Industry Trends

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.

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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

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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:

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

Celebrating People With Disabilities in Film & Television

by Dr. Leona Godin

On July 9, New York City hosted the 3rd Annual Disability Pride Parade. We at NYFA love diversity and wanted to take the opportunity to highlight people with disabilities in film and television, past and present. And to appreciate the industry’s growing interest in employing actors with disabilities to tell stories of people with disabilities.

Micah Fowler

Micah Fowler of the current hit TV show “Speechless” is the Grand Marshal of this year’s Disability Pride Parade. Born with cerebral palsy, Fowler started acting when he was five. In a Vulture interview Fowler said, “I think it is sad that less than two percent of actors on screen are themselves actually disabled. Growing up a huge television and movie fan, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of representation of both disabled actors and disabled characters being portrayed on television. So I am so very excited that ‘Speechless,’ a prime-time network-television show, conquers both of those missing links by having both an actor actually living with cerebral palsy as a main character and by having a ‘character’ in the storyline living with a disability.”

Deanne Bray

This deaf actor, discovered dancing with “Prism West,” is best known for starring in the title role in “Sue Thomas F.B.Eye,” based on the real life of a deaf agent who worked for the F.B.I. as a lip reader.

Lou Ferrigno

The bodybuilder turned “Incredible Hulk” in the iconic ’70s TV series lost most of his hearing when he was a child. According to DeafLinx he attributed much of his ambition and success to his disability: “It forced me to maximize my own potential.”

Kitty McGeever

McGeever was the first blind actor to star in a British soap. Having trained at RADA, she lost her sight at the age of 33, shortly before landing her role on “Emmerdale.” She described her character as “naughty” and “manipulative in the extreme” to the BBC, and added Lizzy “uses her disability to her advantage and then disregards it to her advantage whenever and whichever way she chooses.”

Daryl Mitchell

Mitchell was an established actor before a 2001 motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. With support from friends, including Denzel Washington and Chris Tucker, he has continued his career and now stars in “NCIS: New Orleans.” He is an advocate for employing actors with disabilities. In an Ability Magazine interview Mitchell says, “You meet with these Labor Department guys, and you can tell everybody is enthused and ready to go. That’s the main thing, really. Their willingness to fly out from Washington and see us in Los Angeles and speak with us says a lot about them. But it’s really a matter of what we need to do, what we’re willing to do as people with disabilities. We need to be more boisterous. We need to let the world know that we’re here.”

NYFA welcomes people with all kinds of abilities. Check out our acting, filmmaking and producing programs, and start changing the face of film and television today!

Stars Protecting the Earth: Celebrities Who are Environmental Activists

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Summer is a time for playing in Earth’s beautiful spaces, near oceans and lakes or in mountains and forests, so we thought we would pause to honor those celebrities who look beyond their own star-status to protect our environment.

By using their considerable wealth and influence to create public awareness, create organizations, make films to highlight dangers, or teach by example with glamorous green homes and environmentally friendly vehicles, celebrities who care make a big difference! Today, we celebrate the environmental contributions of some names and faces you’re sure to recognize.

Matthew Modine

NYFA Board Member and award-winning actor Matthew Modine is a passionate crusader for protecting the earth. The actor, who currently stars in Netflix’s Original Series “Stranger Things,” has actively promoted environmental causes in many ways, from serving as a guest editor for Metro’s Earth Day edition to founding the Bicycle For a Day movement. As Modine said in his Metro piece, “Environmental compassion, if it is to have any tangible significance, requires vigorous minute-by-minute action by each and every human we share the Earth with.”

Ted Danson

Beaches on oceans and lakes are prime spots for summer fun, and there is perhaps no one on this list who has dedicated himself so consistently to issues concerning Earth’s water than Ted Danson, the man who won our hearts as the lovable recovering alcoholic bartender on “Cheers.” Danson focuses his environmental attentions on all aspects of this life-sustaining natural resource. He even helped write an educational book on the subject called “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”

Daryl Hannah

She’s the iconic mermaid of “Splash” and an activist who’s not afraid to create waves! Hannah has been arrested several times for her activism, including during protests against the Keystone Pipeline. She lives off the grid, drives a biodiesel car, and blogs about environmental issues at DHLoveLife.com. She was also the executive producer of “Greedy Lying Bastards,” a 2012 documentary that hits hard at climate change denial.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Following the tremendous success of “The Titanic” (1997) and his leap to superstardom, DiCaprio established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, “dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all Earth’s inhabitants.” The non-profit organization focuses on global warming, preserving Earth’s biodiversity and supporting renewable energy. It also produces web documentaries to promote public awareness such as “Water Planet” and “Global Warning.”

Pearl Jam

It’s not only actors who’ve embraced environmental concerns, but also bands like Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam crisscrosses the globe on tours, doing their best to minimize their negative impact. According to One Green Planet, “Pearl Jam has also partnered with numerous organizations to help offset the carbon emissions of the estimated one million fans driving to and from the band’s concerts and provides information about other initiatives on their website. In 2011, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism and their large-scale efforts to decrease their own carbon emissions.”

