Post-Graduate Degrees & Another Kickstarter Movie

Jaelin writes in:

What is your opinion of the PhD in regards to Film, Cinema, Production, and the like? I know I do not need one for my personal career aspirations but I have always wanted one because one of my family members I look up to since childhood has one but I am frightened that having a PhD and trying to enter the Entertainment Industry might actually hurt me rather than be conducive. Am I just being ridiculous?

You’re not being ridiculous for considering all avenues that might lead to your dream.

A PhD will certainly not help you land a job, you’re right. If film school doesn’t matter, a post-graduate degree will matter even less.

But will it hurt? Possibly. There is certainly an anti-film school bias among certain members of the crew. With good reason, by the way. Many film students enter the workforce assuming they know everything. They’re pompous, pretentious, and utterly unaware of their own incompetence.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is the greatest illustration of banal, post-modern ennui ever committed to film. Everyone else is just following Buñuel’s footsteps.”

“Yes, that’s true, but where’s my coffee?”

“I spilled it down the front of my pants.”1

While you, dear reader, may not be That Guy, a lot of Those Guys exist. As a PA, many people aren’t even going to learn your name, much less anything about your personality. Tell them you’re a film school graduate, and they’ll immediately put you in the same box as those other morons.

The usual caveat applies: there are plenty of reasons to go to film school; you really have to decide for yourself if they’re worth the cost for you. But those benefits do not include instant job security.

In short, don’t put “Jaelin Lastname, PhD” on your resume’s header. It won’t help, and it can hurt.

* * *

Here’s a clever Kickstarter video:

I don’t know these guys, and they didn’t contact me about promoting their campaign. I just stumbled across their self-promotion on Reddit, and enjoyed it.

It’s not the most technically proficient video I’ve seen, but it’s pretty good. More than that, it’s interestingly creative. You can buy professionalism,2 but you can’t buy creativity.

For that reason alone, I think they deserve your support far more than some people I could name.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. This is an actual conversation that I heard in real life.
  2. A post for another day.
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3 Responses

  1. What about non-film school stuff? For example, I went to law school. I had some very wise and very industry-experienced family friends who told me to stay far, far away from film school. I took their advice, and they applauded me for going to law school instead. Never wanted to be a lawyer, but just figured that practicing a little bit of law would be a nice way to pay the rent instead of waiting tables/bar backing/retail/driving Uber/etc. while I was between industry jobs (and it has kept me in industry circles). I want to land that first PA gig, and the common wisdom – even for non-law jobs – is that a J.D. says “wow! smart AND hard freakin’ worker!” True for PA gigs? Sets me apart or is an obstacle to overcome/leave off the resume?

  2. I agree. Unless you want to become a (film) teacher, I wouldn’t suggest getting a PhD. Depending on the school, it may help (if say, an Ivy accepted you, particularly on the higher tiers of the industry), but bear in mind also that there is an extent of ageism that exists and the longer you put off just jumping in, let’s just say it may affect how people see you. Also, the money doesn’t match up for the degree (in getting a PhD) until you’ve been in the industry for a while (assuming you get a break), so taking on a tonne of student loan debt (if you have to take out loans to do your PhD) is not very wise if you’re making PA-pay. I also do believe that the longer you do spend in school, the more (I hate to quote Shawshank Redemption) “institutionalized” you can become, which I wouldn’t think is a such a good thing if you’d like to pursue a creative career. Tis better to take that money or time and travel and return refreshed and focused and jump into your career. Gotta make that leap sometime. Best o luck.

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