The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Presents Honorary MFA Degree to Tippi Hedren

By: Jan. 25, 2012

The New York Film Academy (NYFA) has a long and impressive list of speakers who have shared their insight and knowledge with students who have chosen acting and/or filmmaking as a career. Previous guests have included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Glenn Close, Dennis Hopper, John Carpenter, Kevin Klein, Jon Voight, Kevin Spacey, Ben Stiller, Ron Howard, Juliette Lewis, Sir Ben Kingsley, Andy Garcia and Steven Spielberg.

On Friday, January 20th, it was Golden Globe winner, Tippi Hedren, who appeared before anxious students eager to glean the rare experiences that Ms. Hedren has had as the only woman to have been directed by both Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin. Following a screening of Hitchcock's classic “The Birds” (Universal provided a remastered 35 mm version), in the Hitchock Theatre at Universal Studios, a packed house of NYFA students discussed her prolific film career and animal rights work. Students inquired about techniques and wisdom garnered from both the past as well as recent successes on television in 4400, Fashion House and CSI or films such as "Mulligans!" for which she received the “Best Actress in a Comedy Short” or "best Actress" for the short film "Tea With Grandma" from the New York International Independent Film Festival.

One of the few remaining and working “Hitchcock blondes,” Hedren told the story of getting her start in modeling and commercials before being discovered by Alfred Hitchcock. Despite having an often-difficult relationship with him, she spoke highly of the director, saying, “I was so fortunate because I had him, not only as my director, but as my drama coach, which was an absolutely wonderful experience.” She added, “He spoiled me terribly. You almost didn't know he was directing.”

The enthusiastic students asked questions about the icons Hedren had worked with over the years, including Sophia Loren, Jessica Tandy, and Marlon Brando. When asked about her on-set relationship with “Marnie” co-star Sean Connery, Hedren said, “If you have an affair with someone, it shows in your eyes, and I wasn't about to jeopardize that character for a moment -- not even for Sean Connery.” After a brief pause, she joked, “I kind of regret that now.”

The actress spoke at length about her extensive animal rights work, a cause that is dear to her heart, saying, “Some people are just born with a great love of animals.” She invited students to visit the Shambala Preserve (, a wild animal preserve Hedren founded in Acton, CA. The preserve is home to over 50 big cats, including lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards.

As a final question, Hedren was asked about her thoughts on the state of Hollywood today. She simply stated, “I hope that Hollywood gets past all these films that feature special effects as the star, as opposed to true thespians and gets back to some real stories that can affect people and change lives … and don't even get me started on TV Reality programs,” eliciting a roar of applause from the audience. Ms. Hedren was presented with an Honorary MFA degree in Acting for film from the New York Film Academy at the end of the Q&A. “Students have already be asking for her return,” says the programs moderator and the Masters Instructor for NYFA, Chris Devane. “We were quite honored she was able to speak with the students and since the event they have not stopped speaking about how honest and forthright she was about the business they are about to get into!”

“Talking to students of all ages is a welcomed invitation, which I accept most gratefully and with anticipation,” adds Ms. Hedren. “I accepted the date to speak to the students at the New York Film Academy and am thrilled with the knowledge and interest shown by the students. Their devotion to film is exciting and invigorating. Their questions were well thought out and the excitement about their career choice made the hour fly by. Being honored with the Master of Fine Arts Degree from the New York Film Academy is an accolade I shall carry with great pride and appreciation for the remainder of my life. I am eternally grateful to the faculty and the administration of the Academy for this very grand prestigious award of merit.”

The New York Film Academy film school programs are designed for a new generation of storytellers: visual artists who share a passion for motion pictures and want to learn by making their own projects in a hands-on, intensive program.

NYFA students come from across the United States and all over the world to learn and work together in short-term workshops or one and two-year degree programs. In the creation of their curricula, they work with faculty and professionals from around the world, adapting the best ideas and elements from the leading film school programs and designed intensive and accelerated alternatives that provide a thorough grounding in the craft.

Steven Spielberg, Al Pacino, Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, and Jodie Foster are among the many figures in the film industry that have sent their family members to study at the New York Film Academy. The Film Academy was founded on the philosophy that "learning by doing" combined with best industry practices is more valuable than years of theoretical study for filmmakers and actors. This educational model allows students to achieve more in less time than at all other film or acting schools in the world.

Photo Credit: Bill Dow