Through the grace of the internet, I somehow managed to get in contact with the mastermind behind New York Film Academy’s meteoric rise to success over the past 5 years. For those of us old enough to remember the early days, NYFA was a sad little joke in New York back in the 1990s. Their student body consisted of people who couldn’t get into NYU and desperately wanted to learn filmmaking.
It was, and still is, considered a “chop shop”. Students are herded through classes like cattle. They are fed fast cut and run basics on editing, shooting, and lighting, given some cheap video or film equipment, told to make a movie… they go out on the street, shoot some stuff, come back and edit it… add their name to the credits, put on some cool music and presto! They are filmmakers.
But even though what I just described is more remedial than what most people do with their Youtube videos, students are still lining up around the block to take out cash loans in excess of $100K to enter this retarded program. The reason? Amazing, awesome, social viral marketing.
NYFA has a brilliant website, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube presence. They take logical, legitimate criticism about their program and spin it on it’s head. They know that just because in reality, their program is a rip off, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they can create the image of success, excitement, and popularity. And they have done a fabulous job.
Another key component to NYFA success is their celebrity speaker program. Most people don’t realize that folks like Brett Ratner and Kevin Kline don’t come and speak at the school because they have any kind of affiliation with New York Film Academy; it’s because of something far more meaningful: money! So because NYFA is able to PAY to have filmmaking successes and actors speak at their events, it draws in starry eyed students who somehow believe that the mere presence of a celebrity will boost their filmmaking careers.
The reality is much harsher. People come out of NYFA clueless and disrespected out here in LA. When a PM hears you went to NYFA they think “trouble”. Why? NYFA is a for profit private school. Anyone can get in so long as they have the money, so there’s no assumption that you have any smarts or talent having graduated from there. Because the school is just a money making machine, and because they have graduated so many fools, NYFA grads have a reputation for being idiots.
There are always some talented and good people to go through the school, but the fundamental joke is this: anyone who is serious about filmmaking knows it takes about 1 day to learn the basics, and then you can get on student and pro film sets on your own. Paying $30K a year is criminally retarded.
But so long as the school has $10 Million or more a year to spend on marketing, the truth doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they are able to sell people the illusion that their school is a good idea, and the money will keep on rolling in.
It’s a great business. But is it a great school for you?
To find out more check out Film School Secrets.