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USC vs AFI vs NYU Screenwriting Culture & Self Censorship

Dean

Member
Lifetime Supporter
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.
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).
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.
 

Dean

Member
Lifetime Supporter
NYU definitely jumped up in my ideal rankings after my interview. The reason being that it is more of a writing focused program, which is more of my concern than the actual filmmaking aspect, although both are very important in the grand scheme of things career wise. Mostly I view living in LA as one of the important aspects that I considered while looking for MFA programs. I figured being surrounded by the industry while studying would be very beneficial to my career long term. Whereas living in NYC would be cool, but it is cold there. Which is actually a big part of my decision, even though it feels superficial to say that. Overall, AFI and USC were my top 2 and even then I still ranked AFI higher on my list due to their willingness to create more experimental type films versus USC’s commercialized approach to film. Overall, it depends on where I get accepted but seeing as I’m definitley out in the USC race, AFI has become my clear cut favorite and overall first hope. The waiting game is never easy though. I figure these next 5 days may be rough on my sanity.
I do want to offer a different perspective on that. NYU's dramatic writing is undoubtably more writing focused (and they do produce scripts for the screen) but you will be surprised how little a proportion of the MFA Film students are writer-minded people. Most of whom I know want to cover as many professions as possible i.e. directing, editing, cinematography, acting...
NYU dose not differentiate its film students like AFI does and if only considering writing, I think AFI's screenwriting is still a better place to be than NYU
 

Dean

Member
Lifetime Supporter
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.
"the culture of NYC" is an interesting topic. I spoke to a NYU girl who lived in Brooklyn for 6 years and she complained about how she was pressured to dress in that "Brooklyn" look. Have a walk in that district (or the streets around Tisch, for that matter) and you will know what I mean. I still love the city in many ways but I do think the film student crowd is more monotone than most people would expect.
 

Cody Young

Tattoo/Film Enthusiast
Supporter
I do want to offer a different perspective on that. NYU's dramatic writing is undoubtably more writing focused (and they do produce scripts for the screen) but you will be surprised how little a proportion of the MFA Film students are writer-minded people. Most of whom I know want to cover as many professions as possible i.e. directing, editing, cinematography, acting...
NYU dose not differentiate its film students like AFI does and if only considering writing, I think AFI's screenwriting is still a better place to be than NYU
That's really interesting to hear, aside from the fact that AFI was always going to be my overwhelming first choice regardless of whatever else, I had believed and accepted that their writing program was going to be more integrated with the whole of film and less focused on the craft of writing itself. In a respect, this has always been one of the appealing aspects to AFI's program as it allows for you to actually work on a set with fellows from other disciplines. However, being that my writing was by far the most important thing I had considered when examining prospective grad schools, I assumed that NYU would rank higher in that regard (seeing as it is a three tiered program that focuses on a variety of different subjects, I mean sketch writing seems to me like such a cool course). However, seeing that AFI was already one of my top choices and reading your thoughts on the respective writing programs, I'm happy to say AFI went up in my book even more. Although that does make waiting over the next 5 days very hard lol.
 

Cdemon

Active Member
I found all these thoughts helpful.
For me, I'm hoping AFI works out, it's my first choice. USC and it were tied, because I like the sound of AFI's program and USC because I figured it was the best known in the industry and might give me more internship possibilities. I don't know that that's actually the case though. And I don't think I know as much about their program. THat said, if I got into both it'd be hard to decide. I applied to a few other schools, but if I don't get in anywhere then I plan to try to get some work in the industry or industry adjacent keep writing like a mother- and see what happens. I want to produce some material and maybe I'll apply again next year and maybe I'll be working another way in.

