acting talent

7 Movies Every Acting Student Should Watch

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What better way for aspiring actors to glean valuable insight about their chosen trade than by watching acting movies: films about people trying to make it in this hectic yet rewarding industry? Watching an actor deliver a memorable performance and getting caught up in a film that tells a riveting behind-the-scenes story about the entertainment business can boost your own motivation and inspiration. 

We’ve created a roundup of some of the best movies featuring stories about actors who are facing the real-world challenges that come with their profession. But don’t just take our word for it. Experience as many amazing film performances as you can. So enjoy — and absorb — some great acting insider stories. There may be much to learn in these films — and even if you’re not an acting student, there’s certainly much to enjoy!

1. “The Artist” (2011)

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This French romantic comedy-drama made waves in 2011 for its stylistic boldness, imitating classic black-and-white silent films. “The Artist” tells the story of a silent movie star in the 1920s who meets a young dancer. Together, they rise through the industry while earning prominent starring roles. But eventually their careers go in opposite directions when the arrival of talking pictures takes place.

2. “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

This neo-noir mystery film tells a captivating story about an aspiring actress who becomes friends with an amnesic woman at her new home in Los Angeles. The film deals with following one’s dreams and finding an independent identity — two powerful themes for an acting school student looking to break into the industry. David Lynch’s film also gives viewers a fictional taste of the darker side of Hollywood.

3. “Tootsie” (1982)

“Tootsie” is about an actor named Michael Dorsey whose reputation for being difficult causes his career to falter. Dorsey, played by Dustin Hoffman, decides to pose as woman in order to land a job on a soap opera. He has a good time with it until he falls in love with a woman named Julie (Jessica Lange), and his gender charade becomes complicated. One of the best things about this movie is its humor — aimed at soap operas, show business, and, of course, love.

4. “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)

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Despite releasing more than half a century ago, this gem is still considered one of the best musical films of all time. “Singin’ in the Rain” follows a Hollywood studio and its actors as they’re forced to transition from silent film to sound. The film boasts more than a dozen songs and is a perfect inspirational story for aspiring actors who struggle with finding the confidence to step out of their comfort zone and find success in a new area.

5. “All About Eve” (1950)

A suspenseful acting-themed film offering a compelling and chilling look at ambition, talent, and obsession, “All About Eve” is about an acclaimed but aging Broadway star named Margo Channing (Bette Davis). Margot’s existence is threatened when a young fan suddenly enters Margo’s life, plotting to replace her both professionally and personally. This iconic drama film was nominated for 14 Oscar awards, a feat that and has only been tied by one movie since: 1997’s “Titanic.” Acting students will receive a master class in acting not only from Davis, but also from Anne Baxter, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the diabolically complex title character, Eve.

6. “The Truman Show” (1998)

This satirical comedy-drama has one of the most unique stories of any film about actors. In “The Truman Show,” Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives a simple life as an insurance salesman. That is, until he discovers that his entire life is actually an elaborate reality show aired all across the globe that everyone knows about — except him. This film is worth watching for Carrey’s awesome performance as well as its comical but insightful parody of the entertainment industry.

7. “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014)

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“Birdman” is a satirical black comedy-drama starring Michael Keaton that acting students of every discipline should watch for its soulful, contemporary portrayal of one actor’s battle to mount a Broadway show — and salvage his own identity. The story is about Keaton’s character, a washed-up Hollywood actor remembered only for his portrayal of a superhero named Birdman, as he tries to regain fame while performing in a Broadway play. This acclaimed film won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Screenplay.

Do you have a favorite acting-focused or entertainment industry-themed film? Are you an acting student who has been inspired by a film? Let us know in the comments below!

4 Cannes 2016 Performances that Lived Up to the Hype

As NYFA looks forward to our participation at the Venice International Film Festival, it’s always fun to check in and remember more of the years’ stand-out film performances. It’s not too early to start your Oscar predictions — and before we lose our hearts at the star-studded festivals in Venice and Toronto, let’s take stock of some of the Cannes performances that won us over. This is a handy roundup of Cannes 2016 performances that lived up to the hype — and then some. 

