I came into American University being quite averse to politics and government, and I always wanted to focus entirely on narrative film production. My other choice, NYU, would probably have been a better fit, but AU gave me better financial options and I could knock out a year at AU coming in with AP and community college credits. I finished AU in 3 years with minimal debt.
During my time, I was able to find the resources and crews to make narrative films happen, but it sometimes felt like an uphill battle. By the time I graduated, I warmed to documentary filmmaking and became more politically and socially interested. Most of my classmates, whether in the film department, in SOC or in the whole university seemed extremely passionate about politics, government and social issues. A lot of people in the film department were there because they saw it as a way to make their voice heard within these topics. The doc program, especially the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, is very strong. Combine that with being in the Nation's Capital and you're really in the right place for the right thing. Again, probably not for me. But some folks thrived on it. But you do end up looking for internships and work opportunities in the city that you go to school in, and DC doesn't have a lot going on for your average student.
The film department felt like a carousel at times. The older professors who were tenured seemed out of touch with the current scene; they had been tenured and working for the university for so long that the indie struggle seemed very much lost on them. Younger, adjunct professors were barely graduated from the same classes they were teaching, and could provide even less perspective. The boast of the film department is a two-time Oscar winner in sound; yet his classes are primarily a vehicle for him to talk about his experiences and his awards. He barely taught the class I took with him and though his anecdotes were amusing and at times insightful, it was certainly not worth more than just the check mark I received for the class.
In the end, I'll leave you with this: you get what you put in. I went to school with some amazingly talented people. Some people did great work while at school, some people did great work after school. Some people are still in DC and some are in NY or LA. Some are elsewhere. The most ambitious people have left DC. No school is a guarantee of success or failure, but if you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, then you can really tailor your school experience to your ambitions. And I think that's true for any (film) school experience. Good luck.
American University - School of Communication (B.A.)
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