While it’s ever true that one doesn’t have to go to film school to land a job in the industry, and there are plenty of working filmmakers who will tell you that the merits of working on set outweigh those of a formal education, being enrolled in a quality institution can provide you with connections and a jump-start to your career that simply can’t be found anywhere else. But don’t take my word for it—hear it from the perspectives of true insiders, and see what they have to say about their alma maters. For seniors struggling to find direction in the application process, we hope this helps!
USC School of Cinematic Arts:
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Annual tuition and fees: $69,209
Notable Alumni: Will Ferrell, George Lucas, Ron Howard, Forest Whitaker, Judd Apatow
Emma Huibregtse, Class of 2017 (USC Film & Television Production BFA)
Freelance Filmmaker & Cinematographer
- Why did you choose USC’s School of Cinematic Arts? What separates USC from the rest?
There’s a lot you can learn on YouTube and to be honest when I graduated high school I wondered whether film school was worth the money. However because of the size, stature and rigorous program at USC’s school of Cinematic Arts, a degree from this institution carries a lot of weight. When employers see you graduated from USC they may feel there’s less risk involved than hiring an applicant from a smaller lesser-known program.
While you may be limited in the equipment you have access to during your first 2 undergraduate years, USC is very well funded and offers amazing filmmaking facilities if you choose to take full advantage of the opportunity. Film students are also required to follow strict industry standards. It may seem an annoying class requirement to hire a studio teacher for any child actors on your simple short student project, but it only prepares you for the real world of production.
2. Tell us about a great SCA moment. i.e. something that happened during your stay that left a deep impression
What’s great about SCA is that it’s just one school within USC’s 40,000 combined undergraduate/graduate student body. The opportunities I had to collaborate with students in other disciplines were fantastic. I’ll never forget the experience of recording a live jazz band with students from the music school for the score of my short film or joining Russian students on a trip aboard the Trans Siberian railroad when I agreed to document the journey.
3. What about SCA differed from your expectations?
At first I was nervous that I didn’t belong. How could I have possibly gotten into this top tier film school? But as I applied myself, fearlessly asking questions in class, I realized I was in the right place and boosted my confidence in my own creative vision.
4. What kind of student is a good fit for SCA?/What advice do you have for film students in general?
SCA is not a technical trade school nor a fine art trippy dippy school. The program is a good balance between storytelling and the production business. If you think by just attending USC, the road will be paved for you, think again. You get out what you put in. My recommendation for any film student is to take full advantage of all your courses and learn everything you can. It seems popular belief that a director just “directs” and doesn’t need to know about things like sound recording or camera lenses. A good director knows all the parts. No learning is a waste of time.
5. Tell us about what you do right now.
Only a few months out of school, I’m still finding my way. I am currently working as a freelance cinematographer in my hometown of NYC and traveling the world trying to figure out where I want to land. Just wrapped a film shoot in Haiti!
6. How has SCA impacted your career?
Perhaps it is a bit too soon to tell how SCA has impacted my career, but connections made while in school have provided some work opportunities post-graduation. I recently traveled to Haiti with a short narrative film team comprised of mostly USC alumni.
NYU Tisch School of The Arts:
Location: New York, NY
Annual tuition and fees: $73,088
Notable Alumni: Martin Scorsese, Kristen Bell, Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Spike Lee, Ang Lee, Morgan Spurlock, Chris Columbus
Simon Davis, Class of 2015
- Why did you choose Tisch? What separates Tisch from the rest?
I always knew I wanted to live in New York City. Of the eligible film schools, Tisch seemed like the best place to develop as a filmmaker, meet kindred spirits and have access to the types of opportunities I was interested in. The school’s reputation certainly played a factor as well.
- Tell us about a great Tisch moment. i.e. something that happened during your stay that left a deep impression
I snuck into a David Fincher lecture (it was exclusively for grad students, I was an undergrad). He’s a real hero of mine. I overheard a couple grad kids mention it in the elevator that morning and decided I was going to find a way in. I had no idea what room it was in. There were no signs, it wasn’t advertised anywhere. I tried every lecture room in the building until I finally stumbled into a dark room with David Fincher and twenty or so students. I was able to ask him a few questions and took away some real wisdom that I still think about to this day.
