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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 09:30 PM   #1
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Film Schools

Hello Everybody,

I was wondering what are the top 10 film schools in the U.S.A?

Cheers,
David
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 09:48 PM   #2
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Hi David,

USC, NYU, UCLA, AFI, Columbia, Cal Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, UT Austin, FSU, Northwestern, Temple...

Only graduate production schools are ranked, but something can usually be inferred about the prestiege (though not always the quality of education) of an undergraduate diploma from the graduate rankings. Also note not every school has an undergraduate program; AFI, for example.

The exact order gets jostled around from year to year, but it's my (probably biased) belief that USC has solidified its #1 status over NYU (breaking a longtime tie for first) with its new Zemeckis Digital Arts Center, a soundstage annex chock full of high tech toys, including matte screen studios and a motion capture stage, all available for student use. In addition, with the Integrated Media Systems Center and the Institute for Creative Technologies, USC has greater new media research programs than any school save MIT, and while these are peripheral to the School of Cinema-Television, there is superb communication and cooperation between CNTV and Engineering, making it easier, for example, for film students to put cutting-edge special effects in their films. Also, USC has a graduate producing program (Peter Stark) that is quite highly regarded.

There are many other good threads about film schools on the DVinfo.net Community; give the search a try. In some of the other threads I underscore my assertion that film school isn't about learning to make films (though a good film school rarely fails to churn out a competent craftsperson in every graduate): the real benefit of film school is introducing you to people and opportunities, relationships and acquaintances that are much more difficult to forge working outside of an academic support system. This is the real justification for the prohibitive cost that many say could be better put to use financing your own film. (Tuition and living costs commonly exceed $120,000 for these programs, and that doesn't include the budget of your films, particularly your thesis if you are lucky enough to produce one. These can sometimes be budgeted as high as $40,000-$100,000, a good portion of this frequently being financed by the filmmaker or his/her parents.)
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 11:58 PM   #3
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Dont do it!

Get a camera. make films.
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 09:14 AM   #4
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Yes. This brings up that age old question of should I just use that $120,000+ and make my own film and learn on the job. Making a feature film may be something you'll never get to do at ucla.
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 10:19 AM   #5
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I agree with Rob, the knowlage that you learn dosn't even compare to the friends, acquaintances and the slip of paper that says you are a graduate of a high-end film school.

Cheers,

David
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 11:04 AM   #6
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Why choose?! Do both!! I would say go out and see if you find a smaller school or state school (cheap) with a film/video/cinema department. While I think that one cannot be "taught" to be a good film or videomaker, the experience is one that will most likely help you really find what you want to do. Simply by taking theory classes, it should open you up to new avenues that you hadn't considered before if you commit time and energy to it. And production classes are also nice because you make your video, but instead of having mom or dad give their opinion, you have a number of classmates to discuss things with, and you will get more unbias and direct responses.

I think these are things that simply cannot be achieved by MOST (not all) in the self taught school of cinema. From what I have seen, many people who do not go to school for it and just learn from watching movies tend to churn out derivative and cliche material. At the same time though, depending on the school, it sould push you the same boring direction.

Plus, in the real world, it would be very difficult to "make it" to the level that most are looking for without technical proficiency in both film and video. I know a lot of great videographers that can't do squat with film (although every single one of them assumed the transition would be easy).

In the end, you have to figure out what is best for you. For some, school makes all the difference, and for others the choice to avoid school has brought them their success. it's kinda like one of those things where there is no clear answer, just weigh the good and bad, and go for it!!
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 01:25 PM   #7
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I don't think making a film is a substitute for a college education, whether you major in film production or something else. The nice thing about a good film school is you can get a good broad liberal education and hopefully come out the other end as a reasonably intelligent functioning adult who has some useful skills..
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 01:59 PM   #8
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A piece of paper from a college doesn't make one a "reasonably intelligent functioning adult who has some useful skills"
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 02:08 PM   #9
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That is conservative thinking but not bad thinking. If you haven't a clue what to do and are scared, film school would be the only choice. If you have the ways and means, you can go on your own. Many of the best in the business have (Spielberg for one).

