Best School for Production?

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    • #49742

      i have started the process of looking at schools and going for a broadcasting/ television production/ media studies/ film major…any thoughts or suggestions?

    • #203530

      This really depends on why you’re going to school. You might want to be able to work on feature films in Hollywood and its dependencies; or work in a network TV station; or become an independent documentary maker; or shoot for National Geographic; or set up your own business doing corporate and private video, etc. It also depends on whether you want to study and understand the theory and aesthetics of moving imagery and how to create it — in other words, your goal is to become an artist — or whether what you mostly care about becoming an artisan, a journeyman in the video trade.

      Going to the film school at NYU, Brandeis, UCLA, Carnegie Mellon and California School of the Arts will give you one kind of preparation, while going to a community college or the Art Institute will give you another. Attending classes such as those given by the Videomaker Magazine team will give you yet another.

      These are all quantitatively as well as qualitatively different; each serves the needs of various goal seekers.

      I studied production for a full year while working on a PhD at The Ohio State University, for example — everything from script writing and directing talent to how to run studio cameras and handle switchers in the control room. And I was lucky enough to be able to follow this up with another year of on-the-job training doing live three-camera studio shoots. For the next 30 years I used my video skills in teaching and research at a major university. And along the way I attended a couple of Videomaker conferences and trade shows and learned a lot at WEVA confrences and other trade shows as well.

      My wife and one of my sons, on the other hand, both went to a local community college and got two-year AA Degrees in video production. Judy graduated, went to work for two production companies and several years later started our production company. Dan freelances shooting commercial video and legal depositions.

      I don’t think my training was “better” than theirs; only different.

      So to sum up: You really need to decide what, in your education, is important to you, then find a school that offers the opportunities that will help you achieve your goal. Hopefully you’re going to spend the rest of your life getting educated; whatever you choose by way of formal education is really only a shortcut.


    • #203531

      thanks jack &^^&

      i have an opportunity to frankly get paid to go to school, so i would be a fool not to, and realizing that my passion is video production i would like to get a degree that will help me in that, but hopefully not limit me to it, that is why a media studies degree is so appealing…if i stick to studying actual production independently as you said it wont be impossible to become proficient, but schools tend to have much larger budgets than myself…

    • #203532


      I was also fortunate enough to go to school on a sponsorship. So since paying for school isn’t necessarily an issue, then what you want to learn when you get there is.

      Now there are lots and lots of Universities with some sort of media studies department. Despite all that availability there are two primary options and a secondary which depending on the criteria of your sponsor, may not be available.

      Mass Communications

      This is the primary option many who go to college have available. Mass ‘Comm’s’ deals with broadcast and mainstream means of communication (i.e. Radio, TV, print and now internet.) If you’re looking for motion picture film in that pile, forget it. Mass Comms departments concerning video production are all about news and electronic news gathering (ENG.) Classes in Field Production and Editing will go at it strictly from the news gathering angle. Basic video production will include basic shooting techniques and gear, some scriptwriting for studio news should be taught but not much on writing for narrative programming. There will be some measure of Documentary Production at the Senior level of study, but again it will be more for a news style expose’ (48 Hours) than a Documentary Film.

      Depending on where you go, some Mass Comm programs can be quite good and you’ll get a fair amount of hands-on work alongside your academic training in the discipline. On the other hand, in my experience working with persons coming out of Mass Comms on the video side they were all hurting big time on basic production techniques I do in my sleep.

      Film & Television – Film School

      Here’s where you’ll find programs where the emphasis is on the filmmaking process for original Documentary and Narrative productions. Universities with Film & Television programs are moderately to well-equipped to provide you with opportunities to use various levels of professional moviemaking equipment based on Film or Digital media. Strong emphasis on story, pre-production, production and post-production editing will allow you to build your chops in an academic environment. Many of today’s successful and emerging filmmakers studied in film programs and made their connections in the industry via their classmates, instructors and via visiting production pros.

      Now, Filmschool isn’t always the ‘do all end all’ either. Some schools offer painfully small film programs, are under staffed and have little if not antiquated equipment/facilities. However, unless their instructors are just terrible you’ll get a lot more attention and access than if attending a much larger program. Schools with large well funded Film Departments offer a plethora of opportunities to work with gear on projects, use complex editing arrays and much more. One thing you’d better find out about any filmschool program you’re interested in is whether each student makes their own graduation/thesis film or if it is a group project.

      Many of the big schools like USC and NYU filmschool programs only allow so many student films a year. Competition to write the script, direct, DP and work on the film in different departments is stiff and you may not be on the crew that makes the movie. In those situations most times you just write an original script in order to graduate. However, the whole purpose of going to filmschool is to make a damn film!

      Another thing to consider is the film program part of a ‘General University’ or part of a dedicated ‘Art Institute’? I mention it because the approach to the program based upon that important detail makes a world of difference in the kind and quality of your experience. To help research potential filmschools check out:

      *Note: Many of the so-called ‘top schools’ are one’s I mentioned where it is unlikely you’ll get to make your own final project film. For some reason my old school is listed (Savannah College of Art & Design) despite it having one of the best programs I’ve ever seen and you can’t graduate without making a film!

