May 12, 2017 at 9:21PM

5

Tisch or save our money and use for an actual movie?

So, my daughter is accepted into Tisch with no scholarship (thus VERY expensive). She is also accepted into other less known/unknown film programs but with substantial aid (80%-90%). The question I have and it is a hard one is, go to Tisch or go to the much cheaper alternative and use the extract cash to actually finance a couple of movies for her?

45 Comments

I've researched this same topic and have spoken with recent graduates on their thoughts about film schools. It really depends on what type of position your daughter wants to be. If it's DP, then it could be useful. Some DPs have said that almost all of their jobs following graduation had been from people they knew in school, or from people who knew people they knew. So for the more technical positions it could be a good idea. However, from a directing perspective, it might not be worth it because directors typically have a difficult time getting jobs right out of school--not really talent based, it's just how things are.

Location is also an important factor. Where is the alternative school located and which school is it?

I personally would recommend against using the extra money to finance a movie--assuming you mean feature. You'd be putting a lot of faith into one or two things, so if they don't turn out well, then you're not any better off than if she had gone to NYU.

As you have probably calculated, ~$300,000 is a lot of money to be spending on less than four years (I'd exclude summers). You also typically don't learn too much during the first year or so. My plan, being close to your daughter's age, is to stay at a less expensive university and either graduate early or transfer to a better program, which would save money and basically have the same outcome.

You basically just need to figure out what your daughter's goals are and decide if NYU will help meet those requirements.

May 15, 2017 at 4:56PM

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Gareth Ng
Cinematographer
603

This is a sound strategy.

Location ends up being one of the biggest factors following graduation. You really want to plant somewhere and get to know as many filmmakers in your periphery as possible.

The great thing about programs like NYU or USC is that you're often exposed to lots of high-value industry people that could potentially open up opportunities in the future. You also get the room to fail (which is crucial to growth) in a safe, productive environment.

That being said... Film school isn't for everyone. I've personally had a love/hate experience.

May 17, 2017 at 12:20PM

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Alexander Gabrielli
Director | Producer - Imagination Factory
21

Thanks, her strength is in story telling (scripts), although she is ok with technical stuff I don't envision her as a sound or dp person. She is also quite good at editing.

May 17, 2017 at 2:34PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

Are you talking about undergrad or grad?

May 15, 2017 at 8:46PM, Edited May 15, 8:46PM

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Indie Guy
808

undergrad

May 17, 2017 at 2:34PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

That's an insane amount of money. No undergrad education is worth $300,000. With that kind of money laying around, I would send her to the best state college in your state and then spend the rest flying her to networking opportunities like film festivals, New York student productions, LA student productions, Vancouver productions... There's huge world of production outside of New York.
Or send her to live in California to attend a community college for 2 years and then transfer to UCLA.
It's true that going to NYU gives you access to all kinds of networks, but so will working at a Manhattan camera rental house. The question is whether your daughter is willing to drop any sense of shyness and network like a real professional because that's what it takes (plus talent). And think about this: a lot of kids change majors two or three times during college, are you prepared to spend $300,000 on a sociology degree?

May 16, 2017 at 4:37PM

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Richard Swearinger
Freelancer
119

This. Don't spend a bunch of money on school. Those professors are teaching because they could not cut it in real world. Save the money. Internet has all the answers.

May 16, 2017 at 10:28PM

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Jake
185

This couldn't be further from the truth.

May 17, 2017 at 11:50AM

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Alexander Gabrielli
Director | Producer - Imagination Factory
21

@Jake-- This is such a silly comment. When I was a student at NYU (Grad) we screamed: "we want REAL filmmakers as professors." And they hired a few with great resumes. They were terrible. Likewise, we had great filmmakers come in and screen films. When asked, it became obvious that most could not articulate what they did, or how I- the student- might learn from them. They were great. But there could not teach. But ask yourself this: is this true for other professions? Teaching is a specific skill, the best Film Professors I ever had had little screen credit- but they inspired a generation of filmmakers who work (and win awards). Usually, I imagine this comment comes from someone who didn't get into the Film Program they wanted to....

May 20, 2017 at 2:58PM, Edited May 20, 3:02PM

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Chriss Williams
Film Professor
57

Yep, the best teacher I had, made work I did not like, mainly because it's quality was crap. (But he was making it and made his money.)
His insights and the discussions we had were the best.

He taught 1 day a week, because he liked sharing his thoughts with students.

Another great teacher is an established documentary maker who won several awards for various projects.

So, while it might be true that some resort to teaching , because of a lack of success, it is certainly not true for everyone.

May 22, 2017 at 5:10AM, Edited May 22, 5:10AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8459

Our state sucks (CT) not many decent schools with film programs except for the pricey private schools like Emerson in Boston. UConn doesn't even have a film program.

May 17, 2017 at 2:37PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

Pricey? Yet you're considering Tisch? Um....

