As an aspiring moviemaker, perhaps your dream is to one day captivate millions of people across the globe with your own franchise. This is an accomplishment far easier said than done, but the truth is that movie franchises certainly have a place in the entertainment industry — and they always will. So it’s absolutely worthwhile to study what goes into creating a movie franchise, such as the ones based on Marvel comic books or J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.
Creating Successful Movie Franchises: 4 Essential Tips
Successful movie franchises like Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars, James Bond, The Fast and The Furious, and Batman are some of the best franchises in history. So what goes into building a successful film franchise? Here are a few tips:
Appeal to All or Most Ages
The Lord of the Rings franchise has expanded to additional content, such as the Stories from the Legendarium Featurette on Amazon Prime.
The Lord of the Rings is one of many movie franchises adapted from books and found great success. While it doesn’t have the same appeal for all age groups due to its more dense backstory, the darker world, etc., it is considered by many to be the best fantasy series ever made. The Harry Potter franchise is for all ages, and children, teenagers, and parents all get something from it. From the first book/film all the way to the last, relatable things like friendship, hope, and love are represented through a magical world with peculiar people and creatures that appeal to a wide range of ages and personalities.
The Star Wars universe is enormous, with opportunities to explore additional characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Boba Fett, and Cassian Andor in various Disney+ series.
In the original Star Wars trilogy, many characters grow throughout the adventure. We see Luke Skywalker go from a nobody on a farm to a rebel fighter and finally a Jedi hero. Since the audience is there when his journey starts, the audience feels like it has a part in his growth and triumph as he matures. In Harry Potter, this same element of the hero’s journey and a character’s full arc is also very prevalent and powerful. The original book/film was aimed at children and featured characters around ten years of age. But by the end, Harry and the rest were teenagers — just like all the loyal fans of the books and films who grew up alongside their favorite characters.
Characters don’t have to age throughout your franchise, but it’s important to allow your audience to feel like they can relate to your characters. Make sure your viewers can witness your characters evolve, as this will drive the audience’s emotional involvement and make them eager to see where your story takes them next.
Cover Basic Archetypes
The fifth and most recent film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
With Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney turned one of their theme park rides into a high-grossing franchise. The success of this franchise can be attributed to its characters, who are firmly rooted in basic archetypes. One example is the hero, Will, who is on a quest to save the girl he loves from a crew of evil pirates. The archetype of the hero, the villain, the wise mentor, etc., can be found in great stories all over the world, and there is a reason that audiences respond to these archetypes. Tap into this powerful storytelling tool with your own future movie franchises.
Well-drawn basic archetypes are arguably one of the biggest reasons why films within the James Bond and Batman franchises are successful. The characters become involved in a traditional tale of good vs. evil, and it’s familiar to the audience. Want your franchise to succeed? Try fitting in archetypes that resonate with most people while creating characters that are charming and compelling.
Take Your Audience To Another World
Thor: Love and Thunder brings beloved characters on a journey through the Universe.
Right now, the by-the-numbers most successful (and largest) franchise of all time is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are many reasons these movies are a hit, but one of the biggest reasons is that they transport you somewhere else. You may be on Earth while watching The Avengers, but the heroes and villains are on Asgard. People love Harry Potter for the same reason. From the moment viewers board the Hogwarts Express and arrive at the wizard school, they immediately feel enraptured by a world of magic and mystery. The characters still face relatable situations like mean teachers, but in Harry Potter, your teacher is a cold, secretive wizard. It’s another world.
When planning your franchise, we suggest spending plenty of time creating the world your story and characters will take part in. It might just help viewers fall in love with your film.
Movie Franchises: Getting Started
Creating your own film franchise can be a long and intensive process. But with enough imagination and tenacity, aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters can create immersive worlds and relatable characters. Want to learn more about mapping out a film or television show? Consider taking a long-term or short-term filmmaking program or screenwriting workshop at NYFA!
Whether it’s long-form or short-form content, there are so many different ways to storyboard, direct, write, shoot, and experiment with film. But how does one exactly bring a concept to life from start to finish?
NYFA alum Dylan Mars Greenberg, who has been hailed as a cult filmmaker, explains that it’s all about surrounding yourself with the right people. Greenberg, known for feature films Dark Prism, ReAgitator, and the upcoming film Spirit Riser, recently directed a short for Adult Swim’s Smalls compilation called The Puppeteer’s Assistant, which required a skilled team to pull it off.
The short film, which was comprised of live-action and CGI elements, was an ambitious project that required a group effort to get the concept off the ground from paper to screen and shoot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Greenberg, along with collaborators Hannah Schilsky and Glitter Macabre, spoke with NYFA about how they were able to bring their short to life and create the magic and majesty of the live-action/CGI puppets.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did The Puppeteer’s Assistant come to be? How did it get picked up by Adult Swim?
Dylan Mars Greenberg (DG): At the encouragement of my friend Avi Ezor, I originally brought some of my ideas and past work to Development Meeting, an excellent streaming show which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. The format was that anyone can call in and pitch things to the hosts and, if they like it, they send you a few hundred dollars. They liked what I showed them and sent me some money, so that was a really wonderful way to get a foot in the door. Then, Avi encouraged me to reach out to Dave Hughes, who is in charge of the Adult Swim Smalls and creator of the show Off The Air, on Twitter. Dave was very friendly and cool and invited me to email him! So I pitched him a few ideas, which just didn’t exactly fit the bill of what they were looking for until I remembered a puppet story, which I had actually come up with a while ago. I sometimes would just tell people about how puppets can’t drink saltwater as a joke because my natural sense of humor is to make up facts about things that just obviously don’t make any sense. So I pitched that and it clicked!
New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did you get involved in The Puppeteer’s Assistant?
Hannah Schilsky (HS): Dylan called me up very excited one day saying she had a project she wanted me to work on. While she explained the premise of the story they had written, in my mind, I had already decided I was on board. All of the creepy but beautiful wooden puppets I would get to sculpt appealed to my aesthetic, and the story is so absurd, it’s hilarious!
Glitter Macabre (GM): A year or two ago Dylan told me and Matilda Sabal (who created the miniature set seen in the short) a bit about puppets who drank salt water and turned evil. The idea was very silly and ominous, so I loved it. Dylan and I collaborate often, and when the idea was picked up by Adult Swim we started talking makeup and styling. Dylan asked me to create concept sketches for the puppets.
Photos courtesy of Glitter Macabre
NYFA: When making this kind of short, what comes first: the concept or budget? How did you begin to envision the production as a whole?
DG: The concept definitely came first! I had actually thought about making it into a short earlier, just on my own, but making it for Adult Swim was a million times cooler! Once that came into place, I knew immediately for the live-action actors I wanted Jac Bernhard, who I met on the set of the movie Adam, and my friend and long-time collaborator Josafat Concepcion. I wanted to have a wide array of people with very distinctive voices do the puppets, so I got one of my closest collaborators, actor Amanda Flowers, to voice the princess puppet. Then, I reached out to my friend since elementary school Nicolai Gorden, who is now working as a voice actor professionally. I got Avi [Ezor], my friend Bonnie Bloomgarden from the band Death Valley Girls, who has a distinctive high voice, and I decided to voice the clown puppet myself. The next step was to figure out how to make the puppets actually come to life, which is where Hannah Schilsky and Glitter Macabre come in.
HS: My roles as both a producer and the 3D artist making all of the CGI put me in a position where I felt incredibly invested in this project and wanted to push it as far as I could. When Dylan sent me the script I knew right away how time-consuming of an endeavor this would be to pull off. I didn’t want to limit the story based on how much it would take to realistically hire a 3D artist. Having a producer title and seeing my time as an investment made a huge difference in the way I interacted with every aspect of the project. It motivated me to throw myself wholeheartedly into working on it every night after working a full-time day job. Ultimately, we ended up with a short film that included every frame of the original storyboards and that’s something I am really proud of.
