Channeling Your Inner Scorsese

New York film programs
New York Film Academy at an on-site shoot (Photo courtesy of New York Film Academy)

Storied director/screenwriter/producer Robert Altman once said, “Filmmaking is a chance to make many lifetimes,” so is it any wonder that every year, aspiring Coppolas and Spielbergs register at film schools in order to realize their artistic vision? And while the percentage of people that attain those heights is miniscule, technology has allowed for the layman to make some kind of mark on the indie film landscape. To that end, many educational institutions have programs in place that not only offer classes in directing, but myriad facets that go into making a movie—screenwriting, cinematography, special effects, acting and editing are just some of the disciplines that students can sharpen their skills in.

New York Film Academy

17 Battery Place, Manhattan

As one of the more global programs in place, the New York Film Academy has more than 8,000 students from upwards of 100 countries taking courses at a number of international settings including New York City, Los Angeles, South Beach (Miami), Italy (Florence) and Australia (Sydney and the Gold Coast). The Manhattan location offers classes in acting, 3D animation and visual effects, broadcast journalism, cinematography, digital editing, directing, documentary, ESL, game design, graphic design, film, musical theatre, performing arts, photography, producing, screenwriting, virtual reality and visual arts. Hands-on learning is the philosophy, and, according to New York Film Academy President Michael Young, “The New York Film Academy was founded on the philosophy that ‘learning by doing,’ combined with best industry practices is the best way for filmmakers and actors to learn their craft.”

Students can choose to enroll in one of the Academy’s MFA, MA, BFA, BA, and AFA U.S. accredited degree programs and short-term workshops in filmmaking, acting for film, photography, producing, 3D animation, cinematography, screenwriting, documentary filmmaking, game design, musical theatre, broadcast journalism, music video, graphic design and digital editing. While individual classes can be taken at the Manhattan campus, degree programs are offered only at the Los Angeles, California and South Beach, FL, campuses.

For more information, visit or call 212-674-4300.

Maysles Documentary Center

343 Lenox Ave./Malcolm X Blvd. (between 127th and 128th St.), Manhattan

When legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) founded the Maysles Documentary Center in 2005 with his wife Gillian Walker, it was with the idea of giving access to documentary films, the act of filmmaking and engaging with films to make a difference. And while Maysles passed away in 2015, his vision has continued forward. What started out as a summer education program for youth whose parents were incarcerated to encourage creative self-expression has blossomed into the Center offering comprehensive, hands-on documentary production programs for filmmakers of all ages. This includes on-site production and media literacy programs for adults and young people, as well as community-based partnerships where experienced teaching artists work with students to develop storytelling, film production and community engagement skills.

Programs include film literacy classes for children, filmmaking for high school students, intro and advanced filmmaking and editing for adults. Partnerships exist with a range of community organizations, schools, universities, and festivals in New York City and globally. All programs are free or low-cost, with sliding scale available for those with a fee.

For more information, visit or call 212-537-6843.

The late Albert Maysles (center, blue shirt) with a group of students from the Teen Producer program back in summer 2012

Pratt Institute—Media Arts

Brooklyn Campus: 200 Willoughby Ave.
Manhattan Campus: 144 W. 14th St.

The B.F.A. in Film at Pratt Institute prepares students to become innovative and professional moving image artists by developing each student’s creative vision. Through the production of a series of projects, students gain analytical, technical and communication skills. The program provides a foundation in all aspects of the production of time-based media and encourages students to explore various modes of filmmaking including narrative, documentary, experimental, video art and hybrid. Courses include Introduction to Literary and Critical Studies, Light/Color/Design, Expanded Digital Cinema, Fiction Video II: Directing the Short and Ways of Seeing Cinema. Graduates are expected to demonstrate excellence in artistic vision, professional skills and a contextual understanding of their work in contemporary culture.

Upon graduation from the BFA in Film, the student is expected to be competent in analyzing cinema from a theoretical, historical and cultural context and to apply this knowledge in the production of time-based projects. Students should also be able to demonstrate technical, aesthetic and conceptual proficiency in the pre-production, production, post-production and exhibition of time-based media in keeping with contemporary practices in the field. Students will also be able to communicate creative ideas in a professional manner.

For more information, visit or call 718-636-3600.

School Of Visual Arts Bachelor of Fine Arts Program

209 E. 23rd St., Manhattan

The idea of independence and having a personal vision when it comes to the art of making movies is a central tenet of the School of Visual Arts Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) filmmaking program. To earn a BFA degree in Film & Video at SVA, students must complete 120 credits in studio art courses (72 credits), humanities and sciences (30 credits), art history (15 credits) and three elective credits. SVA undergrads can specialize in directing, screenwriting, cinematography, editing or sound. Classes include Advanced Lighting, Advanced Production, Film and Literature I and II, Career Strategies (Directing, Editing), Fundamentals of Narrative I and II and Film History and Criticism. The program is immersive and very hands-on from the beginning, meaning that courses are taught in collaboration by writers and directors, and an integrated curriculum which means developing work in writing classes, fine-tuning it with professional actors in directing, preparing and shooting it in production and editing in post-production. It reflects SVA Chairman Reeves Lehmann’s assertion that, “The minute you walk through the SVA doors, you become a part of the film community.” The four-year journey culminates in a showcase of students’ work to industry professionals and luminaries at the Dusty Film & Animation Festival.

For more information, visit or call 212-592-2000.

New School of Media Studies

49 Fifth Ave., Manhattan

Aspiring filmmakers looking for a crash course in this medium can work towards a Certificate in Film Production at the New School of Media Studies. The successful completion of a minimum of eight approved courses is required and includes a sequence of five production studio courses culminating in a finished final film project. The production sequence is supported by classes in which students explore technical and aesthetic aspects of motion picture production and a range of cinematic practices, including directing, cinematography, screenwriting and producing. Certificate students also enroll in CT LABS (certificate labs) that account for the minimum of five hours per week that students are expected to work on graded assignments required for the instructional sections.

A minimum of two elective courses are additionally required. Electives can be taken at any time during a course of study and include audio production, script analysis, the aesthetics of directing, fundamentals of digital editing and experiments in 16mm filmmaking. Students can also choose from other film courses offered each semester. All film production courses are open for individual undergraduate credit or noncredit registration. Students are not required to be enrolled in the certificate program to register. Not all the film production courses offered are approved for the certificate.

For more information, visit or call 212-229-8903.


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