student resources

Bandersnatch: Are You Ready for Interactive Storytelling? Press ‘Left’ for YES

This December, Netflix anthology series Black Mirror released their first “interactive narrative” episode, entitled Bandersnatch. The critical response was explosive, with some reviewers calling it “groundbreaking” and that the episode “shows what Netflix can do”.

Bandersnatch is not the first interactive narrative that Netflix has created. The media service has already created interactive shows based on Dreamworks’ Puss in Boots, Stretch Armstrong, and the hit video game Minecraft — notably, these were made for younger audiences.

But just what is interactive narrative storytelling and more importantly, what can you do to prepare yourself to design content for it?

Just to clarify, Netflix’s “interactive narrative storytelling” isn’t quite a game or a movie, but an extension of existing interactive stories like the Telltale adventures The Walking Dead or Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. These choice-based stories run about 30 minutes long, with (usually) six to twelve decision points over the course of the story.

interactive telltale guardians of the galaxy

Interactive Narrative is based on the concept of branching narrative – a story that resembles a tree of decisions (hence the term “branching”) that moves the stories off in different directions. The hero of a branching narrative can start in a cave in Montana and end up in Medieval Europe or all the way back in prehistoric times!

All branching narratives use two main components to create their stories: a decision point and a bottleneck point.

Decision points are when the protagonist of a story is forced to make a decision between two or more choices. Often one choice furthers the story while the other leads to the end – often death for the character.

You can have more than two decision points, but the more you create, the more story content you will have to create as well. The “branches” of a branching narrative can grow quickly and exponentially, so how do you keep the storylines from getting out of controls? That’s where bottleneck points come in.

Bottleneck points are places in the story where all the branches in the story all lead to the same place. For example, it won’t matter if you are nice to the Knight or insult the King, you still end up in the dungeon.

These bottleneck points keep things on track for the writer and you usually want to introduce a few of these over the course of the story to keep the narrative “under control.”

If you’re thinking of writing an interactive, it helps to be familiar with where they come from and where they might be going:

The Cave of Time (1979)

While experiments in branching narrative date all the way back to the ‘40s (with Jorge Luis Borges’ The Garden of Forking Paths), the first book of the pivotal Choose Your Own Adventure series was written by Edward Packard and published by Scholastic. The books are written in second-person, talking to its young readers directly.

In The Cave of Time, you are a young boy who wanders into a cave but comes out in a variety of locations and time periods. Some of the paths lead to fame and fortune, others to an untimely end. The book was so popular that over 184 Choose Your Own Adventure titles were published over two decades.

Genres ranged from fantasy to sci-fi to mystery. An amazing visualization of the branching narrative of the Choose Your Own Adventure series can be found at: http://samizdat.cc/cyoa/

Fighting Fantasy (1982)

Over in the UK, Ian Livingstone (who would become one of the co-founders of board game company Games Workshop) wrote his own version of Choose Your Own Adventure books. But Livingstone, being a big RPG gamer, added dice rolls and D&D style stats to his series. These “gamebooks” were a big hit with and over 60 titles were published in the course of the series.

Dragon’s Lair (1983)

The arcade game by Cinematronics and RDI Video Systems was the first to use the then-cutting-edge laser disc technology. Laser disc not only allowed for high-fidelity image and sound, but it allowed the game’s code to access any of the disc’s tracks in any order. Players had to make a choice (usually a direction or a sword attack) within a few seconds’ time; the wrong choice resulted in a humorous death animation.

Under the leadership of ex-Disney animator Don Bluth, Dragon’s Lair was a huge success. It was followed by a sequel, Time Warp, and the space-themed game Space Ace. Unfortunately high costs of production shut down Cinematronics in 1984.

HyperCard (1987)

While computer-based Hypertext systems have existed since the 1960s, it was the inclusion of HyperCard on Apple’s Macintosh computers that allowed branching narratives to become easier to create. Coupled with the Macintosh’s drawing programs, designers and authors could write their own interactive novels and distribute them via floppy disc.

Eventually the publishers of text adventure games such as Infocom got into the act; creating interactive fiction games based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and James Clavell’s Shogun, as well as original titles such as 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery and Journey: The Quest Begins.

SCUMM (1987)

The “Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion” or SCUMM for short was created by the game developers at LucasArts for their adventure game series. Rather than using complex word parsers like those found in text adventure games, the LucasArts team eventually migrated their interface to a “point and click” system for making choices, manipulating objects and talking with characters. Some of their games like Grim Fandango, Full Throttle and the Monkey Island series to this day are considered classics of the interactive adventure genre.

Mass Effect (2007)

Primarily a third-person action game, Mass Effect different from other shooters by focusing on the story. Inspired by the LucasArts games and the Choose Your Own Adventure books, Mass Effect included a “morality system” that allowed players to make choices that impact the plot and their relationship with the other characters in the game. As a result, players felt the story had an infinite amount of possibilities to where it would lead. (Although in reality, they only had 8 possible endings to the game.)

Chad, Matt & Rob’s Interactive Adventures! (2008)

Creators fired up their creativity when YouTube announced that hyperlink style links that could be placed on videos. Chad, Matt & Rob’s Time Machine was one of the first of these interactive narrative videos on the platform. Since then, not only storytellers but advertisers have utilized the interactive feature for their own videos. A quick guide to learn how to make your own interactive YouTube videos can be found here.

Telltale Games (2010)

Following in the steps of LucasArts, Telltale Games single-handedly resurrected the adventure game genre with the release of Sam and Max: Season One on the iPad. The company has since created several interactive games based on popular intellectual properties including Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Batman and The Walking Dead game.

Ready to make your own Interactive Stories?

Inspired? Here at New York Film Academy, we teach interactive narrative in several of our Game Design and Screenwriting programs. Here are just a few of the tips and tricks we teach to help students create their own interactive narrative games:

  1.    Remember the basics of screenwriting. Even though interactive narratives twist and turn all over the place, they still follow the basic format of all storytelling. Game stories and screenplays are pretty similar in form and format.
  2.    Make sure the choices make sense. When thinking about where you want the story to go, think about the natural choices the reader will have for the character they are playing as. If the protagonist is standing in front of a haunted house, the choices might be a) open the front door or b) walk around to the back of the house. It doesn’t need to be any more complex than that.
  3.    Make sure the results are fair. One of the biggest complaints about interactive narratives is that the effect of an action (as in “cause and effect”) doesn’t make sense, or is even fair. Give your readers/players some sort of foreshadowing to let them know what might happen if they make the right or wrong choice.
  4.    Work backwards if you need to. Sometimes working backwards from the ending you want to have is the best way to keep your storyline from sprawling all over the place.

Good luck on writing those interactive narratives and remember that game design opportunities can come from a variety of places — not just games!

From Book to Screen: Adapting Philip Roth’s ‘Indignation’

On Thursday, December 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a guest lecture by producer, production attorney, and NYFA board member, Avy Eschenasy. Eschenasy is the principal of Eschenasy Consulting, which provides advisory services in connection with all business aspects of motion picture production, financing, and distribution.

Previously, Eschenasy was a senior executive at Focus Features from 2002 until 2013, where he was Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning, Business Affairs and Acquisitions. Eschenasy is known for producing Indignation (2016), Casting JonBenét (2017), and A Prayer Before Dawn (2017).

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy began the lecture by discussing how the book Indignation by Philip Roth, was optioned to be produced as a feature film. In order for a producer to option a book, they must pay the publisher an “option fee.”

“That fee entitles [producers] to exclusively have the opportunity to buy the rights [to produce the book as a film]” said Eschenasy, “for a limited time period, usually 12 to 18 months” if the producer can find a production company or movie studio that wants to produce the optioned book as a film.

If the producer can find a production company or movie studio that is interested in producing the book as a film, then they would pay the publisher an additional fee for the exclusive opportunity to produce the book as a film. That means that once Eschenasy purchased the rights to produce Roth’s Indignation, Roth’s publishing company was not allowed to sell the option or production rights to any other producers.

Avy Eschenasy

Eschenasy went on to discuss turning the book into a screenplay. In order to get a book adapted to a screenplay, the producer must negotiate with a screenwriter, usually a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

In the contract with the screenwriter, the producer outlines fees paid for the first couple drafts of the script and many times will pay an additional fee if the film makes it all the way to production and distribution. The fees paid to a writer also depend on how they are credited: for example, a writer that has written a script alone would be paid more than a writer that co-wrote a script with one or more partners.

Once the script is finalized, it is time to focus on production. The producer needs to have a “package” ready to prepare for launching production, said Eschenasy. “The script, cast, the director, and the budget.”