Just to throw in my two cents about NYU, I think that the program there is supposed to be good. I don't like that the film department and the writing department don't seem to officially talk or collaborate at all. I think you'd have to work to make those things happen on your own, but I do think you could make it happen. A possible downside to NYU is that *if you want to live and work in LA after school, NYU would give you more connections in NYC, but obviously tons of NYU grads move to and work in LA, so just something to consider. I've meet a few students from there, and while I don't know their writing, they are all smart cookies. They seem to really like the program and teachers. There are some classes they said were more effective than others, but I think that's anywhere. That said, I don't know these students well, but they seemed to be happy with their decision to attend there.

I hope we all get in at AFI, and wherever else we've applied and have the burden of choice come Friday. :)
 

alanray

Active Member
As I'm certainly out for USC, AFI has for sure become my number 1 option. I'm really placing my hopes on them, I would be more than thrilled to go there. They're an amazing program and the collaboration they have between writers and film production right from the go in making 3 short films entices me so much. Although if I don't make it, my next two choices would be LMU then Chapman. I really hope I get at least one of those three schools.

As for Dean's comments on the liberal, PC culture at NYU, don't think for a second it isn't just like that at USC. I have a friend that is a screenwriting professor at USC and he has told me a lot about the program. They're all about that very anal, PC culture over there. To the point where I was actually being advised to censor myself in certain ways in my application materials because it didn't fit with their liberal viewpoints. It just is what it is. They're looking for a certain group of people to fill out their classes. I get it, it's whatever.

So I think this is one of the big advantages AFI actually has over USC (nothing against USC, they were still my first choice). Just that what I know of USC is that they can be very sheltered and a little censoring at times, while when I was interviewing for AFI I DIRECTLY asked them if there would be any creative censorship of what I want to write. And their simple answer was: "Lol no. You can fucking write whatever you want." That's a plus for me folks.

Edit: I hope this doesn't come off as some tirade lol. Just sharing some of my knowledge about the differences between schools. I really hope to see some of you really friendly people at AFI! I hope we all get in :)
 
As I'm certainly out for USC, AFI has for sure become my number 1 option. I'm really placing my hopes on them, I would be more than thrilled to go there. They're an amazing program and the collaboration they have between writers and film production right from the go in making 3 short films entices me so much. Although if I don't make it, my next two choices would be LMU then Chapman. I really hope I get at least one of those three schools.

As for Dean's comments on the liberal, PC culture at NYU, don't think for a second it isn't just like that at USC. I have a friend that is a screenwriting professor at USC and he has told me a lot about the program. They're all about that very anal, PC culture over there. To the point where I was actually being advised to censor myself in certain ways in my application materials because it didn't fit with their liberal viewpoints. It just is what it is. They're looking for a certain group of people to fill out their classes. I get it, it's whatever.

So I think this is one of the big advantages AFI actually has over USC (nothing against USC, they were still my first choice). Just that what I know of USC is that they can be very sheltered and a little censoring at times, while when I was interviewing for AFI I DIRECTLY asked them if there would be any creative censorship of what I want to write. And their simple answer was: "Lol no. You can fucking write whatever you want." That's a plus for me folks.

Edit: I hope this doesn't come off as some tirade lol. Just sharing some of my knowledge about the differences between schools. I really hope to see some of you really friendly people at AFI! I hope we all get in :)

Just curious but what do you want to write that you wouldn’t be able to write because of “liberal PC culture”?
 

Cody Young

Tattoo/Film Enthusiast
Supporter
As I'm certainly out for USC, AFI has for sure become my number 1 option. I'm really placing my hopes on them, I would be more than thrilled to go there. They're an amazing program and the collaboration they have between writers and film production right from the go in making 3 short films entices me so much. Although if I don't make it, my next two choices would be LMU then Chapman. I really hope I get at least one of those three schools.

As for Dean's comments on the liberal, PC culture at NYU, don't think for a second it isn't just like that at USC. I have a friend that is a screenwriting professor at USC and he has told me a lot about the program. They're all about that very anal, PC culture over there. To the point where I was actually being advised to censor myself in certain ways in my application materials because it didn't fit with their liberal viewpoints. It just is what it is. They're looking for a certain group of people to fill out their classes. I get it, it's whatever.

