Ava DuVernay

Filmmakers Whose Work Stands the Test of Time

There are occasionally filmmakers who break all barriers, whose work stands the test of time and continues to captivate audiences and critics even decades later. If you’re looking for a master class in original, timeless filmmaking, check out these filmmakers whose originality stands the test of time and offers experiences that are still relevant, riveting, and righteously entertaining.

Alfred Hitchcock

It’s impossible to have a list of enduring filmmakers without including Hitchcock. His silent film roots allowed him to innovate in the area of visual storytelling by mastering mise-en-scène, captivating use of music, and wise editing.

Hitchcock is perhaps best known for his innovative camera movement, and his knack for persuading audiences to feel as if they are a part of the story through the clever manipulation of perspective through close-ups, long takes, and more.

Click here to read more about why we think Hitchcock’s work will be enjoyed for years to come.

Timeless Hitchcock films to watch asap:

  • Notorious (1946)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • North by Northwest (1959)
  • Psycho (1960)

Akira Kurosawa

Posthumously named “Asian of the Century” in in 1990 by AsianWeek, Kurosawa’s work did more than just put the Japanese film industry on the international map. His superb screenwriting abilities, dynamic style, and innovative techniques went on to influence all of Western cinema, including The Magnificent Seven, a reimagining of Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai. From Americans like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to fellow Asian filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki and John Woo, countless notable filmmakers have expressed their admiration for Kurosawa’s cinematographic achievements.

Timeless Films

  • Rashomon (1950)
  • Ikiru (1952)
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Kagemusha (1980)
  • Ran (1985)

Steven Spielberg

If there’s one reason Spielberg will be esteemed for ages to come, it’s for his versatility. From intense war stories and terrifying thrillers to adventure movies fun for the whole family, this man has probably done it all — and done it marvellously. While most directors find their niche and stay put, Spielberg’s storytelling prowess has been proven across an amazing range of genres while somehow still expressing his signature style. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t love at least one film from this iconic director who, at the ripe age of 71 in of 2018, is still behind the camera.

Timeless Films

  • Jaws (1975)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • Schindler’s List (1993)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Spike Lee

This African-American filmmaker began impressing critics and viewers alike with his first feature film “She’s Gotta Have It,” a comedy drama shot in two weeks with a budget of $175,000. When it grossed over $7 million in America, people knew Lee was something special. He has since then delivered several classics that have earned him numerous accolades over the years. Many of his projects are renowned for examining important issues such as race relations, urban poverty, and discrimination even among black communities.

Timeless Films

  • Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • Malcolm X (1992)
  • The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
  • 25th Hour (2002)
  • Inside Man (2006)

Stanley Kubrick

The late, great Kubrick made an impact on the film industry in a way few other directors have. His constant striving for perfection and mastery of the technical side of filmmaking allowed him to craft cinematic experiences that transcended genre and changed everything that followed. Along with working closely and intensely with his writers and performers, Kubrick was also known for requiring as many takes as it took in order to find what he called “the magic.”

Timeless Films

  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Francis Ford Coppola


This American filmmaker is responsible for one of the most overwhelmingly praised trilogy of films ever to hit the big screen: The Godfather alone won nearly a dozen Oscars and is #2 in American Film Institute’s list of best American films. The trilogy’s influence inspired the creation of other notable gangster films such as Goodfellas and TV shows like The Sopranos.

Timeless Films

  • The Godfather (1972)
  • American Graffiti (1973)
  • The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Sofia Coppola

The daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia has emerged as one of the most talented female directors of all time. She was the first American woman to win Venice Film Festival’s top prize and receive a Best Director nomination at the 2003 Academy Awards, while also serving as the second woman to win best director at Cannes Film Festival. Her Oscar-winning Lost in Translation a great starting point for film fans to witness Coppola’s impressive ability to balance humor and drama.

Timeless Films

  • The Virgin Suicides (1999)
  • Lost in Translation (2003)
  • Marie Antoinette (2006)
  • The Bling Ring (2013)
  • The Beguiled (2017)

Orson Welles

What’s there to say about Welles that hasn’t been said before? The legendary director changed the game with Citizen Kane, a film ranked by many as the best of all time. The 1941 drama went on to influence even the most prominent directors with its nonlinear storytelling, powerful use of themes and motifs, and phenomenal cinematography. Welles would go on to direct several more films, many of which are also worthy of viewing almost a century later.

