I’m going to get in trouble for writing this post big time. But I have to say it. Recently I learned that an acquaintance of mine is attending the Art Institutes here in LA. I asked her how much she’d taken out in student loans and she said “About $90,000”. I asked her what she was doing, and she explained how she was shooting a short film. Actually, a short video… using a Panasonic prosumer HD camera that retails for about $2,000. She declined to use the DSLR cameras that costs about $$1700 to $3,000 to purchase.
I looked her in the eye and said, “Why are you paying $30,000 to make a short film using equipment you could buy for about 10% of that amount?” She responded with what I am sure has been drilled into most people’s head by the great marketing of these film schools. “Well I have some great professors who are connected in the industry and I am really learning a lot and meeting a lot of people.” That was the gist of it.
This made me think of the countless working filmmakers I’ve met here in LA who own their own equipment have no shortage of friends, collegaues, and partners for their productions. LA is like one big film set and in order to network all you have to do is walk outside your apartment. (I literally made more connections in my apartment building my first year in LA than in film school).
I’ve known hundreds of film school grads and only a handful every had any kind of career advantage through a professor, or their school. Really, there isn’t anything a professor can do for you if you want to direct. Sure, if they happen to know someone in a studio you may be able to get some kind of a PA job, or maybe an editing apprenticeship, but it’s very much a crap shoot. The real world value of a film “professor” is virtually nil. Definitely not worth $30K, which is more than most film school grads make in their first year out of school.
After voicing my concerns to her, she finally said “Geesh! You sound just like my Dad!” Apparently, her Dad was beside himself upon hearing that his daughter was taking out nearly $100K in debt burden with no real plan on how to pay it back, and no idea of how this debt is going to dominate her financial life in the future.
So without pointing any fingers, look at the facts and ask yourself: do you have to be a fool to go to film school?