- What about Tisch differed from your expectations?
It wasn’t nearly as academically rigorous as I imagined. All throughout high school you’re warned about how challenging college is. For the most part I think that tends to be true. Tisch was surprisingly easy to coast through. A lot of my time was spent making things outside of class, something theoretically that should be challenging to balance with a full time student’s workload. I’ll touch on this more in the next question, but that speaks to the larger point of you get what you put in. It’s that simple. You can design your schedule so you sleep in every day and spend your nights playing fifa or beer pong. And if that’s what your looking for, no judgement whatsoever, have fun. But if you really want to get something out of your time at NYU, you’ll have to push yourself. There’s an incredible amount to take advantage of, it’s up to you to maximize that potential. No one is going to push you.
- What kind of student is a good fit for Tisch?/What advice do you have for film students in general?
To the above point, someone who is motivated and eager to soak up as much as humanly possible. New York can be overwhelming. You’re going to have an endless array of things to chose from (both on and off campus). Depending on the type of person you are, that can be extraordinarily valuable or paralyzing. You can attend lectures at museums or film festivals and listen to some of the best living artists, knock on the doors of some of world’s best production companies and fight your way in, hound professors who have deep roots in the industry or incredible insights about film, find a community of ambitious like minded kids etc etc. That was exactly what I was looking for. Other people might be better served on a traditional college campus where they can quietly incubate and develop. It all depends on the type of person you are. I wanted to jump into the deep end, and was able to do so at Tisch.
- Tell us about what you do right now.
I’m a music video and commercial director. I also edit and produce a fair amount of the projects I direct alongside my partner, Jason Sondock, who I met at NYU.
- How has Tisch impacted your career?
I met a handful of people who I still work with to this day. Going to school in New York enabled me to pursue opportunities that I might not have found outside of a major hub of film production like New York or Los Angeles. Tisch exposed me to the industry, and helped me develop a vision to realize my career goals. A lot of that was done outside of school and accomplished on my volition. Again, you get what you put in. I suspect that applies to most film school experiences.
Wesleyan University Department of Film Studies:
Location: Middletown, CT
Annual tuition and fees: $65,443
Notable Alumni: Joss Whedon, Miguel Arteta, David Kendall, Laurence Mark Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Adam McGill, Class of 2016
- Why did you choose Wesleyan’s film program? What separates Wesleyan from the rest?
I chose Wesleyan specifically for its film program. I was enamored with their highly critical approach to film analysis. In addition the “vibe” of Wesleyan was right for me too. Its a place where you are going to watch a lot of movies, and figure out what exactly makes them tick. I also love that the student body has such a strong commitment to social justice. Its a fantastic place to learn about film and more broadly to get a full education and engage with a very passionate set of peers. Being around genuinley passionate people no matter what the field is the most important.
- Tell us about a great Wesleyan moment. i.e. something that happened during your stay that left a deep impression
A great Wesleyan moment was the first time I ever sat down at a Steenbeck editing table to view my freshly developed film reel for a class project. I’d never used physical film before and the moment an image (which was severely underexposed) popped up on the screen I was ecstatic. Not having a chance to see anything I shot on made me really deliberate and sure of what I was shooting. Even now that I work in digital film, I strive to be just as deliberate.
- What about Wesleyan differed from your expectations?
I’m not sure how to answer this one – I’m not sure what I was expecting going in. I think the best I can give is just be as open as possible when starting college. Don’t stick to a plan. Go with what you think is right, not what is expected…
- What kind of student is a good fit for Wesleyan?/What advice do you have for film students in general?
Any student who is willing to take film seriously should consider Wesleyan. The professors really give their all. If your willing to do the same you’ll get the most out of the program. Never do anything for a grade. Do it for you. Be sincere.
- Tell us about what you do right now.
I am currently an Associate producer who works mostly in documentary. I was lucky enough to find a job where I can continue to learn and grow as a filmmaker. (And believe me even after 4 years of film school their is still so much to learn)
- How has Wesleyan impacted your career?