Avy Eschenasy

The budget is put together by a line producer and then the producer must try to raise that amount of money to make the film; with independent films like Indignation, this money is typically raised with “pre-sales” to distributors. A “pre-sale” is a contract between the production team and distributors that outlines stipulations that the production team must follow in order to secure financing from the distributor; usually the distributor’s agreement is contingent upon the producer promising a script and a known actor. A way to save money during production is to shoot in a state or a country with tax credits for film and television productions; because of this and a few other reasons, Indignation was shot in New York.

For Indignation, a big part of the production “package” was the actor, Logan Lerman, best known for starring in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). Eschenasy needed a name like Lerman to get distributors interested, but he also needed to make Lerman and his representatives feel confident in Indignation as a production; producers get actors and their representatives to trust their productions with contracts. The contract outlines the shoot schedule, the actor’s “billing” (much like the writer’s “credit” discussed earlier), the fee paid to the actor (including bonuses if the actor wins awards for the role), and perks if applicable.

After all the negotiations and contracts were completed and all of the necessary funds were raised, Indignation went into production. Everything went well during the production phase and then it moved to post-production. Once the final cut of the film was finished, Indignation was entered in the Sundance Film Festival, where it was received very well by critics. Lionsgate Entertainment made an offer to distribute the film in the United States and Sony Pictures Entertainment made and offer to distribute the film to the majority of the international market. After all of their hard work, the Indignation production team got the film made, critically acclaimed, and distributed all over the world.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Avy Eschenasy for sharing his industry expertise and experiences getting Indignation produced with our students!

9 Great Games From the Last 12 Months

January and February tend to be a quiet time for game releases, especially following the pre-Holiday season in the Fall. While there’s plenty of new video games coming down the pipeline to get excited later in 2019, we thought we’d look back at some of the best titles released in the last 12 months. Chances are, you haven’t play them all yet, and there’s still time to get 100% completion before highly anticipated sequels to The Division, Psychonauts, and Gears of War come out.

Red Dead Redemption II by Rockstar Games
Play on: PS4, Xbox One

What better way to start the list than with perhaps the most anticipated game of last year. Nearly ten years after the award-winning original landed in 2010, Rockstar delivered another Old West masterpiece. Red Dead Redemption II lets you explore an expansive open world as Arthur Morgan, an outlaw and member of Dutch’s old gang. Boasting incredible visuals, improved gunslinger gameplay, and an interesting prequel story, no wonder so many critics named it Game of the Year.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate by Nintendo
Play on: Switch

Super Smash Bros. is the beloved fighting series that needs no introduction. With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo strove to once again outdo themselves by offering every character that has ever appeared in a previous Smash Bros. title. More than 100 stages and nearly a thousand music tracks were also packed in, not to mention the return of a story mode.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey by Ubisoft Quebec
Play on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

For almost a decade, gamers have counted on Ubisoft to release an Assassin’s Creed game annually. The last notable entry, Origins, was the first to get an extra year of development time as the series’ formula was evolved more than ever before. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey builds off its predecessor with an even bigger world and more emphasis on new RPG elements as players dive into the historic Peloponnesian War fought between Sparta and Athens.

Assassin's Creed

Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games
Play on: PS4

Despite being a uber-popular comic book hero and finding success on the big screen, it’s been years since someone has made a solid game featuring our favorite web-slinger. Insomniac Games didn’t buckle under the pressure of handling their first licensed game and instead delivered a phenomenal superhero adventure. Marvel’s Spider-Man has everything you could want from a Spider-Man game: a huge New York City to swing across, Photo Mode, familiar allies, almost every major villain, dozens of unlockable suits, and much, much more.

Forza Horizon 4 by Turn 10 Studios
Play on: Xbox One, PC

The Forza series has cemented itself in recent years as one of the top sim racing video games and top grossing video game franchises. Forza Horizon 4 raises the bar even more with its excellent gameplay, coupled with gorgeous graphics that now include a dynamic weather system. Each week, all the tracks transform as the next season in the year arrives, introducing new visuals and environmental hazards. A shared online world is another reason why critics and gamers are together praising this entry as arguably the most acclaimed in its series history.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 by Treyarch
Play on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

With Black Ops 4, Treyarch has taken a massive gamble by placing their focus on the multiplayer experience, completely omitting a story-driven single-player campaign. Instead, the team joined the Battle Royale race made famous by PUBG and Fornite — letting 100 players face off against each other until only one remains standing. Also included is ever-popular Zombies mode, as well as shorter Solo Missions that reveal the backstories of certain multiplayer characters.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider by Eidos-Montréal
Play on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

In 2013, the series that helped shape the 3D action-adventure genre received a much-praised reboot. Its follow-up, Rise of the Tomb Raider, also impressed by combining exciting gameplay with captivating storytelling. Shadow of the Tomb Raider takes Lara Croft to yet another exotic location as she tries to stop a group of archaeologists up to no good in an ancient Mayan area. Croft’s latest adventure has been praised for its great writing, strong emphasis on exploration, and beautiful visuals.

Tomb Raider

Mega Man 11 by Capcom
Play on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Mega Man fans have long been left out in the cold as Capcom ignored the beloved series since the release of Mega Man 10 in 2010. The wait is finally over as the Blue Bomber returned with a few exciting changes. Although the classic tough-as-nails gameplay is still there, Mega Man 11 features a modern art style as well as two abilities new to the series. Mega Man can now slow down time with the Speed Gear, raise his attack power with the Power Gear, and use a combination of both as he faces Dr. Wily’s latest robot bosses.

Fallout 76 by Bethesda Game Studios
Play on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

The famed shooter-RPG hybrid opened its expansive world even more last year and let players explore its post-apocalyptic landscape alongside friends. Fallout 76 is yet another 2018 game focused on multiplayer by giving players the chance to team up and/or destroy each other in a West Virginia wasteland. The world is many times bigger than that of Fallout 4 and expands on many of its popular gameplay features, including the ability to build a base anywhere. While initial reactions have been mixed, the developers also promise to listen carefully to the community in order to make this Fallout the MMO (massive multiplayer online) fans have dreamed of for years.

Honorable Mentions

 

  • Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!/Let’s Go, Eevee! (Switch)
  • Just Cause 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
  • Darksiders III (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
  • Monster Boy & The Cursed Kingdom (Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
  • Soulcalibur VI (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

 

5 Lessons Hollywood Learned from Bollywood

In terms of sheer numbers, Bollywood (a portmanteau of Hollywood and Bombay) is as big if not bigger as Hollywood. Based in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Bollywood isn’t just the largest industry in Indian cinema, it’s the largest film industry in the world, in terms of film production as of 2017.

This fascinating culture of dance, drama, and traditional values have given us iconic scenes of colorful weddings, dance parties in the middle of streets, and sweeping love stories. Bollywood has come to influence Hollywood and other film industries in multiple genres, but none more than musicals.

Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge was directly inspired by Bollywood musicals. If you watch it again you will see a mix of cultures and dance, incorporating Bollywood styles and even including the song “Chamma Chamma” from Bollywood film China Gate (1998). The success of Moulin Rouge ushered in a new wave of Hollywood movie musicals, including Chicago, The Producers, Rent, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Across the Universe, Disney’s Enchanted, and Mamma Mia.

bollywood indywood

Here are some other tropes of Bollywood that have become more prominent in the recent musicals made by Hollywood:

Catchy music in the form of song-and-dance epic numbers

“Razzle Dazzle” in Chicago. “Dancing Queen” in Mamma Mia. “That’s How You Know’ in Enchanted. The mise-en-scene is shot with a wide-angle lens like in musical numbers found in many Bollywood sequences, where the camera shoots as if on the stage and more directly brings the audience into the choreography itself. It has become a hallmark fo the new wave of Hollywood musicals.

Epic fight scenes

Bollywood films aren’t afraid to take themselves too seriously. Often shot with a comedic sensibility, fight scenes between heroes, villains, and anti-heroes alike can take on exaggerated proportions. Hollywood translated this element with expanded nuances and artistry to their fight scenes. Kill Bill is a perfect example of a hero fighting dozens of bad guys at the same time, by herself, driven by a single objective of revenge. And, of course, seasoned with bits of humor. Directed by film buff Quentin Tarantino, the scene takes direct inspiration from the Hindi film Abhay (2001).

