Question - weighing cost of film school (1 Viewer)

AshleyM

Well-Known Member
I got accepted into Chapman for the MFA program, but am having a hard time deciding to go there because of the huge cost and amount of money that I'd owe when done (more than 50k, at least). I'm also not sure I want to work in LA.

So, I'm considering a cheaper state school, like San Francisco State. I'd have to apply next year, and was already rejected once for the MA program, but would try again for the MFA next year.

What do you think of that? Is it smarter to go for SFSU, which would cost a lot less? I haven't yet been accepted into the school, so the risk there is possibly not getting in at all.

My ultimate goal is to teach at the community college level and do some work in filmmaking. What I like about SFSU is that everyone has to teach, first unpaid, then paid.

Thanks, all, for your thoughts.
 

notroberttowne

Well-Known Member
A screenwriting teacher of mine stopped me as I walked across campus a few months before I graduated. In a nutshell, what he wanted to tell me is this: "you are a very talented writer and you could easily succeed writing movies as a career, but I recommend you go to film school. If you attend a film school, you might polish your skills, but what you will certainly do is meet people. Film school will give you cohorts and connections and friendships with a whole collection of people who will graduate and all work hard to become filmmakers. If you don't succeed as well as they do after graduating, then at least you'll have a network of people who know you and know your talent and will be willing to read what you write. In hollywood it really is 'who you know' a lot of the time, and knowing a whole class worth of film students gives you a leg-up that you can't get writing on your own."

I ignored him for several years before I realized the truth of what he told me, and I thought that some advice from a successful writer and teacher might be worth adding to this conversation. When weighing the costs of film school, you have to consider more than just the classes or the degree or even the money that you might or might not make...
 

momotato

Well-Known Member
Hi Ashley,
I would weigh the importance of grad school. I finished undergrad in film at SFSU and got similar jobs (if not better) to the grad students from SFSU. Most of my friends who were grad students at SFSU are now working in the industry. That being said, most of my friends who went there weren't exactly pleased with the grad program.

I like you am extremely afraid of debt, especially the kind of debt that Chapman, LMU, NYU, and Columbia NY would command. Have you looked into other public schools like UT Austin? Their are also cheaper private schools.

I don't think going to a program with a "smaller" name will prevent you from getting a job, it is really a matter of what you do with yourself while in school. Get internships, work on as many student projects as possible. Your resume and experience outside of school will be the biggest help to getting work. Game producing/designing is always an option after grad school and the pay usually starts around $60,000. Though part of the reason I'm going back to school is to not be a game producer anymore.

Ok, I'm babbling, bigger point, public school is a great option.
 
Originally posted by Justin18:
All I'm saying is.....as a question of whether or not it's an economically sound investment..."to go or not to go" to film school should be open to debate.

I suppose, but it's a personal debate. In other words, you shouldn't feel the need to be public advocate for grad student fiscal responsibility.
 

jthamilton

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by Lame Forum Name:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Justin18:
All I'm saying is.....as a question of whether or not it's an economically sound investment..."to go or not to go" to film school should be open to debate.

I suppose, but it's a personal debate. In other words, you shouldn't feel the need to be public advocate for grad student fiscal responsibility. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Why not? The original poster asked for opinions, we are all giving them. Justin's writing is hardly stream of consciousness. If you really think you made the best decision for you, then why are you trying to silence dissenters? Who cares? He's engaging in the debate just like you. It's a freaking message board.
 

jthamilton

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by notroberttowne:
If you attend a film school, you might polish your skills, but what you will certainly do is meet people. Film school will give you cohorts and connections and friendships with a whole collection of people who will graduate and all work hard to become filmmakers.

I definitely think this is one of the most compelling reasons for going to get an MFA.
 

Jayimess

Well-Known Member
Besides, JTHamilton is the fiscal guy in these parts, right? LOL!!

Justin and LFN, I've been on this forum for over two years, and this is not a discussion that has popped up that I've noticed.

Though you've insulted the community with the "groupthink" statement, Justin18, you have also exposed an ignorance that I don't think that most people will either admit to, or they have long overcome: the idea that film school = carte blanche to the film industry/guaranteed work/instant success/eventual success.

