Industry Trends

Racial Inclusion – or the Lack Thereof – in Mainstream Media

By Jennifer Betit Yen, President of Asian American Film Lab

Inclusion and diversity have been trending in Hollywood, yet we are — or should I say we remain? — in an inclusion crisis.

Statistics about racial inclusion in film have remained stagnant since 2007, meaning that despite more light being shed on the issue through headlines, social media, and discussion, little real or consistent progress has been made over the past decade. Black Panther aside, we are still seeing a larger story that it is not an easy time to be an American actor or filmmaker of color. Frankly, there’s never really been a good time.

To put this in perspective, The Hollywood Diversity 2018 report states that only 1.4 out of every 10 leading actors are people of color. And USC Annenberg’s 2017 report on diversity the top 900 films shows the sad difference between diversity in the real world compared to the current state of representation in Hollywood:

  •      29.2% of all characters were from minority racial/ethnic groups, compared to 38.7% of the actual U.S. population coming from minority racial/ethnic groups.
  •      Despite the low number of minority characters in the top 900 films, 49% of the movie-going public who went to see these films come from minority racial/ethnic groups.

Clearly, these numbers are just not adding up.

And it’s not better behind-the-scenes: Annenberg found that there were only 30 Asian directors in all 900 films — and only two of those directors were women.       

From problematic classics such as The Good Earth and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where white actors played Asian characters, to recent major films that have made the problematic choices of casting white stars to play minority characters, actors and filmmakers of color are often shocked and confused by the choice to whitewash minority characters.[1] Strangely, as the population of Asian Americans in the United States has increased, our representation on TV and in film has decreased — the only racial group this was reported as happening to.

Yet study after study shows that, actually, diversely cast films and shows make far more money than homogenous shows. Yes! It’s true! Audiences are demanding diversity.

In an article in The New York Times, one journalist put it quite succinctly, saying, “Economics has nothing to do with racist casting policies. Films in which the leads have been whitewashed have all failed mightily at the box office. Inserting white leads had no demonstrable effect on [increasing] the numbers. So why is that still conventional thinking in Hollywood? For years, audiences have essentially boycotted these films, yet studios keep making them.”

Change is coming, though, and it’s coming from independent filmmakers who work outside of the Hollywood system to create original, diverse, and authentic films — and that’s why I work with the Film Lab. That’s why the Film Lab[2] is here. We create and produce our own content. We encourage our members to create and produce their own content. Content that is bold. Content that is innovative. Content that is — wait for it — diverse. Through the 72 Hour Shootout, an annual global filmmaking competition that gets winning filmmakers network mentorships, exposure and more, and with our incredible sponsors, we provide our filmmakers with platforms on which to exhibit and disseminate that content to a wide range of audiences –not just one homogenous ethnic group, but all audiences.

As U.S. women’s national soccer player Alex Morgan (who, coincidentally, was part of a wage discrimination lawsuit demanding equal pay for equal work) has said, “It’s all about learning to create your own success.” Alex Morgan is one of five players who brought a wage discrimination complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation, as reported by Health Magazine (June 2016).

By making diverse films, we empower ourselves and, by extension, all of us. And by “us,” I don’t just mean Asian Americans. I mean Latinos. I mean African Americans. I mean Native Americans. I mean LGBT. I mean women. I mean men. I mean all of us. #ActionUnites

You know the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them” right? Well, the economics show we can beat the inclusion crisis. The changing face of the entertainment media landscape shows we can beat the inclusion crisis. And the rise of diverse America shows we will beat the inclusion crisis.

We will make our own content and we will support other diverse content. And we will not support content from Hollywood in which Asian American and other diverse faces, characters, voices, and stories are excluded.

As rising filmmakers and storytellers, I encourage you to work hard to tell your story, raise your voice and show your face. So, go on. To the filmmakers out there with the tenacity, the passion, the power, and the talent: carpe diem!

