Paying $42,000 a Year NOT to Make Films?

One of the most hilarious reasons why film school is such a retarded idea has to do with the process through which “thesis” films are selected.

At most of the 4 year film schools, from NYU to USC, UCLA, and even smaller colleges, students are still subject to a mind boggling process of “selection” in order to shoot a simple short film. What does this mean? It means that even though students are paying up to $42,000 a year in tuition they still may not be “allowed” to shoot a short film during their time at film school.

In these upper level classes students must “pitch” their projects to the professors. Out of perhaps 30 students in a classroom, only a handful get to direct. The others have to find roles on the movie, like being the DP or a sound guy or even a PA. Which means many film students end up paying a small fortune to hold a boom pole on someone else’s project.

This isn’t an embellishment; ask the professors at USC or NYU about this process and you will see it still happens. But few people think about this when applying. “Why wouldn’t they choose my film?” most people think.

But no matter how talented or driven film students are, there are still plenty that go all the way through school without being able to make the movies they want to make.

A talented friend of mine at a lesser known film school had a casting director, script, aerial shots, storyboards and a budget for his short film.. but it was not “approved” by his professors so he couldn’t shoot it. It’s a goddamned shame. This happens all the time.

Soon after graduation you’ll have plenty of chances to get rejected, turned down, and told you can’t make a movie. But why the hell are you paying $42K to have some film geek in a suit tell you that your short film script isn’t worthy of shooting?

It’s absurd.

Even in classes where everyone gets to shoot, the professor’s “instruction” can actually be more harmful than helpful. At a place like NYU, where I went, most professors haven’t earned a living making movies for years since they got tenure. Hence, their advice on what makes a good film is not something I would trust.

I just received an email from the mother of a student who is getting her MFA in film at UCLA.  The student is from Italy and being in college allows her to stay in the states for a long period of time, so dropping out isn’t really an option.

Her Mother purchased the course because the student was having arguments with her “Professors” about the kinds of films she wants to make.

The student’s mother wrote about her daughter:

“She found the emphasis of one type of character-driven film [at UCLA] very oppressive. Your assessment of the film school approach was heartening because it made her doubt the system instead of herself.  Since following your course, she has continued with her studies ……but she doesn’t take everything they tell her as the gospel truth anymore. Which is good, because she’s a visionary, and they would have quashed that in her. Thank you for giving her the confidence to trust her instincts.”

The Mother then said she is in the process of writing and promoting her scripts to agents… but lamented that her daughter has to spend so much time “advancing”.. in other words, taking bullshit college courses for credit instead of just making movies.

No matter what your passion.. don’t be suckered into believing you need a film “Professor’s” permission to make the movies that you want to make.

And if you are a current film student in a course where your thesis project has been rejected, I say: drop out immediately, get as much tuition back as possible, and make the movie yourself.

You’ll get a lot more respect and learn more if you do.





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