I obtained the BFA in Film Production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. As someone who has also attended USC’s Film School as well as having taken classes at UCLA’s Film Program, I thought I could offer some good perspective of what I thought of each and start with the one I spent the most time at: NYU.
NYU’s film school is located in Greenwich Village on the island of Manhattan in New York City. Going to school in such an urban location offers both positives and negatives. On a positive note, New York City is your campus and therefore you are in the mix of all the limitless cafes, stores, famous locations, iconic neighborhoods and interesting New York personalities that the city is famous for.
On the negative side, also, New York City is your campus so you don’t have the ‘protected campus experience’ you would have at a school with a closed off dedicated campus. In my opinion I viewed living, taking classes and making films in NYC to be a tremendous advantage. Where else would you get such great inspiration and material to draw from than in one of the greatest cities in the world. The only negative would be if you wanted to get out of the city to shoot or just to get some quiet away from the hustle of the city. It’s hard to keep a car in the city without spending a fortune but subways and trains can take you just about anywhere you need to go affordably.
NYU Film School’s curriculum consists of classes in all the major areas of the filmmaking process. There are classes in sound, editing, writing, television technology and finally group classes where you make films together in small crews. Generally, as you move through the program the projects you work on become more complex. In beginning film classes you might make black and white 8mm or short videos.
As you progress you make longer and more complex projects and can choose between experimental type or narrative films. Generally students are given a certain amount of tape or film stock and the basic equipment such as lights and dollies that one would need. If a student wishes to make something that requires more complex props and/or equipment then they need to provide the funding themselves.
Generally, every student that wants to can direct their own films with other students acting as crew members on their films and vice versa. NYU has a good selection of equipment. It is not always the latest technology and technology changes so frequently, especially when it comes to video, but in general you won’t be lacking for anything. They have ample editing facilities running from old steenbeck for film splicing to computer systems for use of final draft and adobe premier. Again, if a student wishes to shoot more footage than the school is willing to supply film or video for the student can pay for additional developing, etc.
Generally I found the professors to be competent with a few ‘exceptional’ ones thrown in. They are all working professionals with some more successful than others. In some classes you also have guest lecturers and occasionally famous alumni will teach a class such as Spike Lee or Woody Allen. Each week the school hosts film screenings and the director or producers of the film will show up to discuss with the class and take questions about how the film was put together and the history of making the film. These are great opportunities to network with successful alumni and often previous graduates of the program show up to watch these screenings so they are a great way to make contacts.
Where I felt the NYU Film Program fell a little short was in career planning and direction. They didn’t dedicate a whole lot of time to teaching you how to build a career after you graduated. This is one of the flaws I have found in most film programs. Luckily, NYU has so many graduates that work in the industry that if you are proactive you should easily be able to find successful graduates willing to sit down and speak with you about your ‘after graduation’ game plan.
In recent years the school has been good at building up its active alumni organization on both the East and West coasts so whether you decide to be based in New York or Los Angeles you can utilize this resource to create a network for yourself which is very important. Overall, I found the NYU Film School experience to be a good one for those wanting a generalized education in different aspects of filmmaking before embarking on a career.