Timeless Films

  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
  • Touch Of Evil (1958)
  • Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Up-and-Coming Timeless Filmmakers

Christopher Nolan

Still arguably near the beginning of his illustrious career, Nolan came into prominence at the turn of the millenium with Following, a neo-noir crime thriller he funded personally. Since then, the English filmmaker has made a name for himself by producing hit after hit, making him one of the highest-grossing directors of all time. His use of nonlinear storytelling and enticing themes surrounding human morality and identity have allowed him to create films that will likely be watched in film classes for a long time.

Timeless Films

  • Memento (2000)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Interstellar (2014)
  • Dunkirk (2017)

Catherine Hardwicke

Hardwicke got her start in the business as a production designer, where she was able to study the techniques of skilled directors like Cameron Crowe. She first proved her own directing talents with 2003’s Thirteen, which won six awards and nearly a dozen nominations. Highly successful films like Twilight and The Nativity Story have only helped cement Hardwicke’s legacy as one of the best female directors of all time.

Timeless Films

  • Thirteen (2003)
  • Lords of Dogtown (2005)
  • The Nativity Story (2006)
  • Twilight (2008)
  • Red Riding Hood (2011)

Ava DuVernay

Leading the new generation of great African American filmmakers is DuVernay, who in less than two decades has already made a name for herself behind the camera. This includes being the first black woman to win the Sundance Film Festival’s directing award. She is also the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Golden Globe award and Academy Award for Best Picture. With so many accomplishments at the ripe age of 45, we’re confident that DuVernay’s best work is yet to come.

Timeless Films

  • Saturday Night Life (2006)
  • I Will Follow (2010)
  • Middle of Nowhere (2012)
  • Selma (2014)
  • 13th (2016)

What other directors would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below, and learn more about Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

 

7 Awesome Women in Film You Should Be Following Now

From directing to cinematography, writing to producing, women in Hollywood are working hard to have an equal voice and share of power in the movies being made … but we have a long way to go. According to the Annual Celluloid Ceiling Report, “In 2017, women comprised 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films.”

Here, we present seven women who defy those numbers and stand as role models for generations of women to come. We couldn’t possibly decide which one of these women was more awesome than the next, so we put them in alphabetical order.

Ava DuVernay

  1. Ava DuVernay was the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at Sundance Film Festival for Middle of Nowhere, and the first to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Selma. Recently, she became the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million — a staggering sum for any director — for Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time.

Nina Jacobson

  1. Nina Jacobson is a producer who, in her time heading up Disney, brought such films as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sixth Sense, and the Pirates of the Caribbean to life. After being fired from Disney, she created her own production company, Color Force, which produced the wildly successful Hunger Games movies. She is also openly gay, and has helped to create a more inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Hollywood by creating Out There with fellow producer Bruce Cohen.

Patty Jenkins

  1. Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman, the third highest grossing film of 2017. It gave her the biggest domestic opening for any female director. Before that, Jenkins wrote and directed Monster, another, darker, woman-centric film that garnered critical acclaim and the academy award for its star, Charlize Theron, whom we will meet below…

Kathleen Kennedy

  1. Kathleen Kennedy started out her career as Spielberg’s secretary and, as we mentioned in this article celebrating women film producers, rose to become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. She heads up Lucasfilm, and is hence responsible for the Star Wars franchise and the highest grossing movies of the past few years, including The Last Jedi.

Reed Morano

  1. Reed Morano is a cinematographer, known for Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings” and The Skeleton Twins. More recently, she picked up critical acclaim for directing the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. In 2013, she became the youngest member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and, according to Wikipedia, is one of only 14 women in this prestigious organization of approximately 345 active members.

Mina Shum

  1. Mina Shum is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker who prefers to be known simply as an independent filmmaker. Her feature films, Double Happiness and Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity, premiered at Sundance. Her most recent film, Meditation Park, starring Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh, will hit theaters March 2018.

Charlize Theron

  1. Charlize Theron is a South African-American who has established her career beyond her acting talent and beauty by founding her own production company, Denver and Delilah, named for her two dogs. Its first production was Monster, and its latest was Atomic Blonde.

For more on the usefulness of turning actor cred into producer cred, check out this article on why so many actors turn to producing, where you’ll find more awesome women like Viola Davis, Salma Hayek and Drew Barrymore, who all started production companies of their own.

 

 

 

Black History Month: Blazing Trails in the Entertainment Industry Part I

Celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February, Black History Month is a dedicated time to honor impactful people and events in the black diaspora. And while there have been countless contributions of African-descended people to world history, here at NYFA, we’re recognizing those who are blazing trails in the entertainment industry as they pursue their craft.

