Monday, June 18, 2012

Letter to film school wannabe.

This is an email I sent to a former crew member I used on a feature film who was considering attending film school. My perspective on spending time and money on a degree in filmmaking is pretty well illustrated here and my points should be considered by anyone looking into attending film school:

In regards to that UCLA program, I could see it maybe being of some benefit to already working producers but I can tell you from experience, I've never met a working producer who went to "producer school."

It's not like there are help wanted ads for producers and if you finish at UB and then go to UCLA for another 2 years, you'll still have almost no practical experience in the field of producing and will have to start at the bottom - as a PA most likely. It's not like you'll get hired to produce because you have a masters degree in producing and little work experience.

And, you'll never learn more at a school than you could working in the industry in less time, while getting paid, and making valuable contacts.

I once had the good fortune of working as a coordinator with a friend who was the local PM on a huge Goodyear job in the mid '90's that was about maybe 2 weeks of work total and was easily the best education I ever had in production.

The producer busted balls and put us through a crash course in producing - real world-style.

That's just one example of the education that is possible while working and it's possible to gain all kinds of expertise after working on a few jobs.

I've worked on a LOT of reality TV shows and almost every PM and coordinator and producer in that realm all started out as PAs, except for some upper level types who were already attorneys (who sucked at producing anyway). I've worked as a PA on jobs for Snickers, Wendys, Channellock Tools, Eastman Kodak, HSBC Bank, Servicemaster, etc, etc., and I never had more than a 2 year degree (in an unrelated field) and some minimal prior experience. Now, here I've produced 4 feature length films, a shitload of commercials, and I coordinated on 2 - 1 Million dollar features - and I haven't been even TRYING to get work producing.

School and more school is great if you want to either teach or if you want to be a career student, but in the film/television industry it's essentially still only going to get your foot in the door as a PA anyway. Do you really want to spend 6 years in school and then still start out as a PA and have to pay back student loans while working part time as a PA?

I mean, you can do what you want, but nothing works better than working in the biz if you want to climb the ladder and learn and make money.

©2012 Chris Santucci

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