, and editing skills you need to pull a viewer in and keep them from looking for the next big thing.

Looking Good

The delight of YouTube is in its endless choice and variety for the viewer, which is of course the challenge for the content creator. Bad camera work and lighting can give a viewer an excuse to find what they’re looking for elsewhere, so why give them that excuse? Film school teaches you the technical aspects of using your camera and of how to work with lighting, both natural and artificial, so that you can make the most of your budget, as it grows with your channel.


Sounding Good

“Bad video is forgivable. Bad audio is not,” declares this No Film School article. But as it goes on to say, recording clean audio is not easy, and fixing it in post-production is also not easy. As with camera work and lighting, you can teach yourself through trial and error, but in film school you will learn from the trial and error of others, and start with a firm footing that can minimize wasted time and disasters.

Directing and Acting

Finding the right actors and directing them to achieve your goals is no easy task. Film school can teach you where to find actors, what to look for in the hundreds of headshots and resumes, how to conduct auditions, and finally how to direct them to help you achieve your goals.

And for actors, having some experience in front of the camera is vital to connecting with your audience, so that they feel that they know you. As we talked about in this article, acting for the camera is very different from acting on stage. There is an intimacy demanded by the camera for film and television that is at least as important for YouTube since so many people watch it on small personal screens.

Meeting Collaborators

Connecting with compatible and talented people is no small thing. We can’t say it enough: Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and the connections you make in film school with both your instructors and your classmates will likely prove invaluable. As your YouTube channel grows, you will be glad you have people to call on to help you produce a steady stream of quality content for your millions of YouTube subscribers!

Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

What Does the Internet Think About “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” opened last weekend to a whopping $220 million Box Office take — which USA Today reported is the second-largest opening weekend ever (second only to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”)! Which has all of us asking: yeah, but … what did the internet think?

While the New York Film Academy offered a filmmaker’s perspective on some of the storytelling elements of Episode VIII, there are many more angles to plumb as fans and film buffs alike respond — with wildly different feelings — to the much-anticipated film.

With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% but an audience score of only 53%, there is clearly a disturbance in the force. The internet has been a cacophony of conflicting voices and passionate debate.

If you haven’t seen Episode VIII yet, stop what you’re doing and make it happen — we want to hear your reaction, too!

In the meantime, here are the main types of of responses we’ve seen so far to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Spoiler Warning! Read with caution!

Joy and Adulation

What character actor Andy Serkis has called “a rich meal of a film” seemed to hit the sweet spot for nearly every critic and at least half of the three generations of Star Wars fans who reacted across Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and beyond. As Rotten Tomatoes makes clear, the critical response is all positive: “The Last Jedi” is officially “too big to fail.”

Many applauded director Rian Johnson’s fresh take on the Star Wars universe, with a more tongue-in-cheek tone, a breathless, complex interweaving of characters, and entirely new themes added to the starscape of the franchise.

Newsweek featured a sampling of some of the joy and adulation across Twitter. “Best Star Wars ever” was a common refrain:

 

See a roundup of more positive Tweets in Newsweek and EW.

Yet social media wasn’t always kind to “The Last Jedi”…

Fanboy Fury

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" poster via IMDB.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” poster via IMDB.

“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

As the title of Episode VII suggests, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” takes a sharp turn away from the central themes of prior Star Wars films. There’s no new hope, there’s no return of the Jedi. There may not even be a light side or a dark side of the Force.

And many life-long, die-hard Star Wars fans are not having any of it.

Perhaps most of the social media backlash down to the fact that a very vocal swath of the hardcore Star Wars fanboy population feels Johnson may have gone too far, not refreshing the franchise but rather feeding it to the Sarlacc. For social media’s loudest critics, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” takes us to a galaxy far, far away from everything made them love Star Wars in the first place. Many also criticized “The Last Jedi” for failing to answer what seemed to be the driving questions left unanswered by “The Force Awakens.” (Who are Rey’s parents?! Why is she special?!)

And while some fans applauded Johnson’s decision to infuse a strong dose of jokiness to “The Last Jedi,” a louder group thought the humor just didn’t work. Also, it seems many are angry at what happens with Luke Skywalker’s character … perhaps including Mark Hamill himself, who is quoted in Mashable as saying, “‘It’s time for the Jedi to end.’ Are you kidding me?” Between the fanboy fury and the huge box office wins/positive critical feedback, maybe the real question, as Vanity Fair pointed out, “Is whether this divide is representative of how the fandom truly feels.” Yet I can’t help thinking it seems unwise not to take them seriously…    

See a roundup of more angry fan responses on Screenrant.

Last but Not Least: Honoring Carrie Fisher

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" poster via IMDB.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” poster via IMDB.

 

The main thing critical and fanboy reactions across the board can seem to agree upon within the internet universe of responses to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” is that it’s very hard to say goodbye to Carrie Fisher.

The actress, writer, and mental health advocate, who sadly passed away last December, turned in an unequivocally amazing performance as Princess Leia in “The Last Jedi,” and will be missed not only in future franchise episodes, but throughout the galaxy.

