Industry connections, job opportunities, professional training, abundance of sets, equipment, sound stages
Can be pretentious
I started my USC adventure as a Theatre major. I quickly discovered that I needed to change paths, and film had always been of interest. I thought to myself, what better place to pursue film than USC? I’m grateful that in many ways that assumption was proved correct. Though I was not a production major - I was Cinema and Media Studies - I did get to spend a lot of time with students, faculty, and alumni from all of the programs USC offers. What a diverse and wonderful group of people! It’s a difficult program to critique and review because so much of it depends on one’s own drive, desires, and expectations. I wasn’t anticipating anything in particular, had never taken a film class, and was immediately blown away by the theaters, the sound stages, the access they grant to top notch equipment, and the faculty’s shared interest in providing the best education possible for their students. That being said, there are certainly a few things to take into consideration. USC prides itself on being the ‘best’ film school in the country. Are they? I can’t say definitively yes or no, but they certainly believe themself to be. That kind of attitude can be a bit off-putting and intimidating at times. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t students and faculty members who carried themselves as ‘better than’ simply because they were apart of this institutions film program. Thankfully this was not a majority, however, I encountered that type of character enough for it to make a lasting impression. USC is a very privileged place, it’s also an incredibly expensive one. That’s another area to consider. I never needed to apply for scholarships so I cannot speak on their implementation and how helpful they are, I do recognize that USC is one of the more expensive undergraduate colleges and that shouldn’t be forgotten. In regards to my program and what separated it from the Production BFA, the biggest difference would be the freedom to decide what courses and direction you’d like to take. Cinema Media Studies contains numerous fields of requirement but offers multiple different courses that will fulfill those areas. The BFA in production, however, is much a stricter schedule in which you’ll be attending a very structured curriculum with your designated cohort. The benefits of that being you get to experience everything together with a small group of people who you’ll spend your entire career at USC working with. That forms strong and indelible bonds that replicate those in the professional world. It also means if there’s friction, unfortunately it’ll just have to be dealt with and endured. Cinema Media Studies consists predominantly of lectures, however, as an SCA student you’ll be granted to take screenwriting courses, production courses, and a myriad of others. Though on set experience was not the main focal point, there were plenty of opportunities and courses to get it. Should you find yourself wanting more, SCA offers the chance to apply to the BFA program even after declaring a major and being admitted. I believe the Production BFA is more helpful in terms of attaining professional-world experiences and learning the industry. Since Production majors spend every weekend writing shorts, on set, editing, and switching positions throughout the semester, it’s a great microcosm of what to expect after graduation. You will learn every single role on a film set, and chances are you will fulfill every role at one point or another. You’ll also be able to apply for thesis projects as an upperclassman which are then premiered in a wonderful theater open to the public. Cinema Media Studies doesn’t have that same kind of exposure, nor does it replicate professional circumstances. It’s more focused on the history of film, how film has evolved globally, the iconographies of different eras, and how to ’properly’ read a film. Any more experience is up to the undergraduate themselves to seek out. All of that being said, simply by being an SCA student numerous internship opportunities will arise. They won’t be handed to you for merely being an SCA student, but there is a weight to that title that provokes the image of a certain type of character who is diligent, knowledgeable, and always up to the task. Balancing internships and classwork, though challenging, never felt like too much even in the semesters I was taking twenty plus units. USC also boasts a tremendous alumni network from Kevin Feige, and George Lucas to Judd Apatow and Robert Zemeckis. Though it’s not the most pleasant thing to admit, names like that help. People in the industry are familiar with SCA and the alumni network is full of impressive artists who are constantly working and looking to help out fellow Trojans. All in all I greatly enjoyed my time at USC and SCA. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was my dream school, and ended up becoming a reality that I truly couldn’t have anticipated. I strongly recommend it, despite knowing it might not be for everyone. Fight on.
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