I don't like to toot my own horn or even get too personal, but I'm going to, in order to give an actual MFA candidate's POV:

I was dropped out of undergrad for five years, and plotted time and time again my transfers to Tisch, USC, wherever, or just bold moves to LA. Never followed through. Eventually, I went back, with a marketing oriented focus...but I took a single film or art class every semester, just to keep me happy. A dabbling, if you will.

I was one foot into business school and in my last semester when my screenwriting professor told me I could get into USC or NYU with the script I wrote in her class the semester before. It was a dream, so after a LOT of consequence-weighing and pro/con charts and drunken nights and fears of debt and failure, I decided to chuck my GMAT books and buy some GRE manuals. I bumped my graduation date an extra semester to take production and acting classes to demonstrate my commitment to the craft in the face of all those marketing classes.

Some freaking way, I got into USC, UCLA, and AFI with that FIRST EVER script. Holy moly!

I made my first film that additional semester, right after my MFA apps went out. It did well locally in festivals almost immediately, but I didn't really go for a big run because I was too busy getting ready for the move from Ohio to Los Angeles. I just sent it to a couple free application student things.

I got here to LA, and I found out a week before Orientation that I couldn't get PLUS loans approved because of a medical bill that went to an old apartment back in the day, and I'm an orphan with no viable co-signers. I thought it was the end...I was just a bumped up waitlister...USC couldn't want me that much...but they did. They fought for me, and made things happen I didn't know a school could make happen. That helped me believe in myself...that they went to the mat for me.

My first film, made in Ohio, won second place in one of those student contests, beating out at least one student from NYU (1st and 5th place), Columbia(3rd place), and USC(4th place), plus other schools, including my own alma mater. They were surprised to hear I DIDN'T make it at USC. I still don't know if I would've placed if I didn't have USC on my application. I do not know. But my FIRST FILM and my FIRST script were doing great things. I had confidence.

But (and this is important!!!), I realized none of that meant a damn thing if I didn't grow as a filmmaker. And that's what I've spent the last two years doing.

Some of my greatest experiences at film school have been :

::being torn down to crying pieces by writers I admire...the breaking of my ego gave me more confidence than I'd have ever believed possible. Seeing the flaws in my work helped me avoid repeating them.

::having writers I admire tell me they admire ME and my work...

::collaborating with directors and producers who entrust me to bring their ideas to life in a script.

::the inverse, finding those who I can trust to bring my own scripts to life.

::being forced to explore other media (TV)

:: having the choice to explore even more (new media)

::becoming friends with professors, who are working professional writers...your relationships with them doesn't end once grades are due.

::exposure to people and stories that I would NEVER have encountered in Ohio.



All of that is worth the price of admission...not to mention that I finally got my butt out here thanks to school's deadline.

Now, this is part me, and part USC, but it's career stuff, and money stuff:

Through contacts I made at school, I lined up a summer internship I really wanted. Two other USC student, a Chapman student, and an LMU recent grad all are interning there as well.

This week, due to what I've done as an intern, I'm the only intern out of the five of us who got promoted to a three week paying gig on the show we've been working on for free all this time. As a reward for my hard work. I signed my deal today, and it's more than my estimated monthly loan payment and my monthly expenses combined...and I'm just a PA. But it might lead to bigger things in the future, and most importantly, it's my first real credit in LA, and my first Hollywood paycheck.

As soon as we wrap, I go into production on a script I wrote that fellow Trojans are producing and directing...it was a 546 finalist, but our team didn't make the cut, so we're doing it on our own. So I'm paying the bills on set, and then making my own work.

So...USC, Chapman, LMU, that got all of us to the internship, but it was on each of us to get the promotion. I don't thank USC for my being the one chosen, nor do I think that the other Trojans or Chappies or LMU kids would blame their schools for not being chosen.

I know it's nothing fancy, but this is the best example I can give to any of you of how film school has helped me, but also how much of it I did myself. I'm sorry it's so self-specific and long and rambling.

