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posted: 6/26/2014 5:30 AM

5 questions for 'Ivory Tower' director

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  • Yale University and Harvard Law School grad Andrew Rossi directs "Ivory Tower," about the insane cost of going to college.

    Yale University and Harvard Law School grad Andrew Rossi directs "Ivory Tower," about the insane cost of going to college.


5 Qs for 'Ivory' director

"Ivory Tower" director Andrew Rossi graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. He practiced law for two years before becoming a filmmaker. I hit him with five questions:

Q. You're 41. When you returned to Harvard and other campuses for your movie, did you notice any differences between today's students and your peers 20 years ago?

A. The biggest difference I would observe, generalizing, of course, because there are exceptions, is a sense of entitlement. A sense of being customers who are paying a lot of money for a product.

So, the relationship between the student and the school has shifted since the time I was in college. Now there's a corporate-style relationship versus one of a certain sense of mission, such as educating students to a higher calling. That was the most jarring difference.

Q. What made you examine the cost of higher education?

A. There was such a sense of doom on campuses. Higher education was in a total crisis. Could everything have changed so much in the short time since I left? Turns out that the answer is "absolutely," when it comes to the economics of school, plus the academic and experiential components.

Q. What was the catalyst for creating "Ivory Tower"?

A. The personal trigger for me was to become a sort of devil's advocate by taking the position of a journalist and asking, "Is it true that things are as horrible as people are saying?" Then to use the tools of a documentary filmmaker, going on campuses to capture things in a narrative way ... and finding a compelling way to explore the question.

Q. Did it help while filming at Harvard that you were a graduate?

A. Yes, it did. I think it helped to show that my intentions were journalistic and to objectively capture the experiences of students.

Q. Why abandon a legal career to shoot documentaries?

A. When I went to law school and when I worked as a lawyer, I did so with the knowledge that I was acquiring a skill set and some broad life experience that would be a helpful tool for the future.

I didn't want to be a lawyer my whole life. My girlfriend at the time -- she's now my wife -- was in journalism school and she encouraged me to make the shift. She thought it was a great idea. Now we have two kids.

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