NYU Disavows Todd Phillips's Insurance-Fraud Production Method


It's one thing to be a fraud as a director. It's another entirely to actually practice fraud as a director. This is the simple lesson imparted today to New York University film students, who last month attended a mildly unethical guest lecture by Hangover director and NYU alum Todd Phillips. Forget giving weed to teenagers and filming them; how about insurance fraud as the filmmaker's new low point?

As noted by Vulture, NYU Film has enough insurance problems on its hands without Phillips confessing to lying about stolen equipment as a means of scamming his insurers. And in a letter to their students, the university's film chairs made their displeasure clear:

While we appreciate former students and alumni who return to NYU to share their films and experiences with our community, we were appalled by a story in which he made light of committing insurance fraud as a student. Whether or not this story is true, we assure you we never have, and never will, condone behavior that does not respect people, property, and legal documents. [...]

The vast majority of NYU students who have gone on to enjoy successful careers as filmmakers earned their breaks through their ability to tell good stories, and to get good performances from their actors. Most of their films were made on modest budgets and were noticed by industry professionals who recognize and reward the ability to make quality work within professional standards and with limitations.

Wow, that's loaded. "The vast majority"? Who are the excluded, successful minority who didn't tell good stories?

Moreover, what's the statute of limitations on prosecuting insurance fraud in New York? Some cursory research suggests six years (depending on the misdemeanor or felony nature of the crime), which would lift Phillips out of the woods. On the other hand, if it's a true story, cavalierly acknowledging one's lawbreaking (even way after the fact) seems a prosecutable offense in itself.

Movieline's request for comment from the New York State Insurance Dept wasn't immediately returned this afternoon, but we hope to have more about this on Monday. In the meantime, all you NYU kids, your teachers are right: Stick to the Brett Ratner model.

· Todd Phillips's Guest Lecture on Insurance Fraud Condemned by NYU [Vulture]


  • Christopher says:

    As a Tisch alumnus, I can tell you hardly anything at the Wassermans was made on a "modest budget." The only kids who made thesis films were ones who could secure financing above and beyond "modest" for student films.