I got my job through the “Wesleyan Mafia” of the film world. Someone was looking for recent graduates from the Wes film program for a PA gig and I ended up finding a great group of filmmakers who I fell in with. But beyond just the connections, Wesleyan’s film program has given me the tools to speak the language of film.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Annual tuition and fees: $12,918 (in-state), $39,600 (out-of-state)
Notable alumni: Jackie Robinson, Jack Black, Troy Aikman, Ben Stiller, Arthur Ashe, James Franco
Silvia Lara, class of 2016
- Why did you choose UCLA’s film program? What separates UCLA from the rest?
I had applied to several UC’s, several Cal-States and even USC and BIOLA for film and got into every school but chose UCLA for several reasons; financially, it’s cheaper than USC and BIOLA (both are private). I also qualified for UC’s “Blue & Gold Program” which offers paid tuition to students who meet certain reqs. So as I narrowed my selection it became obvious that UCLA was the choice for film; it’s in Los Angeles to begin with. This is super important because I intend to eventually work and continue to live here anyway, I would be establishing my network here before I even enter the workforce. I would also be familiar and well-versed with all of the funky restrictions that production in Los Angeles requires. In addition, at UCLA I have the advantage of having a grad school for film within my same building, so I could either step into graduate-level courses as a sit-in or I could jump on the grad shoots when and if my undergrad program allowed. Finally, I enjoyed the idea that your junior year allows you to explore all aspects of film and your senior year is when you concentrate on your discipline. When I got to UCLA I realized this was the best decision I could’ve made.
There are 30 individuals chosen as undergrads so think super small, super intimate classes. We also get easy access to professors so much unlike my friends in the math or humanities departments, it was not uncommon for me to get coffee time with a professor or TA or even get to go over to their homes and have tea with their families; some of my best friends now were my TA’s at some point. This concept is lost on people who come from larger departments but is so, so valuable for us as filmmakers; I love knowing that for the rest of my life I can email, text, or call up my professors and ask for their opinion or a recommendation.
Anyway, when I applied, I knew I wanted shoot and UCLA helped me figure the rest out. As undergrads we all get to take a 16mm cinematography course in which we learn film ON ACTUAL FILM, and get to know the intricacies of working on set, lighting and exposing for film and using these techniques in a creative way. When I decided on cinematography as my discipline, I was 1 of 3 other students who chose it as well, all women (my year proudly boasts that it was the 1st all-female DP group!) and since our cohort is so, so tiny, they’re not about to hire professors to teach 3 undergrad cinematography students so we undergrads got to get lumped up with grads in their cinematography courses.
Let me reiterate; I got a graduate-level cinematography education at an undergrad price. I also had the privilege to attend class taught by Johnny Simmons, ASC; Johnny took personal interest in our development as cinematographers and curated his course for us and our needs. If I had to light a surreal scene and had questions, Johnny would offer to use class time to walk us through a lighting set-up. He also took the DP’s to LACMA and taught us how to study light in classical paintings (something I will do for the rest of my life).
The grad classes teach us how to shoot on 35mm film but since the undergrads have already undergone a 16mm film course, we were actually more prepared/educated than the grads were as most of them had yet to experience shooting on film. UCLA is one of the last schools to teach students film and unless you’ve gone through this education, you don’t realize how valuable knowing how to function on a film set is! The level of professionalism, precision, discipline, and the thought that goes into each decision just goes through the roof.
UCLA is known for their writing but there has been more and more of a push for production on behalf of the cinematography department, it is not uncommon for UCLA cinematographers to be repeatedly nominated for the ASC student award. There was also a lot of support for women, especially on behalf of the head of cinematography, Bill McDonald, who makes it a point to create a fun, welcoming, and safe environment for everyone. As a woman in film, I didn’t realize how special this was until I began working on professional film sets where any woman who walks in is believed to be either talent or the make-up artist, and this is just the subtle sexism we experience. UCLA was a space where we were all equal and any sort of discrimination was put to a swift and immediate halt, as it should be.
In addition to all of this, the UCLA film undergraduate program forces you to complete at least one internship in order to graduate and the internship I ended up with was with Partos Company, an agency that represents cinematographers that allowed me to understand what an agency is looking for in their talent. This experience has lead me to think about the decisions I make and how they may reflect on me later when I seek out representation.
