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Do You Really Need A Bachelors Film Degree?

Is film school worth it? Matt Fackrell writes with an article that he introduces with, "I write this in hopes that a good number of filmmaker hopefuls will listen to my advice, and ask themselves "should I really get a bachelors degree in film, or are there other options?"" His full letter, which he says is directed towards those who are married or getting married, continues below...

"THIS ARTICLE IS PRIMARILY DIRECTED TO THOSE WHO ARE MARRIED OR THOSE WHO WILL BE GETTING MARRIED AT ANY TIME.

I was two weeks away from moving from Utah with my wife and son to travel to California and begin attending the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California of which I was accepted with an Art Center Scholarship. There I would be getting my BFA in film and be going in debt nearly $150,000 (this being that I would be unable to work, because the school is very competitive). The school is also very expensive but I didn't care, I loved the school and would saw off my left foot to go there. But as luck would have it, I had trouble getting cosigners on my loans, thus making me unable to go, and this was very disappointing to me.

Since this was impossible, another plan of action was implemented. I entered the University of Utah working for my BA in Mass Communications. My wife is going to massage school and within a year after we pay debt we'll be ready to take the journey to Art Center to gain my Masters Degree in film.

I want you to understand that I'm glad things worked out the way they did, because now I don't believe that a BFA in film is the way to go. If you are getting a BFA in film or are planning on it then ask yourselves "where will this degree take me". After film school when all is said and done, it is more than likely that you will not be hired right off to direct a feature film. So where do you work, because your established, newly established or soon to be established family more than likely will be looking to you (if you are male or female) to provide. You have spent nearly a $100,000 to get your BFA, but does this matter in the real world. You might go to a news station or production company, but most of the time experience is necessary and a degree is mandatory. I've seen time and time again where a production company and especially anything having to do with news will always hire a mass comm major over a film major. If you don't believe me, then go to Monster.com and look up any news station hiring for directing, editing, producing or any other position, they will usually have the magic words "Mass Communications degree required" in bold faced letters. I worked for a company which produces training videos, in which I was the lead video editor. They were hiring for directing positions, and they passed on those with film degrees and hired those with experience and mass comm degrees.

Now I'm not saying that film school is bad, and for those of you who have all the time in the world to focus on film and nothing else then by all means, go and get a BFA in film, but those of you who are thinking about starting a family, then think of the future first.

First get a degree in something, anything that will guarantee you something to fall back on if the going gets tough. What will happen if there is a slide in the industry and nobody is really hiring, and heaven forbid that films aren't being made. What Will You Do?

Get a degree in accounting, or business or mass communications, or mechanics, engineering, public relations, whatever. This may be boring and a lot of work, but you will be paying significantly less on this degree at a university in your home state (instate tuition discount) and be securing a future for you and your family. A degree in a stable field is the best insurance you can get.

If you have a very supportive husband or wife, then you can take the next step and finish graduate school in film.

I myself will be attending Art Center College of Design after I get my bachelors in Mass Communications. I do not expect to direct films right out of school, but I will be well rounded in many areas of film and video with both degrees. My wife will be working full time as a massage therapist and our kids will do day care for a short time. After school I will then get a full time job with a production company, news station, or go into business for myself. I don't want to put a lot of stress on my wife if I say "well honey, now that I'm done with film school, I will be working my way up for a number of years on film shoots." Plan on working full time, do you dream on the side and make a transition to doing it full time.

Film is an art and I understand that there are those who could care less about living off of nothing, but still work hard at their craft. Good luck to all of you and think of the future. " Your comments are invited.

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Comments

Study what you want and thoroughly immerse yourself in the craft and you will be successful.



unknown

Film school is almost a waste of time if you want to be a true filmmaker. Its great if you want to work on other people's films or just get a job, I suppose. Film school is just "creative avoidance" for real filmmakers. I say learn the basics somewhere then go out and make films. That's what I did and it seems to be working.

Where's a good place to learn the basics?

HI ,

it's more a personal choice- to be or not to be.

as a grown up i will never encourage young folks to quit school. but for someone like my age with family and limited fund, i frankly say go order books and read article on net, help out some indy filmaker to learn. fast and easy.

I haven;t attended any school about filming at all. I walked out of the film industry in 80's in HONG KONG as a still photographer, and go for another career. but i choose to return after 16yrs,trained some young folks and made a $500 movie together in Cambodia, then i got offer to work in Vietnam as D.O.P. and just directed a music video.

