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Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please

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Carr LockwoodAdvice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 26, 2012 at 5:06:20 pm

Right now I am a senior in high school and will be attending Savannah College of Art and Design in the coming fall. Right now I'm struggling to figure out what major fits me and how it plains into my future career.

Right now I am very skilled in after effects and love making special effects and shot films with car explosion,gun fights,head explostions, and anything I can come up with. However I was confused to find out that at this college vfx is actually 3d modeling into footage and the only other majors that look appropriate are film and television and motion media design. What are halls advice for going to a art school to further a career in what I'm doing and really what I need to do to get into the film industry. I really have a drive and a passtion for this.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 26, 2012 at 7:50:40 pm

Everybody purports to know AE these days, that's no longer a distinction but a basic, like knowing Photoshop, or Microsoft Word.

The post market is absolutely flooded with capable and not-so-capable people right now, chasing fewer jobs for less pay. They are barely going to make rent on the typical wages paid these days for post staff in mid-sized markets and up. And every spring a fresh crop gets in line behind them, all thinking that 4 years of school equals an automatic meal ticket on graduation. Not so.

If you want to make serious money, you need serious skills and in VFX work, for broadcast TV and film, 3dCGI modeling/rigging/design, HDRI set extensions, compositing and animating are the "power skills" that will command a respectable salary for the forseeable future. Broadcast TV uses 3dCGI a LOT, and not just for fanciful things like monsters and spaceships, but to make photo-realistic locations of places people recognize, shots that have to stand up to intense scrutiny by an audience that's seen the real thing. A friend showed me just how much greenscreen with digital matte set extensions is used on things like Sex In the City, Monk, Ugly Betty, even Law and Order. High-end TV commercials for every kind of product now use 3dCGI extensively.

I think at least you have to show you know how to work with these kinds of resources, even if you can't yourself generate them.

Other niches that will get better pay might include, but not be limited to: 3-d steroscopic post production and compositing, color grading expertise, sound design and mixing for surround, and anyone who knows enough programming to build their own effects plug-ins. Because the high-paying projects don't just use off-the-shelf plugs; they often engineer brand new unique effects that may later trickle down for use by the rest of us.

There might be twenty guys and gals ahead of you trying out for a job and they will all claim expertise in AE compositing. Many of their demos will show they can apply a Magic Bullet "looks" effect and paste some canned or particle-generated muzzle flashes over footage of toy guns. So can my teenage kids, and they don't even STUDY video. Maybe you can make money with just those skills, but I doubt it will be as much as you hoped for. What *else* can you show an employer that makes you stand out? Maybe you can animate fast and well in 2-d and mograph work? Cel animation? Stop-mo? Maybe you're a whiz at multi-screen presentations? Find and exploit a niche with an unusual skill set, and that leads to more money. IMO.

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Carr LockwoodRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 26, 2012 at 8:30:13 pm

Theses are all valid points and I thank u greatly for posting this much of a response. This is really all I know and if that's what it's going to take then I have a lot of work to do. Any other advice I mean even if its about what I should focus on the most or first ?

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Richard HerdRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 26, 2012 at 10:11:04 pm

Drama and storytelling. Everything you do with fancy technology is about one thing: the story. There are two types of drama, the literature kind like you find in the English department and the theatre kind like you find in acting classes. Once you are actually enrolled in the University, start immediately looking for internships. An internship is a learning experience. It means you should be able to learn something and not just be a "go-fer" and a coffee maker.

Networking skills are very important.

A reel. You need a reel. A video that shows the stuff you've made. The Cow has an excellent reel forum too, so you can check out what folks are doing.

With a solid education, internships, and reel, you'll be giving yourself the best possible opportunity to start a bona fide career.

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Al BergsteinRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:44:35 pm

In addition to that great advice above, I would say that if you are serious about getting into film, and are thinking of spending four years learning it, then go to LA and do it where it's done. Along the way, you might be able to actually get some experience making films, you might find that there are niches you prefer (and can actually find money to be made in), or you might get into some kind of business side of the industry. You can always return home afterwards with some serious experience and it might get you a leg up in a job interview. But I wouldn't waste your time studying film anywhere other than LA. WIth respect to NYU, and my alma mater of Columbia College in Chicago, but LA is where the center of the film industry is. You'll be one of tens of thousands, but there's lots more work opportunities. The bottom line is that this is trade, not a profession like corporate America, and you need to be working in it as quickly as possible. Good luck and come back to either thank us or slam us when you are done (G). And now I'll take my arrows for dissing my alma mater, which has produced some Oscar winners and nominees!