***

Jennifer Betit Yen is the President of the Film Lab, a 501c3 dedicated to the promotion and support of gender and ethnic diversity in mainstream media.  She is also an actor (Search Party, Royal Pains, Film Lab Presents, The Beacon Street Girls), writer (The Opposite of a Fairy Tale) and producer (La La Land, My Not So subConscious, The Opposite of a Fairy Tale, Mirror Mirror). She has received mentions by The New York Times and Backstage Magazine, among others, for her work as an actor. Her film The Opposite of a Fairy Tale, a fictional take on elder abuse, sold out at MOCA and was an official selection of the 39th Annual Asian American International Film Festival, the Palm Springs Desert Film Society, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation NY Shorts Showcase, at the NYC Conference on Elder Abuse, at WOMANKIND, screened at HBO, and was licensed by the City of New York.  A graduate of Cornell University, and Boston University School of Law, Jen authors the blog Ethical is Beautiful.  Be Beautiful (www.EthicalIsBeautifulBeBeautiful.com) and enjoys boxing, fine vegan dining with her adorable husband and running with her also adorable rescue mutt.

[1] Check out the “Fairy Princess Diaries” blog for more on this topic.

[2] www.film-lab.org

Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

The 5 Biggest Reasons Why We’re Excited About Tribeca Film Festival 2018

The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off this week to once again put the spotlight on the latest independent films and their makers. Featuring over a thousand screenings, numerous panel discussions, and more, it’s easy to see why millions of people attend this acclaimed film festival each year.

Whether you’re just a movie fan or have your heart set on a career in filmmaking, here are five reasons why the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival is set to be the best one yet.

Impressive List of Must-See Movies

The beauty of having a film festival spanning 12 days is that no matter what kinds of movies you like, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

This year there will be more than 50 narratives and 45 documentaries spread across every genre imaginable. Of course, there are always a few films that people definitely don’t plan on missing. Fans of documentaries will want to check out Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It, The Rachel Divide, and Songwriter. Great story films people are talking about are Braid, The Seagull, and centerpiece film Zoe.

With so many great films to recommend, be sure to take a look at the official Tribeca website for a full list of films.

More Films Directed by Women Than Ever Before

Tribeca Film Festival 2018 will make history by having more films directed by women than ever before.

Almost half of the 96 films set to screen at Tribeca this year were directed by women — certainly a cause for celebration, given that women are still vastly underrepresented in the film industry as a whole. According to the famous Celluloid Ceiling study, only 1 percent of 2017’s most successful films employed 10 or more women behind the scenes.

Some of the most anticipated female-directed films that will be at Tribeca include Liz Garbus’ New York Times documentary The Fourth Estate, Eva Vives’ comedy drama All About Nina, and Untogether, the directorial debut of Emma Forrest.

A Look at Upcoming Games

It wasn’t long ago that most people considered games as a form of children’s entertainment. Today, the digital medium is seen as arguably the most powerful form of storytelling. Thanks to the power of interactivity, games allow the audience to not only become a part of the narrative but also influence the outcome of a story and its characters.

Tribeca Games will once again celebrate the artistic and technical achievements of games at this year’s show. Things to look forward to include a special preview of the upcoming Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a talk from God of War‘s creative director Cory Barlog, and a variety of demos and esports tournaments for attendees.

Talks From Stars & Filmmakers

If there’s one thing Tribeca fans love more than watching new films, it’s listening to their makers talk about their project. Since the Tribeca Film Festival’s focus is on independent films, this gives aspiring filmmakers a chance to learn more about the process from both up-and-coming stars and renowned industry figures.

This year, attendees won’t want to miss the Scarface reunion, after its 35th anniversary screening. Other notable talks will include Sarah Jessica Parker, John Legend, and the duo of Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

Legendary Film Anniversaries Honored

It makes sense that an independent film festival like Tribeca would do its part to honor the anniversaries of timeless classics. After all, it’s movies like these that help inspire the next generation of filmmakers to push their creative limits and see that their stories one day make it to the big screen.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Scarface, a screening of the legendary gangster epic will be followed by a reunion panel including Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, and director Brian De Palma.