All of sudden, everybody knows me as filmmaker, nobody even bother to know that i don;t even have a degree of anything.

it's a practical answer: No, you don;t need a BFA to be a filmaker.

But u need it, if you're looking for a salary job to make coffees for big producer and hope in few years promote to another post.

my advice: save your money , grab a pen , write a script and get camera/actors, go shooting, u learn fast.

the best way to test someone can swim or not is to throw him into water.



K.M.Lo

i went to VFS(vancouver film school) and learned the technical nature of filmmaking. everythign else a college can not teach you. who cares about film theory etc. a good filmmaker is a filmmaker, college cant teach you that.

vancouver film school. www.vfs.com

I just started full sail to learn the technical stuff as you put it and i think your right. It's quicker to learn the tech and then bring your own art to the creations. b/c as said before college can't teach you how to make a good film or how to make art.

OK to assume that because you have a BFA you will be directing movies right away is a little presumptious. I've cut nine features and it took a lot of years-yes YEARS-to get to the point where anyone wuold even trust me to hack on their feature. Get that BFA, it can't hurt (although a Utah degree is usually looked down upon, sorry), but suck every dick that's put in your face and do evry menial job that's offered because the dolly grip you make friends with today is trhe executive producer who hires you to helm his epic tomorrow!!

Wow, have I got a lot to say about this. I got a job in the film industry while I was attending school--I have to say that it got me in the door. Finishing the degree, however, did not give me any leverage for a better or different position within that job. I was able to support a family for twelve years-- for this I can say,only God saw me through. I can tell you many behind the scenes horror stories, that would make you want to select a different career. I won't do that , though, because of the negativity that kills dreams. I will say that those dreaming of a career in film should pursue it before they get married or plan to stay single. Also, the reality of this dream is that the film business, like any business, rides the money train. The thing that you have to know is that the film train is a short ride filled with excitement (stress) And no matter what kind of artist you think you are, be prepared to change trains a lot or crash right into a brick wall.

I think your a good dad and it almost sounds like if I was a producer I wouldnt hire you. from your letter your kinda weak, it takes lot of hard times and if you think school is tough and expensive you dont even know what your getting into. good luck.

You missed the point of the article entirely. I didn't say school is too tough and that I'm not going. I'm finishing up my bachelors in Mass Communications right now, and will be planning on finishing my graduate degree in film. What I'm asking is if a bachelors in film is actually worth it, or should someone get a more stable degree first. Do you think a bachelors degree in film is going to keep your family fed (assuming that you will get married some time in the future) when the industry slows down (I know I've been there). When 90% of film graduates find out that they may have to do something else to pay the bills. Almost all producers (film) could care less if someone has a film degree or not, they're more interested in what you've done, what you know, and what you can bring to the project.

Recently I attended the ART INSTITUTE OF DALLAS. I was doing the Video Production program, i did it for 2 quarters then decided i was gonna transfer over to UNT in texas and do there RTVF program. erlier i was attempting to post something that had to do with this topic but i fuked it up and i my long rant got deleted. I wanna do film. i dont want to do brodcasting tv shit. thats boring. But i also though about this. WHy? why go to school. i think what really matters is your ability to tell a story visually and all that is whats matters. its all about your ideas. not about what kind of degree you have. your gonna spend thousands of thousands of dollars in film school. why not instead travel the world see everything and anything. thats whats gonna really get you inspired. and your ability to show these things you have in your head to an audience is whats gonna make you. but i mean is america even into real movies anymore? of is it all about strategic marketing? who knows. what i do know is that i wanna make movies. not for the money not for the attention but instead becuase there are some things people have to be made aware of esspecially here in the times that we are living in.

I know this is all rather vague but...youll understand it someday...

Then again, how does one go about making films if they don't know where to start? Anybody can buy a DVD, watch the special features, and the director's commentary can tell you to NOT go to college and be an "artist" but where does the amateur begin, or even know where to begin? Can some 20 year-old just pick up a $500 dollar DV camera, make a bad ripoff of Jackass witih his buddies (which is only what they'll do, believe me), and expect to sell it to a little film releasing company as patheic as him and expect to be a success? I don't mean to sound too harsh, but without college, how the hell is it done?

