producing

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Picture Nominees

2019 Best Picture nominees
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

The final award of the night, Best Motion Picture of the Year, is handed out to the eligible producers of the film. Since 2009, the number of nominations has increased from five to a maximum of ten, based on a more complicated voting system that uses a modified preferential ranking process.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture:

Black Panther

Black Panther is the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and is notable for its themes of race and diverse cast and role models for children of color used to typically seeing white male heroes in Hollywood blockbusters. It was directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, while the sole producer eligible for the Best Picture Oscar is Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and mastermind of the groundbreaking Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is up for seven Academy Awards total.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman is the latest film from Spike Lee and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Directing. Based on true events, the film tells the story of an African American detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Lee is also one of the five producers eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, including Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, and Jordan Peele, who won a Best Screenplay Oscar last year for 2018 Best Picture nominee Get Out. BlacKkKlansman is up for six Academy Awards total.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody is the latest Hollywood musical biopic to gain a groundswell of awards season buzz, focusing on legendary rock group Queen, with Rami Malek giving an Oscar-nominated turn as iconic frontman Freddie Mercury. The sole producer eligible for Best Picture is Graham King, who previously won the award for Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film, The Departed, and was nominated in the category for two additional Scorsese films, Hugo and The Aviator. Bohemian Rhapsody is up for five Academy Awards total.

The Favourite

The Favourite is the latest critically-acclaimed art house film from Greek writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). The period dramedy depicts the rivalry between two cousins vying for the favor of 18th century British Queen Anne. Lanthimos is one of four producers eligible for the Academy Award, along with Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, and Lee Magiday. This is the first Oscar nomination for Dempsey and Magiday, while Guiney was previously nominated in the category for Room in 2015. The Favourite is up for ten Academy Awards total.

Green Book

Green Book is a dramedy set in the 1950s Deep South, based on a real life concert tour of African American pianist Don Shirley and his white driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga. Five producers are eligible in the category, including director and co-writer Peter Farrelly, who made a name with his brother for slapstick comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. He shares the nomination with Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Hayes Currie, and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, who is also co-nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Green Book is up for five Academy Awards total.

Roma

Roma is a deeply personal, semi-autobiographical film by Alfonso Cuarón set in Mexico City in the early 1970s and shot beautifully in black-and-white. In addition to sharing the Best Picture nomination with Gabriela Rodriguez, Cuarón also wrote, shot, and directed the film, for which he received additional Oscar nods. This is the first nomination for Rodriguez, and the first nomination in the category ever for a Latinx woman. Along with the The Favourite, Roma has the most Academy Award nominations this year, with a total of ten.

A Star is Born

A Star is Born is the third remake of the original 1937 film, updated by director and star Bradley Cooper after years of development hell with several filmmakers attached. Cooper shares the Best Picture nod with Bill Gerber and Lynette Howell Taylor. This is Cooper’s second nomination in the category (the first was for American Sniper) and seventh overall; it’s the first nomination for both Gerber and Taylor. A Star is Born is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Vice

Vice is a dramedy biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale in heavy, lifelike prosthetics. The film is writer and director Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short, which similarly took a quasi-comedic look at the lead-up to the 2008 Great Recession, and which earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. McKay is eligible for Best Picture along with Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Kevin J. Messick. Gardner has been nominated for Best Picture six times in the last seven years, winning twice, for 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight; Kleiner has been nominated five times, sharing both Oscars with Gardner. This is the first nomination for Messick. Vice is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

How Does a Producer Get Paid?

The film industry is brimming with roles that contribute to the creation of fun, unforgettable experiences. While a typical moviegoer is well aware of what writers, actors, and directors do, if there’s one position that often gets overlooked, it’s that of producer.

Producers are there from start to finish, overseeing the film’s production while usually filling a number of roles. From budgets and schedules to helping to cast the right actors, they are expected to make big decisions during every stage of filmmaking. Producers are also one of the main creative forces in production, often seeing their own vision and ideas come to life on the big screen for many to view.

But with a complex role comes a variety of compensation options that aren’t always as straightforward or risk-free as other jobs in the industry:

Development Fee


A development fee is what a producer might get paid for their pitch and thoughts during the time that the studio is filling other key roles, such as screenwriters, and figuring out if the project is worth greenlighting at all. As mentioned, many
project pitches are abandoned by studios before they can move from development to production, which means producers will need to take their project elsewhere.

Development fees are up to the studio and vary. Where one producer is getting $15,000 for their input during development, another may receive up to $60,000 or more. At the end of the day, the amount of cash a producer makes across an entire film production — starting with this development fee — relies heavily on both the producer’s participation and previous experience.

Production Fee

If a studio does decide to move forward with a film, producers can expect to receive a guaranteed fee. This payment is also up to the studio and thus can also range widely — a normal estimate is somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000. The power a producer has when it comes to negotiating their production fee relies on a number of factors, but perhaps the most important is how impressive their resume is.

The more box office hits and critically acclaimed films a producer has been a part of, the more leverage she or he has for getting a good deal. Also important is how involved the producer plans to be during productions — performing more services means you should get more money. This payment is also not usually given all at once and is instead divided throughout a film’s production. For example, a producer may receive 20% of the total production fee before principal photography, 50% during photography, and then the rest after.

Film Profits

Most producers are also promised a cut of the film’s profits. Again, how high of a percent you get usually depends on your reputation and level of success. The truth is, the average producer doesn’t expect to make a lot of money from profits considering how much of it gets divided up among other players who were involved in the process.

For example, movie theaters usually get to keep about fifty percent of gross revenues. What’s left is often used to repay the costs of making the film in the first place, including added interest since the money was likely borrowed years ago. In short, producers may obtain back-end points (i.e. percentage on profits) on net profits, at the most. However, some post-release profits to look forward to — if the producer has a share in the copyright of the film —  are things like DVD and rights to streaming services like Netflix.

Bridge Between Art & Business

A common misconception in the film industry is seeing producers as these high-stakes gamblers who often bet all their chips on ideas, either earning nothing or become millionaires. The truth is, being a producer is all about using your knowledge and experience to minimize risk and maximize opportunity. As the bridge that connects the artistic vision with the business goals of the film, it’s on you to help foster creativity and build relationships while making sure the project stays on a promising financial course.

If you want a role that requires both imagination and strategic thinking while letting you work closely with people trying to impact audience’s lives with memorable films, look no further. It also doesn’t hurt that you’ll likely make very good money if you know what you’re doing.

Interested in taking classes at the producing school at New York Film Academy? Check out more information here.

5 Ways to Write a Convincing Crowdfunding Pitch for Your Film

By NYFA Guest Contributor Grace Carter

Crowdfunding is a competitive arena; there are a lot of people out there trying to get their film funded by online backers. To stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to believe in your talent and ability to make the project happen — and prove to people that you’re worth their investment.

Here are five tips to help you write a convincing crowdfunding pitch for your film.

Pick the Right Platform

Before you get writing that crowdfunding pitch, you need to decide what platform is best for your campaign. Established sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo will give you the benefit of high visibility, but will charge you higher fees than a smaller site. If you choose Kickstarter, keep in mind that their campaigns are an all-or-nothing deal; if you don’t reach your goal, you will not get any of the funding you raised. Indiegogo allows you to choose between the all-or-nothing deal or a situation where you receive your funds regardless of whether your goal was met.

Write a Compelling Story

This is your pitch: your chance to convince would-be backers why your film is worthy of their money. Answer the important questions of who, what, when, where, and why. People often forget to answer the why question, but don’t make that mistake. Talk about yourself and your story, and why you’re making this film. What is your film about, what is its message? What’s your timeframe for filming, and when do you expect to have it completed and ready for viewing? How will be people be able to view it? It’s great to show some passion, just make sure you can deliver on the expectations you create with that passion. 

Build up some credibility by talking about past filmmaking success and any relevant experience you have. Don’t forget to include your call to action, by directing people in how they can support your work. You’ll get better results if you use words like “receive” and “offer” instead of “help” and “support.” 

You may also want to go the extra mile to make sure your pitch is well written by using professional grammar, proofreading, and editing services. Be sure to check your pitch’s grammar with sites like ViaWriting or Simplegrad.

Use Lots of Visuals

Since you’re trying to fund a film, you’ll want to include as many visuals as you can. If you’ve started filming, consider including a short clip so people can see what you’re doing. Don’t worry if you’re still in pre-production, you can film a short video in which you explain what you’re doing and what your vision is for your film. You can put together a very clever and low-budget video pitch, like the one made by the makers of I am I.