I don't think I'd have any of this without USC. I'd still be in Ohio, possibly. Who can say?

It's also worth mentioning that seven of my classmates from undergrad have headed out here without film school, and they are ALL working in the industry. But each and everyone of them got their gigs through people that they already knew when they got here...a director they worked with in Cleveland...a relative...a friend of the family. Nepotism is alive and well in Hollywood. The film schools just give you a built in family.


Oh, this post is soooo long.
 
Justin and LFN, I've been on this forum for over two years, and this is not a discussion that has popped up that I've noticed. Though you've insulted the community with the "groupthink" statement, you have exposed an ignorance that I don't think that most people will either admit to, or they have long overcome: the idea that film school = carte blanche to the film industry/guaranteed work/instant success/eventual success.

If I've insulted anyone, I'm unaware of it -- but apologize nonetheless.

Either way, interesting and informative post.
 
Originally posted by jthamilton:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Lame Forum Name:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Justin18:
All I'm saying is.....as a question of whether or not it's an economically sound investment..."to go or not to go" to film school should be open to debate.

I suppose, but it's a personal debate. In other words, you shouldn't feel the need to be public advocate for grad student fiscal responsibility. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Why not? The original poster asked for opinions, we are all giving them. Justin's writing is hardly stream of consciousness. If you really think you made the best decision for you, then why are you trying to silence dissenters? Who cares? He's engaging in the debate just like you. It's a freaking message board. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Justin said something to the tune of:

For the sake of argument...I'm just doing this to clarify my own thinking.

Then went into a cost-scenario off the top of his head, which is what I meant by "stream of consciousness." It seems more like he's trying to work out his own inner conflicts, rather than attempting a meaningful contribution.

I'm not trying to silence dissenters. That's a fairly absurd statement to make. Rather, I'm tempering the opinions of Justin18 with my own perspective/approach. Maybe I shouldn't be wasting my time, as it seems this topic is quickly devolving from the intended purpose.

I care because someone is clearly trying to make an educated decision. It's more than "a freaking message board;" these are real people, making serious life-choices. The "it's only an anonymous message board" mentality is probably why there's so much flak flying around online communities.

So forgive me for disagreeing with your cost/benefit analysis. Good luck.
 

Jayimess

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by Lame Forum Name:


If I've insulted anyone, I'm unaware of it -- but apologize nonetheless.

Oh no, LFN...The first sentence was directed at you...I personally thank you guys for debating something that's not been discussed. I meant Justin seemed to insult some folks with the "groupthink."

Please continue to discuss...I think this is very informative. And I think that Justin is figuring stuff out himself as well...so I think the discussion is a good thing...as I said, people never talk about this stuff.


PS...I fixed it for clarification.
 

jthamilton

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by Lame Forum Name:
I'm not trying to silence dissenters. That's a fairly absurd statement to make. Rather, I'm tempering the opinions of Justin18 with my own perspective/approach. Maybe I shouldn't be wasting my time, as it seems this topic is quickly devolving from the intended purpose.

I care because someone is clearly trying to make an educated decision. It's more than "a freaking message board;" these are real people, making serious life-choices. The "it's only an anonymous message board" mentality is probably why there's so much flak flying around online communities.

So forgive me for disagreeing with your cost/benefit analysis. Good luck.

That's a straw man. You basically told him twice to stop talking about it. I've never had a problem with disagreement on this board; I've only ever encouraged debates about this.

I am disagreeing with you telling him to stop talking about it--saying that this is somehow only a private matter and that he shouldn't express say his opinions in public. Of course he should. That's what the OP asked for.
 

jthamilton

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by Jayimess:
Besides, JTHamilton is the fiscal guy in these parts, right? LOL!!

Yes, but anyone is welcome to join me over here on the darkside. :cool:

Congrats on the gig. It sounds like you totally earned it.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AshleyM

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by Lame Forum Name:
Let the crusade for economic awareness continue unimpeded.

Yes, let it. This is turning into a great discussion and, as Jayimess said, is something that very much should be discussed and hasn't before. Thanks everyone for participating. Keep it coming!
 

