Would film school be a waste of money?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by WaywardSon, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. WaywardSon, Jun 28, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011

    WaywardSon macrumors newbie

    May 27, 2011
    I figured it maybe smart to ask this question here since I would be talking to already employed people. I am currently in a very very new Digital Arts and Sciences MA program that was completely misrepresented to me by the director of the program and faculty I met with prior to entering. I know I want to make movies. I would be happy directing, producing, screenwriting, cameraman, editing whatevs..that's what I wanna do for sure. However, I've already spent $20,000 on a program I am 85% sure I am going to leave because I am learning nothing, I would just have a fancy piece of paper and no knowledge to support it.

    I have three main fears about going to film school:

    1. I am digging a $60,000 (SCAD) financial hole that will take my entire life to get out of.

    2. I won't get a job after, or I must go to NY or LA to get one. (I can do that, but I'd rather not.)

    3. My chosen career path is not at all conducive to having a family and I would constantly uprooting them more than a military family or very poor and unable to send my kids to college.

    ANY thoughts or guidance on the subject would be IMMENSELY appreciated!!! (Especially since I do not feel I can trust my prof's since I now know they are desperate to keep people in their program.)
  2. Blipp macrumors 6502

    Mar 14, 2011
    Just out of curiosity what does the Digital Arts and Sciences MA entail? And is the SCAD in reference to Savannah College of Art & Design?
  3. WaywardSon, Jun 28, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011

    WaywardSon thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 27, 2011
    Yes SCAD is Savannah College of Art and Design. The program I am in now is not at SCAD though but a different University.

    They told me that the Digital Arts and Sciences MA was interdisciplinary and that I'd be learning basic computer programming, aspects of video game design, audio design, and of course digital video. Looking back I was naive to think that they could teach all of that well in two years. Whenever I meet a professional I am constantly embarrassed by my lack of knowledge.

    I specifically remember promises of "you won't just master final cut, but also avid, Maya, 3Ds Max, Ableton, ProTools" plus promises of other platforms and software....they've only taught a handful of those things and barely enough to scrape by on projects. Granted I've learned some on my own, but I've also had to correct my professor on simple stuff like how to light and key a green screen! >_<; I'm feel very stupid for falling for it.
  4. Chaos123x macrumors 68000

    Jul 8, 2008
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8J2 Safari/6533.18.5)

    Go buy a good camera and a computer you can edit on. Then start working for some video companies for free or as a assistant. Then join some local film groups and join any other user groups.

    If you go to school your going to have a mountain of debt and still probably won't be able to get a job.

    It's all about how good you are and who you know. Your degree won't mean anything. But going to school can help you get your skills up and meet the right people.
  5. 2jaded2care macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2003
    If you are unhappy with the program, either quit or transfer.

    I assume you have made your problems known to an advisor. Unfortunately, likely this is a 2 year program, so you don't have much time to wait for things to improve.

    I assume if you are in an MA program, you have a BA or BFA. That should be enough for most potential employers. If you plan to freelance, no one will care about a degree anyway.

    Are you in Savannah now? Where do you plan to go?
  6. bairda macrumors newbie

    May 13, 2009
    I had exactly the same questions when I went for my MFA in film production 20 years ago. I didn't have any previous college debt, but I was engaged, didn't want to move to Chicago, LA or NY and wanted to have skills I could use immediately to make money and still have a career I enjoyed.

    Ultimately I didn't finish my MFA, but the skills I learned still help me today. Even though I don't produce on film in my career, the skills of editing, handling equipment, working with budgets, organizing people and locations and dealing with clients, I still use. These base skills are very adaptable.

    Film school will give you an opportunity to learn from experts (your teachers hopefully) in an environment where you can concentrate on gaining experience without worrying so much about mistakes. Sure, you will pay for that privilege, but you will also be immersed in the field, make contacts you will use throughout your life and gain talent that otherwise would be contingent upon your next job in the real world.

    Look at it as an investment. I wouldn't worry about the name of the school that you go to, as long as they have good teachers and decent equipment. Take every opportunity to crew other peoples shoots. They will reciprocate when you need help.

    Find the best editors, sound engineers, cinematographers/camera operators, set designers, writers and crew on campus and hang with them. Watch what they are doing and learn. Collaborate on projects with them and bounce ideas off them. Show them your stuff and be willing to take criticism.

    Work in the equipment room and get to know every of camera/sound/editing/computer device they have.

    Once you have been in school you may see other areas you like. See how you could apply your film production skills there. If you can make more money in that field, and it interests you, then that might be where you need to get your first job. Remember that almost no one jumps out of film school and makes any money.

    Hope this helps.
  7. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    You and millions of other people in the US. ;)

    My advice is to find all the local post or production facilities, news stations, public access, etc., in your area and start banging on doors. Try and get a job as a runner or PA (or even volunteer your time for a bit if you have to) and start learning how things are done in the real world from experienced people.

