A question we hear often from prospective NYFA students is “which location is right for me?” The decision between attending the New York Film Academy at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California or in New York City is one of the most common hang-ups applicants face. The curriculum and tuition at both campuses is identical. The real difference is life in the city.
Transportation, climate, location accessibility and living space are the biggest differences between Los Angeles and New York.
An empowering aspect of New York City life is the public transportation. There is no need to own a car in New York, and all five boroughs, (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island), are accessible with your metro card. New Jersey and Long Island are also just a train ride away. The trains run 24/7, and though there are sometimes service change surprises, the entire city is more or less accessible at all times. Los Angeles, on the other hand, requires a car, especially if you plan to pursue a long-term program in the city. In order to scout locations, transfer crew and equipment or just to go out on the town, it is necessary to drive in LA. However, once you have a car in the city, the possibilities for filming locations open up enormously.
While New York has a huge offering of scenes to shoot – parks, city streets, river views, beach side carnivals in Coney Island and neighborhoods that vary from fancy Upper East Side digs to stoop culture in Brooklyn – city shots definitely out-number outdoor locations, and you should still expect to construct a lot of your sets indoors. Los Angeles allows for variety of natural scenes and open spaces and, of course, the versatility of the Universal Studios Backlots. Along with the urban and suburban environments in and around LA, mountains, hills and beaches, students have the privilege of filming on the active backlots in Universal Studios. The ability to recreate any environment in the studios is extremely useful, and waving at buses full of tourists as the Universal Backlot Tour trams drive by is also a perk of the location.
In the way of climate, the difference is very simple: New York has seasons, Los Angeles does not. Living in New York, you will experience our lovely fall foliage and beautiful spring blooms, but they go hand in hand with one season of snowfall and another of oftentimes muggy heat. In Los Angeles, the weather stays warm and sunny for pretty much the entire year, but while LA’s one season is very pleasant, the unchanging climate can be a little claustrophobic for some. New York has wonderfully well-rounded weather, but you must be willing to deal with frigid January and blazing August.
Cost also factors in heavily when students make their campus location decision. It’s difficult to gage overall cost of living for each city, as everyone has their own habits and lifestyles, but we’ll do it anyway: The general cost of living in New York City is higher than living in Los Angeles, but that goes without factoring in the cost of owning a vehicle. Maintaining a car and paying for gas and insurance can easily push the price of living in LA to the same level as New York while an $89 per month Metrocard puts all of New York at your fingertips.
One of the most important differences between attending the New York Film Academy in New York City versus going to school in Los Angeles is your place of residence. In New York City, NYFA manages dorms for students, and accommodations can be arranged through the housing department. There are no NYFA-run dorms in Los Angeles; however, NYFA also has a relationship with a gated community across the street from the campus that will offer students housing at a discount. NYFA also maintains a roommate list where students may be put in touch with each other. In turn, independent housing is more difficult to find in NYC. Students need to be able to prove they can produce each month’s rent or provide a co-signer who can, and due to New York’s competitive housing market and rapid turn-over, renters also can’t start the housing search more than 30 days before move-in while the LA housing market moves at a more normal speed.
While discussing your film and acting future, we certainly cannot neglect to talk about the importance of making industry connections. The film and television industries in NYC and LA are both enormously important and differ greatly in their style of production. While far more studio movies are filmed in Los Angeles, New York plays home to more television work, and it’s independent film scene is sizable. After you become familiar with each city by scouting locations and negotiating permission to shoot, your career options will open up significantly. For long-term programs, the Master degree and the 3-Year Intensive Bachelor degree, the New York Film Academy already strongly recommends or requires that students spend at least a year studying in each city.
When you take time out of your busy NYFA schedule to explore outside activities, both cities can keep a person very entertained. Contrary to popular belief, neither New York nor LA boasts an entirely exclusive nightlife environment. They are both big cities, and there is something there for everyone. It should be noted that the majority of film premieres happen in LA, and there are unsurprisingly more opportunities for exposure to Hollywood lifestyle, but New York City boasts a truly huge diversity of film, television and other cultural social events that will be just as enlightening to a film student or actor.
We hope that answers some of your questions concerning NYFA life in New York City or Los Angeles. Remember, there are great things about both cities – either way, you’ll find your place in NYC or LA while studying film and acting with us.