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Old March 30th, 2009, 05:41 PM   #1
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Film School - How to afford it?

Okay, here's a question:

I have a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Journalism. I was thinking about picking up an MFA in film, but unlike my B.A. and M.A., I'm highly unlikely to get a scholarship.

Checking out NYU, it costs $20,000 just in tuition alone. Not to mention that I'll have to quit my job, move to New York, etc.

There aren't many film schools much cheaper. An exception would be University of Texas At Austin, which is where I got my M.A., but I would have to give up my upper-middle-class lifestyle and job...

Thing is, though, I like my job. I like writing. I'm good at writing. But I also like film. I'm also good at film. It's just frustrating because I'm beginning to reach the limits as to what I can teach myself about film.

--------

This post, I think, really should have been titled: "How to get additional training in film?"

Maybe I should find a guru. Or volunteer to work on some pro films shot around here...
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Old March 30th, 2009, 05:56 PM   #2
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I can't tell you much about film school, but I'm 43 and can tell you I've learned more by doing "real" work than anything I learned in a classroom or by doing "projects". Nothing stimulates my brain cells more than having real deadlines from real people with real money on the line.

If I were you, I'd spend a year working on pro shoots, even if you have to do it for free. I'm sure your current degrees would make you interesting to someone in the industry. After that, decide if you still want to go to film school.
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Old March 30th, 2009, 09:21 PM   #3
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Thing is, though, I like my job. I like writing. I'm good at writing. But I also like film. I'm also good at film. It's just frustrating because I'm beginning to reach the limits as to what I can teach myself about film.
...
If you've already got a job that: a) you like, b) you are good at, and c) gives you a comfortable lifestyle? ... I'd think real, real hard about giving it up to get into the film industry.
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Old March 30th, 2009, 10:34 PM   #4
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I second this emotion. Film school, from what I hear (a lot) is good for a) making industry contacts you might not find anywhere else b) learning storytelling tecnique.

HOwever, it is certainly not the only avenue to fame fortune etc. You can learn the tech stuff by working on sets and hanging out at rental houses playing with cameras, and can learn technique by finding talented people whose work you respect to critique your efforts and tell you how to improve.

Having went to plain old regular school, and majoring in communications/Radio-TV, and doing my own projects, and freelancing for other folks, I don't feel like I missed some great opportunity by not going to film school, and definitely wouldn't go now (I know too much. . .not that I know that much, but I think I know too much to make any school outside of "life school" pointless).

There are workshops and stuff that can teach advanced lighting, camera, editing techniques and software, and services for script critiquing out there should you write a screenplay. Some of the other stuff you can only learn by working/apprenticing on set.

But what I'm getting at is film school is not the only avenue, and that degree, from what I understand, means nothing to most industry folks.
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Old March 31st, 2009, 04:58 AM   #5
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It depends on what you want to do.

If you want to be a scriptwriter, it's good idea to live life to find out how people work and interact together otherwise you won't have anything to actually write about.

I believe one of the well known script gurus was in despair when they asked their writing class what they'd done apart from college courses. It seems only one person had done anything else. So, unless you've already had a bad childhood, a drink problem and a couple of divorces, going out and seeing the world may be a good idea for the would be scriptwriter.
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Old March 31st, 2009, 10:10 AM   #6
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Most of the people I know here in NYC who have film degrees all seem to be working in hotels and restaurants (probably paying off film school). And it seems like the people I know who studied other disciplines, actually work in the film industry ... go figure. So while taking film classes is a great idea, do you really need the M.F.A.? Why not just educate yourself with a few ad-hoc classes & workshops and start working?
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Old March 31st, 2009, 10:21 AM   #7
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Hmm...

Here's the thing - it seems to me that this is the old existentialist's paradox. That is, I love writing. But I love video/film equally. My degrees are in writing, my job is in writing, etc.

But I really do have more than one passion.

Don't get me wrong - if I had grown up with film and gotten degrees in film, I'd probably be on a journalists' board asking how I can do more writing...

