Starting near the southern coast in South Africa, the New York Film Academy team will head north to Tunisia and Morocco. If you’re looking to pursue a career in the arts and want to learn more about our hands-on intensive programs, you won’t want to miss this rare event.
Creative thinking empowers you to believe in yourself and succeed. The psychology of learning film. Click here!
The Importance of an “Indelible” Screenplay
Melanie Williams Oram is the department chair of Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Campus. Melanie wrote and directed SHOOK, a short film that Showtime acquired and airs. SHOOK won several awards including Best film of the Festival at the inaugural Juneteenth Festival. Her feature length version of SHOOK was an Urbanworld Screenplay Competition Finalist. She has produced several award winning shorts including A-Alike, which won the Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards and a DGA Award. She has won both an Emmy and a Peabody for her work at HBO Sports. Currently she is producing her first independent feature film, Indelible.
I am nearing the end of the production phase on my first feature film Indelible. This film tells the story of El Bonds, an African American female scientist who races to find the cure for a disease that killed her husband and threatens to take the life of her teenage son. As the producer on this project, I am struck by how important a solid script is to creating a quality film. Yes, the feature film arena is one where the director is clearly the ruling monarch, and I’ve always preached that without a good script, the director, even a great director, has nothing. Now after nearly finishing the production phase of Indelible, I see in practice that a well-structured script is the engine that powers the rest of the filmmaking train.
Our process on Indelible has been truly collaborative. Our writer, Mikki del Monico wrote the script and asked Randy Dottin, the director to attach himself to the project. Randy and I had collaborated on several short film projects together and he asked me to come onto the project as a producer.
As a team our first step was to apply for a production grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Mikki already had an established track record with Sloan and had previously won a $10,000 screenwriting grant for an earlier draft of Indelible. We were fortunate enough to win the $100,000 production grant and then our journey to make a feature film began. I worked with Mikki and Randy for about two years on developing the script and getting it ready to shoot. Mikki wrote countless drafts and we had several meetings about how to clarify the want of the protagonist, increase the intensity of the obstacles created by our antagonist, and shape subplots that were both engaging and well-crafted.
We went into production confident that our script had all the elements of a good drama. We completed our initial shoot and managed to stay true to our original vision.
After a fairly lengthy break in production, we cut together an assemble version of the film and re-evaluated the script. It was clear that we needed to do some pick-up shoots. We were facing some challenges as a production because we didn’t have access to some of the key talent that we needed. We wanted to finish the film strong and so we were faced with the task of altering the script again. Our new script needed to create a softer side of our protagonist by deepening some of her personal relationships. This process included broadening the role of some characters, minimizing the role of other characters, and even recasting one of Indeiible’s major players.
To date, we have completed two pick-up shoots and we plan to do one more in the late spring/early summer. We are editing a new cut of the film that incorporates all our footage from all three (3) periods of our production phase (initial production + two pick-up shoots). We will look at the cut and determine not only which scenes need to be reshot but what scenes need to added to the script to ensure that we enter into Indelible’s post production phase in the strongest possible position. We have pledged that we will not embark on this final pick-up shoot until we believe the newest version of the script is solid. As a team we are still committed to the idea that a strong, well structured script provides a blueprint for making sure that ultimately we produce “a good story that is well told.”
I believe that my experiences as a professional filmmaker, and definitely my work with the Indelible project have shaped my teaching in the classroom. As an instructor, I try to bring together theory and practice. I’d be curious to hear your ideas on screenwriting theory and how you’ve put those ideas into practice. What are your experiences with developing and/or producing your own scripts either for shorts or feature films?
To learn more about NYFA’s Screenwriting program, please click here.
All Photos Taken By Gregory Costanzo
One Graduate’s Journey to the Cannes Film Festival
New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi grad Faraz Waqar’s graduation thesis film 9:11 AM was selected for its world premiere at the Festival de Cannes 2012 Short Films Corner. The Short Films Corner hands you an annual tailor-made program of industry meets, workshops and conferences that deal with strategic issues. Faraz will benefit from all the advantages of being an accredited attendee of the festival. He can access the Marché du Film exhibitors or those in the Village International. Faraz will also be able to network with all the biggest industry players, whether they are institutions, financiers and the most important international reps in the film business. Talk about opening some doors. What more can a film graduate ask for?
Tell us where your passion started?
Studying film and working in film was always my dream. Reviving the film industry in my own country through films has always been my goal. However, the pressure for financial success and lack of support from my family forced me to study Business Management instead of filmmaking. I spent 12 years working in the corporate world as a banker in the Middle East but never let my dream of becoming a filmmaker die. After achieving a fair degree of success in my business career and achieving financial independence, I was in a position to finally pursue my dream and passion.
What drives you as an artist?
