If only it didn't cost so much....
March 12, 2007 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Any thoughts on the SALT Program for Documentary Studies, located in Portland, Maine?

I've been accepted into the Fall 2007 nonfiction writing program at SALT. It's a 4-month intensive program.

Do any of you mefi's have direct experience or anecdotal experience with this program?

I would be a non-traditional student. I'm 32 and in need of a creative sabbatical from my life. I don't anticipate turning writing into a full-time career, but this particular program has always drawn me.

I calculate that four months of this program -- including tuition, living, and transportation costs (I'm from Texas) -- would put me out $15,000. I can pay part of it up front, but will have to finance the rest.

Is it worth it to spend so much money for such a short-term experience, expecially when I'm not thinking of it as a long-term investment but instead am thinking of it as just something interesting to do?

So, I guess that's two questions: thoughts on the program itself would be appreciated, but also thoughts on the wisdom of putting out so much cash for something when my only justification is that it would be "fun".
posted by megancita to Education (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As for the second question, it depends exactly where on the scale of "fun" to "need of a creative sabbatical" it would land.

Sure, you're not thinking of becoming a full-time writer, but will you benefit from it in other ways in whatever way you do make money? Or if it recharges you and makes you a happier person, is that worth 15k? Depends on how happy you are currently I guess.

Embarrassingly, I don't know much about the program itself despite it being in my backyard. I can say Portland is a fun city though, and you'd probably enjoy hanging out for four months.

Email in profile; feel free to hit me up with any general Portland/Maine questions if you like.
posted by mikepop at 11:34 AM on March 12, 2007

Salt is a really good program. I know many graduates and although I have a graduate degree in broadcasting I may go back and do their course next year also. $15,000 for a four-month intensive program is really not that bad. I would consider: 1. How long is it going to take me to pay off the debt? ; 2. What do I plan on doing once the program is over?

A lot of broadcasting graduate students do not answer either of these two questions when they start a course. Many just want to be on the air. Luckily, I enjoy the craft of producing and although I am on the air on a national radio show, I would be so happy if I could find a logical choice and the money for a co-host.

Do not look at Salt as a short-term program. You are going to be very busy and working all the time on your assignments and on your personal project. You will find you have very little time to sit and do nothing and will discover just how much the Cambodian Zen Monastary down the road has already been trampled by students you are following. (aside: I have seen tens of hundreds of documentaries by Salt students about Maine's Cambodian community, so look outside the range - there are lots of undiscovered topics still).

You would not be a non-trad student. Most of the students are older, definitely a few years out of undergrad. Most have done one or two internships and a couple will have worked in radio for a while and want to learn more about creating new sound for their programs. If you can, look into fellowships, perhaps there is one for students from Texas. Also, call local radio stations in your area and mention you are planning on taking this program and see if they would be willing to interview you once you are done. The knowledge you will at least have some interviews at the end of the course will propel you to take on the burden of the program. Do not be afraid to be flexible with yourself. If money is the issue for real, then defer, save your money, and go in 2008.
posted by parmanparman at 11:40 AM on March 12, 2007

Oh, can we recommend project ideas here too?

I'd love to see a documentary about the abundance of Sushi restaurants in Portland. Is the rivalry friendly? Cut-throat? Do the head chefs all get together and trade notes? What are the challenges in comparison to, say, west coast US sushi places? How does being in the center of the lobster industry affect them? How do the restaurants view the new sushi place that just opened up inside the new Whole Foods place? Did Whole Foods poach any sushi chefs from the other places? Who are the sushi afficiandos of the city? Who do they think has the best sushi? How do they compare the sushi to other locations in the US? Japan?
posted by mikepop at 12:28 PM on March 12, 2007

Congratulations on your acceptance!

I don't know anyone directly who has participated in the Salt Program, but through friends of friends I have heard nothing but great things. Personally I always try to check out the magazine and the photography exhibits at the Gallery (though have been remiss lately).

Like Mike, I'm a Portlander. Though I can't tell you much about the program itself, I CAN recommend the city.

My email is in my profile. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more information!
posted by suki at 12:32 PM on March 12, 2007

I know people who have done the program, and have had great experiences. I think only you can make the financial assessment, given we don't know your background; but it's a really intensive program and worth the cost in terms of equivalent programs.

Mmmm, sushi.
posted by miss tea at 12:50 PM on March 12, 2007

My very good friend just did the exact same program last fall, and she loved every minute of it. She thinks it is worth the debt, but she wants to make this a career, as did most of her fellow writing students.
As for the age thing, she said that she felt old (at 25) because most of the other students were right out or one year out of college, but she said there were a couple people near her age and one or two older (iirc, one in 30s, one in 40s). Since you are working on your own project, what matters most is if you get along well with your photographer (don't worry, you get to choose).
Go! If you like it as much as my friend did, it will be worth it.
posted by rmless at 3:35 PM on March 12, 2007

Out of curiosity, how much of that $15k is allocated to room and board? Because there are a lot of very inexpensive digs in Portland and the surrounding area.

I'd love to see a documentary about the abundance of Sushi restaurants in Portland.

I'm friends with an Itamae in Portland. He recently moved here from the west coast, and before that Japan. Like any restaurant business owner, the chefs naturally visit the other places to get ideas of what "sells" in the area, but there's no real association that fixes prices or anything like that. The biggest problem is that Maine isn't a terribly rich state, so you don't have the sushi culture that you might find in Boston or New York. I suspect a lot of the old-school folks here feel like, if you're going to shell out thirty bucks for a plate of seafood, you might as well get the labstah.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:52 PM on March 12, 2007

The real old-school folks wouldn't pay thirty bucks for a lobster in a million years.
posted by miss tea at 5:26 AM on March 13, 2007

Response by poster: Tuition is about $9000, so I'm anticipating travel and living costs for four months would be around $1500/month (maybe $500 for rent and $1000 for other expenses. I'd like to have fun while I'm there!)
posted by megancita at 6:29 AM on March 13, 2007

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