Q&As

Q&A with Jagged Little Pill and Christmas Carol Producer and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Alum Chase Thomas

Chase Thomas was only ten minutes to places for a performance of Disneyland’s Fantasmic! when he received a call asking him to become a producer on Broadway’s upcoming A Christmas Carol. 

It was a phone call that would change the life of Thomas, who attended the 2-Year Musical Theatre program at New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Fall 2015, but it wasn’t out of the blue. Through years of hard work, networking, and dedication, Thomas had earned the job offer.

Chase Thomas

New York Film Academy recently spoke with Chase Thomas about his journey into musical theatre, the value of hard work, and the importance of always being genuine and nice to everyone you meet.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Chase Thomas (CT): Hello! My name is Chase Thomas and I am originally from Laguna Beach, California. I will be making my Broadway producing debut with Jagged Little Pill and A Christmas Carol. I am also the founder of Carmine Theatrical Entertainment LLC, a group of Broadway investors located in Southern California.

I chose New York Film Academy because I was looking for a program that would not only polish my previous training but help me build connections within the entertainment industry. While at NYFA, most of my teachers were working professionals in the television, film, and/or Broadway with incredible resumes. As a student, I was taught many skills that would build me into a proactive business person and a better performer in the industry. 

After leaving New York Film Academy, not only was I a more polished performer, but I left inspired to create my own path in the entertainment  industry.This inspiration led me to become a performer at The Walt Disney Company and to produce two shows on Broadway, both at the same time.

NYFA: What attracted you to musical theatre?

CT: When I was younger I would run around the house singing, and making up songs about everything around me. My parents, noticing I had talent, enrolled me into a theatre school when I was six (The Center Stage Studio). From there on I was hooked! My young self was so intrigued with the idea of acting, singing, and dancing at the same time! 

At just twelve years old, I was given the chance to produce my own shows at The Center Stage Studio. The thrill of producing at my theatre school is what gave me the bug to want to be a producer. The experiences I had at The Center Stage Studio lit the fire of my passion for the entertainment industry, and I have been pursuing it ever since.

NYFA: How did you get involved with Jagged Little Pill?

CT: As I decided to take a different career path than my peers, I got a Bachelor of Science in Business as well as completed a two-year internship at Warner Brothers under the mentorship of Andrew Lazar (American Sniper, Get Smart, 10 Things I Hate About You). During the last months of my internship, Yael Silver (NYFA Alumni/producing partner), reached out to me asking if I would be interested in working with her on Jagged Little Pill. I will never forget that phone call as it was a day that my life changed forever.

NYFA: Can you tell us about A Christmas Carol?

CT: All I can say is that it is wickedly STUNNING! Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) and Matthew Warchus’s (Matilda) adaptation of A Christmas Carol is unlike any holiday show I have seen. Get ready, it is going to be the new holiday staple in New York City for many years to come.

NYFA: How did you get involved with A Christmas Carol?

CT: When it was just ten minutes to “places” before I had to go on stage for Fantasmic! at Disneyland, I got an offer from one of the lead producers asking if I would like to be a producer on A Christmas Carol. I immediately said yes and ran on stage to my spot. After the show ended and my adrenaline stopped I questioned, “How is this real life?” But then I quickly reminded myself of all the hard work that I put in that has gotten me to where I am today. It has all made me understand the value of hard work, and has inspired me to continue to work hard for what I want. Putting goals to my dreams has helped me get to where I am.

NYFA: What challenges have you faced producing A Christmas Carol? What has been most rewarding?

CT: There are going to be many ups and downs while working in the entertainment industry. Instead of looking at the lows as a “negative,” I look at them as lessons that will make me a better producer moving forward. “By seeking and blundering we learn,” says Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Jagged Little Pill and A Christmas Carol, or your work in general?

CT: I have learned that it is so important to be nice to everyone, and to be genuine. The industry, in fact, is very small. You never know who is going to give you your big break. It could be the classmate you are sitting next to or the person you walked by on the subway. You never know!

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

CT: Enjoy the ride because it is a marathon, not a sprint. This means it’s important to train well and practice good habits early on. Remember to always work hard and never give up, no matter how challenging it may seem. The ones who succeed are the ones who do not fall back but push forward, even when it seems impossible.

New York Film Academy thanks Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at NYFA alum Chase Thomas for taking the time to speak with us and share his experiences and advice with our students!

