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Justin Leyba
Columbia College
on Jan 25, 2010 at 3:29:56 am

Hey guys! Do you guys think that columbia college chicago is the best school to go to get my film major?
They have a lot of famous alumni too. Should I take Directing or Cinematography? hmmm...

btw, i'm from chicago so that's not far away.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Columbia College
on Jan 26, 2010 at 4:33:28 am

I went to Loyola, and we were always envious of Columbia's program and resources. Loyola had a better radio station, though:-) Don't forget that Northwestern has a film program as well, and frankly I don't think you can really go wrong between the two of them; just go thru their online syllabi and see which ones offer more of what turns you on personally, which suits the niche or subset of the business that energizes you. Because without a real passion to keep you going, against all odds, the failure rate for media grads is high.

My experience about any of the schools is out of date, but my feeling used to be that Northwestern's grads all wanted to be MFA's and teach, or work the famous j-school for a news/PR/advertising career, and Columbia's guys always struck me more as roll-up-the sleeves below-the-line practical film making types, the scrappy indie types who will do anything to get to work on somebody's film. Very motivated kids, very motivated program. I recall that Columbia students seemed to get a lot of opportunities to work on productions that come to town, and get a lot of guest speakers/instructors in their classes. I just haven't followed what Northwestern's been doing, they may be just as good in their own way but it may be they just don't have as good a PR department.

And now my standard digression for this topic.

There are film schools and there are tech schools. Good people can come out of either of those, but my own opinion is that too many of the tech school kids come out knowing what buttons to push on the currently popular software, but not when, why, or how to push them. To use them to tell a story well. They may know how to build a complicated special effect, but can they match action, can they shoot good coverage and know where to cut to the close-ups for best effect... do they know what to say to an actor to get them to give the result you want, much less, something more. Have they developed an eye, a personal style, things along those lines. If you already picked up craft and aesthetics elsewhere, the tech school route is a good quickie way to brush up on some hardware and get you out there looking for gigs in a hurry. But beware, because there are a lot of "instant" film schools that may only offer you the illusion of making you ready and getting you placed. Just holding a certificate in your hand is no guarantee at ALL that you can find or get work. That diploma or certification is just the welcome mat at the bottom of a long flight of stairs, and you still have to climb those yourself.

On the other side there are some schools where they spend all their time on theory, and the instructor may not have shot anything in a decade. To make the most of those places, you have to really push yourself to take as much advantage as possible of any internships and practicum work and outside gigs as you can find, so you can see how theory fits into actual practice. It doesn't always, or it does, but not in ways that are always obvious.

In either case, academy or vocational classes, you should be spending every free weekend shooting or editing something, building a reel the whole time, and making fiends and contacts, building a network. Never count on the school to get you work, though that's fine if they do. You need to always carry your destiny in your own hands.

I think it is useful to take liberal arts courses to develop yourself as a Whole Person, as well as to train you in "learning how to learn". It makes you adaptable for an uncertain future. But that isn't all. Don't forget that one of the most vital courses you should take, as a film maker, will be a business course in accounting and/or marketing. It is said a true, successful film maker doesn't need to own a camera or anything but a phone and internet access. Because your film doesn't get MADE, and it doesn't get SHOWN, unless you can first find financing and distribution. You need to be able to work people and work numbers to get your vision completed. Or resign yourself to having all your screenings in your mom's basement, seen by family and friends and nobody else.

Learn those business skills at the same time you learn your aesthetics and craft. Or learn them in a much harder way, later.


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Justin Leyba
Re: Columbia College
on Jan 31, 2010 at 7:03:06 pm

Now I'm choosing if i'm going to columbia college chicago? or northwestern U?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Columbia College
on Feb 4, 2010 at 9:47:25 pm

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."


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