Director Rian Johnson, it turns out, felt just as emotional about losing Carrie Fisher as the rest of us did, and went out of his way to keep the storyline of Episode VIII the same even after her tragic death.   He told The New York Times in September, “I felt very strongly that we don’t try to change her performance. We don’t adjust what happens to her in this movie. Emotionally, you can’t help recontextualize it, now that she’s gone. It’s almost eerie how there are scenes that have an emotional resonance and a meaning, especially now. She gives a beautiful and complete performance in this film.”

If you’re not afraid of more spoilers, check out Time magazine’s feature on Carrie Fisher and how “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has said farewell to a legend.

What were your reactions to Episode VIII? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

A Q&A With New York Film Academy Filmmaking Alum Jacob Hayek

New York Film Academy Filmmaking alumnus Jacob Hayek decided to use his NYFA thesis project as an opportunity not only to tackle tough contemporary issues, but also as an opportunity to take the international film festival community by storm.

So far this year, Hayek’s film “The Jim Crow Holocaust” received a fantastic collection of accolades from international festivals. The nominations and wins include Best Short Screenplay, Best Rising Star, and Best Ensemble Cast at the Monaco International Film Festival; 2nd Best of the Fest, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Actor at Feel the Reel in Glasgow; Best Short Film, Best Short Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress at WIND International Film Festival, Los Angeles; the Golden Palm Award at Mexico International Film Festival; and more at the Transylvania Cinema Awards in Romania, the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in the U.S., the Bucharest Shortcut Cinefest, and the Sochi International Film Festival in Russia. Whew!

Hayek found time in his busy festival schedule to chat with the NYFA blog about his film and his recipe for success after film school.

 

The Jim Crow Holocaust

The Jim Crow Holocaust

NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

JH: Well, believe it or not, the last thing I wanted to be before I chose to become a filmmaker was a professional wrestler. When I graduated high school, I was sort of discovering what I wanted to do with my life. I got a job at McDonald’s, which taught me a lot about what I didn’t want to do. I was going back and forth between being a pro wrestler and a filmmaker. One day I thought back to my childhood and realized I love telling and creating stories, particularly movies. For fun, I decided to write a short screenplay to see if I was good at making a movie. I absolutely loved the experience, and that’s when I decided to become a filmmaker.

I searched for a ton of film schools in the New York area; I thought it’d be a good way to start. What drew me most to NYFA was that it threw you right into filmmaking. Whenever I set my mind to something, and my Dad can confirm this for sure, I’m like a bulldog: When I get my jaws on something, I never let go. I wanted a school that didn’t linger on, but made us work under that pressure and realism that you only get on a set. That’s what I love about NYFA. It’s for those who are really driven and committed to their craft, and who will get the type of education that won’t drag on like others. It’s shock and awe. Only the best can make it.

NYFA: Why filmmaking?

JH: I love the idea of making an incredible story and bringing it to life for all to see. Making an amazing film requires the most vigorous of research and knowledge. It’s one of the best ways to learn.

NYFA: For our current filmmaking students, can you tell us about navigating your transition out of school? Any advice?

JH: My advice to them would have to be, just keep jumping into it. The more experience you gain, the better you become. Make as many connections as you can, make as many movies as you can to master your craft, and yes it’s going to kill you knowing this might not be your best work, that you made mistakes that could’ve been avoided, but never let it get you down. The reason we fall is so we can learn how to get back up. And if your ideas don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.

NYFA: What inspired “The Jim Crow Holocaust” and how did you go about bringing this film to life?

JH: It was originally a very short film about a little girl sewing a scarf back together for a little boy who was bullied. I was coming up with ideas for a thesis film before I officially enrolled in NYFA. One day my Mom said to me that I was the product of an Arab and a Jew: My father being Lebanese and my mother being born a Jew. In light of all the recent events happening in the Middle East, it hit me that that’s a rare combination today. I decided to make the boy a Syrian Muslim and the girl Jewish. As the election here happened, I added the events of a future with Trump as president and the mass hate encompassing America.

In comparison to many thesis films, mine was beyond ambitious. I co-produced the film with my father. We had actors come from Virginia all the way to Alaska to be in this film. That, and we had to have a ton of extra actors. The one thing that kept this film going was the amazing people who helped us make it, from crew to actors, and the need to create a story about the issues going on today.

NYFA: Your film has inspired an amazing response at film festivals internationally. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and how you found the right festivals for this film?

JH: It came as quite a shock to be honest. We sent the film to multiple festivals to see where it could go. The very first festival we applied to (Monaco International) nominated us and we ended up winning. From then on, we were on a streak. We were both nominated and won awards in countries like the U.K., Mexico, Romania, Russia, Japan, and here in the U.S.

Don’t limit yourself at first, achieve all you can. You’d be surprised the kind of doors that can open for you.

NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for preparing you for your work on “The Jim Crow Holocaust”?

JH: Yes it was. It taught me just how hard it is to make a movie, and that it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I learned that you need to know the rules and the reasons for them if you’re ever going think outside of them.

NYFA: What is next for “The Jim Crow Holocaust”?