Ideally, your video should only be a few minutes long, and the first 10 seconds are critical. If you don’t grab your viewer’s attention in those first 10 seconds, they’ll lose interest and click away before you can even get into your pitch. The last 10 seconds are just as critical, and it’s important to leave your viewers with a clear takeaway and call to action.

“Be sure to rehearse your script quite a bit before you get on camera, so you don’t look like an amateur. A few awkward pauses or stuttering are all it takes for a would-be backer to lose faith. Spend some time crafting your pitch script and practice, practice, practice,” advises Roland Ainsworth, writer at State of Writing.

Include Some Nice Perks

Backer rewards are bonuses you hand out to people who support your campaign, usually on a scale depending on the level of funding. Some perk ideas for a film crowdfunding campaign include a thank you shoutout on the film website; access to an online production diary; access to an inspirational playlist used and curated by the director; a download of the film pre-release; and a DVD and thank you in film credits.

It’s important not to overcommit. Put some thought into how much you can actually deliver on should you receive a lot of support. It would be a shame to ruin your credibility and anger your backers by being unable to deliver on your backer perk promises.

Promotion

Once you’ve got a solid pitch and some nice rewards planned, it’s time to get the world watching.

“Start by letting your friends and family know. It’s a good strategy to try and get 30 percent of your funding with a soft launch targeted at people your group knows, before going ahead with the hard launch on a platform,” recommends Doris Crawford, editor at UKWritings.

Make sure you put together your mailing list and send private emails and phone calls at least a month prior to launching the crowdfunding campaign. If you don’t raise at least 5-10 percent of your target goal, it is probably best to postpone the launch.

Post regular updates on your film’s social media accounts to remind your community of how things are progressing. You might want to build up some hype before you launch your campaign, just don’t overdo it and turn people off. Reach out to friends of friends, bloggers, and influencers. Over time you’ll get people tweeting and organically promoting your campaign. Email might seem old fashioned, but a targeted email campaign can still be very effective.

Conclusion

Writing a convincing crowdfunding pitch can be tough. You’re competing with a lot of other people and a lot of other films. You need to make yours stand out and is backed by a solid plan. Write a compelling story, for what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Use lots of visuals, giving your backers a taste of your filmmaking talent. Follow these five ways to write a convincing crowdfunding pitch for your film.

Ready to learn more about film and media production? Check out our Producing School programs at the New York Film Academy.

Grace Carter is a writer and storyteller at Essayroo and Boom Essays service. She edits, proofreads, writes various types of papers, and helps the content marketing team. Also, Grace is a tutor at Academized educational website. 

How to Network in the Film Production World

In reference to leaving his day job and surrounding himself with other filmmakers to perfect his craft, the great Tarantino once said, “if you run the hundred-yard dash with people much faster than you, yeah you might come last, but your time will be better than winning against slower competition.” Producing a film is far from a solitary feat and the ability to learn from others is a basic, albeit critical, part of improvement. So, what better way to increase your chances of success in an industry that practically invented the saying “it’s all about who you know”, than networking?

Here are a few tips on how to get started:

Social Media

Just as instinctive as it may be to utilize a dance studio to learn how to dance, one should similarly consider social networking sites for – as the name suggests – networking. When even the most introverted of all introverts is merely a click, swipe, and/or double-tap away from deep-diving into the biggest room full of people: otherwise known as the Internet, ‘tis indeed a great time to be alive.

Sites like LinkedIn are a sure-fire way to get connected to those who share your professional interests, but there are some other lesser-known networking sites specifically catered to professionals in film and media. Sites like Shooting People share similarities with LinkedIn, whereby users’ profiles are more like extensive portfolios; but unlike the latter, they have a strong emphasis on collaboration and allow users to work on one another’s projects. Similarly, Movidiam and Mandy.com cater specifically to those in film and media and also provide a great platform for finding work.

That said, don’t underestimate the connective power of mainstream sites like Facebook. Joining industry-specific groups is key. Not only will these groups give you access to a supportive community of fellow producers and filmmakers to learn from, but once you turn your event notifications on, it’s on!

Events

Social media might allow for reach and immediacy, but there’s a real gravitas in the connection between human beings in the flesh that cannot possibly be translated or outweighed by virtual alternatives. However, using social media to get you these face-to-face meetings is crucial. Once you’re following key industry people and are part of several online communities, invitations to industry events are going to be commonplace. Use this! Do as successful producer Jane Applegate does and “…attend as many mixers and workshops as possible” – something she swears by when prompted on the value of networking.

Intern, Volunteer, and Gain Experience

Find production companies, film festivals, and film shoots that will accept interns or volunteers. Do what you can — run errands, grab coffee, anything. Exposing yourself to every bit of the filmmaking process in live action will only increase your knowledge on producing films in the real world; whilst offering valuable industry connections and great career prospects.

Make Friends

Networking differs from the act of making friends in that its main purpose is to increase your arsenal for career advancement. The act of making friends, however, has a genuine intention behind it and something rarely synonymous with the entertainment industry – longevity. Authentic connections between likeminded people can stand the test of time and be of great benefit to all parties involved. Take advantage of being a student at NYFA where you’re constantly surrounded by others who share your passion for film and reach out to classmates. You never know, the friends you make in class may just be the same ones standing beside you on the stage as you give your Oscars speech.

Listen. Be Humble. Be Kind.

None of the aforementioned strategies will ever be of use to you without practicing these throughout:

Listen – people are most susceptible to giving their best if they feel they’re being heard. Listening to others will only ever open your mind up to more opportunities.

Be humble – as Socrates says, “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Everyone can teach you something if you’re open to it.

Be kind – positivity breeds positivity and people react accordingly. The best way to create an atmosphere you can prosper in is to give what you wish to receive. Plus, it just feels good to be kind!

So, go forth with these in mind and you’re bound for success. Happy networking!

4 Tips for Getting Full-Time Work in Corporate Video


Every year tens of thousands of students across the country graduate with film degrees and get ready to join the workforce. Some of these graduates will go on to enter the film industry, while others will move into the rapidly growing corporate media landscape. More and more corporations and marketing companies are hiring and developing
video production in-house.

While a film degree or certificate from a school like the New York Film Academy is a huge step towards becoming employable in corporate video, there are additional things you can do to optimize your ability to get full-time work. This article outlines five tips for getting a full-time job in the corporate and commercial video industry. Here they are:

1. Know your Audience

Working in corporate video is very different than trying to get work in traditional filmmaking. In filmmaking, the end goal of the process is to output content that will sell to a distributor or be a commercially viable product for entertainment audiences. In corporate video, however, you are primarily aiming to make content that will please a client’s expectations and solve a real world business problem. In order to optimize your ability to work in this sector of the video production industry, you must align your priorities with those of the company you’re aiming to work for.

People hiring in corporate video will care about your ability to:

  • Understand the theory and process how marketing works (lead generation, brand awareness, sales, etc)
  • Be able to think of and develop video ideas that solve problems within any of these areas of marketing and sales
  • Develop marketing messaging and video concepts that align with business goals
  • Develop thoughtful brand-centric creative writing
  • Present ideas, storyboards, and concepts to clients
  • Shoot & edit in a way that matches the client’s or company’s overall brand standards and guidelines
  • Communicate respectful and empathetically with clients
  • Handle varieties of projects at once and work quickly

Understanding the goals and priorities of your hiring audience will inform your interviews, resume building, and overall strategy for finding work. Start to embrace the above points and skills.

2. Invest in Yourself

Hands-on training is a powerful way to build serious experience and stand out amongst other candidates. Beyond the four walls of school there are a variety of other investments one can make to build your network and create ongoing opportunities for full time work. Utilizing some of the following, while not essential, can help develop your career, skills, and ultimately make you a more valuable & hireable professional.

  • AMA or AAF: Groups like the American Marketing Association (AMA) or American Advertising Federation (AAF) allow you a great opportunity to create one-on-one relationships with both potential marketing employers and people who could refer you to others for work.
  • LinkedIn Premium: Linkedin is a great tool to network within corporate America. Linkedin Premium affords you the ability to network even deeper by messaging hiring managers, sending portfolios, and with other powerful tools to help you get in touch with just about any marketing or business professional.
  • Redbooks: Redbooks is a database of targeted decision makers and potential hiring managers of ad agencies and brands. With over 250,000 decision makers from 14,000 agencies, you’ll have the direct contact information of just about anyone in marketing. Having this will allow you to network, send work examples and resumes.
  • Hands-On Workshops: You can never be too experienced to get your hands back on production tools to hone your skills. Keep your skills relevant and honed, and also do some valuable networking and resume building.