Oscar-winning masterpiece Schindler’s List will also be screened to commemorate its 25th anniversary. A Q&A including Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Embeth Davidtz will follow.

What are you most excited to see at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

Friday Films to Get You Safely Through Friday the 13th

Whether you’re very superstitious and believe in the curse of Friday the 13th or are simply looking for some great films, these movies will help you make it through the “unluckiest day of the year” in high style and with quality entertainment. From horror to comedy to inspired (and inspiring) high drama, we have it all on this list. Happy Friday the 13th!

Freaky Friday

In the original 1976 Disney classic, a young Jodi Foster is an athletic teen who finds herself in the horrifying situation of inexplicably switching bodies with her more traditional mother on Friday the 13th. The 2003 remake starred Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis with some new twists, including an enchanted fortune cookie and a rock concert.

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now poster via IMDB

Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, this 1979 Vietnam war fable may have nothing to do with Friday the 13th, but hear us out: the Francis Ford Coppola classic survived one of the most notoriously cursed productions in history. From the monsoons to Martin Sheen’s heart attack to the director’s stroke, it’s a miracle this cinematic masterpiece made it out of the jungle.

Fitzcarraldo

Speaking of cursed movies, check out Warner Herzog’s 1982 film about a madman who transfers a river boat over land, all to fulfill his dream of building an opera house in the jungle. To make the film, Herzog literally dragged a boat through the jungle, over mountains, in mud — driving his crew to desperation and inspiring Roger Ebert to observe, “It’s clear that everyone associated with the film was marked, or scarred, by the experience … Herzog denounces the jungle as ‘vile and base,’ and says, ‘It’s a land which God, if he exists, has created in anger.’” 

Friday

If you’re less interested in curses and more interested in laughing, you’ll enjoy this 1995 screwball comedy. Ice Cube and Chris Tucker’s relaxing Friday takes a turn for the absurd when they get themselves into trouble with a local dealer and have to come up with $200 by 10 p.m. The 2000 sequel Next Friday is also worth a binge, when Ice Cube goes to extreme lengths to help his uncle get some money to keep his house in Rancho Cucamonga.  

Friday Night Lights

Okay, this isn’t exactly about Friday the 13th either, but it’s about another sacred Friday tradition: high school football. This binge-worthy NBC series ran from 2004-2011 and follows the Dillon High School Panthers football team throughout their trials and tribulations as they fight every week for victory on the night that ever matters the most to the small-town community: Friday.

… And, of course, there’s Friday the 13th itself!

Since the original Friday the 13th film came out in 1980, the all-American slasher series centered around the hockey-mask-wearing spectre of Jason has become one of the largest and most successful horror franchises in history. We’re sure we haven’t heard the last from Camp Crystal Lake.

What are your favorite Friday films? Let us know in the comments below. And learn more about Filmmaking at New York Film Academy.

6 Independent Filmmakers You May Have Missed

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.

Jordan Peele

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.

Nacho Vigalondo

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.

Lone Scherfig

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.

Taylor Sheridan

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.

Our 90th Academy Award Predictions: Best Picture, Best Director, and More!

The greatest award show of the year is just around the corner! With the list of Oscar nominees already garnering predictions and buzz, fans will be crossing their fingers until March 4 in hopes of seeing their top picks take home a shiny golden statuette. We’ve joined in on the fun by coming up with our own predictions on who will win this coming Academy Awards 2018.

Top Categories

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

This is one of those years where competition is so stiff that most of the nominated films can win and few would be surprised. But among the excellent choices, Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fantasy is likely to take away the main prize. It has nominations in more than a dozen different categories, was deemed a critical success, and is viewed by many as a major artistic achievement. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the the most diverse of the best pictures nominees in a time when diversity and gender equality in the industry are major focus points.

