NYU Film Student: “Idiotic” to Question Film School Methods

Hey guys. Today I received a comment on the site from an NYU student taking issue on this website and my argument that an expensive film school like NYU (my alma matter) is a waste of money. Specifically with me raising a criticism about the school still charging $40,000 a year in tuition to provide students with black and white film cameras that cost less than $100 a day to rent.

Specifically, I think it is absurd for a 20 year old to pay $20,000 a semester to do film exercises that look like this:

This student, “Shawn”, disagreed. I didn’t want to leave this long exchange on the NYU Film School page, so I am posting it here. This is his message:

“Are you an idiot? You really think it is a waste of time for film students to make silent films while studying? Do you know anything about film? Making a project like this teaches the bare basics of film in the best way. They are restricted to shear visual story telling. THAT IS WHAT FILMMAKING IS ALL ABOUT. And are you seriously judging the quality of their work based on how much money it takes to make it? Just to let you know, underclassmen at NYU tisch film shoot dozens of projects, like this and others on various formats, on a small budget. For thesis films, students are provided with a much larger budget, but are also encouraged to raise money for their film and pitch it to producers like they will have to do after school. They are not begging for money the way you make it seem, they are learning in a real world situation. And forget about all this, you are an idiot for thinking that attending film school warrants any kind of special job upon graduation. Just because someone goes to tisch does not mean they are handed over millions after graduation to make hollywood movies. regardless of where you go to school, you have to take charge and make the most of your time there, not expect things to be handed to you. so yeah, go ahead and trash some of the jobs that some tisch kids are getting. its their fault they didn’t make more of themselves. but you could also talk to the hundreds of recent grads from tisch that are making all these pretentious people like you go to shame. yeah there are my two cents”

I was disturbed by this, of course, because someone like Shawn is the very person I would like to reach with the message of this website.

And this is my response:

Hi Shawn,

Thanks for the mature and thoughtful comment. Calling me “an idiot” was a particularly compelling point, that clearly reflects your authority and expertise on this topic. It’s “sheer” storytelling, by the way.

I graduated Tisch with honors back in 1999. I know all about the program, the professors, and the alumni support after graduation, including many well known alumni who do not wish to be associated with the school because of how little help it was when they began their careers.

I am absolutely judging these films based on the amount of money it takes to make them. Just because you are in college doesn’t excuse somebody paying $40,000 a year to make silent black and white films using 50 year old cameras that aren’t manufactured anymore. I know the Tisch Undergrad Curriculum well. Sound Image, Frame and Sequence, Sight and Sound, Color Synch, and Narrative. Translation: make a radio play, take still pictures, shoot silent black and white films, short videos, and then pay $20,000 in tuition to make a 5 minute and a 10 minute color film.

It’s absurd.

Certainly a film student shouldn’t expect to be handed the keys to the kingdom after graduation. But after investing 4 years of their time and energy and $200,000 in tuition they should expect to get a more in depth, practical training on producing a feature film, networking, marketing themselves, and the proper means to actually raise funds from private investors. And it would be fantastic if such an education led to greater opportunities than holding a boom pole or getting coffee.

Yes, students are encouraged to raise money for their films in school. But they aren’t taught how. It usually involves hitting up family and friends, something that rarely cuts it in the real world when you need a $200,000 budget. You need to know about how to present your project in a compelling way, legally receive money through a private placement memorandum and then figuring out a distribution plan. You don’t take $100,000 and sink it into a 1 year production of a 30 minute short film (Advanced). You would be fired and run out of the industry for such an absurd waste of time and money.

The point of this is to wake you up to the money you are wasting at school and free you up to get your money back and make your own damn movie! If you want to make silent movies in black and white that is great but do it on your own camera without paying $40,000. Make 100 silent movies to hone your craft but don’t pay more than a house to do so. Use the money you save to either buy your own equipment and/or hire a pro crew to shoot something that you can actually sell or use to demonstrate your skill. You won’t be able to show those black and white films or Sound Image Radio dramas to agents or investors.

Most of the Professors you will be learning from haven’t worked seriously in the business for many years, some since before you were born. Their income is from a tenured position at an educational institution.

I’d love to see a list of the successes from Tisch who can directly attribute their success to school. Of the thousands of classmates of mine who graduated between 1996-2001, only a handful have even shot a feature.

The general attitude towards film students is best reflected in the clip below, from Kevin Smith’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”.

Ironically I am saying that the school should be held accountable for providing you, a student, with more practical and powerful training. And you are defending the school’s entitlement to ream you financially, provide you with esoteric and theoretical film exercises and assignments, and do nothing to support you after graduation.

I think you deserve better than that. That’s why I created Film School Secrets.

God bless,

Seth

That said, here is a quote from 18 year old Ricardo Casco who is already working in the film industry.

“I need to make a bunch of flyers and hand them out at the big film schools, save people’s lives. Its very sad how film school works. I’m 18 and love Gripping, and have already worked on much bigger sets than the film school grad PAs on those low budget projects.

The chris rock video made me chuckle, but its a sad reality. An intern PA I spoke with said she is paying about 95k on an film degree, all she ended up doing was washing dishes and cleaning up on set. I don’t know about you, but I wouldnt pay that much to do janitor work.”

What do you think?


One Response to “NYU Film Student: “Idiotic” to Question Film School Methods”

  1. John says:

    Seth,

    Someone once told me to do what I love. Simply put, what I love is film. I have been a fan of cinema ever since the first movie I saw, Peter Pan, the one with Mary Martin from 1960. It has always been my dream to somehow work in that industry whether I write, direct, produce, or whatever. That being said, I never knew how to even begin to start down that path and its kind of a hard sell to the folks.
    I have already gone through undergraduate business school and left with a marketing degree and an operations mgmt degree. I am now working in the field of operations mgmt for a tech company. NYU Tisch school has a joint MBA/MFA program which I feel I would fit into perfectly. Its designed for creative people who also have the ability to think analytically and financially. On their website they specifically describe how the program is designed to teach many of the things which you said NYU did not teach you i.e. “practical training on producing a feature film, networking, marketing themselves, and the proper means to actually raise funds from private investors.” So while it will mean a lot of money and a lot of loans, I will also leave with two advanced degrees, including an MBA. Can you please give me your thoughts as to whether this would be just a waste of my time and money?

    Thanks and Regards,

    John

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