The Middle East has played a very important role in the of human civilization. In recent years, however, this region has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. Cinema is the most powerful tool to make or break the image of a person, culture or country. Becoming a film director puts you in a position of immense power. You can influence the hearts and minds of people of the world. This is the best way to contribute something which will benefit your own culture. You also enjoy the immense opportunity to be creative. You’re having fun too.
I joined the 1-year Filmmaking program in Abu Dhabi last February. The institution brought to my doorstep the facilities and instruction that has trained so many prominent filmmakers in the United States. I graduated from NYFA two months ago. It was perhaps the most memorable year of my life. I truly lived my dream. The best part about studying at NYFA was learning from professors who had a wealth of experiences working as directors and cinematographers on world renowned film projects both in Hollywood and in the Middle East. The student body in Abu Dhabi is extremely diverse. We have classmates from Australia, India, Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Pakistan, Lebenon, Switzerland, Iraq, UAE, Nigeria and Denmark. It was superb because you got to make some wonderful friends from different cultures and benefit from their vastly different perspectives. I formed some very close friendships and enjoyed working with this diverse international group. Film school always ends up attracting the most creative and passionate people. The network I’ve established will benefit me in any project I pursue.
NYFA’s program is intensive and comprehensive. Film projects start from idea conception to script finalization, and ranges from casting, editing, production and post-production. I wrote, directed and edited 8 complete films during my one year at the school. In addition I was also involved in the production of 39 films in various capacities as part of the crew (short films, documentaries and music videos) for other directors. I got full freedom to experiment, shoot and work on different ideas and scripts for my projects.
We had access to some of the best film cameras in the world. We shot from digital to 16mm, 35mm and even on the Red Epic. It was amazing.
What is your perspective on screening at film festivals? Advice on the process?
Recognition at quality film festivals do add a lot of credibility to a new filmmaker’s profile. It gives one confidence as a professional to people. Recognition at a major festival immediately bring you into the spotlight, especially in a market where filmmaking is still in a nascent stage and the people in the industry all know each other. It helps bring your name into notice amongst all in the film making circle. Never make your film with the intention of getting into any particular festival. That is not the way I would do it. Be selective about the festivals you apply to once your film is complete. I believe that whatever comes naturally from your heart will represent you and what you are most passionate about. It will turn out to be your best work. It is also very important to present their films professionally. Films submitted should be properly branded. DVDs must be labelled, craft themed posters meticulously, and make sure to select originally composed or royalty-free music. This improves the chances of selection too. Every small detail helps.
What kind of advice would you give to the aspiring filmmaker and NYFA student dreaming to succeed?
Be yourself. Let your work be original. Let it be your best creative effort on a subject you are passionate about. It will naturally bring out the best in you. Believe in your work but never shy away from feedback and criticism from a trusted source. The audience is your consumer, and you must communicate a certain point of view. Being too abstract for the sake of being artistic may cause the message of your film to be lost. Be intelligent. Do not focus on controversial topics for the sake of controversy. Base your film on a controversial topic if you truly believe in it. Your script is everything. Make sure it’s perfect. Make sure it’s engaging and interesting.
Actors matter the most. Their performance can make or break your film. Select them wisely, prepare them well and value their time and effort. You cannot make a film alone. It’s a team effort. Your crew is contributing in a major way to give shape to your vision. Value them and treat them with respect. Build your team with the next project in mind. Don’t use and discard others. Selfishness and a bad attitude will take you nowhere in a very team-dependent industry.
Learn more about NYFA in Abu Dhabi. Click here.
Broadway’s #AuditionNYFA coming to Chicago, Austin, and Orlando: Join Our Campaign and Win Swag!
Our musical theatre department is holding auditions in three major American cities. To thank those who are auditioning, we’re offering a chance to win a signed copy of department chair VP Boyle’s extremely well-received audition book Audition Freedom: The Irreverent Wellness Guide For Theatre People. It’s gotten rave reviews. Boyle is one of the most sought-after audition coaches in New York City and a prolific blogger for Broadway World. Come to any of the auditions and tweet a picture of yourself with any of the visiting faculty using the hashtag #AuditionNYFA. Audition for a cutting-edge program in the arts and be on your way to an education unlike any other in the world.
For those who can’t come to the auditions, we still need your help with getting the word out. Anyone who tweets or reblogs this link: (http://bit.ly/wOcayd) along with the hashtag #AuditionNYFA will be eligible to win a copy of the Broadway playbill for Wicked signed by original cast member and NYFA teacher Kristy Cates.
Are you a blogger who loves to write about musical theatre? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the blog article promoting this audition tour and you’ll have a chance to win an exclusive interview with department chair VP Boyle. No doubt it will be amazing content for you to share with your following.
New York Film Academy Faculty Wins L.A. Weekly Theatre Award Nominations
Just announced this morning, the L.A. Weekly Theater Awards honored New York Film Academy faculty members Giovanni Ortega and Maria Gobetti with nominations.
