Advice about film school

My experience at NYU was a mixed bag. I did learn a lot about making films and the equipment that goes along with it. I also got to take classes from oscar nominees (Spike Lee, Milcho Manchevski, Edet Belzberg) and meet some great people; about half of my class of 36 came from foreign countries. I worked on dozens of films, in every capacity, and got to live in New York for 5 years.

On the negative side, my film education was super expensive, and I have to say not worth the price. I learned some from the classes, but most of the education came outside of classroom - on sets and on my own time. I also found the school to be uninterested in artistic expression. They gave me very little time to develop my ideas and didn't seem to care about the content of the films; the NYU philosophy was one of turd polishing. I thought I was attending an art school but I had several ideas shot down by the faculty for no good reason; the school had a very narrow view for my personal expression. NYU was also far from progressive. Digital video had started to take off right around the time of my first semester, but that first year they had us shooting on 16mm and editing on a reel-to-reel table, splicing expensive film. My first movie cost $2000, my second $4000, and the prices would've doubled had I been willing to make answer prints. Almost all of those budgets went to purchasing and developing the film, and they would've cost just hundreds of dollars had I shot them on DV. They had no problem watching me throw thousands of dollars down the toilet. Finally, there's remarkably little in the way of career preparation. They'll teach you how to enter festivals, but no one seems to know how to actually find a job and get paid. You're on your own for that.

So, here's my advice. Major in film in your undergraduate studies. If you've already graduated from college and you're intent on going to film school, go in state and pay as little as possible. You'll still make a lot of movies and you won't have to mortgage your future. I'd also imagine your fellow film students will share a similar talent level wherever you go; I expected my class at NYU to be one of the best in the country, but most of the films I saw weren't very good. If I could do it all over, though, I wouldn't go to film school at all. I'd watch as many DVDs and director's commentaries as humanly possible; those commentaries are often as good as any film class. I'd buy a nice digital camera, a mac and final cut pro. It'll cost several thousand dollars, but it's a lot less than film school. Find other people who love movies and want to make them. Watch movies together, talk about movies, shoot movies, and act in each other's movies. Write, film, keep at it and never give up.