What Education to Prepare for Industry Employment?
My son (soon to begin his last year of high school) wants to go into professional camera/editing/post.
He's already had some decent experience in school (they have a great program that includes opportunity for teams of selected students to shoot and edit public-service stuff for some local clients), and he's been impressed with presentations from a particular trade school (Art Institute of Washington). I'm trying to sort out the issue of "that's a business, not a college." =
Can anyone fill me in on what educational background they'd find attractive in potential hires? Any guidelines for a good educational program?
Well, I went to film school...that gives you a great overall education in all aspects of production, if you attend a good school. I went to Montana State University in Bozeman...great program...not too expensive. Very hands on.
People want to hire people who know a little about production, who have at least some experience working with film or video.
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I also went to film school and would recommend it if he is truly serious about production as a long term career. The diploma can open a lot of doors. That said, however, the essential ingredient to success in this industry is practical experience. Some film programs are very hands-on, while others tend to focus on theory. I found the hands-on approach very valuable when it came time to land a job.
If I could go back and start over, I would get a part-time job or internship at a post house very early in my college career and work through graduation. That way I'd be entering the job market armed with a degree as well as a stellar reel.
I've personally given up on looking at people's schooling (and really their resumes as well) when I'm hiring, because it doesn't really matter to me. All that I want to see is a demo reel, because it tells me all I need to know - can the person shoot good video, do they understand lighting, staging etc.?
There are a lot of degreed people out there who aren't qualified to WATCH movies, let alone make them. Your son would almost, but not quite, be better off spending the money on a good camera, lights etc. and taking a few months to really dive into production. He'd probably learn just as much if he's self-directed. Plus, if he decides he doesn't like it, you have the gear to sell off and recoup somewhat.
I'm with Brendan....
I'm certainly not saying don't get an education, but just make sure that your son is getting the right education. I personally don't give a hoot about someone's degree, I never even look at that part of a resume. I look at experience and mostly mostly look at their reel.
My senior editor is absolutely the best cutter that I could hope to have... he is smart, intuitive, fast, very creative... and never went to college. My art director is also fantastic, also without a degree. As for me, I consider myself a pretty fair director and DP, and although I went to film school I learned absolutely nothing about the craft there.
Wherever he goes to school, make sure they teach technique, not just technicalities. He needs to know why to make an edit in a particular place, not just which buttons to push. He need to know why to put the camera here or there, or why to choose this lens or that lens... not just how. It's pretty often that we have, for example, a young editor come in with resume and reel in hand... a bit of conversation and we might learn that he knows Final Cut inside and out, can push the buttons in his sleep. But not why to push this button here, or that button there. He knows all the technicalities though... but guess what? We don't use FCP. And while he knows all the techy parts of FCP, he has not developed the intuition (or dare I say theory) behind it... and is no use to me.
Again, get an education, if it is the right one. I'd almost suggest getting a major in something else, just for education's sake... and take some production classes for a minor degree or just electives. And work during school in the industry. Everything I learned during my school years was the result of internships and outside jobs in real production facilities.
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I base my ideal candidate based upon my own experience - at least an associate's degree in something. Does not have to be productions. If someone does not have the theory, some technical skills and the aptitude to learn you will know pretty quickly.
Given that technology changes so rapidly, he should not put all his eggs into one basket - that is, don't become a FCP expert, as others have said. An entry level job may be duping tapes, digitizing or cutting news stories - not creating hour long documentaries.
In my opinion, the important take away from any college experience is the non-technical training, such as liberal arts, science, business classes. These classes turn a 18 year old high school hot shot into a 20 year old with some professional aptitude.
Sure there are plenty of people without a degree who are well rounded people, but this is my opinion.
I did 4 internships during college, all of which were invaluable.
i have to agree with Mike. Sure, film school may get you a job in the industry, but a well rounded education will help you move up the ladder. If your son plans on starting or owning his own business one day, a college education combined with experience is the way to go IMHO. He needs to think long term.
I also did internships and ran the student TV station in college. It worked out great!
A trade school like the art institutes schools will teach your son the technical end of production, which you say is already part of his education. Think of those schools as a how-to instructional classes, a useful tool nonetheless. They are not structured like, say a large state school where film students can network with music, media and art students toward larger scale original productions. Add to that a critical discourse at the foundation of most art and film departments and you have a petri dish for creative growth.
So it depends on the kid... If he's got creative potential -- send him to somewhere that will challenge him.
Like others have mentioned, in the end it's how the reel looks. Someone can go through the hoops of school and not be too keen on that whole focus thingy... But, with "3 years experience" on every job posting, a couple years interning in college can be a big help.
I have a friend who graduated from Pratt Institute in Film/Video. As a Cinematographer, he was picked up by Sufjan Stevens for a project involving an orchestra and red carpet at BAMM. Conversely, my roommate started his undergrad at University of Southern California in Film but droped out because he'd rather be in the industry on the set.
My suggestion is state school for undergrad. It worked for most of us, or at least pointed the right direction without wasting too much money in indecision.
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I think any profession that involves team work to complete a project, a good understanding of all the roles involved by everyone on the team will create the best team.
Scenario "A" If he were to buy some gear and enter the work force now chances are he would land a position and remain there for a long time doing only a few roles. In 2 years he will be good at those few roles.