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Alum Stasi Berezovskaya

Stasi Berezovskaya knew she wanted to study at the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA) from the moment she stepped inside the building after traveling to New York City from her hometown of Moscow. Now a PCMT at NYFA alum, she started her own creative production agency, SB Productions, which has afforded her the opportunity to combine her love of fashion, performance, and art. New York Film Academy spoke with Stasi about her time at NYFA, where her passion stems from, and what it takes to create your own company:

Stasi Berezovskaya

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Stasi Berezovskaya (SB): My name is Stasi Berezovskaya. I came to New York City from Moscow to improve my skills in Musical Theatre and pursue my career as a performer. I already had an education as a Musical Theatre Artist at GITIS University in Moscow, and I was choosing between a few schools at the time I traveled to NYC to study. However, I fell in love with NYFA as soon as I entered the building. It was all about the people who work there, because they make the atmosphere magical. From the Admissions office and the incredible teachers, to the President of the Academy, Michael Young, and Vice Presidents David Klein and James Miller, everybody made it feel like they were family that you could turn to starting from the first day. They all shared their amazing skills, but most importantly, they shared their hearts.

NYFA: Why did you decide to focus on fashion? 

SB: As far as fashion concerns, I guess it has always been in me, I was just previously too busy or too scared to accept it and pursue it professionally. My mom is a stylist and I grew up around all of the beautiful clothes, collections, and models. I remember a picture of myself that my great grandmother used to show me–I was three years old, standing in her heels that were probably eight sizes too big for me, and around my neck hung incredible pearls that made me feel like a princess. I suppose fashion is in my genes, because all of the women in my family used to create beautiful pieces to wear and the passion was evidently passed on from generation to generation.

Stasi Berezovskaya

NYFA: Can you tell us about your agency and what the process was like getting it off the ground? 

SB: After two years at the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at NYFA, while I was auditioning in New York City, I started working as an assistant for Russian designer MONOSUIT and met an amazing family of independent designers called Flying Solo. Meeting such talented people and seeing their hard work throughout the long process, including how they use their talents and skills to make something different and absolutely stunning, I realized that we are all artists. We, as actors and performers, have the voice and the platform to say what others can’t, as do designers. Designers’ collections are inspired by the same events that happen in the world every day and the same struggles we face in musicals and performances, they just talk about it in a different way. 

Given this, I thought to bring these two special worlds together, and opened a creative company called SB Production Agency. My team and I create and produce content for designers such as look books, campaign shoots, and fashion videos. Beyond this, the most important element of what I do is combine the two worlds and show designers’ collections through dance and performance, telling a story led by unique music.

Stasi Berezovskaya

My company has only just started its journey, but it has already been a great experience. I love to combine various types of art in order to allow people to see the bigger picture and see the different angles of artists’ work. 

For example, I recently had the honor of working with the amazing painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan. He was hosting an art show in Fremin Gallery, which allowed us to use their space and helped us bring our idea to life. Tigran’s series of paintings are very unique, as they depict women who appear to be confident and beautiful, but in reality they are struggling to show who they really are. Given this, we came up with the idea of inviting dancer Abigail Kelvas and choreographer Dolly Sfeir to process the paintings and guess what the women within them actually feel. We put together a video and finalized the film in just two days, thanks to our wonderful creative team. Women on set included NYFA alum Luciana Baldovino, who is a talented director and a filmmaker in my company, and current NYFA student Beth Ribeiro, who served as a DP. Also on set to assist was NYFA Chair of Cinematography Piero Basso. Small clips of the video we produced became a part of Tigran’s interview on Armenian TV and I believe this is only the beginning for this project and more to come. We have so many more wonderful projects ahead!

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

SB: This has been a wonderful journey since my graduation and I am so grateful for NYFA. I met so many amazing and talented people that became co-workers, friends, and family to me. I believe that we are all here for a reason. We are from different countries and cities, speaking different languages, but the language of art is the only one that everyone can understand. I believe we all met for a greater purpose to make this world a better place. NYFA is a place to start building these kinds of relationships, believe in art’s power, and move forward together.

Stasi Berezovskaya

New York Film Academy thanks PCMT alum Stasi Berezovskaya and wishes her the best of luck on her journey with SB Production Agency!

NYFA Alumna Niki Landella: In Her Own Words

By Niki Landella

My experience at the NYFA was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done for myself, for my spirit, for my artistic process and for my personal and professional development.

I only spent four weeks there and I am an entirely different woman as a result.

Niki 3

Photo provided by Niki Landella.