There are hundreds of other things you can invest in to help build your career, but the above are great ways to get in front of the right people — which at the end of the day is one of the most vital aspects of getting full-time work in corporate video.


3. Become a Brand

Just like a company must brand and market themselves in order to sell their products, you as a video professional must brand and market yourself to find full-time work. This means you must have the ability to package your skills, communicate your experience, and have the tools to effectively market yourself. The following tools will be valuable:

  • A Simple Website: Creating a simple website through SquareSpace or WordPress can help bring all your information together into one place. Making a website shows you can put the effort in, and shows you’re serious about your craft. Include contact information, work examples, your resume, and references.
  • Completed Social Media Profiles: Create all the relevant social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, Tumblr, etc) and upload all of your video examples and other information to these sites. Add your contact information and experience, as well as linking to your website.
  • Logo: Have a simple logo that represents who you are. It can be as simple as just a text-based logo of your name, or something more artistic. Either way, having a simple logo can help your resume pop, and help make your overall professional brand be engaging.
  • Demo Reel: Your demo reel is essential in summing up your video production capabilities and experience. Have this easily accessible on your website and resume so that employers can quickly get an idea of your skills. Make your demo reel 60 seconds in length and speak to the experience that relates to the type of work you’re aiming to get.
  • Relevant Video Examples: Demo reels don’t always tell the full story. If you’re aiming to work at an ad agency, have example videos of commercials you’ve directed, or web marketing videos you’ve produced. Having this in addition to your demo reel on your website is essential.

The above are the basic branding and marketing tools for your professional brand, and should be updated even after you find your first full-time job. They should evolve with your career and be ongoing tools for you to communicate your value.

4. Follow Up … And Follow Up (Again)

Of course, you must apply and reach out to potential job creators after you have your resume and demo reel, etc. But if you think you’re just going to apply to a job or email a manager once and immediately get a job, think again. Working in corporate video is competitive and it requires consistent and respectful follow-ups to the companies and agencies you’re trying to be employed by.

In business development, 80 percent of sales happen after five follow-up attempts, and finding work is essentially sales — so don’t be bashful in sending follow-up emails or making follow-up calls to jobs or companies you’ve applied to. However, don’t be annoying or spammy, as you might create the opposite effect. Here’s a simple follow-up email script that will help increase your ability to engage a hiring manager:

“Hi [First Name] –

How are you? My name is [Full Name] and I’m following up regarding the video position I applied for last week. I understand you have a lot going on, but I wanted to say hello and send you another example of my video work for your consideration.

Here you go: [insert link]

Let me know what you think. If you’d like to speak with any references, let me know and I can send any email introductions. I appreciate your time!”

The above approach does not apply to every situation, but in general is a solid starting email template for following up with a manager. Remind them of your name, that you applied, and send them something referenceable like a new video link or a particular project you’ve done.

Between knowing your audience, investing in yourself, building your brand, and mastering the follow-up, you’ll be in a great position to land a full-time job. Stay engaged throughout your studies at NYFA, and network with fellow graduates. Whatever happens, never give up, as there is incredible opportunity in the corporate video industry.

 

Article by Mike Clum.

Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 10 full-time video production professionals.

Our 2018 BAFTA Predictions

While the Oscars are still a few weeks away, the 71st British Academy Film Awards are finally upon us. The ceremony will be hosted by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley on February 18, at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.

The BAFTAs are one of the major award shows of the season. Because so many actresses, actors, and filmmakers come from the United Kingdom, the nominations and winners often overlap with many of the Golden Globe and Oscar categories. However, because the Academy is made up of different voters, sometimes the results can be wildly different.

Here then are the nominees for some of the major categories, along with our best guesses at who will be taking home the BAFTA award bronze mask statue this weekend — though like always, anything can happen.

The BAFTA Award
Leading Actress
Annett Bening – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

While Margot Robbie is considered the favorite for the Oscar in this category due to her stellar performance in the wildly enjoyable I, Tonya — the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan isn’t as much of a cultural milestone outside of the United States. This may give the edge to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, star of Lady Bird, a film with near perfect critical acclaim.

Leading Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kayluuya – Get Out
Jamie Bell – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Timothee Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Our Predicted WINNER: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

It’s hard to bet against Daniel Day-Lewis, especially in a thoroughly British role that may also be his last. But Winston Churchill is about as legendary as you can get in Great Britain, and Oldman’s performance as the Prime Minister in his finest moments has already won several awards.


Supporting Actress

Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas – Darkest Hour
Laurie Metcalfe – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

While Day-Lewis may not win, his co-star Lesley Manville certainly has a good shot just for being able to go head-to-head with him in several scenes, matching his intensity and emotional subtlety every time.

Phantom Thread

Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread

Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Hugh Grant – Paddington 2
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There’s a lot of momentum behind Sam Rockwell this season for his complex performance as a bigoted cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That momentum might be too much for any of the other very talented actors in this category, including co-star Woody Harrelson.


EE Rising Star Award

Daniel Kaluuya
Florence Pugh
Josh O’Connor
Timothee Chalamet
Our Predicted WINNER: Tessa Thompson

Daniel Kaluuya made a huge splash with his haunting starring role in Get Out, but we’ve got to give the edge to Tessa Thompson, the talented American actress who is quickly becoming an A-list movie star thanks to her scene-stealing performance in Thor: Ragnarok.

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Editing
Baby Driver – Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Blade Runner 2049 – Joe Walker
The Shape Of Water – Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Jon Gregory
Our Predicted WINNER: Dunkirk – Lee Smith

The editing in all of this year’s nominees was impressive, but Dunkirk’s style was a crucial part of the narrative — telling the evacuation of Dunkirk in three distinct timelines cut back-and-forth. The epic World War II film will probably come away with at least one award this weekend, and odds are it’ll be this one.


Special Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War For The Planet Of The Apes
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water is essentially a classic romance tale, except one of the romantic leads is a computer generated seven-foot fish creature. By making the character not only believable but emotionally relatable, the special effects team for The Shape of Water more than proved they’re worthy of this year’s award.


Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Ben Davis
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water – Dan Laustsen

Blade Runner 2049 is a dark horse in both the Special Effects and Cinematography categories for its fully realized portrayal of a near-future America, but The Shape of Water will probably come ahead in both. The film is a visual marvel in multiple ways, and slides between multiple styles and genres with ease.


Adapted Screenplay

Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin & David Schneider – The Death Of Stalin
Matt Greenhalgh – Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Simon Farnaby & Paul King – Paddington 2
Our Predicted WINNER: James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name

Paddington 2 is a smash success and both Aaron Sorkin and Armando Iannucci are screenwriting legends, but Call Me By Your Name manages to adapt the 2007 novel of the same name in a way that preserves all its raw emotion that audiences can’t help but be affected by.


Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele – Get Out
Steven Rogers – I, Tonya
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

Gerwig is making history as only the fifth woman nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and her film Lady Bird is easily considered one of the best of the year. It’s had a tougher time at the BAFTAs, so if the overall film gets recognized it’ll have to be here for its remarkable screenplay.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird

Animated Film
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette
Our Predicted WINNER: Coco

All three films are visual works of art, but it’s hard to bet against Pixar and their soulful, supernatural masterpiece about a 12-year-old boy trapped in the land of the dead.


Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro
Icarus
An Inconvenient Sequel
Our Predicted WINNER: Jane

Primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall is a hero and legend to naturists and to her fellow Britons alike. Jane, the 2017 documentary about Goodall, has already picked up several festival and critics awards and will probably get the BAFTA as well.


Outstanding British Film

Darkest Hour
Death Of Stalin
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Paddington 2

There might not be anything more loved and more British than Paddington 2, a film with a rare 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. While all of the other nominees could win as well, especially Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards or the Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour, the world really needed an adorable teddy bear in a raincoat —again— and Paddington 2 delivered.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2

Director
Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water leads the BAFTA nominations with twelve total — and it takes a masterful director to bring all of these nominated elements together into a fantastical tour-de-force. Guillermo del Toro already picked up a Golden Globe for his efforts, and while his competition is stiff, he’ll most likely pick up a BAFTA as well — even if the film falls short in other categories.


Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape of Water



It cannot be overstated just how important the Second World War is to modern Britain, and both films in this category dealing with the subject —Dunkirk and Darkest Hour — do so in masterful ways. For different reasons, Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards have connected with and sparked conversation for their audiences. But The Shape of Water has a slight advantage over its competition with its overwhelming amount of nominations this year, as well as its perfectly executed fairy tale with just enough of a twist to make it unique. It doesn’t hurt that avid movie buff Guillermo del Toro also managed to make the film a love letter to cinema. Look for this film to take home the biggest BAFTA of them all.

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

Social Media Mistakes Actors Make

With 2.07 billion active users on Facebook, 330 million on Twitter, and 467 million on LinkedIn, many aspiring and established actors are promoting their work on social media sites.

If you’re hoping to utilize your social media accounts to make new connections and build a fanbase as a professional actor, you’ll have to engage with people on one or more social media site.

With that said, many of us are warned about the potential pitfalls of social media As an aspiring actor, you’ll want to be on top of your game when promoting yourself on social media because each decision you make can impact your acting career significantly.

Want to be ahead of the game? Follow these seven tips and tricks to help create a lasting social media presence.

1) Start Small

There are many different social media platforms, but that doesn’t mean you need to have a presence on all of them. Start with one or two you are familiar with and build your presence on those accounts.

For example, start off by creating your Facebook fan page or Twitter handle. Take the time to learn tricks and techniques that will help you grow a following on those sites before adding another.

2) Stay Away From Controversy

Don’t post anything lewd, crude, or otherwise inappropriate. You are trying to be marketable and professional. Causing controversy results in neither of those things.

Stick by this golden rule: if you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see it, you probably shouldn’t post it. If you’re not sure about a post, get a few opinions from friends and colleagues

3) Remember to Do Basic Grammar Checks

Everyone occasionally makes mistakes, but constant misspellings or incorrect grammar could distract from your acting chops. Remember, if you want someone to take your acting seriously, you have to consider every post you make as a reflection of your professional self.

Remember to carefully proofread your posts and have another person take a glance as well.

4) Mix It Up

Don’t just post all text posts or constantly show off videos. Give your audience variety with text, picture, and video posts. All fans like something different — some may enjoy videos, some pictures, and some may like a little bit of everything.

Make sure you take the time to create fun and engaging posts of all types for the best results.

5) Make Your Posts Meaningful

Don’t post something just to post!

First, consider how meaningful your post is to your “brand.” Does it benefit you or your target audience? Does it contribute something unique and essential to your brand? If not, then don’t post something as filler.

6) Don’t Leave People in the Dark!

While you shouldn’t post something for the sake of posting something, you also don’t want to abandon your social media presence for weeks or months at a time.

Make a regular schedule to commit yourself to and make sure your followers are aware of when new posts will appear.

7) It’s Not All About You

Believe it or not, it’s actually helpful to not talk about yourself all of the time.  Sure, you need to be comfortable with promoting yourself, but you also don’t want to come off as egotistical. People enjoy seeing actors who are compassionate , hardworking, and human.

Brag about your latest role, but also praise fellow actors and productions you recently enjoyed.

 

Looking for a more permanent boost to your acting portfolio? Browse our acting program and other areas of study.

9 Stages of Pre-Production

The first day of shooting on a movie set is never the first day that film is being produced. Days, and sometimes weeks, months, years, or—in the case of James Cameron’s “Avatar” or Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”—decades can go by from the beginning of a film’s inception to when cameras just start rolling. The production and subsequent post-production processes of a movie can be shorter, longer, or about the same, but neither can exist without pre-production—the work that goes into a film before any images are recorded.

Pre-production, like the filmmaking as a process as a whole, is complicated and can be daunting for independent filmmakers. Here are nine stages—each with their own subdivisions of tasks and labor—that should be included in your pre-production process if you want to ensure a steady, fruitful film shoot from day one.

Finalize a Shooting Script

While movies are magical, they don’t come out of thin air. Even before the pre-production process starts, you need an idea, and often a fairly polished screenplay to work off of. But when it’s crunch time, you need to finalize that screenplay and convert it to a shooting script—one that reads for the director, cinematographer, and camera crew as well as it does for the actors. Tweaks and whole scenes may be edited, added, or deleted at anytime (sometimes even in post-production!) but for the most part your shooting script should be ready to shoot by the time the director first calls action.

Storyboards & Shot Lists

Storyboards & shot lists go hand-in-hand with shooting scripts—creating a visual interpretation of the screenplay for the director and cinematographer to reference and prepare for. While some directors know exactly what they want in their hand and can draw it themselves, usually storyboard artists are hired to bring the story to life. Once a film is seen—even in black-and-white sketches—it comes alive in a way that the entire crew can see and gives them a concrete vision to strive for.

Find the Right Crew

While some crew positions might already be attached or recommended for a project, and other positions, like your writer and storyboard artist, could be hired very early in the process—you should work to get the entire team rounded out before pre-production gets too involved. After all, these are the women & men who will be carrying out a lot of these tasks, and the sooner they are involved in the creative process, the more valuable their input will be. All of filmmaking is a collaboration—not just the shooting!

Location Scouting

You may need to tailor your storyboards to your location or vice-versa, so finding them early is key. Many hands-on producers & directors may want to do this themselves, but often the smartest thing to do is hire a professional location scout who already has locales in mind or knows how to find original ones perfect for your script. If you’re shooting in a studio or soundstage, you’ll want to find the right one early and make sure it’s not booked before you can lock it in—treat them as you would reception halls for your own wedding! Finding real world locations early is just as important because you’ll want enough time to process the necessary permits & paperwork.

Create a Proper Budget (and Stick to It!)

By now you should be finalizing your budget, to make sure you can find the gear and afford the locations you want to use. Sometimes this is the professional thing to do; sometimes it’s the necessary thing to do because you’re not working with any credit or financial backers willing to give any more than they already promised. This is never the most fun part of pre-production, but very often it’s the most important.

Choose Your Gear

Are you shooting digitally or going old school with some 16mm film? Or are you saving money and shooting the entire film on your iPhone? Once you have the answers to these questions you can acquire your gear—often from a rental house. After your first film you may establish a relationship with a particular rental house and can negotiate discounts and figure out just exactly what your budget will allow when it comes to peripheral equipment. Maybe you can afford that ultracool fog machine after all!

Clear That Red Tape

Once you know what gear and locations you want, you’re going have to get into the paperwork—namely, permits and insurance. Permits are required from municipal governments to shoot on public property and location agreements are typically needed for use of private homes—especially if you’ll need to move furniture or equipment around or repaint the walls after the shoot, etc. You’ll also need insurance to protect yourself in the event you or one of your crew members accidentally do damage to the location or your rented film equipment. Finally you may need to cover your crew and cast as well—better safe than sorry!

Find the Right Cast

With your dominos falling in place you’re going to need to finally decide on your cast—this could feel impossible, no matter how many actors your audition. You might be frustrated you can’t find the perfect person for the role you envisioned in your head, or maybe you found two equally brilliant performers and you’re pulling your hair out trying to decide between the two. Either way, auditioning early and often and even employing a casting agent to find even more performers, possibly from outside your locality, will go a long way towards giving your movie the perfect cast.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Sometimes finding the perfect cast could make a filmmaker overconfident, leading them to put too much responsibility on their cast to be self-sufficient. Actors need their director just as much as the crew does, and working with them both one-on-one and as an ensemble is a vital part of the pre-production process. Holding table reads and rehearsals weeks before shooting will ensure that when the camera is ready to the roll, your cast will be giving the performance your movie truly needs. This extra time before the shoot also allows the cast to develop a genuine chemistry that will not go unnoticed by your audience.

These are just nine simplified stages of a complex, multifaceted pre-production process. Often these steps will be done simultaneously and in any variety of orders. Just remember that if you’re confident and prepared you can get through any hurdle and tell the story you’ve always wanted to tell. New York Film Academy offers courses in production and filmmaking with the overall philosophy of learning by doing—so the best way to get through pre-production is to learn the skills first and then master them with experience and resolve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Production Design

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

Film Score

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

Screenplay – The Story

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

Screenplay – The Characters

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

Casting

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

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

Laura Dern & Carrie Fisher

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.

 

How to Craft the Perfect Movie Pitch

A moving, persuasive pitch can be the difference between seeing your story idea come to life on the big screen or leaving it in your mind to be forgotten. There are few industries as competitive as film, which means your movie pitch needs to impact the listener and stand out from the thousands of others. The following are a number of ways you can bring that pitch of yours as close to perfection as possible.

