Michael Rauch, director of USA’s hit TV show Royal Pains, recently came to the New York Film Academy to teach a Masterclass/Workshop.
He discussed how to break in to the TV industry as a writer, director, and producer. Michael also talked about the responsibilities of being a TV show runner and discussed opportunities for non-writing producers in TV.
The students, who were comprised of 2nd year filmmakers, 1st year screenwriters, and 1st year producers, experienced a Mock Writers Room. Michael took them through the process of developing a student’s idea for a TV series.
Photos by Bryan Ridgel.
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Deep Freeze: Extreme Filmmaking in the Arctic North
New York Film Academy instructor Kirill Yusim recently returned from Alaska, where he worked as a camera operator for the History Channel show Ice Road Truckers. The documentary-style program follows truck drivers who operate on seasonal roads, crossing frozen lakes and rivers in remote arctic territories. Kirill filmed on Alaska’s Dalton Highway, a deserted 400-mile stretch of road that begins north of Fairbanks, and ends at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean.
“It was my first time in Alaska,” says Kirill. “I knew it was cold. They provided us with an outer layer, boots, pants, and gloves. I picked up a few thick under layers… At the coldest, we wore 5 layers. The weather was -10°F in Fairbanks, and by the time we got to Atigun Pass [about 300 miles away], it was -50°F. There was crazy wind, and you would go through 4 or 5 different weather conditions.”
“We were following trucks pretty closely, doing interviews with drivers, and working on story lines,” he explained. “We would stop at least 8-10 times throughout the day. I was in a chase vehicle and the truck was in front of us. Sometimes we would get out and set up the tripod. Most of the time I’d be fighting through waist-high snow.”
From their home base in Fairbanks, Kirill says, “The one-way trip would take up to 18 hours. They were long days. We had days where it was like 22 hours. We would stay in funny little hotels in Prudhoe Bay. It’s a dry town with no restaurants. The places we had to stay at looked like meat lockers. Probably the coolest thing was shooting time lapses of the northern lights,” says Kirlll. “We would set the exposure and shoot a picture every 8 seconds, [also] shooting transitions from day to night, and the moon rising.”
Kirill teaches courses in cinematography, lighting, and directing at New York Film Academy at Universal Studios. He says, “The fact that I’m able to teach here and listen to students, gather information, and practice at the same time — it’s given me confidence and knowledge [on the set], to know what I’m looking at and knowing where to be.”
To learn more about our Universal Studios campus, click here.
New York Film Academy’s Alumni Spotlight: Jason Liles
“Before I moved to NYC I was told by many that I was too tall to be an actor,” says New York Film Academy Acting for Film graduate Jason Liles. “However, it seems my height was been the very thing that’s been getting me in the door to this point.”
The 6’10” actor has booked a number of high-profile jobs since his graduation in May 2010. Jason explains, “The very week after graduating… [I did an] episode of stand-in work for [pro wrestler] The Big Show as he guest starred on an episode of USA’s Royal Pains. That was my first experience on a big film or TV set ever.”
“About a month later, [I was called] in to audition for a principal role as a tall alien in Men In Black III 3D!” says Jason. “I ended up working as three aliens over several weeks with [7-time Academy Award-winning] special makeup effects artist Rick Baker and his crew. I worked on the film… with nearly the entire main cast. I got all my SAG waivers and made some great connections. It was an incredible experience. I’m very much looking forward to it’s release on May 25.”
Jason got another lucky break when he got a second callback for a role on a commercial. He recounts, “I was ecstatic… when I found out searching on the internet that it was a PRINCIPAL role in a NATIONAL Allstate commercial… This was my first time ever auditioning in front of the director, and all for a big project like this. MIB’s audition was for a camera. It was so cool to be getting direction from the director himself at the audition and I gave it my all in that room.”
Jason waited anxiously until he got the news that he booked the role. He explains, “Because of the waivers I got doing Men In Black III, I had to join SAG to do it so I also got my SAG card!!! Meetings with agents were being set up!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was in denial even. I started to think, ‘Okay, it’s a commercial, but it won’t be that big. It can’t be.’ It just seemed too easy and too good to be true.”
