N.Y. vs. L.A.: Director Bart Freundlich on Why the Big Apple is Better for Kids (Guest Column)

Andy Kropa/Invision/AP
From left: Daughter Liv, Moore, son Caleb and Freundlich

The helmer — whose 'Wolves' opens at Tribeca Film Festival on April 15 — husband to Julianne Moore and dad discusses the differences between the two cities: "You’re constantly being enriched in New York, and I think in L.A. you have to look for it."

This story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

In any East Coast, West Coast rivalry, I am firmly planted in the East. I look at New York as the greatest place in the world. It is my hometown and mecca. I'm constantly being enriched in New York, whereas in L.A. I have to look for it. When I'm walking through the streets of New York, I experience all economic groups, races and ethnicities. That really shapes who you become as a person. I believe your eyes get used to that and something unconscious happens where you understand that it's not just you in the world. In L.A. you're in a car all the time and have to make more of a conscious decision to interact with people.

Of course, it's not all cut-and-dried. I know kids in L.A. who went to UCLA Lab School, where half the kids are only Spanish- speaking, which provides a cool, rich and diverse environment in which to learn. And kids certainly can go to New York private schools and not have a ton of different, substantive experiences. But what a school may lack, the city makes up for. In New York, my son was taking the L train to and from school when he was 13. Sure, it can be a struggle in New York City to find your own space, but that struggle can also help define you. I think of it in basketball terms. In L.A. you can find any open gym to shoot in; in New York an open half-gym is unheard of. I still have that kidlike awe when I walk into one in L.A. and go, "Wait a second, we're allowed to be in here?"

As for growing up faster, New York City has changed since I was mugged five times in the '70s and early '80s. But I believe you get more comfortable around all kinds of people when finding a way to take care of yourself without a physical boundary, like a car, between you and the world.