1. Use the power of emotion.

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Just like every novel ever written or song ever recorded, the purpose of a film is to elicit emotion. People want to play games, watch movies, and read books that will make them feel something that they can’t or normally don’t feel as powerfully in their own lives. Similarly, a successful story pitch is one where you give the listener a positive emotional experience by convincing them that your idea will either be a hit or something they’d enjoy watching. Instead of saying that you’re passionate about the project, let it show in the way you describe your story.

2. Show your personal connection with the film.

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Sometimes even the best ideas can fall flat if those at the helm of the project are driven only by money or fame. Film is arguably one of the most powerful storytelling mediums out there, and some of the most iconic films of all time were made by people with tremendous passion toward the idea or emotion they wanted to share. In other words, a movie pitch is the perfect time to show your personal connection to the story and its themes. Make it clear why this story needs to be told and why you’re the filmmaker destined to help tell it.

3. Make it clear why your film is unique yet bound for success

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While agents and offices do look out for film ideas that are creative and special, it’s not always enough. You have to make sure your unique pitch is also something that will most likely attract diverse groups of people and thus, be a success. A good exercise to prepare you for this is to write down why your film is unique along with a second list of reasons why your film would be a hit in today’s market.

4. Comparisons are OK, but don’t over do it.

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A lot of people are afraid to compare their film idea to similar existing films for fear of sounding unoriginal. However, comparisons can be a powerful way of giving your listener a clearer image of what your movie is all about. The trick is to not overdo it or confuse your listener by saying your film is a mix of “The Fellowship of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” without explaining how or why.

5. Avoid telling your whole story.

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When pitching your idea to an office or agent, you’ll rarely get more than a few minutes of time. A common mistake is to waste most of your time by trying to tell your entire story as quickly as possible from start to finish. For one, trying to do so only leaves you with less time to convey why the idea is good. But more importantly, if your story can actually be told in as little as five minutes then it’s probably not a great story. Do your best to give the important plot points and details without boring the listener while misusing your time.

6. When you think your pitch is done, forget it and come back later.

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A movie pitch isn’t something you prepare in one night. Just like Stephen King would put away a rough draft for weeks before rereading and improving it, you should step away from your pitch for a while to get it out of your head. Coming back to it with a fresh mind will help you trim off the unnecessary while improving the stronger points. There’s nothing wrong with rinsing and repeating this process until you feel satisfied.

7. Happy with your latest pitch? Now record and practice it.

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Recording your own pitch and listening to it is one of the best ways of figuring out what needs to go and what can be said better. It may seem awkward listening to yourself but doing so will give you a good idea of how you’re presenting your idea. Do video recording if you’ll be pitching in person to make sure you have the right expressions and look when convincing the listener to consider your project.

4 Things Students Should Know About the Movie Production Industry

1. Successful people never make it alone.

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How many times have we heard ad nauseam that it’s all about who you know? Those who are at the top now, likely didn’t get there working in a vacuum. They rose through the ranks with others they trusted to collaborate with in reaching their goals. They have a team.

Start by engaging with others not just at school but at workshops, festivals, and seminars. Like-minded people will gravitate towards each other. Folks in the industry often work together and respect one another enough to keep building a professional relationship for their mutual benefit. If you are a writer, find a producer who is willing to work hard with you, and the same goes for directors and actors. Build your team, knowing that these people will fill the critical roles needed to make your films a success.

2. You are the director of your career.

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You’ve heard that opportunity strikes when luck meets preparation. This increasingly digital industry, where we now have access to a plethora of media platforms for storytelling, is primed for you to create your own content.

Gone are the days where filmmakers could rely on studios to greenlight their projects and get the whole team on board. In the age of social media and reality television, an artist often has to have a certain level of presence to even be considered. Create a strong body of work so you can attract an audience and position yourself to be able to make better career making decisions. Become a content creator, and you can become the director of your own career.  

3. Learn the secrets of outsourcing.

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A common misconception of a director or showrunner is that they are the “boss,” when in reality there should always be 4 or 5 trusted people who provide critique or are better skilled in one area or another. Whatever your position, know when to seek the expertise of others who will only make your project better. You’ll always have a blind spot, and your own talent and skill will have a chance to serve the project best when you are successfully collaborating with the talents and skills of the others on your team. Outsourcing for different aspects of your filmmaking process, whether it is for budgeting, animation, or coaching your actors, is one of the tried and true secrets to successful production.  Mentors, film networks, and other resources can fill in these gaps for you.

4. Know the basics of storytelling.

While we can all agree that the fundamentals of storytelling are important to being a filmmaker, just as critical is knowing where you fit in the story that is actually taking place on set. Oftentimes, graduating from film school will leave you chomping at the bit to be hired as producer, director, or any other position of leadership. The truth is, your professional journey has only just begun. You are more than likely going to take on a PA role before doing anything else. How you handle what may feel like a lowly position is training ground for your future. Whatever your role is on set, it’s a critical one — or you wouldn’t be there. Every step of the way, you are paying dues—and all of it is a part of your story. Exhaust all of your opportunities to do what is expected, do it well, and always go the extra mile. Create your own track record, and be the hero in your story, where the only way to go is up.

Learn more about producing for film, television, and new media at the New York Film Academy.

What Does a TV Producer Do?

Do you have excellent organizational skills and a head for numbers? Are you also creative and able to see projects through from the planning stages to the very end? Well, you might have the makings of a television producer.

Television producers coordinate and supervise all aspects of a production, from the creative to the administrative. Producers also make the financial decisions and handle contracts, talent and bargaining agreements, and other administrative details. While producers get to be in on the fun of planning and executing a production, they also deal with troubles during production and keep everything within budget.

Some of the producer’s duties include:

  • Fundraising and networking
  • Working with financial backers
  • Seeking scripts and project ideas
  • Assessing proposed projects
  • Securing rights to books or other creative works
  • Commissioning writers

  • For news and sitcoms, producers are often part of the writing team
  • Hiring a director, crew, and actors
  • Organizing shooting and production schedules
  • Ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations during production
  • Supervising the entire project from beginning to post-production
  • Holding regular meetings with director to discuss progress
  • Ensuring the project is done on time and within the budget

There are several different types of producers and each one has different levels of responsibility on a production. The Producers Guild of America has a good overview of the different producer titles and responsibilities on their website.

Producers handle the business side of a production from finances to contracts and do a lot of trouble-shooting every day, so the job can be stressful. The fast-pace and working with other creative people can also be very rewarding. In an interview with Produced By, Marta Kauffman (“Friends,” “Grace and Frankie”) describes her typical day and how working on a series for Netflix is different from a network TV series.

Breaking into the field can be tough, but getting experience as a runner or a production assistant is often the first step. New York Film Academy’s Cheryl Bedford describes her career path and offers encouraging advice to students in this interview.

Ready to learn more about producing for film, television, and new media? Learn the trade at the New York Film Academy.

 

 

 

How to Produce a Super Soundtrack for Your Low-Budget Film

The soundtrack sets the tone of your film, and connects with your viewers on an emotional, if often unconscious, level. But if getting the rights to use a hit song by a major recording artist is beyond your budget — and let’s face it, most independent films don’t have the kind of money necessary to do that — then these tips for creating a super soundtrack for a low-budget film are for you.

Using Covers to Your Advantage

Gaining rights to music has two associated licenses: The Synchronization (sync) License (held by the songwriter or publisher, who may be contacted through the performing rights societies ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) and the Master License (the entity that owns the recording, typically the record company or the (unsigned) artist or production company).

In order to mitigate the high cost associated with master licenses by major recording artists, consider finding a cover of the song recorded by a lessor (or unknown) band. You might also call upon your buddy with a uke to record it.

Find a Rising Star With a Hit in the Making

SoundCloud is an invaluable resource for up-and-coming bands and musicians, and a goldmine for filmmakers with limited budgets. If you are willing to take the time to search and trust your musical judgement, you can use SoundCloud to put you in touch with some talented unsigned musicians with whom you might be able to negotiate directly.

Finding and Licensing the Sound You Want

Sites such as The Orchard, Jingle Punks, and Pump Audio (Getty Image’s music division) exist to connect musicians with filmmakers. As this helpful IFP article suggests, the loose rule of thumb is to allot 10-15 percent of your overall budget for music, and suggests making sure you have a professional on your side. Music licensing is complicated and you don’t want to be hit with a lawsuit just when your film is taking off.