GM: For me, the concept comes first-but both Dylan and I tend to start thinking about how to do something right away. Almost as soon as the idea was pitched she had created a storyboard. Those drawings inspired my designs for the characters. For example, she wanted The Boy to have a little ruffle around his neck and a curl painted on his forehead. We talked about the budget and supplies I would need early on while I was collecting pictures of suitably cute-and-creepy marionettes and rocking horses. Since the film was created in quarantine, we discussed filming the whole thing by ourselves.
At one point she [Greenberg] asked if I would put her in a big white beard and I would play the Boy. I am delighted he was instead played by Jac and that so many fabulous elements could be incorporated.
Photos courtesy of Hannah Schilsky
NYFA: With multiple elements involved (live-action/puppetry/animation), how did you and the crew juggle it all to combine seamlessly?
DG: I know this is such a cliché statement, but it was definitely a learning process. I had done a short film with Khloaris productions called The Bathtub, where we shot the actors on green screen and then composited them into miniatures. So, I had some experience with that concept and felt the best way to do it would be to once again shoot everyone on green screen. Believe it or not, I usually don’t do this, but in this instance, I did in fact storyboard each shot. I think that was essential for all the elements to blend together because that immediately puts us all on the same page in terms of what is happening where. I wanted the live actors and the animated characters to feel consistent which is where Glitter’s styling came in. Aside from the clown, which was fully designed by Hannah, Glitter drew each puppet character in detail, and then Hannah rendered them in three dimensions.
Then Glitter drew sketches of what we’d make the live actors look like, and actually made them look just as cartoonish with the power of makeup. That created a real consistency. Matilda Sabal also designed the set, which is a real miniature, and then I actually was tasked with photographing it from hundreds of different angles, sending it to Hannah, and then Hannah scanned those images and rebuilt the set on the computer. She’s a genius, I still can’t wrap my head around that. Then, there was basically the filming with the live actors, which took about four hours, and once the models were rendered, several sessions of essentially directing the animation like it was live-action. So, in real life, Adam Ninyo was the DP and in the animated world, Hannah is the DP, because she’s in control of the virtual camera, and in a way, she’s like a God. I say that because I’m asking her to make these creatures move in a certain way but she’s the one actually making them do that. It really felt close to directing living actors, I’d never experienced that before.
HS: The true ring leader behind that operation was Dylan. While I was in a work bubble only worrying about what I had to do they were herding the cats, myself included. She was personally involved with every aspect of the production, on top of tracking progress and dependencies, and that is how things ran so smoothly.
GM: Dylan was the center of communication between the production team. Once the script/storyboard was created, things were in motion. Hannah designed the clown puppet. It was perfect and told me how the marionettes should be proportioned, how they would move. I illustrated the other four puppets and sent ideas for textures, colors, fabrics. I looked at photos of the voice actors as references. The Fairy Princess puppet was directly inspired by Amanda Flowers. I believe the first time we met on one of Dylan’s music video shoots, she was wearing a giant fluffy pink dress! I also talked to Matilda about the set colors to make sure no one would be blending into the walls. It felt like a very smooth and positive process to me. I love the details that Hannah brought to life – like one of the King puppet’s eyes being a moving spiral. Everyone’s work came together really well, which speaks to the strength of Dylan’s vision and passion for this project.
Dylan Mars Greenberg (Left) shooting “The Puppeteer’s Assistant”
NYFA: What were some challenges you faced along the way? Is there anything you wish you would’ve known prior to working on the short?
DG: I think I was really lucky in that I had such a great team working with me, there were very few problems. We did however shoot this in a pandemic so we had to keep everything as COVID safe as possible. We had all the crew and myself wearing masks at all times. Glitter wore a mask while doing the actor’s makeup in the first location. However, they had to redo some makeup once we were on set because we had to transport the actors to the set in a car and we all wore masks in the car, so the masks smudged the makeup a bit. I also made sure the actors themselves were distanced from each other, and I shot one scene where Josafat leans in to tell Jac something in two separate shots because I didn’t want to risk Josafat possibly getting even a small amount of saliva on Jac’s face while speaking. So, we filmed Jac reacting, and then Josa leaning in, and combined both shots together in post. Also, I wanted to make sure we had everything perfect with the green screen because so often there are problems with keying and you get artifacts of green around the actors. So, I made sure there was enough in the budget for a really good green screen studio with proper lighting, which BC Studios provided. I had the editor on set to check each shot we did and during a break actually do some test shots, to make sure the green was keying out properly.
HS: This project was my first time attempting to render an entire short film using the cinematic tools inside of Unreal Engine. There was never an out-of-control moment where I felt like it wasn’t going to work, but I was definitely battling with a bunch of features before I took a step back and revisited the documentation. There will always be information that would have been very useful to know before starting a project, but it’s the sink or swim situations where I really level up.
GM: My only wish is that I had asked for some extra time on makeup! It was a crazy hot day, one of the hottest of the year, and we only had a few hours to shoot on green screen. Jac and Josa were sweating in full makeup and face masks on the way to the location, and I was quietly panicking. But I am very happy with how things came out.
Jac Bernhard behind the scenes in makeup as The Boy
NYFA: What are some other parts about making this project that you would like to share?/Is there anything else you would like to add?
GM: This is the first animated film I have worked on. I have been inspired by animation since childhood, particularly stop motion films like TheNightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride-I was very much thinking of those character designs while working on this project. Seeing my illustrations come to life in this way was very special.
HS: For anyone who has watched this I hope it brought you some joy in these crazy times.
DG: I’d like to thank everyone who helped me on this project. It truly was a collaborative effort and I couldn’t have done it without the incredible team of young brilliant artists who all made this a truly hilarious and beautiful short. I’d also like to encourage all filmmakers reading this to embrace weirdness, and if you have an idea floating around in your head that keeps making you laugh, or cry, or feel something, to write it down. Even if you don’t make it immediately, that idea could come in handy years from now.
New York Film Academy would like to thank director and alum Dylan Mars Greenberg, producer and animator Hannah Schilsky, and puppet artist and stylist Glitter Macabre for taking the time to share their experience making The Puppeteer’s Assistant for Adult Swim.
To watch the short, click the video below.
The Puppeteer’s Assistant
Created and directed by: Dylan Mars Greenberg Starring: Jac Bernhard, Josafat Concepcion, Amanda Flowers, Nicolai Gorden, Bonnie Bloomgarden, Avi Ezor, and Dylan Mars Greenberg Music by: Matt Ellin Produced and animated by: Hannah Schilsky _________
Director of photography: Adam Ninyo Edited by: Phill Skokos Model built by: Matilda Sabal Humans and puppets styled by: Glitter Macabre Associate producer Avi Ezor Makeup assistant: Leor Freedman Sound: James Boylan Additional animation: Ezra Pailer Color: Gene Rosati Jr. Shot at BC Studios Special thanks to Dave Hughes and Danya Levine
Winter is awards season in Hollywood, the time of year when actors, directors, screenwriters, and other creatives are honored for their work by critics, trade guilds, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and most famously, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With Oscar nominations slated to be announced on March 15, 2021, the New York Film Academy is proud to announce that films by three alumni are currently qualified in the Best Live Action Short category.
According to the Academy’s official rules, there are three ways for a short film to qualify for an Oscar nomination. Continue reading to learn more about each one:
HOW TO QUALIFY FOR AN OSCAR AS A SHORT FILM
1) By winning a qualifying award at one of more than ninety film festivals officially recognized by the Academy.