Best Director: Christopher Nolan

If there’s one category that has two clear potential winners, it’s Best Director. Greta Gerwig’s nomination serves as the first time in eight years (almost a decade!) that a female has been nominated in the category, and marks the first time that a female director has been nominated for her directing debut –– but Christopher Nolan is also likely emerge victorious. “Dunkirk,” one of the highest grossing films of 2017, is a testament to his directorial prowess. Nolan was able to make his historical war movie — a genre we’ve all seen before — feel raw and intense without the need for excess explosions and effects.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman

Here’s a category where we’d put money down on our choice and not break a sweat. Having won Best Actor at the Golden Globes and then again at the SAG Awards a few weeks later, it’s a safe bet to predict that Gary Oldman will win this award at the Oscars. His transformation into the great Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, which required wearing a fat suit and makeup that took hours to apply, is considered one of his most impressive performances to date. This win would serve as Gary Oldman’s first Academy Award.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand

Best Actress is as competitive as ever at the 2018 Academy Awards. There were many impressive performances throughout the year that all deserve recognition, but only one leading lady is going into the Oscars with momentum. Frances McDormand has already netted Golden Globe and SAG Awards for Best Actress for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, making her the reasonable winner of this race. It would be a well-deserved recognition for a remarkable performance from a truly great actress.

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell

Both Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project, produced by NYFA Instructor Darren Dean), and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), are certainly among the favorites to take home this award.

At the top of the list, however, is Sam Rockwell for his large performance in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. This role has earned Rockwell widespread acclaim, not to mention a two SAG awards, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA Award nomination. His impressive acting abilities are on full display in the 2017 crime drama alongside other incredible talents like Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, who also received praise for their performances.

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney

This is another extremely tight category where we can easily see the award go to more than one talented actress.

While Best Supporting Actress nominee Mary J. Blige has made Oscar history this year as the first person ever to be nominated for an original song and acting in the same year, it seems likely that the decision for this category will come down to either Laurie Metcalf for her role in Lady Bird and Allison Janney for hers in I, Tonya, with the latter being our prediction.

Janney has already won a handful of awards for her memorable portrayal of this imperious mother — a performance that created more talk than the rest of the cast.

Other Categories:

Best Animated Feature: Coco

In a year where there aren’t many strong contenders in the animated feature category, it would be the surprise of the night not to see Disney Pixar take home the gold.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Mudbound

Dee Rees’ American period drama, based on Hillary Jordan’s novel and fueled by a fantastic screenplay, is a top contender for this category. While Rees’ exclusion from the Best Director category for Mudbound is already seen as the season’s most controversial snub, with the film receiving both Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Acting nominations, the multi-hyphenate filmmaker has absolutely broken barriers and made Oscar history as the first woman of color nominated in this category.

Best Original Screenplay: Lady Bird

This poignant coming-of-age tale has earned an impressive amount of awards and nominations in various categories, making it a likely winner in this one.

Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049

The gold statuette for this category could easily go to either Dunkirk or Mudbound — the latter making history by helping Rachel Morrison become the first woman ever nominated. At the end of the day, we’re predicting that the amazing cinematographic work that went into Villeneuve’s impactful sci-fi film Blade Runner 2049 will set it apart as the winner.

Best Costume Design: The Shape of Water

With a category as unpredictable as this one, we have to go with The Shape of Water, which was snubbed in the makeup and visual effects categories.

Best Film Editing: Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a perfect example of Nolan’s ability to captivate audiences by showing the anxiety and horror of war across intertwined characters and events.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Darkest Hour

Like we mentioned before, the fact that Gary Oldman was able to deliver his stunning performance in a fat suit and after hours of makeup is enough to convince us.

Best Original Score: Phantom Thread

In arguably the toughest category to select a prediction, we’re placing our bets on Jonny Greenwood’s work for Phantom Thread. His moving musical score, which has already earned numerous nominations and awards elsewhere, did an admirable job of further heightening the acclaimed screenplay and direction of the film.

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water

Another close fight where any nominee can hear their name called up. At the end of the day, it’s The Shape of Water that impressed the most with a real-life twist to its fairy-tale world.

