Why Did NYU Rescind My Admission? My Short-lived Trip to Cloud Nine

On Friday March 4, I got back to my desk after lunch and saw that I had a missed call and a new voicemail from New York. I quickly opened up the voicemail. Here is the word-for-word transcript of the message:

“Hi Regina Kim, this is Terry Curtis Fox. I’m chair of Dramatic Writing at Tisch School for the Arts. Please give me a call, I have some very good news to convey. I am at 212-998-1942. That’s 212-998-1942. It’s about 4:20 in New York and I’ll be here for another hour or so. Bye.”

I ran out of the office, down two flights of stairs and the long hallway, and barreled outside. It was sprinkling, but I barely noticed. My heart was pumping as I called the number Terry left me.

I got through to a woman who connected me immediately to Terry, who sounded very happy as he let me know that I’d been accepted to the Dramatic Writing program for the upcoming school year. I told him, “You just made my year!” He laughed, then said, “Wait, there’s more.” He told me they were also offering me a scholarship that would fully cover my tuition. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic, especially considering the fact that NYU is notorious for its lack of financial aid. “It comes with a caveat,” Terry continued. “You have to cover housing fees yourself.” At that point, that was mere peanuts. Terry went on to say that the faculty was “very impressed” and they all “can’t wait to meet you in the fall.” He said I’d be getting the official letter of acceptance in the mail soon before we hung up.

A week and a half later, the rug was pulled out from under me.

On Monday March 14, I received an email from Graduate Admissions stating that they were unable to offer me admission to Tisch. Here’s what I noticed first: the email said “Dear Kim.” Not “Dear Regina Kim” or “Dear Ms. Kim.” Just “Dear Kim.” Naturally, I thought it was a mistake and I got someone else’s rejection letter. After all, Kim is a very common name, both first and last. Since it was already 10 pm and I couldn’t call NYU, I emailed Terry, hoping to have a reply by the time I woke up.

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This morning, I was walking across the street with Bob for coffee when I felt a buzz in my pocket. I pulled out my phone and saw that there was a voicemail from an unknown Los Angeles number. Again, here is the word-for-word transcript:

“Hi, this is Terry Curtis Fox from Dramatic Writing. Um, please give me a call at this number (left blank for privacy protection). This is my mobile. It is 12:40 eastern time and I am leaving to go out of the country at around 3:30 eastern time. Again (phone number left blank). Thank you.

Terry began by apologizing profusely. He said how much he hated having this conversation, but my admission was actually a mistake, an error on their side. He said what anyone would say in that situation, things like “I can only imagine how difficult this is for you right now” and “I have no words.” Standard apologetic lines.

Other things I noticed during this conversation, and please keep in mind that these are purely observations, not accusations: Terry stammered a lot, sounded unsure, and seemed very flustered. He also seemed to be in a hurry to get off the phone with me. The first time we spoke, he sounded confident and calm. Today, he was the polar opposite. Yes, this is a completely different scenario, which could have affected the dialogue. But why did he “have no words” today when he could have provided a deeper explanation besides “You were contacted in error”?

Here’s where it gets interesting though.

Terry went on to say, “We just don’t have enough funds to take everyone.” Something felt off so I inquired further: “Is it just the funds or…?” Terry repeated that they just didn’t have enough funds. I asked, “…or was it the whole application?” Terry immediately said, “It was the whole application,” and he sounded almost…relieved, like I’d given him an out, an excuse to blame the application. I’m not saying this was his intention and I am in no way an expert at deciphering speech tones and patterns; relieved is just the best way I can describe Terry’s reaction to my question.

Keep in mind that funding and admission are two very different matters i.e., rescinding a scholarship and rescinding an admission are not the same things. “Not enough funds to take everyone” means something completely different from “not enough space to take everyone.” And while Terry repeated the word “funds” several times, he never said the word “space.” I’m positive I could have found a way to fund a graduate education myself if it were simply a matter of “not having enough funds” to keep me in the program.

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After the call, I was obviously in shock. In less than two weeks, I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I found myself running through every possible scenario: When they read my FAFSA, did they not like the numbers? Did the graduate committee overturn the decision? Did something not check out on my application? Was it simply financials or was there something bigger in play behind the scenes AKA did I not fit the mold of the NYU student population or did a rich donor knock me off the list? Before you say I’m overreacting, remember what Tisch’s Director of Graduate Admissions Dan Sandford told Joshua Jackson last fall when he inquired about an application fee waiver.

Yes, you can argue that a non-recorded phone call regarding my admission is not a formal declaration of acceptance. Yes, the email I received is written evidence of my rejection, which arguably makes it official. Trust me, I’ve overthought every aspect of this. Here’s the scary truth though: with or without written evidence or any “official” snail-mail correspondence, admission can still be rescinded at any point and there’s nothing you can do about it. Call me naive and stupid but there is no doubt in my mind that Terry’s first phone call was legit, that I had been accepted to the program as of that moment in time.

NYU is a private school. NYU is an elite school. It is also one of the most expensive schools to attend. I understand that things like this happen, and I’m probably not the first person it’s happened to. I want to make clear that I’m in no way attacking NYU, Tisch, or the department chair. In my heart of hearts, I believe Terry was put in a tough situation and today’s phone call was a difficult one to make, which is why I appreciate that he chose to call and talk to me directly instead of sending an email. Although I’m bitter, because it’s human nature, I still respect the decision and uphold the admiration I have for the program. I’m just documenting the experience from my perspective, and I’m sure the people at Tisch all have their own versions of the story. I was in denial all day today but I’m slowly coming to terms with it tonight and writing this post is helping immensely. Although I won’t ever know what truly happened behind closed doors with my rescinded admission, I hope this illustrates a clearer picture of my brief stint on cloud nine and the dizzying descent that happened shortly after.

