Santa Monica College or Full Sail?
April 15, 2008 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Should I go to Santa Monica College?

I am currently a sophomore at Arizona State University, majoring in pre-film production, which means I have to take a few film studies courses before I can apply to the to program in the fall. Because the film program is new, I have my doubts about it, and I'd also like to go somewhere that's not soo hot during the summer. I really wish I had heard about SMC when I was in high school because I would love to do film at either UCLA or USC and I heard that SMC has the highest UC transfer rate. However, I heard SMC doesn't offer film production, just film studies. Should I still consider going to SMC in the fall, hopefully obtain residency and then transfer to UCLA/USC to do film production? The thing is I don't want to be working on my bachelor's for-ev-er because I am also planning on going to grad school. I would like to spend no more than 5 1/2 yrs on my bachelors (I started august 06).

I am also considering a school in Florida called Full Sail, it's a technical school not a lot of people have heard of, but it has a good rep. Their film program is in the top 5 in the nation. If I go there, I would be done with my bachelors in 2010 (but I would still want to go to grad school at either USC/UCLA/NYU). However, tuition would cost me $70,000 no joke! And it doesn't have that typical college atmosphere--I'd also be in school 21 months straight, with little time for a job or fun activities.

So, what should I do? Stay at asu and finish my bachelors in film as soon as may 2011 considering I dont take another semester off, transfer to SMC and get an assoc in film studies and hopefully tranfser, or go to Full Sail and devote my life to school for 21 months?
posted by RocknRollJunkie to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went to Full sail a while back ( worked there for 3 years also), and I live in santa monica ( although I don't know to much about SMC, so I don't have much to say about that).

Full sail is one of those schools where you will get what you put into it. I went there pre-bachelor days ( it was a 14 month program ending with a Specialized Associates degree), and there were good classes and bad classes, but it was all the extra time getting to know instructors and other students that really paid off.

Orlando is a crappy place, imo. Hot, humid, flat, boring. But you are right in that you won't have time for a job or fun. Although, I did work at the school in tech services ( we would check out all the gear for different instructors and studios) while going to school, it was a good way to always be around all the gear and instructors.

70k is insane, it was 48k when I went 95-97 and I did two programs ( audio and digital media), But as I say, we didn't get any real degree.
posted by brent_h at 4:27 PM on April 15, 2008

Are you ready to leave the party atmosphere in Tempe? Because few places will match it.

If you're doing grad school anyway, get your bachelors at ASU get a good portfolio, etc.
posted by sandmanwv at 4:46 PM on April 15, 2008

I graduated from Full Sail in the film program. Having worked in the industry for a good eight years now, here's what I would do if I were in your shoes:

Forget school.

Film school is an expensive endeavor, and in my opinion the benefits are not enough to warrant the debt you will incur. Why? A few reasons:

1. Quite a few film schools stipulate that they own all the rights to all the films you produce while there. This would be the first question I'd ask ANY school if I were considering their program. It's enough that you are paying for their program, but If you have to sign over all the work you produce, well that's just crazy. (BTW, Full Sail is no different, they own the rights to all the work as well).

2. Upon graduation you will likely find yourself in the same position as anyone else pursuing a career in film, starting on the bottom. So where is the advantage?

3. The cost is ridiculous. For all the money you'll be spending at school you could have shot a number of films and built a very respectable reel, all of which YOU would own the rights to.

4. Not all schools let you produce work on your own terms. At Full Sail (when I was there) only four scripts were chosen for production out of each class of 40 or so students. Two of which are films where you switch production positions throughout the shoot (ie.. directed by 20 people all at once). What does this mean? It means that even if you are a film student, there is no guarantee that YOUR film will be produced and there is no guarantee that if it is produced you'll be the one directing it.

In your position, I would use my money to rent/buy equipment and shoot films and/or take an internship at an actual facility.

When I graduated I bumped around on a lot of production jobs and ended up interning at a post-production house here in Chicago kind of on a whim. At school my focus was on production, but I showed enough interest in editing during my internship to get myself an assistant editing position at the post-house and now I am editing full time. The funny thing is that school didn't really prepare me for anything I was seeing on the job. I learned more during that three month internship than I did during my time in school. Since then, I've seen interns come and go, and I've seen people with no film experience hired on to work based only on their drive and enthusiasm.

In summation; most film houses/producers don't care if you've been to school or not. They want someone who loves what they do and is willing to put in the time and work.

Save the money for what matters.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 4:56 PM on April 15, 2008

SMC is a fantastic community college, maybe the best in the state. It also has an extremely high transfer rate to UCLA. Many UCLA faculty members also teach at SMC and the courses are designed in a somewhat similar fashion. If you want to go to UCLA film school, which is highly regarded in the biz, I'd suggest the SMC > UCLA route.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:15 PM on April 15, 2008

most film houses/producers don't care if you've been to school or not.

Not true, unless you want to hump boxes or log tapes. This goes double in LA.