Best Original Song: Remember Me from Coco

Plenty of excellent choices but only room for one winner — and our prediction is Coco’s memorable lullaby. A close runner up is “Mighty River” from Mudbound, a nomination that made history by making Mary J. Blige the  first woman of color nominated in both this category and Best Supporting Actress.

Best Sound Editing & Sound Mixing: Dunkirk

In a film with little dialogue and lots of acting, it was the excellent sound editing that helped keep us engrossed by what takes place in Nolan’s war drama.

Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes

We feel this year is when these visually groundbreaking films finally earn an award for their cutting-edge performance-capture work.

Best Foreign Language Film: In the Fade

Though not a lock, Critics’ Choice Award and Golden Globe wins might be enough to set this German film apart as winner.

Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places

Agnès Varda’s documentary about traveling portrait painters is expected to pull ahead and win the gold. Varda, a French woman who has been a filmmaker for more than 60 years, made Oscar history this year when she became the oldest-ever nominee, at the age of 89.

Best Animated Short: Lou

Pixar Animation Studios tackles schoolyard bullying in this inspiring animated short by the iconic Emeryville studio.

Best Live Action Short: The Eleven O’Clock

Our bold prediction is that Derin Seale’s humorous live action short will upset other clear winners on Oscars night.

Best Documentary Short: Heroin(e)

For this close category we can’t help but side with Heroin(e), a doc that follows Huntington, West Virginia’s fire chief, a local judge, and an impassioned volunteer — all women — as they battle to save lives from opioid addiction in a town where the overdose rate is 10 times the national average. Our very own Kristen Nutile, a NYFA Documentary Filmmaking teacher, served as editor on the film.

5 New Ways to Execute Old Stories

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

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

1. Add New Twists

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

What if the main character was of a different gender?

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

What if the time setting was different?

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

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

2. Make it Modern

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

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

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

3. Challenge Harmful Stereotypes

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

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

4. Don’t Copy What Others are Doing

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

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

5. Have a Clear Focus

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

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

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

Apple’s “1984”

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

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

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

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

1. Apple’s “1984”

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

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

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

Apple's "1984"

Apple’s “1984”

2. GoDaddy’s Teaser Ads

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

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

3. Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene”

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

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

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

"Mean" Joe Greene

“Mean” Joe Greene

4. Nike’s “Hare Jordan”

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

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

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

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

5. Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl”

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

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

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

Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl"

Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl”

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Rocky Horror Picture Show”

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

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

“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

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

“Time Bandits”

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

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

“Edge of Tomorrow”

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

“Dr. Strange”

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

“The Time Traveller’s Wife”

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

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

“Arrival”

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

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

“Happy Death Day”

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

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

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

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

“Safety Not Guaranteed”

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

“Groundhog Day”

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

“About Time”

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

“Back to the Future”

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

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

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

How Film School Can Help Your YouTube Channel

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

Starting Strong and Slick

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

Looking Good

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


Sounding Good

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

Directing and Acting

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

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

Meeting Collaborators

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

Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler Warning! Read with caution!

Joy and Adulation

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

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

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

 

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

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

Fanboy Fury

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

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

“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

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

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

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

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

See a roundup of more angry fan responses on Screenrant.

Last but Not Least: Honoring Carrie Fisher

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The_Last_Jedi_poster

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

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

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

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

Production Design

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

Film Score

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

Screenplay – The Story

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

Screenplay – The Characters

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

Casting

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

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

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

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

pexels-photo-275200

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

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

Casting Director

pexels-photo-515169

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

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

Camera Operator

video-943568_1280

 

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

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

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

Film Editor

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

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

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

Composer

hand-music-musician-compose

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

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

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

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

Toronto International Film Festival Favorites for the Fall

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

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

“The Shape of Water

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

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

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

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

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

“The Disaster Artist”

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

“The Current War”

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

“Thelma”

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

“I, Tonya”

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

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

69th Annual Emmy Awards Drama Nominees Worth Mentioning

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

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

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

Drama

“The Crown” (Netflix)

