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Film school choice

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Alexander Punch
Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 5:11:54 am

Dear Creative Cow,

Please excuse my lack of knowledge and bear with me as i am new to the Creative Cow community. I'm not sure this is even the right forum to post this particular thread on but here goes nothing.
I am a high school senior who is now looking into a career in the film industry, and also looking into how to best prepare myself for such a career. Upon finding these forums however i realized how simply massive the film community really is, and i became concerned about my pending decision with college. So i have several questions.

1. Is it realistic for someone such as myself to attend a university in my home State of Michigan (which financially is my only option pretty much) and concentrate on film, or will employers look down upon that since i am not attending a major California/New York film institute and in all likelihood not even consider me.

2. If i am not wasting my time, would it be a bad decision to attend a smaller school here or is attending a larger university detrimental to success in this industry? I am looking into an Electronic Media and Film Studies degree at Eastern Michigan University. I think i would benefit from the more one on one attention i would receive there and the program seems very good. However, would attending there where i believe i would get a better education instead of being somewhere like the University of Michigan hurt me in the eyes of employers?

3.Is this industry only truly accessible from the west and east coast or are there pretty much equal job opportunities nation wide in this field?

4. Lastly with an undergraduate degree in Electronic Media and film Studies, is it realistic to expect a job right out of college or just by asking that am i affirming to all of you out there just how clueless i truly am? This is a link to the course outline of the program i am referring to at EMU and i would really appreciate hearing what you think of it at first glance. http://www.emich.edu/cta/programs-ug-telecommfilm.html

I realize that most of these questions are opinion based but i thought if i were to hear an opinion i would want it to be from the brilliant people at Creative cow. Also i realize that i am young with a lot of time ahead of me and perhaps one of the first things you thought upon reading this is how does this kid know this is really what he wants to do? Film is my passion and i have done everything i can during high school to enter into a career involving it. Now i am preparing for the next steps.

thanks so much,
-Alexander J. Punch


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Randall Raymond
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 5:44:10 am

If you concentrate on the esoteric and not the technical (which changes every few years now - other than lighting) you will do fine. The 'fire in the belly' is what counts in the long run. You'll do fine at EMU, with that rather strange water tower...



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Rick Dolishny
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 2:52:13 pm

Alexander, taking the time to ask is a good sign. You're on the right track already!

Going to school and more importantly using the tools you are given there to make a variety of content and make a lot of contacts both students and faculty, will go a long way no matter where you are studying. And it should be said the post-production community in SE Michigan, while being phenomenally insular, is very active and rather large. So being in Michigan is not bad at all. Plus, you are in a unique position to see what's going on in NY and LA. Again, from my personal experience, the Detroit production and post scene is reactionary, not terribly innovative, but business are always aware of what's going on at the coasts. I'm seeing more and more Michigan postpros with local and LA offices so that's a good sign.

Intern with companies that feel like a good match, and always remember you will learn far more in the real world than in school, so take advantage of what the program offers.

> Film is my passion

What is your URL and what have you done so far? My 7 year old got tired of watching daddy rigging characters in Maya and realized his spiderman doll had IK built right in! He took my still digital camera and shot some frames and was finished his animation before I could pull all of my hair out.

---
Rick Dolishny
Discrete Editors COW Leader
http://www.thecreativeprocess.ca


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Mark Suszko
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 3:37:58 pm

You might want to read this thread from your fellow Michigander.

http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/17/859557

We revisit this topic often enough, I think if the site's software allows for it, the threads regarding young folks and career advice to them should be collected in a "sticky note" file, all in one place, easier for them to access. Saves a lot of retyping and re-stating of the same messages.
Every kid's situation is a little different, but I think it would help them to read up on the older related threads, if they were collected in one spot. Search bars alone are not always going to catch all the right threads because the titles may neot relate strongly to the content.


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Herb Sevush
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 5:19:51 pm

Alexander -

This is coming from an old codger so take it for what it's worth.

1. Is it realistic for someone such as myself to attend a university in my home State of Michigan ... and concentrate on film, or will employers look down upon that since i am not attending a major California/New York film institute

I could care less where a prospective intern went to school. The value of an NYU or USC type school is in the networking opportunities it provides for the students -- believe me, they will be as totally unprepared to do real work after graduation as anyone else. My basic feeling is that all recent grads, from whatever school they went to, know absolutely nothing, except how tp play beer pong. Which is fine, I'm not looking for expertise, I'm looking for the right attitude and an inquiring and interesting mind. That's as likely to be found in Michigan as Ny or LA. Not all employers are like me, some are impressed by Ivy League credentials. You can't please everyone, you just have to please the right one.

3.Is this industry only truly accessible from the west and east coast or are there pretty much equal job opportunities nation wide in this field?

If you want to work in Features or Network TV, go west young man. Otherwise there are opportunities everywhere.

4. Lastly with an undergraduate degree in Electronic Media and film Studies, is it realistic to expect a job right out of college or just by asking that am i affirming to all of you out there just how clueless i truly am?

You're not clueless, you're young. Relax, if you're truly passionate about this field, a job will find you. It might not be the one you were looking for, but like the song said - "he's not the boy I was looking for, but he's sure the boy I love."

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions


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Herb Sevush
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 5:53:32 pm

Correction - apologies to the Crystals

He sure ain't the boy I've been dreaming of but
He's sure the boy I love


Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions


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Mark Suszko
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 6:07:47 pm

I think wherever you study, what you want is to find the best balance between the fancy book larnin' and the practical hands-on. To know how to get a certain shot and why it should be that way.

