Graduate Management News
Effective Practices

Effective Practices: NYU Blends Lights, Camera, Action … and Business

As a way of sharing what works in graduate management education, Graduate Management News occasionally looks in-depth at specific programs in business schools.

In 2007, when New York University announced a joint MBA/MFA degree for aspiring film producers, it said the program would bridge the gap between the "creatives" and the "suits." Linking those two worlds seems especially timely given that filmmaking today is as much a business as it is an art.

NYU's MBA/MFA is a partnership between the Stern School of Business and the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, part of the university's Tisch School of the Arts. During the three-year program, students learn essential business skills typical of any challenging MBA program and take courses focused on the business side of the entertainment industry—while they also pursue a full MFA curriculum in filmmaking.

Students must be accepted by both schools. Typically, students spend their first year primarily in the Stern School. One highlight is a course that includes a trip to the Cannes Film Festival. The second year is spent wholly at Tisch. Students split time in their third year between the two schools. They are also expected to devote summers to coursework, filmmaking, and field experiences.

C. Samuel Craig, the Catherine and Peter Kellner Professor in NYU's Stern School of Business and director of Stern's Entertainment Media and Technology Program, says the typical student wants to be a movie or television producer. "They have to have all the analytical skills necessary to succeed in an MBA program," he said, "but they also have to demonstrate the same level of creativity of someone who wants to be a film director."

Craig says the NYU program differs from the few other graduate programs that combine business with film in the degree to which it is integrated between the business school and NYU's school for the arts. Because deals to produce films have become much more complex, MBA-level expertise in finance can be invaluable, Craig said. "We felt it was critical that students get the full range of MBA skills along with the creative skills."

Many of the program's students complete internships at such companies as Focus Films and HBO. Students have also created films for Volvo, Verizon FIOS, Heineken, Johnnie Walker, and I LOVE NY.

With the program's first cohort graduating this spring, the program may increase in size from four to six students to eight or 10, Craig said, but he adds that NYU is adamant about maintaining high standards for the caliber of student.

One current student, Ryan Heller, played in a rock band for eight years. In a video on the program's website, he says he enrolled because he wanted "to figure out how to make a living in the entertainment business."

Long-term, Heller would like to write and produce feature films. He expects that the business skills he's learning on the MBA side will help him advance his filmmaking goals. On the Tisch side, he says, he's polishing his chops in storytelling. Moreover, he says, he's meeting people "on both sides of the equation" whom he expects will help him launch and sustain his new career.

With Effective Practices, Graduate Management News offers an occasional look at distinctive programs at GMAC member schools. Recently featured programs include Suffolk’s part-time global MBA, Warwick’s global distance-learning MBA; Cornell’s customizable immersion program, and National University of Singapore’s MBA with real estate specialization.

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