Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Film School—Is it Your Best Choice? Part 1

One of the biggest questions you will face is whether or not you should go to film school or some other media program. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Film school is no guarantee at success or employment. It’s amazing how many people I have met who work in the entertainment and media industry who don’t have film or media degrees. Over the years, many college graduates have come to me with film degrees looking to break into the industry. Many had been out of school for several years without gaining employment in the industry. The reality is there are too many programs across the country graduating too many students.

Most students believe that if they get a degree in film or media they will get a job. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But there are things you can do to increase your chances for employment in the industry.

The question of going to film school in the first place is certainly based on your individual situation. What are your goals and objectives? What role do you want to play? Are you interested in being a director, producer, writer, editor, unit production manager or production designer? There may be other alternatives to a traditional four-year college.

My best advice is to get around people who are experienced in the business. Find a mentor. Most people in this industry are interested in you knowing how to get the job done versus your educational background. I’m not discounting film school or other media programs. They help to open doors and to provide opportunities. But, before you ever think about going, you should already be practicing your craft.

The reason I think that most people get degrees in film and media and fail to find employment in the industry is because they don’t ask the right questions. Don’t just assume the program is good because they say it is. Of course, everybody is going to put their best foot forward and make it sound like the greatest program in the country.

Here are the questions I think you should be asking:

1 Is the program hands-on, and how fast do I get my hands on the equipment? Do you really want to spend your hard-earned money talking about making media or do you want to actually produce media? A friend of mine recently graduated with a media degree from a prestigious four-year college here in the mid-west. He chose not to go to the main campus but elected to attend a satellite campus because it offered him access to the equipment in his first semester. If he had gone to the main campus, he would have had to wait until his Junior year to actually work with the equipment. He felt that he had a far better education because he got to the equipment early. Ask the questions straight up. Don’t be afraid. You need to know how soon you get to use the cameras, editing bay, sound gear or lighting equipment.

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