AshleyM

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by momotato:
Hi Ashley,
I would weigh the importance of grad school. I finished undergrad in film at SFSU and got similar jobs (if not better) to the grad students from SFSU. Most of my friends who were grad students at SFSU are now working in the industry.

That's good to know. Are you working in the industry as well? Or going on to grad school somewhere else?

Tell me, does SFSU use equipment that is used in the modern industry? I've read in the book Film School Confidential that some of their equipment is dated. What editing system do they use? Are the equipment and software that you and/or your friends used while students there relevant to the industry as it is now? Finally, what, if anything, do you know about the animation department (it seems that that can be an emphasis)?

Thanks, momotato, for chiming in. It's been hard to find people who went to SFSU so that I could ask about their experiences.

If you think this would be better as a private topic, please PM back to me. Don't want to clutter up the message boards if there's a chance others aren't interested. :)
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Justin18

Well-Known Member
Forgive me if I was being too wordy. I think this is an important issue. That's why I'm posting. I'm interested in hearing the different perspectives on this board.

I have a journal for my stream-of-consciousness rants. The reason I'm showing myself to be divided here is because I believe that MOST filmmakers....applying to school, in school, and after school....myself included, will be divided internally about this issue at all of these stages. My dilemma is representative of what's going on with a lot of people. That's why I'm sharing.

NoRobertTowne and Jayimess had very insightful posts about what's to gain from film grad school. Thank you. I enjoyed reading these.

Obviously, many people DO benefit from grad film school. It's worth it. Your financial investment has paid off in a variety of ways. I won't recap why because NRT and Jayimess have done so nicely above. But I recognize that going to grad film school can pay off nice dividends. You can pay off your loans. Benefit from the craft you've learned and feedback that you've gotten. You can go to school, and happily be working in the work that you want to do post- studying.

But on the other hand, grad film school is a waste of money for many filmmakers. The loans will tie you down into doing a job you don't want to do after graduation.

Perhaps I'm one of those people.

I'll explain why. I enjoy writing for visual audiences. However, I would be unhappy spending most of my time on a TV/Film set after graduation. It's too "hands-on" for me. I also don't want to work on a sitcom. Creating scripts as a largely group process turns me off. Writing groups + feedback I like; creating the first drafts as a group, no. Not saying these things are "bad." Just saying it's not me. My Myers-Briggs type is INTP, architect, one or two percent of the population. Not practical, but likes to design systems. That's what draws me to spec scripts. You design a system. A lot of scriptwriters prob. fall into this category, too. A lot don't. I want to write spec scripts or create an originial system from scratch...film, TV show, webisode, whatever. Visual story.

Selling spec scripts is tough, though. Odds aren't with you. I think I remember Syd Field saying in his introduction that as a Hollywood reader, he chose 1% of all scripts he read to be passed on to producers for consideration. Consideration. Not purchase.

Starting anything from scratch in this field, then getting a crew, trying to make it "high art" in James Joyce's definition of the phrase, and turning a profit is tough stuff. Odds aren't with you. At all.

So considering someone in my situation, who wants to start smthg. from scratch like this, you gotta start thinking about well how do I make my idea unique? How do I separate my idea from all the other ideas out there? The odds are 99% that any one idea won't work. So how do I put myself in a situation where I know enough of the craft to make it work, but that my ideas are innovative enough that this is something that isn't being done in the industry right now?

For me...

for my personal situation...

but also, I daresay, for many other filmmakers out there...

I would say that to get this idea, you are better off studying film, creating, getting feedback, away from Hollywood, out of grad school. Craft won't be as good as an MFA film student. But that's OK. After a lot of trial and error, looking within and without, your concept may just be so refreshing that Hollywood hasn't seen it before. It's a WOW idea. Craft isn't perfect, but that's OK. That's where you can team up with a whole crew of people, many of whom have MFA's, to refine the craft element of it all. Like an entrepreneur later teaming up with MBA's to expand.

OK....

So I said that. Here's what I'm not saying...