Cate Blanchett

In the land down under, the Elvin ruler of “Lord of the Rings” fame “lives off the grid in a ‘green’ house.” During her time as artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company, Blanchett “spurred the installation of solar panels on The Warf Theater,” according to One Green Planet. “She is also responsible for the theater’s installation of one of the world’s largest rainwater collection systems.”

Brad Pitt

Besides being the quintessential A-list celebrity and tabloid focal point, Pitt has an ongoing interest in environmental concerns, especially having to do with sustainable architecture. He narrates “Design: e2,” a PBS television series focused on worldwide efforts to build environmentally friendly structures. In 2007, as a response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Pitt founded Make It Right to organize housing professionals to finance and construct sustainable, affordable houses in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward, and has since expanded its mission to create and promote “healthy homes for communities in need.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the many celebrities in the entertainment industry that have used the spotlight to promote environmental activism. Margaret Atwood, Robert Redford, Sting, and James Cameron are just a few of the other names that could have been on this list.

Tell us your favorite environmental celebrities in the comments, and we at NYFA wish you a green summer!

Ready to learn more about visual and performing arts? Check out the many program offerings available right now at NYFA.

6 Great Movies to Watch for the 4th of July

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After a long hot day of barbecuing and baking in the sun, you might want to step inside the cool dark indoors with a patriotic movie or two. To celebrate the 4th of July this year, we’ve compiled a list of Independence Day-themed films that are sure to satisfy every kind of craving: patriotism, thrills, alien invasions, disillusionment and more!

1. “Independence Day”

How can you resist coming together to fight alien invaders? This 1996 proto-summer blockbuster set the standard for well-hyped and fun movies exploding into theaters mid-summer. And, as ABC News put it, the film “sent Will Smith’s career into the stratosphere with a fist to an alien’s kisser and one simple line: ‘Welcome to Earth!'”

2. “Jaws”

This 1975 thriller based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel set out to be — and was — a tremendous hit. It also made Steven Spielberg a very rich young man, a household name, and powerful enough in the industry that he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. (That turned out to be “Close Encounters,” which he nursed with the help of “Jaws” star Richard Dryfus.)

Perhaps you’ve never seen this classic (gasp) or it’s been a while, and you’re like, “What’s the killer shark flick got to do with the 4th of July?” Well, just take a look at the opening scenes and you’ll realize that it’s the impending holiday that sets up the tragedy: A small town’s denial of the danger in the face of losing vacationers. Some might even say that the true force of evil here is greed, not a bloodthirsty shark.

3. “Born on the 4th of July”

Here’s a movie that might raise some patriotic eyebrows. A young Tom Cruise won his first Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of real-life disabled vet turned anti-war activist Ron Kovic. This 1989 film, set during the Vietnam War, offers a different take on patriotism: one that supports dissent.

4. “The Patriot”

For a more traditional take on patriotism, there’s this 2000 epic directed by Roland Emmerich, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, and Heath Ledger.

Sure, the movie was blasted for taking liberties with history, but most critics agree that it represents America’s ideals, if not its reals. Not to mention the nods for gorgeous cinematography and a monster performance by Gibson. And considering the fact that it’s set during the Revolutionary War, we couldn’t very well leave this one off the list.

5. “National Treasure”

And, lest you feel we’ve gotten too serious on this list, we offer a touch of the absurd and over-the-top ridiculous. Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, and Sean Bean star in this 2004 heist-with-a-twist: they must steal the Declaration of Independence as their first step on a high-stakes treasure hunt.

6. “John Adams”

This 2008 HBO miniseries about the first 50 years of the United States is for those who prefer to shun the sun this holiday weekend and binge-watch while learning a little American history.

Based on David McCullough’s best-selling biography and supported by a stellar ensemble cast that includes Paul Giamatti,  Laura Linney, and Stephen Dillane, “John Adams” has more Emmys under its belt than any other miniseries in television history.

What movies are you planning to watch this weekend? Let us know in the comments, and Happy 4th of July!

Ready to learn more about filmmaking? Apply to the New York Film Academy.

The Rise of Superhero Films

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“Wonder Woman.” “Iron Man.” “The Avengers.” “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The past decade or so has seen an influx of superhero films based on comic books — major big-studio movies starring the highest-paid actors in the world (think Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr.) and outperforming any other movies released. This week, the world will enjoy a new addition to the superhero film repertoire: “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” featuring the work of NYFA alumnus Francesco Panzieri on special effects!

While 1990s blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Braveheart” were standalone epics based on books or historical events, today’s highest-grossing films are primarily superhero movies, based on a combination of factors such as escapism, cutting-edge special effects, and an older, wealthier population of comic-book fans.

The most significant, and grim, factor behind the rise of superhero movies has been the economic crash of 2008. There were popular superhero movies prior to this, such as “Spider-man” and Christopher Nolan’s excellent “Batman” series reboot, but following the economic downturn — in which many people lost their jobs and homes — superhero movies went into orbit.