  8. initialsBB macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2010
    Do an internship, any experience is better than none. But know your worth, don't get ripped off. Volunteering is great, I've done it too, but if you want to make your living doing this you have to find something you are good so that you can market it. Obviously NYC and LA will be where there is more work, but they're not the centers of the universe either.

    Whatever, go get them.
  9. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    That reminds me. GA recently passed a lot of tax incentives to try and lure in out of state productions and Atlanta is turning into a hotspot these days.

  10. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Why not ask the students who have been there? It sounds like a lot of the problem is with your particular program, but I would agree that it may be more profitable to you to gain experience than deal with a subpar academic program.
  11. RebootD macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2009
    NW Indiana
    Honestly it's a very difficult decision and one many of us had to make. I went to a cheaper university and a landed a job right away while others went to "real design schools", racked up $70k over four years and couldn't find any work for a year after graduation. (and have $400/mo payments)

    It's really a personal decision that only you can make. Personally if you can land an internship or apprenticeship to gain work and move up from there it could be worth it but you better have the chops to back it up. I don't know if your field holds degrees in high regard (in design it's nice to have but many famous designers never finished their first year of university).

    Best of luck with whichever direction you choose!
  12. DisMyMac macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
    In my experience, half of all college programs are useless and another one-quarter are scams.

    That means ~25% are honest and worthy. It's good that you're researching your options.
  13. Nostromo macrumors 65816


    Dec 26, 2009
    Deep Space
    Go find people in the industry and talk to them in person.

    You don't really need film school to learn film making. It's a thing that's been learned by doing it. Doing it a very specific and personal way (if you want to have a good career).

    Your concerns about the debt are correct. When you come from a film school you will have to start at the bottom, just like those without film school. How can you pay installments on a $60 000 debt on a $1700 a month salary?

    Most of the best filmmakers never went to film school. So don't feel bad about it if you can't afford it. Don't burden yourself with high credit (most people's creativity will suffer from it. Some will prosper from debt: Balzac wrote novels like a maniac, often writing 16 hours a day to battle his debt. When he died, he still hadn't come out of it, but he left a great oeuvre).
  14. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a


    Sep 1, 2007
    I went to NYU and it was a mixed bag: but ultimately worth it. I worked with some great professors, a great community and now I teach film at The New School (I needed the MFA to do that as well)

    However, if a student approached me with your questions, I'd tell them to get out immediately. First of all, you are clear that the program isn't working for you. Secondly, the debt is a serious, serious issue and you don't want to saddle yourself with more. Finally you can gain the experience and build a film community by working on local projects. You just need to be focused and disciplined for the next ten years to hone your craft.
  15. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a


    Sep 1, 2007
    Many of my favorite filmmakers went to film school: Spielburg, Lucas, Scorcese, Kurosawa was in a mentoring program at ToHo and the list goes on. You certainly don't need film school, but I just wanted to correct blatantly incorrect information.
  16. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a


    Sep 1, 2007
    Alas, this may be true. But it only takes one or two amazing professors to make an entire program worthwhile IMHO
  17. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Spielburg dropped out of a small college and didn't finish and get his degree until years later.

  18. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC
    I went to film school for about 6 months then switched to a journalism major after I realized how ridiculous film school was. It's paying to rent equipment. Instead I started looking for and finding editing jobs in animation, corporate and even worked on a few Hollywood feature films as a "gopher"/PA. Best jobs of my life! I'd recommend against "film school" and focus on working/actually producing content. You'll screw up, but you'll learn MUCH faster and learn more than you would in film school. The only thing college did for me at all was introduce me to the people who got me to where I am today, which was formerly working for Al Jazeera English and having shows I've edited in my boxers on my couch being broadcast to over 300 million households, to doing freelance/contractor work for the likes of National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the Discovery Channel, all through who I know, not what I was taught.
  19. titatom, Jun 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011