Scenario "B" On the other hand if he were to go to film school for 2 years when he comes out he will be in a much better position than in scenario "A" to enter the work force. A good film school education will expose him to all facets of the production process so he understands the role of the next person down the line. A good camera man or sound person will make the editors job much easier and so. Now, fast forward 10 years, the jump start from having been exposed to the whole picture early on in film school is paying off whereas if he went with scenario "A", he may only now be being exposed to some of the fundamentals of the industry.
Sure, chances are that in scenario "A" he could get off on the right track and make so much money in the 1st 10 years he would be ready for early retirement and be able to set up MOM & POP in the process. He could also end up moving into the basement.
[Wayne Keyser] "My son (soon to begin his last year of high school) wants to go into professional camera/editing/post."
These 3 words are key: camera/editing/post They are about 10+ different jobs. He has time to get immersed in them before he chooses his direction and film school will help give him that opportunity. How many employers can offer those experiences. I can see it now: Picture gets wavey and soft focus "you've been 1st.& 2nd ac; pa, and dop for the past 8 months, would you like to do some editing, compositing and graphics for a while?" "When you've gotten a grasp of that we'll let you do some color timing and authoring if you like, we can just train someone else to do your old job" " and oh yeah, you'll be getting a raise too"
It's difficult for any of us to say but I can't see where a year or two in film school would hurt.
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Just to toss in my 2 cents.
What your son does in college is more important than where he does it, IMO. I know people who went to big name film schools (some even w/masters) and people who went no-name schools and it made no difference here in the LA food chain. We all worked in lower level positions and worked our way up based on performance (and luck and networking) and not on where our diploma came from. When I was in college I tried to do as much extracurricular work as possible and that work ethic led to getting a camera assistant position (cable puller) once when Monday Night Football came to town. When I was starting out that single MNF game got me more call backs then my diploma did, IMO.
I'd say go to a good in state school w/a film/broadcast program (if possible), get a well rounded education, and business minor. As unsexy as it sounds to a budding "artiste" you need at least a basic understanding of the business side of things (if for no other reason then to make sure you aren't getting screwed by a shady contract). The money saved by staying in state can be put towards your sons living/moving expenses after graduation or so he can intern/work away from home during the summers. Also, tell your son to start hanging out on the COW and other industry forums. Not only is there a lot to learn, but he can start building his network so when he goes to LA or Phoenix or Atlanta he already has people he can call up for advice over lunch/dinner/drinks.
I agree that there are many possible roads and each one takes you someplace good, depending on the person and how hard they apply themselves.
That said, I tend to not favor purely vocational type tech schools. While some are quite good, I feel their grads tend to get pigeon-holed into just one job and it may get difficult to branch out from that and advance a true career, versus a string of one-note jobs.
Stats show that today's kids will grow to have an average of four or five different careers in their working lifetime. Not jobs, CAREERS. So locking in to one career too deeply, too early, may create a case of overspecialization that makes it hard for you to adapt later.
I suggest that to get some of that hands-on experience early, he should definitely try one of the many short 1 to 6 week production workshops offered around the country, but then in the fall, take a standard 4-year liberal arts & sciences curriculum at whatever university he can afford, (state or private), with a major in Communications and a minor in something like Business.
This I feel produces an educated, thinking, reasoning, and adaptable person who is well-rounded, and the business minor will be useful as well, inside a media production career or outside of it. It sure would have helped ME in retrospect. The early but brief hands-on before college starts will give him a head start against his classmates, but I think a summer's worth of that is good enough for him and you to see if this is truly where he wants to go. Beats flaking around on vacation or working a dead-end Mcjob. He should also check into his local comunity access Tv station right away and get into productions there no matter what else. Its essentially free, very hands-on, and teaches you to work in a team. A summer of that and he can teach the "lab" part of freshman production class.
He will want to apply for every internship and practicum program the university's com department has, also see if the sports teams need any cameramen and editors for games and practices. Some of these com arts internships are restricted to upperclassmen while the newer students get their background training and critical thinking/appreciation skills. You might want to pick the schools to apply towards by the strength of their com departments and what ties they have to the local production and advertising communities for their internships. The contacts made alone can open many doors. (But only if you back up that near-blank first resume with some actual skills and a demo reel).
While all this is going on, the kid should search his soul regarding what he likes to do for fun and what aspects of the trade he enjoys the most, after having sampled as many various positions as possible in things like the student radio station and Tv studio. Find a niche he can exploit and market, be it skate or surf videos, animals, aerials, sports, underwater, high-speed, time-lapse, animation, tabletop, or anything related to some particular sport or hobby. Everybody can shoot news; but the list of experts in say dive videos, golf, etc. is considerably smaller, thus you can make a better living with less competition if you can find a niche to exploit.
If he decides for example that compositing is his talent, he should be working away on independant study and practice with that on his own time, every weekend and holiday, using whatever resources he can afford to make demo material. The objective there would be to create samples for a reel and a web site, and build up general skills without getting too tied down to any one platform (though you can never go wrong learning the hell out of photoshop and aftereffects). By the time he's a junior, he should be getting small time gigs on weekends working his magic for local bands and the like, and entering pieces in competitions. By senior year then, he'll be using the university program to network his job and career searches from.
As others have said, the schooling is more than a reciept of dues paid: you don't automatically fall into a dream job the day after senior graduation. You have to fight for it every step of the way; squeeze your teachers and professors like a bunch of grapes to get all their knowledge, apply and test what you're learning in active self-directed experimentation, most of which will suck and never be shown to anyone but mom and dad.
What comes out of that process is somebody who can become a success at whatever they turn their hand to.