Thursday, April 7, 2011

Film School—Is it Your Best Choice? - Part 2

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.
Here are the questions I think you should be asking:

2. Is your equipment state-of-the-art? Chances are you’re paying anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000 per year for your education. I think you deserve to use state-of the-art equipment. If your school is using equipment that has been donated recently by the public access station, you might want to consider a new program. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate so the equipment has to reflect this. Does your program offer the red camera, 16 mm and 35 mm production capabilities, or whatever new technology is currently available? Make sure you get the opportunity to see the equipment before you decide to apply to the program.

3. Is the program based on practical application? It’s great to know the history of the film and entertainment industry or the Golden Age of Hollywood. And, sure, who doesn’t want to know about the techniques and strategies of major directors such as Alfred Hitchcock? But none of that is going to get you a job. It’s great knowledge, and I’m sure some day it will come in handy. Your school or program and has to be about one thing and one thing only—teaching you practical skills which make you employable. That’s one of the major faults I see with so many graduates from film schools. They have not been taught any tangible skills. This is a discussion you must have with your prospective film school. How are they going to make you employable within the industry? What is their plan? If they don’t want to have this discussion, then you don’t want to go to this school. Don’t take their word for it. Talk to post-graduates to find out their experiences.

4. Do they offer quality internships? Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. A significant number of film and media graduates find work in the industry through college internship programs. if your school doesn’t have good internship programs, you may be throwing your money away. Are they connected with the television networks, major studios, and production companies? Find out what you have to do to qualify for an internship program. Before you graduate, you need to have your foot in the door.

5. Does your school or program have contacts in the industry? Let’s face it. The single most important reason that you go to film school or other media program is for contacts. You need to know people who work in the business. What does your school contact list look like? Do your instructors or teachers have active contacts in the film and media industry? Are they willing to use them for your benefit? Does the school or program have alumni who work in the industry? Are they willing to help current students? Does the school have friends of the program? The time to find out is before you sign on the dotted line. Contacts are everything. They are your entry point. Chances are if your school has a good internship program, they probably have the contacts that can help you.

Final thoughts.

In all honesty, no one is going to tell you the truth about their program. I recommend you do your own research and dig around. Don’t just accept the prestige of any school or program based on face value. They could be living off of their reputation. You deserve better. If you want to work in this industry, you have to do everything you can to increase your odds. No matter if you go to film school or a four-year traditional college, or whether you decide on a different course, the one thing you must do is volunteer your time. You need to work on projects and gain experience. One of the mistakes I’ve seen from students I’ve talked to is that they tried to do the minimum. Sure, they got their degree, but they never really got the experience they needed. In other words, this isn’t the army. You need to volunteer for everything. That includes student projects, public access, local film production, school projects, etc. These will give you opportunities for employment. They certainly won’t hurt your resume.

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