New York Film Academy recently opened their first campus in India, in Lower Parel, Mumbai. With state of the art infrastructure and international standard facilities, the Academy saves students who are interested in building a career in film making, the hassle of migrating to another country and gives them an opportunity to learn the art of film making in the capital of Indian Cinema- Mumbai. We visited the campus and interacted with Kitty Koo, Vice President & Director and Neha Chaudhary, Director of Admission at NYFA, Mumbai; who gave us an insight into the expansion, the principles of the academy and film education as a whole. 

New York Film Academy, Mumbai

New York Film Academy, Mumbai

With everything available on the internet , what edge does studying NYFA have over self education?

Kitty Koo: I think it is very difficult to teach film making online. Almost impossible. As a student you don’t get hands on experience on the process and you’re left with merely an instructor talking to you over the Internet. We did have an online screenwriting programme. But filmmaking needs to be an interactive learning experience. Our courses are not just theory based, we give a lot of practical experience to our students. The first day at the institute they are using a camera. We truly believe that students learn by doing. We started our last course on 30th of October and the students have already made their first film. The films will be screened and evaluated so that the students get an idea of what they could have done differently and what they are doing right.

Is the course customised for the industry present here or does it cater to a more global standard? 

Kitty Koo: It is a global standard course. Even though we have these defined industries all around the world of different countries, filmmaking is universal. Film making is film making. It doesn’t matter where you come from. The nationality does not change how a human being feels and thinks. You tell a story in a way the story needs to be told. Also if you really ask the audience looking at the film, they are looking at the content in a film, they don’t really care if it’s a Hollywood film or Bollywood film. They relate to the story, the performance, the characters, the way the camera is telling the story. An Indian film maker can make an American film and vice a versa.

What are the placements opportunities like? Is there scope for international placements?

Kitty Koo: I always tell students, especially the new comers, it’s your work that defines you. No matter where you’re applying for a job, in your home country or internationally, people hire you for your talent and your work. It depends on whether you’re able to bring something to the table, that enhances the film. I think that is essential, it doesn’t matter if you’re from a film family, or not. If you study at a certain institute and expect to get a job on the basis of that, it is not going to possible. I believe in any field of art, not just film, you cannot get placed. You have to show what you can do. Unlike an engineer or any other career, your film career depends entirely on your talent. Film making is quite realistic, people spend a lot of money on making films, they cannot afford to hire somebody just on the basis of a name. Everything in films is very focused and defined. You need to know what area of focus you chose for yourself and be good at it.

Students at New York Film Academy, Mumbai

Students at New York Film Academy, Mumbai

What are your observations of aspiring Indian filmmakers?

Kitty Koo: Indian students are very passionate about films. I have observed that cinema is part of the Indian persons DNA (laughs). I think the blood that flows through an Indian consists of the cinema bug. Cricket and cinema are a huge part of the Indian culture. Students come from over 100 countries, to the NYFA in New York, but I have sensed that the Indian student’s success rate is way higher. I see that they are doing more than the other students. The Indian film industry is the largest industry in the world, and then there are smaller regional industries in the country. So many television stations, for each language and region. Students come from various backgrounds, and they end up making some sort of statement in their own cultural space. Director of the film Newton, Amit Masurkar is an alumni of NYFA, New York and there are so many other students, who are doing so well in various fields of filmmaking.

Are you looking to expand to any other cities in India?

Kitty Koo: At this moment, we plan to operate in Mumbai and see how things go. I know there are other cities that have potential, but at this point we plan to observe the reactions and see how well we are received in Mumbai. We want to collaborate with the industry prevalent here and then move further.

Editing Suite at New York Film Academy, Mumbai

A lot of film schools in India are Government Institutes and the fees are subsidised giving everyone equal opportunity to explore film making as a career. A course at NYFA is costlier. How do you plan to tackle this issue? 

Kitty Koo: I feel you cannot put a price on certain experiences. Education should not be evaluated on the basis of the price. If the money you spend is able to give you what you need , it is worth it. You have to look at the value an experience adds to your life. Just because you spend less money it is not necessary you come out with a valued experience. You have to understand, if the money you spend is equivalent to the time you have spent and you have to decide what is important for you.

When are you looking to start full time courses here?

Kitty Koo: That will probably take sometime considering the government regulations and the criterias we have to fulfil. We will be operating with the short term courses right now. The students do have an option to transfer their credits, to the New York campus once they get done with the short term course here. That also helps with the VISA process as you’re already a part of the institute and have shown genuine interest in it. It has been only a couple of months since we started this campus, so the full time course will probably take sometime to start.

Master Class with William Tyler Smith, at New York Film Academy, Mumbai

Master Class with William Tyler Smith, at New York Film Academy, Mumbai

Neha Chaudhary, the Director of Admission, spoke about the institute from her experience, elaborating on the vision of NYFA:

Neha Chaudhary: We started our campus in the month of May. We offer two programmes- film making and the acting. In a one month workshop, each student makes three films of their own and in the two months workshop, they make five. Every student gets the opportunity to explore all the facets of film making irrespective of what course they enroll for. We have script writing, cinematography, editing courses. They make their own film and at the same time they work on the films of their batch mates. On the very first day the students get to work with cameras. We think every student needs to have hands on experience with equipment. We have all the essential equipment available for the students to use. You spend all day from 9 AM-7 PM at the institute during the term of your course, exploring various aspects of film making. Most of our faculty are International personalities. And the students get the opportunity to have a global perspective.

Before heading this campus, I was handling the admissions for the US campus and I realised a lot of students and their parents were concerned & unsure of film making as a career. Not in cities like Mumbai, but other parts of the country. At NYFA Mumbai we offer shorter courses so that students have an opportunity to explore film making as a career and deliberate upon their area of interest. They can then transfer their credits and shift to NYFA, New York if they wish to. A lot of students are still confused whether this is the same institute as the one in America. We run the Mumbai Campus in the same way as the ones internationally. Offering the same course structure and similar infrastructure.

We have summer and winter programmes that can be done along with any other degree’s you’re pursuing, so that you get initiated into the world of cinema and can decide for yourself if this is what you would like to do for the rest of your life. An acting student, does not only learning acting, but learns the entire process of film making from script writing to audition techniques. We work on the personalities of our student, so that they are in a better position to present themselves.