The New York Times recently wrote up a story about the current surge in Film School applicants: for example, 4,800 students applied for 300 spots at USC Graduate, up from 2,800 last year.
This is astonishing, and astonishingly scary. There is no place for all these people to work. What a glut in the market. Because of this, the major itself is morphing into an accepted form of uselessness, like an English or Art History major.
The article makes a great point of noting how job prospects are increasingly weak for the field, so the popularity of the major is kind of becoming it’s own reason for its existence. It’s turning into studying film for the sake of studying film, not studying film to work in film. To me, that seems to be the best and most natural direction for the major to go in. While schools may do what they can to help job prospects (name recognition, resume writing, practical or technical education), they really should let go of the concept of “success” that will come with the film major they offer and sell on the point of studying a piece of human culture. Film school is less and less about getting a job and people should apply with that in mind; openings are still extremely scarce in comparison to the number of graduates and often have nothing to do with the film major anyways.
I used to blame my school a lot for not preparing me for the workplace. There were a few things it could have done better but as the years go on I’m realizing that I was mostly just trying to find a scapegoat. I’m still happy I received my education; the productive, challenging environment did wonders to help me blossom aesthetically and my critical skills elevated to an incredible state I will forever credit the school for invoking.
Yet even then it was still pretty obvious my classmates and I were filming in a bubble. The outside, working world would be different. Our major was admittedly pretty useless and without knowing it at the time, really we were studying film… just because we loved film. In retrospect, it took me a while to accept the education for education’s sake and resist falling into a fetal position while watching graduating class after graduating class of competition grabbing their diplomas and transferring their tassels, wondering if I really just threw money in a trash can and burned it.
In a practical sense, film school is useless, but if you can afford it, I’m of the school (see what I did there…) that it’s some good medicine. You won’t come out with any way to pay off your loans, but you may come out stronger person. Know what you’re getting into.
I guess you could say that now, as of 2011, film school is a plus, not a necessity. Not when there’s Netflix and HDSLR’s, craigslist and Final Cut. Hopefully that mindset will abate those 4,500 souls who won’t make it to USC this year.