Do It Yourself

If you have some musical talent and/or ideas for a minimal sound, you should consider creating your own soundtrack. As this article points out, it’s easier than ever for those willing to spend a little time learning the software to create professional-sounding musical scores:

Apple’s $199 Logic Pro X is a great value considering what you get: over 10G of MIDI sounds, samples and loops (all free and clear), as well as the ability to record your own music using an audio interface, or sample and manipulate any sound you want. Plus, you can score your film from within the program, watching the picture as you work.”  

Get Scrappy

As with all aspects of low-budget filmmaking, creative thinking and adaptability are necessary to do things without breaking your film’s piggy bank on the one hand or feeling disappointed and giving up on the other. Look at the artists around you and reach out. You might find you have a lifelong artistic relationship waiting to happen!

Ready to learn more about film production? Check out the New York Film Academy’s producing programs to get started.

4 Lessons to Learn from Major Film Producers

A producer is the person most involved in any given project, all the way from pre-production to post-production, whether it’s a film, new media, or television show. The duties of the producer range from the development of the material to hiring writers, and locating buyers and financiers. They oversee the development of the script, they’re involved with the hiring of the cast and crew for the project, and they even look at locations for the project.

Producers are involved with every creative, technical, and financial aspect of each project. In short, the producer commands the show.

At the New York Film Academy, you will begin your first day of class as a producer, not as a student. You will be treated as a professional and right out of the gate, you will learn how to manage multiple productions while learning the ins and outs of the industry. NYFA offers BFA, MFA and AFA degree programs, a one-year intensive certificate program, and in-depth four- and 12-week producing workshops.

While we give our students the opportunity for hands-on experiences as producers, there are always more lessons to be learned and more inspiration to be drawn from real-world examples. Check out our lessons learned below from major film producers.

Simon Kinberg

Simon Kinberg, a London native, was the writer and producer for “X-Men: Apocalypse,” part of FOX’s mutant-minded franchise. The latest movie in the series was not well received by critics when it was released last year. In an interview with IGN, Kinberg stated that “Apocalypse” was supposed to be about “a family splitting apart and coming back together.” Kinberg also said somewhere in the process of creating “Apocalypse,” the message ended up getting buried and the message on the surface focused on a guy trying to destroy the world.

The end result of the movie was that “Apocalypse” was about global stakes. Kinberg said that he learned “that human and personal stakes always trump global stakes.” According to Kinberg, Brian Singer’s “X-Men,” the first movie in the franchise, was a good example because it was balanced: Magento had world-sized ambitions but the movie was really about saving Rogue.

Lesson: “Human and personal stakes always trump global stakes.”

Sarah Winshall

Sarah Winshall produced “Affections,” a film that premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and was directed by Bridey Elliott. In an article with Filmmaker Magazine, Winshall discussed her prior experience as an assistant to producers and she outlined some of the things that she learned while she was producing “Affections.” One of Winshall’s tips involved creating a comprehensive script breakdown — or a spreadsheet outlining everything that will be needed for each scene.

Winshall admitted during the interview that the comprehensive script breakdown allowed her to really wrap her head around the scope of the project. After that, it became easier because everything was right there on the page in front of her — production costs, special effects, costumes, locations, and crew members.

Lesson: Be organized! Try Winshall’s method of creating a spreadsheet that comprehensively outlines everything that will be needed for each scene in production.

Adam Leipzig

Adam Leipzig is not new to the Hollywood scene: He supervised films such as “Dead Poets Society” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” and produced “Titus” and “The Way Back.” He is also the CEO of Entertainment Media Partners and is the publisher of the online arts magazine Cultural Weekly.

In a blog post published on CEO.com, Leipzig analyzes the importance of producers and how they are expected to lead. Leipzig wrote that through previous experience, he learned that producers may not have a lot of power but they lead in any project — no matter how big or small.

One of the biggest things he’s learned over the years? Toss the ego out of the window. “Replace the word ‘I’ with ‘we.’ As a corollary, don’t get worried when other people claim credit for your successes. That’s immaterial,” Leipzig wrote. If you remove your ego off the table, other people will too and it will make collaboration so much easier.

Lesson: Be a leader. Remove your ego.

Nina Jacobson

Everyone knows the line, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Producer Nina Jacobson bought the three-book series “The Hunger Games” to the silver screen and gave author Suzanne Collins a promise of staying true to the war scenes in the book. Jacobson was able to deliver a franchise that made Collins and “The Hunger Games” fan base proud of the film adaptations. She was also able to show Hollywood that money can be made on female leads.

Jacobson landed four blockbuster films with release dates spanning four years. In an interview with SyfyWire, Jacobson talked about the importance of the actors you select during casting playing a critical part in accomplishing tight deadlines. Part of achieving success lies in the people you select, because they are a huge part of the project.

“It was greatly affirmed to make the decision to pay attention to who these people are as human beings and to know it would make an enormous difference in getting through something like this,” Jacobson said during the interview.

Jacobson also admitted that it was at times difficult to juggle projects — making movies while others were in post-production was sometimes stressful. The process of it all proved to have its challenges. But according to Jacobson, Collins was a great monitor and guide, and she made a huge difference being involved with the films.

Lesson: The people involved in a project can make all the difference. Choose your team wisely.

As a producer, what are some lessons that you have learned? Sound off below! And, if you want to learn more about production, check out our producing programs at New York Film Academy.

Pilot Season 2017 Part 2: Here’s What’s Coming Your Way

Pilot season is a secret peek into TV’s future, when broadcast network execs decide which pilots go to series and which get scrapped. That trend may be changing with Amazon asking viewers to vote on their choices. Four Amazon shows already have the green light, but for the others, we’ll have to wait and see.

What follows are some trends in pilot season and some examples of shows that may be coming your way in the 2017-2018 season.

Enter Pilot Season Politics

Family dramas, comedies and police procedurals are joined this year by what the Hollywood Reporter calls the broadcast networks’ “efforts to appeal to Trump America.” NBC’s offering is a military hero drama ”For God and Country,” and CBS picked up a Navy SEALs drama, which, according to Variety’s Development Scorecard, “Follows the lives of the elite Navy SEALs as they train, plan, and execute the most dangerous, high stakes missions our country can ask.”

On the other hand, ABC’s “Red Blooded,” starring Reba McEntire as a “Red State” sheriff, will have her views challenged by a Muslim FBI agent. Speaking of ripped-from-the-headlines dramas, CBS has “Perfect Citizen,” about an Edward Snowden-like character. If you prefer your politics wrapped in allegory, ABC”s “The Crossing,” where the ill-fated refugees are Americans, is for you.

Seeking Out New Stories in New Frontiers

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Another trend moves us off this troubled planet with CBS’s astronaut drama called “Mission Control,” and NBC’s comedy “Spaced Out.”

Netflix and Amazon are also in the space-race, with the reboot of beloved ’60s sci-fi classic “Lost in Space” and futuristic “Oasis,” which Rolling Stone calls a “space-madness headscratcher.”

FOX has Orville, a comedy drama set 300 years in the future, as well as the apocalyptic “Passage,” based on Justin Cronin’s best-selling mixed-genre trilogy.

Marvel Comics teamed up with FOX to create the latest from the X-Men universe. The logline for “Gifted” runs: “After discovering their children possess mutant powers, two ordinary parents and their kids are forced to go on the run from a hostile government, eventually joining up with an underground network of mutants.”

Under the Influence

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CBS picked up the idea for “Living Biblically,” about a middle-aged man who decides to follow the Bible to the letter with hilarious results, from a book by AJ Jacobs.

Fox has loosely based its office comedy “Type A” on “*ssholes: A Theory” by Aaron James.

In Netflix’s “Disjointed,” Kathy Bates heads up a ragtag and mostly stoned bunch in the legal cannabis business.

Amazon is also into the pot game with “Budding Prospects,” a show about marijuana farmers in 1980s California. That show, along with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about a perfect wife turned queen of comedy in 1950s New York, were given the green light to go to series by Amazon viewers.

What new shows are you watching this season? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about film and television production, check out our producing programs at New York Film Academy!

10 Great Pieces of Advice for Beginner Producers from Filmmaking Veterans

Low budget to blockbuster, getting a film produced is a huge endeavor. As PTA says, “It’s a miracle every time a film gets made.” Whether you are a self producer or are looking to produce the work of others, NYFA has pulled together these 10 great pieces of advice that can help you to become the best producer you can be.