People suddenly wanted escapism into a different world where the hero always triumphed and where distinctions between good and bad were easy to tell. Blockbuster epics with tragic endings like “Braveheart,” and “Gladiator” fell out of fashion, as no one wanted to compound the grim economic situation with an equally depressing movie. Comic-book superhero movies, in which the hero triumphs over evil, became more appealing to the general public. (While our economic downturn is not as severe as the Great Depression, it’s notable that the popularity of comic books in the 1930s mirrors the popularity of superhero movies today.)

With the rise of computers, special effects have become more realistic and believable — something that previously limited superhero movies. Compare the stiff, lumbering shark of “Jaws” — a movie that had exceptional special effects for its day — to the beautifully computer-generated creatures and atmospheres of today’s superhero movies.

Special effects designers have a wider range of options to work with, as well as better software and technologies, than they did 20 years ago. Need Captain America to soar to the heavens? Stand the actor in front of the green screen and virtually create the sky behind him. Need Ant-Man to fly through Iron Man’s suit and sabotage it? That can be achieved realistically as well.

Whereas “Titanic” required a replica ship, today’s computer generated imaging can produce entirely believable superhero action scenes through the digital manipulation of pixels.

The third factor in the popularity of comic-book superhero movies is the older age of the audience. Today’s superhero movies — even if they’re rated PG-13 — are primarily made for adults who grew up on comic books and now have a disposable income. These adults are mostly Generation X-ers and Millennials who read comic books as children during the 1970s-1990s and now have the money to see films and buy paraphernalia. While kids can beg Mom and Dad to buy movie tickets and Mom might possibly agree, adults can always purchase tickets and attend films — creating a great source of potential viewers who have fond childhood recollections of their comic book superheroes and villains.

What are your favorite superhero films? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about creating incredible films, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

National Pride Month: Movies and Stories That Deserve an A+ on Pride

“Angels in America”

This sweeping, breathtaking six-part HBO miniseries covers a number of important issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in the mid-1980s, including the rise of AIDS and lack of access to both knowledge and treatment regarding the HIV virus.

Based on the 1993 Tony Kushner play “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” this series delves into the lives of gay individuals in New York City and examines how politics, social change, and the terrifying AIDS epidemic affects the LGBTQ+ community.

“Angels in America” garnered much critical acclaim, winning multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards; it was the most-watched made-for-cable film in 2003.

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”

This 1994 Australian comedy-drama film follows the adventures of two drag queens and a transgender woman who attempt to cross the vast Australian Outback in a van named “Priscilla.” It became a surprise cult classic worldwide, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, for its positive and empathetic portrayal of queer and transgender characters.

The film was so popular that it was made into a Broadway musical and also referenced during the 2000 Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony, where a replica tour bus was adorned with a giant stiletto heel during an Australian popular culture scene.

“Viva”

Set in Cuba, “Viva” is a 2015 Spanish-language Irish drama written by Mark O’Halloran and directed by Paddy Breathnach. It stars newcomer Hector Medina as Jesus, a young gay hairdresser who dreams of being a drag performer.

Jesus’s life is turned upside down when his father, who abandoned him in childhood, comes back to live with him and is blatantly intolerant of Jesus’s drag queen activities.

The clash between father and son is portrayed well; Jesus’s father must come to terms with his son’s sexuality. “Viva,” the Irish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, made the December shortlist of nine films but was ultimately not nominated.

“Milk”

Gay rights activist Harvey Milk is spotlighted in this 2008 biographical film, which follows the career of Milk as he becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to California public office.

The film stars Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Milk’s assassin. Directed by Gus van Sant, “Milk” covered a number of important LGBTQ+ issues, as Harvey Milk fought for gay political rights against major opposition.

“Milk” ultimately received eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Penn).

“But I’m a Cheerleader”

While this satirical 1999 romantic comedy looks campy on the outside, it covers some important LGBTQ+ issues. Natasha Lyonne plays a high school cheerleader who is sent to conversion therapy camp as a cure for her lesbianism. She eventually embraces her sexuality and falls in love with another camper.

The film explores gender and sexual identity within a given social construct (the strict rules of the camp) as well as within a larger society (the outside world, which is much more accepting of homosexuality).

What are your favorite films and plays that celebrate LGBTQ+ pride? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

 

The Evolution of Film Over Time — A Brief History

Have you even noticed how much films have evolved during your lifetime? Over the past few decades, film technology has made major advancements. Just  compare the original “King Kong,” made in 1933, to the recent remake made in 2005.

Notice how lifelike the CGI King Kong looks in comparison to the stop-motion King Kong in the original film.

Here are some other films that have been remade … can you spot the changes in filmmaking technology?

“War of the Worlds”

“The Thing”

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

“Casino Royale”

“The Karate Kid”

“The Mummy”

“Ocean’s 11”

While some changes to filmmaking technology and the craft of filmmaking might be obvious, there are other things that are not so apparent. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the more subtle ways that filmmaking has changed over the past century.

