Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Film school

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Being involved in education, and having a love of film I get asked about film schools a lot. Which one to go to, which is the best, how to I apply, and so on. First let me say that I strongly urge young men & women to seek out educational opportunities, and if they have a chance they should pursue what interests them. That being said is it smart to go to a school and major in film production or mass communications when the economy is in a free fall. I mean who has the money to go into a career where competition is tenacious, and employment is questionable?

If I had known what I know now would I have gone to the school I went? For the record I went to Brooklyn College which is a city university in New York. My major was film production, and I had a minor in TV production. The answer to that question would be a resounding "yes". I would have done some things different, but I still would have gone. After all my love for film permeated my youth, and it was an extension of my love of photography that drove me to the cinema.

But since I've gone to school there has been an explosion of programs at various different schools all catering to film making and the study of cinema. So let's dive in, and see which one may be for you. I'll start with my own school Brooklyn College. Brooklyn College offers a degree in film production and/or cinema studies. Since I've been there the school does offer some new programs such as a BA in screenwriting, and a BA in film marketing. These programs are degree programs and you are required to take elective courses for that degree. Brooklyn College also has a certificate program for people who just want to learn filmmaking, screenwriting or just film studies. This was not available when I went to school so I have a degree in film production. I took electives, and at the time grudgingly endured the other discipline's.

I look back at my college days with a certain amount of nostalgia, yet I know full well that my education helped me in the years after school. I was technically proficient in making films, and I had a well rounded college experience. My writing improved, my analytic skills improved, and I was a more well rounded individual. Of course between my schooling, and my work experience the computer became a more and more dominate force in my field. Who would have thought that all you need is a camera and a computer and you can make films just like the pros do. It is this simple yet defining technological breakthrough that has changed filmmaking and media in general.

Which brings me to film schools, and if they serve a purpose or not. Such schools as the New York film academy or the Brooks Institute are good schools to learn the craft of filmmaking. Such schools schools as UCLA, USC, NYU, Columbia, and School of Visual Arts are great schools also, but they are degree programs. If you go to any one of these expect to shell out money, and get a well rounded education in the arts. Sure they have equipment, but these schools are universities, and they produce individuals with a well rounded view of the world. They are NOT trade schools. If you want them go to schools like NYFA, or the Brooks Institute. I'm not saying that these schools are inferior on the contra they immerse the individual with technical data and you learn by doing. When you graduate from one of these schools you will know how to put together a film, and work on any film or TV crew. If this is what your goal is go for it, and make no mistake you will love every minute of it, but beware it is intense.

Such schools as NYU or UCLA teach their students more then just film, and this is great because in such a volatile economy one could use all the knowledge one can accumulate. To be flexible, and know other things isn't a bad thing.

So is film school worth it? In my case it was, and will always be, but with all these new programs out there, and these new schools out there worth anything? The certificate programs are shorter but more intense. I don't know about their placement program, but I have heard of successful stories where students go on to successful careers in the field. But like everything you should look into the schools internship programs. It is here where you will see if the school has any good "in-roads" to the industry. Because it's not sometimes what you know, but who. Maybe it's a bit cynical, but in order to get a job you need to know people in the industry, and you need experience. So choose a school that is at the forefront of the industry. One that has connections to companies and individuals in the arts, and movie making industry. That's how you'll get a bigger bang for your buck.

I don't regret my schooling, but I do regret not taking full advantage of some of their internship programs. For me it was monetary, and I needed to work to pay for film stock, developing, and text books. If this is you then try and get a paying internships.

I do believe that film schools produce a better filmmaker due to the exposure of films he or she sees. In today's climate DVD's and the Internet can provide that for you, but then you would be denied learning and working with your peers. The most fun and the best times I had was working with my classmates on projects together. Some of those people have drifted away, but there are bonds forged in that classroom that sometimes precede careers. That's what I carry away from my filmmaking days. With today's youth they are even more proficient in media, and all that is standing in their way is having that one good break to launch their careers.

In the end you have to know what YOU want, and what you can afford. Is there a way to make a career without film school? I'd have to say yes, but the odds increase in your favor when you attend one of these schools. The connections you make and the friendships that you forge are very important in your career. Get out there network, and show your work to others. Learn all you can, and always read about new innovations. I wish you all the best of luck, and a full filling education and career.

1 comment:

Filmaria said...

Thanks for sharing the useful information about film school... I was looking for some of the best film making schools which would help me build my career is film industry and your post has giving me much information about the same...
Thanks agian...