Love triangles

Love triangles have been around pretty much since the dawn of storytelling, but Bollywood has made it a part of its DNA and revels in the over-the-top emotive tropes of love, passion, jealousy, and betrayal. Perhaps in response to this, love triangles had a resurgence in the romantic comedies of the 1990s and early 2000s.

bollywood indywood

Melodrama

For many Bollywood films, everything is done 110%, from the stunts to the drama. Melodrama is as common in Bollywood films as it is in American soap operas and Mexican telenovelas. With Peak TV and an influx of new content from Netflix, Hulu, and other new media providers, every genre under the sun is available. Melodrama is included with this, especially for younger audiences on networks like Freeform and The CW,

Convenient coincidences

Just as melodrama plays up the emotions of a film, many Bollywood films aren’t afraid to play up their story, allowing themselves to indulge in broad plot devices like divine intervention and over-the-top, convenient coincidences. While these films ask for an even greater suspension of disbelief than most Hollywood films, Bollywood has shown that audiences are willing to indulge in the illusion in order to escape and be entertained. Hollywood films, from increasingly outrageous Marvel movies to the more directly-inspired Slumdog Millionaire, where each question in the title gameshow leads to even more over-the-top coincidence, have started to learn this as well.

If you’re interesting in filmmaking and want to learn some pointers from the largest film industry in the world, this weekend might be a great time to select the Bollywood category on your Netflix!

6 Tips For Building Your Film Portfolio

Even with all the connections in the world, and the most expensive camera money can buy, you probably won’t go too far in the film industry without a great body of work. Your portfolio is arguably the most important asset you have, and in order to gain the attention of the people you want to meet and work with, your portfolio must be relevant and meaningful.

How do you build this portfolio? If you’re struggling on how to get your portfolio in motion, here’s six useful tips for getting started:

Stay Active in School

As a film student, it can be easy to get caught up in exciting plans for the future (or even the weekend), but you should keep in mind that the school projects you’re currently working on aren’t just for a grade – they are your time to build a portfolio.

Your time in film school, while it can sometimes seem neverending, is perhaps one of the few times in your entire career where you sit down and entirely focus on YOU. Not your clients, your boss, your producer – no, you are focusing entirely on self-improvement during film school. Taking advantage of this time and taking it seriously will be the biggest way to get a jumpstart on your portfolio.

Get ahead in school and make the most of it by:

  • Quit procrastinating and get started early. Act like you’re getting paid to work on every project.
  • Stay humble and assume your work needs improvement whenever possible.
  • Ask instructors lots of questions and don’t be afraid to bug them.
  • Volunteer to assist other classmates with shoots and edits.
  • Ask for feedback on your work from classmates and instructors.
  • Attend extracurricular workshops and events whenever possible.

Search the closest job boards and attend school functions to connect with your most experienced teachers or fellow students. Initiating relationships with these people will provide you with a valuable network of directors, editors, and actors. Your network will follow you when you graduate.

YouTube

Start a YouTube Series

When you’re competing for gigs in the film industry, it’s highly advantageous to showcase a multifaceted skill set. Soon after graduation, challenge yourself to write, produce, and direct an original series. Execute the entire process from inception to final product to marketing it.

Regardless of the success, completing this project will give you real world experience creating and producing a project from end to end. It will also send the message to potential hiring producers that you have the work ethic and diligence to finish what you started. Many people coming out of film school have never put together their own project or have what it takes to see something through outside of film school. Don’t get too caught up in view counts or trying to launch the next Stranger Things, the key is that having the ability to show that you can produce a whole series will speak volumes.

IMDb Pro

IMDb pro is a useful resource for obtaining the contact information of nearly anyone in the film industry. There is a monthly membership fee, but you will benefit greatly from being able to reach thousands of producers, directors, editors, and crew. The service provides filmographies and credits for millions of titles along with access to in-development projects not listed on IMDb. Many of these features will gain importance as you progress in your career and must evaluate track records, cast relationships, and search for casting alternatives.   

When you’re first developing your portfolio, you should use this tool to contact people you’re interested in working with. Get creative on how you can become a part of their network and give them a call. Rather than spam the entire catalogue, do your homework on the person you’re contacting and know the right time to make your move. Lead with your strengths and learn to project confidence rather than desperation. If you are genuine and effective, doors will open.

Start In Commercial Work

Every artist would like full-time film work, but sometimes things don’t line up immediately. Commercial & corporate video work can help keep you active in the general video production industry. Apply for corporate video jobs or offer services to business owners in your personal network to make web videos, commercials, marketing content, and other videos they might need. Even if you make a few thousand dollars, it’s money that can be used to refine your portfolio even further. You can pull shots from these videos that look more film-like to build your overall demo reel and they’ll never know it was a small business video.

48 Hour Film Project

The 48 Hour Film Project is a multi-city contest in which teams of participants draw a genre from a hat and then write, shoot, and edit a movie in 48 hours. Teams have full control over plots except for a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film. The award for Best Film and a cash prize is awarded to entries that demonstrate artistic merit, technical merit, and adherence to the assignment. Films are then premiered at a local theatre for friends and family.

An event like this is a fun way to add a completed project to your portfolio. Additionally, if you produce a good piece, there’s always a chance you could win. Contestants have gone on to have success in other film festivals and others used recognition of their film to get paying work. Film Festivals are also great vehicles for making connections with people in your craft, particularly those who have an interest in your preferred genre. Make the most of the platform these organizations provide in order to get new people talking about your work.

Photo Editing Photoshop Lightroom

Produce Music Videos

Music videos are one of the more fun ways to bring good work to your portfolio. There is constant demand for this service from young people who are rappers, singers, or in bands. Building a network of music artists is considerably easy to do via Twitter or Instagram. As you acquire more paying clients, shooting music videos can turn into a solid source of money for new equipment. It is actually much easier to get funding for these videos than a short film.

Creating videos for music artists allows you to explore creatively and will add things to your portfolio that commercial work won’t. Try to find artists who are looking to incorporate elements of film to their videos. While music videos are generally 2-3 minutes long, they usually welcome obscure or artistic concepts. It’s the perfect chance to showcase precise visual storytelling, and to capture a few extra shots for your demo reel.  

 

Article by Mike Clum.

Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 16 full-time video production professionals.

 

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!

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Editing 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.

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

BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown

This is the second Academy Award nomination for Barry Alexander Brown, with his first dating back nearly forty years ago for the 1979 documentary feature The War at Home. Since then, Brown has edited several of Spike Lee’s films, including Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, He Got Game, 25th Hour, and Inside Man. He’s also edited The Giver, and directed the rock documentary, The Who’s Tommy, the Amazing Journey.

Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman

John Ottman has edited several major motion pictures, but has also been the film composer for dozens more. He has edited several of Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer’s films, including The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, Superman Returns, Valkyrie and three X-Men films. Some of the films Ottman has scored include The Cable Guy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Astro Boy, Orphan, and Fantastic Four. This is his first Oscar nomination.

The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis

Yorgos Mavropsaridis has edited nearly eighty films, including those of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos — Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Favourite, which has earned him his first Oscar nomination. He will also work in post-production on Suicide Tourist, currently filming, starring Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito

Green Book editor Patrick J. Don Vito has edited over a dozen films, including Another House on Mercy Street and My Life in Ruins, and has worked in the editing department of several more, including Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Welcome to Mooseport, and Semi-Pro. Don Vito also edited the visual effects on the first Austin Powers sequel. This is his first Oscar nomination.

Vice, Hank Corwin

Hank Corwin was first Oscar-nominated for his work on Adam McKay’s previous film, The Big Short. Corwin has also edited for other prestige directors such as Terence Malick, Robert Redford, Barry Levinson, and Oliver Stone. Some of his credits include Natural Born Killers, Nixon, The Horse Whisperer, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The New World, and The Tree of Life.

 

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

Asian Representation in Film: The Impact of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

With box office hit and the critically well-received 2018 romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood has come a long way since Asian and Asian American stereotype characters like Long Duk Dong in 1984’s Sixteen Candles, or, even worse, dated, racist portrayals like that of Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Prior to Crazy Rich Asians, it had been 25 years since the world saw a predominantly Asian cast in a big-budget Hollywood — with 1993’s The Joy Luck Club — that isn’t about martial arts, nerds, or a period piece with subtitles. Rather, Crazy Rich Asians is a moving, funny, beautifully shot romantic comedy showcasing a modern Asian diaspora who speak English as their primary language.

According to the most recent report by the United Nations, Asians represent close to 60% of the world’s population, while a separate report conducted by USC Annenberg in 2017 revealed that out of 1,100 popular films, 70.7% of the characters were Caucasian and only 6.3% were of Asian descent.

With this significant imbalance, movie audiences have had very limited exposure on the big screen to the diversity they most likely see in everyday life, as well as alienating Asian viewers and doing nothing for preconceived, problematic notions of Asians as the funny sidekick, the kung-fu master, the chopstick-yielding exchange student, and every other broad stereotype that has played out in film.

Beyond the predictable and limited examples of Asians depicted in mainstream film, Hollywood also ostracized Asian actors through its tendency to whitewash films by casting Caucasian actors in Asian roles — something that Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, the novel that was adapted into the 2018 film — was no stranger to.