Picture this:

Picture perfect facilities, the Statue of Liberty in the distance and an amazing view; state-of-the-art equipment, people from all over the world in one building studying with you, every single teacher with credentials which, when mentioned, could easily be mistaken for name dropping — but none of that is what really makes NYFA special.

For me, the best part about NYFA was the souls I encountered and the depth of the humans with whom I had the privilege of interacting. My experience was one of absolute respect and dignity.

Each and every teacher encouraged me to trust myself more, and I think this has something to do with the success that they have already experienced in their lives. There is something about people who have already experienced legitimate success in their careers — they don’t need to put you down in order to get a sense of significance. I think because they had already experienced professional fulfillment, their teaching process was free of the subconscious agendas I find many teachers in the arts have. I speak as an individual who has grown up in the arts and has been in the arts for 15 years.

No NYFA teacher ever motivated me through shame. I found myself doing things I had struggled with for years, just because my NYFA teachers had the necessary patience with me. I absolutely blossomed under their nurturing.

In improv class I was taught to listen to my own inner compass.

In Meisner I was taught to listen to others.

In dance I was taught to give myself the dignity of my process in getting to know my body. In singing I learned to trust my own voice.

In lab classes I also learned to respond to my own inner stimuli.

Music teachers all gave me the comfort of knowing that, with enough patience, I am capable of understanding what I once thought of as a complex art; to trust that there is music inside of me, and that they would be willing to help me unlock it.

Niki 1

Photo provided by Niki Landella.

There’s something indescribably beautiful and empowering about the culture of respect under which I found the New York Film Academy to operate.

Then there are the classmates. I know it may sound like a luxury to have global classmates, but picture this: You’re sitting in music theory, and an Italian word like “Acapella” comes up. Your actual Italian friend from actual Italy who is sitting next to you says, “In my language that word means ‘in the chapel,’ because acapella music was first sung at church,” and then the music teacher responds and gives you all the historical data on that.

Now imagine how many of these little serendipitous moments you have every day, which add so much to your store of knowledge and such depth of calibre to your education in a way that few schools are able to provide on this globe. And I say that as someone who has lived on three continents.

Then there is just something about New York. In the arts at least, New York is where the best of the best go to refine themselves. When you are in New York you are swimming with the big fish and you have an unparalleled wealth of resources at your fingertips.

My short time at the New York Film Academy was worth every penny, every drop of sweat that went into getting there — and then some. I would recommend a course at the New York Film Academy, at any of their campuses, to any individual who considers themselves serious about being a storyteller in any field. They source the best of the best, they give you their absolute best every day, and all they ask for in return is that you give your best. There is a culture of excellence coupled with a culture of respect. There is absolutely no way one can walk away from such an experience without being deeply enriched.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Niki Landella for taking the time to share her story about her wonderful experience in our musical theatre program. We are so glad to have you in our community, and can’t wait to hear about your next adventures!

 

An Interview With Musical Theatre Alumnus Jaspal Binning

As any professional of the musical theatre will tell you, your career can take you in a variety of different directions—from the theatre to commercials, from film to guest starring on a TV show—all in a single day. In the above video, Jaspal Binning, a graduate of NYFA’s Two-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory Program, talks about how the integrated curriculum and professional faculty of the Musical Theatre School not only taught him how to act, but how to handle himself on a film a set using professional equipment, skills that have come in handy as he pursues his professional goals in New York City. Binning has gone from starring on stage at NYFA to guest starring on The Newsroom and being directed by famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. But as he is quick to emphasize, succeeding as an actor in New York City takes persistence and, above all, honesty.

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Jaspal Binning and I studied in the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre and Acting for Film Two-Year Conservatory. I felt I got an incredibly comprehensive training at the New York Film Academy because of the array of classes offered. And now, specifically using those techniques for my daily life as an actor in New York, going from commercials to TV to film to theatre on the same day was definitely provided by my teachers here. The connections I’ve made at the New York Film Academy have helped me incredibly as I still keep in touch with many of my colleagues and teachers. My teachers are still working as Broadway professionals right now. Deidre Goodwin, for example, just finished a run of Chicago. Michelle Potterf was the Dance Captain for that show and Chad Austin is still dancing at the Met. An incredible array of talent and they’re still working professionally.

