We Don’t Need No Education

Seriously, I don't get this movie.

Commenting on yesterday’s post, Tom asked:

Correct me if I am wrong but… Nobody cares if you have a college degree in the industry anyway.

You are not wrong.

Being a filmmaker, from the biggest producer to the lowliest PA, is not like being a doctor or engineer.  If we screw up, nobody dies.  You’ll just end up with a bad movie or TV show.

Because of this, there’s no need for a film board or cinematic bar association that certifies you as a filmmaker.  Film schools are basically large versions of PA Bootcamp [sic].  They take your money and you might learn something, but their true value has yet to be demonstrated.

Don’t get me wrong.  You might be able to advance your career with connections made at film school.  (Just this weekend, I met a few producers and directors at a networking event sponsored by my alma mater.)

But lacking that fancy degree won’t hurt you. I’ve never had anyone ask to see my diploma from the big, fancy film school I graduated from.  Besides, I know plenty of Industry people who have degrees ranging from physics to economics.

And though it may be cliché, it is nonetheless true– experience is the best teacher.

If you don’t have a film degree, don’t worry about it.  Hard work and a little luck is all you need.  If you do, congratulations!  Now, get me my coffee.

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6 Responses

  1. I don’t think that the sheet of paper matter but i think that if you go to film school it’s because you want to get all the knowledge they offer and use that for creating your own projects or to help you get started.

  2. Here are the three paths of people I know who are in film or are filmmakers.

    1) She went to college, interned at VH1. Eventually, wound up producing “behind the music”

    2) He never went to film school but his dad was a big time commercial producer. He grew up on the set, he now produces commercials.

    3) He didn’t know a soul in L.A., never went to film school, had no relatives in the business, today, he produces and shoots some of the biggest names in the music businesses music videos.

    When I worked out there, people would always ask me how does a person “break in”, I would say, don’t give up, keep trying, something will hit. Then they would ask me, “does film school help?” I would answer, “maybe”.

    Bottom line is: there is no right or wrong way to get in to film. You can go to college, work with your peers, into a good group of people or just fall ass backwards into it.

    Last example before I stop blabbing: A director I once worked with told me how he got into film. He sat next to Roger Corman’s wife on a flight from NY to LA. That was it. He never worked in film, was working in the trucking industry (if I remember correctly) at the time. He needed a change. They hit it off, now he’s a director.

    So film school may work, or it may not, hard work may work or it may not, knowing someone may work or it may not, having incredible luck, well that always works no matter what you do. LOL 😉

  3. Gosh. I feel like Sybil or something…but I’m gonna argue with you…or me…Nathan.

    1. You’re talking about “Filmmakers”. I think there’s a separate discussion to be had about “filmmakers” and whether or not they need film school, but MOST OF US WHO WORK IN THE BUSINESS ARE NOT FILMMAKERS. On any given Feature Film, a couple of Producers, the Director and the Writer might logically be called “filmmakers”. The rest of us are Production or Crew. They’re good jobs…all necessary to the process.

    2. I don’t recall hearing Anonymous say “film schools are useless” and I’ve certainly never said it. They’re just not necessary for most people and that degree doesn’t get a whole lot of consideration when you hand over a resume.

    3. I went to Film School. I have a BS in Film from Emerson College (class of ’82) and I’d be hard pressed to tell you what good it’s done me.

    Let’s look at a passage from the post you linked with some of my personal experiences:

    To prepare for the shoot I had to do everything. And I mean everything:

    * I supervised and taped the casting sessions.
    * I organized and edited the casting tapes.

    I don’t participate in the casting, but I never learned any of that at film school.

    * I scouted and locked filming locations.
    * I drafted contracts for actors, background, and location owners.
    * I found and hired essential crew members.
    * I made the call sheet, shooting schedule, and budget.

    I’ve done (and regularly do) all of the items in the rest of the list. I learned them all on the job. I’m pretty sure that the “contracts” portion of my College education consisted of handing us some samples of various forms.

    Most film schools are heavy on theory and the “art” of film. That’s useful to people seeking some career paths, but fairly lacking for a whole lot more of us.

    And now I’m finished arguing with myself. It’s very disconcerting. 🙂

  4. I’m responding to yesterday’s post today. No, an education in film, in and of itself, is meaningless. There really aren’t any standards regarding what’s taught, and the “grading” is pretty damned subjective in a lot of instances. The value of any film program is equally dependent on the program itself, and the student.

    And since none of that is really measurable, most of us take your* degree (or lack thereof) with a grain of salt.

    The only true barometer of whether or not you belong in film is the mysterious “Does s/he get it?” Nobody can tell you what that really means, but the person you work for will recognize it when s/he sees it.

    As the BP Exec on the 2nd day of scooping oil from the gulf with a tablespoon said, “Does that clear things up for yous?”
    *all “you”s are directed at yesterday’s questioner.

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