Columbia vs UCLA vs USC vs UT Austin

dchuang0710

Active Member
Supporter+
Hi guys



I am in the incredibly lucky position where I got into four amazing film programs.

I took an oversea trip to visit all four schools thinking I would be able to know which school is right for me after my visits.



But I am now three days away from

the commitment deadline, and I still find myself torn between schools.



I majored in a non creative field undergrad, so I am really looking to develop my artistic voice, sharpen my production skills, and build my portfolio in graduate film school. I have a strong affinity to the horror/thriller genre, and my ultimate goal is to work as a writer-director or as a showrunner in those genres.



I am leaning towards Columbia and UCLA because I value both schools’ emphasis on writing. However I am still on the fence about them because both schools have elements that I find concerning.



Columbia
Pros
  • Get to really focus on both writing and directing
  • Good screenwriting/tv writing industry connections
  • Have a devoted festival person with good festival connections / many student films get into major festivals
  • Passionate and devoted faculty
  • Students seem more mature
  • NYC (I have existing connections here as I used to live in the city)
  • The Ivy prestige (might work in favor when I work internationally)

Cons
  • Expensive even with some scholarships
  • no soundstage (not necessarily an issue for some type of of filmmaker, but because of my genre, I would love to just have some type of set building experiences)
  • no emphasis on core production classes like cinematography and editing/color grading
  • Thesis grant not guaranteed
  • NYC feels pretty unsafe these days (I am an Asian woman)

UCLA
Pros
  • Very low price tag with my fellowship
  • Only admits 18 directing students, so potentially more individual mentorship from faculty
  • Has a very unpretentious vibe
  • Has a cinematography track, which might translates to better production value
  • TFT has a great theater, production design and animation program, interdisciplinary collaboration is possible
  • Decent facilities (2 sound stages, scoring rooms, and editing rooms). kind of dated but better than nothing
  • LA industry connections/internships

Cons
  • Low morale among faculty/admins as the department is going through structural changes, and still seeking a permanent dean
  • internal rift between theory and production departments (harder for production students to get into screenwriting department’s classes)
  • inefficient admin/bureaucracy seem pretty disruptive to students
  • Equipment and soundstage access seems pretty restrictive
  • No dedicated festival office/person fewer student films in major film festivals lately
  • Fewer notable younger alums
  • LA (I hate driving in general, and I don’t really have much filmmaking connections there yet)

Even though I am leaning towards Columbia and UCLA. Almost everyone I talked to who is already working in the industry urges me to go to USC. Most of them tell me that I might not like my experience while I am there, but the connections that come beyond graduation is where the value is at.

While visiting USC I felt USC has a very strong business/marketing school vibe, where students learn how to market and pitch themselves very effectively. While I understand that is a skill that is extremely valuable in the job market, as someone who already went to business school, I feel like that is not necessary what I am looking for in film school. But then again, I could just be naive and don’t know how this industry works yet beyond school.

It seems like at UCLA and Columbia, most students bank on their work getting into major festivals as tickets into the industry. However if your thesis work doesn’t do well, your career route might be a lot more difficult. USC seems to prepare students better to enter the industry on other capacities.

Finally, UT Austin is also a great school, with a very small cohort. They are offering me a large fellowship which will basically cover the entire first year’s tuition. Austin is also a rapidly developing city with many more opportunities. However, I think being in NYC or LA still seems much more attractive to me.
I am probably over-analyzing the shit out of this, but I would really appreciate if anyone can offer me some advice.
 
Hi guys



I am in the incredibly lucky position where I got into four amazing film programs.

I took an oversea trip to visit all four schools thinking I would be able to know which school is right for me after my visits.



But I am now three days away from

the commitment deadline, and I still find myself torn between schools.



I majored in a non creative field undergrad, so I am really looking to develop my artistic voice, sharpen my production skills, and build my portfolio in graduate film school. I have a strong affinity to the horror/thriller genre, and my ultimate goal is to work as a writer-director or as a showrunner in those genres.



I am leaning towards Columbia and UCLA because I value both schools’ emphasis on writing. However I am still on the fence about them because both schools have elements that I find concerning.



