Academy for Careers in Television and Film (ACTvF)
Professional-level training in film production and lots of support for students
Few extra-curricular activities outside of film production and sports
The Academy for Careers in Television & Film (ACTvF) is a small, successful school that delivers on its name. It offers students professional-level training in all aspects of film production as well as internships and paid work in the industry thanks to some big-name partners including Silver Cup Studios, the Tribeca Film Institute and the Museum of the Moving Image. It is an unscreened school that admits a broad range of studentsfrom struggling to high achieversbut its graduation, college attendance and college readiness rates far exceed the citywide average.
ACTvF is located steps from the East River inside a modern, airy building with stunning views of the midtown Manhattan skyline. It shares the facilities with Hunter's Point Community Middle School and the Riverview School, a 6-12 District 75 program for children with severe learning disabilities.
Edgar Rodriguez has been principal since 2013. Previously, he was an assistant principal at ACTvF and a founding staff member,along with Alan Metzger, an award-winning director who designed and oversees the school's film program.
Film studies at ACTvF is an impressive operation. Students have access to a state-of-the-art film library and editing labs, several small sound stages, professional-grade audio and visual equipment, and shops stocked with props, wardrobe, and heavy-duty equipment for set design and construction. Students take field trips to production studios, and often film throughout the neighborhood and along the riverfront. Students run the school's non-profit production company, Next Step Pictures.
Ninth and 10th-graders rotate through classes in business production (budgeting and timelines), post production (video editing, sound mixing and motion graphics), film production (cameras, lighting, and sound), set production (set design and construction), hair, makeup and costumes, and directing (includes screenwriting). At the end of their sophomore year students choose one area to focus on through graduation.
Film classes are held mainly in the afternoon and during our visit we observed a seamless transition between the last class of the day and after-hours film work. As the final period ended, students fanned out across the building to continue working on their filmsediting in labs and shooting scenes in hallways, offices, the cafeteria, and on the sound stages. Some also headed to the waterfront to shoot scenes.
Teachers strive to ensure students at all levels get the right amount of academic support. There are no accelerated classes in the lower grades and for high achievers the pacing of instruction in some courses may seem slow at first. Students we metincluding an Ivy League-bound seniorsaid their teachers compensated by giving them extra and more challenging work. One sophomore said her experience in science classes has motivated her to pursue medicine.
All students study Spanish. Advanced Placement courses are offered in calculus, English, U.S. history and psychology. Instead of taking pre-calculus, juniors who are strong in math serve as teaching assistants in an algebra or geometry class. This helps reinforce their foundational skills before tackling calculus in the 12th grade, according to Rodriguez. The set-up also helps ease students' academic load during a stressful junior year when they're studying for the SATs, participating in internships and working on a year-long film production project, he said. Students may earn college credit by taking free courses at LaGuardia Community College.
The vibe throughout ACTvF is relaxed, friendly and close-knit. Students and administrators are on a first-name basis, and the teachers pay close attention to students' needs. Most teach three sections of classes a day, which is less than the typical load of five. The more manageable instructional schedule allows them to take on other responsibilities. Each teacher serves as the four-year advisor to a small group of students. Teachers meet regularly with their advisory studentsin groups and individuallytokeep tabs on their progress, monitor attendance, address academic and personal issues and help students through the college admissions process.
Students' days are packed with academic and film work and there are limited extra-curricular activities. Offerings include PSAL sports teams, school newspaper, yearbook committee and a few student-run clubs.
Special education: There are ICT classes and SETSS as well as a full-time social worker on staff.
College admissions: Students get a lot of support from their advisors and the school's full-time college counselor. Nearly all students graduate on time, and most attend college after graduation. CUNY and SUNY schools are popular choices; some attend private colleges including a few very competitive schools such as Columbia and New York University.
Admissions: Preference is given to students who attend an open house. The school has far more applicants than seats available. (Laura Zingmond, April 2015)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Calculus, AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP Psychology, AP US History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Soccer
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Cross Country, Flag Football, Softball, Volleyball