Each year top festivals honor short live-action, documentary, and animated films which can then be submitted to the corresponding Oscars category. These festivals range the globe, from Hollyshorts in Los Angeles to the New York International Children’s Film Festival, from Cartagena to Bengaluru to Busan.
Film poster for “Arabian Alien”
The Atlanta Film Festival is where Arabian Alien, a filmbyBFA Screenwriting alum Meshal Aljaser, qualified by winning the best narrative short award. The festival’s jury called it, “a layered, suspenseful and powerfully strange tale of societal taboos and marital tension, told with emotional precision, silent-film-evoking visuals, cultural authenticity, and startling humor.”
NYFA alum Meshal Aljaser
2) By screening the film in a public movie theater for seven days in a row in one of these major US cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, or Miami.
This year two short films qualified by showing in cinemas.
Film poster for “2ḦOOM”
2ḦOOM[Zoom] by Acting for Film Workshop alum Dr. Ariel Orama López is an experimental live-action and animation hybrid short film about two brothers from the Caribbean who discover what unifies them. Using the backdrop of the current pandemic and the all-too-familiar COVID communication platform of choice, Zoom, the film includes voices and talents from the Caribbean, Latin America, Spain, and Italy.
NYFA alum Dr. Ariel Orama López
This is Dr. Orama López’s second consecutive nod for Academy Award consideration with his previous short film, One, qualifying for an Oscar nomination in 2020. “I feel blessed by the opportunity to qualify for the Oscars two years in a row,” Dr. Orama López shared. “I believe that films more than entertain. They can heal us and represent who we are as humans.”
“Saving Chintu” Film Poster
Saving Chintu by Tushar Tyagi, an alum of NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program, qualified by showing in theaters as well. After a prolific festival run with official selections at over twenty film festivals — including the Oscar-qualifying Outfest and Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival — Tyagi’s Oscars campaign manager suggested they go for a theatrical run. They set one up at the Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles, only to see it canceled due to pandemic restrictions. Still, the Academy accepted a letter of intent to exhibit from the theater as a qualification, so the short is now officially in the running.
“When your film, which talks about basic human and LGBTQ rights, HIV and adoption, is being watched and celebrated at the top film festivals and praised by so many, it is a very blissful feeling,” said Tyagi. “Now that we are a part of the 2021 Oscars race, it’s almost unbelievable.”
3) By winning a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Medal in the Student Academy Awards.
Winning the Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards is what qualified NYFA Guest Speaker Asher Jelinsky’s film (Miller and Son). Starring Jesse James Keitel of the new David E. Kelley / ABC drama Big Sky, the film was shortlisted for the 2019 Oscars.
NYFA students in degree-bearing programs (AFA, BFA, MA, and MFA) are qualified to submit to the Student Academy Awards. Just this past year MFA Filmmaking alum Phyllis Tam’s stunning Fragile Moon was a finalist.
Once filmmakers qualified for the 93rd Oscars, they had to submit applications to the Academy by December 1, 2020. Now, they’re waiting as members of the Academy review the films before going through three rounds of voting. After the first round, a shortlist of ten finalists in each of the shorts categories — Live Action, Documentary, and Animated — will be announced on February 9, 2021. The second round of voting will trim the list down to the five finalists in each category, which will be announced on March 15, 2021. Finally, Academy members will vote for their favorites for the last time, with winners being announced live at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021.
NYFA congratulates Meshal Aljaser, Dr. Ariel Orama Lopez, and Tushar Tyagi on their Oscar qualifications and wishes them great luck. Watch this space to find out if they make the shortlist — we’ll know on February 9th.
Learning how to be a filmmaker isn’t just applicable to being a film director, writer, or working on a film set, it’s also about how you can tell a story and communicate with others. For NYFA Filmmaking alum Raquel Bordin, her skills she has developed over the years, coupled with her knowledge of the film industry, have equipped her with a successful career in film marketing and even starting her own company, Archetype Films.
From big-budget films like Avengers: Infinity War and It, to smaller films that have made a big splash like Ready or Not, Bordin has had a hand in creating how audiences are presented with a proof of concept or a teaser of what a film will bring prior to its release and when it’s ready for home viewing.
NYFA caught up with the Filmmaking alum to ask her more about her career in branded content, her past film screening at Cannes, and more about her experience at NYFA coming from Brazil.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What first got you interested in filmmaking?
Raquel Bordin (RB): I have always been a person with a voice and I always thought that the most efficient way to communicate and show people a different point of view, was through the art of storytelling. Make people think and question things that they have never before.
NYFA: What made you want to come to NYFA?
RB: NYFA was always a dream school for me. I have lots of art formation, and I have built a Very artistic way of looking at life, but I didn’t know how to use the filmmaking tools to do it. The school gave me the hands-on experience that I needed in my repertoire.
NYFA: Do you have any advice for any incoming students?
RB: I think the biggest advice I can give is: nobody is gonna make your dreams come true other than yourself. It’s all about dedication and hard work. If you don’t go knocking on doors, even if they are closed, nobody will open them for you. Focus is very important in a such competitive industry, and you need to be confident in your own skin. No idea is a bad idea; remember that one day someone said in a meeting “what about a tornado of sharks?,” and here we are with the Sharknado franchise.
NYFA: Your thesis film Tip Toe was a critical success. What did it feel like to have your film recognized and even having it shown at Cannes Film Festival?
RB: It was an honor to have my first little short receive so much recognition. Even though I wasn’t totally happy with the movie due to some problems, I felt that I was able to accomplish what I came here for and to be able to become someone in this industry. It worked as an incentive to keep on going.
NYFA: You’ve worked on branded content for some big-name films from It to Avengers: Infinity War. For those unfamiliar, what is branded content and what was it like to get to work on projects like that where you have to work closely with top film studios?
RB: So branded content is the content we make to promote the movie. It’s like marketing packages that I have been designing along with some producers on how we are going to sell the film. I have done that for A LOT of films, and it’s amazing because we are able to watch the films even before they come out in the theaters.
I always apply for this type of job and sometimes I get the honor to make these packages. Prior to this, I worked for Google for two years which helped me a lot in understanding how we are able to capture an audience’s attention and seek our product.
NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
RB: For now I’m focused on working with these big studios, and I have lots of new things going on in that department but, for now, I can’t speak about it due to NDA contracts.
New York Film Academy wishes Filmmaking alum Raquel Bordin all the best on her upcoming studio projects and looks forward to seeing branded content created by the Bordin for some of the entertainment industry’s top films in the future.
Njoki Muhoho is a lover of growing organizations to support people and takes pleasure in scripting and producing films, so don’t ask her to choose one career over the other. The Kenyan native is a member of the International Emmys, the Academy Director of MultiChoice Talent Factory East Africa, runs her own production company, was profiled by Business Daily Africa this year, and was named by the Women in Film Awards as the ‘Most Influential Women Personality’ in the Kenyan film industry.
Earlier this year, NYFA had the opportunity to ask the MultiChoice East Africa Academy Director about her career behind the camera, studying at NYFA, and advice for aspiring filmmakers and creatives.
Njoki Muhoho during MultiChoice Networking Portal
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us more about yourself and what brought you to study at New York Film Academy back in the early 2000s?
Njoki Muhoho (NM): I am from Nairobi Kenya and I am the Academy Director for Multichoice Talent Factory EA. (MTF). MTF is the film academy for Multichoice Africa Group. We have 4 hubs. South Africa- Johannesburg, Southern Africa – Lusaka, East Africa – Nairobi, and West Africa – Lagos.
