Some industry heavyweights evaluate cinema schools
Gale Anne Hurd (producer, “Aeon Flux”)
“When I was at Stanford I wasn’t even aware that film school was an option.
“In film school you can gain hands-on experience and contacts. It’s important to find people with whom you share a creative, symbiotic relationship any way you can. I consistently see producers working with writers and directors they met in film school.
“It’s incredibly valuable but also incredibly expensive. If you have a huge debt in the beginning of your career you might be compromised and have to take a job that pays well as opposed to one that may be a more worthwhile experience.”
THE LOWDOWN: You might want to save those nickels.
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Thelma Schoonmaker (Oscar-winning editor, “The Aviator”)
“One very good thing about film school is that you meet other people who want to do the same thing you do. I took a six-week summer course at NYU, where I was lucky enough to meet (Martin) Scorsese, so it was rather significant in my life.
“People ask me all the time: ‘How can I get in the film business?’ I tell them get your foot in the door. People will see quickly if you are a talented person and you can sometimes get a great deal of responsibility quickly. Offer to work for free, don’t be arrogant and don’t be in too much of a rush.
“No one should ever think making a film is going to be easy. People are shocked when I tell them how hard it is for Marty to get films done. Even now, every film is a major battle.”
THE LOWDOWN: Do it, you never know who you’ll meet.
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Richard Moore (co-founder, Panavision)
“I graduated from USC in 1947 and a lot has changed since then. In those days their facility was pretty modest, it reoccupied what had been a horse stable. The equipment was also modest but you were able to take courses in a range of film subjects including photography, music, editing.
“Back then a degree in cinema and 5¢ would buy you a cup of coffee. The degree was meaningless. Today there’s no question that film schools serve a very important function and I’m in favor of them.
“But you also can’t help but notice that there are far more people with degrees in cinema than there are actual jobs. In that regard it’s just like any other college major. When you finally graduate and get out in the market you have to compete.”
THE LOWDOWN: Too many film degrees, too few film jobs.
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Jay Roach (director-producer, “Meet the Fockers”)
“I went to USC to become a cinematographer. They quickly teach you that no matter what aspect of the business you’re involved in it’s all about story.
“I did find film school to be an extremely good place to acquire broad knowledge and experience. There are very few chances in on-the-job training to do everything — sound, editing, etc. You can better understand the challenges and opportunities that all of your collaborators face when making a movie. Also, since the students themselves are the best thing about film schools you don’t necessarily have to go to USC or AFI to have a good film school education.”
THE LOWDOWN: Start filling out those applications.