Shorter Shots

James Cutting, a psychologist at Cornell University, was a panelist for the Oscars’ “Movies in Your Brain — The Science of Cinematic Perception” discussion in 2014, and has been studying perceptual and cognitive processing. Cutting examines how the brain’s processes relate to film components such as editing, frame rates, projection, and scene and narrative structure. He has been looking at shot duration over the past few years, and has found that the average duration of a shot is consistently shorter now than it was a decade ago.

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In an interview with “Wired,” Cutting said that the average length of a shot in 1930 was 12 seconds. Today, the average length is only 2.5 seconds. You may notice that in older films, directors added at least 1.5 seconds to each crowd scene, so the audience has time to look around and see who was  in the shot. That isn’t the case today.

Attention spans may have something to do with shorter shots and the different patterns as well. It’s human nature for someone’s attention to waver, no matter how hard we try to focus. According to Cutter, “People flake out every few seconds. You fluctuate in and out, and there’s a natural pattern to this.”

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Cutter argues — and some film scholars disagree — that different patterns of shots found in today’s films go better with natural fluctuations in human attention because each new shot forces the audience to refocus their attention. There is a fine line though: films with too many short shots require too much attention and films with too many long shots may allow the audience’s attention to wander. A strategic mix of short and long shots will help keep the audience engaged and entertained.   

Of course, there are obvious exceptions. Both “Birdman” and “Gravity” have almost no visible cuts at all. However, both films take advantage of modern technology to move the camera in ways that would have been impossible even a few decades ago.

More Motion

Motion and action in a film help keep the audience’s attention. Have you ever watched an action movie and noticed your heart beating fast? Was your adrenaline pumping hard? It’s your body’s physiological response to motion within a shot. Filmmakers carefully and intentionally craft the motion we see on screen, to match the dramatic intensity of the scene.  

 

Changing Light

Modern, digital technology has allowed filmmakers to maintain better control over a more dynamic range of light. Movies today are often shot with much less light than their predecessors, allowing for more naturalistic effects. Take “Collateral,” for example, which was shot in the nighttime streets of LA with mostly natural light. Additionally, modern films are often much darker, than films made in the gold age of Hollywood. And even the application of color has been adjusted to suit the taste of modern audiences. As Cutter explained in his interview, bright colors have stayed the same but interestingly dark colors have gotten darker.

An example of this is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.” Notice that some  shots from the trailer, are extremely dark with only small focal points of light in the frame. Filmmakers use this technique to control where the audience looks and what they see.

Other Factors

There are other factors that have played a part in how film has evolved such as Blu-ray discs and IMAX theaters. Audiences can now also watch movies on smartphones, tablets, and computers, and stream movies through platforms such as Netflix.

Of course, these are just the changes in visual style that have been been made possible by new technologies. Perhaps the biggest changes are those brought about by changes in society. But that’s the subject for another article.

What do you think are the most impressive innovations in film over the last century? Let us know in the comments below! If you’re ready to learn more about filmmaking, study at the New York Film Academy.

NYFA Conservatory: Why a 1-Year Program Is Your Next Life-Hack

We’ve all heard inspiring rags-to-riches tales of celebrities who found their big break by being discovered in malls or whisked away from their ordinary job by a chance encounter with a talent scout, director or agent. While we can’t deny this fairy tale does sometimes come true in real life, for most professional visual and performing artists the road to success is paved with hard work — and excellent training. If you’re considering the arts, you may want to consider updating your training.

Whether your dream is to make magic behind the camera, on the screen, or in post-production, don’t wait for a chance encounter with fate: you can take matters into your own hands by pursuing hands-on training in the skills you’ll need to change your own life and learn to be an artist.

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Daydreams Come True

It’s never too late to pursue your dream, but it’s important to understand what tools you’ll need along the way. It can seem like there’s a huge gap between daydreaming at your day job and actually living your dream. The good news is that there is one secret weapon that can help you find your footing as you develop professional skills while saving time: a conservatory program.

Why a Conservatory?

Picture spending all day every day doing only what you love, all while working closely with and learning from people who are experts in what you want to do. That’s a conservatory: intensive artistic training in a creative environment designed to push aspiring artists to develop their skills to the highest level.

A conservatory program is a little bit different than traditional college. Rather than requiring classes in a core curriculum of all subjects, a conservatory allows students to focus exclusively on their subject. The intensive focus allows conservatory students to develop a unique depth of understanding for their craft and receive specific training relevant to their specialty in the arts.

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Why NYFA?

At the New York Film Academy, our conservatory programs offer students from all backgrounds the training and experience they need to rise to a professional level and build a body of original work. The New York Film Academy’s conservatory is unique because we believe in “learning by doing.” That defines everything we do, and our hands-on instruction helps our students learn to handle the real-world challenges of their chosen industry, whether that’s a working film set, an animation studio, a photography studio, or a Broadway stage. In one or two years at NYFA, students complete more training in less time through an intensive, project-based curriculum crafted to prepare professionals for the real world.

Hands-On Learning

Starting on day one, we put our conservatory students in real-world situations, whether that’s behind the camera, in front of the camera, or working with software to create their own digital works of art. Learning hands-on challenges our students to learn to think on their feet, adapt and problem solve — all skills that are essential for work in the arts. Collaborative projects allow our students to work together, build a strong network, and learn to see their chosen craft from every angle.