In East Africa, our Hub caters to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. I’m also the founder of – Zebra Productions Kenya Ltd where I am the Executive Producer. I have been in the film industry for about 18 years and I have a dual career in Management Consultancy, including a Pricewaterhouse background with 30 years of experience in Organisation Development.
From my school days, I always enjoyed, creative writing. In 1996, while busy with my consulting career, Multichoice/Mnet launched a scriptwriting competition and I had never seen a film script let alone know a filmmaker. But I was confident in my ability to tell a story, so I entered the competition and ended up becoming the national winner. I remember thinking, ’This is a fluke or I might have innate talent.’ I then promised myself that one day, I would take at least a six-month sabbatical and go away to learn filmmaking. I also promised myself that I would have to learn with the experts, no matter how much it cost.
For over two years, I quietly researched. I wrote to institutions and finally decided on NYFA. I choose Los Angeles based on the weather. I did not want to experience a cold winter in New York!
NYFA: After finishing your studies, what was that transition like coming back to Kenya?
NM: There was fear that I may not get opportunities to apply the highest level of sophisticated skills that I had learned and I worried about how I would fund my productions. In the middle of planning for upcoming productions, I also needed to go back to consultancy just to make ends meet.
NYFA:Can you tell us a bit about your current positions (MultiChoice, Zebra Productions, Emmy’s) and what it’s like juggling all of them? What keeps you inspired?
NM: Multichoice Talent Factory – Academy Director: This was an advertised and competitive job, but I got it. I run the academy of 20 students. The academy is a practical film immersion for adult students who already have a maximum of 2 years of experience in filmmaking.
Zebra Productions Kenya Ltd: I am the founder of this company. I was commissioned to produce the first high-end drama series in E.A by Mnet (Multichoice), I was also Co-Executive Producer for 75 made-for-tv, feature films for Multichoice channels. My first fully owned drama series, Mama Duka, won the prestigious Best Indigenous Film/TV Series East Africa 2014. It later went on to win four more awards.
International Emmys: I am a Member of the International Emmys. The only East and Central African.; a situation I am working hard to change. I have just endorsed 12 of my colleagues in the industry to join the International Emmys. I have also done Jury work for the International Emmys for the last four years. I find the experience very enriching and it provides a benchmark of the quality of content. I attended the International Emmys Festival and Gala last year. It was very educational with fantastic networking opportunities.
NYFA:What are your goals and what’s next for you?
NM: To ensure I streamline MTF and find a successor. Then, I will put full-time work in my production company. I want to produce proudly and authenticate African content for International and local audiences. I need to produce more.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you are applying or plan to apply directly to your work?
NM: Plenty. Set standards in your work and stick to them. Let it be your brand. Tell your stories. Understand why others tell their stories in their own way (e.g. the Hollywood template), but not to copycat but, instead, benchmark and tailor. At the time, I was the only non-American student in my class. I constantly insisted on translating skills learned into Africa content. Not always easy, but I feel I stayed true to who I am, and learning from practicing filmmakers was an amazing experience.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
NM: Be truthful to yourself and your background. Learn everything and then learn more. There is more to learn at NYFA than just what is in your super busy schedule. Have curiosity. Talk to other students in other departments. Be open-minded. Accept criticism of your work as a means to grow. Don’t waste time defending yourself. Even when you do not agree, still learn how to do it differently. Criticism of work comes hard-hitting at NYFA. Have a thick skin and a light attitude. Keep the contacts; they will come in handy later in your career.
New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA alum Njoki Muhoho for taking the time to share about her life, experiences in the industry, and the importance of staying truthful when creating.
Here in Los Angeles, where I live and work, the word is out that Hollywood film production will gradually be returning to a semblance of normalcy. But what does that mean exactly? What is normal? And what does this mean for you as film students hoping to enter a profession that, even with the lifting of restrictions, seems so fraught?
I am more hopeful than pessimistic about your prospects. Here’s why: My basic premise is that, going forward, the Hollywood studios will be much more wary of making big-budget movies with large casts. Why? First of all, there is the unavoidable COVID-19 reality that movies, involving hundreds of cast and crew, will be physically challenging to execute. This means that the era of the big blockbuster, at least for the time being, will likely be winding down. The logistics involved with creating a film, which were always difficult, will become much more so. And much more expensive, too.
Many big Hollywood movies nowadays cost upwards of $150 million dollars. The majority, even before COVID, did not return their investment. The fraught new situation means that even fewer movies will make a profit, let alone a mega-profit. Not only will costs go up but – and here’s a large new development – the prospect of reaping rewards from big-screen revenues is quickly diminishing.
We all like to see movies on the big screen, with an audience – especially blockbusters – but more of us are in the position now of having to see films at home, on the small screen. We are wary of venturing into movie theaters, and some may have become increasingly comfortable with home viewing.
A movie studio gets far less revenue from home streaming than from theatrical distribution. In the case of a blockbuster, distributing it as a non-theatrical release would be an invitation to disaster. Almost certainly it will never make its money back.
So where does this leave the major studios? If, for the foreseeable future, movie theaters, for the reasons I’ve cited, will not generate anything like the revenue they used to, what will fill the vacuum?
This is where I think you at NYFA, and your fellow colleagues, have a real opportunity. You already know, or will know, how to craft very low-budget independent films with small crews and casts. This is essentially what you would be doing anyway, before COVID, if not by choice than by necessity. As a result, you will become very attractive to a film industry that, in the current climate, is hungry for movie makers who know how to work fast and cheap and still come up with quality cinema, and the movies you make can likely be shown quite as comfortably on a small screen as a big one. Distributors can buy your films knowing the movies will have a fair shot at returning a profit even if they are only shown as VOD (video on demand).
Something similar to this situation occurred in Hollywood in the late sixties and early seventies. The big expensive blockbuster movies were not connecting with the young moviegoing audience. They were losing bales of money. (Ever see Doctor Doolittle with Rex Harrison?) So the studio bosses brought into the system young filmmakers who previously would never have had a chance otherwise. The bosses were looking for young, exploitable film talents who could make movies that clicked with new audiences and return huge profits à la Easy Rider. Young turks ranging from George Lucas and Francis Coppola to Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma – almost all of them film school grads – got their shot. That worked out pretty well, didn’t it?
Even if you don’t want to go the Hollywood route, the options before you are great, because there are so many more platforms now where your movies can be viewed and appreciated.
Out of great hardship comes great opportunity. It may not feel that way to you now, but I’m betting it soon will!
Last year was a great year for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Cody Broadway, who added two more trophies to his collection of regional Emmy awards. The first Lone Star Emmy Award he won in 2019 was for ELEVEN: Wall Hawks in the Best News Series category, while the second was in the Best special Feature category for his social experiment, titled Crossing the Line. Previously, Broadway has won 5 regional Emmys in Colorado.
Broadway first attended NYFA in 2009, enrolling in the 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory at our New York campus. He credits NYFA for pushing him to “be a better storyteller.”
Since then, Broadway has seen a series of ups and downs in his life and career, and has learned that for most people, your personal journey is rarely a flat, straight line. He recently started a new job with NBCUniversal in Los Angeles as a Visual Storyteller for NBCLX, and will be working on several new stories.
New York Film Academy spoke with Filmmaking alum Cody Broadway about his journey from a small town in Texas to New York City to Los Angeles, and all the ups, downs, rejections, and Emmy wins in between:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Cody Broadway (CB): I’m from the great town of San Angelo, Texas. A small town in West Texas. The population is a little over 100,000 people. When I started my TV/Film career at KLST TV in San Angelo, I was a production assistant (moving cameras around during a newscast for $5/hour). A position I cried about when I was hired. I met a gentleman at the station who told me to leave town and to chase my dream.