1. Dave Johns and Hayley Squires in “I, Daniel Blake”

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What better way to start than with the British film that took home the coveted Palme d’Or this year. Director Ken Loach delivers a captivating story where we see a realistic scenario of regular people getting cheated by the system. Those of you familiar with Loach’s past works know that he often works with bureaucratic injustice as his central theme.

“I, Daniel Blake” tells the tale of widower Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) and his battle to receive benefits after suffering a heart attack. Denied for no apparent reason, he finds himself in a welfare office where he meets Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother with two kids who is also struggling to make ends meet.

Together, Johns and Squires do a fantastic job of portraying this desperate, unlikely pair as they see navigate a cruel system. Johns’s performance is both powerful and believable, allowing the audience to see Daniel as a decent but devastated man. Squires also delivers, imbuing her character with complex and subtle layers.

2. Jaclyn Jose in “Ma’ Rosa”

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“Ma’ Rosa” is Filipino director Brillante Mendoza’s latest film, and a return to the same style that made his 2009 film “Kinatay” an international hit. While Mendoza didn’t win another Best Director Award this year, lead actress Jaclyn Jose proudly won Best Actress.

In “Ma’ Rosa”, a woman named Rosa (Jose) owns a small convenience store with her husband in Manila. But with four children to feed, the couple is forced to sell illegal drugs from the store to make ends meet. After they is caught and arrested, their children must do what they can to save up enough money to free their parents.

Jose’s performance of a graceful yet resilient mother left an impression on the audience and jury members alike. It was a huge departure from her previous roles, which were often more bombastic and active. Jose’s historic win marks the first time a Filipino has ever won an acting award at the Cannes Film Festival.

3. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in “Loving”

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Both Negga and Edgerton gave viewers a memorable performance in this film about a mixed-race couple fighting for justice and equality during the late ’50s. Jeff Nichols’ historical drama has received widespread acclaim and was even given a standing ovation upon its first showing at Cannes 2016.

“Loving” weaves a charming tale of a Virginian couple who tied the knot — despite the fact that mixed-race marriage was illegal at the time. Their decision sparked enough controversy and outrage that the Supreme Court passed laws declaring their marriage unconstitutional.

Although the film went home with no prizes, Edgerton and Negga’s touching performances were considered among the best in the festival. The fact that “Loving” focuses less on the civil rights movement and more on the couple’s relationship allowed the talented actor and actress to deliver an intimate, heartwarming story.

4. Shahab Hosseini in “The Salesman”

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In 2011, Asghar Farhadi saw his hard work pay off with “A Separation.” The Iranian drama film won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. With “The Salesman,” Farhadi has crafted yet another thrilling film that’s sure to be a contender at the next Oscars.

Along with Best Screenplay, “The Salesman” snagged the Best Actor award for Shahab Hosseini’s performance. The film combines elements of murder mystery and drama, creating a revenge thriller that left Cannes viewers with eyes glued to the screen.

The film tells the story of Emad (Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), a young married couple involved in a small theater’s production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” While living in a shoddy apartment previously inhabited by a prostitute, Rana is beaten and possibly raped by a man who was looking for said prostitute. Hosseini delivers a convincing performances as an angry husband tracking down the unknown man.

With Cannes 2016 behind us, we still have much to look forward to — whether catching up on these incredible performances, enjoying new festival surprises, or placing our bets in the inevitable Oscars race ahead.

What are you favorite film festival performances of 2016? Let us know in the comments below!

6 Must-See Films at Toronto International Film Festival 2016

Filmmakers and movie lovers alike are counting down the days until Toronto International Film Festival 2016. The annual public event brings in thousands of people from across the globe for an 11-day celebration of our favorite entertainment media. Last year, over 473,000 attendees showed up to enjoy the festival alongside more than 5,400 industry professionals and over 1,200 journalists.

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The TIFF has grown to become the world’s most influential film festival for giving us a sneak peak at rising stars and possible box-office hits. Many films who had their North American premiere here went on to win awards and widespread acclaim, including “The King’s Speech,” “Argo,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “Silver Lining Playbook.”