JH: Because of the amazing reception the film has received, we’ve decided to turn it into a feature film. We’re going to take our time, do everything right, and create a film for the whole world to see. The screenplay is complete and we’re getting ready to pitch it to studios.

NYFA: Are there any other projects you are currently working on that you’d like to tell us about?

JH: In addition to “The Jim Crow Holocaust,” I’m currently writing a short screenplay for Director/Cinematographer Earl Stepp of “Isomnija.” I’m also writing a few screenplays for other future projects, as wells as video promotions for well known companies and their products. My father and I started a production company together called Birds of Prey Films, and we intend to make it the best there is.

Interested in learning the art of filmmaking? Check out the hands-on programs the New York Film Academy has to offer here!

Star Wars Sequels 101: How Do “The Last Jedi” Filmmakers Build On “The Force Awakens?”

[NOTE: This isn’t spoiler heavy, but if you still haven’t seen “The Last Jedi” and you want to go in cold Porg-y, er… turkey, you should bookmark this for later. Also, what are you waiting for? Go see it already!]

The_Last_Jedi_poster

“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”, the most anticipated movie of the year (and then some), has finally come out and now critics and fans can scrutinize each and every individual moment for decades to come. But besides who Force-choked who and which CGI creature will be the hottest new toy, “The Last Jedi” answered a more technical question for film buffs—what did Episode VIII do to build on Episode VII?

While “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” isn’t really an original movie in itself—in fact it’s the (obviously) seventh movie in the series—it did hit a reset button for Star Wars in numerous ways. So it’s easy to see how “The Last Jedi” is a direct sequel to “The Force Awakens” more than it is the eighth movie in the Skywalker Saga.

And sequels normally get a bad rap, though “The Last Jedi” is in good company considering “The Empire Strikes Back”—another middle chapter in a Star Wars trilogy—is considered by many to be the greatest sequel of all time.

So how, from a filmmaking perspective, did “The Last Jedi” build on “The Force Awakens?” Here’s just a few, broad examples:

Production Design

Hollywood titan J.J. Abrams was lauded for his direction in Episode VII—namely because he responded to the artificial looking CGI-heavy prequels by bringing grit and texture back to Star Wars. A full, beat-up Millennium Falcon was built for the movie, which was shot often on location and fully built sets as opposed to large swaths of green screen. This dirtier, rougher version of space is kept in the look of “The Last Jedi”—whether on Luke’s isolated island or the remote planet covered in dusty red salt. If you can feel an image you’re really only seeing, the filmmakers are doing their job.

Film Score

It’s pretty much a given that any new Star Wars film needs to retain the iconic themes John Williams first wrote in the 1970s, but to stand out on their own these movies should offer new melodies we’ll be able to hum to. “The Force Awakens” introduced us to “Rey’s Theme” as well as “Kylo Ren’s Theme”, strong motifs that hold up alongside classics like the “Imperial March” and the “Binary Sunset/Force Theme.” “The Last Jedi” is a little scarce on completely new soundtrack entries—though it does have a motif for new character Rose—but it recalls the best music of “The Force Awakens” throughout, using it in several powerful scenes between Rey and Kylo Ren. As the story progresses so does their relationship, and the mixture of their themes accentuate this narrative.

Screenplay – The Story

One of the criticisms of “The Force Awakens” was that it imitated the original trilogy too much, failing to set itself apart. However, a benefit from this was that it created a broader simple story of heroes vs. villains that “The Last Jedi” could then develop and subvert. Now that the audience is familiar with the characters, screenwriter and director Rian Johnson was more free to complicate the narrative, jumping around between solar systems and even including flashbacks, a cinematic technique that’s rare for the Star Wars series. Like famous sequels before it, including “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Godfather Part II,” a more complicated story gives more thematic weight and allows for more emotional nuance for the audience.

Screenplay – The Characters

The narrative wasn’t the only thing complicated in this sequel. Now that Episode XII allowed us to know the new characters in the series, we can find out more about them in more subtle ways. Rey was a mysterious loner who discovered enormous power in “The Force Awakens”; here, she learns how to grapple with such power and we see how shaped she is by never knowing her parents. Kylo’s internal conflict is made more real and evolves from broad angst to a scared child who thought his uncle was going to kill him in his sleep—that would mess anyone up! Even more minor characters, like Supreme Leader Snoke, benefit from the foundation “The Force Awakens” built. In the previous film, Snoke was quickly painted in a hologram as an ominous villain. In “The Last Jedi,” we see just how overwhelming his power in the Dark Side of the Force can be, as well as his knowledge of and hatred for original trilogy protagonist Luke Skywalker. By inferring more backstory, it places characters like Snoke more firmly in the world and makes their actions more palpable and believable.

Casting

“The Force Awakens” was notable in its diverse casting—bringing more women and minorities to a genre of filmmaking historically dominated by white men. “The Last Jedi” continues this tradition by introducing the characters of Rose & Paige Tico, played by Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran and Vietnamese actress Ngô Thanh Vân, respectively. It also introduces Vice Admiral Holdo, a complex leader of the Resistance played by Academy Award nominated actress Laura Dern. Seeing Laura Dern and the late Carrie Fisher—two women over 50—play powerful leaders making heroic wartime decisions—is something rarely seen in Hollywood blockbusters, but something that needs to be seen more and more if cinema is to remain culturally relevant. If the upcoming, untitled Episode IX wants to retain its worldwide audience, it needs to continue this tradition of casting people and faces from every corner of the globe.