At the time, I had no clue what my dream was, to be honest. I just knew I wanted to be creative and I wanted to impact people. He suggested finding a film school, so that is where my search started. NYFA was high on my list for schooling, because of the opportunity to have a hands-on approach. I can sit in a classroom anywhere, but there is something special about going out and doing it yourself in NYC. My family couldn’t afford the trip to NYC at the time, so we booked a one-way flight and packed one large suitcase and I headed to New York City alone—going from a town of 100K people to a city of 8 million. A huge risk at the time, but one that eventually would pay off.
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on filmmaking?
CB: Filmmaking and storytelling have had an impact on me since I was young. Some people turn to music for answers, I turn to film. It’s always been a dream to create something that has an impact on people. Something that moves people to think or do. If I do that in my projects then I’ve done my job.
NYFA: The past few months for you have had some major ups and downs – can you go into what’s been happening in your life recently?
CB: Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions. There are few things in my career that will always stand out, and these past three months is one of them. In November, I was blessed to receive my eighth Regional Emmy award for storytelling. This was the first Emmy at the establishment I was working for at the time. It was a special one, and will always be. Not because it was the first for that organization, but because of what would happen next. In the coming days, I would find myself out of a job and unsure of myself and my journey. It was right before the holidays and I was the only one working and providing for my family. All I could think about was my wife Cassandra and two boys, Caine and Corbin. The day I was let go, I sat in silence in my car unsure how to tell my wife that I had lost my job. I believe it was more of a pride thing if anything. A feeling of embarrassment. At one moment you’re on top of the world, winning awards and “living your dream,” and the next you’re jobless and having to explain to your kids why you’re always home. Little did I know this was all part of the journey.
Two hours before I received word that my services were no longer needed, I was sitting in my car in tears in front of that establishment. I was having trouble breathing and had a massive headache. I remember reading an article that morning about praying straight to the heart of a problem. I knew it was something much larger than a headache. I closed my eyes and said, “Lord, let your will be done. If something is not for me, take it away.” At that moment I had surrendered. I then got out of my car and walked inside. Two hours later, I was walking out of the same door, jobless.
I spent the next few months focusing on family, myself, and my relationship with God. I put my career in the backseat and put other things before it. I got back into storytelling for myself. Going after the stories I wanted to share. Filming videos that people could relate to. Sharing my story with people with the hope of impacting someone. The more I did this, the more I fell back in love with the process. To be honest, there was a moment I was considering leaving the industry as a whole.
Then I got a call…
NBCUniversal! I was in contact with them for a few months, but I was unsure where or if it was going to happen. So, on January 1, 2020, I was offered a Visual Storyteller job for NBCLX in Los Angeles! A dream job. One that took me 13 years to land! All of the “NO’s” and rejections had finally paid off. Just when I felt like giving up, the door was finally opened.
NYFA: Eventually, you learned that hearing no and getting rejected is part of the process, but how did you deal with all those rejections before doors finally started opening for you?
CB: It took me a while to fully understand rejection. In my eyes, I was going to film school and then I would make Hollywood blockbusters right away. I guess you can say wishful thinking, haha. Rejection started early in my career. From jobs to film festivals, I have a mailbox full of “Thank you for your interest, BUT…”
I always knew with each, “NO” I was closer to a, “YES”. Even if that first yes was directing a weekend newscast back in West Texas in my hometown right out of film school. Over the years, I realized that opportunities come and they go. They are meant for us to learn and grow from. Rejection hurts. It sucks. I don’t know anyone personally that loves the sound of rejection, BUT it’s so important for us to go through. When a door closes look for a crack in the glass. There is always a way.
NYFA: What has facing adversity and rejection in your career taught you?
CB: This industry is all about perseverance and facing adversity. Overcoming the “no’s,” film festival rejections, firings, etc. is key time your success. The odds are against us as filmmakers and creators. Not everyone gets into Sundance or TriBeCa, and that is okay. Be real with people. Life isn’t sunshine and rainbows. It’s easy to put that image out there on social media. People want you! And your story! Once I realized that my career started to excel to greater highest I could never imagine.
NYFA: Do you have any advice for students starting out at NYFA who haven’t faced these adversities yet?
CB: Believe in yourself and your own ability. Be your biggest advocate, because at times it may only be you. Know that some doors may never open, while others may slam in your face, but you have to continue pushing forward. Those that continue fighting are the ones who end up on top. Believe. Believe. Believe. It’s possible—I’m a living example of that.
New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Cody Broadway for taking the time to open up and speak about his own personal journey and for his advice to his fellow filmmakers and NYFA alumni.
[warning: SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home]
This summer saw the end of an epic run of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), that began in 2008 with Iron Man, and finished with the epic crossover Avengers: Endgame and its follow-up, Spider-Man: Far From Home. The 22 MCU films ended with a goodbye to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, coming full circle.
But of course, like any good comic book storyline, the end is never really the end. While for the first time in a very long time Disney’s Marvel Studios currently doesn’t have another movie in the can and ready to go, it does have multiple projects in pre-production. It won’t be long before Phase 4 and Marvel dominate the box office once again, with both brand new characters as well as some familiar faces…
The long-rumored solo film for Scarlett Johansson’s original Avenger, Black Widow, is finally coming to pass. A key difference between Phase 4 and the first three MCU phases (besides a lack of Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans) will be the clear push to bring more diversity to a franchise that saw 20 out of 22 (that’s 91%) of its films helmed by and starring white men. Black Widow was one of the major casualties of the war against Thanos in Endgame, but it’s presumed this film, co-starring David Harbour (Stranger Things), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite), and Florence Pugh (Midsommar), will be a prequel about how Black Widow was originally trained as a Russian spy and first earned all that red in her ledger. The film will be one of the first for Phase 4, expected to release sometime next year and continue a streak the MCU hasn’t broken since 2009.
Another of Phase 4’s earliest projects is Eternals, which is based on one of Marvel’s more obscure cosmic, space-based properties. The last time the MCU announced they were making a big budget adaptation of weird space creatures no one ever heard of, many assumed it would end in dismal failure—however Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be one of Disney’s greatest hits. This film may prove the same, and fills the star power vacuum left by Robert Downey, Jr. by putting Angelina Jolie front and center. Jolie will be joined in the cast by Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, and Kumail Nanjiani. The lineup isn’t just racially diverse and full of women—rumor has it the film will also feature the MCU’s first openly gay superhero.
Thor: Love and Thunder
One of the most beloved films of the first three phases was Thor: Ragnarok, written and directed by New ZealanderTaika Waititi. Waititi will return for Thor 4, along with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Natalie Portman, who hasn’t prominently featured in the MCU since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. Portman is rumored to be playing the Jane Foster female version of Thor, wielding Mjölnir in a plotline from the comics. And while, because of confusing rights issues with Universal,there’s still no second solo Hulk film in the works, here’s hoping Mark Ruffalo and Professor Hulk will return to the MCU to re-form The Revengers with his old pals Thor and Valkyrie.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
That’s one kooky title but we’ve come expect the unexpected from one of the MCU’s trippiest franchises, Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumerbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme had a great run in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame arguably saving the day by saving Tony and showing him how to beat Thanos, so it’s no surprise Doctor Strange 2 is a priority for Marvel. He won’t be alone either—Elizabeth Olsen will be joining him as the Scarlet Witch, another powerful superhero whose powers defy conventional science. As for the Multiverse in the title? That opens up a lot of possibilities—Mysterio’s claims of a multiverse turned out to be a ruse in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but if parallel universes do exist in the MCU, maybe we’ll even get to see an alternate Earth where Tony Stark still lives and breathes…
Speaking of a multiverse… While the Netflix MCU-adjacent shows have all come to an end, you’ll still be able to find Marvel on the small screen when the release of Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, comes out later this year. One of these shows will be anthology series What If…?, which will show one-off alternate versions of the MCU. It’s not yet known if the animated series will simply be “what if” fantasies or if they will be actual alternate dimensions that co-exist within the MCU—but with Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) voicing the all-seeing Watcher, the latter is certainly a possibility. So far the series has lined up many familiar names to reprise their roles in alternate versions; the pilot will featureHayley Atwell as Peggy Carter and ask, “What if Peggy had taken the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers?”