So I think this is one of the big advantages AFI actually has over USC (nothing against USC, they were still my first choice). Just that what I know of USC is that they can be very sheltered and a little censoring at times, while when I was interviewing for AFI I DIRECTLY asked them if there would be any creative censorship of what I want to write. And their simple answer was: "Lol no. You can fucking write whatever you want." That's a plus for me folks.

Edit: I hope this doesn't come off as some tirade lol. Just sharing some of my knowledge about the differences between schools. I really hope to see some of you really friendly people at AFI! I hope we all get in :)
I do agree with what you said to an extent, in that even though I’m a very liberal individual myself, I do worry about the desire to censor one’s work because it doesn’t conform to a pre conceived notion of politeness or a comfortability with the subject. However, my hope is that any of these programs would not be inclined to censor any particular piece of work because of dicey themes. Let’s be honest here, we’re writers. We are meant to explore the many facets of a great many issues and if a given program takes issue with a piece of work that does just that, well frankly it’s not a program that should have any sort of success (in my mind at least). That being said, these programs are highly lauded in the film industry and have produced some highly talented writers so I find it hard to believe they censor work to that great of an extent. Furthermore, I do think AFI is better at producing films about topics that are deemed as unconventional not because they simply allow it but because they seem to wholeheartedly embrace it. For proof of this, I would recommend checking out Ari Aster’s thesis film from AFI, The Strange Thing About The Johnson’s. It’s delightful in its boundary pushing mentality.
 

alanray

Active Member
I was basically just told to avoid certain words in my application materials. One character should not refer to another character as a "bitch". I should not describe a female character as "beautiful" but instead as "attractive" because that would have been sexually objectifying her. Writing about a character that gets raped in a story would be considered very taboo and might get backlash from your peers (that happened apparently). Those are the examples I have from my guy that teaches at USC. Not that it would be impossible to write certain stories, just that it may be more difficult. I don't know if using some of these words would have actually been a make or break thing or not but I just took his advice because I didn't want to do anything to possibly jeopardize my chances of getting in. I haven't seen Ari Aster's thesis film but I do know about it lol! It sounds very interesting and taboo. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.
 
I was basically just told to avoid certain words in my application materials. One character should not refer to another character as a "bitch". I should not describe a female character as "beautiful" but instead as "attractive" because that would have been sexually objectifying her. Writing about a character that gets raped in a story would be considered very taboo and might get backlash from your peers (that happened apparently). Those are the examples I have from my guy that teaches at USC. Not that it would be impossible to write certain stories, just that it may be more difficult. I don't know if using some of these words would have actually been a make or break thing or not but I just took his advice because I didn't want to do anything to possibly jeopardize my chances of getting in. I haven't seen Ari Aster's thesis film but I do know about it lol! It sounds very interesting and taboo. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.
TW: Sexual abuse and suicide

I really don't know the context of these words used in your script, so I'm just going to speak in a general sense re: "beautiful." Sorry if I'm going to generalize, but particularly in the past, some writers have taken to simply describing women as "beautiful," while the male characters are given a lot more depth.

If there really is no getting around her attractiveness, such as we're seeing her through the eyes of another character or she uses her looks as a tool or whatever, then yes, describe her through her attractiveness. Do it for a purpose. Not simply because she's beautiful. The way I see it, it's a way to explore your character and find a more creative way to describe her.

As for the rape situation: It's become very commonplace to get women characters to grow or evolve through a really horrible situation they have to go through, usually rape. While rape isn't necessarily taboo, look at Room for example, the way that it's portrayed should be taken more seriously. There have been many instances in which it seems more like a situation to just see the woman in a sexually grotesque position. Again, if there's no getting around it, I think Room did a generally good job of it.