When talking to The Guardian about the buzz circling around his book and being approached for movie deals, Kwan mentioned a particular, prominent producer who told him he’d be interested if they changed the protagonist, Rachel Chu (played by Fresh off the Boat’s Constance Wu) into a white character. “I think it was a request born out of sheer ignorance about the project, and it was a very … kneejerk reaction that was indicative of how Hollywood saw its industry, how they felt movies needed to be made, and how they felt a movie with all Asians would just never work,” he said.

Sticking to his guns, Kwan eventually teamed with Chinese American director Jon M. Chu, who shared his belief in the importance and necessity of Asian representation in the film adaptation. Chu was originally offered a healthy sum of money from Netflix (exceeding that of Warner Brothers’ which went on to produce the film) but turned it down. Justifying the decision to do so, he told NBC Nightly News, “we knew the importance of the project was to get it on the big screen — there’s a sign there that says ‘we are worth that energy, we are worth your time’ — for a big Hollywood studio to send that message, we knew was an important message to send the world.”

For many, that message was heard. Beyond the actors in Crazy Rich Asians being diverse in more ways than one, they also portray a deep humanity of the characters through their individual hopes, dreams, relationship problems, and longing for love and acceptance, creating a more fleshed out and truer representation of Asians in the real world.

Continuing to break box office records with a global total of $236 million, Crazy Rich Asians is now the highest-grossing romantic comedy in the last decade. The message Chu refers to has been received with open arms; and with that, comes open doors, open minds, and hopefully, many more diverse and stereotype-free films from the entertainment industry.

Famous Stars Who Started On Netflix

With over 137 million global subscriptions as of the third quarter of 2018 – adding nearly as many subscribers within a single year as HBO did in its first 40 years – Netflix has become an undeniable force within the film and television industry. It transformed the way in which audiences consume their media and consequently conquered the industry to the point where it earned the most nominations at last year’s Emmys. Netflix knows what audiences want and their exponential growth has not only resulted in a healthy sum of revenue for the streaming giant, but also in a healthy amount of talent.

As its CEO Reed Hastings stated in this year’s shareholder report, “we’re the new star factory.” And he’s not wrong. Hollywood is now heavily influenced by social media, to the point where follower counts on Instagram are becoming the new Nielsen ratings for executives, and actors are launching successful careers from their mobile phones.

So let’s delve in and take a look at some of those who have Netflix to thank for their current level of success – be it significantly large social media followings, endorsement deals, new roles, awards, etc. It’s worth noting that Netflix wasn’t necessarily the first gig for many of these performers, but it certainly gave them their big breaks:

Netflix Stars

Millie Bobby Brown

The 14-year-old breakout star of Stranger Things had multiple gigs since her acting debut in 2013, guest starring in ABC’s fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. However, it was her role as escaped telepath Eleven in Netflix’s 2016 science fiction phenomenon that skyrocketed her career straight from unknown into superstardom.

Brown’s meteoric rise saw her receiving in the low $20,000 range per episode in the first season to an estimated $300-$350,000 per episode for its upcoming third season. She was also the youngest recipient in history to be honored on Time magazine’s Time 100 list and has 23 total nominations in multiple award categories including two Emmys. She’s won nine awards in total, which include a SAG – awarded to the entire cast of Stranger Things, and two MTV awards.

In addition to this, she currently has 18.2 million Instagram followers* – gaining her first million in a single day shortly after the launch of Stranger Things, has a modelling deal with IMG, multiple brand endorsements including Calvin Klein, Converse, and Moncler, and is the youngest person ever appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Finn Wolfhard

Brown’s fellow Stranger Things cast member who plays Mike Wheeler, the de facto leader of the Demogorgon-fighting kids and Eleven’s romantic interest, has also seen a significant rise in fame since his Netflix debut. Like his co-star, Wolfhard also earned a whopping pay raise for the upcoming season almost 12 times his original earnings per episode in season one.

Wolfhard’s band, Calpurnia, released their first EP in April this year after being signed by Royal Mountain Records in 2017, the same year he appeared as fast-talking Richie Tozier in the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It. He’s already signed on for the 2019 sequel to the horror hit, as well as snagging a coveted role in the upcoming movie The Goldfinch alongside Nicole Kidman. His Instagram following is currently at 11.2 million from a 100,000 pre-Netflix debut.


Katherine Langford

After her breakout role as Hannah Baker in Netflix’s controversial, albeit ground-breaking series 13 Reasons Why — for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination –, Langford has since appeared in comedy/drama films The Misguided and Love, Simon.

Langford is also set to star in the lead role of Arthurian Netflix series Cursed, due for release in 2019, as well as a role in the highly-anticipated follow-up to Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, expected to hit theatres in May. Her Instagram follower count is currently at 12.9 million; before her Netflix debut, it was around the 100,000 mark.


Claire Foy

The seasoned British actress was a household name in the UK with gigs on multiple BBC miniseries, but it was her portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown that shot her to international fame seemingly overnight. The critically-acclaimed series is reported to be Netflix’s most expensive production yet, which has certainly paid off after winning the Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Drama, as well as a Best Actress win for Foy.

Since her Netflix debut, she’s starred alongside Andrew Garfield in Breathe (2017), Steven Soderbergh’s horror/thriller Unsane (2018), Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic First Man (2018), as well as playing iconic, tattooed protagonist Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018). Her Instagram follower count may not be nearly as large as the slightly younger and social media-savvy generation above (she’s currently with 30,767), but with the amount of coveted roles she’s garnered since her Netflix debut, there’s no question she belongs on this list.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Noah Centineo

After his role as sensitive jock Peter Kavinsky in the hugely successful teen rom-com To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB), the 22-year-old Florida native saw his Instagram followers increase from 95,000 to 2.4 million within just a few days of the film being streamed. And that number is currently at 16.1 million only a mere four months later – and counting. The film has proven a boon to the careers of both Centineo and lead actress of TATBILB and New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Lana Condor.

Centineo’s role as the leading man in another teen rom-com, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, released just three weeks after his Netflix debut, only exacerbated the dizzying speed at which his rise to fame transpired. Famously referred to as the “Internet’s Boyfriend”, Centineo is booked for the much anticipated sequel to TATBILB (release date unknown) and has three projects in the works for 2019, including a key role in the new reboot of Charlie’s Angels, which will be directed by Elizabeth Banks.

 

Lena Waithe

The screenwriter/actor/producer, named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “TV Breakouts,” made history when she became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2017 (and then blew everyone away with her speech).

Waithe was awarded the award for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode on Netflix’s Master of None in which she also plays Denise — the queer black woman at the center of the story who comes out to her family during Thanksgiving – a hilarious rendition of her personal experience.

She’d been writing for Fox series Bones for 12 years, but her level of success skyrocketed since comedian and creator of Master of None Aziz Ansari rewrote the character of his best friend from a straight, white male to a character specifically tailored for Waithe. Since her time in the role, she’s gone on to create critically-acclaimed Showtime drama The Chi, wrote a pilot — Twenties — for TBS, starred in Steven Spielberg’s new blockbuster Ready Player One, been named on this year’s Time 100 list, and has graced the cover of Vanity Fair.

[*Note – Instagram numbers are reported as of December 2018]

The Difference Between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway

Many consider New York City to be the Cultural Capital of the World — there are countless things to do for both tourists and native New Yorkers alike. But nearly everyone visiting the Big Apple makes sure they catch a show. While Broadway is obviously the flashiest of the options out there, there are also Off-Broadway and even Off-Off-Broadway productions. But what do these labels mean exactly?

The answer is surprisingly simple. What gives a show its designation as Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway isn’t its production value or budget, or a measure of its success. It’s actually mostly related to a show’s seating capacity!

Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway theatres have 99 seats or less, so are obviously smaller venues than their more well known cousins. There are around 120 Off-Off-Broadway theaters in New York City at any given time, with many located in the city’s more artistic neighborhoods, like the West Village.

Often these shows will have cheaper ticket prices, and closer access to the actors after a performance. Because it’s easier to take financial chances with smaller productions, Off-Off-Broadway shows are also more likely to be avant-garde or experimental than more mainstream venues. They can be more traditional plays and musicals however, and give theatre-goers a healthy amount of options throughout the year.

An example of an Off-Off-Broadway production is Benten Kozo, directed by Jim Simpson, an Obie award-winning production that ran for over six months.

Some Off-Off-Broadway theatres:
HERE Arts Center, The Kraine Theater, La MaMa E.T.C.


Off-Broadway

Off-Broadway theatres can be significantly larger than on Off-Off-Broadway, and can hold up to to 499 seats. With fantastic original stories, musical revivals, and even performance art shows, many shows that begin on Off-Broadway can jump to Broadway if successful enough and warrants larger audience capacity — a famous example being historical musical, Hamilton.