The most memorable role I played so far was as Joel in The Newsroom. I was fortunate enough to share the screen with Dev Patel and also Aaron Sorkin was directing us that day and it was an absolutely insane moment of my life that I could have only dreamed of before. The training at the New York Film Academy definitely helped me in terms of producing my own film as I learned at the New York Film Academy not only to act but how to hold a boom correctly, how to set up a light stand well, and how to actually aid the scene. It really informed a lot. And that was just being around the incredible equipment and also incredible film people as well. I’d say the best advice to give to future musical theatre students would be to never give up. I see this all the time, unfortunately, but New York City is a hard place to make it and it definitely will happen, but persistence is definitely the thing you need. The best thing I learned at the New York Film Academy, in terms of being an actor, was honesty. Being honest with yourself, being honest with other people, and definitely being honest in front of the camera or on stage.

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

Not Bound By The Rules: An Interview With NYFA Musical Theatre Instructor And Writer/Composer Bobby Cronin

We recently sat down with NYFA musical theatre instructor and award-winning writer/composer Bobby Cronin to talk about his approach to songwriting, his successful productions that include the musicals Concrete Jungle and Daybreak, and what advice he’d give to aspiring composers.

Transcript

Bobby Cronin: I’m Bobby Cronin and I teach Pop Rock, Musical Theatre, Audition, and I write some of the scores for the films at the New York Film Academy.

NYFA: Would you mind telling us about your background and what drew you towards your career path?

BC: My background is technically as a director. And Yale’s program as a director you had to study acting. And then I knew I wanted to do musical theatre, Yale did not have musical theatre so I then got to have my music minor turned into a double major in the theatre program so I left having quite an extensive knowledge of music and theatre and I had, like, Maury Yeston was my professor who wrote Titanic. So as a kid it was all ear, all ear. Like no piano lessons, no nothing. And I think that’s actually helped me tremendously, is that I’m not as bound by the rules, but I know the rules. But I let my ear do most of the work.

NYFA: When composing a musical theatre project, what comes first, the songs or the story?

BC: I would say it switches all of the time. Most of the time it’s story because I’ve gotten to the point where time is really important so I know if I’m going to write something it has to be very specifically for a moment. And that’s what makes a good song anyway. I was mentioning that you can be a songwriter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that writing for musical theatre or writing for film is the same thing, because you do have to advance the story. The song has to have a different beat at the end than it had at the beginning or else you’re not going anywhere, you’re not advancing the story, which is why for me, I’m now going to change my answer, it’s always the story. It really is always the story. And then it’s how do I enhance the story, how do I come up with the right hook because for me that’s everything, the hook. Whether it’s a lyric hook or a music hook, something has to have the audience walking out remembering that tune and what it did in the story. I don’t want them to just remember the tune, I want them to remember what happened.

NYFA: Would you advise aspiring composers to adapt existing property when developing their first production?

BC: I would say that using existing material for early projects is excellent. You already have an arc. You already have your characters drawn for you. And then it’s you figuring out “How do I want to tell this story?” For instance, with Christmas Carol, I wanted it contemporary, how do we make it contemporary, how do we put it in to today, but paying respect to the actual property. And coming up with the hook of how to tell that story made it work. To keep it contemporary.

NYFA: What opportunities do you feel musical theatre offers for exploring complex themes of self and sexuality?

BC: Well, I think contemporary musical theatre, it yearns for exciting themes, interesting themes, darker themes. You know, it’s interesting. If you go back to something like Carousel, it’s actually really dark and I think that people think of the old musicals as, you know, cheesy, and they really weren’t. They pushed the envelope a little. What I think we try to do today is to really push it. And why not? Why not push it?

So for instance with Daybreak I wanted toexplore a struggle with sexuality whereas with Concrete Jungle there are two gay characters that that’s not what they’re about. They just happen to be gay. In fact, it’s just about love for them. Also with Daybreak I was dealing with suicide, just darkness, mental illness and…why not? You know, why not? These are things that we face every day and I think we want to be challenged as an audience today. And I also think that things like Netflix, all these shows that are really brave and really pushing the envelope. It’s making the audience want more. They don’t want just high kicks and high notes anymore. They want to be challenged. And I think that’s why Next to Normal did so well, is that not only was it really contemporary, but it really challenged your brain as to “What is normal?”

NYFA: Do you have any advice for aspiring composers just starting and is there anything you know now you wish you knew then?

BC: Advice-wise, get your stuff out there. Work with good people, surround yourself with people who want greatness for you and don’t sweat the small stuff at all. There’s always going to be small stuff. Look to the future. Build a future. Figure out which actors you want to be working with and approach them. The worst they can say is “No.” And then they’ll recommend somebody. But then they recognize your name and that’s what is important. But you have to get your stuff out there and you have to have projects. Don’t just have songs, have projects.

