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Can NYU Let A Film Student Shoot A Film Before He Graduates? The Wackness (Pt. 1?)

October 26, 2009

I don’t like bitching, especially when I think I can be a lot more productive trying to work through my problems than dwelling on them.  Film production is full of problems and that’s just part of the game.  Still, in certain instances, I think certain situations can be so wack that you’ve got to speak on them.  Especially bad service.  Especially when you’ve paid $200,000 for that service.

For me, making films is kinda like making love.  I’m passionate about it.  I’ve spent many a late night hour trying to put in some quality work.   It’s what I’m trying to get good at.  I’m just trying to “get it in” while I have the chance.  (Y’all know how rough those dry spells can be).

Bear with me, it gets deep.

It’s October ’09.   I’m submitting a proposal for a new project to be submitted to NYU just so I can maybe have a decent film after having graduated.  Fuck that, not even necessarily decent, just something interesting.  Cohesive.  Something that shows that I might have some promise.  Something that might make someone want to see more of what I might have to offer.

Haven’t I had chances before?  Of course.  Of course I have.


During sophomore year, when I first transferred to NYU, and in my junior year, when I shot my first real film, my intermediate project, but anyone who’s done those projects knows that they don’t really want to show those films to anybody.  If you have a friend that went to NYU UG Film, ask them about their introductory and intermediate film projects.  Sight and Sound and Color Syncs.  I’ll bet they don’t want to show you those, not because anything was necessarily wrong with them–but because they were probably feeling like what they were able to put together then wasn’t typical of what they might have the potential to do in the future.

Those first few classes sophomore year, you’re poking around, experimenting, playing with things, not really sure how to use all the appendages you’ve got at your disposal, but you’re not ready for the real deal.  Junior year, with your intermediate, your first film, you’re about to do it.

You’ve spent a good amount of time dicking around, you’ve got all the the right intentions and a good idea of how things are supposed to be done and you pop that cherry.  You make a film.  Still, you probably didn’t have all the right moves and it probably resulted in some awkward shit.

So between your intermediate and advanced level projects, you take a breather, review your moves (edit and finish your intermediate), compare notes (maybe work on some other films, study films) and finally, senior year, you’re ready to put it down. (lol or so you think) in the manner of a 10-15 minute short.

That’s the goal of film school.  Have something to show for the fact that you’ve spent $200,000 on a Bachelor’s degree in Film Production.

So what’s my excuse?  Why am I still waiting so long to do a project when I walked and should have been out in May ’09?

What’s Been Involved in Making a Student Short at NYU (For Me), the Fall ’08-Fall ’09 Edition

September-December ’08 – thinking/planning/fundraising – i need an idea worth all the trouble that follows.  I develop.  I get an idea.  An edgy, urban cop drama.


January-February ’09I stealthy hunt for a location.

The Official NYC Winter Scouting Outfit

I find one that seems perfect.  It’s ill.

February ’09-March ’09 – writing/fundraising (cont’d) – i present my project to the class + my teacher digs + it seems I can pull it off = I get approved, I’m thinking I’m ready to go.  Planning to shoot in April.


March ’09 some kid gets $140,000 of cam equipment stolen when he leaves his truck to buy a sandwich + school gets equipment insurance policy dropped + me not having been able to raise enough money for my project = me requesting to postpone my shoot until September, by which time I was sure I could have the money raised.

The school says, “cool.”

May ’09 – I walk out into the world, a broke college grad, with the rest of my ’09’ers.

Graduation '09

Late May ’09 A terrible tragedy occurs on a student shoot due to improper safety procedures, NYU’s Film Program gets massively sued, screwed, and the entire film program at NYU is placed in jeopardy.  (or so I hear)  From now on, the school’s has to assess all future student shoots to prevent for the possibility of risks.  Understandable, given the pressure.

June-August ’09 – I’m dealing with a select Review Panel, composed of faculty whose job it is to review my project for potential safety risks.  I gather information about my project as I plan and submit it to them as I get it.  I plan to shoot in the 2nd Weekend of September 10-13th, right after school has begun.

A Lead Admin says I can pretty much bank on having September 10-13th available to me.

During the summer, I stay busy freelancing, work on music videos, direct a music video, trying to continue practicing.

On Nyle's "F.A.N.G."

I finally raise enough money to shoot the short.

August 31-Sept 4th – The week before school starts, the week before I’m supposed to shoot.  I’m feeling pretty good.  I submit the remainder of my information to the Review Panel.  I get–

“Why’d you wait so long?”  “Well, I thought I was pretty much guaranteed to shoot, what’s the deal?”

–I hear through the grapevine that Review Panel is scrambling to piece together some new prohibitive guidelines for upcoming projects so that they can finalize getting their shit together before school starts.  Incidentally, many of these would probably directly apply to my shoot.

Sept. 4th-7th – Labor Day Weekend – I do quite a bit of drinking.

Sept. 8th – school starts – I’m trying to see what the deal is.  In effect, because of the rules that have been reinstated over the weekend, after 3 months of gathering, review, etc., I’m told that I can’t shoot my film that I’ve been working on since November ’08.

Sept. 8th-Oct. 1, –  I do a bit more drinking.

I need a job because I don’t want to waste the money that I’ve been able to raise on living expenses.   So I grind, just like everybody else that’s sticking around in the city after graduating in ’09.

October, ’09 – With the help of friends, I’m able to hop onto a few freelance gigs.  Thank God.  Then I get hired–and get a day job.  So I’m stable, I’m chillin.

Oct. 5th – I send a script for a 2-character relationship drama that can be shot in my apt. to my teacher.  It’s way cheaper, simpler and less involved than my previous project.  It’s more contained.  He advocates for me.  He pushes it through, letting the faculty know I still want to shoot.

Oct. 9th – One of the lead production admins from the Review Panel tells me that he thinks it best that I take the grade for my class without shooting a project, get my diploma, and be out because since it’s now so late in the semester and with so many other kids scheduled to shoot, the school might not be able to spare the equipment to produce my project.  I get it.  I still want my shot, though.

Then, homeboy tells me that I would “just have to” give back the $800 check I was granted in my Production Class from the Spring term, when I was approved to do the piece that I would later be denied for in September.

Wowzers.  Nice.

Oct. 9-14th –

– My teacher and I meet.  He encourages me to get moving–gather relevant info and appeal to the panel again to shoot this 2-character relationship drama in my apartment.  I agree.

– The Review Panel hits me back and tells me that I’ve basically got 2 weeks to resubmit all the information they need to know about my production before they can give me the go ahead.   Cool.  Pressure is what it’s all about.


Busting my ass.  I hope to God that NYU will let me shoot a 2-character relationship drama in my apartment.

Why do I keep appealing?  I have no choice.  I’m hella broke and I’d be saving mad money with their resources.  I need NYU.  And I want my money’s worth.

Gotta deal.  Just thought I’d put it out there.

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