Too far in either direction is not healthy. You could take a cram course at a place like FullSail or similar vocational type operation and come out ready to push some buttons and work a specific camera or other piece of gear within a certain range of ability. But without some foundation of theory and aesthetics, you are not going to be the first choice to run that gear, because knowing the buttons is not enough to use the tool effectively. Then you get dead-ended into being a mere "technician" and not a "creative".

Moreover, technology changes so fast, a simple skill that was vital two years ago may be useless next year. All the gear I learned how to shoot and edit on has been scrap metal for a long time. What does not get stale are the principles used on those cameras and editors. Be sure you concentrate on the reasons for cutting a certain way rather than what color the button is that makes the cut. When you ge the chance to do practicum work, try every job in the place even if you don't like it. A good director and producer has to know enough about everybody else's job to be able to manage a team and get results.

On the other side, an overabundance of theoretical prep that ignores any hands-on application of the techniques means you are just as useless on location. Decide if you want a job as a media critic, or a media maker. I've had graduate students come thru here quoting Proust and semiotics and mis-en-scene at me, but they didn't know how to turn a camera ON, much less point it at something and tell a story with it. All they could do was stand around and critique someone else's work after the fact. They weren't much use even as a grip, not knowing any terminology or having enough understanding of the production process to anticipate someone's needs and be ready to supply what was needed. Their career will wind up being a professional Blockbuster Video rental customer. Or perhaps, Assistant VP of Development:-)

On top of those two pillars, theory and practice, you have to make the personal commitment to your education, that you are going to squeeze those egghead professors of yours for every scrap of knowledge they can give up, and you are not going to be satisfied with just doing the assigned reading and template projects, you are going to use every free minute, every opportunity to access their gear, to make stuff, to explore technique, to find your personal voice and style, to see what your gifts are. If you just coast thru the assigned curriculum and do nothing more than that, you are not going to get work in the industry. Too many better-motivated and talented kids are ahead of you.

If I had some influence on a curriculum for this business, I'd stress English composition and writing, particularly script writing, as well as practical business courses like accounting and the fundamentals of marketing. I would spend a semester on the entire film making process from a finance and accounting and budgetary standpoint, from getting the money to running the boards and planning the payroll and covering insurance, rights, etc.

To that I'd add an aesthetics layer comprising a review of the highlights of art history, of music history and appreciation, still photography, with an emphasis on shot composition and lighting, and some form of 2-d or 3-d animation, student's choice. I would add a theatre appreciation course that stressed direction and acting, where evrybody had to rotate thru all the jobs.

Radio is fun to take and can be very useful if you write and perform a lot of pieces and learn micing and recording and editing techniques. But I think any school that pushes radio as a "career" is lying to you: there are few and soon fewer than ever jobs DJ/ announcer/ production jobs in radio that pay worth anything, you can thank Clear Channel and the FCC's support of massive centralization and consolidation of media holdings for that. While some very talented voices can usually find *some* work, the idea that you can walk out of school and become a DJ at your local station for a liveable wage is, I fear, a fantasy now, more than it ever was. The AUDIO production business is strong and thanks to podcasting and digital recording techniques, a growing business, but "radio" is IMO a shrinking, if not dying, field. Take AUDIO courses but shy away from "radio" courses in the traditional sense of the word, IMO. Unless you just like doing it for fun.



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Mike Cohen
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 7, 2008 at 6:56:28 pm

Mark makes some excellent points. It seems that college and/or high school advisors do not address the real world use of a degree.

Here are my thoughts:

1. Learn your desired craft, become as expert as you can at your young age.
2. Learn the aesthetic side.
3. Most importantly, become well rounded. Take some arts classes, literature and business classes.

As for jobs you may get with your film degree in hand - it will vary. If you are good at networking, as others have suggested, you may get yourself a few good internships and who knows, maybe a decent job.

However be prepared to do some grunt work for a few or more than a few years in order to attain whatever your goal is.

A friend of the family's son got a job during film school as a page on Letterman. After college he got into the DGA apprentic program. 10 years later he was AD on the Sopranos and Law and Order. This is probably atypical, but if your goal is feature or TV work, you need to do anything and everything to get the experience and contacts you need.

It is hard work getting work. Good luck.

Finally, if you listen to the great podcasts from Creative Screenwriting Magazine, you learn that many successful writers and directors have degrees in fine arts, English or history. Don't get too hung up on the best school - aside from the prestige and networking opportunities, you don't necessarily get a job because you went to XYZ university. I have employed a few film school grads who have been quite intelligent and well-read, but who have no technical knowledge to speak of. You can learn technical skills on the job - learning to be a well-rounded person on the job is not so easy, and in my opinion, the more important quality to look for.

Mike



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Alexander Punch
Re: Film school choice
on Feb 8, 2008 at 2:32:50 am

Thank you all so much,
I am much more at ease about my particular school of choice and i think i have a better grasp of what i should do in order to be successful. Obviously i have a lot of work ahead of me and i hope to put into practice, all of the great advice i have been given. I believe that the consensus of all these responses lead to the point that my success is up to me and not my degree. Certainly a response that has inspired me to double my efforts and has given me a new perspective on what to expect after college. I'm sure you will be hearing from me in the future!
once again thank you,
-Alexander Punch



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