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

11 Things to Keep in Mind When Picking Film Locations

If you’re a filmmaker on a tight budget, you may not be able to afford the best locations, and hiring a scout can be a very expensive proposition. At the same time, you don’t want to compromise your story by choosing a location that lacks authenticity, is inconveniently located, doesn’t give you enough time to shoot, or presents technical problems like traffic noise or excessive crowds.

So what’s the way out of these dilemmas? The answer: do your research, be resourceful and put in the legwork. Here are a few helpful tips for picking a film location:

1. Interior Locations

pexels-photo-271743

Shooting in a tiny location can be a nightmare. There’s no place to stage your equipment in any organized fashion, costing you time when hunting for something as simple as the slate or a roll of gaff tape. In addition, it’s almost impossible for the crew to work efficiently without getting in each other’s way — sometimes all non-essential crew need to leave the set to avoid being in the shot!

Tiny locations often result in actors not having a quiet space in which to change clothes or concentrate on their lines. Lastly, the added chaos can often result in needless mistakes and miscommunication.

So make sure you have adequate space for your scene and have each department designate a part of the location as their space. Your AC should have a clean and quiet place to store lenses and upload footage. The lighting department needs space to organize their lights, cables and accessories. The same goes for almost every department. Organization will always pay off dividends when you’re under time pressure.

2. Exterior Locations

pexels-photo-196667

Shooting outdoors presents its own set of difficulties.

One common mistake has to do with noise. Filmmakers unfortunately have a habit of turning off their ears when scouting a location. Later on they return to shoot and find out they’re in the flight path of an airport or there’s the roar of a highway just a few blocks away. You may not hear the noise when you’re scouting, but the microphones do. This can vary depending on the time of day, so scouting your location during the same time of day that you plan to shoot is critical.

This obviously goes for the direction and quality of the sunlight as well. Your location might have looked great at 1 p.m. when you scouted it, but at 9 a.m., you’ll discover the sun is backlighting all your shots and making it impossible to get an exposure. Finally, it is critical during scouting to find convenient facilities nearby, so cast and crew don’t have to travel several blocks looking for restrooms or changing rooms. And if you’re really on top of your game, listing the nearest hospital is a simple way to safeguard your shoot in case of emergencies.

3. Interior/Exterior Locations

pexels-photo-305832

When shooting on private property, permits are not required — just permission from the location owner or legally designated manager. But you may still need to notify local law enforcement. On more than one occasion have robberies and other crimes been acted out from the script without any warning given to local authorities. Sometimes pedestrians see the robbery but not the camera or crew and call 911, and police will burst onto a set ready to stop a crime that’s not really happening. In this case, notifying the proper parties isn’t just good filmmaking — it’s an issue of safety.

4. Permits

pexels-photo-313691

If you’re using small, lightweight equipment, chances are you don’t need a shooting permit when filming on public streets. However, if you are blocking traffic, limiting access to a business, staging an action scene or a scene of violence, you may need to only acquire a shooting permit from the local government.

Many inexperienced filmmakers are intimidated by the process of acquiring permits simply because they’ve never done it before. But once you’ve obtained a permit, you will find that it’s not so bad at all, and will make you feel much more secure on set. In many cases, parking permits come with it, allowing you to park your vehicle in convenient places outlawed to the general public. Finally, as mentioned above, notifying local law enforcement officials will prevent scary misunderstandings.

5. Company Moves

pexels-photo-262100

If you’ve worked on a few shoots, you’ve no doubt discovered that the most time consuming part is moving from one location to another. Nothing is more frustrating than being stuck in traffic when you’re already behind schedule. This is why one of the most important aspects of the assistant director’s job is to schedule locations in close proximity to each other. Once a film’s most important location is found, it’s not uncommon to schedule everything else for that day somewhere in the vicinity.

6. Authenticity

pexels-photo-247786

Few things can ruin the illusion of your film more quickly than a location that’s not authentic-looking. If your scene calls for a hospital set and you’re hoping that your apartment is going to be a credible substitute, forget it. No one’s going to buy it.

If you need to be, be flexible in your script. Perhaps the patient is being treated at home. Perhaps the scene can be rewritten and staged outside the hospital. Or maybe the scene can be shot in a space that passes for a visitors’ lounge. Although you may not wish to compromise your vision, it’s not going to help your story if a fake-looking location takes the audience out of the moment.

7. Resourcefulness

people-sign-traveling-blur

While the above statement is true, it doesn’t mean finding a real hospital is impossible — if you put the time into researching locations and do the legwork of checking each one. I’ve been astounded at the hard-to-get locations film students have acquired simply because they made the effort to check out all possible alternatives. This includes not only hospitals but airport terminals, train stations, courtrooms, farms, castles, you name it.