Technique and scene study instructor Maria Gobetti garnered a nomination for her leading role in Sex and Education at the Victory Theatre Center. The acclaimed actress is also the artistic director and co-founder of the Victory, and was featured on the L.A. Stage Times website last summer.
Movement instructor Giovanni Ortega, who we profiled on the NYFA blog in December, was nominated for Best Ensemble for The Romance of Magno Rubio, the award-winning play that opened the 2011/2012 season at Los Angeles’ historic Ford Amphitheatre. The production also racked up nominations for Leading Male Performance, Choreography, and Direction.
Giovanni will also be working with Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts at the Getty Center on Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18 as part of the Sounds of L.A. concert series.
The 33rd annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards will be held at the Avalon in Hollywood on April 2. Congratulations to our New York Film Academy Acting instructors!
New York Fashion Week Meets NEON Americana
New York City is often considered the matron metropolis impacting creativity and commerce throughout the globe. Many of our students do indeed pursue the career path illuminated by those glorious Hollywood lights. A peculiar breed of cinematic visionaries, however, has appeared in the arts and cultural scene seeking opportunities outside of movie studios and inside the illustrious world of New York high fashion. One student has stepped forward as arbiter of a brave artistic movement in a cultural age saturated by faux-freedom and endless hipster posturing. Steep Daniels (Cinematography ‘11) is spearheading the vision of NEON Americana.
“NEON Americana represents a new breed of young people, a new way of living. We are freed from social constructs, breaking through into the life they’ve always dreamed of. It represents the new way of living in which its vibrant characters charge through life, never taking ‘no’ for an answer—inspired to be the biggest, best version of themselves. They envision a post-apocalyptic America. One in which a lone television set appears to be the last one left after a cataclysmic event of epic proportions. We look inside the screen to find the next wave of Mankind: the NEON generation.”
As its name implies, NEON’s visual aesthetic is unapologetic in its brightly bold nod to the American spirit. Canadian-bred and hailing from Toronto, Steep exudes a passion which is reminiscent of the unabashed artistic ambition now seen as legend. The sort of creative character—a purity long lost—made famous by the Mudd Club kids in the late 70’s. The young Basquiat as graffiti artist SAMO. A sprightly Glenn O’Brien decades prior to his arrival at GQ magazine. Creatives fueled by youth and an earnestness, they were making their mark with a devil-may-care attitude of art trumps artist. When NYFA produces filmmakers like Daniels who conjure this golden nostalgia through a splashy collaboration with celebrity designer Stevie Boi, we want the student body to stand up and take notice. Stevie Boi’s ascent in fashion is remarkable. Backed by endorsements from pop culture icons Lady GaGa and Madonna, Boi is garnering acclaim for his ability to create drama through his designs. Therefore it is fascinating that he is becoming a character player in the vast NEON universe, a film series about artistic redemption in the heat of dystopian despair. The first subject of this series, Boi collaborated with Daniels in order to proclaim a new world order in the creative arts. “I’ve wanted to do a fashion film with a big artist for a long time and wanted to work with someone who represented a new form of fashion,” said Daniels.
Daniels has enlisted fellow NYFA students Sandra Stakic (Documentary Filmmaking ‘12) and Markus E. Mueller (Cinematography ‘10) to assist in building the NEON brand. Stakic is working on a nonfiction film documenting the creative process of Daniels while Mueller acts as Director of Photography for the project. Stakic credits Daniels for the concept and execution of NEON. As she explained, “It’s his energy which draws people. His willingness to collaborate inspires others around him to be creative.” Becoming friends on their first day of classes at NYFA, the graduates credit the NYFA faculty for inspiring their drive to succeed. “Andrea Swift was incredible. The documentary students became a family in the end. There was healthy competition and a total respect for the filmmaking process,” says Stakic. Recounting 18-hour work days, Daniels credits department chair John Loughlin for teaching him how to “connect the dots” and to stay focused on storytelling no matter the chaos being wrought on set. He also described a creative process unhindered by the oft-cited idea called financial compensation. Everyone involved, including set designers and actors, were not paid. As Daniels explained, “We did it for the passion of being creative. Boi came to Toronto on a bus to work on this film and told me that he was inspired by our willingness to bring everything and ask for nothing.”
Daniels is entering the New York arts scene in full force. NEON Americana will be screened during the Stevie Boi show for New York Fashion Week tomorrow on February 9th. He is also a part of SPiN New York’s annual Valentine’s Day benefit for M.A.D.A on February 14th hosted by the prince of Madagascar and actress Susan Sarandon. He designed the ping-pong table to be auctioned in order to raise proceeds for the foundation. Daniels is committed to expanding the NEON movement to include creative collaboration outside of the world of fashion. Working for passion with no promises, Steep Daniels never expected to have his art become a centerpiece for a designer deemed as the next fashion icon by Vogue Italia. He is living his vision aimed at shifting the paradigm of creativity and commerce.