NYU is more impressive–and expensive–than it was in my day. When I transferred from upstate Hamilton College –having run the film society and disc-jockeyed at WHCL-FM– to Cinema Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, my father was furious that I was giving up my hard-won scholarship aid for full-freight tuition. I had to work part-time at the Bleecker St. Cinema to make up the difference. But I loved it.
Two of my NYU professors have since died: Jay Leyda and William Everson, whose upper west side apartment was stacked to the ceiling with flammable nitrate prints. Bill Rothman taught Hitchcock, Renoir, and comedy; Bill Simon, who taught me to read the trades and critics Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael, chaired the department for years and still teaches there; even intimidating structuralist Annette Michelson is still listed as emeritus faculty.
My early Super 8 efforts told me that I wasn’t heading for filmmaking–that was for the likes of the Coen brothers and Spike Lee. Writing was clearly my forte. I went on to graduate study in Cinema Studies; my NYU buds were John Pierson, Larry Gross, Wendy Dozoretz, Henry Seggerman and the late great Anne Friedberg, who later allowed me to teach Film Criticism at USC’s Department of Critical Studies.
After NYU I landed a job in the publicity department at United Artists (729 Seventh Avenue, in the heart of the porn district) via Allen Eichhorn, the department assistant and college press liaison (I did radio reviews at WNYU-FM). He was leaving to go back to school, and so I duly replaced him. Jonathan Demme is one of many grads of the UA PR department, along with John Dartigue, Mark Urman, Michael Singer, Michael Klastorin, Blaise Noto, Dennis Higgins, Randi Wershba, Nan Bernstein and Scott Yoselow. Sadly, Gary Kalkin and Bill Werneth are no longer with us. My move to journalism came when then-editor Richard Corliss brought me over to help him at Film Comment. But I digress.
Last week new Tisch Film and TV undergrad chair Joe Pichirallo invited me to a Soho House party hosted by alumnus Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer), NYU Tisch School of the Arts Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell and John Tintori, chair of NYU’s graduate Film and TV program. Adjunct Professor Peter Newman (middle, above) introduced me to the first four recent grads of NYU’s new three-year dual track MFA/MBA program, a partnership between NYU’s Stern School of Business and Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at Tisch. Whoa.
USC’s venerable Peter Stark Producing Program also focuses on the business side of the industry, but offers an MFA degree. Now NYU gives four to six hand-picked grad students a year both an MBA and MFA, stressing both the economic and creative sides of the business. Ted Hope, Christine Vachon, Peggy Rajski and John Sloss were adjunct professors last year. The four young grads were impressive. No mailroom basement for this group. They’re seeking exec positions or will produce on their own. Making money is less crucial than gaining experience and control, said Claire Harlam (left above), who will work on fellowship with Jacob Robinson (second from right) at Hope’s new NYU think tank researching video-on-demand, pricing, windowing, and emerging digital distribution strategies.
Robinson is also producing shorts and writing a script about the Elia Kazan/Marilyn Monroe/Arthur Miller romantic triangle. Another Earth writer-producer-star and ex-investment banker Brit Marling’s swift career trajectory is not lost on these grads.