Originally posted by Jayimess:
USC MFA, awarded May 2010...my funding was derived from the following sources:
My Student Job That Paid More Than PA Work.
Actual PA Work In The Summers (all secured via referrals from USC, internships, or my undergraduate connections).
In that order.
AFI in particular is very expensive just for their tuition, which is more than tuition AND living costs at USC combined, especially once you get into thesis year and are funding a major film. One of my closest friends from undergrad, and my former roommate, just finished her MFA over at AFI in June 2010, and we commiserate about our debt often.
We also agree it was worth every effing penny.
For years, we lived for film and television: she in AFI's editing program from 2008-2010, me in USC's writing program from 2007-2010. When I decided to go, I thought it was worth the money to live my dream, if only for a short time and in a surreal, educational environment, even if I failed miserably...but honestly, and a little surprisingly, I'm really enjoying life after film school, though it has its challenges. We were semi-immune to the recession, thanks to Sallie Mae, and I have to say, it was quite a shocker returning to the workforce.
The best survival advice I ever got came from the late great Sally Menke: "LOWER YOUR OVERHEAD." Get the lowest monthly recurring costs for yourself so you can spend your money on three things: on being social...it's a real part of LA/the industry, on good food...there's tons of it here, and you should not starve yourself, and, of course, on your projects. You should also be saving for after you graduate to make that loan money last as long as possible.
When you're not beholden to ridiculous monthly expenses you can survive on the no/low-paying jobs that present themselves after you graduate, if, like most folks, you don't sell a script or sign a hefty overall deal before you turn in your cap and gown on graduation day. I had various interviews lined up before I graduated, but I got a non-industry job for stability. I'm no longer dependent upon it, but I keep it because I'm spending thousands on my best friend's wedding this spring.
TV in particular is very low-paying when you first start out, though it's not too far to rise before you start pulling in major money. I've made a better day rate as a set PA on low-budget films than as a set PA on network shows, but at least with episodic TV you have consistency of employment rather than 13 days here, 6 days there.
Office PAs and Writer's Room PAs get basically the same deal. So after you free yourself from Sallie Mae's loving and evil habit of dropping tons of cash in your lap every semester, it's going to be a sharp change. You can ease your transition if you're not scraping up fifteen hundo for your rent every month...and the less you worry about money, the more your mind can focus on the work.
I currently work in feature development, and the money is much better than PA work, so I was able to afford to spend the last few months working on a passion project without fretting about the roof over my head!
Hope that helps.