Boasting an impressive lineup of almost 400 films and including more than a dozen galas and nearly 50 special presentations, this year’s festival is set to be another groundbreaking affair. But with so much to keep track of, perhaps you’re wondering which movies and stars are the ones you don’t want to miss.

To help you out, we’ve provided a round-up spotlighting films that you should definitely look out for. Whether it features a renowned actor or is an anticipated follow-up by a breakout director, you can bet these films already have people talking as we get closer to TIFF 2016’s opening on September 8.

1. “A Monster Calls”

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A. Bayona is known for directing a number of lauded films, including “The Orphanage” and “The Impossible.” The Spaniard’s ongoing success has earned him a directing gig for the sequel to 2015’s “Jurassic World.” But before he prepares to direct arguably his biggest project yet, Bayona is preparing a fantasy adventure drama based on an award-winning children’s book.

“A Monster Calls” tells the story of a young boy who is overcome with grief as his ill mother inches closer to death. During this time of loneliness, he encounters a tree-like monster that comes to his room each night and tells him stories. Notable stars featured in this adaptation include Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, and Liam Neeson — as the monster.

2. “Blair Witch”

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In 1999, the remake of “The Haunting” was predicted to take the spotlight as the top horror movie of the year. Instead, that honor went to a low-budget movie (less than $60,000!) with no famous actors or use of CGI whatsoever. Yet “The Blair Witch Project” was a runaway success, confounding all expectations and launching the career of NYFA grad Joshua Leonard. Leonard went on to prolific work in film and TV, with such high profile projects as “If I Stay,” “Humpday,” “Bates Motel,” and the current Duplass brothers’ show “Togetherness” on HBO.

“The Blair Witch Project” was a classic tale of David vs. Goliath, as the breakout indie feature was able to outperform star-studded “The Haunting” via a genius marketing campaign and word of mouth.

Despite it’s success, the 1999 summer flick was also a very divisive film; people either hated it or loved it. Yet both fans and critics of the original “The Blair Witch Project” are anxious to see what director Adam Wingard does with this unexpected sequel. Judging by early opinions from San Diego Comic-Con attendees who saw the surprise trailer, horror film fans won’t want to miss it.

3. “Lion”

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“Lion” will serve as Garth Davis’ first feature-length film after finding success as director for several episodes of “Top of the Lake.” The film is an adaptation of a novel and features a number of notable actors, including Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, and David Wenham.

In “Lion,” a young Indian boy finds himself thousands of kilometers away from his home after boarding the wrong train. He manages to survive many challenges and is eventually adopted by an Australian family. More than two decades later, he uses modern technology like Google Earth to find the location of his real family.

4. “Jackie”

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One of the most impactful events in 20th century American history was the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. In “Jackie,” we get to see the aftermath of the the president’s untimely death through the eyes of the person closest to him: former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

“Jackie” stars Natalie Portman and is directed by Pablo Larrain, a Chilean filmmaker who is also behind the upcoming biography drama “Neruda.” Portman has been eyed to portray the beloved First Lady since 2012, and may earn herself another Oscar win should the film live up to expectations.

5. “Planetarium”

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Natalie Portman also stars in this upcoming film alongside Lily-Rose Depp, as the women portray two spiritualist sisters in 1930s Paris with the ability to commune with the dead. The sisters are discovered by an influential French film producer who becomes so intrigued by their supernatural gift that he hires the pair to shoot a provocative film.

“Planetarium” is written and directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, a French filmmaker herself. She has gained fame in recent years with excellent films like “Belle épine,” “Grand Central,” and “You and the Night.”

6. “Trespass Against Us”

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This crime drama is directed by English award-winning filmmaker Adam Smith and features an experienced cast of talented actors, including Michael Fassbender, Sean Harris, Brendan Gleeson, and more.

In the film, a man named Chad Cutler (Fassbender) struggles to leave behind a life of crime by cutting all ties from his outlaw relatives. As you’d expect, his family isn’t too keen on the idea and make his life hell. “Trespass Against Us” will no doubt show us another side of the gritty truth behind organized crime — and who better to help deliver it than Fassbender.

The New York Film Academy is proud and excited to congratulate 2008 producing program alum Eric Janvier on the Toronto International Film Festival premier of his movie, “Gods Acre.”

