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By Film Threat Staff | September 9, 2004

Why do so many people want to make movies? If you think you know the answer, IFC’s 10-part documentary series FILM SCHOOL may make you think again. Executive producer and creator Nanette Burstein (“The Kid Stays in the Picture”) and producer Jordan Roberts document the trials and tribulations of four film school students during their final year at the prestigious New York University. The series offers anecdotes about filmmaking from well-established NYU alumni, such as Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and Amy Heckerling.

The NYU film program is full of talented students – around 1,000 applicants compete for just 36 spots. We follow four of these students as they battle to raise funding, finalize screenplays, audition actors, gather crew, then shoot and edit their student “calling card” films. Finally, they unveil their work at the NYU Film Festival, where they hope that it will win awards and launch a high-profile career. Along the journey, the students are battered, bruised,
angst-ridden and sleep-deprived. If their film is not exceptional, the students face an extremely expensive failure. They not only have to pay $30,000 annual tuition, but they also need to raise $5-20,000 to make their film. NYU film school students graduate with an average of $65,000 in debt.

The harsh realities of insufficient budgets, looming deadlines, fierce competition and pure inexperience force the students to rely on sheer hubris to survive.

Vincenzo Tripodo, 35, a high-energy international student from Italy, has to raise $25,000 in a matter of weeks or he will be thrown out of school. Alrick Brown, a super-driven, politically-minded 28-year-old, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica (where his father was murdered) and moved to New Jersey as a child, plans to change the world through his
films. Leah Meyerhoff, an eccentric 24-year-old from Oakland, California, writes a script, which will force her to battle her inner demons and face her anger about growing up with a disabled mother. Barbara Klauke is an introverted 28-year-old from Spring, Texas, whose low self esteem and lack of confidence interfere with her ability to pull her production together.

Burstein, herself a veteran of the NYU Film School, explains her casting process for the series:

“We knew we would be making the story of “the underdog” – and that’s what would draw people to identify with our characters. We chose students who were talented with stand-out personalities, interesting backstories and serious obstacles to overcome. I approach any storyline like this in terms of character arcs and three-act structure. I don’t believe in just turning on a camera and hoping a narrative will just pop out.”

So, who quits film school before their film is finished? Who completely loses their mind on set? Whose film is trashed by NYU professors? Who decides to change careers when it’s all over? And who is offered a professional directing job after the NYU film festival?

In IFC’s FILM SCHOOL, you will learn the hard lessons of student filmmaking from the students themselves – namely, that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

For more info, check out the IFCTV website.

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