Finally, UCLA has what is called the “Cinematographer in Residence” program which is sponsored by Kodak. In my junior year, we had Mandy Walker, ASC (Australia), serve as the DP in residence which basically means she would pop up a couple of times per quarter to teach us (usually directors and DP’s) a hands-on workshop. Sometimes it was just lunch and conversation but most times it was more in-depth and personal. In my junior year we had Bradford Young, ASC (A Most Violent Year) and the most recent DP was Rodrigo Prieto, ASC (Biutiful, Wolf of Wall Street).
No other program has this in the world, especially not undergrad.
By the way, a friend of mine applied to UCLA same times as me and didn’t get in, so she went for USC which did accept her. She concurrently had to take grip and electric classes at LACC because USC didn’t provide the education to prepare her for the world of production which is absurd. To clarify, this girl had to take EXTRA time and EXTRA money in order to learn what the supposed #1 film school was supposed to be teaching her, and at a community college! It’s infuriating, it’s so ridiculous…
- Tell us about a great UCLA moment. i.e. something that happened during your stay that left a deep impression.
I can name of a dozen great moments at UCLA, like how I got my first paid gig (as a camera assistant) just after my first quarter. Like how I decided to latch onto the graduates and be on as many sets as possible…I set a goal for myself to hit 52 sets in one year as either camera team or grip & electric and was able to hit 54; the learning curve was steep but I still refer to things I have learned from those sets to this day. Like how I was a camera operator on a Will.I.Am music video because I was friends with the director (a UCLA grad) who I had crewed for at UCLA.
I think a major great moment (or sequence of great moments), emerged from having crewed so much and having made myself very familiar and very visible to the grads; I was given the opportunity to crew on a grad thesis film called “Women of Light,” a documentary feature film which highlighted the women in the American Society of Cinematographers (you can look up the movie pages online, it should be out this year!). I was essentially able to meet, interview and work with cinematographers I looked up to and as a result have found mentors that I still reach out to today. In fact, one of them wrote my letter of recommendation for grad school.
Finally I think one of the best moments at UCLA was getting the opportunity to shoot for Mihai Malaimare Jr. (cinematographer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master”) for a project directed by Francis Ford Coppola (look up “Distant Vision UCLA” and a Variety article should come up about it).
This was one of the major directors to emerge from the new Hollywood cinema movement and I was able to cam op for him because UCLA provided me the resources to bust my ass and work hard enough that by the time they provided this opportunity, I was competent and qualified for a position in the camera department. I want to be clear about how much of it was my doing and how much of it was UCLA providing the platform in which to do it for the simple reason that I do not want anyone thinking they can stroll into the school, be lazy, be undisciplined, have a weak work ethic and obtain the same result. It will not happen.
- What about UCLA’s program differed from your expectations?
I expected to have more access to cameras for personal projects but unfortunately unless it was a school assignment, it was difficult to get equipment if not impossible. I felt frustrated that they would expect a cinematography reel from me at the end of the year in order to graduate (and I of course wanted it to be good and for me to have a lot of footage to choose from) but they would pose more roadblocks than anything in order for me to go through with this; I would often have to borrow cameras from friends that owned them in order to fulfill this. Even when I had my paperwork approved, there were not enough bodies in the equipment room to satiate the amount of requests, so yeah, there will be moments when you’re reminded that this is a public school system that may not be overflowing with funds.
- What kind of student is a good fit for UCLA?/What advice do you have for film students in general?
If you’re looking to make the most of it you need to
A.) be sure this is what you want to do. Interview past grads (like you are now) but also reach out to people in the industry and ask what their day-to-day is like because you may come to find that although you love certain aspects of their career, their lifestyle isn’t one that appeals to you. Hopefully you get honest people who admit it isn’t glamorous and it can at times feel downright awful to work in film. Really. It’s flashy and it’s fun and you don’t think about how to make a viable living when you’re on-set and posting photos that make it look like you’re doing big things but don’t think your likes translate to making an actual living because ultimately you’ll stay in film because it not only allows you to be creatively fulfilled but it allows you to eat too.
Ask hard questions, ask about how long it took them to make money to live on, ask about their debt and how that impacts their choices of work, etc…
But if you know you love it, if you can’t imagine doing anything else and if you know your love for it will overcome any dips and valleys you may hit, go for it.
