As one of only a select few people who has attended both of the leading film schools, I thought I should offer my experience to discuss the two. New York University and University of Southern California have vied for some time for title of having the ‘best’ film school. While there are certainly other quality programs out there including AFI, UCLA and others, USC and NYU, due to the number of illustrious alumni, the long history of their programs and the reputation each has are perceived to be at the top of the heap. So how are they different and is one or the other really the ‘best’? As I’ll explain, the answer is actually not so simple and really depends on what kind of film education you are trying to experience.
The first issue of comparison is location. NYU is located in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City while USC is located just south of downtown Los Angeles. At first this might seem an even draw. After all, they are both great cities, just in different ways. In my experience however, they offer two very different advantages/disadvantages with respect to their film schools. New York is by far the more dynamic and action packed of the two cities. The Tisch Film School is located in a very young, hot part of the city and attending school there provides immense stimulation and interaction with the great mix of New York inhabitants.
NYU does not have a traditional campus, but instead has several dozen buildings spread throughout the Greenwich Village area. While this does not provide the ‘protected’ feel of an enclosed campus such as USC’s, it actually makes for a much more exciting experience living in New York City. USC’s film school on the other hand is located in a section of LA which is somewhat less desirable. While only a short drive down the freeway or across town to Hollywood or the more upscale Westside, the immediate vicinity around the campus is not the greatest area and can potentially be unsafe at night if more than a few blocks outside the campus grounds.
The lack of a good subway or public transit system in LA means that a student will be ‘stuck’ on campus without a car or at least without friends or access to a car. While the proximity to the film industry, the studios and the many post production houses in LA do offer value to the student for internships and such, my view is that during school, New York offers such a substantially better living environment that it outweighs those benefits. After graduation after all, many NYU graduates make the move to LA anyway
The next notable factor between the two schools has to do with their size. NYU has a much larger program in sheer numbers with up to 1000 students enrolled at any one time in the film school when considering all the years of the program. USC has a smaller total size school of several hundred which makes for smaller classes and greater one on one access to professors. Also, the equipment tends to be in better condition at USC because of considerably less number of students using the limited amount. In this respect I give USC the edge.
However, one advantage of the larger NYU program comes after graduation. The sheer number of NYU graduates in the industry make it easier to network in my opinion. While there is certainly a strong Trojan network that should not be dismissed, I found in my years in LA that I ran across many more NYU Tisch grads than I did the USC film program. While this does not necessarily mean that is a higher ‘success’ rate among NYU grads, it does offer more networking opportunities and ‘contacts’ at more companies. For more insight into the NYU and USC Film programs please visit my site at www.USCFilmSchool.com.