This question surfaced (again) yesterday during a conversation that I had yesterday with one of my fellow writers, David Vaughn of Home Theater magazine, whose daughter wishes to attend film school. I get asked this question a lot and while I didn’t directly attend a film school per se – I went to The Art Center College of Design for advertising/design and later took film classes -I do have some fairly strong opinions on the matter. I suppose I should say that I have strong opinions on college in general.

My general thought on college is this; go, but do so in a way that makes the most financial sense and choose a course of study that will translate to the broadest range of potential future careers. For example; don’t go to college to study Latin or major in modern art or literature, that’s what minor tracks are for, instead major in business (this is ALWAYS needed), sociology, English or economics to name a few. Even if your “passion” doesn’t fall within the broader categories it is my opinion that you should do it anyway for the long term “value” of a degree in business will be greater than one in American poetry or worse still, film.

That’s right, I said film, the world’s most useless degree. A degree that stands shoulder to shoulder with graphic design, advertising and others in terms of worst decisions ever. You do not need to go to college to learn how to make movies. You can take classes for that and believe me when I tell you that classes are far cheaper than college. But even classes might be a mistake. If you want to learn film and/or be in the film business -i.e. on set -then simply PA and work your way up from the bottom and be good at playing the game. Attend every social function you can and be polite and courteous but also forward with promoting yourself. Will it take a long time before you get your “big break” yes, but I have news for you, you’ll be $100,000 plus ahead of the curve than the USC graduate who’s doing the same thing only with a degree in film. But I argue you don’t even have to do that anymore.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, if your goal is to simply make movies and perhaps do so to the delight of your growing fan base then get a summer gig and buy some equipment and learn by doing. Believe it or not, a lot of film schools teach film by discussion, not application. I’m all for theory, but until you’ve experienced the stress of watching the sun dip below the horizon with a half day’s worth of daylight shooting still to do you can take theory and shove it. Furthermore, some of the most prestigious film schools in the world don’t let you even touch a camera until you’re in your third or fourth year. Some still don’t offer digital camera equipment for you to use once you do actually get to make a movie -I mean -short. It all adds up to bad investment in my opinion.

If you’re desperate to make movies then do exactly that, make movies. Make movies, put ‘em on YouTube or Vimeo and drive all the traffic you can to them and just put yourself out there. More talent is being discovered that way than through so-called traditional means nowadays anyway. But don’t go to film school. If you’re in college and there happens to be film classes that you’re eligible to take along side your English or sociology major then by all means partake, but don’t waste your time earning a diploma with the word “film” scrawled across it. You might as well buy two full RED camera packages, a grip truck loaded with grip equipment, a host of Zeiss lenses and drive the whole lot off a cliff and film the fire ball with your iPhone cause it would essentially be the same thing. You’re just pissing money away.  That’s just my take anyway. By the way, everything I learned about how to do my job (in advertising) and become successful at it, was either learned in my basement via forums and websites prior to going to college, or was taught to me by my first employer -who paid me less than $25,000 year to start. $25,000 a year in LA against $100,000 plus student loan debt – a debt I still pay on BTW. The math simply doesn’t add up. I rose through the ranks and achieved certain levels of success not because of my degree or my schooling but because of necessity and hard work -two things you’ll adapt to quickly with or without a college degree.

As always I thank you so very much for reading. Until next time, take care and stay tuned…

Andrew

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.vaughn.7731 David Vaughn

    Andrew…excellent advice!

  • http://twitter.com/ARobinsonOnline Andrew Robinson

    Thanks! And to the other readers, this is THE David Vaughn who helped inspire this post. Check him out at Home Theater Magazine (hometheater.com) to read his work.

  • Chris

    Excellent advice and couldn’t agree with you more. With Digital anyone can make a movie now.

  • http://twitter.com/ARobinsonOnline Andrew Robinson

    This is so very, very true. Thanks for reading!