Industry Teachers

Our students learn from a faculty of working professionals who are still active in their fields. This means that our instructors offer a direct line to the heartbeat of current industry trends and provide vital insight to the business side of the professional arts.

Incredible Locations

If you’re excited about the idea of spending a year or two changing your life through one of NYFA’s conservatory programs, check out our campus locations:

NYFA New York

If you are looking for a sense of adventure, choose a conservatory program at NYFA New York City. Our campuses at 17 Battery Place and 26 Broadway place students in the heart of one of the world’s most diverse cities, the home of independent film, the proving ground for actors, and the theatre capital of the world. For the artistic soul, New York City is alive with unimaginable hope and inspiration, and students will recognize the setting of many beloved films and television series shot in the city, from “The Godfather,” “Ghostbusters,” “Taxi Driver” and “Do the Right Thing” to “Madmen,” “Broad City,” and “30 Rock.”

NYFA Los Angeles

NYFA Los Angeles is in the heart of Hollywood, the birthplace of American cinema and the heart of the film industry. From the sunny and inspiring city to the nearby beaches and mountains, students are in the perfect place to create their own original projects in the same city that served as the location for countless classic and contemporary films and television shows, from “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Graduate,” “Tangerine,” and “Nightcrawler” to “Star Trek,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Broke Girls.” And NYFA students have unique entertainment industry opportunities, such as working on the prestigious Universal Studios backlot and in Warner Brothers facilities. 

NYFA South Beach

“The Gateway of the Americas,” Miami is a city of diverse culture, sun, and energy, with gleaming white beaches, turquoise ocean waters, a beautiful Art Deco district, and a famed nightlife and restaurant scene that draws visitors, artists, and industry leaders from around the world. Located in the heart of the gorgeous South Beach neighborhood of Miami, NYFA South Beach offers conservatory students the opportunity to make art while exploring one of the most vibrant cities in the U.S. Miami has served as the location for many major films and television shows, including “Scarface,” “The Birdcage,” “Jane the Virgin,” and 2016’s Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, “Moonlight.”

NYFA Australia

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The New York Film Academy Australia has two campuses, in Sydney and Gold Coast, where conservatory students can can attain their CUA60615 – Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media or CUA51015 – Diploma of Screen and Media.

NYFA Australia: Gold Coast

Our Gold Coast (Queensland) campus is located in a state-of-the-art facility in Southport, directly across from the Gold Coast Broadwater with a popular waterfront promenade, large estuary and attractive parklands. We also have our own production studios on-site at the renowned Village Roadshow Studios, where our students have the opportunity to do their production work in the backlot, the filming location of international blockbusters including “San Andreas,” “Unbroken,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “The Shallows,” “Kong: Skull Island,” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” among many others.

NYFA Australia: Sydney

Australia’s largest and most famous city, Sydney is considered the jewel of the Southern Hemisphere, with one of the most beautiful harbors, great surf beaches, a magnificent opera house, and an eclectic film and music scene that adds to rich cultural environment. NYFA students have access to premier facilities and equipment and can create their own work throughout Sydney’s beautiful beaches, iconic buildings, historic landmarks, award-winning restaurants, and a uniquely vibrant culture. Sydney has served as the location for numerous blockbusters such as “The Great Gatsby,” “The Matrix,” “Stealth,” “Babe,” “Crocodile Dundee,” “Wolverine,” “Mad Max The Road Warrior,” and “Mission Impossible II.” 

Have you enrolled or completed one our conservatory programs? Let us know about your experience below! Learn more about our conservatory programs and continuing education at the New York Film Academy.

First Day of Summer: 5 Awesome Movies To Watch Before Starting Your Summer At NYFA

Are you starting a course at NYFA this summer and wondering how best to use your time before you come for class? Here’s a tip — celebrate the summer doing what you love: watching films!

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There’s no happier way to spend a summer afternoon than by watching an awesome film with popcorn and a cold drink. Here are some fun movies you might want to check out to beat the heat.

1. “The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants” (2005)

At first this may sound like the average teen movie: four girls who are going to be separated for the first time over the summer all promise to stay in touch with each other. While shopping, they come across a pair of jeans that fits each of them perfectly, and they decide to share the pants among their group over the course of their summer holidays.

Yet the traveling pants serve another purpose: to teach the girls important lessons and infuse their lives with magic, miracles and the things that matter. This is a film about love, heartbreak, identity and facing adulthood that you won’t forget too soon.

2. “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997)

If romantic comedies or drama aren’t up your alley, and you like the taste of thrill, this horror/mystery flick may be what you need.

Once again, we have a group of four teenagers. This time, they’re covering up a car accident. A year later, they are stalked by a murderer. Drawing from the urban legend of The Hook, this film’s got quite a cult following, with two sequels and a great soundtrack of rock songs to chill out to.

3. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008)

Of course, you can’t go wrong with a Woody Allen comedy flick. Here, two American women are on a trip to Barcelona, where they encounter an alluring artist who’s into both of them … as well as his ex-wife.

