Brooklyn College to offer school within studio

Steiner to house new institution

Steiner Studios is partnering with Brooklyn College to house the institution’s new film school within its walls.

“It will be the only graduate school in film embedded on a working lot,” said Steiner Studios prexy Douglas C. Steiner.

Recent clients at Steiner include Universal’s upcoming Matt Damon/Emily Blunt thriller “The Adjustment Bureau,” Disney’s live-action remake of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and ongoing HBO series “Bored to Death,” “In Treatment,” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

The school is aiming to begin its first semester in September 2013.

Brooklyn College, a part of the City U. of New York, will offer a program headed by professor Daniel Gurskis, a screenwriter and playwright who has also penned an instructional text on scriptwriting. Because CUNY is a public school system, the grad programs will be significantly cheaper ($35,000 for a three-year MFA) than comparable degrees at such local film schools as Columbia’s School of the Arts and NYU’s Tisch (which can run to $150,000).

Though the film program is public, the expansion is being funded by private contributions from individuals and corporations, including Steiner Studios. Gurskis called attention to private investment firm owner Barry R. Feirstein, who “really kicked everything off with a $5 million gift — not a pledge, a check.” Feirstein, a Brooklyn College alum and frequent patron of the arts, was involved with the project from the beginning, despite having no connection to the industry. “He’s a loyal son of Brooklyn and he wanted to give back,” Gurskis said. “He was the guy who stepped up right at the beginning and said, ‘This is a great idea — count me in.'”

The college is in the process of raising funds to cover the startup process and the operating costs of the school for its first several years. Gurskis said the school aims to be able to support itself from its fifth year of operation.

Classrooms, offices and other academic facilities will occupy two floors at 25 Washington Ave. in Brooklyn — about 70,000 of the 235,000 square feet in the building — alongside offices that will be rented out to film and television personnel working on projects at Steiner. “We’re expecting some great networking opportunities just because people are all in the same spot,” Gurskis said.

The building will be constructed alongside Steiner Studios’ massive expansion over the next two years, which will add 11 soundstages to the facilities’ existing five at a cost of $90.5 million. Steiner told Daily Variety that the studio functions as its own construction contractor, so the work (mostly the tricky renovation of landmarked buildings in the Brooklyn Navy Yard) will be done in-house.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made fleeting reference to the program in his “state of the city” address Thursday, calling it “the first graduate level film school of its kind.”

Gurskis said the program will offer a master of fine arts degree in cinema (in which, he says, the school includes the large-scale TV shows that shoot at Steiner) with specializations in directing, cinematography, producing, screenwriting, production design and post-production. It will also offer a master of science degree in entertainment industry management and a master’s in industry studies, as well as an additional MFA in media scoring in cooperation with the Brooklyn College conservatory of music.

“We’re really making a concerted effort to develop post-production and industry management, to point people toward areas of interest where there might be jobs,” Gurskis said.”It’ll be affordable and will contribute to further diversification of the industry, which I think will contribute to a better product,” said Steiner. “Part of why everyone thinks it’s a good idea is that getting your foot in the door is really important in what is essentially a freelance business — you need to make connections, and we will facilitate those.”School and studio officials will work out with individual productions on the level of involvement desired with the students. “We’ll have a system for people to drop on for access and part-time work,” Steiner said. “It’s not just the formal process, it’s the informal process that leads to business opportunities.”