Well-known stage performers can also be prominent in the Off-Broadway scene, not just limiting themselves to larger Broadway shows. Many performers tend to go back to the intimacy of a smaller theatre where an audience can be engaged more intimately with a production and its cast. There are roughly 85 Off-Broadway theatres in Manhattan.

Stomp is an enormously popular production that began in the United Kingdom and has been running in the East Village’s Orpheum Theatre for years, and is a unique example of the varied types of shows you can catch on Off-Broadway.

Some Off-Broadway theatres:
Cherry Lane Theatre, SoHo Playhouse, Minetta Lane Theatre

Theatre Ballet
Broadway

Broadway shows have the strictest guidelines to earn their moniker. In addition to having 500 seats or greater, they must be located in the Theatre District (around Times Square in Midtown, Manhattan) as well as in venues certified by The Broadway League, the trade association for the Broadway industry.

Because of their prime locations, Broadway shows have a greater chance to attract tourists and other theatre-goers, and as such, have long since been known to have much larger budgets and production values than other musicals and stage shows in New York City. Similarly, they can also attract larger stars, as well as adaptations of famous films and other works whose rights may be expensive to procure.

Examples of famous Broadway shows are nearly countless, with The Phantom of the Opera being the longest running show on Broadway to date.

Some Broadway theatres:
Gershwin Theatre, Winter Garden Theatre, Ambassador Theatre

9 Blockbuster Films Breaking Gender Norms

Gender equality in Hollywood (as well as everything else) has been an important issue for 2018, and while the results haven’t been as clear-cut as many would like, there have been some notable changes.

For one, more and more movies are not shying away from having a female lead, finally no longer afraid of the myth that the majority of moviegoing audiences are men who want to see men lead a film.

But just as important as the quantity of female-driven films is the types of films women are starring in. More and more action films, as well as comedy, horror, thriller, and other genre movies, are starring women when typically they would star men. Having broader, more diverse types of films and protagonists is incredibly important for providing audiences, especially girls and young women looking for cinematic role models, and the following films have been shown woman can be just as successful in typically male-driven movies, if not more.

Star Wars

The new Star Wars trilogy has put Daisy Ridley’s Rey front and center, the first prominent female Jedi in the 40+ year old live action franchise. The filmmakers of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have also avoided sexualizing the character in a way many women leads tend to be in Hollywood films, which is fine — after all the series is foremost made for younger audiences.

Rey isn’t the only female Star Wars protagonist to hit theatres since Disney took over the series in 2012. Rogue One, the first one-off “Star Wars Story” to get a theatrical release, stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, an outlaw loner who eventually devotes herself to a larger Rebellion.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a smash success from the start, winning over audiences of all genders and ages when she was given her own starring vehicle in 2017. The Amazonian princess wasn’t a damsel in distress but the hero of her own film, and performed the same mind-bending acts and explosive stunts as any male action hero would be expected to.

Notably, the film was also directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, another unfortunate rarity for blockbuster films that will hopefully be remedied soon. Both Jenkins and Gadot will return for the film’s sequel, Wonder Woman 1994, out next year.

Captain Marvel

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has released twenty films in the last ten years, and not a single one of them have a female superhero as its lead. That will finally change next year, with the 21st installment of the MCU — Captain Marvel. Academy Award Winner Brie Larson has been tapped to play the space-faring superhero, who has been said by Marvel to be the most powerful character in the fictional universe.

Shortly after the release of Captain Marvel, which will take place in the 1990s and co-star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Larson will return as the character in a key role for Avengers 4.

Untitled Terminator Reboot

Another Terminator in the film is in the works, following 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Like some of the previous films, this new iteration will once again star female action icon Sarah Connor, played for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2 by Linda Hamilton.

Just as exciting is the casting of Mackenzie Davis as co-lead, rumored to possibly be playing the newest iteration of a Terminator robot. Davis has previously starred in Tully, Halt and Catch Fire, and Black Mirror episode San Junipero.

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer, a live-action feature based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series, is currently filming, and will starring Isabela Moner in the title role. Moner previously starred in Instant Family and Transformers: The Last Knight.

The film was very important for younger girls as well as girls of color looking for a positive role model in Hollywood films. Unlike most of the other films on this list, Dora the Explorer will be appropriate viewing for all ages.

Halloween (2018)

The latest sequel/version of the classic Michael Myers slasher film had a very successful theatrical run this October, and was notable for having three generations of women as its leads. Myers faced off against original lead Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as her character Laurie Strode’s daughter and granddaughter.

The film wasn’t just a success for female-driven films but also women of a certain age — another issue Hollywood has struggled mightily with — with this version of the spooky story now the highest-grossing debut for a horror movie with a female lead over 55 in history.

Mulan

Disney has been making live action remakes of their most popular animated films for a few years now, but Mulan will be the first with an action-oriented female lead. Even more importantly, the studio searched far and wide for the perfect casting, and avoided any controversial “white-washing” of the role of Mulan, a Chinese folk hero. The part eventually went to Yifei Liu, a Chinese star surely soon to be an international movie star.

The Top 3 Free 2D Animation Software Tools in 2018

Certain styles of 3D animation have been around long enough that younger generations of animators and animation fans may not remember a time where they weren’t prevalent. But whether it’s a creative indie game, popular television show, or brief video clip just to bring laughs on social media, artists are still finding creative ways of using the gorgeous, emotion-filled style of 2D animation.

The price tag on some great pieces of software, however, can be daunting. The good news is there are plenty of great tools out there that don’t require a dime to use. If this sounds like what you’re after, look no further than our list of the top free 2D animation software tools in 2018.

Synfig Studio

If there’s one open source 2D animation software you’ll find on most other lists, it’s this one. Synfig Studio is one of the best for being easy to pick up while also allowing experienced animators to create high quality animations. It offers several layers of content, has an intuitive interface divided into four different windows, and is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. A notable feature is sound support that lets you sync sounds, music, and narration to your videos.

An interesting thing about Synfig Studio is that its developers offer two different versions. The Stable Version is just that — a simple, highly tested set of features you can rely on for your project. The other version, called Development Version, let’s you check out some experimental features that might not still be polished, yet allow you to do some neat things with your animations.

Main Features:

  • Vector Tweening: transform any vector shape into another
  • 50+ layers & several layer types to choose from
  • Full-featured bone system for cut-out animations and vector artwork
  • Advanced controls for experienced animators
  • Cross-platform: Windows, OS X, and Linux

synfig animation software

Pencil2D Animation

This free 2D animation software is recommended for beginners looking to get a better feel for animation and how it works. Pencil2D boasts a simple, clutter-free interface that makes it easy to create basic graphics and drawings as well as complete animations. This program is compatible with three major operating systems (Windows, OS X, and Linux) and lets you use both vector and bitmap graphics.

The ability to quickly switch between vector and raster workflows means nothing can slow you down whether you’re using ink, paint, or sketching. And if you’re ever stumped or want to learn more about certain features, you can either check out valuable docs or ask the community forum or social media pages.

Main Features:

  • Simple, easy-to-use interface design
  • Can switch between vector and raster workflows
  • Active community sites to get help and ask questions
  • Cross-platform: Windows, OS X, and Linux

Opentoonz

Opentoonz is the free alternative to Toonz, an advanced 2D animation software used by some of the top film and game creators in their industries. How can you not get excited at the thought of using the same tools as the likes of legendary Japanese animators Studio Ghibli or the creators Futurama and SpongeBob SquarePants? Although you won’t get all the features of Toonz Premium, the free Opentoonz version still provides an impressive number of features and tools.

With the help of a plug-in effect SDK, users can seamlessly swap picture styles and also apply powerful effects such as Affected Incident Light and Wavy Distortion. The inclusion of Studio Gibhli’s GTS scanning tools provides four types of scanning: colored, black/white, and with or without binarization. Opentoonz is also frequently improved based on the opinions of production professionals, which helps make it an amazing tool for 2D animation pros and newcomers alike.

Main Features:

  • Users can modify source code
  • Frequent updates and improvements
  • Used by top animators in the business
  • A host of features and helpful manuals

opentoonz animation software

Conclusion

Don’t let money be the reason why your exciting ideas will never leave your mind or sketchbook. No matter where you are in terms of experience, the top free 2D animation software tools listed above can inspire you to finally turn your visions into visuals, ones you can be proud of and that others can enjoy.

Interested in researching other free 2D animation software tools? Here’s some Honorable Mentions:

Tupi

  • PowToon
  • Animation Paper
  • Anime Studio

How to Compose a Great Wide-Angle Photo

While it may be the simplest method, “Point and Shoot” photography will rarely give you the results you’re looking for when trying to capture the perfect image. The variables and options available to you with modern photography equipment and post-production software are nearly endless. Mastering these tools and techniques and knowing when to apply them is exactly why many professionals attend photography school in the first place.

