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Tisch Alumni Community Blooms Out West

photo: los angeles skyline

It’s a foregone conclusion. At nearly every Hollywood awards show these days, Tisch grads inevitably take home any number of statuettes. Alumni flourish in almost every corner of every production happening across the industry.

But despite this success, these busy Southern Californians long to be more connected to their East Coast roots, and each other. So, they turned to their alma mater, and Tisch got to work.

“Part of the value Tisch provides is connecting artists with other artists who will become their collaborators throughout their professional careers,” said Andrew Uriarte, executive director, Tisch External Affairs. “Our alumni crave the same level of energy and community in Los Angeles that they enjoyed in New York, so we went about making that happen for them.”

The first step required connecting a variety of dots. Tisch already boasts an unparalleled creative community in New York, with Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Alec Baldwin, Martin Scorsese, Chandra Wilson, Oliver Stone, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Daniel Dae Kim among those frequently sighted at 721 Broadway. But many of the school’s best writers, directors, producers, and actors in film and television have naturally migrated west, scattering themselves around LA, and beyond.

That’s where faculty like Joe Pichirallo and John Tintori—the chairs of undergrad and graduate film, respectively—came in. With deep Hollywood connections, they’ve helped forge extensive new alumni programming and mentorship out west. It’s already paying off, as young alumni have used the opportunity to land jobs at CAA, SAG/AFTRA, and Disney, among others. And while the school has a long tradition of promoting student films in Los Angeles at the annual Haig Manoogian Screenings, Tintori and Pichirallo now organize in-depth studio tours for top students where they can meet with distinguished alumni such as Liza Chasin, president of the American production arm of Working Title Films; Sharon Sheinwold Jackson, partner/agent, WME; and Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Brothers’ Worldwide Television Distribution.

“NYU already had a fantastic reputation for producing brilliant and unique storytellers, and [Jim] Jarmusch and [Ang] Lee are great examples of that school of filmmaking,” says Tintori. “But to truly serve our students, we needed not only to show them how to make a film, but how to get a film made.”

The Los Angeles-based graduate acting alumni have been hard at work on this network for more than a decade, sponsoring alumni workshops, an annual festival of new work, and a yearly “Welcome to LA” reception for the graduating class. This year, the school will hold its largest annual fundraising event, the Tisch Gala—which traditionally draws many of its most notable alumni—at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“Having the Gala in Los Angeles is a way of highlighting the prominence of the Tisch name while celebrating our alumni,” says Fred Bush, director of alumni relations. “Tisch alumni are the gold standard for the industry.”

And that industry town has officially taken notice. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times touted a ranking that called NYU the #1 film school in the world—a place where students, quite simply, learn “to produce great films.”

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