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

“This Is Us” (NBC)

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

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

Drama: Actresses

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

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

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

Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)

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

Drama: Actors

Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”)

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

Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)

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

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

Television Movie

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

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

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

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

 

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

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

Screenshot 2017-08-25 14.49.06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NYFA Celebrates Women’s Equality Day

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.50.03

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

Globally, according to OXFAM’s New Zealand site:

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.48.14

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

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

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.53.18

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

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

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

Screenshot 2017-08-04 08.57.36

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

That’s not good news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All You Need To Know About This Year’s Asian American Film Festival

The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), held annually in New York, is the industry’s one-of-its-kind first and longest-running cine fiesta that is devoted to showcasing great work by both emerging and experienced Asian and Asian American filmmakers. This year, the 40th AAIFF was a week-long affair from July 26- August 6, spread over three venues. Along with screening both shorts and features films, the festival had several interesting panel discussions. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of all things AAIFF and films you should totally check out from this year’s festival.

Screenshot 2017-08-07 10.08.10

The AAIFF’s been around for quite some time.

Although we talk of the importance of diversity and multi-ethnic representation in Hollywood as a more or less recent phenomenon, the need to promote and preserve alternate styles of filmmaking has been around for much longer. In fact, the AAIFF was the brainchild of four media activists: Peter Chow, Danny Yung, Thomas Tam and Christine Choy. They founded the Asian CineVision (ACV) in 1975.

In an industry that had little representation of Asian Americans, the organization helped raise cultural awareness about the Asian American experience, and in 1978, it celebrated the Asian American Festival, which included 46 films and videos that focused on the rising trends in Asian and Asian American cinema. The festival has continued successfully ever since.

FilmGOOK” was screened at the opening night.

The festival kicked off with the screening of “GOOK” that details the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, wherein two brothers come into contact with a young African-American girl. As per the website, “Although relations between Korean-Americans and the African-American community were hostile and flammable in 1992 Los Angeles, ‘GOOK’ showcases a relationship between the two races that was overlooked by the mainstream media.’

Some of the most incredible video shorts were showcased.

The eclectic selection this year at AAIFF included films that explored LGBTQ experiences, unique narratives from Japan, the work of under-21 media makers, the Asian in New York, and the evolution of Chinatowns. Some of the notable shorts presented were Christine Choy’s “From Spikes To Spindles”(1976), Karan Aryaman Marwaha’s  “Punjab”(2016) and “Howie Lam’s Fade” (2013).

The feature films were culturally diverse as well.

For example, under “Class of 97” category, which screened films from the 1997 festival, there were gems such as the political drama “Strawberry Fields” and the thriller “Shopping For Fangs.” Other films that were well-received were Shikha Makan’s “Bachelor Girls”(2016)  and Li Yuhe’s “Absurd Accident” (2017). In short, there was something for everyone, irrespective of genre.

The AAIFF also provided an interactive platform for further collaboration and dialogue

In this age of globalization, where cultural appropriation often goes unacknowledged, the AAIFF arranged for relevant panel discussions, Q&A sessions with directors and designers as well as a high-profile competition for those whose voices are neglected by the mainstream media. The panel discussion on “Women Take Charge” probed what it’s like to be a female filmmaker working in the media industry. Another set of directors examined the “Asian American New Wave” trend, and the encounter of young Asian Americans with the western culture that both allures and marginalizes them. There was also a special screenplay reading of “Helen Ever After” that focused on a trans woman’s coming out story.

In an age where cinema is still largely dominated by Hollywood, the 40th AAIFF’s grand success points out that there are alternative ways of storytelling that are just as important and interesting as their mainstream counterparts and that culturally-diverse experiences must be acknowledged as well.

Ready to learn more about filmmaking in a diverse and nurturing environment? Check out our filmmaking programs at New York Film Academy.

The Minority Report: Is Minority Representation in Films Getting Better in 2017?

