This comes from Trustpilot and provide a good balance against the paid for/invited reviews by the company (which most of the positive ones are).
1. Do not trust them. Hard not to call them a SCAM.
Spend your money elsewhere. They will lock you into a contract and not deliver. Happy to take your money but not answer the phone. I applied for the August 2022 intake for the SetReady programme. Part of the contract stipulates that there can be no changes to the dates you sign on for under any circumstances except for Covid.
Two nights before heading down to London for a week, I received an email from NYFA stating the programme was cancelled and everyone would be changed onto the April programme citing the cost of living crisis. We were told to submit a response on their form and we would be contacted within 10 days to resolve this issue on a case-by-case basis.
To this date, I have received only one email from Rob himself after I sent a strongly worded email detailing my disappointment in the company and how I will be pushing this issue through small claims court.
They have a major issue with answering their own phones. If you manage to get through to them, there isn’t much further conversation other than “I don’t know his schedule”.
All in all, I cannot help but feel as though they have preyed upon my eagerness to enter the industry.
The programme is poorly managed, the clothing has not been sent, and the communication is nonexistent.
I had high hopes for them because they supposedly are associated with some high-profile actors and actresses, whom I am sure would not like to know that their names are tied to a company that takes advantage of young people pursuing their dreams.
Time to feature that august institution once again, as word comes in of their latest recruitment activities. This month the NYFA, through Programme Leader Brooke Ward, auditioned and signed up a 16 year old to one of their courses over two Zoom calls. This person was on Universal Credit (£265.31 a month) so a payment of £93 a month for 12 months was clearly a huge chunk of her available income.
As she was also only 16, the company required a parent signature but no checks were made on this, nor whether she could really afford these payments, nor that it was right for her and that she knew the implications of signing away this sum of money for what many have found to be a pretty worthless offering. They also signed her up for a “Spring Social” (£8) and for the “Film Awards” (£29.99) to boot.
When she asked for her money back the company, having been very happy and responsive to sign her up, displayed a noticeable silence in response to her email explaining that she had changed her mind, as is often their wont. As others have noted, and a current Trustpilot review of the company reflects signing you up and getting your money is very much their first priority:
Follow up emails over several days also failed to garner a response, right up to the moment where the Watercooler made contact with the owner of the company, Lauren Hendry. She didn’t respond (and still has not in any way at all) but all of a sudden, her partner and sometime CEO, Rob Earnshaw (aka Rob James) jumped to attention, now apparently full of huge contrition that such an awful set of circumstances should have taken place, explaining how he would of course now be putting it all right. In the event, the young person in question had cancelled the Direct Debits just in time so that only one month’s payments were taken and had to be returned.
One wonders how quickly Earnshaw might have jumped without the thought of all the negative publicity that this might attract, given that numerous people have reported that once this company has your money there is usually next to no chance of getting it back. Viz Trustpilot again on that:
Leaving that aside, on what planet do these people live that they feel it is acceptable to sign up anyone who is on Universal Credit for a £900 a year commitment (plus extras) for a course which doesn’t even have a start date, let alone someone who is clearly too young and without making any appropriate safeguarding checks.
This company is currently recruiting again for these courses. Caution be thy watchword.
And NB: Do not be bamboozled by the name. It may have the same acronym as the prestigious “New York Film Academy” but this NYFA bears no comparison to that institution. The National Youth Film “Academy” is nothing more than aprofit-seeking company peddling what it calls “courses” but which mostly consists of putting groups of inexperienced individuals together, giving them a camera and letting them get on with making a film.
There are a few more chargeable events along the way followed by an “awards ceremony” (for which they also charge you and your loved ones to attend) andthe perfunctory business of handing out “awards” to as many people as they can.
There is no accreditation, no external mnitoring, no assessment, no qualifications and hence no value foryour CV in taking part in this kind of thing. At best you make a few friends along the way – for which you will be shelling out hundreds and hundreds of pounds.
Ever wondered how the NYFA manages to secure so many glowing reviews on Trustpilot when its courses have come in for such negative opinion elsewhere?
Then wonder no longer. The answer lies in an email from NYFA founder Rob Earnshaw to former course members, offering to cross their palms with silver if they convey lots of warm words about their experience:
“I am writing to ask if you would be able to leave a review of the National Youth Film Academy on Trust Pilot?” he says.
“The reason we have created a Trust Pilot account is so that we can share with future employers and members success stories from our company. We are writing to past Members, Tutors, Parents, assistants and Mentors. The more positive reviews we have, the easier it is for us to engage with employers so as to build the reputation of the NYFA and the Members we represent”.