I think it is quite stupid for a filmstudent to believe he will be directing films (at least ones with a bigger budget than a hundred bucks) right away after graduation. I'm a junior at the Savannah College of Art and Design and I am quite aware of how the situation will be once I get out. I KNOW I will have to work in somewhat related (or not) jobs in order to find my way to directing (orwhatever it is I end up really liking).



Going to film school is just as a valid decision as deciding to not go and do it on your own. If you have the means to attend, do so. It will be a very good experience as long as you're willing to make it so. A good thing college provides is discipline. It is sometimes difficult to put your mind onto something without having the feeling of a deadline coming up soon. Of course, this could also affect the quality of your work, but it all depends on you.



I guess it all comes down to what kind of person you are. If you feel you can learn all you can from books, DVDs and other sources and throw yourself out to the hounds, Excellent! That takes a lot of courage. But just the same if you desire the experience and tutelage of college. You will meet a lot of great (and some jerks) people, whether they're film majors or biochemistry student. But be careful to not fall into the comfort and sweet bed of college. Be open minded and conscious of the world around you. Not all in life is film, never forget that.



In the end, it doesn't matter what's your background, just you determination. And talent, also helps :)

i think the most important thing @ film skul is to go out and shoot films with ur crew buddies, well, im currently @new york film academy, and i think its a great skul for ppl who want 2 be filmmakers. i dunt think NYFA provide any college degree..but F*that, as long as u can shoot ur own film and gain experiences...it is true that we might not direct a feature movie rite away after we graduated from the film skul, however, there r plenty jobs that related w. films...

last thing, be a filmmaker is hard, but dont GIVe UP!..life is only once so u got do wut u want 2 do in ur life...haha, u cant shoot a film in haven or hell..

i think the most important thing @ film skul is to go out and shoot films with ur crew buddies, well, im currently @new york film academy, and i think its a great skul for ppl who want 2 be filmmakers. i dunt think NYFA provide any college degree..but F*that, as long as u can shoot ur own film and gain experiences...it is true that we might not direct a feature movie rite away after we graduated from the film skul, however, there r plenty jobs that related w. films...

last thing, be a filmmaker is hard, but dont GIVe UP!..life is only once so u got do wut u want 2 do in ur life...haha, u cant shoot a film in haven or hell..

You sound a lot like me - a responsible person, who carefully looks at the cost/benefit of given situations and takes the most practical and sensible route. I have a lot of respect for heads of households, who sacrifice their own needs for that of the family.



However, in my personal experience, I might not ever get what I really hope for, because I'm too cautious and practical. If I were able to take a bigger risk, I might have a bigger payoff, but most likely a bigger loss. But I'll never know what could have been if I can't muster the courage to dedicate myself 100% to a big risk, instead of doing a half ass commitment.



As far as your degree choice, I think that it is a wise one. My friend got a Masters in Communication and then worked for a Big 4 consulting firm in marketing and video. She would love to do more "entertainment" type work but after 14 years, has stayed in professional organizations. I believe that a respectable university degree is probably more valued to a larger breadth of organizations.



You hear about Matt Damon leaving Harvard just shy of graduating and have to think what a huge, stupid risk he took. How hard can it be to just wait it out one more semester to have some sort of guarantee in his pocket. What if "Good Will Hunting" didn't happen and he never finished his degree?



What about Harrison Ford, whose original family had to put up with him trying to make it in the biz for over 10 years... only to be broken up once he actually did make it?



You know, there were two types of people in my acting class - the handful that were supported by their boyfriends and parents and the older student, who had a previous mainstream career and finally decided to try their hand at something that they always had an interest in.



So, we often here about the risk takers and their success but what about the ones that didn't succeed? At least they tried, right?



Anyway, why don't you get more work experience before trying for that masters? After all, it's like getting an MBA, you should have a few years under your belt to get the most out of school. Plus, the work experience might lead you in another specialized direction or provide the contacts that you'll need post grad degree. I think that you might be overeducated if you don't have the work experience to balance out the education.

You sound a lot like me - a responsible person, who carefully looks at the cost/benefit of given situations and takes the most practical and sensible route. I have a lot of respect for heads of households, who sacrifice their own needs for that of the family.



However, in my personal experience, I might not ever get what I really hope for, because I'm too cautious and practical. If I were able to take a bigger risk, I might have a bigger payoff, but most likely a bigger loss. But I'll never know what could have been if I can't muster the courage to dedicate myself 100% to a big risk, instead of doing a half ass commitment.