I'm not saying that's the right path for everybody. I'm not saying that you're wasting your money in grad film school. Many filmmakers would be better off in grad film school. Depends on your personality and what you want to do. Jayimess sounds like she reaped all she could from the experience. And now, she's reached this huge stepping stone (Congrats!) NRT sounds like he's had some great scrw. teachers and he's about to reap all he can from the experience. And you can find those magical, unique ideas in grad school. In fact, grad school is a better place to bring those ideas out for many filmmakers. And to learn the craft. J. and NRT are doing just that.

But for many other filmmakers, grad school is not conducive to reaching your full potential. In fact, you may be taking a step backwards by tying yourself down to financial obligations. If you're one of these people, you can use trial and error, chutzpah, networking, a great public library, the internet, a few pieces of film equipment, some notebooks and your imagination to give you an education that surpasses anything you'd receive at a top film school.

But it depends on your personality, how you learn, your discipline, etc.

Some do better working in the system and some outside of it.

So again, sorry for the long post, but I learned a lot just by writing this out. Hope you did, too. Two quick things to Jayimess and jthamilton.

Jayimess, I've been inspired by a lot of your posts. They've been touching, insightful, well-thought-out, relevant, and, well, inspiring. This past fall, I was about to NOT apply to grad scrw. school b/c of the odds, but I ended up doing so b/c of your posts and a question I asked you. I ended up getting to the interview stage with two great schools, which I thought was pretty good after having not majored in screenwriting or theatre. Didn't get in, but I followed up with the interviewers and got positive feedback on areas in which I could improve. So thanks for all your posts. The one thing that irked me though is how you said the comment about "groupthink" was 'an insult to the community.' No, no, no, a thousand times no. Criticizing how the majority of people on here think or questioning commonly held assumptions is not an insult. There's nothing personal about it. In fact, dissenting opinions are a gift that will move this community forward. I don't think that you consciously did this, but just to bring awareness to this. Other than that, thanks for all your posts. You seem like you're on a great path.

And jthamilton, you would succeed on an episode of PrimeTime's 'What Would You Do?'
 
One thing I'd like to mention, regarding my undergraduate degree. On the surface, I spent over 100K. It's an English BA. Economically, in terms of running the raw numbers, comparing them to statistics, etc, it was a gross misappropriate of money, a waste. But then I hold that to all I've learned, the people I've met, how I grew as a person (dramatically) during my time at university.

In short, if I could go back and do it all over again, I would, following the exact steps that led me where I am now. I'd quite literally be a much different person today, had I not embarked on that journey. One much more isolated and ignorant, I might add.

I feel that similar, intangible benefits can be gleaned from a graduate education, whether or not it reaps dividends on paper. Which is the heart/crux of what I'm trying to get across. Shutting people down, "silencing dissenters," etc, is the last thing I'm trying to accomplish. If I come off as curt or abrupt, it's only because I believe in what I'm saying, not because I'm expressing disdain for my forum cohorts.
 

Jayimess

Well-Known Member
Justin, I'm touched to hear of my impact and also respectfully ask that you never bring it up again because it makes me blush...though what was the question?

That said, I didn't say that dissent is a bad thing. Other people mentioned the "groupthink" comment and I only meant that people took offense to it.

Also, Justin, if I may, I suggest,as LFN did, that you read your posts before clicking "Post Now." Parts of this last post were really hard to understand, and were quite obviously "off the cuff." The ellipses give you away, lol.

I hope you have a better idea of what to expect in this industry as a result of this conversation, Justin. Especially in the light of earning and job placement services.

I wish we had more solutions for <span class="ev_code_RED">ASHLEY M</span> though...I've got this to offer you, though, Ashley...with the exception of the critical studies students and professors, nobody here at USC plans or planned on teaching. For our professors, their credits, not their degrees, got them their teaching jobs...combined with an ability to teach. Most still work in the biz, and they'll all tell you that they wanted to give back like their own mentors and/or profs did. So I don't know which school will train you to be a prof out of the door.

Anyway, glad we could all play nice today. We haven't had too many problems with buttheads on this forum, so I hate when people get misinterpreted and people start getting fiery. Not like this is my forum or anything, but I'm protective, lol.
 
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