First I want to jump into the discussion comparing NYU with AFI. Over the past 2 years, although not attending NYU, I had some quite substantial experience with this institution by working with its students on various projects and took two of its summer writing courses (for the two summer writing courses, I was the only non-NYU student, one is an undergrad class and the other one is mainly all grads, with an entire class of MFA/MBA students).Yeah, their philosophy of teaching those three mediums simultaneously is what makes me extremely curious. With AFI, I'm fascinated by the prospect of making three shorts in that first year. So at the end of the day, it's pure writing vs. seeing your work come to life.
NYU being so far from Hollywood was the main reason I regarded it as my second choice after AFI for quite some time. However, Shinho Lee put it in an interesting perspective during our interview. According to him, it's better to take in all the culture in NY, mature and polish your work and only then go to Hollywood. I guess it's 50/50 between that and engaging as early as possible.
What really made me think a lot is the way I felt after my interview with Shinho — just simply great, very comfortable and inspired. Maybe it's important to sort of follow my heart on this one.
What I also have to say before I detail all my experience with NYU is that I have gotten rejected twice (last year and presumably this year), both without an interview, from the MFA film program. So please know that, despite my effort to be fair, there is almost an unavoidable sour grape factor in what I am about to say.
I moved to NYC after my college graduation solely for the purpose of attending its MFA program. I enrolled the fore-mentioned two writing courses, Intro to Dramatic Writing by Paul Thompson and Short Scripts by Ken Friedman. I had an amazing experience in both of those courses. Paul Thompson is a celebrity teacher in NYU with deep acting background. Friedman is the head of the NYU grad script writing. So it is fair to say that they are a good representation of NYU's teaching body. Excuse me for not being very modest but I believed both teachers liked my scripts a lot and I got an A from both classes. Fried seemed very happy after knowing that I was about to apply to his program that summer and offered to write me a recommendation letter without my asking, which I gladly accepted.
What was unexpected from both classes, however, was how poorly most other NYU students wrote. For Thompson's writing class it was understandable because it was an entry level undergrad class and a lot of the students were not even from film major (they were either wavering or just came here for fun). But for the grad duo-majors, it was obvious that writing was not their strong suit. That class being mandatory, all the duo-majors (of one year, I forgot which) took it together in the summer, which might have been an easy way to get it over with.
Another thing that felt strange to me at the time was how often LGBTQ and minority themes were flaring up in those two classes. I'm an Asian living in the U.S. so I think it grants me some right to comment on this issue. LGBTQ and minority issues have my fullest respect but it felt to me that these themes were flooding the NYU students' body of work. For the Short Script class, I think over half of the scripts the students end up writing were on such topics. Again there is nothing wrong with such topics themselves, but the apparently easy acceptance of works bearing such topics as quality writing almost unavoidably encouraged more writers to write on such topics than the actual number of people who cared.
Overall, what I have mentioned above does not constitute an ounce of real evidence but they did start to make me suspect that NYU's admission was curating a certain taste or attitude in its prospective attendees. And I found out about the portfolios of other admitted students only strengthened my suspicion, that two out of two incoming grad students I knew made film about left wing issues. My conclusion is this: NYU's writing teachers are every capable and helpful, but the students that the admission likely to favor are more often opinionated than not.