Minority representation in films and other entertainment mediums have been heavily discussed, with a focus on the industry’s lack of inclusion for women and minorities. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently admitted it’s largest-ever group of new members, reflecting a commitment to work toward the goal of doing a better job at including minority actors in film and television.

So the question today is, has Hollywood diversified? Are we moving forwards? Sure, movies like “Hidden Figures” and “Fences” were widely praised at the Oscars, but we still have to ask: is minority representation really getting better in films, or is there a lot more work to do?

pexels-photo-87308

According to a 2016 study titled “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment,” only 33.5 percent of speaking roles were given to females and under 30 percent of non-white roles involved dialogue. Major film distributors like Disney, 21st Century Fox, Sony, and NBC Universal failed inclusivity evaluations. Those are not very encouraging numbers for an industry that is supposed to be embracing more diversity.  

Worse, stories continue to percolate that the input and feedback given by minorities on film projects is often ignored. During the filming of Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous Six,” Native American actors hired for the film walked off the set, finding some of the humor in the script greatly offensive. It was reported that their concerns were not taken seriously, and Netflix also defended the decisions of the filmmakers to include the content. Accurate and improved minority representation is hard to achieve without listening to concerns voiced by professionals who are, in fact, minorities.

Screenshot 2017-08-02 15.33.47

However, not everything is completely hopeless for diversity in film. In February, the premier of the highly anticipated social-thriller “Get Out” broke several milestones. Jordan Peele’s debut made him the first black writer-director to achieve a $100-million film opening. It surpassed “Paranormal Activity” as the highest-grossing film for Blumhouse Studio, and maintained an impressive theater turn-out throughout its run. Peele has several more social thrillers in the works, pointing towards more great and diverse movies to enjoy soon.

Audience plays a huge role in representation as well. Want to help push for inclusion in Hollywood? Actively support diversifying film by watching films written and produced by women and minority filmmakers. Challenge yourself to watch more films by women and non-binary writers and directors, or filmmakers who are not white. Hollywood will be closer to representing all kinds of people when you demand more inclusiveness.

The Evolution of Space Movies

Screenshot 2017-07-11 10.15.11

July 20 marks the 48th anniversary of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon — prompting the well known quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But that wasn’t the first or last time that space played a major role in motion pictures.

Today, we’ll look at some significant moments for space in film, beginning with the New York Film Academy itself.

In celebration of the 48th anniversary and the launch of JSWT, here’s a list of space movies in Hollywood and how they’ve evolved over the years.

“Apollo 13” (1995)

Ron Howard directed the 1995 docudrama space adventure, “Apollo 13,” featuring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris. The film dramatizes the 1970 mission for American’s third Moon landing. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise aborted the mission, after an on-board explosion left the astronauts without most of their oxygen supply and electric power.

“Apollo 13” was considered a technically accurate movie—Howard sought NASA’s assistance in astronaut and flight controller training for the cast. Howard even had permission to film scenes aboard a reduced gravity aircraft to give a more realistic feel to the movie.

The movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

“Mission to Mars” (2000)

“Mission to Mars,” directed by Brian De Palma, takes place in 2020 when a manned Mars exploration mission goes wrong. An American astronaut, played by Gary Sinise, coordinates a rescue mission to save those who were on the exploration missions.

The film employed special effects that involved the NASA spacecraft and Martian vortex, which were created by various digital effects companies. More than 400 technicians were involved in the production of special effects, which ranged from visuals to miniatures, and animation.

“Gravity” (2013)

 

What happens when a space shuttle is destroyed after mid-orbit destruction? Director Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 movie, “Gravity.” Sandra Bullock and George Clooney portray two American astronauts who are stranded in space and can’t return home because of their damaged space shuttle.

The cinematography, musical score, Bullock’s performance, visual effects, and the use of 3D all contributed to the critics’ positive reviews. “Gravity” received 10 Academy Award nominations and won seven, and was awarded six BAFTA Awards.

