Luca Procida, ’19, (second row, far left) and his friends attend the award ceremony for the Tisch 48 Festival, a 48-hour challenge in which participants make a three- to five-minute short film. Procida’s group qualified for the top 10 short films and won the Best Director prize. (Photo courtesy of Procida)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Luca Procida, ’19, loves the location, opportunities at NYU

Luca Procida, ’19, is majoring in cinema studies at New York University (NYU).

Q: Why did you choose NYU?

A: I knew that I wanted to go to a school that would offer a variety of possibilities to explore academically, specifically around film studies. And the program that I am in (at Tisch School of the Arts) is the first official cinema studies program at a university. Most schools have a filmmaking program, but this was the first school with a major in cinema studies.

And I’m able to be in New York, which is such a huge place to be in if you want to be in the entertainment field in general. 

Q: How would you describe cinema studies?

A: It focuses on the academic aspect of film rather than the creative aspects. This is more about why movies are important and how they’re made. A lot of the classes try to help us develop critical voices, think critically and analyze film. 

I’m also minoring in producing, which supplements my cinema studies with a more business-oriented aspect of film. 

I’m looking more into the realm of producing and creative production.

Q: Has NYU lived up to your expectations so far?

A: Unfortunately, due to this really weird situation, I won’t be able to experience the spring semester. But otherwise, it’s been a fantastic place full of fantastic people. 

I’m insanely glad I chose NYU. There’s a lot of experiences that I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise. For example, one time, since Spike Lee is a graduate film professor, I got to hear him talk at one of our performing arts centers. 

Unfortunately, the school food has let me down, but I am in New York. 

Q: What is it like living in the city?

A: It’s very different from Sacramento, as I’m sure is obvious. 

The first couple weeks I was in New York, I think I went to Joe’s Pizza late every night for a $3 slice. There’s definitely a feeling of buzz around the city because, like they say, it never sleeps.

Q: How has COVID-19 affected your time at NYU?

A: We’re officially online through the spring semester. We’re doing all our classes through Zoom and submitting stuff online. 

It’s been a very strange transition, I’ll admit. I didn’t expect to be in this situation — I don’t think anybody did. It puts a different perspective on classes because we’re in the comfort of our own homes. It’s been interesting — I wouldn’t say difficult, but it’s been a learning curve for everyone.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: My fall semester, I took this class called Italian Films, Italian History. It was taught by the head of the Italian department. He has such a deep knowledge of Italian history and Italian film. We’re looking at film through a critical historical lens and a historical film lens. 

I also took Writing the Essay, Intro to Cinema Studies, and Introductory Italian 1.

This semester, I’m taking a class called Media Moguls. The class essentially teaches us about media moguls and these powerful producers and studio executives. It’s taught by a professor (who) used to be a Hollywood producer. They’re the guys that find the money, and they work for the studios and help get the film made. 

One of the stories he told us is that he helped introduce video cassettes into Hollywood. 

(I’m also taking) Writing the Essay: TV History and Culture, Hitchcock’s Old Ladies, and Science of Happiness.

Q: What’s your favorite class?

A: My most important class was Introduction to Cinema Studies. The other two (Italian Films, Italian History and Media Moguls) were my favorite, but this one helped me understand what I was in for for the next couple years, and the professor was absolutely fantastic. She was so great in welcoming us to the field, and she was personable and made the class fun.

Q: What’s your least favorite class?

A: It’s tough because they’re all different, but one near the bottom of my list is TV History and Culture. It’s not my least favorite, but it’s one that I don’t look forward to.

It’s a really fun, interesting class, but there’s a disconnect between the professor, students and teacher’s assistant. It makes for a weird learning environment.

Q: How is the workload?

A:  It took a little bit of getting used to because going from high school, and the last couple months of senior year, you get used to the senioritis feel, and jumping back in was difficult. 

Most of the time it’s fun stuff. Sometimes we just have to watch movies for homework and write about them.

Q: Are you involved in any clubs?

A: I am not at the moment. I hope to join a few in the coming year, but I wanted to observe campus and feel out how I wanted to commit my time to different places.

I do have my job as a school ambassador, and we’re all friends and enjoy spending time together. We answer phone calls and give tours of the school.

At the Admissions Ambassador new hire mixer, Luca Procida, ’19, (second row, far left) met and mingled with the new and veteran ambassadors. (Photo courtesy of Procida)

Q: What’s your living situation like?

A: My dorm is Goddard Hall, named after (actress) Paulette Goddard. That’s a fun little tidbit. 

It’s the smallest residential hall at NYU with a little over 200 students. It feels a lot like Country Day. I wanted to surround myself with a small community where I knew I could make a lot of friends. I know so many people in my dorm that it doesn’t feel like a dorm so much as it feels like I’m living with a bunch of friends. 

We have a residential college, which is a zero-credit course where we write reflection essays for the residence hall. It fosters this sense of community, and there’s a lot of opportunities that the hall offers you. One time I got to have dinner with one of the deans of Tisch.

And all the RAs are really cool people. One RA did a tour of Little Italy (in New York), focusing on all the mafia spots. 

Q: How was the transition to college?

A: It wasn’t too hard. I was lucky that two of my best friends are my suitemates. It was good to have people to hang out with from the first day. 

Finding your own community is the biggest issue with such a big school and in such a big city. So I was lucky enough to immediately meet these people. From there, I made friends in my major and in the ambassador program once I was admitted. 

Q: How did Country Day help with that transition?

A: I will preach this to the end of days that Country Day was incredibly helpful for my writing. Whenever I write essays, I always think, “What would Ms. Bauman say? What would Fels say?” 

And I wouldn’t be as comfortable in my classes were it not for Country Day’s academic rigor because even though (teachers) already say it, once you get to college, you realize how important APs and all the work you did in high school was. 

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: Oof. I think I ate too much. That’s safe to say. There’s an Italian restaurant in SoHo that I frequent, and they have a deal on Monday nights after 9 that all pasta is half price. This semester, I had a class from 6-10 p.m. on Mondays, so afterward I would go with a group of friends to SoHo, and we’d sit around and talk. Usually Mondays aren’t fun, so doing that was fun, but I also ate way too much pasta.

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2020?

A: Explore the opportunities you’re given in college. I wouldn’t have made as many friends as I have had I not taken the opportunity to go to the movies and stuff like that. You’re there to learn, but when you have the opportunity to experience the world, definitely take it. 

Wherever you’re going, make the best of the situation and have fun with it. 

Five-star or subpar?

Quality of classes: ★★★★☆

Student-teacher interaction:  ★★★☆☆

Location: ★★★★★

Food: ★★★☆☆

Housing: ★★★★★

Social scene: ★★★★☆

Clubs: ★★★★☆

Spirit: ★★★★☆