      Whatever you’re looking for an emphasis (video production is a discipline, not an emphasis) like Cinematography, Editing, Producing, Directing, Scriptwriting, Sound Design, Set Design, etc., check out what programs the schools offer and get a feel on how strong their program is. Now, know this if you’re an undergraduate student you’ll have to fulfill your general university requirements first (two years worth) prior to taking so much as a single film related course. So don’t start cryin’ about you just want to study film….

      Trade/Professional Schools

      There are a number of programs out there where you can cut through the academic hoo-hah and get right to the point by going to a trade or professional School. Upon completion, you won’t get a degree but a certification in the basic concepts of the chosen discipline you’ve learned. You’ll get primarily hands on training with academic supplemental information.

      Be advised, that trade/pro schools are ‘cut and dry’ in their approach. Unlike in universities, nobody’s going to kiss your ‘boo-boos’ when you make mistakes. The pace of learning and performing tasks is quick and dirty, but expectations for professional standards are quite high. Many of your classmates will be your direct competitors for limited pro gigs or clients the second you walk off the graduation podium. If you’re a slacker, you want to stay away from these types of programs. Lastly, since it is not a university based program, your sponsor may not bankroll you to attend.

    • #203533

      composite1- thanks
      your post seems to favor the film schools…
      i did attend iowa western community college for a semester right out of high school, so i have seem what the 2 year school is like…was only a semester due to the fact i argued with the department head about the relevance of one of her required classes for broadcasting…probably for the best since i managed to get hired at a local news station without the degree and a few months later one of my fellow classmates who had just completed the degree program got hired at the same job i already had…i would like to avoid that same type of situation again and forward to getting a degree that will actually seem useful to me after all you pay the school for the degree, not the education &^^&

      but i digress, good info and good links

    • #203534
    • #203535

      “… Your post seems to favor the film schools….”


      Not so much as ‘favor’. It boils down to when I went back to school, I had a sponsorship but a limited amount of time to complete my degree. My goal for getting my degree was to make an original film preferably written, shot and directed by me. I obviously would have compromised on one or two of those (directing wasn’t up for negotiation.) However, my research into different programs produced the info I gave you in the previous post. Bottom line was filmschool was better for making movies and Mass Comms was better for journalistic production.

      I was a ‘ringer’ too when I went back. I remember I wasn’t able to shoot a project because I hadn’t taken ‘video production’ yet, I wasn’t allowed to check out equipment. Forget the awards I’d won and the years carrying a video camera and dragging crews around the world…. My instructor was ticked, but I did the next best thing and took a still camera (good thing I wasn’t in photography!) and ‘shot’ the job anyway. In some ways it came out better.

      So it really depends on what your goal for school is. Broadcast Journalism or Filmmaking. I’ve done both and for me there are only slight differences. BTW, try not to argue with your profs. On rare occasion you get an ‘egghead’, but otherwise they know what the curriculum requirements are. The main thing to remember is in the University learning stream, it’s all about school not so much the practical aspects. If you’re all about the practical, don’t waste time with university and go to a tradeschool that offers video production.

    • #203536


      composite1- i think that is possibly what is making my decision to so tough is im not 100% yet on what my goals are, while i am more than familiar and will to be a subordinate, i think i would got nuts if i did not at least have some creative control as far a doing an actual film project, but it would be nice to get some experience in it…aside from being a producer, talent and directing a local news broadcast i have done every other job that is related to studio production of broadcast news…(even have master control exp.) that is mainly getting back into it and doing it…i think though that i will stick with trying to get the 4 year degree, after all that will open non-production jobs if needed

    • #203537


      Though there are much faster tracks for getting into the production business, you really can’t go wrong with getting a degree. While fulfilling your university requirements, you’ll end up learning a lot of stuff you had no idea could be useful. It will seem like a distraction going through lower level courses (I had to take Junior Level Scriptwriting and Editing classes for no credit to fulfill my graduate requirements), but keep in mind they are a means to an end. Whether you go the broadcast or film production routes, you’ll be surprised at how much information you can draw upon when you need it during the production process. So again, I say figure out what it is you want to do then research the schools that offer what you’re looking for. Find out how their programs operate and what the graduation requirements are. Then, when you’ve picked out a school and a program go there with a vengeance. Remember, you’re not a kid and you’ve got important things to do. Your sponsor will expect nothing but your best and you owe them at least that. I went to graduate school like someone had stolen something from me and I was going to do whatever it took to get it back. My sponsor already had a high bar set and I jumped over it like stepping over the curb. I was able to do that because of that attitude. In fact, I pushed so hard when it was over it seemed, ‘too easy’. To this day I still have dreams the school wants my degree back because I didn’t finish something!

    • #203538

      composite1- yeah, you are right &^^&…when i can i will hit college hard and complete my degree as soon possible, taking full credit hour loads, summer classes etc…in addition to producing my own projects during my free time, which i will do regardless of what degree i choose to purse, i will keep you posted on what i end up deciding to do, since i have some time but not lots before i need to make a choice( earliest possible start date is fall semester 2013)

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