Complete with a beach holiday in beautiful Spain, polyamory and stellar acting, this film has a dreamy and intoxicating quality that’s perfect to watch in summer.

4. “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006)

If you like road trips, this film is a safe bet. Meet the dysfunctional Hoover family, who are convinced that the youngest member, Olive, needs to win a beauty pageant. To that end, they embark on a cross-country journey in a VW bus.

Hilarious and heartbreaking, this gem of a film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two, including the prize for Best Original Screenplay.

5. “500 Days of Summer” (2009)

Not a summer film per se, but it deftly examines a lot of themes connected to our idea of an ‘endless summer’: true love, a perfect relationship, this period of joy we’re convinced shall never end, intoxication, childhood daydreams and so on. The film reverses the typical ‘boy meets girl and falls in love’ trope where the boy is hopelessly in love and the girl isn’t and is told in non-linear flashbacks.  This is a film about wanting something you can never have and being okay to live without it. Summers always end, but we need to keep on living and this movie will show you how.  

What’s your idea of a perfect summer? Are there any other films you need we should add to the line-up? Let us know in the comments below! Spend the summer studying visual and performing arts with NYFA.

6 Unlikely Superhero Film Hits

Superman was the first superhero to grace the silver screen back in the 1940s. Since then the Man of Steel has had many incarnations, as have Batman and Spiderman — from camp TV shows to blockbuster movie franchises. But, in recent years,  there are  a few surprise superhero hits that, when first proposed, likely caused more than a little head scratching. To honor National Superhero Day, we celebrate the lesser-known superhero movies that may inspire you to delve deep into comic book obscurity to create a superhero movie of your own!

1. “Hellboy” (Dark Horse Comics, 2004)

Guillermo del Toro passed up a shot at directing the third “Harry Potter” film “because he nurtured a need to bring Mr. Mignola’s colossal, monstrous-looking, Twizzler-colored champion to the screen,” according to a NY Times review by Elvis Mitchell. Mitchell congratulates del Toro for keeping the “drizzly, musty gothic ambience” of the source material while giving it his own quirky spin:

“The writer and director Guillermo del Toro has brought a similar woozy, disconcerting melancholy to his film adaptation, and his obvious affection and affinity for that dankness alone would make “Hellboy” worth seeing. But Mr. del Toro lets loose with an all-American, vaudevillian rambunctiousness that makes the movie daffy, loose and lovable.”

2. “Deadpool” (Marvel, 2016)

He has the power to regenerate — his limbs as well as the X-Men franchise. This R-Rated blockbuster proves comics are not just for kids. Returning to the source material, the movie has the titular character breaking the fourth wall — unusual behavior for a filmic superhero and one that worked; a sequel is in development.

3. “Dr. Strange” (Marvel, 2016)

Perhaps the most unlikely part of the story of this worldwide blockbuster is that, after 30 years, it finally got made. But Dr. Strange has always been a superhero outlier. Wikipedia quotes the historian Bradford Wright as saying, “Never among Marvel’s more popular or accessible characters, Dr. Strange still found a niche among an audience seeking a challenging alternative to more conventional superhero fare.”

4. “Watchmen” (DC Comics, 2009)

As the Telegraph notes in a review, “In the annals of Hollywood development hell, the long-anticipated Watchmen ranks high on the list of movies that almost didn’t get made.”

Besides the development SNAFUs, director Zack Snyder created a difficult not-for-kids superhero film. The Telegraph writes: “As well as extreme violence — arms are sawn off, heads are hatcheted, blood spurts in gushers, necks are twisted and broken, a woman is brutally beaten and raped — ‘Watchmen’ also pushes the envelope with an explicit superhero sex scene between Night Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman) that Snyder admits borders on pornography and which he filmed to the accompaniment of Leonard Cohen’s anthem ‘Hallelujah.’”

5. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (Marvel, 2014)

As Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers wrote in his review: “Maybe you never heard of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel comic franchise that wilts in the shadows while Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers get all the love. Maybe you think a big-*ss movie about wanna-be Marvel icons isn’t worth your time.

“Snap out of it. Guardians of the Galaxy does the impossible. Through dazzle and dumb luck, it turns the clichés of comic-book films on their idiot heads and hits you like an exhilarating blast of fun-fun-fun.”

6. “Ant-Man” (Marvel, 2015)

CinemaBlend ranked Ant-Man #24 on its 30 Best Superhero Movies list, and noted that, “Just like they did the previous year with Guardians of the Galaxy, 2015’s Ant-Man took an obscure character from Marvel’s library and turned them into a hit at the box office. The Peyton Reed-directed flick featured Scott Lang as the Tiny Titan working to harness the Pym Particle technology and make up for his criminal past with Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne’s help. By adding plenty of humor and incorporating a heist into the story, Ant-Man turned out to be anything but small when it came to enjoyability …”

What superhero would you like to see hit the big screen? Let us know in the comments below. And learn how to make your own films at New York Film Academy.