As far as your degree choice, I think that it is a wise one. My friend got a Masters in Communication and then worked for a Big 4 consulting firm in marketing and video. She would love to do more "entertainment" type work but after 14 years, has stayed in professional organizations. I believe that a respectable university degree is probably more valued to a larger breadth of organizations.



You hear about Matt Damon leaving Harvard just shy of graduating and have to think what a huge, stupid risk he took. How hard can it be to just wait it out one more semester to have some sort of guarantee in his pocket. What if "Good Will Hunting" didn't happen and he never finished his degree?



What about Harrison Ford, whose original family had to put up with him trying to make it in the biz for over 10 years... only to be broken up once he actually did make it?



You know, there were two types of people in my acting class - the handful that were supported by their boyfriends and parents and the older student, who had a previous mainstream career and finally decided to try their hand at something that they always had an interest in.



So, we often here about the risk takers and their success but what about the ones that didn't succeed? At least they tried, right?



Anyway, why don't you get more work experience before trying for that masters? After all, it's like getting an MBA, you should have a few years under your belt to get the most out of school. Plus, the work experience might lead you in another specialized direction or provide the contacts that you'll need post grad degree. I think that you might be overeducated if you don't have the work experience to balance out the education.


I think getting bachelor in FA is worth it. First of all it is a proffesion, there are loooots of tricks and ticks you have to learn, which without scholars you can't get, or you will but lose a lot of time learning by yourself. It is not as learning to drive or swim or even taking photographs. Always remember that quality metters, and now try to compare the quality of picture taken by proffesional photographer and amature photographer.



Of course you could first go study engineering or mass comunication as you said but remember the older you grow the slower you learn new things.

And the older you grow the passion for something that you liked fades away.



As you said after graduating in mass comunication you are willing to go to art college, i don't think that is a good idea, just go for FA straight, FA classes should have art classes for sure, since fimography is art by itself.



Good luck in your future,

Tulga (FA student)

I don't think getting a degree or not is really the issue, some people feel that they are more confident and able if they have all of the background,theory and data to perform a given task. Others simply jump in and learn along the way. Either way seems to work.



The film industry like any other is an industry which is largely focused on the generation of profits the "artistic" elemet is really only the means to this end. Having said that, it is creative and fun and crazy and all of the above and no matter what you do in film there is always the opportunity to be creative...but it is up to you.



The people who do seem to do best at are those who can make things happen. Surprise surprise! Yes directors, DOP's,PM's and the rest value those people who solve problems. The film industry is chaotic to say the least, often things run late, weather doesn't cooperate, shoots are delayed for a zillion reasons... in short opportunities to solve problems abound at every turn. My advice to anyone planning acareer in film is go down to your local chapter of I.A.T.S.E and sign on as a permitee in any area you can qualify (lots of latitude here believe me) or alternatively find some way to get working on the set of a major production if you haven't already done so ( sorry student projects don't qualify for this purpose) and feel the buzz, see how the industry operates, find a way to slove a problem for someone. Be friendly and willing, smile. You'd be amazed how much effect it has when you apply for that coveted position later on when you can show real feature film experience, no matter how humble(grip,paint,pa anything)Why? Because then I know that you know what it's really like, out here and that means I will condsider your application more favourably. If a degree will help you be more sucessfull someone on set will tell you. Then go get one. Until then just keep creatively solving problems and saying "yes I can do that"



Sounds way to simple doesn't it?...works just fine for me.



Oh by the way I'm not really an anonymous coward but as a new user my account has not yet been activated. My nickname is really Persistent.

Ummm... suck every dick that's put in your face? Okay, well we can see your going very far. I love your intuition and ambition. (hint: sarcasm)

heyhi.. there...am an international student...and planning to go the NYFA is it a good place...for technical education...coz i have heard that actually these courses are 3 yrs long...so jus wanted to enquire....and one more thing if u cd tell me..can v work there...while taking the course...and if u cd give some more information regarding ur stay at nyfa.,..regd the accomodation....

thank u

waiting eagerly for a reply..

Sunny Bhambhani

sunny_b23@hotmail.com

I dont think that people want to hire kids that just made films with their own experience. Sure they might have shot a couple shorts but a degree is always helpful. Film School is more than just making films, its also about how you deal with industry professionals and get your shit together once your out of school. Also there are wonderful one year programs that help you grow as a filmmaker. They are highly practical and i dont think you can learn as much by experience in one year.