Seconding SMC.
posted by dhammond at 5:22 PM on April 15, 2008

I can't speak to any of the schools you've mentioned, but if you're looking at Florida, have you thought about Florida State University? I hear really good things about their film school and have met a few actual slightly famous directors who are visiting faculty there. A lot of their alum seem to be working in the field, though I imagine it's one of those careers that depend more on luck and talent than schooling.
posted by leesh at 5:32 PM on April 15, 2008

I'm sure you know this, but tuition at UCLA and USC ain't cheap either. About 20K/yr (out of state) and 35K/yr respectively. That said, you can get financial aid, and the value of attending schools like this isn't the degree, but the contacts you make with the faculty/other students/etc.
posted by rooftop secrets at 6:00 PM on April 15, 2008


I have to disagree with you. I know plenty of film school graduates who are still "humping boxes and logging tapes" as you say. I also know plenty of people who have not graduated from film school and have gone on to very successful careers, some of them working in LA.
Film school does not make great artists anymore than business school makes great businessmen. There are cases to be made on both sides of the argument. I just finished editing a documentary for a college dropout who used his tuition money to finish a really great film, which he just sold to a major network. We didn't even charge him for the finishing costs because he was SO enthusiastic about his work and he won over our producer.

My point is simply that the film industry is made up of such a diverse group of people that it is nearly impossible to say that choosing one path over the other is the RIGHT path to choose. My perspective comes from what I have witnessed in my time working professionally. Obviously film school can't hurt your career, but I can't really see the great advantage of it either. A substantial number of directors we edit with never went to school and that goes for the majority of the editors I work with as well. It used to be that film school was useful in terms of access to equipment, but now that video technology is so sophisticated and equipment prices are more accessible I can't see that advantage as being relevant anymore.

The people I know who have made a career in the film industry have done so because they are persistent and willing to keep learning. Some went to school and some did not, If you got the money, hell go for it. If you do go, make sure you get every last drop out of it, cause you'll be paying it off for quite awhile.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 6:01 PM on April 15, 2008

Best answer: I am a reasonably current SMC student in critical film studies, taking the semester off to work in animation post. So, let's look at your SMC options, based on what I did when I started.

SMC did not offer production when I entered the film program in 2006, this is true. They still do not have a production focus-- however, they do have one course in digital filmmaking, Film 31 with Steve Flood, and they intend to add more, as far as I know. There's also a student club that produces DV films every semester as out-of-class projects; you might find that interesting if you're into the guerrilla approach, FCP editing, and the like.

That being said, SMC has a *very* rigorous critical film studies program. I took the majority of my classes from Professor Josh Kanin, and he is an *extremely* difficult professor. He grades hard, he demands a lot (I actually turned in a 188-page final project one semester, on the works of Kubrick and Scorsese), and he will give you the kind of critical thinking framework that you'll need at UCLA or USC. In addition, if you ace two of his classes, he'll write you a pretty coveted recommendation letter to the film school of your choice. Those letters are highly sought after in the film studies program; Kanin's word carries a lot of weight with UCLA and USC admissions.

Other professors who will give you the skills you need include Paris Poirier, Chris Cooling, and Eli Daughdrill.

(Eli had *no problems* assigning high-level theoretical reading like "Towards a Third Cinema" and "Recuperating Suzie Wong: One Fan's Nancy Kwan-dary" to his classes, and made no apologies for it, reasoning that if you didn't get the exposure now, you'd crumple in a higher-level program.)

So, while the production emphasis isn't all there yet, the academic rigor is-- and you'll need that at UCLA or USC as well. Throw in a handful of classes from SMC's Entertainment Technology program-- I recommend Photoshop with Jack Duganne, ET 37 and 38, and Final Cut Pro with Warren Heaton, ET 31A and 31B-- and you'll have a foundation to build from in your future undergraduate endeavors.

I went from SMC to feature film VFX work and 3D animation post, and I still haven't finished my AA yet. I think I'm doing OK, and you probably will too.

Also, it's still pretty hot here in the summer, just so you know-- it hit 101 over the weekend. Good luck!
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:30 PM on April 15, 2008

If you do go, make sure you get every last drop out of it, cause you'll be paying it off for quite awhile.

That's for damn sure. My experience has been different, but as you said, there are no hard and fast rules. I was working full time at Miramax inside two weeks of moving to LA, and this was an avenue that directly opened up to me because of connections I otherwise would not have had. But you are correct -- if you are resourceful or driven enough, it's possible to do it.
posted by dhammond at 6:58 PM on April 15, 2008

I went to a small local community college in the shadow of a larger UC school and the transfer process was super easy. The admissions people at UCLA will love people with proven track records (a GPA of 3.0 or higher) from SMC and you should get in pretty easily. Also, UCLA will be cheaper because you'll be a state resident after a year of SMC.
posted by mathowie at 9:30 PM on April 15, 2008

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