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The first MCU series debuting on Disney+ will be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, who have become close buddies since the events of Captain America: Civil War. The question is if this show be taking place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, when—just like in the comics—Steve Rogers retired and gave Sam Wilson, the Falcon, the mantle of Captain America, along with his vibranium shield. One thing we do know is that supervillain Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) will be returning from Civil War in one form or another.
Another returning character getting his own Disney+ series will be Tom Hiddleston’s fan favorite Loki. The trickster god and brother of Thor has alternated from good to bad several times within his several appearances in the MCU, so it remains to be seen what exactly the series will be about, especially considering Thanos strangled Loki to death in the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. But considering the time travel shenanigans in Endgame led to Loki escaping with the Tesseract Space Stone, there’s a good chance an alternate Loki is still alive, and, if set photos are to be believed, possibly living in the 1970s!
WandaVision is perhaps the most perplexing of the announced Phase 4 titles. We know Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), will be appearing in Doctor Strange 2, but her artificial lifeform lover Vision was one of the major casualties of Avengers: Infinity War, and was never resurrected by the end of Avengers: Endgame. So what will this show about the pair be about? The title, a very weird pun with a 50s style logo, gives nothing away.
1998’s Blade, starring Wesley Snipes as the half-vampire, half-human swordsman, is considered the first modern superhero movie and which kicked off the Hollywood comic book fascination that is still burning strong today. So it was a big surprise at this year’s Comic Con when Marvel head Kevin Feige announced that a rebooted Blade will be joining the MCU, with Oscar winner Mahershala Ali as the title Daywalker. Ali is no stranger to the MCU—he played the villain Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage. But when you have an actor as good as Ali, you can’t blame Marvel for using him as much as they can.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi is a lesser known Marvel superhero, but that’s about to change. The film will be the first from the MCU to be directed by an Asian American and star a mostly Asian and Asian American cast, including Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and Tony Leung. Leung will be playing the Mandarin, a supervillain teased since the very beginning of the MCU when a terrorist with ten rings first imprisoned Tony Stark and inspired him to become Iron Man, and who Ben Kingsley very famously turned out not to be in Iron Man 3.
Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye came back from the brink as the murderous Ronin by the end of Avengers: Endgame, but he may not be the focus of this Disney+ series. Lila Barton, his daughter, became Hawkeye in the comics, and as the MCU pushes to bring in more diverse and female superheroes, she may end up taking the mantle of her father. The very first scene of Avengers: Endgame shows Lila’s amazing archery skills, no doubt inherited from her dad, before she was snapped out of existence for five years by Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
And then what?
These have all been announced and are all in some form of pre-production or production, but there’s other projects we can safely assume Disney will produce as long as Marvel keeps making them billions and billions of dollars. These include sequels to smash hits Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain Marvel. And since Disney recently bought Fox and most of its properties, eventually we may see the Fantastic Four and even a new version of the X-Men join the Franchise That Tony Built.
Even with all the connections in the world, and the most expensive camera money can buy, you probably won’t go too far in the film industry without a great body of work. Your portfolio is arguably the most important asset you have, and in order to gain the attention of the people you want to meet and work with, your portfolio must be relevant and meaningful.
How do you build this portfolio? If you’re struggling on how to get your portfolio in motion, here’s six useful tips for getting started:
Stay Active in School
As a film student, it can be easy to get caught up in exciting plans for the future (or even the weekend), but you should keep in mind that the school projects you’re currently working on aren’t just for a grade – they are your time to build a portfolio.
Your time in film school, while it can sometimes seem neverending, is perhaps one of the few times in your entire career where you sit down and entirely focus on YOU. Not your clients, your boss, your producer – no, you are focusing entirely on self-improvement during film school. Taking advantage of this time and taking it seriously will be the biggest way to get a jumpstart on your portfolio.
Get ahead in school and make the most of it by:
Quit procrastinating and get started early. Act like you’re getting paid to work on every project.
Stay humble and assume your work needs improvement whenever possible.
Ask instructors lots of questions and don’t be afraid to bug them.
Volunteer to assist other classmates with shoots and edits.
Ask for feedback on your work from classmates and instructors.
Attend extracurricular workshops and events whenever possible.
Search job boards and attend school functions to connect with your most experienced teachers or fellow students. Initiating relationships with these people will provide you with a valuable network of directors, editors, and actors. Your network will follow you when you graduate.
When you’re competing for gigs in the film industry, it’s highly advantageous to showcase a multifaceted skill set. Soon after graduation, challenge yourself to write, produce, and direct an original series. Execute the entire process from inception to final product to marketing it.
Regardless of the success, completing this project will give you experience creating and producing a project from end to end. It will also send the message to potential hiring producers that you have the work ethic and diligence to finish what you started. Many people coming out of film school have never put together their own project or have what it takes to see something through outside of film school.Don’t get too caught up in view counts or trying to launch the next Stranger Things, the key is that having the ability to show that you can produce a whole series will speak volumes.
IMDb pro is a useful resource for obtaining the contact information of nearly anyone in the film industry. There is a monthly membership fee, but you will benefit greatly from being able to reach thousands of producers, directors, editors, and crew. The service provides filmographies and credits for millions of titles along with access to in-development projects not listed on IMDb.
When you’re first developing your portfolio, you can use this tool to contact people you’re interested in working with. Get creative on how you can become a part of their network and give them a call. Rather than spam the entire catalogue, do your homework on the person you’re contacting and know the right time to make your move. Lead with your strengths and learn to project confidence rather than desperation. If you are genuine and effective, doors can open./span>
Every artist would like full-time film work, but sometimes things don’t line up immediately. Corporate video is another avenue to explore while attempting to build your portfolio. Apply for corporate video jobs or offer services to business owners in your personal network to make web videos, commercials, marketing content, and other videos they might need. If you’re able to secure such work, you can often pull shots from these videos that look more film-like to build your overall demo reel and no one will ever know it was a small business video.
48 Hour Film Project
The 48 Hour Film Project is a multi-city contest in which teams of participants draw a genre from a hat and then write, shoot, and edit a movie in 48 hours. Teams have full control over plots except for a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film. The award for Best Film and a cash prize is awarded to entries that demonstrate artistic merit, technical merit, and adherence to the assignment. Films are then premiered at a local theatre for friends and family.
An event like this is a fun way to add a completed project to your portfolio. Additionally, if you produce a good piece, there’s always a chance you could win. Contestants have gone on to have success in other film festivals and others used recognition of their film to get paying work. Film Festivals are also great vehicles for making connections with people in your craft, particularly those who have an interest in your preferred genre. Make the most of the platform these organizations provide to get new people talking about your work.
Produce Music Videos
Music videos are one of the more fun ways to bring good work to your portfolio. New music artists – rappers, singers, bands – must attach music videos to their songs as part of their own portfolio. They often turn to young film and video artists for assitance. Building a network of music artists is considerably easy to do via Twitter or Instagram. Given the necessity of music videos for these artists, more funds tend to be available for such projects, in comparison to short films.