If you need a specific location — a bar, for instance — and you wait until the last minute, don’t be surprised if the owner takes advantage of your desperation and charges you through the nose. On the other hand, if you take the time to check 10 or 20 bars in advance, the odds are good that you’ll find at least one cordial owner willing to let you shoot there for free.

8. Courtesy

pexels-photo-279645

Even though you may have gotten the location owner’s permission, there’s little to stop them from changing their minds at the last minute — if you give them a reason to. Most location owners are nervous about inexperienced filmmakers damaging their property. So it’s always a good idea on the day of the shoot, before you start dragging your equipment through the door or moving expensive and delicate furnishings around, for the director to enter the location and assuage any of owner’s fears, reassuring them that the crew has been directed to treat the location with the utmost respect.

If something needs to be moved, ask the owner to move it or to supervise you moving it, so they see that you are going to treat their location as if it were your own. If you have heavy gear, like dollies and C-stands, it’s not a bad idea to lay down paper to protect the floor. And beware of putting tape on the walls and wooden floors. You don’t want to have to pay to have an entire parquet floor refinished because you peeled off a small strip of varnish. Location owners may oblige you if you’re courteous, but they’ll never cooperate if you’re rude.

9. Thinking Creatively

pexels-photo-395074

You may have two houses in your script but that doesn’t mean you need two locations. The same house may be used for both locations, provided you don’t have to use the same room twice (although even this can be done with a bit of creative set dressing and a can of paint). The same goes for two restaurants, two apartments, two offices or any other duplicate location. In fact, with a little creativity, even the dining room can be dressed to look like a restaurant. This works especially well if the scene allows for lots of close-ups.

With a bit of creative lighting and blocking, you’d be amazed what you can pull off.

10. Location Photos

pexels-photo-459735

When scouting locations, it’s a must to bring along a camera. Take shots from all different perspectives and try to remember to shoot a panorama if possible. This is very helpful, especially if you’re showing the location to someone who hasn’t been there before. A panorama can tie together all your individual shots, in a way that makes the geography more comprehensible. It’s also not bad idea to take video these days, considering many of us carry around 4K cameras in our smartphones now.

11. Unexpected Contingencies

slip-up-danger-careless-slippery

No matter how well you plan, there’s always the chance that something unforeseen is going to happen on the day of your shoot. Maybe a water main breaks and now a construction crew is making a racket outside your set. Or someone is mowing their lawn a block away and it’s ruining all your dialogue tracks. Road construction could be blocking the vehicle carrying your actors to the set. There’s a transit strike. A delivery truck parks across the street during your scene and now your shots won’t match with what you shot earlier. The list is endless.

Of course you can’t anticipate everything, but there are some things you can investigate the night before or even the morning of your shoot. Check the weather forecast. Check travel alerts and road conditions in your area.  If your city has a main energy provider, like Con Edison, they probably have a website where street work is listed, so check those, too. And in the case of a noisy lawnmower or a unsightly truck, remember #8: always be courteous. Sometimes asking nicely is all it takes to save the day.

In Summary

pexels-photo-275977

Picking the right film location can be complicated work, which is why you must plan and budget it correctly, and as early as possible in the pre-production process. As soon as the script is approved, begin the research and the process of filing for permits. At the same time, be ready to compromise and improvise, and try to find a balance between the two. Make the best use of your resources. If you follow these suggested tips, you’re sure to come up with something that suits your artistic vision as well as fits your budget.

 

Jobs in the Entertainment Industry That Don’t Get As Much Credit

When you think of the entertainment industry, the first thing that comes to mind are the glamorous actors and actresses that bring characters to life. But a movie or television series requires a team of collaborators and a lot of behind-the-scenes effort that doesn’t tend to get a lot of attention in the spotlight.

pexels-photo-275200

There are so many components going on behind the scenes to complete a project, and several stages that occur before a movie or television show can be released to an audience. Many jobs in the entertainment industry are less known or don’t get as much credit, and at the New York Film Academy, we feel these artists deserve credit where credit is due for their integral role in the process of creating a film or television program.

Below, we’ve outlined some behind-the-scenes jobs and the people who help see the project through to the end.

Casting Director

pexels-photo-515169

The production company or corporate client hires a casting director to organize and facilitate the casting of all the roles for a film. The casting director will work closely with the director and producer under the vision of the film, and its needs, and requirements before moving forward with interviews and auditions. The casting director draws on their network of artists to help make connections between a production and prospective performers, providing the producers and director with viable choices for roles.

After interviews and auditions occur, the casting director meets with the director and the producer to help make final selections for roles. Notable casting directors include Kerry Barden, Randi Hiller, Ellen Lewis, John Papsidera, and Ellen Chenoweth.

Camera Operator

video-943568_1280

 

A camera operator usually works with the director of photography to manage the technological aspects of creating shot composition and development. An operator starts work at the end of pre-production, and assesses details such as performance, art direction, lighting, composition and camera movement to create film sequences.

The camera operator oversees other roles in the camera department, including first assistant camera, second assistant camera, and the camera trainee. Once shots have been blocked off, the camera operator works with the director of photography to determine the position of the camera, and how the camera’s position will affect the director and grip’s workload.