“Interstellar” (2014)

“Interstellar” is a movie focusing on the survival of mankind—a team of astronauts travel through a wormhole to find a new planet that can sustain human life. The science fiction film was directed, co-written, and co-produced by Christopher Nolan. The movie’s cast included Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, and Michael Caine.

The film was shot on 35 mm in anamorphic format and IMAX 70 mm in Alberta, Iceland, and Los Angeles. Extensive practical and miniature effects were used in the film, and Double Negative created additional effects.

“Interstellar” won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and was nominated for Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design.  

“The Martian” (2015)

Matt Damon portrays a stranded astronaut in the 2015 film, “Martian,” directed by Ridley Scott and based on Andy Weir’s novel, “The Martian.” The film follows Damon, whose character is presumed dead and left behind on Mars, and struggles to survive while others attempt to rescue him.

Twenty sets were built on a soundstage in Budapest, Hungary, and Wadi Rum, Jordan was also used as a backdrop for filming. The movie won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture and nominated for seven Academy Awards.

NYFA & NASA

Did you know the New York Film Academy has worked with NASA?

In 2014, the New York Film Academy collaborated with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help raise awareness for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

NYFA, NASA, and Northrop Grumman used visual storytelling to give the audience insight into the development of JWST. The telescope is scheduled for completion and launch in 2018 — and JWST will replace the famous Hubble Space Telescope. New technology will allow scientists to continue studying galaxies, the formation of stars and planets, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Do you have a favorite movie about space? Let us know below! Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

5 Unconventional Life Lessons That You Can Learn at Film School

Film school is unlike any other educational experience in its multidisciplinary demands to master technical skills, collaborate with others, critique your own and others’ work, balance ideas with practicalities, and so much more. If you work hard, you can leave film school with the skills to make great films. But not only that, you’ll also graduate film school having learned some brilliant life lessons that can help you both on and off set.

1. Point of view.

Seeing the world from the perspective of people unlike yourself is key to making great films — and being a good human.

Although the Internet is cluttered with DIY info on filmmaking, only film school will force you to learn your craft in a hands-on, supportive and critical environment, away from your cheerleading friends and family. 

2. Beyond desire there must be hard work and time.

Screenshot 2017-07-10 14.15.45

Film school requires a commitment of not only money, but also time. And time is exactly what’s needed to master a craft.

As this IndieWire article puts it, “Depending on who you ask, researchers currently contend that it takes anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Whether those numbers are perfectly accurate is moot; the takeaway is that filmmaking, like painting, athletics, playing the piano or being a rocket scientist, takes a massive amount of time and dedication to master.” Film school gives you the opportunity to study and practice your craft.

3. Success depends on collaboration…

And collaboration depends upon your ability to communicate your ideas in a clear and compelling way. There are many walks of life that benefit from great communication skills, but few other educational tracks demand excellent communication as film does.

As we stressed in this previous article, “Filmmaking is a communal craft.” It can’t generally be approached in solitude the way you might in writing novel or painting a canvas.

To ensure your crew and talent understand and feel motivated to help you capture your vision for the screen, you must be able to walk the line between communicating passionately and clearly, which is a fine line to walk!

4. Freedom within constraints.

There is tremendous freedom allowed in film school, but it is within the structure of classes and projects and under the supervision of teachers who are experts in their field. Negotiating the territory between complete freedom for experimentation and limitations placed on you by deadlines, budget, and project parameters might very well be the most important lesson you can learn as a creative person.

As this IndieWire article put it, “When you rebel against film school it’s therefore often a sign that film school is working; an indication that you’re defining your own values and your own unique view of cinema.”

5. Don’t fear failure.

We know this intuitively or we’ve heard it out of the mouths of those we admire: we learn more from our failures than our successes. Film school gives you a chance to learn this lesson before you get out into the real world where mistakes and failures can cost millions.

By giving you the opportunity to try things that you might not get a chance to try again — crazy things that no producers would ever back you on — and succeed or fail, you will be the better for running the risk.

What have been your greatest life lesson takeaways from your time in film school? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you’re just about ready to begin a new film school adventure, apply today for the New York Film Academy.