Choosing the right lens is one of those options, and often times a wide-angle lens will be what you want to use. Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know when using a wide-angle lens.

Wide-Angle Lens

What is a wide-angle lens?

A wide-angle lens is any lens that has a wider field of view than what the human eye typically sees. With modern equipment, a 50mm lens is considered normal for full-frame cameras and equates to 35mm for APS-C or cropped sensors. Anything wider than 50mm is considered a wide-angle lens. Remember — the smaller the number for focal length, the wider the lens will be. If you go any wider than a 15mm lens (full frame), the lens is considered fisheye.

A wide-angle lens distorts your subject and enhances your perspective. The subject closer to the camera appears larger than objects farther away. They could be the same size in actuality, but will appear differently through your lens.

Why use a wide-angle lens?

By using a wide-angle lens, you add a sense of depth and inclusion to your photos. When used correctly, a wide-angle lens can create successful images that draw your audience in. They are also a simple way to capture as much image as possible. It’s common for photographers to use wide-angle lenses for landscapes as well as cityscapes and skylines, for example.

Mistakes to Avoid

If you are using a wide-angle lens to capture a particular subject, as opposed to a broader scene in general, you have to make sure this subject is relatively close to the lens. Shots should be taken within a few inches from your subject.

Make sure your photos have some depth — the subject should be up close, at least one other object at medium distance, and the background should be far away. These layers of depth add to your image. One mistake that some photographers make is having everything in their image an equal distance apart, giving their work a flat, uninspired look.

Wide-Angle Lens

8 Tips for Actors Looking for an Agent

Among many other duties and responsibilities, talent agents have the important function to book and connect their clients to roles and auditions. While being proactive comes with the territory, there’s a wide variety of personalities and strategies in the field. Ideally, you’ll find the agent that best suits your needs and own personality as an actor, but at the end of the day you’ll at the very least want anyone who can get you in the room.

So how do you find an agent? The major talent agencies have their largest offices in Los Angeles and New York, so if you’re aiming for the top, these cities might be the best place for you to start out.

  1. If you are registered on IMDbPro, you will be able to find names of agencies, as well as their client lists. From there, you can figure out which agency best fits you and prioritze your first, second, and third choices, all down the line. You should make a long list – settling for your tenth choice isn’t rare at all.
  2. Many international actors prefer bicoastal agencies or already work alongside an agent from their home country.Even if this doesn’t apply to you, being open to expanding your network can prove advantageous.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask around! If you’re acting, you’ll be working with other actors who might have experience or even some connections with agencies you are interested in. If you’re just starting out and attending acting school you can ask your fellow students. Some may already be signed with agents. Others may already be elbow-deep in their own research and you can compare your notes.
  4. Be prepared! Know exactly how you will present yourself if you do get a meeting with an agent, because there’s a chance they might book one with you immediately after receiving your submission. So don’t reach out to an agency until you know you’re ready to meet with them!
  5. Get your headshots in order — not just the right poses and looks, but also a proper resume of your credits to go along with it. You will want to look professional — most agencies won’t want to bother with people they feel are too inexperienced in the industry or don’t know what they’re doing. If you’re on a tight budget, try finding an eager photography student from photography school and let them practice their craft for a discount or pro bono rate!
  6. Even better than a list of credits would be your demo reel. Make a highlight video of your work so far. Agents will want to know what your presence is on camera. While NYFA teaches acting students the importance and basics of putting together a demo reel, you can also enlist the help of amateur editors or editing school students at low cost — or more professional editors, if you’re willing to spend the money. At the very least, try to use three scenes that best showcase your range and abilities. If you haven’t garnered much screen time yet, talk to filmmaking school students and audition for as many student films and short films as you can!
  7. Follow up! Agents and their offices are often very busy and may not even address every submission they receive. If you haven’t heard back after a couple weeks, follow up and send a quick reminder, asking if they received your submission yet or if they have any other questions or need more information from you. Don’t be afraid to invite agents to a show, screening, or event of yours. They may be impressed with your confidence and who knows — might even show up.
  8. Keep your chin up! It’s perfectly normal for most actors just starting out to be without an agent. Don’t feel dejected if you’ve been ignored or rejected numerous times. Stay active and most importantly, build your career by meeting people and networking as much you can. Keep adding to your resume to build experience, credits, and better footage for your demo reel. Sooner or later, you may just find the agent perfect for you.

5 Tips for Getting Started in Broadcast Journalism

Broadcast journalism is a profession that requires knowledge, hard work, and commitment. It is not a profession for the faint-hearted, as it requires ample time for preparation and presentation. Like other media, the advent of digital platforms and the Internet has led the field to evolve quickly in a short period of time, requiring aspiring broadcast journalists to master many new skills than their more traditional predecessors ever needed.  

Here are just a few tips to get on the right track and set yourself up to become a successful multimedia journalist (MMJ) in the 21st century:

Getting the right education

A proper education doesn’t just get you certifications that will boost your resume and get you in the door, but gives you well-rounded training in a field that is constantly changing. NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school has working, experienced faculty members who keep up with the current industry landscape and can share that experience with their students.

As part of the New York Film Academy, NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school also applies a large focus on the technical aspects of digital broadcast journalism — producing and shooting video, editing, on-camera presentation — skills that multimedia journalists will need to learn in order to be successful in a digital landscape.

Broadcast Journalism Reporter

Getting industry experience

Maneuvering interview rooms with little or no experience will prove unfruitful in broadcast journalism. Getting the relevant experience is thus a fundamental aspect of a career in broadcast journalism.“A graduate may intern for a company to get the necessary experience,” explains Steve Doane, Career Coach at ConfidentWriters.

Additionally, entry-level jobs as production assistants or post-production assistants can be key to working your way up the ladder into more significant positions. Learning the practical skills needed for multimedia journalism, such as those mentioned above as taught by NYFA, are a solid way toward earning those entry-level jobs.

For MMJs, it is also essential to have some experience with social media. In an increasingly networked modern era, mastering the use of social media sites as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great assets for news anchors, and thus part of your training at NYFA’s broadcast journalism school.

Networking 

Creating a network is a key step in journalism. Budding journalists should join such professional organizations such as Society of Professional Journalists, which also provides tons of helpful resources for broadcast journalists, by broadcast journalists. Additionally, keeping close ties to the community of journalists as a whole will help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends, as well as career advancement opportunities.

Learning From the Best

NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school not only utilizes working professionals as faculty members, but often has high-profile guest speakers come and speak to students directly about their careers in the industry. Learning directly from those who have come before you and made similar journeys can be immensely beneficial.

Watch as many lectures, interviews, and videos with industry professionals and leaders on YouTube and other platforms as you can, absorbing their insight and advice and avoiding pitfalls they’ve come to learn the hard way.

Seeing these speakers in person, however, affords even more benefits, as you may have the opportunity to ask them questions directly. Past guest speakers at NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school include Rachel Maddow (MSNBC), J.P. Olsen (VICE NEWS TONIGHT), and Sharon Hoffman (Entertainment Tonight.)

Broadcast Journalism Reporter

Stay focused

Broadcast journalism is competitive and tough. However, with focus, determination, and commitment, a graduate can go very far in this industry. Set goals and work toward them. Such focus can potentially see a journalist through from an entry-level position to a reputable job with an established news or media company, such as NYFA Broadcast Journalism alumni George Colli (WTNH), Lea Gabrielle (Fox News Channel). Grace Shao (China Global Television Network), and Nicolle Cross (ABC, Austin, TX affiliate).   

Apply Now for a Broadcast Journalism Program

Written by Paul Bates

Paul Bates is a writer and storyteller at BeeStudent and Essay Task educational platforms and a contributor at HuffPost and Buzzfeed. Also, Paul is an online tutor at PaperResearch service.

Building Your Brand as a Filmmaker

Building a Brand as a Filmmaker

Scorsese. Tarantino. Sometimes a name alone can signify a brand. We can instantly identify signature styles, techniques, work ethic, personality traits, and many other unique qualities or images associated with those names because of the brand they’ve built as filmmakers.

Building a brand is creating your own identity among the many millions of other filmmakers out there trying to do the same thing. It’s about differentiating yourself from everyone else and giving people a story about you and what you offer – otherwise known as your reputation.

Laptop Filmmaking

Terms like “personal branding” can repel artists like the plague. but the reality is business can be just as much a part of filmmaking as the art – particularly in our current digital landscape where information is ubiquitous, and every man and his dog has a platform to vie for your attention.