The reason I'm looking at film school is that I feel like I'm reaching a plateau of things I can learn on my own.

As for doing pro shoots for free, the question is: How do you find them? And how do you find them without giving up your day job?
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Old April 1st, 2009, 12:38 PM   #8
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Craigslist, mandy.com or there's more likely a film community in your area you can get in touch with. Alternately you could do one of the technical film schools (fullsail, new york film academy) these aren't cheap but are cheaper then a 2 year or 4 year program.

Most shoots that are hiring for free are shooting on the weekend. So you can do that and not give up your day job.

Also if you can find someone who's been in the industry but maybe doesn't know the writing (storytelling?) that well maybe it can be a mutually beneficial situation.
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Old April 1st, 2009, 06:56 PM   #9
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A great way to learn is by simply doing. Along with working on "Pro shoots", buy a camera and equipment and start learning from your mistakes. Shoot and edit something every week. Make this a weekend and night hobby, this way you still can pursue both passions, writing and film. In one year you'll really find if your passionate about film, then you may want to consider film school.

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Old April 10th, 2009, 09:47 AM   #10
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Like Chris Davis, I'm also 43. Two years ago I spent what I would have burned on a useless diploma and bought video equipment. I then spent the next two years reading about filmmaking on the internet, reading books, talking to people and making short films.

Two years later I know more than any school could have taught me, I have the necessary equipment to make any small project at a moment's notice and I have two films under my belt that got picked up for distribution.

Opinions may vary, but it is my perosnal experience that film schools sell paper, nothing else. It may be good for folks who lack direction or initiative, but frankly it's a whole lot of money better spent on actually getting your career under way.

You don't even need $20,000 worth of equipment - most people you'll find to pitch in on a shoot (for meals at first, or for little money) already have equipment you can borrow or rent.

As for networking, again the internet is your friend. When I couldn't find like-minded people to meet and share ideas with, I formed a local group (meetup.com, yahoo, there are plenty of options) and advertised it. I made several long-term contacts with actors, producers, directors and asorted crew members (not to mention friends).

Really, film school would have been a huge waste of time and money for me.


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Old May 7th, 2009, 08:21 PM   #11
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Old May 8th, 2009, 04:13 AM   #12
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Like Chris Davis, I'm also 43. Two years ago I spent what I would have burned on a useless diploma and bought video equipment. I then spent the next two years reading about filmmaking on the internet, reading books, talking to people and making short films.

Really, film school would have been a huge waste of time and money for me.
A lot depends on what level of production you wish to work in the industry. Unfortunately, many film schools are more to do with the demand from students for courses than having any qualities that could assist you be a better film maker. The high quality courses do bring a lot more than just a piece of paper, they can allow you to make contacts and meet mentors who are of real value. They'll also have access to equipment you couldn't afford and tutors who know the tricks and inside politics that you don't find in the books.

Of course, going to a film school doesn't mean you'll succeed. For example someone with a degree in law and a deep passion for theatre and was a member of the university's film making club, which may have been making more complex and interesting films than the university's own film course is a better bet than someone who only did the basic film degree course work.

There's no one way of doling it, although the best way may be to have a supportive relative in the industry.

Last edited by Brian Drysdale; May 8th, 2009 at 09:38 AM.
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Old May 8th, 2009, 09:24 AM   #13
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Brian,

You don't say how much film experience you have, only that you 'love' it. You're already IN Austin - arguably the hotspot for production in Texas. You don't say how old you are, or what your 'day job' requires of you - but I agree with others. Make connections in Austin with the film community - make films on the weekends. This won't cost you anything but BTU's (Butt Time Units) to start - and it will test your commitment to the avocation.

If the notion of the 'structure' of school is what appeals to you - then I'm certain their are seminars and conferences you can attend in your free time - look into that.

Set yourself a goal. Perhaps you'll carpet bag for six months or a year - making contacts, working locally at the end of which you will decide

a)To buy gear and continue your pursuit of self-knowledge
b) Buy into someone's course.

Don't. Quit. The. Day. Job.

Especially in this economy.
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