Terrible communication between faculty and students
Directing track held on a pedestal above other tracks
Understaffed and inexperienced faculty
Complicated and frustrating equipment policies
Administrative red tape and bureaucracy halts real meaningful progress
No real access to Steiner studios and the lot beyond “campus”
Unreasonable and asinine covid-19 policies
Illustrating everything that is wrong with this school would take over an hour, and I have neither the time nor patience for that. To avoid being redundant, I would read the other one star review for Feirstein, as it paints an accurate picture of the amount of chaos and the lack of clear communication that happens at the school every day.
Many of those problems existed before the covid-19 pandemic, and have since been amplified by it. Waiting to get a reply from the Feirstein admin for project approvals can take up to a week, often with projects being given a red light or canceled the night prior to a shoot (after considerable time and resources have been spent in pre-production). Furthermore, different faculty members will give different answers regarding to whether you’re allowed to film, which makes the whole Feirstein experience feel like a joke. I understand that the school is fairly new, but that doesn’t excuse the appalling level of miscommunication and lack of communication.
The price of tuition might seem alluring compared to other well known film schools, but the price does not justify the terrible experience, and in the end you’ll probably end up spending more money renting and acquiring gear because your shoot got cancelled last minute, or if they decide to withhold certain pieces of equipment they promised you for some reason.
It took me a while to write this review but when I saw there were none from current students I felt it was important to do so. I came to Feirstein two years ago because it was an exciting new program and it was half the price of most NY-based schools. I was looking forward to being part of a diverse group of students and being on a working studio lot. I had a background in the film industry but not in cinematography and was hopeful the next three years would prepare me for a career as a DP.
Firstly, I’d like to just say that the “only film school on a working lot” is a SCAM. You will never actually go on the lot. You will see all sorts of things happening beyond the gates but you will never be allowed through. The school does not facilitate any internships, tours, classes, mentorship programs, on the lot. Nobody from the lot comes to the school. So if that’s something that sounds enticing—it’s a literal scam.
Now, to the school itself: a few weeks into our first semester, the director of the school announced he was leaving. He had built the school up from the beginning and people were upset and surprised. He would only be replaced 2 years later, this past fall. So for two years our school did not have a director. It was a mess—nobody was handling larger issues at the institution and everyone in a leadership position constantly claimed it wasn’t their job to handle those issues.
As a DP in an MFA program, I, along with the rest of my cohort, was surprised to learn we weren’t taking any cinematography classes in the first semester. That got changed after we complained enough for the next year’s cohort.
In the spring semester, we finally got to take ONE practical cinematography course. This course ran concurrently with a workshop for directors in which the DPs from our class would shoot the scenes from the director’s workshop. But the classes were entirely separate so the DPs didn’t have any idea what we were shooting until pre-light the night before. During a pre-light session for one directing student’s class exercise shoot, a few DPs assigned to the camera crew for the exercise showed up one evening to see the student director and another student (a fellow director who was acting in the scene as a favor) blocking the scene. A few minutes into rehearsal, the male director told our classmate to remove her top and bra. She did. The camera team had no idea this was happening and immediately felt uncomfortable — however we were all under the impression that the director had cleared all this with the classmate, professor (who was not on the sound stage), and the administration. When a faculty member happened to walk in on the shoot, he shut it down and immediately reported it. The camera team was in shock to later find out none of it was sanctioned. The next day, I overheard the professor of the class making a joke about taking his clothes off. After bringing in the Dean of Brooklyn College for a meeting that week, we added a nudity and intimacy clause to the student safety rule book that hadn’t yet existed. The only reason this change was made was because a group of a few female students fought their asses off to get it done. The entire ordeal was traumatizing for the student and for the others who were present. These are the kinds of incidents that happen at a school that has no idea what the hell it’s doing.
In the second year, tension between the directors and the other disciplines were constantly being dealt with. The de-facto head of the cinematography department went on sabbatical that fall and nobody replaced her. So there was nobody looking out for the DPs. Due to the track system, a hierarchy exists at the school, in which directors rule all, and everyone else (screenwriters, DPs, editors) is there to “serve their vision.” The directors have incredible department heads that advocate for them. The DPs did not. Directors were continuously putting DPs in unsafe and uncomfortable situations and nobody had our back when we complained.