Columbia
Pros
  • Get to really focus on both writing and directing
  • Good screenwriting/tv writing industry connections
  • Have a devoted festival person with good festival connections / many student films get into major festivals
  • Passionate and devoted faculty
  • Students seem more mature
  • NYC (I have existing connections here as I used to live in the city)
  • The Ivy prestige (might work in favor when I work internationally)

Cons
  • Expensive even with some scholarships
  • no soundstage (not necessarily an issue for some type of of filmmaker, but because of my genre, I would love to just have some type of set building experiences)
  • no emphasis on core production classes like cinematography and editing/color grading
  • Thesis grant not guaranteed
  • NYC feels pretty unsafe these days (I am an Asian woman)

UCLA
Pros
  • Very low price tag with my fellowship
  • Only admits 18 directing students, so potentially more individual mentorship from faculty
  • Has a very unpretentious vibe
  • Has a cinematography track, which might translates to better production value
  • TFT has a great theater, production design and animation program, interdisciplinary collaboration is possible
  • Decent facilities (2 sound stages, scoring rooms, and editing rooms). kind of dated but better than nothing
  • LA industry connections/internships

Cons
  • Low morale among faculty/admins as the department is going through structural changes, and still seeking a permanent dean
  • internal rift between theory and production departments (harder for production students to get into screenwriting department’s classes)
  • inefficient admin/bureaucracy seem pretty disruptive to students
  • Equipment and soundstage access seems pretty restrictive
  • No dedicated festival office/person fewer student films in major film festivals lately
  • Fewer notable younger alums
  • LA (I hate driving in general, and I don’t really have much filmmaking connections there yet)

Even though I am leaning towards Columbia and UCLA. Almost everyone I talked to who is already working in the industry urges me to go to USC. Most of them tell me that I might not like my experience while I am there, but the connections that come beyond graduation is where the value is at.

While visiting USC I felt USC has a very strong business/marketing school vibe, where students learn how to market and pitch themselves very effectively. While I understand that is a skill that is extremely valuable in the job market, as someone who already went to business school, I feel like that is not necessary what I am looking for in film school. But then again, I could just be naive and don’t know how this industry works yet beyond school.

It seems like at UCLA and Columbia, most students bank on their work getting into major festivals as tickets into the industry. However if your thesis work doesn’t do well, your career route might be a lot more difficult. USC seems to prepare students better to enter the industry on other capacities.

Finally, UT Austin is also a great school, with a very small cohort. They are offering me a large fellowship which will basically cover the entire first year’s tuition. Austin is also a rapidly developing city with many more opportunities. However, I think being in NYC or LA still seems much more attractive to me.
I am probably over-analyzing the shit out of this, but I would really appreciate if anyone can offer me some advice.
It’s interesting what you said about USC because it does seem that the first year is dedicated to them teaching you how to make films and I’m every role. They have a dedicated festival liaison which means to me that films are a priority outside of just networking but you have to work at making sure you’re in the position to do that, it won’t be guaranteed. UCLA also offered a hands on environment but I haven’t heard a ton of positives.

If you’re looking for a good writing program Columbia may be able to give you that, and I’m sure the production side is valid but the cons are the expenses and as you stated looking out for your own safety. I would personally choose between Columbia and USC for networking after grad school and learning how to make films if you don’t have much experience doing so. I think either school will give you what you’re looking for.

I also wouldn’t count UT Austin out for a place that young filmmakers thrive and get good opportunities from just because it’s not in LA or NYC, I would have applied there myself if I hadn’t moved to LA recently
 
Hello!
Congratulations on acceptance to all four programs! I think I just have some more small points for you to consider?

1. I've only been to Columbia and USC. I think Columbia's facility might be lacking?
2. UCLA has really GREAT equipment, I've heard that a lot of USC students borrow UCLA students' access.
3. One thing I like about USC is that it always keeps up with new things, i.e. virtual films.

And lastly, it's more of a personal analysis....? For all Columbia's emphasis on story, I think they're not very diverse as many students lean toward social drama. And that it might be hard to help with other mediums (i.e. animation and virtual reality films?)
 
Hi! I'm recently been admitted off waitlist by Columbia. I'm facing the choice between Columbia and LMU. May I ask which school you finally chose?
 
Sorry for the late reply. I find it nowhere to send a PM to you. Could you please add me on the Facebook? My name is Shuiqing Hong. Thank you so much!!!
They'd need to send you a PM. Due to problems with private message spam, new members aren't able to send PMs unless they're a Supporting Member or post enough posts to prove they're not a spammer.

See this for more info:

 
Our in depth guide to Columbia is up:

Columbia University: How to Apply for 2024, Acceptance Rate, and What To Expect as a Columbia Film Student

Columbia University: How to Apply for 2024, Acceptance Rate, and What To Expect as a Columbia Film Student

At Columbia University School of the Arts, film is approached as storytelling in motion. Filmmakers learn future-forward visual and narrative filmmaking techniques while mastering the technicalities and business aspects of the industry. In 2023, The Hollywood Reporter also ranked the ivy league...

Enjoy!
 
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