I agree but I think it's a good idea to have a backup plan. This is my first time to this site and i'm glad I found out about it. Otherwise, I would have tried to major in film and minor in graphic design. Neither of which I have any skills for. I think I am going to major in mass communications, or double major in mass communications and film, and do graphic design as a minor. Now if I could only find scholarships for aspiring film artist or those in mass communications and graphic design. This whole college thing is giving me a headache but I don't really have a choice because I don't have any skills in anything. I've never even had a job before...grrr.

I'm going back to school after an over 10 year break. I was shocked and pleased I had only a year left to graduate. But the degree is in Film/Video.



I quickly sank into angst. I haven't made a film in over 10 years. 15 years, maybe? I didn't even think I was ever going back so I had trashed, long ago, anything related to my experience.



But, if you have a degree in anything, you can get a management position. Sure, that's a death warrant, but it's better pay. Just because you have a degree. I fought the system...the system won.



I realized looking at the classes I had left to take that I had the Film projects class. Can I tell you how sheepish I feel already?! How am I going to do that? Sure, I'll make one last crappy 3 minute film for class discussion, but mr. professor, could you remind me how I add credits again???



I'm not going to finish school at 36 because I want to free my inner artist. I need to support myself. My creativity will be in finding all the different ways I can be my own boss and still pay rent.



I actually feel like I'm paying to be deceitful. I'm going to have a piece of paper that gives the impression I have an education and backround in film/photography/video (whever relative practice comes to mind) and yet I won't. I'm just going to have a piece of paper that says I paid for and passed enough classes focusing on a particular subject. But I have neither the time nor the money to start this education train over at a new station.



Well, no point in worrying where any particular road may lead me. The time to worry is when you run out of road. :)



it's fiery furnace time and let me tell you, although I may not be burned, it's sure as hell gonna get hot.

I think the answer is "no" especially due to the cost. Our son did not go to 4 years of film school, but rather simply took a summer course on filmaking with the New York Film Academy, in LA.

Then started out driving a truck delivering green paint to film sets. Now its 8 years later, and he just produced his first full length film, called Jakes Closet. To be among the first to see the trailer visit www.jakesclosetmovie.com. You can also Google him or MySpace him. Lance Lanfear

Well it is a shame to see so many of you going into the film industry. It would be best for us all if some writing technique was learned; you can't make a movie if you can't write a screenplay. I will be leaving my local community college with three associate degrees Professional Photography, Graphic Design and Video Production. I will be pursuing my film B.A. at a state college that offers the degree. I can fall back on Photography for Weddings and Events or Design work if I need to. The connections you make in college are so important. If I ever wanted to teach I don't need a teaching degree I just need a Bachelors degree in my field. Keep that in mind as a fall back career teaching video can be rewarding. I am currently on work study at my school and tutor students in four fields of study Photography, Graphic Design, Video Production and Web design. By expanding myself and filling out a FASFA I am attending school for free. Then I get the money left over; they pay me to go to school. If you go to school and make connections the world is yours. Get to know professors, students and people outside your circle it will make a big difference in your life.

I think it's a good investment as long as you can afford it... but in the same time this field is a lot different than say being a doctor or a city architect. If you have talent you can let your mind create while in the other cases you really need the degree.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't study, obviously those degrees exist for a reason but let's not limit ourselves to money and only money while people which are gifted can't earn a dime... Of course there is that other "segment" of people using fake diplomas and have talent. I guess they don't want to go through this tedious process which is college in general.

One thing I learned in film school is that executive producers can care less about your crappy short student films. If you want to be a true filmmaker go out and make a feature length dont waste time on shorts. Also going to film school has its perks if you cannot afford your own equipment. You get free equipment at film school and use of your peers. Film school does has its cons though. For instance, some people stay you can get jobs and internships through your school. It's all a lie. Most of the internships are busy office secretarial work and the jobs are the equivalent of working at blockbuster. But if film school works for you then good but for some it does not. Just look at a lot of the big time film directors a good portion of them did not attend film school but others did. And a lot of the same directors bleed and sweated film morning noon and night. If film is something you are passionate about I say do it, sometimes you have to not be afraid to fail.