Ms. Reyes bowed her head for a moment at the compliment, but then laughed out loud. “I’m trying to break down the box and burn it and throw it away!” she shouted. Mr. Etienne and Ms. Tolentino laughed along with her. And when they quieted down, Mr. Etienne turned back to Ms. Reyes and said, “I might have a story for you if you want to direct something.”
Feirstein started seven years ago as an idea growing out of the undergraduate film program at Brooklyn College. The project seemed like a good one, and soon a powerful coalition was on board, including Hollywood executives, Mayors Michael R. Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, a small group of financiers and Doug Steiner, chairman of the Navy Yard studios. The former hedge fund manager Barry Feirstein supplied the initial $5 million and was joined by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the State of New York and private donors, all of which eventually raised $30 million for construction and equipment. The borough contributed $1 million. Scholarships were set up, including $10,000 for any thesis project in need, helping to level the playing field between the students with money and those with none.
“We are the first public graduate film school in New York,” Mr. Wacks said, “the same way California has U.C.L.A. New York didn’t have that before.”
Though Mr. Wacks wasn’t in on the original idea, he was hired in 2013 to make it work. He brought in several filmmakers to the board, including his old friend Ethan Hawke and Mr. Soderbergh.
Mr. Hawke, who was recently working on a film down the street with Paul Schrader, said he was excited about the student films that would be coming out of Feirstein in the next few years. “That’s what’s so important, giving these kids time to grow and develop their talent,” he said.
He had just seen the film “Songs My Brother…