Creating videos for music artists allows you to explore creatively and will add things to your portfolio that commercial work won’t. Try to find artists who are looking to incorporate elements of film to their videos. While music videos are generally 2-3 minutes long, they usually welcome obscure or artistic concepts. It’s the perfect chance to showcase precise visual storytelling, and to capture a few extra shots for your demo reel.
Article by Mike Clum.
Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 16 full-time video production professionals.
The introduction of sound in filmmaking was perhaps the most dramatic advancement in the history of movies. From chilling sound effects and atmospheric music to the witty dialogue between two characters, our favorite films just wouldn’t be the same had they been made in the silent era. Just like the tremendous effort it takes to get the right shots and put them all together in post, adding sound effectively require immense creativity, skill, and attention.
Sound design and scoring add a powerful layer of meaning to what we see on screen, creating a mood and making the story more impactful and memorable. For both the aspiring filmmaker and sound expert looking to work in film, here’s how the three major types of sound in film are used to heighten emotion — and remember, sometimes there’s no better way to get a response from the audience than by having moments with no sound at all:
1. Sound Effects
The world is full of sound, and we as humans are very sensitive to what we hear. One of the most powerful uses of sound in film involves simply interpreting and conveying how natural (or everyday) sounds affect how we feel. Sound also works to affect mood by simulating reality and creating illusions.
For example, if a woman is shown sitting alone in her room with a book, the average viewer will absorb a completely different mood if 1) we hear children playing in the background or 2) we hear loud thunder and rain. Pouring rain accompanied by frightening thunder makes us feel anxious even though they are sound effects added by a talented editor. When the woman then hears a booming knock on her door, you can bet a sound designer chose the perfect sound to give viewers a startling, curious effect.
You may not have realized it, but dialogue is a very powerful way in which sound is used to heighten emotions in film. Dialogue is an incredibly effective way of getting the audience introduced to a character, hooked into a story, or transported to a different state of mind. The way two or more characters on screen speak to one another makes all the difference for your audience, and it’s an important consideration if you want the right mood for your story. It’s not only what your characters say, but how they say it.
We can’t think of a better example than when we first meet Vito Corleone in The Godfather. After the balding man explains the awful situation about his beaten daughter, we might expect Corleone to show some sympathy, maybe even outrage. Instead, Marlon Brando’s excellent voice and line delivery helps give the immediate impression that Corleone is no ordinary man; he is actually insulted by the man’s request. The manner of speech in which dialogue is delivered, and Marlon Brando’s iconic vocal choices in character, are great examples of how dialogue can serve as an essential tool if you’re using sound to influence a scene’s atmosphere.
Close Up Shot of Girl Wearing Black Wired Headphones Photo by Gavin Whitner (musicoomph.com)
Music is one of the most powerful elements a filmmaker can call upon when it comes to leveraging sound to craft atmosphere in film. Audiences may have grown accustomed to hearing moving symphonies during war scenes, and completely different music when the secret admirers finally confess their love to one another, but the fact that in reality we don’t have music accompanying major moments in our life makes this film convention all the more compelling. It’s a powerful way to tap into the emotion you’re trying to convey.
Use music carefully in your film to not only cue viewers into how to feel, but to also get an emotional response. For example, horror movies are famous for using music to create tension just before a jump scare or horrifying moment, and pacing the music of your film score with silence can have a profound effect. If you really want to play with the audience’s emotions, consider mixing things up to. For example, Scorsese’s brilliant choice of an upbeat song during a montage of corpse after corpse in Goodfellas made those scenes more jarring and impactful than if a somber track had been played.
What are your favorite examples of a powerful use of sound in filmmaking? Let us know in the comments below! And and head to our Filmmaking page to learn more at the New York Film Academy.
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Who could forget Heath Ledger’s Joker applauding Gordon in The Dark Knight or Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter making the “hsss” sound in The Silence of the Lambs? Whether it was an actor being spontaneous or the team unexpectedly having to rework a scene on the spot, improvisation is a fun and occasionally necessary part of filmmaking. Beyond the many hours behind writing screenplays, planning shots, and preparing scenes, you’ll find that some of our favorite film moments weren’t originally planned.
If you’ve ever been involved in a film production, then you know how crazy schedules can get. This means that if you want room for trying out spontaneous ideas while filming your own project, you’ll have to find time for it in your schedule. Fortunately, there are a number of time management tips to consider if you want to create some extra space for these opportunities.
It All Starts With a Solid Shooting Schedule…
There’s no better way to tackle a creative endeavor as demanding as filmmaking than with a plan of attack — with the understanding that things will almost certainly not always go as planned, and improvisation may be required!
Even if you’re project doesn’t have a large scale of time and dollars on the line, a good shooting schedule will usually directly impact the quality of your film. Thus, you can kiss any room for improvising goodbye if a poor shooting schedule has you pressed for time while you juggle tasks that need to be done and should have already been completed.
A good start for an effective production schedule is making sure your team’s key players sit down and make decisions. These days it’s easier than ever to all stay on the same page, thanks to online communication and project tools like Slack and Google Hangouts.
A rule of thumb in the film business is to plan for extra time — be it more days in a month or hours in a tough shooting day — so you can prepare for the unexpected, and leave space for opportunities to play.
If you’re a student or new to filmmaking, chances are your first big projects will have pretty limited funds. Even so, it’s important to make sure your budget will meet your main project goals — especially if you plan on having one or two expensive scenes that will impact viewers.
So what does budget have to do with making room for improvising? The better you are at planning according to your budget (and sticking to it), the more breathing room you’ll have during production.
In other words, staying on budget means the entire production will be more relaxed and focused because there’s room for emergencies, extra takes, etc. A rushed, stressful day with an entire team worrying about going over budget or not getting paid will certainly put a damper on things. The less pressure everyone feels while working, the more likely you or someone else will be comfortable enough to offer a fresh, creative idea on the spot — like Don Corleone’s cat in The Godfather.
Going with the idea of keeping your team fresh, there’s no better way than to plan for moments where you set the project aside and let your batteries recharge. On a union project breaks are mandated, but even student and non-union projects can benefit from this practice. Breaks can make a world of difference; just like that terrible essay or exam you rushed through due to being exhausted and anxious, your film’s quality will be affected by how strung out you let yourself become during production.
From fueling creativity to increasing work productivity, there are countless studies that convey the importance of taking breaks and practicing self care even in the midst of a hectic or high pressure situation — like working on a film set. Setting aside time for the crew to eat and relax, or an entire day where you can stop to do things you love, will have you coming back with refreshed energy, creativity, and stamina.
If you plan for breaks, taking a break won’t feel like a waste of time; it is a productive part of your schedule. You wouldn’t be the first filmmaker who has a brilliant idea or solves a problem during the time they set aside to NOT think about the project!
Most people know the likes of Zack Snyder, Ava DuVernay, Christopher Nolan, — high-profile filmmakers at the helm of the big budget movies getting all the attention. While these talented folks are busy making films destined to be top grossers, there are up-and-coming indie filmmakers elsewhere using their own skills and imagination to create compelling stories. Below you’ll find only a handful of the many great independent filmmakers currently honing their own style while making films worthy of your time.
This New York City native had already proven his comedic prowess via the popular sketch series Key & Peele, which he co-created and starred in. But in 2017, Peele took a stab at the director’s seat and found success with his debut horror film Get Out, which received critical acclaim and earned numerous nominations, not to mention an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Peele is currently producing another horror project, an HBO series titled Lovecraft Country.