    titatom macrumors regular

    Feb 25, 2011
    Montréal, QC
    My experience in film school is very good but it might only apply to the one I went to in Montreal called L'inis.
    Whats different about this one it the following :
    - You enter as a Director or Producer (I was in the documentary program, in the fiction program there also is a Screenwriter profile)
    - You do not touch a camera, you do not edit yourself. The Producers are in charge of hiring professionals to do that work. That means you are focusing on your directing, research, productions problems. Obviously having professional input on all the technical aspects in a huge bonus.
    - Post production is also taken in charge by professionals but you stillplay your role as a Director or Producer. You make decisions in sound mix and editing. You are the mastermind behind the editing, with the input of a professional storyteller (the editor himself). As an example, here is the mixing studio in which we did sound post : http://yfrog.com/gzw95vupj
    - The program cost me 5000 $CAD for 6 intensive months. During this time, each director made 4 interviews, 1 remix of NFB archives with a narration we recorded, 1 final project : a 10 minute documentary on a free subject. The 2 Producers produced the work for the 6 Directors. This final project (I produced two of them) will be presented a the World Film Festival in Montreal in august.
    - Which brings me to my last point : I learned a lot a this school. They gave me a chance to f?$#% up while I could. I met brilliant people in the industry...and most importantly, they met me ! I have two films that are being screened at a festival which now means I can asks for government funds for movie projects (in Quebec you need a professional screening before you can ask for subventions)...
    - The total money invested by the school in our project was well above the 5000$ I paid to go that school. The 6 final projects had a budget of 10 000$ each. This means the industry invests also invests in our projects.
    - I believe L'inis has partnerships all around the world and in Canada as well. Maybe theses schools have similar programs. L'inis only accepts students with professional experience in the film industry, the age of the student is between 25 and 55.

    - I know this school is a exception. I also visited Trebas Institute in Montreal. They were asking for 15000$ for a 1 year program and I know I would never had made the same contacts I made in the last 6 months. They have a limited number of cameras (usually 2 per 20 students, we had 4 sony ex3 for 8 students) and bad editing rooms...don't poor your money down the drain in a school like that !

    - If you are going to pay that much money, I think you would be making a huge mistake. You should just try starting to work at the bottom of the ladder right away and climb up. You will learn much more ! Most film schools are often made for people with little to no knowledge about the film industry and that does not seem to be your case. A film school oriented towards professionals would be better in your case i believe. Some places also offer advanced workshops where you can meet professionals and further develop your skills.

    I would say the best way to go is just to start working ! You will learn faster, better and most importantly you will meet professionals, not hipsters "that want to make movies" !

    I just finished the program a week ago so I guess I'm still on a little cloud but in the end my experience was very positive thanks to an interesting approach to learning and working in the industry in this specific school.
    If you have any questions don't hesitate !

    Hope you make up your mind and pursue your passion for cinema !

  20. jtara, Jun 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011

    jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    I'm not sure what such a range of specific current tools are doing in an MA program, nor the promise of "mastery" of them. This is the sort of thing that is normally picked up on the job or through specific training, and most of them take a couple of years to "master". So how are you going to "master" them all in two years and get in any kind of theoretical background?

    Maybe I'm out of touch. I just have a 30 year old undergrad degree and never used the "film" part. (Majored in "Radio, TV, and Film", as well as Computer Science. Used the Computer Science part...)

    So, there were no digital editing tools, etc. But nobody taught us the specifics of particular equipment of the day (mainly because we certainly didn't have the most up-to-date equipment!). We spent time behind the camera or in a TV control room, or behind a mic announcing, I assume, because it's useful to know what's involved in doing all of the jobs involved in the industry. If you don't have a clue what the other guy does, it's hard to effectively produce or direct.

    As far as the education that I DO use, I am so glad that I got a Computer Science degree (the only thing that was available at the time) rather than one of these new-age "computer technology", "IT", "Computer Gaming Technology" (yikes! Can be get more specific? How about "3D, RPG Gaming Technology") whatever "more practical" degrees. If I had, the knowledge I had gained in school would be obsolete and worthless. My Computer Science degree has given me the basis for a lifetime of diverse careers, and the background to learn any new technology.

    My recommendation is to get the "Computer Science" degree of film. The most theoretical, least "practical" of the bunch. It will serve you better in the long run. Probably pretty similar to what I got 30 years ago.

    I think you have to strike a balance between overly-broad and way too specific. Based on your post, the program you are in sounds more like a "survey" than an MA program. For example, you don't need exposure to every video editing tool out there. That might make good "keyword fodder" on your resume, but, come on, they are going to know that you don't really know all those tools in any depth. You need to know what one is, basically how it works, and to have some hands-on experience to know what they are like to work with. And that's useful experience whether or not you ever edit anything in real life.

    More important, I think, that you get lots of writing classes (you're going to have to effectively communicate, whether you wind-up a writer or not), and theory-based classes.

    I'm more concerned about your second and third fears, though. If you don't want to be in the industry, what are you doing in this program? But, OF COURSE there are jobs that are not in NY or LA. You need to explore those and discover what you could do in a place you can live.

    I have a friend who spent a couple of years in L.A. as a producer. He couldn't handle the pace or the schedule. Now he's decided to be a writer. He has a novel in the works, and a couple of screenplays. Fortunately, he's a great writer, and has a more general undergrad degree (philosophy) that helped give him writing and logical thinking skills.

    You didn't say what your undergrad degree is in. I would suggest that you go on with something that builds on that and adds more theoretical skills than just how to run today's flavor of editor. Most people make several career changes over their lifetime. I would avoid over-specializing at this point.

Share This Page