B.) be ready to work and be ready to change your lifestyle. If you have a solid group of best friends outside of film that you’re used to spending time with, that will likely change, you will work long hours, sometimes on a thesis set in the desert or mountains with no signal. You will have less time for your significant other and/or family and it is not uncommon to hear about break-ups and divorces, unfortunately. It can consume your life and you will have to learn time management is key.
General advice for film students or human beings in general: don’t be an asshole. You don’t know everything, everyone knows you don’t know everything, and if you come with an arrogant, entitled, or otherwise abrasive attitude, you will learn quickly that this business is about the people you meet and it won’t matter how technically savvy or how much of a creative genius you are if you can’t get along with the people you work with. Nobody goes out of their way for an asshole.
Side note, albeit an important and often overlooked one! I would also take advantage of the counseling sessions UCLA provides to students to help manage their time, their emotions, or their habits. Really, take advantage of this very important part of your health, it’s no joke and especially if you’re dealing with parents who don’t want you in film, a girlfriend or a boyfriend that doesn’t support it or otherwise emotionally impactful events. I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t benefit from time with a therapist and I don’t have to be a specialist to tell you your mental health will directly correlate to your quality of work and your quality of life.
- Tell us about what you do right now.
I’m currently a 1st year graduate student at American Film Institute in the cinematography discipline. I’m more prepared for a program as intense, demanding and with the standards as high as AFI’s simply for having gone through my education at UCLA.
I also work as a freelance cinematographer for directors outside of AFI as much as I can but our schedules at AFI are pretty intense.
- How has UCLA impacted your career?
I can’t give accurate numbers (like my income before UCLA was this, it’s now this) since I’m still a student and still honing my craft as a cinematographer. I can say that film school accelerated and expanded both my knowledge and my network, especially since I’m an immigrant that would otherwise have a steep climb up building a network of friends and the accumulating the knowledge for my craft.
If I hadn’t gone to AFI right after, I am confident I can work as a grip, key grip, gaffer, 1st AC, 2nd AC, camera operator, DIT, colorist, etc simply because of my background and the friends that I have made.
Location: Boston, Massachussetts
Annual tuition and fees: $59,807
Notable Alumni: Denis Leary, Jay Leno, Bobbi Brown, Bill Burr
Katya Alexander, Class of 2018
CEO CQ Studios
- Why did you choose Emerson’s film program? What separates Emerson from the rest?
I got into a few film schools, but Emerson was an easy choice for me. When I was visiting the other schools, they were text book oriented and there wasn’t as much hands on stuff. When I visited Emerson, all I saw was studios and sound stages, every student there was talking about the sets they had that weekend, and people were passing me with carts of equipment. Students left the school prepared for the job market because set culture becomes second nature to them.
- Tell us about a great Emerson moment. i.e. something that happened during your stay that left a deep impression
There are so many moments that left lasting impressions, but there was one moment that really sticks out. I was producing a set where the whole crew had to live in the middle of nowhere for two weekends. Two days in, we were really behind schedule, and no matter what we did, we fell further behind. It was the end of a particularly difficult day, and I went into a room alone for two hours to redo the schedule. I left that room feeling pretty defeated. All of a sudden the lead actors goes, “I’m going for a walk”, and the rest of the crew decided to join him. We ended up spending the night sledding on a frozen lake laughing and having a good time.
- What about Emerson differed from your expectations?
I knew that film was going to become a big part of my life once I went there, but I underestimated how much it was going to be a part of my life. All of my friends work in the film industry, my language mostly consists of on set terms, and most of my time is spent on film sets or planning shoots. My passion and knowledge of film has grown ten fold, and I couldn’t be happier for that.
- What kind of student is a good fit for Emerson’s program?/What advice do you have for film students in general?
I would say there are three types of film students at Emerson. The first type, which isn’t really good, are the students that went there because they watched a few movies and thought it would be fun, but they don’t put in any effort into their career. The second type, are the people that don’t do set work, but are still in love with film and are really hard working. The third type are the students that basically live on set. Sometimes the third type become a bit of a clique. My advice for future students would be to make sure you’re doing film because you love it, and you’re willing to work really hard on it. Film isn’t easy, and it’s definitely not fun about 50% of the time, so you need the passion to carry you the other 50%.
- Tell us about what you do right now.