“I was able to use the skills I learned at NYFA after graduating,” said Janvier. “I want to thank the staff at NYFA for all the great things they’ve taught me, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the school.”

Honorable Mentions

  • “American Pastoral”
  • Dog Eat Dog
  • “Catfight”
  • “The Age of Shadows”
  • “Sing”
  • “JT + The Tennessee Kids”
  • “Frantz”
  • “The Magnificent Seven”
  • “The Bad Batch”
  • “Bleed for This”

Which films are you most excited to see at Toronto International Film Festival 2016? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

How NOT To Make A Movie: 5 Tips Every Amateur Ignores

Over the past year, we’ve shared a lot of great tips for those who are just getting started with filmmaking as a hobbyist, along with more advanced advice aimed at those who have already graduated from filmmaking school.

However, there are some fundamental nuggets of wisdom that frequently go ignored by newcomers (for reasons that nobody can quite figure out), setting back their progress by a considerable amount. Here are five of the most useful filmmaking tips that should never be overlooked, no matter your current level of experience.

1. Don’t Scrimp on Audio…

Spending the lion’s share of your budget to shoot on high quality (and really expensive) film stock will probably go unnoticed and unappreciated by 99% of the people watching the finished product. Shoddy audio quality, on the other hand, will ruin the watching experience for the same 99%.

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Even if the audio sounds okay-ish in your studio cans while you’re in the editing suite, it doesn’t guarantee the same audio track won’t sound dreadful through massive speakers during a public screening, or even just a mid-grade TV.

Certain audio problems can be a real nightmare (if not impossible) to fix in post production, so don’t hamstring yourself from the get go—invest in good audio equipment before shooting, or hire a sound engineer who has their own and knows how to get the best out of it. A great sound editor who can make the final mix balance beautifully will also pay dividends in the long run.

2. …and Definitely Don’t Scrimp on Acting Talent

From the start, we need to state two things: filmmaking should be deeply enjoyable, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t become friends with those who you work with.

While keeping this in mind, however, you should also exercise extreme caution if you limit your casting choices to solely your close circle of friends. You’ll end up giving them unnecessary passes for their less-than-impressive work, unless your friends happen to be professional actors in the first place (in which case, capitalize on your good fortune!).

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Sure, hiring people who are trained in the field may cost you a bit, but again you won’t regret investing in real talent. A really good way to keep overheads low, without sacrificing on quality, is to buddy up with some acting school graduates—chances are they won’t charge an arm and a leg, are actively interested in expanding their body of work, and have a lot of talent ready and raring to go.

3. Listen to Outside Perspective

Okay, it’s admittedly paradoxical to list advice about taking advice on an article discussing advice newbies don’t actually listen to. However, not taking on board constructive criticism is one of the most common pitfalls a headstrong filmmaker fall afoul of.

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Don’t let this be you. If your DP, or lead actress, or any other professional you’ve hired has an idea on how a particular aspect of the production under their remit should be handled, take it on board. Same goes for any feedback you get from test screenings.

4. Don’t Just Make it Up As You Go Along

On a movie with a huge budget and in a world where time costs money, everything is planned to the Nth degree ahead of the shoot. Meetings with the director of photography are held ahead of time, extensive rehearsals with the actors are conducted, locations are scouted, the script is all but finalized, shot lists planned, and storyboards drawn up.

Why should your production be any different?

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Good planning costs nothing, so don’t just turn up on set and expect to get good results by muddling through the day. This often-ignored fundamental of filmmaking feeds into our final piece of advice…

5. Take Yourself Seriously

Again, filmmaking should be inherently fun (even if you’ll encounter moments in which you’ll want to tear your hair out!), but just because it’s fun doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat your own efforts with reverence.

It’s very common for new filmmakers to denigrate themselves, thinking that just because it’s their first short or that they’ve “only got a tiny budget,” their output doesn’t matter. It does, and you should treat your work the same as if you’d been commissioned by Hollywood to produce a multi-million dollar summer blockbuster.

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In short, don’t compare your chapter one with someone else’s chapter twenty. Put your heart and soul into it no matter what your limitations, and take pride in your achievements.

Best of luck!