 

The Last Client: Episode 2

DSC03770.jpgThree weekends ago, February 19-21, the wonderful cast and crew of The Last Client got back together to shoot Episode 2 of the web series. Preproduction began back in June 2015 with weekly crew meetings on Slack. It was amazing to see the hard work pay off when we arrived on set the first night. There was great energy in the air and we all hurried to get the gear set up and ready to go.

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That Friday night, it was COLD. And there was a 40% chance it would start raining before we wrapped for the day, which we were nervous about because of all the camera, audio, and electrical gear. Because we had to wait until it got dark to shoot, we did a half-dozen rehearsals and made sure to eat whenever we got the chance.

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Watching a run through

We shot in downtown Campbell, which meant that the Friday night crowd shouted unintelligible things at us as they walked past. A few friendly strangers stopped by to ask us what we were doing. Other than that, we were left alone, which surprised me because I expected a lot more commotion for an exterior shoot.

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The first night’s shoot went well and although it did start to sprinkle during the latter part of the evening, we were all happy with the footage we got. We got to the final shot of the night…and that’s when things got weird.

Remember in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus sits in front of the jail, reading to Tom and the gang pulls up in various cars to confront him? Well, that happened to us. Except the cars were all the same old Chevy trucks, each in a different color. They pulled into the U-shaped driveway one after another like they’d just come from a car show.

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When the engines shut off, people got out of the trucks, and I honestly thought we’d be in for a fight that night, like a literal fist fight. We all stopped filming and looked on in confusion and intrigue as the men walked to the grassy patch of the driveway and began smoking, not paying us any mind. Finally convinced we weren’t going to die, we continued filming. After we wrapped, we gave them our leftover food, which they said they’ll pass on to the local homeless shelter.

And that’s how Day 1 ended.

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Day 2 started early, 9 am in San Francisco’s Mission District. We got to the medical set, which turned out to be something we weren’t expecting (Google “The SF Armory”), and quickly put together the room. There were lots of cool sets lining the hallway where we were shooting and we even used a padded cell for rehearsals while the actors used various bedroom sets as their dressing rooms.

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The anticipation was high throughout this shoot because this is probably our most climatic scene in Episode 2. We were struggling a little with time, stressed that we’d run over, but we managed to pull it off, thanks to the amazing and hard-working crew.

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There were a lot of technical aspects to figure out for this shoot because we had to do a lot with very little space. For example, we had to find the best way to make a tiny room look like an endless hospital hallway. Chris, our DP, was the real MVP for the shoot, especially considering the amount of time he spent holding the Movi.

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As soon as that shoot was done, we all packed up in a hurry because our next shoot was in two hours in Sunnyvale. We broke down the set and got out of the room in record time; I was shocked to see it only took us 15 minutes. We hopped on 101 to race down to The Patio Bar and spoke with the location owners (who were so friendly, accommodating, and excited to have us), and prepped for the next scene.

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I can’t give away too much yet, but we managed to pull off a lot of visual aspects I didn’t think we’d be able to do. There was definitely a lot of improvising going on that night. Major props to our crew for working creatively to pull this off.

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It was also cool to explain what we were doing to bar customers and passersby who were interested. We were able to get this great location thanks to Brian, who went to talk to the owner, Becca, multiple times during preproduction.

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Again, it got cold really fast, but this was our last exterior shoot so we braved through it and tried to keep moving in between takes. This scene was a fast-paced, action-packed one so there was a lot of productive energy on set.

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We wrapped Day 2 six minutes early and were all pretty tired because we’d just filmed for 10 straight hours and still had another day ahead of us. We swapped our initial plans to go out as a crew for heading back home to sleep early, which was completely fine by me.

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Day 3 was definitely the most relaxing of the weekend. No complicated set ups or shots. It was an interior scene too and working in Kayla’s house was easier than trying to work around a bunch of contracts and commitments we had to pay close attention to.

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I think we were all expecting it to be way easier than we prepped for though because all of a sudden, we’d burned through the four hours and we only had 10 minutes left to shoot a whole new scene. There was a bit of freaking out, though it was productive stress, and we managed to get what we absolutely needed for Episode 2.

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Due to an incredible stroke of luck, we also managed to shoot the scene we needed for the beginning of Episode 3, which we would have had to come back for if the actors weren’t so considerate and accommodating with their schedules. After cleaning up our gear and resetting all the furniture, we were done!

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The weekend went by fast and it was kind of bittersweet at the end. But Episode 2 was shot and we were all excited to keep moving things forward. We all went out as a crew afterwards on that Sunday and had dinner and drinks. Then we said goodbye; Jon, our 1st AD was flying back to Michigan the next day. Now we’ve reverted back to our weekly crew meetings online where we’re currently smack in the middle of postproduction.

I want to thank my talented cast and amazing crew for the shoot. I’m incredibly lucky to have such a hard-working team believe so passionately in my writing. We’re all excited to bring our fans more content from The Last Client’s sci-fi world. And another huge shout out to our Indiegogo contributors. We wouldn’t have been able to shoot Episode 2 without your donations. Stay tuned for updates!