I didn't but started when I was 18 right out of high school and I'm reasonably successful but you won't find me on imdb (that's intentional but by this fall it might slip in).
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 02:53 PM   #10
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No, a piece of paper and going to college don't guarantee success, but if you're a serious student and work hard and make decent grades, you've got a lot better chance in the world. I see college students all the time who are just marking time taking their parents' money and taking the easy way out on every project they get assigned, and their film work is not even of what I consider high school level. And I see a few other ones who work like hell, make A's while holding down a job, and have half a dozen decent looking shorts and sometimes even a feature length production done by the time they graduate. I've seen others who go right from graduation to high playing jobs at big post houses. And others who are lucky to get a McJob. You only get out of it what you put into it. That doesn't mean you can't score by staying uneducated and borrowing/begging money and making a movie,but you better be damn good and damn lucky and have some means of support while you're working on your masterpiece.
I know my education bias is showing here. If you don't consider youself college material, then it probably wouldn't be worth your while to go to a film or any other type of school. Lots of people go to NY or L.A. and manage to get hired in the business and spend a few years learning and surviving; and some even go on to great things. There are also a lot of aging assistant gaffers in Hollywood.
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 09:05 PM   #11
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"If you have the ways and means, you can go on your own. Many of the best in the business have (Spielberg for one)."

Steven Spielberg was a film school student who sat in on lectures at USC though he wasn't a enrolled there. Amblin', his student film made while attending California State University, Long Beach, received notice at USC and in the industry, leading to his first feature deal at Universal.

Spielberg met George Lucas in 1969 in CTCS 466, the Symposium course held at night in the Norris Cinema Theater, which at that time was taught by... Jerry Lewis!
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 10:02 PM   #12
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You can't be a film student if your not enrolled and only sit in on lectures.

Spielberg was working on the Universal lot and showed 'Amblin' to someone there, I forgot his name, who then passed it along to a higher up recommending they hire this guy. At the time he was only in his sophomore year. It was not a student film.
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Old January 24th, 2004, 11:12 AM   #13
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Spielberg couldn't get accepted to USC's film school, so he did the next best thing: he pretended he had. One could make the argument that Spielberg was as much a part of the community of innovators and thieves at that auspicious period in USC's history as were Lucas, Milius, and Kleiser: the reality of his situation was that he was inspired by the same Kurosawa and Truffaut screenings and he benefited from the support structures of the University in many of the same ways that his friends did.

Today, Spielberg sits on the Board of Councilors of the school that several times rejected him 40 years ago, and Amblin' is regularly screened as a gold standard for student filmmaking.

Spielberg's strategy might be recommendable for someone in his situation today. You do risk arrest if caught--but that might be a small price to pay in comparison to the exorbitant tuition, and it'll make a great story when you're a famous filmmaker one day.

It will be hard to sneak into the popular 466 Symposium class, which screens major studio films in advance of their release, with cast and crew members present to give Q&A: IDs are checked at the cinema theater doors.

Difficult, but not impossible...
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Old January 24th, 2004, 12:03 PM   #14
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And lets not forget, Spielberg recently WENT BACK to school, and completed his undergrad!
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Old January 24th, 2004, 12:58 PM   #15
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Hey David,
I went to UT-Austin and attended their film school from 2000-2001 and have yet to graduate. Here are my opinions:

1.) Film School is great for networking and meeting people who can help you out later on in your career. I helped a guy with his student film and he went on to become one of the leading stuntment in Hollywood. He's now a stunt double for Tom Cruise and was one of the main stunt guys in The Last Samurai. I get to join him on some films and it's a blast.

2.) Got all kinds of great lectures from various filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, Quentin Tarantino, and others.

3.) You get to watch movies. Every week there are two films that are screened in class and you get to watch classics on the big screen in all their glory and then get to critique them in class with professors and sometimes the filmmakers themselves.

4.) Equipment. You get free equipment or rental stuff for cheap. I was able to get a dolly, lights, 16mm camera, crane, etc all for nothing. Of course, had to turn it back in when the film was completed;) Also free access to Avid editing equipment and sound stages.

There are a few more positive things about film school that I am leaving out, but you get the point. It's great if you have the money, but I don't think you need to spend 4 years doing this. I think 1-2 years should be good enough.

But, let me tell you something. Nothing beats...absolutely nothing beats being on a real Hollywood set for more than 1-2 days straight. I was an extra on The Alamo for about 101 days and learned much more in one day than I did in all my years of film school. What did I learn?

There are no rules for making movies. It took me one day on the set to realize this.
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