Seeing as filmmaking is synonymous with storytelling, building your brand isn’t as daunting a task as you may think — in a way, it’s telling the story of yourself. With that in mind, the most important things to portray through your brand are:

      Who you are

      What it is you do

      How you go about it, and

      Where you’d like to go

Once you’ve worked out the answers, think about the audience you want to target — one that will best respond to your own style and sensibilities. Establishing a niche is important so as to reflect what qualities you want people to associate with you – your filmmaking identity (FI) – and to manifest that through:

      Your products and services – films, talent etc.

      Your relationships – with crew members, agents, other filmmakers, basically anyone you interact with really

      Your communications – your social networking, business cards, website etc.

Social Media

Although the current digital landscape has exponentially increased the number of accessible filmmaking voices to compete with, it’s also simultaneously broadened your reach.

As mentioned above, social networking platforms are one of the most basic yet critical components to marketing your FI. If you have a production company, establish a logo and other design elements that correspond with the adjectives you want your audience to associate you with, and be sure to feature this on all of your digital mediums (and non-digital, like your business card). When it comes to branding, consistency is key. So make sure things like the color concept, font, showreel, ‘about me’ sections etc. throughout Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or any other platform you choose to market yourself on stay relatively similar. And don’t forget to engage!

Creator of Instagram filmmaking community @filmmakersworld, Emanuele Giannini, thinks of the platform as today’s digital portfolio for filmmakers and claims it’s a great way to “build an audience, attract new business, and collaborate online.” Platforms like it are also a great way to build relationships and learn from the best. Because your brand is tied to the emotions or impressions people have of you, your relationships and the way you communicate and engage with others will always play a big part.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be authentic. In fact, always be sure to showcase your individuality and uniqueness. But remember:  Filmmaking is rarely a solitary job, so presenting a positive brand through social media can multiply the chances of networking with industry people who’ve never met you to reach out with opportunities.

When all is said and done, a brand won’t garner much positive attention if you’re not putting great care and effort into your work. So be sure to always be working on your filmmaking skills first and foremost, continually honing and evolving your voice. Then go forth and build that filmmaking identity – tell your story and make it great!

Apply Now for a Filmmaking Program

Ten Iconic Films Written by Screenwriting Legend William Goldman 

William Goldman, one of Hollywood’s most influential screenwriters for several decades, passed away early November 16, at the age of 87. 

In addition to writing several famous (and infamous) major motion pictures across a wide variety of genres, Goldman cemented himself as an authority of Hollywood screenwriting when he published Adventures in the Screen Trade in 1983. In the book, Goldman not only shared with readers his mastery of all things writing — story, dialogue, character — but his incisive, honest look at Hollywood’s modern studio system in the 60s and 70s, and what it would eventually evolve into over the next few decades. 

His rounded, honest view of the system that gave him great success was both cynical and appreciative, from the ground level as well as a bird’s eye view from the top, where he laid out and accepted both the good and the bad of the massive and powerful industry that produced an artistic medium he very much loved. 

Here are just some of the films he contributed to the Hollywood canon:

Misery

Director Rob Reiner and producers of the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Misery, in which a psychotic fan ties her favorite author to her bed and forces him to keep writing, felt like they needed to dial back the horror of the book to make the film more palatable for mainstream audiences. In the novel, the character played by Kathy Bates severs the foot of the author played by James Caan, rendering him unable to escape.

What screenwriter William Goldman came up with as a solution was perfect, and became an iconic Hollywood moment. Rather than sever his foot, Goldman had Bates smash Caan’s ankles with a sledgehammer – less bloody and less gory, but somehow in its specificity, even more brutal to watch. Goldman was proving a valuable lesson in screenwriting: sometimes less is more.

Harper

Goldman had already finished the script to the hardboiled detective movie Harper, starring Paul Newman, but producers needed a scene to play over the opening credits. Goldman quickly came up with a simple, but poignant moment — the disgruntled PI getting ready in the morning, realizing he was out of coffee, and reusing an old filter from the trashcan. In one quick dialogue-less moment, Goldman established the get-it-done character of his protagonist before the opening credits had even finished rolling.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Goldman won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his work on this seminal western that paired together two of Hollywood’s most charismatic and popular leading men — Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The film highlights the genre-bending abilities Goldman seemingly wielded without breaking a sweat, going from comedy to thriller to drama to even musical from scene to scene without ever missing a beat. 

Chaplin

Chaplin was a star-studded biopic in 1992 that portrayed the life and career of silent film megastar Charlie Chaplin, and was one of that year’s most prestigious films, with a talented cast, incredibly high production values, and direction by Richard Attenborough. While it received mixed reviews, it was one of the first major dramatic roles for the young comic actor Robert Downey, Jr., who was nominated for his first Academy Award for his work.

A Bridge Too Far

A Bridge Too Far was also directed by Richard Attenborough, and was an epic World War II film with a large-for-its-time budget and loaded cast that featured stars from other Goldman films like James Caan and Robert Redford. In a genre overstuffed with classics, A Bridge Too Far managed to make a name for itself for its wide scope and intense battle sequences, especially since, unlike many of its brethren, it focused on a major historical loss for the Allied Forces.

Marathon Man

Marathon Man, like some of Goldman’s other screenplays, was adapted from a novel he wrote himself. As a book, and later as a film, it attracted the attention of producers and critics alike for its stark violence and themes of Nazi war criminals still existing in society decades after the end of World War II. A major casting coup for the gritty thriller was Sir Laurence Olivier as the antagonist, who earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts.

Maverick

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Marathon Man is Maverick, a big-budget western comedy adapted from the 50s television series of the same name. The film reunites Lethal Weapon’s director Richard Donner and star Mel Gibson (and a cameo from Danny Glover) at the height of their Hollywood powers and proved to be a definitive audience-pleasing popcorn movie in a year full of tough competition. 

The Stepford Wives

The science-fiction horror film The Stepford Wives challenged the norms of gender dynamics between husbands and wives and, when it was released in 1975, received only moderate success. It has however gained a solid cult status over the decades, and was even eventually given a big budget remake starring Nicole Kidman in 2004. The term “Stepford Wife” itself has now become slang for the type of doting, robotic homemaker featured in Goldman’s script.

The Princess Bride

“Anybody want a peanut?” 

That’s just one line out of dozens from the eminently quotable screenplay Goldman wrote for The Princess Bride, itself an adaptation of a novel he wrote with the same name. Ostensibly a comedy, the film also plays with genre, and has firmly rooted itself in the hearts of multiple generations of film and adventure lovers. Can you imagine a world without the line, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”??? 

Of course you can’t… it’s “”inconceivable!!!”

All the President’s Men

Goldman won his second Academy Award for the screenplay adapted from the book All the President’s Men, written by the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal. The film, which is still regarded by many as one of the greatest of all time, takes the real-life investigation of newspaper journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they run up directly against a Nixon administration fighting to stay in power. Who would’ve thought its themes and even plot points of cover-ups and political corruption would be more resonant than ever forty years later? 

There are several other fantastic films written by William Goldman in his decades-spanning career, too many to list. Watching them all would not only be a great source of entertainment, but a Master Class in screenwriting from the man himself. 

RIP William Goldman – your contributions to cinema will not be forgotten.

 

Filming for a Movie vs. Filming for a TV Show: What You Should Know

The entertainment industry continues to grow at a rapid pace — according to Stephen Follows, a data researcher in the film industry, more than 700 films were released across the U.S. in 2016 alone. What is even more surprising is that the number that Follows reported doesn’t even include film festivals, private screenings, and other types of showcases such as broadcasts of opera or theatre productions.

And even while the number of films keeps growing, the amount of original television content continues to peak. In an article published by Variety, writer Maureen Ryan wrote that there were more than 450 scripted original programs released in 2016.

Don’t expect the expansion of movies and television shows to slow down any time soon. The entertainment industry continues to dominate a complicated, turbulent world. But when it comes to creating these stories, what are the differences between filming for a movie and television show?

television tv

Storytelling

Most television series are created with the idea that the show will be around for an extended amount of time. Typically, writers intend for each episode to have a small story arc that often ties in with a larger story arc told over the course of a season or more.

This added amount of time allows writers to develop characters that are more in-depth and have greater dimension. Additionally, there can be a much larger cast over the course of a series because of the time afforded for an audience to get to know them. Tension can be ratched up between characters and other story elements much more slowly than in a feature film as well.

Budget

A budget for a movie is usually bigger than a budget for a television series. In Hollywood, more money can mean more and stronger special effects, more high-profile talent in front of and behind the camera, and more diverse and exciting locations to film on.