“The shoot went amazing,” he says. “Around 300 extras were cast for the crowd, and about 15 principals including us basketball players. I got to work directly with Dean ‘Mayhem’ Winters and his 11-year stunt double, David Shumbris, all day. It was such a pleasure to work with both of them and I can’t say enough nice things about them. Also getting to work directly with acclaimed commercial director David Gray was really exciting for me. He was nominated for the prestigious DGA Commercial Director of the Year award in 2004 and I believe this was his first Allstate Mayhem commercial.”
“I had never experienced anything like a 2,000 frames-per-second high-speed camera getting my close-up for a national commercial before,” says Jason. “When we were setting up that shot, I can’t explain the anticipation and excitement for what was about to happen. I was so amped and felt so grateful to be standing on that court surrounded by such talent. After we got my close-up I went over to the monitor and watched it with David. It looked incredible! So epic! I remember standing behind David as he’s pointing at my face on the monitor saying to the assistant director, Peter Jackson, ‘That’s great! That’s perfect right there. Great, let’s move on.’ It was such a compliment for me to come from such a great director like him.“
The commercial is currently airing on CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Comedy Central, History, Fox, ESPN, and AMC. Jason says, “Another graduate of NYFA, Nick Purdy, said my ‘shocked face is plastered all over Canadian television.’ So evidently it’s showing internationally as well.”
“I love this business,” Jason says. “Less than a week before shooting the commercial, I knew nothing about it. Persistence is key in anything, and… especially in this industry. I feel so very blessed and so lucky to get this opportunity only a couple years into my career. I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities that have been given to me and can’t wait to see what’s next…. There’s one thing that I’ve come to learn in this business: you never know what’s right around the corner.”
The Power of Pitchfest
Pitchfest is events at New York Film Academy held shortly after graduation for MFA and AFA students in Screenwriting and Producing. A culmination of their studies, graduates pitch their thesis projects, usually a TV pilot or feature screenplay, to television and film professionals. It’s a great opportunity for students to start developing relationships in the industry.
About 15 producing students held their event on campus in March, pitching their projects to industry professionals including guests from HBO and Network Television, and even George Gallo, writer of Midnight Run, Bad Boys, and The Whole Ten Yards. Twelve screenwriting students held their event at West Hollywood’s luxurious Andaz Hotel. By the end of the evening, each student had pitched to about 20 companies.
Since the event, a number of students from both departments have gotten interest from companies. Congratulations to our recent Screenwriting and Producing graduates!
Mad Men returns on AMC this Sunday, March 25 for its much anticipated 5th Season. Matt Weiner and the creators have kept their lips sealed about this season, making us wonder what will possibly happen next. Will Don stay with Megan? Will Joan have Roger’s baby? Will Peggy leave the agency? The possibilities are endless. We want to hear where you think this season will go.
This past week followers such as @vdvalor, @hollywood_trey, and @putyrdreams1st shared their favorite TV show movie adaptations. We especially loved how @ljfrack wants the Arrested Development film out right now. Can you blame her? Moreover, we posted our Top 5 Robert De Niro movies of all time and received a slew of opinions. @abuthabt007 and many others were riled over The Deer Hunter exclusion and our Facebook fans were abuzz with their own favorites. Amusingly, some of the films didn’t even feature Robert De Niro on the cast! Reservoir Dogs? As always, we appreciate fine folks like @KarinnePatricia and @agnesagathia sharing with us their journey as newly minted #NYFA students. Those are the type of tweets we absolutely live for!
Maybe Rachel is fine with having an enormous beak. Maybe she needs it to crack hard seeds. - Santana Lopez
Thanks to the almighty Gleek army on Twitter for submitting their favorite Santana GIFs to our Gleek of the Week contest. It was to commemorate our spicy Latina’s epic take-down of Sebastian on Tuesday’s #GleeHee episode. New York Film Academy is proud to boast such amazing alumni among our ranks. As we expand our brand presence on many of the latest digital platforms, we’ll continue to support NYFA graduates Naya Rivera and Chord Overstreet by engaging with one of the most dynamic fan communities on the Internet. One example is our new Pinterest profile creating vision boards which represent the NYFA message for hands-on film and acting education. This contest was our first board. Check it out! Anyways, without further ado, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
NYFA’s Gleek of the Week is @AwkwardGlee. Thank you for submitting the best GIFs of the bunch as well as tweeting some of the most hilarious Glee content. Hope to stay connected with you.
Also, many thanks to our runner-ups!