Due to no leadership at the school, the curriculum often made no sense. In the fall of our second year we had a new professor who kept teaching us basics we had already covered. When we reached out to him and politely informed him that we knew what he was teaching us already, he threw a tantrum. After that, he continued to behave inappropriately and immaturely in class and eventually, the entire cinematography cohort stopped attending class in protest. Finally, the interim director of the school promised us the professor would be fired. We showed up to the next class and he was there. When we asked the interim-director why, he said he was mistaken in how much power he had to fire professors.
In the 4 semesters I spent at Feirstein, I only had one class in which my work was critiqued. That was our first production class for our MOS films. At the end of the semester each 1st year student’s film is critiqued by faculty and although it’s a terrifying experience, it obviously makes you a better filmmaker. Since then, in all of my classes, I have never had my work critiqued. My classmates and I begged for it—we asked every professor for an end of the semester critique of our work and it never happened. What kind of film school doesn’t critique student’s work??
I’m only listing the most egregious issues that I faced in my two years at Feirstein. It has been a complete disaster from start to finish. I can tell you about a couple of great teachers and the incredible equipment room filled with the best gear. And I made friends who I know I can call on for help with any project I work on in the future. But honestly, none of those things were worth the constant stress of being a student there. The student body is incredibly diverse and hardworking and talented. However I can only speak for the cinematography track and that has been a train wreck of an experience for me, and I know that sentiment is shared by many in my cohort. We have not and did not get the attention and eduction we paid for. That’s why I’m leaving and starting over at NYU. I’m so lucky to have that opportunity and the resources to do so. I can only hope that Feirstein gets better with time.
All of the facilities and gear are amazing, brand new
Not many years in existence, hard to know what the track record will be
I went on the official tour in October (there are several between Sept and Dec) before I decided to apply. You have to sign up and bring an ID to get past security because the whole grad school is on a working film lot in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
They started with a question and answer session (with some people skyping in). Pretty standard. Then there is the walking tour of the facilities. It doesn't feel like a college campus. It's a studio, in a massive industrial building with views of Manhattan and the East River, and Feirstein takes up the fifth and sixth floors. There are film studios on the floors above where a lot of TV shows are shot. The Feirstein's part of the building has numerous and varied big studios - I lost count. The equipment cage has all brand new equipment, including Arris and everything that I could think of (all digital - no Bolexes here). The classrooms and edit studios all feel like professional high end commercial facilities in NYC or LA.
There is a big communal kitchen, I think I remember that there are even bathrooms with showers.
A new Wegmans just opened at the other end of the Navy Yard, there is a good coffee shop across the street, but I don't think there are a lot of restaurant choices unless you walk two long blocks up to Myrtle Avenue. Pratt Institute is up on Myrtle, so there is a great art supply store and everything else that you would expect around an art school campus. (The actual Brooklyn College campus is far away, on the other side of Brooklyn.)
The proximity to the subway is a drag. I used to live in this neighborhood. Google says that it is a 15 minute walk to the G but it feels further than that, and then you are on the G train. You'll have to change trains to get anywhere. It sounds like there is parking, but I'm not sure how much.
Over all, I am pretty sure that I'm going to commit. As a NY resident, it's pretty inexpensive. I like my life living here in NYC and don't want to move to LA or anywhere else. Tisch is expensive.
The people that are teaching is always the most important thing. The people here, from what I've read so far, look like they are very talented. There are women in prominent positions here, and from the films that they've done, I'm hoping that will translate into a smarter, more introspective cinematic point of view.
I am hoping that Feirstein may be a place where there is more opportunity to build something great compared to a more established film school that may be more ridge and crowded.
I'll try to remember to report back in a year with what the reality turns out to be.
Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Brooklyn, New York. 3,411 likes · 2 talking about this · 1,074 were here. We are the first public graduate school of cinema in New York City, and the only school...
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