1. Paul Thomas Anderson advises you to beware of fear.

In this great interview, Anderson speaks to the difficulties of getting started with great fear that the opinions of others, especially those in positions of power, are right or worth more than yours. He concludes, “There just should be no fear.”

2. Martin Scorsese tells you to “make your own industry.”

3. Disappointment can fuel you.

And, while addressing a graduating class at his alma mater, Scorsese reflected on two big disappointments early in his career that might have crushed him, but instead made him better and more resilient. “There’s a way that the force of disappointment can be alchemized into something that can paradoxically renew you.”

4. The market is global, you should be too.

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As we discussed in this NYFA article, there are experiences that can only be gained by studying abroad. We mentioned the importance of growing your network internationally, and this piece of Filmmaker Magazine advice, culled from a panel discussion at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, concurs: “Form an international collective.”

5. Producing is a group effort.

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The same Filmmaker Magazine article also offers this very important and basic piece of advice for producers: “Learn how to collaborate.”

Werner Herzog has at least 24 pieces of filmmaking (and life) advice. Here are a couple of our favorites:

6. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.

7. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.

8. Read broadly. Be culturally well-informed.

The below video, featuring advice from filmmakers from Quentin Tarantino to Fellini, makes it clear that in order to make great films that are not simply imitations of what you admire, it is important to read, listen to, and look at great works from the past as well as the present. As Herzog puts it, “Read! Read! Read…”

9. Passion is all you need.

As Tarantino puts it in the above video, “If you truly love cinema, with all your heart, and with enough passion, you can’t help but make a good movie.” Similar advice comes from “Dallas Buyers Club” producer Rachel Winter at the 2014 Producers Guild Awards: “Follow your passion. You can’t make anything and you can’t sell anything if you’re not fully, fully committed. If you give it all, other people will give it their all and follow your example.”

10. Just do it!

Though this advice from director Stephanie Joalland is from an Indiewire article about women filmmakers, it works for everyone just starting out: “Don’t listen to the naysayers who say you’re a woman you can’t do it, I think there is a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy. I hear so many women saying ‘I couldn’t make it because I’m a woman,’ There is no excuse, get a RED camera, get a 5G, and make a movie, find actors. Just do it.”

“Just do it” is perhaps the overarching message from famous and successful producers: Don’t talk about being a filmmaker or producer, just get out there and involve yourself in as many projects as possible. This alone will make you better in your own eyes and prove yourself to others.

NYFA offers hands-on classes in filmmaking and producing to get you started.

A Q&A With NYC- based Independent Producer Jane Applegate

There’s more than one way to break into the film industry. We’re curious about how other people are making it work, and eager to gain insight and inspiration from interesting success stories. We sat down with independent producer Jane Applegate. Jane Applegate is the founder of The Applegate Group, creators of The Applegate Network. Here, she sheds some light on her own career trajectory and what it’s like to work as an independent producer on her own terms.

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Photo provided by Jane Applegate.

NYFA: Hi, Jane, thanks for sharing some of your story with our student community! Can you tell us how long have you been an independent producer?  

Jane Applegate: I made a transition from writing and producing business news shows and cable documentaries to working on independent films in 2004. In 2006, I produced a short documentary about a theater program in Bosnia run by a professor at Dartmouth College. That project, “Much Ado About Mostar,” launched my independent film career.

NYFA What did you do prior to starting your own company? For how long?

JA: I started my career as a journalist, writing for the San Diego State University Aztec, an alternative weekly newspaper called the Reader, and then several newspapers and magazines in San Diego — including the San Diego Union. I joined the staff of the Los Angeles Times in 1983 as an investigative reporter specializing in white-collar crime. It was a challenging and rewarding job, but after a few years and winning some major awards, I decided I didn’t want to glorify criminals. I was offered a chance to revive a weekly small business column in the late ‘80s, when millions of people had lost their jobs and were trying to start their own businesses. My “Succeeding in Small Business” column was a big hit and went into syndication. The popularity of my practical, how-to column lead me to writing books, hosting a radio show for CBS, and speaking all over the world. I quit my job to start The Applegate Group Inc. in 1991.

NYFA: Can you talk about your transition from working for a corporation to working independently?

JA: I loved working in the newsroom and feeling the excitement of covering the news, but I wasn’t a very good employee. I questioned my bosses and was considered a bit of a troublemaker. I decided to start my own multimedia communications company because the LA Times wouldn’t let business reporters accept speaking fees and I needed to make more money.

Our company was the first to produce multimedia content about small business owners for bigger news outlets. We started a streaming video website — Small Business TV — with help from CNN, and produced web, video, print and live events for big corporations including Sprint, American Express, Wells Fargo, Verizon, Cox and Bloomberg. The biggest challenge was leaving behind my well-paying corporate clients and a job as a vice president of production for a big company to break into the indie world. I had to start out as a producer’s assistant for $100 a week. Starting at the bottom was the only way to break into the independent film world when I didn’t have the money to produce my own films. I was passing out carrots at craft services and handing out meal money — very humbling — on my first film, but I learned that my production skills were totally transferrable from TV to film.

NYFA: Do you think there is a unique experience to being a woman producer?

JA: I think women must work harder and be smarter than men to get ahead in the entertainment business. People in the TV and film world tend to hire their friends, their college buddies and people they know socially. Women have a tougher time getting jobs, but once they get a foot in the door things are easier and you can move up the ladder.

NYFA: What types of projects do you produce? Are there criteria that you use to decide which projects you’ll take on?

JA: I’ve produced a variety of projects from music videos to short films to independent features. I’m now producing a TV pilot for a Caribbean cable network. The writer-director, Mariette Monpierre, won a pitch contest and needed to attach a New York City-based producer with experience to secure the funding for a pilot. We’re deep into pre-production and will be shooting “Caribbean Girl NYC” in May for Flow, which is based in Barbados. I’m at a point in my career where I can be very picky and only work with creative, lovely people who I respect and admire.

NYFA: In your opinion, what makes a good producer? Is there a certain skill set that you think up-and-coming producers should focus on developing in order become successful?

JA: Producers must be able to multitask — kind of like a plate spinner at the circus. There are always plates falling and crashing, so you also need to have steady nerves and a great sense of humor. When things are going wrong on set, I always remind people that we are not curing cancer — we are making a film or show, and it is supposed to be fun. Good communication skills are also important. Being a careful listener is critical. Just letting people vent when they are upset or angry can diffuse most combustible situations. I always have a clip board or a notebook to take notes during a shoot. Leaving a notebook on the craft services table is also a good idea for producers. Encourage people to write down their problems and then review and prioritize what needs to be done at the end of the day.  Knowing how to use production software programs is also a good hard skill. I’m learning how to use Movie Magic Scheduling very late in my career.

NYFA: How can students make the best of their NYFA film school experience? How would you suggest they go about building their producing career?

JA: I didn’t go to film school, but my daughter, who is now an accomplished film editor, did. I think school teaches you how to work on a team and how to delegate responsibilities. Production is a team sport. Studying film theory is great, but it won’t help you get a job. I think everyone in school should get as much real world experience as possible. Volunteer to work on set with directors you admire. Work on as many films as you can, especially short films, which are quicker to produce. If you are not in film school, work on as many different projects as you can. I recommend setting up a profile and using Staffmeup.com to find production work. You can make it through one day and move on.

NYFA: How valuable is networking and can you offer any tips to students?

JA: Most of my jobs and opportunities have come through networking. I’m a member of the Producers Guild of America and New York Women in Film and Television. I attend as many mixers and workshops as possible. I also teach workshops on creative financing, marketing and best production practices. My network of business friends is growing all the time. People know that I’m always open to making introductions and connections. When you connect two people and something great comes of it, they both remember and are usually happy help you connect with someone you need to meet.

NYFA: Is your career progressing as you had hoped it would?

JA: I have been very fortunate to work on a variety of wonderful projects from music videos to live corporate events. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to take big creative and financial risks. Some have paid off, others not, but it’s been a wonderful ride.

NYFA: And lastly, what are some of your hopes for the future?

JA: I would love our Caribbean pilot to be a hit and lead to a full series. Future episodes would take us to shoot on the four islands where the principal characters are from and I’d love to visit more Caribbean islands. I’m also working with friends on two feature projects, one based on a best-seller by a Greek author and the other about Sylvia Beach, the American bookseller who published James Joyce’s controversial and banned book “Ulysses.”