My sophomore year, I started a film production company. Within the first few months we were asked to go to Africa to film a documentary there. Shortly after that we live on a boat for a week to film a documentary underwater called Nomad. Nomad got into a few film festivals. We’ve also done a few music videos and stuff. Lat year, which was actually my Junior year, I began producing my first feature called 8 Billion Angels. We filmed in Acadia, Japan, the Midwest, and India. Right now, I’m in LA running post production for the film. We’re talking to Netflix and Amazon Prime right now and we’re hoping to premier at Sundance in 2019.
- How has Emerson impacted your career?
Emerson has had a huge impact on my career. I want to put out a disclaimer. Emerson won’t do anything for you if you’re not willing to work. If you want to be on a set every weekend and build your resume, there is a lot of options to do that. If you don’t look for the options and aren’t willing to make sacrifices, you won’t get far, but that’s true for film in general. The way Emerson helped me was by letting me do the things I knew I needed to do for myself. My company obviously took a lot of time, and Emerson was willing to give me that time. They were supportive of everything I was doing and didn’t make me choose between having a career and going to school.
Location: Orange, California
Annual tuition and fees: $50,210
Notable Alumni: Colin Hanks, George Argyros, Ben York Jones, Jodie Sweetin
Tom Teller, class of 2016
Executive Director at Frame 48
- Why did you choose Chapman’s film program? What separates Chapman from the rest?
I chose Chapman for quite a few reasons. The school’s location in Orange County, size of just a few thousand students, and most importantly stellar film program. They put a camera in your hands on day one and you retain the rights to all of your work throughout the program. Dodge is there for you from day 1 of pre-production up past graduation with film festivals and alumni events. This kind of involvement from the school without claiming ownership is unheard of.
- Tell us about a great Chapman moment. i.e. something that happened during your stay that left a deep impression.
One of the most impactful moments from my four years in the film program was the day we wrapped production on our thesis film. We were in Dodge’s large sound stage shooting green screen coverage and following the martini shot I remember becoming overwhelmed with how awesome the people on our team were. The community and quality of people in the program is something that is extremely unique and continues to impact me post-graduation.
- What about Chapman’s program differed from your expectations?
I didn’t expect to see the program change so much in the four years that I was there. We saw several new buildings go up, majors change, and quality of work skyrocket. The school I entered as a freshman was completely different from the school we graduated from, and that was extremely exciting. This continues to be true today.
- What kind of student is a good fit for Chapman?/What advice do you have for film students in general?
I firmly believe the two biggest assets you gain from going to film school is the time and freedom to be creative and take risks and the people you meet and work with. Chapman does an excellent job at fostering an environment where both of these things happen. In general, film school is a decision who’s value rests entirely on the shoulders of the student. You get out of it what you put into it. If you spend all four years dedicating yourself to the craft and bonding with your peers it is the best investment you’ll make in your career as a filmmaker.
- Tell us about what you do right now.
I spend my days running Frame 48, a film and commercial production company with some fellow alumni in Santa Monica. In my off hours I’m finishing my MBA and should (hopefully) graduate this December haha.
- How has Chapman impacted your career?
Chapman provided me with the tools and atmosphere to try new things and devote myself to building connections and producing art. The people and assistance from the school has provided us opportunities I never would have imagined.
Ithaca College: School of Visual Arts
Location: Ithaca, New York
Annual tuition and fees: $39,532
Notable Alumni: Bob Iger, David Muir, Gavin DeGraw, David Boreanaz, Gorilla Monsoon
Tyler Macri, class of 2018
Director, Mixed-Media Artist
- Why did you choose SVA? What separates Ithaca from the rest?
SVA was actually the first college I visited, and because of this perhaps it had the upper hand, as I pretty much compared every other college to SVA. But for me, every other college didn’t have the feeling I felt when I was touring SVA. For some reason, for me at least, I felt at home with SVA, and I’m sure this is probably a very common thing many have said relating to why they chose their specific college. But the layout of the main 209 building, how condensed it was, felt safe, easily navigable, something that was very appealing to a scared NJ suburban introvert who never left his house. And of course there was the appeal of NYC, and the idea of shooting movies in NYC. Then again probobly another very common trope amongst those who choose colleges in NYC. But beside the location, for me it was mostly my gut feeling, I felt at home there, and perhaps it could have been seeing all the equipment SVA had during the tour. No other college tour let us into their production office. I just recall seeing them testing out 16mm film cameras and I was drooling. But yeah, really was just a gut feeling.