I see this all as another way to explore other story possibilities instead of censorship. It's a challenge, to have to force yourself to think outside of the ordinary. I also want to write about some topics that are hard to talk about such as mental illness and suicidal thoughts. That's another situation in which you have to educate yourself before just showing someone killing oneself because there is a spike in suicides when it's graphically portrayed in media.

I'm not sure why you can't use "bitch," though? I'd have to see it possibly?

I don't think these words would "make or break" your entry into a program since the whole point of these programs is to learn. Everyone is just a lot more aware of what they say and do now because of the social climate that we're living in so I guess your interviewer thought he'd alert you, but should've done a better job of explaining. It's not a matter of just not saying a word or not doing something, but understanding why you shouldn't.
 

alanray

Active Member
TW: Sexual abuse and suicide

I really don't know the context of these words used in your script, so I'm just going to speak in a general sense re: "beautiful." Sorry if I'm going to generalize, but particularly in the past, some writers have taken to simply describing women as "beautiful," while the male characters are given a lot more depth.

If there really is no getting around her attractiveness, such as we're seeing her through the eyes of another character or she uses her looks as a tool or whatever, then yes, describe her through her attractiveness. Do it for a purpose. Not simply because she's beautiful. The way I see it, it's a way to explore your character and find a more creative way to describe her.

As for the rape situation: It's become very commonplace to get women characters to grow or evolve through a really horrible situation they have to go through, usually rape. While rape isn't necessarily taboo, look at Room for example, the way that it's portrayed should be taken more seriously. There have been many instances in which it seems more like a situation to just see the woman in a sexually grotesque position. Again, if there's no getting around it, I think Room did a generally good job of it.

I see this all as another way to explore other story possibilities instead of censorship. It's a challenge, to have to force yourself to think outside of the ordinary. I also want to write about some topics that are hard to talk about such as mental illness and suicidal thoughts. That's another situation in which you have to educate yourself before just showing someone killing oneself because there is a spike in suicides when it's graphically portrayed in media.

I'm not sure why you can't use "bitch," though? I'd have to see it possibly?

I don't think these words would "make or break" your entry into a program since the whole point of these programs is to learn. Everyone is just a lot more aware of what they say and do now because of the social climate that we're living in so I guess your interviewer thought he'd alert you, but should've done a better job of explaining. It's not a matter of just not saying a word or not doing something, but understanding why you shouldn't.
The context to using the word "beautiful" in the scene was describing a woman that was very attractive versus a man that was dorky, comparing them, and then using that so we have a connotation of what to expect of the woman through personal biases and then realizing she is completely different from the expected. If anything, the woman was the more complex one here lol, I was just told to refer to her as something else than beautiful.

For the "bitch" context, It was just a couple arguing and the man called the woman a bitch out of pure anger. I was advised to take it out.

And the rape story, I was told that a writer tried to write a scene/character into his story involving that and that he received backlash from his classmates. Although I was not there obviously, and I didn't get all the details, so I can't make any sweeping comments about it. I do think you make great points though.

I very much agree with you. People should completely be educated about difficult topics before writing about them, because real life situations are lived out by real life people and what we portray can have consequences. Things like mental illness and rape are extremely serious and should be handled as such. I also believe one should have the freedom to write about basically anything they want just so much as they approach it with respect and purpose. It is our responsibility as writers to portray the human condition and that means all of it. The beautiful and the ugly.
 

alanray

Active Member
Also I wanna say if I accidentally offended anyone I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to ruffle any feathers, I'm honestly a very non-confrontational type person lol. That was not my intention. These are just some of my thoughts that I stand by ?
 

Cdemon

Active Member
Also I wanna say if I accidentally offended anyone I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to ruffle any feathers, I'm honestly a very non-confrontational type person lol. That was not my intention. These are just some of my thoughts that I stand by ?
I think you’re ok. I actually think it’s important that people be willing to bring up all topics especially as writers. If we don’t write it, who will? And it gets increasingly difficult to bring up certain things. I don’t believe that a person needs to experience a thing to write it well- they just need to deal with it with respect and honestly think of themselves in those shoes and then write.

