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Does My Degree Matter?

Bumbling British Boy asks:

Would a degree somewhat removed from the end product be detrimental or could I, as I hope, not-so-simply segue into the Production Designer pathway with some cunning career feng-sui?

When I first got to the Overpriced Film School, I reacted with attitudes typical of any eighteen year old – petulance and disappointment. I thought to myself, “This is it?” I busted my ass through four years of high school to get here? I wrote and re-wrote my writing samples just so I could sit in this three-hundred seat theater and listen to some PhD break down the esoteric differences between Western and Spaghetti Western? Give me a break.

Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t until it was too late that I learned how unproductive my youthful negativity was. I went through all of film school determined to hate it. In lots of ways, I wasted valuable opportunities to focus on a particular craft of filmmaking or foster those oh-so-important relationships that define your career in Hollywood. Instead, I grew a beard, drank too much, and scoffed at the idea of PAing on my friends’ projects. (After all, I considered myself an auteur.)

Big mistake.

In retrospect, I wish I had been more pro-active in pursuing my goal – even if my goals turned out to be misguided. During college, I worked for an agent who offered to connect me with some of his screenwriters, so that they could read my stuff and give me their thoughts. I thankfully declined his offer. At the time, I didn’t think I wanted to be a screenwriter. (I was an auteur, remember?)

If I could go back, I probably would have majored in something other than film… Or at least double-majored. So that in addition to mind-numbing conversations about “What is art?”, I could have also studied history or business – something that would have stimulated my mind or had real-world applications.

I would have continued to pursue a career in film. But I would have realized that I don’t need a degree in film in order to become a filmmaker. (For proof of that, click here, here, or here.)

If that means you end up with a degree in Horticulture and you’ve just got to explain yourself on every PA-interview you go on, then fine. At least you’ve got something that sets you apart from the pack. (I got my first job in Hollywood because I’m an Eagle Scout, and my boss thought that was unique.)

If it’s his goal to become a production designer, then I’m sure the Bumbling British Boy will find a way to make it happen.

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2 Responses

  1. I felt I had to share that I was hired on to a very well known production company before I was able to finish college. While this is not common I assume, I hope it will show that it does not matter what your degree is in, as long as you’re persistent, smart, humble and partake in plenty of internships.

    I also felt it was relative to add that the hiring producer also coincidentally pointed out the Eagle Scout entry on my resume. And I firmly believe that this “feather on my cap” played a very integral role in their decision to hire me.

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