The Society of Camera Operators’ 2017 Lifetime Achievement Awards has recognized outstanding camera operators, including: Mike Moad, Mobile Camera Platform Operator Award; Brad Hurndell, SHOTOVER, and Phil Saad, That Cat, Technical Achievement Award; Phillip Caruso, Still Photographer Award; Michael Keaton, Governors Award; Bobby Mancuso, Camera Technician Award; Dr. Thomas C. Lee, CHLA Vision Center; Andrew Mitchell, COY TV; Ari Robbins, COY Film; and Garrett Brown, Camera Operator Award.

Film Editor

A film editor, also known as a picture editor, takes raw footage of the film and combines them into sequences to create the finished film. The film editor must collaborate with cinematographers and sound editors to combine sight and sound. The editor spends hours looking at raw footage and must assemble the film a half-second at a time, while keeping deadlines in mind.

Film editor Walter Murch in 2005 told National Public Radio that, “I like to think this is sort of a cross between a short-order cook and a brain surgeon. Sometimes you’re doing incredibly delicate things. Two frames different will mean whether the film is a success or not…”

Verna Fields, Anne V. Coates, Robert Wise, Walter Murch, and Dede Allen are just a few respectable film editors in Hollywood.

Composer

hand-music-musician-compose

A composer creates music – also known as musical accompaniment — for the film. Through music, speech, and action, the composer can create and set a mood for a specific scene, or the entire movie. Film music composers must come to an agreement with movie directors – music must be written to match a certain tone of a scene. Once an agreement has been met, scores are fleshed out, musicians are hired, and recordings are made.

Alex Ross, a contributing writer for The New Yorker, wrote, “… when a film composer hits a sufficient vein of inspiration, the images are charged with a feeling of newness, of unprecedented action … the injection of ‘live’ sound gives us the feeling that we have been kicked into the present moment, as the best film music invariably does.”

Well known composers include John Williams, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, James N. Howard, Jerry Goldsmith, James Homer, and Danny Elfman.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate all of the hard work behind the scenes that goes into making a movie or television series. The entertainment industry wouldn’t be as successful as it is today without all of the incredibly talented and hardworking professionals that make film and television come to life.

Toronto International Film Festival Favorites for the Fall

A cool, crisp breeze is in the air. Leaves are turning colors and drifting down to the pavement. It must be fall, which means the kickoff of the fall film awards season, which in turn means the world will now focus on catching all the critically acclaimed, award winning, and audience favorite movies from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which ended this week. For the full list of winners, visit TIFF’s official website.

Here are a few key films from TIFF that you won’t want to miss this year.

“The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this Cold War-era fantasy thriller sets a tone akin to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sally Hawkins plays a government laboratory employee who accidentally discovers a creature in a forgotten water tank. Lonely and mute, she befriends the animal until her secret is uncovered.

Set for release in the United States in early December, “The Shape of Water” also premiered at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this year, where it won the Golden Lion for best picture.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

This comedy-drama from Martin McDonagh features a knockout cast: Frances McDormand, Peter Dinklage, and Sam Rockwell. An excellent script paired with fantastic performances from the entire ensemble makes this a can’t-miss film for movie enthusiasts.

A local mother (McDormand) attempts to galvanize the local police into action by purchasing billboard space accusing the police department of a shoddy job serving justice. It’s the type of movie that swirls around in one’s head for days.

“The Disaster Artist”

Remember “The Room,” Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult film, considered one of the worst movies ever made? “The Disaster Artist” chronicles the making of the film as well as the friendship between Wiseau and actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco).Wiseau is, as always, a commanding presence who captures the subtleties of Wiseau’s character: an ambitious, ultimately lonely figure. It’s fun seeing the two brothers work off of each other, and makes for terrific entertainment.

“The Current War”

Every schoolchild knows that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, but did they know that it was a race to the finish line? The perpetually brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch plays Edison against Michael Shannon’s George Westinghouse as the two geniuses compete to harness electricity. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” fame, it also features snappy dialogue from writer Michael Mitnick. This is also an excellent film for anyone interested in American history and how electricity conquered the country.

“Thelma”

This Norwegian psychological horror film from Joachim Trier showcases an eerie performance by lead actress Eili Harboe. For the upcoming Academy Awards, it was selected as the Norwegian entry for Best Foreign Language Film. Harboe plays a student who moves to Oslo and falls in love with another girl; she then discovers that her crush has triggered certain inexplicable powers within her.

“I, Tonya”

This black comedy-drama centers around the life of figure skater Tonya Harding, who famously smashed her opponent Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecaps with a baseball bat in 1994. Nominated as runner-up for the People’s Choice award, this film features Margot Robbie as a young Tonya Harding.

Interested in learning more about film? Check out our filmmaking programs.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Actors Influencing the World

team-386673_1920

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

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

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

Eva Longoria

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

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

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

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

Dascha Polanco

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

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

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

Tony Gonzalez

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

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

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

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

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

 

69th Annual Emmy Awards Drama Nominees Worth Mentioning

“Veep” actress Anna Chlumsky, “S.W.A.T” actor Shemar Moore, and Television Academy CEO Hayma Washington announced the 2017 Emmy Awards nominees were announced at the Television Academy’s Wolf Theatre at the Saban Media Center in North Hollywood in July. The 69th Annual Emmy Awards will take place Sept. 17 live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, starting at 5:30 p.m. PST.