On the heels of the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards (SAG) and as we gear up for Oscar season, we’ve compiled a list of five history-makers to watch right now in 2017. So without further ado, drumroll please…

1. Mahershala Ali

An Oakland, California native, Ali was raised Christian by his mother, an ordained minister, before converting to Islam and changing his last name from Gilmore to Ali. While attending St. Mary’s College of California on a basketball scholarship, Ali decided to go into acting and landed an apprenticeship at the California Shakespeare Theater. He went on to enroll at NYU, where he earned a master’s degree in NYU’s graduate acting program.

Until this year, Ali was perhaps best known for his appearances in “House of Cards,” “Luke Cage,” “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,” “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Now, Ali’s performance as a supporting character in “Moonlight,” which follows the coming of age of an African-American gay youth, earned him the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor in December 2016. This was followed by the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor and an Oscar nomination in 2017.

2. Issa Rae

This former NYFA student was born Jo-Issa Rae Diop in Los Angeles to a pediatric doctor from Senegal and a teacher from Louisiana. Eventually attending Stanford University, where she majored in African-American Studies, she wrote and directed plays, music videos, and even a mock reality series while still in school. Fellow Stanford classmate, Tracy Oliver, would eventually produce “Awkward Black Girl” and star on the show.

After accepting a fellowship with The Public Theater, Rae joined Oliver in taking classes at New York Film Academy, while they continued to develop and produce “Awkward Black Girl” for YouTube, raising $56,249 through a Kickstarter campaign to release the rest of the first season due to popular demand. Rae continued to write, produce, and edit original content on her YouTube channel, working on Ratchet Piece Theater, ”The ‘F’ Word,” ”Roomieloverfriends,” and ”The Choir.” Rae partnered up with Pharrell to premiere season two of the series on his YouTube channel, ”iamOTHER.” Rae also began releasing other content on her original channel, predominantly created by and starring people of color In 2013, she began writing a comedy series pilot with Larry Wilmore, which was eventually titled ”Insecure” and was picked up by HBO. This year, the show — which Rae also produces — earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical.

3. Ava DuVernay

Hailing from Long Beach, California, Ava DuVernay attended UCLA, where she majored in African-American Studies and English. Pursuing journalism at the start of her career, she was assigned to cover the O.J. Simpson trial, eventually turning to public relations and opening up her own firm, The DuVernay Agency, while producing documentaries to learn and hone the craft.

Her feature films include “I Will Follow” and Martin Luther King Jr.-based “Selma.” She was the first African-American woman to win Best Director at the Sundance 2012 festival for her feature, “Middle of Nowhere.” In 2010 DuVernay began AFFRM (the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement), her own company to distribute films made by or focusing on black people, after which she later rebranded the company under a new name, ARRAY, to include a focus on women filmmakers as well.

Most recently, DuVernay’s documentary “13th,” which explores the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and our nation’s disproportionate incarceration of African Americans in prisons, was met with critical acclaim, as it sheds light on America’s history of racial inequality.

4. Raoul Peck

Born in Haiti and fleeing the Duvalier dictatorship as a young boy with his family to Kinshasa, Congo, Peck studied electrical engineering and economics at Berlin’s Humboldt University before attaining a degree in film from the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin. With a focus on socio-political themes in his documentaries and narrative films, Peck is well known for his feature films “Man by The Shore,” about the Haitian Duvalieriste regime, and “Lumumba,” which covers Congolese independence from Belgium. Both of these, along with his other films, were produced through his production company, Velvet Films.

In 2016, amidst the political and racial strife in the U.S., Peck released his “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on 30 pages of an incomplete manuscript by renowned African-American writer James Baldwin, which examines race in America from the Civil Rights era to the Black Lives Matter movement. This documentary has already earned him an Oscar nomination for best documentary feature.

5. Viola Davis

Born in St. Mathews, North Carolina, Viola Davis attended Rhode Island College and The Juilliard School, where she studied drama. After years of playing supporting roles in both television and film, it was Davis’ one scene in the film adaptation of “Doubt,” starring Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, that earned her Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Soon after, Davis was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Davis’ role in “The Help” earned her two SAG awards, a second Academy Award nomination, a BAFTA nomination and a Golden Globe award. Currently starring in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” she is the first black woman of any nationality to earn a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  

While 2016 has been quite a busy year for Davis — she starred in and executive-produced the courtroom drama ”Custody” as well as performing in the DC Comics adaptation “Suicide Squad” — it was her role opposite Denzel Washington in “Fences” that won her the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, yet another SAG Award, and her third Academy Award nomination. As she is continuing to expand her work behind the scenes through her production company JuVee Productions, Davis has just put a comedy series into development with ABC.

Stay tuned for a list of five more people to watch as we continue to honor Black History Month at NYFA.