WHERE TO GET SOME HANDS ON TRAINING? - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Q. I want to get intensive, hands-on training in filmmaking for a month or maybe two. From what I can see on-line, it looks as if the only serious places to do this in New York are the Digital Film Academy and the New York Film Academy. DFA is an Apple-licensed training site for Final Cut and various related applications. NYFA doesn't seem to be. Both are accredited by New York State. Do you have any idea how to gauge these two schools and decide which would be better for me?

It looks as though the NYFA has better connections — they have a Wikipedia entry and seem to have connections to a number of Hollywood names, as well as a Hollywood "campus". I'm a little uncomfortable with the glitziness of their website (and glossy brochure!), though. DFA has a 4-year old "Best of New York" recommendation from the Village Voice, but what exactly does the Voice know about film-making? And some of the things they say are unique to DFA seem also to be true of NYFA. NYFA tells its date of founding, which DFA doesn't. NYFA seems to work both with film and digital movies, while DFA seems to be purely digital, which I imagine is all I'd ever work in.

NYFA does have two things that I like: separate classes for people in different age groups, and a kind of modular system under which you can start with a 4-week course and then continue on into the 8-week course if you like, and after that into the 1-semester course and after that (if you still have money in the bank) into the 1-year course. But I really dislike glitziness, and NYFA definitely looks the glitzier of the two. So how do I decide between these places?
Well, campers? Anyone know about these places?

Labels:

12 Comments:

I don't know why something that costs so much money doesn't get more online discussion. Before I made the leap, I struggled in vain to find out what film school was "really like." The one valuable source of info I found was here: http://filmmaker.com/reviews.html. The consensus on NYFA: sucktown.

I'm biased--being as how I'm dropping some major change for an MFA degree--but why not look into a summer program with a known program? I don't think it does you any good to do a bunch of production work if you don't, at the same time, develop some storytelling skills. For that, you need great teachers, not 24 hour access to an editing bay. (Although the latter is good too, obviously.)

By Blogger Harriet, at 1:12 AM  

You didn't say what you're training for... director? Editor? Grip?

By Blogger Chopped Nuts, at 3:09 AM  

I'm the person from whom the original message came.

Re "what you're training for": Not training "for" anything; I want comprehensive basic training in the technical aspects of filmmaking and editing, in a reasonably short time. In future I'm most likely to use this training in making documentaries and other short films, probably being involved in most of the various aspects of film making.

By Blogger tealeaves, at 3:45 AM  

I've been out of the NYC "system" for a while now so my reflections on the DFA and the NYFA have no bearing on anything. I did go to NYU and they do have a School of Continuing Education Department. They have summer intensives for 12 weeks that white knuckle you through the process of making films. You will be immersed and they are intensive. The key to this kind of course is not to feed you the nuances of filmmaking and storytelling. They are there to put equipment in your hands and teach you how to use that equipment. It sounds like that's what you're looking for. Good luck.

By Blogger William, at 8:38 AM  

Before you sign up for an intensive program, take a look at continuing education programs at places like NYU (or, if you're on the West Coast, UCLA). They're inexpensive, and you can study at your own pace -- either intensively in the summer or a night or two a week.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 8:40 PM  

Ah, I see someone already recommended that. I worked with a documentary filmmaker at the Museum of Natural History whose only film training was the NYU continuing ed certificate program, and that seemed entirely sufficient to make documentaries.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 8:46 PM  

Within months of completing their classwork, some of my USC grad school classmates were teaching at NYFA.

Hey, the people in question are bright guys, who clearly have a lot to give. But they were barely (or in some cases, not at all) out of film school themselves.

It just makes me ambivalent about recommending it as anything other than a summer camp for high school kids. This is not to say it's worthless - you'll do a lot of learning by doing and you'll get some good guidance - but my opinion it's more like prep for a real film school than prep for working in the industry.

By Blogger Hotspur, at 1:41 AM  

Thanks to all for these comments. (I will keep reading future postings, of course.)

I have read about 50 reviews of NYFA from http://filmmaker.com/reviews.html . (There are only two reviews of DFA on filmmaker.com, both blandly favorable but uninformative.) It appears that in 2001-2002 there was a small propaganda war about NYFA on filmmaker.com, with some writers claiming that NYFA was trying to manipulate the site to its own advantage. About 75% of the NYFA reviews I read are marked “recommend”, although even a number of those say things that make me uncomfortable about the school, so I doubt they’re purely propaganda. There was much interesting information in those details. I can’t really agree with harriet’s comment in the present blog that the “consensus on NYFA” was “sucktown”, although in the end (for a number of reasons) I’m not inclined to go to NYFA. It looks to me as if the program can sometimes be very good, but that the quality of one’s time there will be greatly affected by chance.