Vigalondo has been in the filmmaking business since 2003 after releasing his Oscar-nominated short film 7:35 in the Morning. The Spanish filmmaker has since worked on a number of films that managed to impress, including 2007 sci-fi thriller Timecrimes and Colossal, a 2016 homage to the Godzilla franchise praised for its genre mash-up and a great performance by Anne Hathaway. Whatever Vigalondo is cooking up next, fans of strange, genre-defying sci-fi films should definitely check it out.
Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Gordon and Nanjiani served as writers and co-producers for The Big Sick, one of the highest grossing indie flicks of 2017. The romantic comedy film turned a budget of $5 million into $56 million, while also earning universal praise for its entertaining mix of humor and heartbreak. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards.
Diandrea “Dee” Rees
Rees has been making a name for herself for the last decade with a number of acclaimed projects. Last year she became a must-watch director with Mudbound, a period drama that received nominations everywhere from the Golden Globe Awards to the 90th Academy Awards. Rees also became the first female nominee for the American Society of Cinematographer’s Outstanding Achievement award.
This Danish film director and screenwriter has been using her amazing talents for almost three decades. Her most recent film, a British war comedy-drama based on the 2009 novel by Lissa Evans, is among her best. Their Finest currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 89 percent and was widely praised for its great plot twist and strong chemistry between actors.
This Oscar-nominated actor and writer is mostly known for his role as Deputy Chief David Hale in FX television series Sons of Anarchy. In 2017 he made his directorial debut with Wind River, a neo-Western murder mystery that grossed $40 million from a budget of $11 million. The smart writing, compelling characters, and a story based on actual accounts of sexual assault helped propel Sheridan forward as one of the most promising filmmakers out there.
Who are your favorite up-and-coming indie filmmakers? Share your list with us in the comments below! And learn how to make your own film at New York Film Academy.
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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:
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:
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:
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.
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!
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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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
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!
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[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!]
“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:
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.
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.
“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
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“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.
“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.
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?
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.
“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.
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There’s an old saying that goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Well, there’s no such thing as totally free storyboarding software. However, there are several programs that offer free, limited versions that will give you a taste of how the program works before you commit to purchasing it.
Many of the programs offer similar features like drag and drop editing, drawing, feedback and other collaboration tools. Most also give you the option to save the project as a PDF that can be printed or shared digitally.
Storyboard Pro is used by studios worldwide and it is a robust program that allows you to do all of your work in one program — from thumbnails to camera angles. Toon Boom currently offers a 21-day trial of the program that allows you to explore the full program before committing to the hefty $38 monthly subscription price.
Plot was created by Adrian Thompson, who drew on his previous experience creating animated videos to design a quicker way to organize and revise storyboards. Plot is free for your first three projects and you can work with one collaborator. After that, it is $8.30 per month for unlimited projects and several features that don’t come with the basic, like unlimited projects and collaborators, print and PDF exports, and email support.
Frustrated animators also gave rise to Boords. Tom Judd and James Chambers of Animade came up with the software to streamline the layout process. If you just want to do some basic storyboarding and sharing, Boords offers team collaboration, drawing and photo uploading, and sharing through PDFs and team links.
Storyboard That has templates for creating books, films, comics, etc. The basic version has built-in scenes, characters, shapes, and other items that allow you to put together full storyboards pretty quickly. There are several subscription plans that offer features like collaboration and sharing.
Well, maybe some things can be had for free. Storyboard Fountain, Canva, and Video StoryBoard Pro are both free and are pretty solid options if your budget is tight.
Storyboard Fountain is open source software available for most operating systems. It offers in-line script editing, drawing tools, and the developers are working on export capability for FinalCut and Premiere. The drawing tools are designed to respond to Wacom sensors as well.
Canva is a free storyboard creator that is easy to use—perfect for sharing with your collaborators. Canva’s image library has millions of images to choose from, from high-quality stock photos to illustrations, or you can add your own images in seconds.
Atomic Learning’s Free Video StoryBoard Pro is freeware software that features the ability to create, save, and print storyboards. However, it does not come with much support.
Superman was the first superhero to grace the silver screen back in the 1940s. Since then the Man of Steel has had many incarnations, as have Batman and Spiderman — from camp TV shows to blockbuster movie franchises. But, in recent years, there are a few surprise superhero hits that, when first proposed, likely caused more than a little head scratching. To honor National Superhero Day, we celebrate the lesser-known superhero movies that may inspire you to delve deep into comic book obscurity to create a superhero movie of your own!
1. “Hellboy” (Dark Horse Comics, 2004)
Guillermo del Toro passed up a shot at directing the third “Harry Potter” film “because he nurtured a need to bring Mr. Mignola’s colossal, monstrous-looking, Twizzler-colored champion to the screen,” according to a NY Times review by Elvis Mitchell. Mitchell congratulates del Toro for keeping the “drizzly, musty gothic ambience” of the source material while giving it his own quirky spin:
“The writer and director Guillermo del Toro has brought a similar woozy, disconcerting melancholy to his film adaptation, and his obvious affection and affinity for that dankness alone would make “Hellboy” worth seeing. But Mr. del Toro lets loose with an all-American, vaudevillian rambunctiousness that makes the movie daffy, loose and lovable.”
2. “Deadpool” (Marvel, 2016)
He has the power to regenerate — his limbs as well as the X-Men franchise. This R-Rated blockbuster proves comics are not just for kids. Returning to the source material, the movie has the titular character breaking the fourth wall — unusual behavior for a filmic superhero and one that worked; a sequel is in development.
3. “Dr. Strange” (Marvel, 2016)
Perhaps the most unlikely part of the story of this worldwide blockbuster is that, after 30 years, it finally got made. But Dr. Strange has always been a superhero outlier. Wikipedia quotes the historian Bradford Wright as saying, “Never among Marvel’s more popular or accessible characters, Dr. Strange still found a niche among an audience seeking a challenging alternative to more conventional superhero fare.”
4. “Watchmen” (DC Comics, 2009)
As the Telegraph notes in a review, “In the annals of Hollywood development hell, the long-anticipated Watchmen ranks high on the list of movies that almost didn’t get made.”
Besides the development SNAFUs, director Zack Snyder created a difficult not-for-kids superhero film. The Telegraph writes: “As well as extreme violence — arms are sawn off, heads are hatcheted, blood spurts in gushers, necks are twisted and broken, a woman is brutally beaten and raped — ‘Watchmen’ also pushes the envelope with an explicit superhero sex scene between Night Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman) that Snyder admits borders on pornography and which he filmed to the accompaniment of Leonard Cohen’s anthem ‘Hallelujah.’”
5. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (Marvel, 2014)
As Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers wrote in his review: “Maybe you never heard of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel comic franchise that wilts in the shadows while Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers get all the love. Maybe you think a big-*ss movie about wanna-be Marvel icons isn’t worth your time.
“Snap out of it. Guardians of the Galaxy does the impossible. Through dazzle and dumb luck, it turns the clichés of comic-book films on their idiot heads and hits you like an exhilarating blast of fun-fun-fun.”
6. “Ant-Man” (Marvel, 2015)
CinemaBlend ranked Ant-Man #24 on its 30 Best Superhero Movies list, and noted that, “Just like they did the previous year with Guardians of the Galaxy, 2015’s Ant-Man took an obscure character from Marvel’s library and turned them into a hit at the box office. The Peyton Reed-directed flick featured Scott Lang as the Tiny Titan working to harness the Pym Particle technology and make up for his criminal past with Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne’s help. By adding plenty of humor and incorporating a heist into the story, Ant-Man turned out to be anything but small when it came to enjoyability …”