If we have to stay away from certain topics they won’t change. For instance, you have to be able to write a racist/sexist/chauvinistic/all the istic characters to be able to show the world they exist AND usually it’s good to humanize them so people can identify and then want to address the problem. Making a nuanced character that is bad somehow really shows the complexities of life. I imagine non of us started writing to be told what we could or couldn’t say. It’s super hard to say it, and saying it well always helps- but just so long as you have the vocab to express what you’re trying to get across in a room the room shouldn’t jump on someone. It’s hard cause heated topics are always gonna get heated- but hopefully they get heated in a discuss, learn and grow way.

I won’t speak for anyone else- but I wasn’t offended and I like the open discussions even when I don’t reply.
 

alanray

Active Member
I think you’re ok. I actually think it’s important that people be willing to bring up all topics especially as writers. If we don’t write it, who will? And it gets increasingly difficult to bring up certain things. I don’t believe that a person needs to experience a thing to write it well- they just need to deal with it with respect and honestly think of themselves in those shoes and then write.

If we have to stay away from certain topics they won’t change. For instance, you have to be able to write a racist/sexist/chauvinistic/all the istic characters to be able to show the world they exist AND usually it’s good to humanize them so people can identify and then want to address the problem. Making a nuanced character that is bad somehow really shows the complexities of life. I imagine non of us started writing to be told what we could or couldn’t say. It’s super hard to say it, and saying it well always helps- but just so long as you have the vocab to express what you’re trying to get across in a room the room shouldn’t jump on someone. It’s hard cause heated topics are always gonna get heated- but hopefully they get heated in a discuss, learn and grow way.

I won’t speak for anyone else- but I wasn’t offended and I like the open discussions even when I don’t reply.
Yeah that's pretty much the exact point I was trying to make :)
 

Septopus7

Writer
Staff member
FilmSchool.org Writer
Lifetime Supporter
I very much agree with you. People should completely be educated about difficult topics before writing about them, because real life situations are lived out by real life people and what we portray can have consequences. Things like mental illness and rape are extremely serious and should be handled as such. I also believe one should have the freedom to write about basically anything they want just so much as they approach it with respect and purpose. It is our responsibility as writers to portray the human condition and that means all of it. The beautiful and the ugly.

This is correct, and I feel like most people would agree. HOWEVER, I think the issue that comes into play is the whole "respect and purpose" angle, because everyone who ever tackles risque content believe they are doing it in a way that is with "respect and purpose." We know it was respectful. How could it not be? We are the ones who wrote it! So, eventually, the argument becomes one side saying "you wrote something that was offensive and poorly handled," and the writer, in turn, saying "Nuh-uh, it totally matters, I was completely being respectful, etc." But, at the end of the day, I err on the belief that anytime a creator gets flack for handling offensive material, they failed. Full stop. They may not believe they failed (or that the material in question is even that offensive!), but if it turned off a sizeable amount of viewers or readers of whatever, it is there (and "I" and "we" and "us") who takes fault. Not necessarily in the act itself, but in their approach to the subject. But digging your heels in and saying "PC CULTURE IS CENSORING me!" is not the right response. At all.

I'm not trying to pick on you at all with what I'm saying here, @alanray -- this is more a comment directed on the HUGE swath of writers, comedians, actors, what have you believing that "PC culture" is ruining art. Very rarely is that the case. When there is outcry on the offensiveness of your work, the culture at large is not solely the problem. It's like that old adage: if everyone you meet is an asshole than maybe, just maybe, you're the real asshole. If you're always finding yourself under fire for the things that you say or do...maybe try not to say or do those things? It's really not that hard to change. To get better. To realize what you are doing is in some way hurting others, and to not do that thing. Take the reactions of others to heart, don't just lump it into a barrel of being "persecuted" for your actions.

