the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Location: Washington D.C.

Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Monday, December 18, 2006

Intellectual Masturbation and Other Fun Phrases

Well, that's it. My first semester of graduate school is officially over. I ran my completed final papers down to the school Friday night and with that, washed my hands of this semester.

As you may recall, a few weeks into this semester I began bemoaning what can only be described as the program's deep and persuasive intellectual masturbation. I was really growing concerned that, while a theoretical discipline, my entire NYU experience was going to amount to nothing more than preaching amongst the choir and studying nothing that would impact or affect the greater world of filmmaking.

A couple thoughts on that score...

As the semester went on, I began growing less and less concerned about it. It's not that my fears were unfounded (more on that in a moment); I simply began to realize that part of what I was experiencing was probably little more than retraining my mind to understand the vocabulary and cadence of a discipline I hadn’t engaged in for several years. Once the immersion was complete, the most prickly of my concerns vanished.

My Film Form and Film Sense class really settled into a comfortable rhythm and ended especially well as the final weeks were spent studying one of my favorite filmmakers, Orson Welles. The latter half of Film History and Historiography was fascinating as we were forced to confront the idea of nationalism in cinema and the manner in which film reflects both the way a country is and the way it wishes it could become or appear.

If I and everyone else in the program have one massive, festering, angry bone to pick with NYU, it's that Cinema Studies has absolutely no interaction whatsoever with the Cinema Production students upstairs. There is a huge gulf that neither side seems to care enough about to bridge, if they even notice the problem in the first place. There is no way for Cinema Studies students to get some hands-on training, nor can Production students learn anything academically about the very art form they are learning to craft. The technical and the theoretical are kept absolutely separate and I think this is not only deeply disappointing, it is also irresponsible. Some schools have begun to integrate these programs. NYU, a paradigm among film schools, is woefully behind the curve here.

I realize now that the school will not change, or at least not in time for me to benefit from it. If I want to get to know the students who will be tomorrow's great directors (and even actors), I have to be proactive. Near the end of the semester, I began to spend some more time on the Production floors and come January, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and volunteer my time on various student and independent films, helping out in any way I can. An enigma in my own program since I want to pursue elements of production myself after graduation, I see this as a way to start in the right direction.

It should come as no surprise then that my favorite class of the semester was Script and Narrative Analysis, in which I wrote a screenplay first act and studied the construction and composition of a good script. Not only was the professor captivating and the work engaging, the class had the perfect balance of theory and action.

And now I'm settling down to a month's vacation. I hope to get a paid internship soon with Sony Pictures or another production outfit here in New York that can give me one more leg up on my future, to say nothing of helping pay for the extraordinary absurdities of living in this wonderful but suffocatingly expensive city!

I'll obviously have a lot less to talk about over the next few weeks, but have decided to post some thoughts soon about some of the beautiful and profound films I've had the opportunity to see since the program began.

Until then, have a wonderful Christmas…


Anonymous Nate said...

Interesting post. They don't integrate the practical and the theoretical? You're right, that really does sond ridiculous. I just took it for granted that they would. In fact I had thought you were going to be moving into a more practical direction, but the first semester they just put you in front of a screen and threw some books at you. Enjoy your time off. I know I am.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Liz said...

Awesome blog entry! I share your sentiments!


1:24 PM  
Anonymous Josh said...

He he, he he, you said 'masturbation.' That phrase made me chuckle when you first mentioned it in email last week, and it still does. My adult mind sees two diametrically opposed words crunched together to create a strikingly clever term; my juvenile side just sees one word and can't stop laughing at it.

1:57 PM  

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