Compared to previous years, the 2017 Emmy ballot is bigger due to the growing number of television series. Drama dominated the ballot this year. There were 180 submissions for drama series, 140 submissions for best actor in a drama series, and 113 submissions for best actress in a drama series.

We’ve highlighted some of the actors, actress, and drama series we feel are worth mentioning below.

Drama

“The Crown” (Netflix)

Netflix captivated its audience with the period piece, “The Crown,” which focused on the private life of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Actress Claire Foy portrays the queen, and the drama did so well that Netflix has renewed the show for a second season. “The Crown” received nominations for outstanding drama series, outstanding lead actress in a drama series (Claire Foy), and outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (John Lithgow).

“This Is Us” (NBC)

NBC’s “This Is Us” was the highest rated new series in fall 2016 among adults under 50 years old. The show focuses on a young couple that loses a triplet during childbirth, and adopts an African-American baby after he was abandoned at a fire station. It also focuses on the lives of the three children and their everyday struggles in present time.

“This Is Us” has received three Golden Globe nominations, the network has renewed the show for two additional seasons, and the show has received several Emmy Awards nominations. The success of “This Is Us” can be linked to non-linear storytelling, which allows viewers to feel emotionally connected to the characters and storyline.

Drama: Actresses

Voila Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)

In 2015, Viola Davis made television history by becoming the first African-American woman to win an Emmy Award for outstanding actress in a drama series. During her speech, Davis said, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

She has been nominated yet again for outstanding actress in a drama series for ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder.” Will Davis be able to take home another Emmy for her role portraying criminal defense lawyer Annalise Keating?

Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)

Robin Wright has been nominated for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for Netflix’s “House of Cards” every year since 2013. Wright portrays Claire Underwood, the wife of House Majority Whip Francis Underwood. Wright has also been nominated as a producer on “House of Cards.” Will Wright be able to beat out newcomers like Claire Foy, Elisabeth Moss, and Evan Rachel Wood and finally secure an Emmy?

Drama: Actors

Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”)

“This Is Us” actor Sterling K. Brown won an Emmy Award in 2016 for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series for his portrayal of Christopher Darden in FX’ “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” Brown is hoping to take home the Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his role of Randall Pearson. If Brown wins, he will be the first African-American male to win an Emmy this millennium; the last African-American male to secure an Emmy Award was Andre Braugher in 1998.

Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)

Anthony Hopkins is no stranger to Emmy Awards nominations. Hopkins won his first Emmy in 1976 for outstanding lead actor in a drama or comedy special where he portrayed Bruno Richard Hauptmann in “The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case.” This year, Hopkins has been nominated for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his portrayal of Dr. Robert Ford in HBO’s “Westworld.” The new series focuses on a futuristic park with robotic people and allow rich vacationers to live out their fantasies through artificial consciousness.

Due to the show’s success, HBO renewed for a second season, which will start this fall.

Television Movie

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

The television movie, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” is based on the nonfiction book written by Rebecca Skloot. The book and the movie focus on the life of Henrietta Lacks – a poor African-American female tobacco farmer – whose cells were taken from her without her consent in 1951. Her cells were used in medicine to help develop a vaccine for polio, cloning, gene mapping, and in-vitro fertilization.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” focuses on ethics, race, medicine, and a history of dark experimentation on African-Americans.

What are some of your favorite Emmy Awards nominees? Let us know below! For a full list of nominees, visit the 69th Annual Emmy Awards website.

 

A Q&A With NYFA Los Angeles Director of Admissions Ragga Thordarson

New York Film Academy Los Angeles MFA Producing Alumna and Director of Admissions Ragga Thordarson was recently spotlighted in leading Icelandic publication Morgunblaðið for her impressive roster of accomplishments as a filmmaker, artist, and educator. Originally hailing from Iceland, Ragga has mastered many transitions: between nations, between careers, and between student and professional life in the film industry. Check out her inspiring insights, below.

Screenshot 2017-08-25 14.49.06

NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

RT: I am Icelandic-American, born in Reykjavik (Iceland´s capital) and raised in a small fishing town in Iceland called Stykkisholmur with a population of 1,000 people until I was almost nine. I then moved to the States and have lived extensively in both places.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Los Angeles area (moved a lot). When I finally came to NYFA, I had been working in TV and radio in Iceland for several years (hosting several shows) and I had been thinking about going to graduate school for some time. I kept coming back to the idea that I wanted to go back to school. Although I had a career which involved a few years of broadcasting and producing and had made and directed one film (a documentary called “From Oakland to Iceland”), I wanted to learn more.

I was essentially a self-taught filmmaker and producer, and felt there were some elements missing from my film education. School was the answer for me in that regard. I also happen to love school and being a student, so college and graduate school have been some of the most rewarding times of my life.

NYFA: What was it like moving to the U.S. from Iceland?