Entertainment Trailblazers in LGBTQ+ Activism

The entertainment industry has its share of human rights activists, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. Whether for queer or trans rights, these amazing individuals have stood up for what they believed in. Here are a few entertainment individuals whom the New York Film Academy salutes as pioneers in the field of LGBTQ+ rights.

Ellen DeGeneres

DeGeneres famously came out on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1997 before staging her own coming-out on her sitcom “Ellen.” Her coming-out-of-the-closet episode, entitled “The Puppy Episode,” received some of the show’s highest ratings.

She became the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on television. Since then, DeGeneres has had a hugely successful career, hosting both the Academy Awards and the Grammys as well as her own daytime talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” She continues to remain a crucial advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 from Barack Obama.

George Takei

Beloved as “Star Trek’s” Lieutenant Sulu, Takei officially came out in 2005 to oppose then-California governor Arnold Schwarzanegger’s veto of same-sex marriage legislation. Takei’s use of social media — he has over 10 million followers — has made him a pioneer in using Facebook to advance LGBTQ+ rights. Additionally, he is active in state and local politics. In 2014, he won the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)’s Vito Russo award, given to openly gay media professionals who have made important contributions for the LGBTQ+ community.

Laverne Cox

Transgender actress and comedian Laverne Cox first rose to prominence playing Sophia Burset on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” She became the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy in the acting category, as well as the first transgender person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussauds.

In 2017, she became the first transgender actress to play an openly transgender character in CBS’s “Doubt.” Her success and activism has sparked conversations about transgender acceptance.

Parvez Sharma

This New York-based Indian filmmaker became famous in the LGBTQ+ community when he released his documentary “A Jihad for Love,” about gay and lesbian Muslims. He received the GLAAD Media Award in 2009 for his efforts.

A celebrated journalist who commentates frequently on CNBC and MSNBC, Sharma was named “one of the 100 gay men and women who have helped shape our culture during the year” by OUT Magazine in both 2008 and 2015.

Emily Rios

Latino and lesbian actress Emily Rios stars as an openly lesbian character on FX’s “The Bridge.”

“I’m gay, personally, so being Mexican and a lesbian — this is why I love the character because I deal with the same type of things with my own family,” Emily said in an interview. But her character doesn’t just focus on issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights. “I want it to be an incidental thing, which is what happens in our everyday life.”

How will you be celebrating Pride Month? Let us know in the comments below.

The History of Drive-In Movie Theaters (and Where They Are Now)

Many people hear stories of their grandparents going to the drive-in theater for a Friday night hangout, but do you know the history of the classic movie experience?

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Though there were drive-ins as early as the 1910s, the first patented drive-in was opened on June 6, 1933 by Richard Hollingshead in New Jersey. He created it as a solution for people unable to comfortably fit into smaller movie theater seats after creating a mini drive-in for his mother. Appealing to families, Hollingshead advertised his drive-in as a place where “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.”

The success of Hollingshead’s drive-in caused more and more drive-ins to appear in every state in the country, and spread internationally as well. Drive-ins gained immense popularity 20 years later during the 1950s and ‘60s with the Baby Boomer generation. There were over 4,000 drive-ins throughout the U.S. and most were located in rural areas. They maintained popularity as both a space for families to spend time with each other as well as an affordable date night option.

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Drive-ins could only show movies during certain times of the year and were dependent on having decent weather. During the ‘70s, people downsized their cars during the oil crisis in order to save money on the inflated cost of gas, making it uncomfortable to watch movies at the drive-in. To make up for lost revenue, drive-ins began losing their family-friendly atmosphere by showing exploitation films like slasher horrors as well as adult content. The development of the VCR made it more appealing to stay at home and watch movies without paying for a movie at the drive-in.

Slowly, drive-ins began to lose their appeal. In order to have an effective drive-in, it had to be on at least 15 acres of land. Economically speaking, it became more practical for owners to close down their drive-ins in order to sell their land to developers to build malls or multi-building complexes.

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Even though drive-ins are not nearly as popular as they used to be (with some arguing that they will be obsolete within the next decade), there are still drive-ins in business throughout the country. Modern drive-ins vary, but many show current films as well as older films. A lot of them also plan double feature nights. Just like a classic drive-in and a regular theater, they sell refreshments like popcorn, candy and soda. Some even have playgrounds for families to entertain their children.

For now, there are over 300 drive-ins still in operation. Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania have the most drive-ins still in operation in the U.S., with each state having almost 30 left. Unfortunately, Hawaii, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Delaware, and Louisiana no longer have any that are still in business. But no matter the fate of America’s drive-ins, they will always be a nostalgic and cultural icon.

Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is one of the most iconic superheroes in the world and has a large, faithful fan base. Bursting into the world in 1941, the Amazonian was an instant hit with comic book lovers everywhere. Even people who aren’t avid comic readers still adore the genius design and storyline. And now, the 2017 DC Comics film adaptation has smashed box office records.

As Forbes reports, “‘Wonder Woman‘ made even more over the weekend than originally estimated. It opened not with $100.5 million, but rather with $103.1 million … That makes it the biggest opening weekend ever for a female director.” (Want to learn more about female directors and gender inequality in the film industry? Check out our infographic.)