One common complaint about NYFA is that projects are done by groups of students, and it’s difficult to have a good experience if one doesn’t happen to get put into a good working group, while the nature of NYFA’s admissions policy prevents it from being selective. There are also complaints about how disorganized the school is, and I have already experienced that while dealing with the staff — I was invited to come in to observe a class that was not in fact taking place in the building at the scheduled time, and the person who invited me failed to call back as agreed and evidently just vanished after our initial contact.

Other complaints on filmmaker.com involve the fact that NYFA does not help with job placement, which I consider a dubious issue. A more serious matter is the claim that NYFA’s equipment for the intensive film courses is out of date and not always in good working order. But because I am someone in middle age and mid-career hoping to add film to my existing interests, I am most likely to work in digital video, and so complaints about film cameras and editing tools are off the point for me.

As proposed by some of the voices on the present blog, I’ve looked closely at the continuing education film program at NYU. It currently includes intensive classes of 4, 8, and (combined) 12-weeks in Fall, 2006 in either film or digital video. The tuition is higher than NYFA for 4 weeks of digital video (though the same as NYFA’s 4 week film program), but NYFA does not offer comparable 8 and 12 week programs. As suggested by several voices, I’m inclined to think that the NYU program will give me more of what I want, and that the instruction will be at a more sophisticated level than at NYFA. The main disadvantage I see is that if I’m not sure at the outset that I want to study for the full 12 weeks, it will cost me more to register only for 4 weeks and then register for the subsequent 8-week program separately.

The comments on filmmaker.com about NYU (mostly from 1997-98) were about the undergraduate programs, not about the continuing education program.

By Blogger tealeaves, at 10:24 AM  

I want to say that I went to NYFA and dropped out because NYFA is a SCAM. The school is located in a shitty office building in the middle of Barham street. You pay 17,000 a semester to go to the filmmaking program. What it doesn't include is parking for example. There is only 2 hour parking around the building (No campus) and the police are ticket happy. If you want to park you must pay 85 dollars a month. This also doesn't include you film or processing fees. One processing fee for a 3 minute black and while film on 16mm....which btw the camera is from the 1940's <---seriously, is 32.00 per role, plus the film is 20 dollars. The school since it is in an office building provides no where to shoot. Paying to go to USA or UCLA gives you access to hundreds of students to meet and network, also you can schedule you classes to intern. NYFA has no set schedule because all the teachers are just ppl that went through a film school and work on various projects. Sometime you have school from 10am to 9pm then the next day school from 2 to 5 then it changes the next week. NYFA will tell you that you have no time to intern. The networking is a lie. Also, NYFA big selling point is it's in Hollywood. Don't be fooled. When you can't intern and the networking is minimal it doesn't matter where the school is located. Most of the students are foreign and there is a language barrier, also foreign students don't ask questions. I was wondering why this school has no campus, you don't pick your classes, you can't intern, there's no parking, you meet no one and make no contacts, the school doesn't help you find a job? It's because the school charges as much as a university to a ton less incentive and makes a killing. I realized that when I left I would have no intern experience, hardly networking through the school...all the net working I did, I did on my own, and no one would know me, but i would have this awesome student loan bill and no job. It's a scam. They except anyone. They don't want you to have a break to meet ppl because they want that tuition money. They barely have desks. The dean has no office. The equipment is the oldest and non functioning pieces of crap you can get your hands on. The teachers are only there for a pay check while they are working on their own projects and care nothing about your education. But don't take my word for it see for your self.

By Blogger aliaali, at 9:46 PM  

Definatly go for another school, one connected with an accreditied university if you can. I attended NYFA for the one year intensive program and then worked for the cvompnay after that. The only good thing that they did for me, was to employ me long enought to make my tution money back, lol. Also, i found from working there, that if you have the money you are in. there is no pre-requisite or selection process other then the cashed check to hold yuor spot. Look for a program that requires a bit more dedication. Yuo end up in student groups with people who either have little intrest or little talent.
Im not saying that i didnt not learn abuot the industry and my craft, but i could have spent the money towards a much more productive education. They also give you no help in getting out nito the industry once yuo have graduated. Stay claer of NYFA if possible!

By Blogger agafya9928, at 4:45 PM  

then please can anyone help me to select a college for film direction. i am quit interested in this program and i was thinking to go for nyfa and if its not worth it then i need to decide very soon for another college. i am in great mess can any one help and good colleges for film direction in usa only.

By Blogger Ajeeta, at 12:26 AM  

then please can anyone help me to select a college for film direction. i am quit interested in this program and i was thinking to go for nyfa and if its not worth it then i need to decide very soon for another college. i am in great mess can any one help and good colleges for film direction in usa only.

By Blogger Ajeeta, at 12:28 AM  

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