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How detrimental is it to not have a recent body of work?

Discussion in 'Graduate Film School Discussions' started by AtBRareform, Sep 7, 2018.

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  1. AtBRareform

    AtBRareform New Member

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    I graduated undergrad in 2016 with a Film BFA. I've applied to a few of the MFA programs talked about on here twice since then, but I haven't had any luck. I haven't really been involved in any film-related projects since undergrad, and I'm just wondering if I'm setting myself up for failure applying w/o recent work. How heavily is that weighed versus other application materials? I was also curious if some of the alternative options to submitting video work are viable at all, like USC's photo narrative option. I have a disability in my right side and can't shoot very well on my own. I'd really like to attend an MFA program because I think it'd be a good environment for me to improve and meet like-minded people over just trying to breach the industry with a physical impairment. Anyway, any insight would be great. Thanks!
     
  2. Operator

    Operator Active Member

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    Maybe try a screenwriting program instead. Obviously the school would have to accommodate your disability, however, an actual film studio or any other company outside of entertainment only has to give "reasonable accommodation" if you're working as a camera operator or any other behind the scene job that requires full use of your body. If you can't hold a camera that's required for a handheld shot, or a boom pole if you're in the sound dept, then they're not going to be able to use you. If you can't fulfill the job description with the reasonable accommodation then they don't have to legally hire you or let you keep working for them if you've already been hired.

    I'm a disabled vet and it's hard for me to shoot handheld and to use a boom, so I've been applying to screenwriting programs instead. I've lost jobs because they can't meet reasonable accommodations, so consider than when you're risking taking on a 6 figure debt for an education you might not even be able to use and make a living from.

    I've been down this road before. I ended up losing my job filming for the NHL because my back is all jacked up and I couldn't shoot a full game handheld without being in extreme pain.
     
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  3. AtBRareform

    AtBRareform New Member

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    Appreciate you taking the time to give some input, man! I had considered applying to screenwriting programs, but decided I couldn't really see myself writing daily as a career. Maybe it's something I have to reconsider though. Having a physical impairment can be hard to work around. Good luck with your applications!
     
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  4. Operator

    Operator Active Member

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    What about a directing or producing?
     
  5. AtBRareform

    AtBRareform New Member

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    Those are actually the programs that I'm looking into! Looking at UCLA's Production/Directing program, Chapman's Film Production w/ Directing Emphasis, USC's Film Production, NYU's Film Production, and Columbia's Film MFA in Screenwriting/Directing. Hopefully those are the types of programs you're talking about. I'm a little worried cause I don't have any professional creative work or recent creative work in general to put on my resume, but I'm hoping that my written material and attempt at a photo narrative will be competitive. Also, gonna take the GRE for the schools that accept it cause my grades aren't the greatest.
     
  6. Operator

    Operator Active Member

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    If you have a smart phone and friends, you have zero excuse to not have a portfolio. Even if you don't have sound gear, you can make a short silent film, convert it to black and white, and there you go. Your first film made outside of school. Half of my demo reel was iPhone footage and I've already been accepted to two schools.
    Check out American University MFA in Film and Electronic Media. They're located in Washington DC. They have a very well rounded education plan.
    They teach you film/tv studio production, writing, web design, documentary, directing, game design, photography, and journalism. Basically you could start your own media company with those skills and freelance wherever you want.
    MFA in Film and Electronic Media Degree Requirements
     
  7. AtBRareform

    AtBRareform New Member

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    Yeah, that's a fair point. I'll see what I can come up with before the application deadlines. Thanks for the American University suggestion. I'll check it out today! Sounds like a pretty interesting program,
     
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  8. Operator

    Operator Active Member

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    It is interesting. if you do end up there, look into Southern Towers Apartments in Alexandria Virginia. They're the cheapest in a decent part of the DC Metro area that has the least activity on the crime map. Also all utilities included.
     
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  9. AtBRareform

    AtBRareform New Member

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    Sounds good, I'll definitely do that. Thanks for all your help!
     
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  10. DJ

    DJ Member

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    Just thought I'd chime in here with some thoughts. If your grades aren't great and you don't have a strong portfolio, it's probably going to be tough to get into one of the top programs. It's very competitive and every year more and more people apply, especially with Hollywood Reporter coming out with yearly rankings, etc. I would highly suggest trying to build a portfolio of directing work if that's what you want to do. If you want to produce, find a writer/director who needs someone to help with a short they're trying to make. If you want to write, start developing feature length material and cranking out scripts. To get over the grades hump, you will need to blow the decision makers away with your portfolio because you're competing for a limited number of spots against people who might have a strong portfolio AND the grades to go with it. Good luck either way!
     
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  11. DJ

    DJ Member

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    And just FYI -- I didn't mean my post to come across as ultra-negative, just realistic. Just trying to give some insight from my own personal experiences having gone through this process before. What I meant was, if you don't have a portfolio or good grades, go out and create the portfolio. As Operator said, you can shoot projects on an iPhone, so go out and be pro-active. Pro-activeness is one of the biggest things that'll get you noticed in the industry too, so this is a good time to start!

    I am happy to try and help and answer questions if people are curious. I'm a 2012 Chapman Producing MFA grad.
     
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  12. AtBRareform

    AtBRareform New Member

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    Yo DJ, thank you for posting your perspective! Sorry I didn't get back to you right away, just been busy. I didn't construe your advice as negative at all; I appreciate you being straight with me. I'm hoping the GRE will help supplement my mediocre grades (at least for the programs that will look at it), and I am working on some things! I'm not sure I'm going to end up applying to Chapman this year, but did you find the program beneficial? Also, what kind of professional experience and portfolio did you have when applying with them? Thanks!
     
  13. DJ

    DJ Member

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    Sounds good. Someone "disliked" my first post, so I just wanted to come back and clarify what I meant so people didn't think I was being rude. I think taking the GRE could definitely help. Some require it (or they used to) and others don't, but I think all programs will at least look at your score if you took it.

    And yes, I found the program very beneficial. I went through it right out of undergrad, so I was 22 when I started. I studied business and law in undergrad (with a minor in film), but didn't have a huge portfolio and zero professional experience. I was also applying to the producing program, so having a huge body of work isn't as big of a deal as it is for a directing or screenwriting applicant. I did have very solid undergrad transcripts, some film classes under my belt, a couple projects I had produced, and strong recommendations, which I think ultimately helped.

    Personally, I used my time at Chapman to build contacts, intern, and develop projects and I was able to parlay that into a producing job on a reality TV series before I even graduated. This is not the case for most people, but it's not impossible, just takes a lot of persistence and hard work. I sent out hundreds or thousands even of cold emails while at Chapman just introducing myself to people who I thought could help me or be interested in the projects I was developing (agents, managers, assistants, producers, etc). I took any meeting I could get. I worked for a studio producer for 2 years and learned a lot. Ultimately, this is what really gave me a head start when I graduated.

    A lot of people think they will go to a top film program and get a job right away and that's not the case. It still takes A LOT of work. There are lots of people with MFAs from top schools. There are lots of working pros without MFAs. In my opinion, it's not about the degree, but what you do with the connections and the time spent while in school that counts.

    And just so it's clear... by no means do I think I'm a know-it-all. This is what worked for me, but others have had different experiences that worked for them. This is what I had to do to build a career in the business and it may be easier or more difficult for others depending on their situation. Just trying to give some of my personal perspective on what I did to break in.
     
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