Besides a few notable exceptions, television series don’t normally have the same type of budgets that movies do. This forces directors, producers, and screenwriters to be more creative with the storyline and character development, as well as scale back the effects and scope of their projects. This is a good reason why Wonder Woman and Spider-Man may have giant CGI supervillains while Daredevil and Luke Cage will fight mostly fairly straightforward stunt actors.

film projector

Audience Experience

Viewing a film in a theater can be a very different experience than watching one from your couch at home. Television series, outside of events like Comic Con, are almost never seen in such a way. Scaling your story so that it can work on a screen as tiny as the smallest smartphone then is an important thing to consider when producing a television series as opposed to a movie.

Additionally, when it comes theatrical releases, viewers don’t have the same time commitment they may give to a television series. Shows give the audience flexibility in a way a movie can’t — you can pause the television show whenever you want, and or resume it at another time. Viewers may binge watch an entire series in one weekend, or take months or even years to get through the entire story. In a theater, an audience is more-or-less committed to sitting through and experiencing the whole thing in one sitting.

This is important when considering certain plot and narrative elements. If you’re worried certain story choices may scare off your viewers, you might want to make sure you pace these moves in a smart way in a television series. If it’s in a film, you may get away with it for the whole two hours!

These are just a few key differences between longform and shortform cinematic storytelling. And, of course, movies and television series (especially these days) also share many similarities. If you’re interested in learning the craft of filmmaking for either, or both, of these mediums, check out the programs offered by the New York Film Academy today!

What Life as a Swing, Understudy, or Standby is Like

In theatre, we have what we call: a swing, an understudy and a standby. Three distinct, respected functions. There can a handful of these actors in the same shows for the lead roles, depending on the budget and the roles’ physical demand. Knowing that Broadway shows run eight times a week, it is very important that someone will be able to rock that stage no matter what.

In major Broadway productions, you can usually find performers hired to learn the track (the choreography and lines of a particular role) and ready to jump in at any point during the show if needed.

Backstage 2

A swing wears at least two hats. They can “swing” between two parts in the same show. Lots of ensemble members right now on Broadway are swings to one of the lead roles and perform an ensemble track on a regular basis. Some are ensemble members and can be noted as swing to one of the major lead parts.

An understudy learns the track for when the primary performer is absent. Usually, if the said name is famous, another big name can be called as an understudy for that specific replacement. They are then aware in advance when they will perform.

A standby, literally, is always ready to go on at any time. For example, in the first act, you may applaud one lead but applaud a different performer for the same role in the second act. If a standby isn’t there for such an occasion, the production can ask a swing. A standby has to be backstage at all time, warmed up, made up, and costume-ready so that the show can move on smoothly if the original actor cannot perform their role.

Backstage

It is important to know that after the previews, all shows are “frozen,” which means that the blocking and choreography are locked. Therefore, each performer who learn each track must be very thorough and respect the writer, director and creator’s visions, not deviating from what has been locked.

Each of these jobs are crucial to the theatre industry — just as crucial as the primary leads and no swing, understudy, or standby is less talented whatsoever. Many will go through months of long auditions and are cast on the same criteria as the leads.

The beauty of a company is that initially, everyone knows the track of one another. There are of course official swings, understudies, and standbys though. The quality on stage is delivered to its best no matter who performs.

How To Pitch to Game Developers

Are you wondering how to pitch to game developers?

In 2009, twenty-nine year old Markus “Notch” Persson started work on RubyDung, a procedurally generated construction sim that was a mash-up of Dwarf Fortress, Dungeon Keeper, and Roller Coaster Tycoon. By the time he had reached Alpha with his game, Notch had changed the game’s name to MineCraft and decided that he needed to monetize his efforts.

In June of 2009, he sold over 1,000 copies at 10.00 € apiece. As the game gained over 20,000 registered players, Notch was able to cut his day-job’s hours back and dedicate his time to finishing the game. By 2010, MineCraft had won game of the year, and Notch had quit his day job. By 2014, he sold his company to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars.

But Notch’s story is an unusual one. Most game developers will have to pitch their game to someone – be it a publisher, a developer, or a crowdfunding audience – before it reaches market.

What is a pitch? A pitch is a presentation created by a game developer in order to obtain a publishing contract or financing. Pitches contain information about your game, how it plays, what it is about, what is special about it, what platform is it for, who is its audience, and more.

While there is no hard and fast rule to the format of your pitch presentation, (you can find a pitch presentation outline in my book Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design) there are several guidelines you can follow to make sure your pitch goes as smoothly as possible.

Set the tone from the beginning; you are entertaining, not just selling.

A pitch is an opportunity to make a publisher excited about your game. This means showing your game in the best possible light. Showcase whatever is most exciting about your game using images and examples. A little humor doesn’t hurt either. However, a pitch is not a talent show. Save extreme activities like singing, impersonations, and jokes for the talent show.

A powerpoint presentation is the most common method of pitching. However, be aware that your audience can lose interest quickly – never linger too long on one slide and never show a slide that only shows words. Have at least one compelling image per slide and make sure that image is related to whatever you are talking about. Use concept art, screenshots, or even inspirational images from other games. If an image looks good and gets your point across – show it!

How you present yourself is just as important as what you are presenting. Treat a pitch presentation as if it were a job interview. Dress nicely. Make eye contact while speaking. Speak clearly and not too fast. Be mindful of your body language – avoid crossing your arms and alternate who you are looking at as you give your presentation.

If public speaking isn’t your strongest trait, consider pitching with a partner. Recruit another member of your team to help you out with the pitch. Take turns describing the game, the story, the features, and gameplay. You’ll feel much more confident with a backup.

Know your USPs

USP stands for Unique Selling Propositions. These are the most unique and exciting features of your game. It’s what makes your game stand apart from all of the others. There should be three to five USPs in your pitch presentation. Even if your game has more, try to limit it down to no more than five or six – otherwise you start to “muddy the waters”.

USPs are the backbone of your marketing plan. If you need ideas to generate USPs, try looking at the back of a videogame box. USPs are almost always used to sell a game to a consumer. However, many amateur game developers don’t use the right USPs in their presentation.

Often “beautiful art” and “engaging storylines” are mentioned as USPs. Don’t use these. EVERY GAME should have beautiful art and an engaging storyline. Focus on what makes your game unique. Is it a novel control system? Is it a brand-new style of gameplay? Is it a powerful engine that can handle a lot of detail? Is a famous artist creating your characters? These are the type of USPs you will want to include in your presentation.

Know who you are pitching to

Everyone in the pitch meeting is there for a different reason. The head of production wants to know if your team has “what it takes” to make a game. The marketing director wants to know what the “X” and the “Y” of your game – what makes your game “X-citing” and “Y” should I care? The technologist wants to know how you are going to make your game. The project manager wants to know how much your game costs. The creative type wants to know what is cool about your game and how it will play.

Make sure your pitch addresses at least a little bit about all of these issues. When entering a pitch meeting, try to meet everyone at the table and find out a little bit about what they do, then cater your pitch accordingly. A good tip is to collect business cards and then lay them out on a table in relation to everyone in the room. That way, you can address everyone by name and have a reminder of what job position they hold.

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas

While you are presenting, don’t be afraid to go “off-script”, especially if someone in your audience asks questions. Questions will arise during your pitch and often they will be questions that you don’t know the answers to. Instead of making something up, it’s ok to say “I don’t know” or “we are still considering that” and move on.

Publishers know that things change over the course of a game’s production, so it’s ok to have a few issues that you haven’t addressed yet. That said, it’s always better to have firm answers than incomplete ones.

The pitch for BioShock changed radically after receiving feedback from publishers. If audience members start to offer ideas, it means that they are interested in your game. That’s a good thing! Make sure to write them down, as they will often be good suggestions. However, if someone offers an idea or suggestion that just doesn’t align with your game, don’t argue or tell the person that it is a bad idea – instead thank them for their idea and move past it. There’s no need to be rude or disrespectful during the pitch.

Be prepared for the worst

No matter how prepared you are for your pitch, problems can arise. When problems happen (and they will happen) try not to sweat it too hard. Try not to make excuses or downplay your game when it does. Instead, try your best to resolve the issue and continue with your pitch.

Technical issues will happen. I have experienced many pitches where the game didn’t work, the camera was broken, the controls were unstable, or the AI didn’t function properly. But that’s OK. You are pitching to people who experience technical issues in prototypes and games in development all of the time. If something doesn’t go right with your demo, just remind them that you are showing off a work-in-progress. Your audience will generally understand and be patient with you.

Try to resolve your technical issues quickly, but even if the situation is unsalvageable, don’t give up hope. The best pitch I ever experienced was for the game that became Evolve. The Turtle Rock team brought in their playable demo and of course, it didn’t work. Their Powerpoint presentation wouldn’t load. But they didn’t let that phase them and because they were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their game, they managed convince THQ’s management to sign the game!

Just remember to be prepared, be flexible, and remember to have fun. With some practice, you too will soon be pitching like a pro! Good luck with all your pitches!