In case it isn’t clear what he wants, he goes on to say:
“If you could leave a positive review about your experience it would be greatly appreciated“
And in case you were wondering why you should bother to do that, the answer lies in nice big bold letters at the end:
“We would like to offer you £25.00 for your time. Once you have created your review, please can you email me back a link to your review along with your bank details and I shall ensure that monies are paid within 2 working days”.
So those Trustpilot reviews aren’t exactly impartial evidence of the quality of its courses then. Worth remembering if they should tempt you into forking over large sums of money for their (much lambasted) offering in the future.
**2022 EDIT Since this was first posted, the news is that the only thing that has changed is that these “courses” have gone up in price. Numerous more people have come forward to report that they are a complete waste of money and that the high Trustpilot rating that this company has secured has been entirely on the basis that the company has paid and begged people to leave them, while bullying those who have dared to leave negative opinions. Be warned, do not waste your money on these offerings, go to the BFI or Screenskills or any other proper training provider and get something worth having at much less cost!
Be aware also that, if you have a membership with this organisation and wish toleave, you MUST cancel the continuing payment you signed within 30 days or they will keep your money. Not only do they do this but they are very, very reluctant to pay out any refunds even when it is within these 30 days. It took repeated phone calls by one subscriber to get his money back. Niamh Redden (“Member Coordinator”) and Michael Thomas (“Event Coordinator”) both dragged their heels as much as they possibly could, making repeated promises and breaking them, before the company was forced to pay the refund. Beware all!**
Are you considering paying a fee to attend an audition/interview for one of the National Youth Film Academy’s £1200 (+ costs) “Set Ready” courses, or anything else this company (CEO Rob Earnshaw aka Rob James) is offering?
If so it is worth bearing the following reviews (and others) in mind. Every single one of these is from individuals who have paid to go to auditions or been on the courses themselves (and is just a small representative sample of many others):
“I did an online 9 hour course (spread over 3 weeks) and learned more in those 9 hours than I did in 2 weeks”
“I only did the interview and then realised that it was way too much money for what it was offering”.
“I would not recommend the NYFA to anyone who is looking to improve their skill set in the film industry”
“I attended their Summer Course and found it to be extremely unprofessional – all the work and organisation for the course was loaded onto young apprentices who had no idea what they were doing!
“The main gripe really is that we paid a lot of money for very little return”
“I went to their ‘breakthrough courses’ and the staff were awful, rude and disrespectful to their students, the guest speakers were good but the nyfa demanded full ownership and copyright of our films, meaning they have never been entered into festivals or viewed again by an audience, they gave all students a member status on their website but it is worthless and has led to no new opportunities”
“For the money paid, it was atrocious”
“The course itself was very bare bones; Not only were the course tutors not that experienced (at 18 years old, I’m much more qualified than most of them), but I hardly learnt anything! The most interesting workshop for me was for screenwriting, but even then, I actually learnt very little”
“I felt it was a waste of my time”
“I was put into a group with 8 other actors, a director, an AD and a writer. My group were missing a producer, editor and cinematographer. Other groups had 5 actors and a ‘full’ team, again when I point out the unfairness of this, I was told they would sort this. They did not”
“The amount of money for this course is dramatically out proportion for the experience received”
“In my opinion, the NYFA was a waste of money. I have not benefited in any way from being on this Course and could not recommend it to others”
“Fairly badly organised and overpriced”
“I would not recommend the course if people have any other way to network, and that instead they could spend half the cost of the course and produce a well funded short with a similarly sized group. Talking with friends from this course, they feel similarly”
“I personally wouldn’t recommend it as it certainly isn’t worth the money and the only thing my daughter got out of the course was to make new friends with like minded young people”
To confirm then – this is a company which has attracted a huge amount of negative opinion over the years (the above is only a tiny fraction). If it put as much effort into running its courses as it does in suppressing that poor feedback on the internet it would be a much more honourable organisation than it is. In short – be very cautious about handing over money to this organisation – the evidence is that their courses simply aren’t worth the money.
And if you have just arrived on this page after reading the scintillating reviews of this company’s offerings on Trust Pilot, you may want to reflect on the fact that, for some reason, fully 50 people within 72 hours decided to leave their first ever review on that site and all spontaneously decided to make it about their experience on these courses. And would you know – every single one decided, entirely independently, to express overwhelming satisfaction!!
Such an outpouring of effusive joy, it’s almost like a miracle.
And now it transpires that course attendees have been paid to leave reviews on Trustpilot – which does also help explain the enthusiasm on show! You’ll struggle to find mention of this salient fact in the reviews themselves though, which is not only against Trustpilot’s rules but a little shady to say the least…