I'm rambling here, but this is something I've thought a lot about, especially with my focus on comedy. Yes, comedy is supposed to be risky and surprising and tackle things that other forms of entertainment don't. All that's true. But if the audience doesn't find something funny...maybe it just wasn't very funny? That is never taken into consideration for all the anti PC crusaders in the industry, and it speaks more to their own sense of hubris than anything else.
 

Cdemon

Active Member
This is correct, and I feel like most people would agree. HOWEVER, I think the issue that comes into play is the whole "respect and purpose" angle, because everyone who ever tackles risque content believe they are doing it in a way that is with "respect and purpose." We know it was respectful. How could it not be? We are the ones who wrote it! So, eventually, the argument becomes one side saying "you wrote something that was offensive and poorly handled," and the writer, in turn, saying "Nuh-uh, it totally matters, I was completely being respectful, etc." But, at the end of the day, I err on the belief that anytime a creator gets flack for handling offensive material, they failed. Full stop. They may not believe they failed (or that the material in question is even that offensive!), but if it turned off a sizeable amount of viewers or readers of whatever, it is there (and "I" and "we" and "us") who takes fault. Not necessarily in the act itself, but in their approach to the subject. But digging your heels in and saying "PC CULTURE IS CENSORING me!" is not the right response. At all.

I'm not trying to pick on you at all with what I'm saying here, @alanray -- this is more a comment directed on the HUGE swath of writers, comedians, actors, what have you believing that "PC culture" is ruining art. Very rarely is that the case. When there is outcry on the offensiveness of your work, the culture at large is not solely the problem. It's like that old adage: if everyone you meet is an asshole than maybe, just maybe, you're the real asshole. If you're always finding yourself under fire for the things that you say or do...maybe try not to say or do those things? It's really not that hard to change. To get better. To realize what you are doing is in someway hurting others, and to not do that thing. Take the reactions of others to heart, don't just lump it into a barrel of being "persecuted" for your actions.

I'm rambling here, but this is something I've thought a lot about, especially with my focus on comedy. Yes, comedy is supposed to be risky and surprising and tackle things that others dare not to. All that's true. But if the audience doesn't find something funny...maybe it just wasn't very funny?
There’s a lot I agreee with in here and I do think that you very much have to look at your product and notes and see if it’s hitting the mark, but I also think that’s a learning curve. You aren’t likely to get dealing with a touchy subject completely “right” on your first try.

Also, for the idea of others being right- maybe. I mean yes- what you say is true if EVERYONE says it’s offensive etc then yeah hear that, but you also need to look at your audiences and hopefully your note-givers are upfront and good in that they can say “this isn’t my type of piece but here are notes that could make it work.” Some things will never work for some people, but hopefully, if it’s good- and those people are open- they can see if it works outside of their aesthetic. Those people take longer to find. Also you have to take into account if your piece is effective- were you trying to “offend” but in a way that makes people think etc. (I don’t think this applies to @alan ray’s material as he didn’t seem to be trying to offend.) I’m just saying there is no one rule fits all.
I do agree blaming PC culture isn’t useful but also that knowing when and how to break those rules is also a thing.

This is quick rambling and this discussion deserves more time and energy so please know this is not comprehensive of all my thoughts and there are giant oceans of grey on this topic IMO.
 

alanray

Active Member
This is correct, and I feel like most people would agree. HOWEVER, I think the issue that comes into play is the whole "respect and purpose" angle, because everyone who ever tackles risque content believe they are doing it in a way that is with "respect and purpose." We know it was respectful. How could it not be? We are the ones who wrote it! So, eventually, the argument becomes one side saying "you wrote something that was offensive and poorly handled," and the writer, in turn, saying "Nuh-uh, it totally matters, I was completely being respectful, etc." But, at the end of the day, I err on the belief that anytime a creator gets flack for handling offensive material, they failed. Full stop. They may not believe they failed (or that the material in question is even that offensive!), but if it turned off a sizeable amount of viewers or readers of whatever, it is there (and "I" and "we" and "us") who takes fault. Not necessarily in the act itself, but in their approach to the subject. But digging your heels in and saying "PC CULTURE IS CENSORING me!" is not the right response. At all.