Follow Bobby on social media by checking out his YouTube channel and on Twitter.

Interview With New York Film Academy Graduate And Star Of The Brazilian Adaptation Of Mamma Mia – Pati Amoroso

Check out our interview with New York Film Academy Musical Theatre graduate and star of the Brazilian adaptation of Mamma Mia, Pati Amoroso, where she talks about her time at the New York Film Academy and hopes for the musical theatre scene in Sao Paolo.

Transcript

Pati Amoroso: Hi! I’m Pati Amoroso from Sao Paolo, Brazil and I studied musical theatre at the New York Film Academy!

NYFA: What is your background?

PA: Well my background, I suppose, started when I was very little actually. I was 15 days old when I moved to LA and that already got me started in the American culture. Then we moved to New Jersey where we were like only forty, forty-five minutes from New York so every weekend my parents would take me and my brother to see Broadway shows and I just fell in love with everything. I was so little and just listening to the music and the energy just got me hooked.

What drew me to New York Film Academy was the amount of resources that you guys have here. Cameras, lights, and especially your teachers. We didn’t at that time, have that many resources in Brazil so I just knew that if I wanted to pursue this dream, I would have to come to New York Film Academy.

New York Film Academy helped me meet other people from other countries, which was amazing to know that there are so many interesting people that I never met before with different cultures and different ideas and that helped me get settled in this city.

NYFA: Is it common for Brazilians that are interested in storytelling to come to the states to study at places like the New York Film Academy?

PA: Yeah, Brazilians are very drawn to New York. Well, like everybody else in the whole wide world cuz it’s like if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. So, I feel like since the start, every Brazilian wants to have the dream of studying here. So I feel pretty confident that many Brazilians want to come here.

NYFA: Has the arts and entertainment industry in Brazil changed since more people have come to the United States to study?

PA: Yeah, Brazil has changed a lot now. More or less eleven or twelve years ago the musical theatre industry began in Brazil and now it’ become something…I’d say it’s a mini Broadway in a way. Because now we have so much more musical theatre there, everything’s growing. I’d say soon enough that, well, Sao Paolo or Rio could turn into a New York City.

NYFA: What lessons did you learn at New York Film Academy that you still find yourself applying to your career and practice as an artist?

PA: The New York Film Academy has taught me so many things that I take on till day. I like condensing it to one thing is basically confidence, confidence in your craft. All the teachers made me feel confident about myself and they rooted me on to becoming what I am today and that’s what I try to keep on using for my career.

NYFA: Mamma Mia is one of the most influential musicals of the past fifteen yrs. Were you a fan before joining the cast? Has you seen the show before?

PA: It was a great honor to become a part of Mamma Mia. I was shocked actually. But I had never seen the actual show before. I did watch the movie with Meryl Streep and—she’s my idol—so when I got cast I held myself from going to the Broadway show because I wanted to make Sophie my own, but I did watch the show after we started. Like, we had a week break so I came to New York and I watched the show, but it was amazing.

NYFA: What was it like to join the touring cast?

PA: Being part of the company of Mamma Mia was amazing. The people, everybody involved in the project was so enthusiastic about it, and confident that it was going to turn into something great.

Well, I wanted to make Sophie a type of Brazilian Sophie in a way. You can tell that American acting is very different from Brazilian acting. You can compare soap operas with Law and Order or something. So I wanted to show that. I wanted to show that even though the script is British, you can make the characters different even though they have the same lines.

Now that I did Mamma Mia, people see me as a professional, whereas before they didn’t really know who I was.

NYFA: What’s been the most useful important tool you’ve encountered using and that you would suggest to people starting a career in musical theatre?

PA: I would tell everyone who wants to be in musical theatre to be really nice to people. Because you don’t know who is going to help you out in getting roles or auditions and it’s not worth being mean. So, confidence, like I said before, and focus on your studies and your own talent and don’t be mean. [laughs]

In the next ten years I hope to be working as an actress and respected for my craft and admired. [laughs]

NYFA: Do you have any other dreams? Anything else that you’d like to do?

PA: I would love to build a theatre in Sao Paolo. I want to feed the culture in Brazil. I want to be a part of this growing genre [laughs].

I advise every actor to study, to continue studying and work on your craft. No actor is completely ready. Everybody can learn a little bit more.

Please show Pati some social media love by following her on Youtube.