- Tell us about a great SVA moment. i.e. something that happened during your stay that left a deep impression.
This is a hard one because to be honest, all of SVA really left a deep impression, from what I learned, to the people I met, all the way to living on my own for the first time in a huge city. If I had to choose any singular moment it’s probably screening my thesis film senior year, at the end of the year film festival, known as the Dusty’s Film Festival. I recall how incredibly excited, yet scared, with a hint of relief, I felt. This was it, the 4 years at SVA boiled down to this one night, the screening I dreamed of since the inception of wanting to go to SVA when I was in High School. The dream finally becoming a reality, and then after 2 hrs of cringing through my film, it will soon all be over, all that for 2 hrs. But oh boy was it so exhilarating! Not just screening my film, but being with everyone who I’ve become friends with throughout the years at SVA, and seeing their films throughout the 3 days of the festival. It felt so wonderful to all be together, being able to show each other what we hoped to achieve, what we tried to achieve, full of nerves and excitement. And since then I pretty much yearn to regain those feelings.
- What about SVA differed from your expectations?
So sorry, but again, I don’t really have a straight answer for this, becasue I really had absolutely no preconceived expectations. I was just excited to finally go to a school to learn something that I wanted to do, to be surrounded by others who feel the same way. To relate to a multitude of people, for the first time. And SVA did not let me down, I’ll say this now, it was the best 4 years of my life… I’d like to say “so far”… but for now, yes. It was the end of the first act of my life in a way, leaving my safe place and starting the journey. Full of excitement, and of course terror. But SVA proved me wrong with all my fears, fears of being away from home, fears of getting lost in NYC, fears of being a failure. I met such wonderful people there, made such great friends, and felt so much part of a wonderful community where everyone supported each other. I didn’t know what I should expect from a film school, and SVA was wonderful. It is a very hands on school, as many would tell you, and I loved it.
- What kind of student is a good fit for SVA?/What advice do you have for film students in general?
As mentioned above, SVA is a very hands on school, the second day in production class we were already holding a 16mm camera shooting film. One thing I’d certainly say, is they do not push you, if you’re not 100% interested you will not get everything out of it. It pained me so many times seeing students who showed such a lack of interest. Film making is such a difficult illogical thing to attempt pursuing, and unless you’re passion for it is incredibly strong, don’t do it. And SVA proves to you weather or not you truly have the passion for it, becasue again at SVA you’re never forced to do things, you have to have that yearning to want to do things, and that’s when you realize your passion is there, whispering in your ear you to stay up till 5am to finish editing a project. For anyone who genuinely has the passion SVA is spectacular, for anyone who wants to know all there is to know about production, SVA is the place.
- Tell us about what you do right now.
Right now I’m currently a freelance editor and cinematographer. Sadly over the years since graduating my passion for cinematography has faded, but I have started editing a lot more. I still do cinematography, I’m just a lot more critical on the projects I choose. As for editing I’m currently doing permalance work at this company called TheStreet, where I shoot and edit videos together for them. And when ever a short film comes up, or any other project I edit those as well. And on the side of all that I still attempt to create my own things. Which gives me an excuse to share the youtue channel to my feature youtube.com/minormotionpicture
- How has SVA impacted your career?
A lot… I learned so much there, and I met so many wonderful people there who have helped me find work. For me SVA provided a place where I was forced to interact with people, I hate interacting with people, I hate being around people in general. But the classes in SVA and the teachers all had such a warm presence, and it helped me crawl out of my shell and interact. If it wasn’t for SVA I wouldn’t know where to go for work, or have anyone who’d help me with work. It’s funny though, I graduated SVA as a Cinematography major, but now I’m doing mostly editing. And my degrading passion for cinematography has nothing to do with SVA, it’s all just terrible jobs I got myself into after graduating. But even though I was not an editing major in SVA I edited all of my projects while there, including my thesis film. It was that freedom SVA gave me to learn so many other things, and practice so many other things, that has helped me so much!