Wonder Woman was the third hero to get her own comic book after popular appearances in “All Star Comics #8” and “Sensation Comics #1” and is still regularly circulating in her own comic books, movies and TV appearances.  But even her biggest fans may not know these five awesome facts about her extraordinary history!

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1. Wonder Woman was partially based off of the creator’s wife.

Besides women’s suffragists, Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (pen name Charles Moulton) based the first female crime-fighter on his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston. Elizabeth was a psychologist as well as an attorney, often helping her husband with Wonder Woman projects. The couple was also responsible for creating the very first prototype of the lie detector test.

2. Wonder Woman never wore a skirt.

In earlier issues, Wonder Woman seemed to be wearing a skirt. Surprise, it’s not a skirt! Wonder Woman was actually sporting culottes, or split pants with flowing bottoms, making them appear like a skirt, so she could be both practical and feminine. But no matter what she wears, Wonder Woman is always in style!

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3. She used to reform, not kill criminals.

Marston was inspired by the Suffragette Movement and believed having more women in charge of national and global affairs would lead to a more peaceful world. Wonder Woman would send many female villains to Reform (Transformation) Island after capturing them. Her hope was to have them return to the “true nature of women” and to bring peace to society with a women-run Earth.

4. The Lasso of Truth was based off of Marston’s lie detector prototype.

Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to force villains to be truthful and obedient, even using it to provide evidence in court. But did you know it was based on a real-life invention? Marston and Elizabeth’s lie detector invention directly influenced the creation of her famous Lasso of Truth. The prototype correlated heightened blood pressure with lying and guilt, but courts would not accept it as a reliable measure of guilt.

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5. Wonder Woman is the daughter of Zeus, Greek god of the sky and ruler of Olympus.

Though Wonder Woman’s first origin story said her mother Queen Hippolyta of Themyscira sculpts her daughter Diana out of clay, praying to the gods of Olympus for her clay–crafted child to come to life, the recent “DC Comics: Rebirth” series tells a different story. Queen Hippolyta only told the story to hide the truth: that Zeus is actually Wonder Woman’s father. This makes Wonder Woman a demigod like Hercules and explains the source of her mighty power.

What are your thoughts on the premier of “Wonder Woman” this week? Let us know in the comments below. Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

9 Tips for Writing a Film Review

Whether you are an actor, a filmmaker or a film geek through and through, writing film reviews can help hone your ability to think critically and watch movies with a response that goes deeper than “that movie was awesome!” And for you future film reviewers out there, it’s never too soon to start. Here are nine tips for writing a film review that people will want to read.

1. Watch the film.

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Once is necessary twice is preferable. Taking notes is also a good idea and will help the writing process by making it easy to refer to your in-the-moment thoughts and reactions.

2. Express your opinions and support your criticism.

Professional reviewers do not shy away from telling their readers whether they thought the movie was good bad or indifferent, and in fact readers come to rely on those reviewers whose tastes reflect their own when deciding whether or not to spend their time and money. Professional reviewers also have watched a lot of movies and can express why and how they came to their criticism. Be sure to back up your thoughts with specifics–a disappointing performance, a ridiculous plot, beautiful cinematography, difficult material that leaves you thinking, and so on.

3. Consider your audience.

Are you writing for a fan site, a national news outlet, or a Teen Magazine? Knowing who your readers are can help you decide what elements of the movie to highlight. You should also adjust your writing style to fit the publication.

4. The actors.

Many casual filmgoers will be inspired to see a movie if a favorite actor is in it, so you should probably spend a little space talking about the performances: seasoned actor in a new kind of role, brilliant performance from a rising star, excellence despite a lackluster script, dynamics in an ensemble, and so much more can be said about the actors in any given film.

5. Directors, cinematographers, special effects.

This is where your film geek can really shine. Tell your readers about the highlights or missteps of directors, cinematographers, costume designers and CGI magicians. What worked, what surprised, what fell short of expectations, are all great questions to address in the body of your review.

6. No spoilers!

Give your readers some idea of the plot, but be careful not to include any spoilers. Remember the point of a good review is to get people interested in going to the movie. Don’t get over excited and ruin it for them!

7. Study the professionals.

As with all writing endeavors, the more you read the better you will be. And when you read film reviews that you like (or don’t like), think about why. Use your critical eye to think about why one reviewer has a hundred thousand followers and another two. Be sure also to read the publications where you’d like your writing to appear as a template for your own reviews, and don’t forget to read the submission guidelines!

8. Reread, rewrite and edit.

Edit your work; your opinions will not be taken seriously if you misspell the director’s name or can’t put together a grammatically correct sentence. Take the time to check your spelling and edit your piece for organizational flow.

9. Find your voice.

The best reviewers have a distinct personality that comes across in their writing. This does not happen overnight, so take every opportunity to write as an opportunity to develop your own style and voice that will grab reader’s attention and keep them coming back for more.

Ready to learn more about filmmaking? Check out the New York Film Academy’s many program options.