Many thanks to Jane for sharing a bit about her producing career with the NYFA community! To learn more about Jane and to follow her work, visit her websites www.theapplegatenetwork.com and www.theapplegategroup.com. Ready to launch your own journey into the world of film producing? Check out NYFA’s Producing School.

 

Celebrating Women Film Producers

With this year’s Best Picture going to producer Dede Gardner for “Moonlight” and the top-grossing “Rogue One” produced by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, you’d think the “celluloid ceiling” had been thoroughly busted — but sadly, the numbers tell another story. For Women’s History Month, we at NYFA think it’s important to honor the milestones in pursuing gender equality, while being realistic about the continuing, painful disparities.

According to research reported at The Center for The Study of Women in Television and Film, the numbers for women behind the scenes actually dropped last year: “In 2016, women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 2 percentage points from last year and is even with the percentage achieved in 1998.” According to the study women accounted for 17 percent of executive producers and 24 percent of producers.

At NYFA, we encourage women to make careers for themselves in the biz not only in front of the camera but also behind the scenes, where diverse perspectives have the power to shake the industry. This is only one of the reasons why, for five years, our producing programs have attracted a majority-female student community.

Finding Academy Award-winning Adventures

This year Dede Gardner took home a Best Picture Oscar for the (surprise) winner “Moonlight.” She and Jeremy Kleiner head up Brad Pitt’s Plan B, which has become a reliable source for quality films — for example, the 2012 Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave.” Regarding their process at Plan B, Gardner, quoted in an IndieWire article said, “We spend a lot of time reading, a lot of time watching movies in small corners of libraries and hotel rooms. It’s probably our favorite thing to do. We fall in love with a movie and we reach out. We ask to meet, see more work and listen to what they’re interested in, what world they want to live in, what stories they want to tell. Time and time again, those conversations can result in movies. They just need to be had in an honest space. The only intentions will ever be to continue the conversation, and not think about these things as products, but adventures that we might embark on together.”

What many people may not know, however, is that Plan B was not the only (or the first) productive force behind “Moonlight.” Adele Romanski was one of three Florida State University friends who brought the project to life long before Plan B entered the picture. Romanski set up weekly Google chats to help motivate her friend, writer/director Barry Jenkins, to start another feature film project after an eight-year hiatus. As Romanski explained to Vulture last December: “… I came to the realization that I wanted to work with good people who I knew, who I could trust or who I did trust, and [do] good work together. And so the top of the list obviously was going to be Barry. And there was a lot of noise, it was becoming sort of a louder and louder conversation about where’s Barry’s next movie? Why hasn’t Barry made a movie? We would be at festivals or other industry functions, and people were coming up to us like, Why hasn’t Barry made a movie? And I would say, I don’t know, why don’t you ask him? But also, like, why are you asking me? You’re coming to me? So anyway, I just called him and said, You’ve got to make a movie. I’m gonna make you, I’m gonna help you, we’re gonna make it, make you make a movie.” And she did — a movie that went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. In her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, Romanski said: “And I think, I hope even more than that it’s inspiring to people, little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized and who take some inspiration from seeing this beautiful group of artists held by this amazing talent, Barry Jenkins, accepting this top honor. Thank you.”

From Secretary to President

Kathleen Kennedy started out as Steven Spielberg’s secretary, but quickly proved herself. An Entertainment weekly article celebrating women producers describes her early rise: “Spielberg tells EW that her ‘creative intuition’ while working as his assistant on 1981’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ especially ‘in the crowded streets in Kairouan, Tunisia…gaining the cooperation and participation of the people living there,’ inspired him to hire her as a producer on “E.T.” Now Kennedy heads Lucasfilm and is responsible for the Star Wars franchise, whose last two releases, “The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One,” were the box office winners of 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Taking Control Behind the Scenes

Kathryn Bigelow was the first (and still the only) woman to ever win Best Director for “The Hurt Locker,” for which she, as producer, also won for Best Picture. Bigelow started her career as a painter and then went to film school. She has made a name for herself directing action and thriller films that belie any notions about typical female-run projects, such as “Strange Days” and “Point Break.” A Guardian article quotes her as saying, “I suppose I like to think of myself as a filmmaker” (not a female filmmaker). In other words, she seems to attach less significance to her gender than the media and the industry does.

Fun fact: NYFA New York Producing Chair Neal Weisman worked with Kathryn Bigelow on her film “Blue Steel,” starring Jamie Curtis during his time as vice president of Edward Pressman Film Corporation.

Telling Untold Stories

The producing team of Amanda Posey and Finola Dwyer, do tend towards stories that feature female perspectives, such as “An Education” and “Brooklyn,” both of which were nominated for Best Picture. In a Guardian article Posey was quoted as saying, “We are always looking to tell something from a fresh perspective and with a fresh insight and it just so happens that, because of the way history is told, a lot of the untold stories are female. We are drawn to it from a storytelling point of view rather than specifically because it is based around women.”

Happy Women’s History Month! Do you have a favorite female producer? Or do you aspire to be the next female powerhouse behind the scenes? Let us know in the comments below, and check out our producing programs at New York Film Academy.

What Does A Production Designer Do?

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Production designers may not be as well-known outside the film industry as directors, writers, and producers, but aspiring filmmakers learn very quickly that movies can never go from idea to the big screen without a talented production designer. If you’re a creative person with sharp visual awareness and great design skills, this career path might be perfect for you. To help you explore this option, here we’ll answer the first important question when considering production design: What exactly does a production designer do?

There On Day One

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As the head of the art department, the production designer is in charge of making sure each shooting location is perfect, prepared, and on point with the vision of the film. Film is a language of visual storytelling, and so the visuals captured by the camera matter immensely. Your locations, sets, costumes, lights, etc. all work together to create a world on screen, and this world is a crucial part of telling your film’s story. Having an incredible script and cast of actors onboard won’t be enough if what the audience will be looking at doesn’t tell a cohesive story. This is why the production designer’s job starts during pre-production alongside the director and producer of the project. The production designer takes the writer’s work, the director’s vision, and the producer’s plan, and synthesizes it into a visual story.

Together, the pre-production team formulate ideas and plan for the visual context that will be used to tell a captivating story. This includes deciding on colors, themes, compositions, and other visual elements that work best to evoke the emotions, themes, and actions of each scene and the project as a whole. With their strong knowledge of art and design, including color theory, lighting, and more, the production designer will have a significant influence on the final look of the movie — and, indeed, on how the audience experiences the story.

Doing the Homework

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Once the desired look and feel of the movie has been decided, it is up to the production designer to make it happen. This begins with research. Production designers help identify which places and assets will be needed to create the right atmosphere for each scene. Whether it’s a sci-fi adventure set in the year 3000 or a story about the conquest of England by Vikings a thousand years ago, the product designer makes sure every detail is considered when crafting a believable set.

Another big responsibility left in the hands of the product designer is the budget. They play a big hand in calculating the cost of materials and resources needed, including any CGI elements required for the movie. More often than not, the production designer is responsible for helping to steer a production around the common pitfall of a misallocated budget. Many film projects fail to bring a story to life in an enthralling way simply because money was spent unwisely, leaving certain departments with little to work with. Production designers must keep the whole film and the whole budget in mind at all times.

Making the Story Come Alive

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After countless design sketches and discussions with art directors, the art team is finally ready to turn all those drawings and ideas into reality. Since the art department is usually the largest on any film set, the product manager must have good management skills to make sure everything is being made with the same creative vision. This includes working with set designers, illustrators, graphic artists, wardrobe supervisors, set decorators, propmasters, makeup artists, special effects supervisors, and more.

Like any creative project, things don’t always go as planned. A product designer is often called upon to come up with quick, effective solutions on set, all while making sure the whole team stays motivated, creative, and productive. The best product designers have enough patience to lead their team amidst script changes or unexpected issues so that each milestone is reached no matter what.

Is Production Designer The Role For You?

As you can see, product designers hold a position of unique and important responsibility within a film. As a production designer, you’ll be expected to be fully present and fully engaged from start to finish, working long hours every step of the way in order to make sure the movie looks as intended. Without the production designer’s organization, creativity, and knowledge, every area of the art department would have trouble staying focused and on the same page. And without a cohesive design, the look of a film may not be strong enough to tell its story.

If you’re confident in your artistic abilities and boast a great amount of imagination, then the career path of production design may be just right for you. Even though it’s a demanding and exhausting job, few gigs in the industry offer more creative expression, fulfillment, and control than that of product designer.

What appeals to you most about working as a production designer? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about film production at the New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking School.