I'm not trying to pick on you at all with what I'm saying here, @alanray -- this is more a comment directed on the HUGE swath of writers, comedians, actors, what have you believing that "PC culture" is ruining art. Very rarely is that the case. When there is outcry on the offensiveness of your work, the culture at large is not solely the problem. It's like that old adage: if everyone you meet is an asshole than maybe, just maybe, you're the real asshole. If you're always finding yourself under fire for the things that you say or do...maybe try not to say or do those things? It's really not that hard to change. To get better. To realize what you are doing is in some way hurting others, and to not do that thing. Take the reactions of others to heart, don't just lump it into a barrel of being "persecuted" for your actions.

I'm rambling here, but this is something I've thought a lot about, especially with my focus on comedy. Yes, comedy is supposed to be risky and surprising and tackle things that other forms of entertainment don't. All that's true. But if the audience doesn't find something funny...maybe it just wasn't very funny? That is never taken into consideration for all the anti PC crusaders in the industry, and it speaks more to their own sense of hubris than anything else.
Definitely for sure! Lots I agree with here as well. No offense taken. Honestly I probably fumbled my word choice earlier lol, I shouldn't have used words like "liberal, PC". They get in the way. The main point I was just trying to get across is that I'm against censoring writing any stories for the sake of controversy ?. But there are so many grey areas here its ridiculous. Being offended is completely subjective. Although if the majority of people get offended at your work, the writer is the wrong one here. Blaming "PC culture" is wrong. I totally agree. But there is always room for any amount of people to be potentially offended by anything, because everything at the end of the day is subjective. You'll never please everyone. And it is in these situations where there is a smaller group of people offended that a writer may need to reevaluate but also might not be in the wrong either. Because like you said, "respect and purpose" is always situational to the writer, and not everyone will agree. You will not achieve great writing starting from the standpoint, "How do I make sure I offend the least amount of people with this", how you will achieve meaningful art is through approaching everything you want to say about the world with utmost honesty and complexity to the best of your ability and providing everything you say with the care and humanity it deserves. I just think people need to understand where the writer is coming from in the message they're trying to get across first, and then evaluate whether said message was delivered effectively or not. And I always respect a person's right to say something even when I disagree with it. I've been to multiple stand up shows where I was partially offended by a joke but I respect their right to make it. I don't know, its just about perspectives for me. But all in all, much love! I love having open discussions like this as well.
 
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).
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.

EDIT: OHBOI AM I L8 TO ZE PARTY. no websites load properly right now while travelling D:

Main pt: filmschool applicants are imperfect and hopefully we all get better, but that's all types of applicants imo regardless of their writing's subject matter.

I didn't apply to any NY schools because I knew I wanted to live in LA. And I dont have the resources to relocate to NY just to eventually move to LA... but I have always been very interested in NYU's writing program because of the sheer number of oscar winners from NYU recently...

What you say is something I'm really wary of - Green Book winning this year pops to mind. But my perspective is that those in charge of these "left-wing" oriented films is often not those that are directly or extremely affected by the issues that actual working and educated lefties, influencers in their field that have studied these issues and are working to change them, usually are not involved in those stories. That's what upsets me. And even more is the recent counter-left movement based on a revulsion caused by uneducated bandwagoners on current issues. My writing always hints at these issues but rarely deals with them head on because story always comes first and social issues can add nuance. But I ain't writing a political manifesto.

Based of the portfolios I saw from past filmschool screenwriters that were accepted that mention nothing of current issues, that were also incredibly underwhelming, I think perhaps that in general amazing writers are hard to find and hard to judge. Tons of writers, Nolan, could never make it into film school. If all incoming students were already stellar writers then today's film market wouldn't be saturated with so much blandness.

Just a possibility.
 

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