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Bob ZelinRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 2:33:50 pm

internships . This is critical. Companies have no interest in your GPA. They want to see what you can do. They want to see if you, as a new kid coming in, can do the same job that their 45 year old graphics guy is doing, so they can fire him, and hire you. And you won't get these opportunities, unless you know who to talk to. You need to GET INTO these companies as an intern, to learn who to speak to. I know a successful producer who was an intern and now has her own production company - all from the contacts she made as an intern.

Having contacts, and having a little skill, is all you need to succeed. Having a 4.0 GPA, and great letters of reference from your teachers, with NO real world experience, and NO contacts, will get you a job at Home Depot. Meet people, make friends, so stuff for free, work hard, learn what "they" want you to know, and you will succeed. I see every day, that the real experts of these graphics, and editing software programs are the trainers and teachers. The people that actually do this stuff for a living do not know as much as the trainers - but they have the real jobs.

Bob Zelin

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Todd TerryRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 3:56:28 pm

I agree with Bob on the value of internships.

I interned (at a television station) my last two summers of college, and that's pretty much the one and only thing that led to a job waiting for me when I got out of school. I know I'm extremely blessed in that I have never had to look for a job, even once. I was able to walk right from the graduation line into my first job that the same television station kept open for me, all because I was a good hard-working intern and had learned a lot. I didn't even give them a resume, and even though my grades were good my employer didn't know that, and didn't even ask. It was what I learned on the job and demonstrated to them that was of value to them.

You have to get an education, that's a given... but it's completely trumped by real-world experience. I have said this many times and it's not an exaggeration in the very least... but I learned more about the industry in my first four hours on a real film set than I did in four years of film school. Literally.

I keep waiting for my university to give me some kind of award so I can go accept it and tell them that. :)


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Carr LockwoodRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 4:43:29 pm

Thanks guys ! And advice on going as far to work in hollywood

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Bob ZelinRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Mar 28, 2012 at 10:37:23 pm

same advice. Don't go to school at all, and go to work for a company in hollywood now.
Live like a dog, get paid minimum wage, work all night with no overtime, etc, etc, etc.
Meet everyone, become friends with everyone. In 10 years, you will make more money than
most of the people on this forum.

There are countless employers that are anxious to exploit your abilities if they can avoid paying you.
As long as you can use this for "your reel" and your contacts, it ultimately becomes worth it in the end.
And if you just go to school now, you will ultimately have to do this anyway.

Bob Zelin

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Mike CohenRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Apr 6, 2012 at 5:24:06 pm

As the others have said, you need to have skills that are in demand.
My story is similar - I did 4 internships in college and basically lived at the campus tv studio.

I also sought out activities slightly outside my area of focus (as a Sophomore I attended an evening workshop on advertising attended by a bunch of adults from the community - I could have been hanging with my friends drinking beer but I chose to do something useful - I made a couple of contacts who were adults in positions in the industry - one woman was assistant to the news director at our local CBS station, and she helped me get an internship the following semester - on this internship I learned the ins and outs of broadcast news, went out on a bunch of live shots and met some young local reporters who are now national news figures - while I no longer work in news these were great experiences)

I left college knowing how to do online tape to tape editing, which in the mid-90's was still an in-demand skill. Then once I was working as a PA duping tapes and going on shoots, I got an opportunity to do some paid online editing. It was thanks to my internships and my non-class work that I had the skills needed to move my career forward at this early stage.

So go to art school, but don't only take art classes. Get some internships and learn skills you currently don't have. Just because you are good at something as a high school senior does not mean you have everything you need to move to Hollywood, unless you also have experience working at the Olive Garden.

Good luck.

Mike Cohen

mmm, Olive Garden breadsticks...

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Carr LockwoodRe: Advice on College Major and the Fim industry please
by on Jun 11, 2012 at 8:50:37 pm

Thanks for the advice

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