RT: The immigrant experience definitely marked my life. I didn’t speak a word of English until I was nine years old. I remember being in a Montessori School classroom all of the sudden and not really understanding anything, but within three months I was speaking English pretty well. I also went from walking to school in Iceland in the dark in a snow suit covered from head to toe all by myself to wearing shorts and T-shirts in Berkeley, and being driven everywhere. We were more on our own in Iceland, there is a lot of freedom there for kids. Here everything was bigger and there were more moving parts; bigger cities, skyscrapers and freeways, more rules and regulations, more people! These are different worlds. It is great to be able to experience different cultures and then the interesting part is that when you grow into a bicultural individual you take parts of each and then that becomes the evolved version of you. Certain sensibilities are very Icelandic and others very American for me. Also, I don’t  have an accent when I speak English, so often people assume I´m from here … but I grew up in a household speaking Icelandic and celebrating Icelandic customs. My brothers and I gravitated toward and had friends that were also from bicultural households, Iceland, Iran, Thailand, East Germany, Romania, Tanzania.

NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time as a student? And now, a favorite NYFA moment as part of our staff?

RT: I had many such moments while studying at NYFA, most which involved me learning something new. Screenwriting classes are really where I found my producer voice as creative producing is my favorite kind.

My top favorite moment was likely when I finished my thesis, it was definitely thrilling, and when my $500-budget sketch “Carlos & Brandi,” that started as a class project, was featured on Funny or Die´s front page.

I also loved the pitch fests in the producing program. I met people there that I ended up working with later on, so the networking really started in school for me. Those were important moments that turned into relationships down the line.

As a staff member, I always enjoy the feedback from excited students that are coming into the programs. When I read pieces about countless former students that I remember running around campus that are out there doing well in the industry, that is always inspiring and makes me happy.

NYFA: What advice can you give to fellow NYFA students who are adjusting to life in the U.S.?

RT: I think being open-minded and a little bit outgoing, frankly, is important here. It is such a large, diverse market and environment (at least compared to Iceland). In order to create relationships and opportunities here I found just good-old taking initiative was the way to go. Also, seeking out like-minded people who are in the same adjustment phase or have similar goals. Building a little community around oneself is great, and school is the perfect place to start.

NYFA: What do you think is different about working in the arts in the U.S. in particular? What should international students do to prepare?

RT: There are differences both as far as content goes (some of the stuff in Iceland would probably be considered more “arthouse” vs. commercial, etc.) [and in the market size]. The U.S. market is so big and there are scores of people from all over the world trying for the same goals, so it´s hard work.

When possible, show up early, stay late, don´t complain, and be easy to work with. Always keep your word with or without what you consider having success, which rarely happens overnight. Focus on the craft, the art not just on the end goal. It´s easy to caught up in a game of comparisons, but I say focus on the work itself.

NYFA: You went back to study at NYFA after living a little life out in the workforce. What was your experience like going back to NYFA for continuing education to make a career shift? Why did you pick NYFA?

RT: The New York Film Academy had a philosophy that I connected with: the hands-on approach. The do-it-yourself Icelandic part of me definitely found that appealing. The thought of graduate school had been looming for a long time, as I felt I was missing some stuff being a self-taught filmmaker and I wanted more knowledge.

Also, I liked that the teachers are industry professionals, and they were truly the best part of my NYFA experience. I still see some of the producing, screenwriting and film instructors around that I connected with, and it really marked my time here. The instructors truly are phenomenal.

NYFA: What inspires you in your creative work? What kind of stories do you want to be a part of telling?

RT: I write and produce comedy when I am doing my own stuff and have done producing and consulting of various kinds of projects for others, or as a freelance producer. If I really look at the stuff I´ve made personally, most of it is a bit female-centric and in fact a lot of it is about my bi-cultural life experiences. The Scandinavian sarcasm and cynical humor is definitely visible in there too.

NFYA: What advice can you give to our students who, like you, are passionate about a profession in the filmmaking industry, while also juggling parenting?

RT: Before we have families, working up to 17-hour days at something is entirely possible and it is something I personally did for years. After kids, it’s all about balance. Having said that, some days are longer than others and obviously production by nature is time consuming. It´s about time management and truthfully perhaps some things you did before you simply won’t do unless you can make it work on multiple levels (appropriate assistance with childcare, etc.). I say write for your budget and according to time while in film school! I.e: Shooting minimal amounts of locations, etc. Anything to simplify production without compromising the material.

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ragga for taking the time to share a bit of her story with the NYFA community. Ready to learn more about filmmaking? Check out our many programs at NYFA.

 

NYFA Celebrates Women’s Equality Day

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.50.03

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

Globally, according to OXFAM’s New Zealand site:

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.48.14

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

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

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.53.18

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

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

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

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.57.36

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

That’s not good news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alfred-hitchcock-393745_1920

Visual Storytelling

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

Mise-en-scène

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

Themes

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

Scriptwriting

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

Use of Music

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

Film Editing

Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn 1949

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

Actors’ Performances

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

Keep the Story Simple

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

Contrasting Situations

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

Camera Movement

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

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

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