May 23, 2017 at 9:05AM

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Ryan Bennett
DP/Director/SoundMixer/Writer
14

Well, if you go pricey it may well be Tisch :)

May 23, 2017 at 2:13PM, Edited May 23, 2:13PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

Eh. Every school has its advantages and disadvantages. To me Emerson's advantage is Boston and then the LA program that is now super built up and really sets you up for a decent life in LA if that is what you want.

Everyone I know who went to Tisch hasn't amount to much, counting on the name to carry them and get them directing jobs right out of college not realizing a better idea would just be for them to make their own films, that things take time, and you may have to work some crap jobs at first because nobody cares that you're the PA who went to Tisch.

Fitchburg state in MA has a great program and seems to really set graduates up for career's in film production and their graduates always seem to have a good head on their shoulders and constantly working.

You do have to factor in the cost of living, cost of books and other materials plus to finance the films in addition to the tuition. Personally I don't think Tisch is worth to me, BUT if you want a start in NYC it's a good idea, but a greater idea could be another NYC school with a great film program.

You could always just transfer in later and save even more.

May 23, 2017 at 10:31PM

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Ryan Bennett
DP/Director/SoundMixer/Writer
14

Ryan, one of the issues we had to consider was that geographically we wanted to stay within a reasonable distance from CT. California in general was deemed too far at this point in the kid's life. Right now, it's too late to make any changes to her immediate future, she is going to Tisch in the fall. I wish I had asked more of these questions a year ago.

May 24, 2017 at 7:59PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

She is passionate about film, that's all she wanted to do since she was little. She is very driven and with the right kind of guidance I have no doubt she will succeed. If she was offered to intern on a large enough production right now she would even forego film school to take on that experience. She actually did an independent study in high school and she has gotten some on-set experience through that but not on a large scale set. She really just wants to work on film production and some day possibly make a film of her own.

May 17, 2017 at 2:39PM, Edited May 17, 3:14PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

If it is undergrad, this issue is that most kids are too young at 18 to learn filmmaking from a theoretical narrative perspective. They haven't lived life yet, how could they possibly understand and create honest stories about adults life experiences. My advice would be do not be feel pressured to send her to school out of high school especially now that school is sooo expensive. Let her work on sets in New York or LA for a couple years. Getting straight into the industry young is probably the best thing she can do.

I would imagine that very few NYU undergrads get serious opportunities out of school, just frankly because they have no set experience. Most start in the same spot as people without degrees: PAing til they save enough to direct. Unless they have a viral film festival success its gonna be tricky without nepotism or a network.

If she works for 3 years as a production assistant on real sets she might be better off with no debt, and have some connections in the industry when she moves to directing, she might not need film school or if she still wants to go she'll make better films while shes there.

Its really just how much you want to roll the dice, on opportunities out of film school. At least at good film schools they tell all the students day one that only one or two of you will be directors, the rest will do something else in the industry. Thats probably a 1/20 chance for 300,000. And actually thats for grad school not even undergrad.

Also I'm seeing that you mentioned guidance, definitely don't let her go is she doesn't know how to make a movie already. Do not go to film school to learn how to make a movie. She can learn everything as a PA for free or use the internet. You have to know how to make a movie before you go otherwise her films will be bad, everyones first couple films are bad, literally everyones, you don't wanna spend big bucks on that. The only two reasons to go are finding collaborators, and sharpening pre-existing skills. It will be a waste of time if she doesn't already know set etiquette, set procedure, and time management techniques for shooting schedules. A big mistake mistake almost every filmmaker learns and some point is that creative exploration can easily be destroyed by bad time management skills on set. A poorly planned film will almost never be a good movie. Every young filmmaker is so eager to jump into a creative endevor that they underestimate the pre-production planning that really goes into it. Everybody makes this mistake, please trust that. Do not learn that lesson on a 15,000-30,000 thesis film! What ever you do learn that lesson for free. Many people don't and its tough to watch.

May 17, 2017 at 3:31PM

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Indie Guy
808

Ha, you have some good insight. She has already had her 'failures' specifically with time management. She did a couple of 'summer' film camps and always run short of the allotted time for what she was trying to make. It's hard to translate script time to set time for inexperienced filmmakers. At NYU they will be constantly working on sets, if not their own, probably on upperclassmen films. Hopefully that will allow her to hone those skills through experience.

You mentioned that she can go PA. How would she get into that right out of high school? What resources are there for her to locate those opportunities?

May 17, 2017 at 3:54PM, Edited May 17, 3:56PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

"She has already had her 'failures' specifically with time management." Unfortunately, those failures are far from over. She will experience them in school and in the industry. Its a nonstop learning experience. Also don't go to film school for undergrad, it's better to go for grad school. Teachers pay more attention to them and they get better resources.

May 18, 2017 at 1:50AM

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I can't speak for the film program but I know for actors Tisch undergrad is a waste of money. It's watered down, too crowded and doens't provide substantial connections or access after graduation. The vast majority of actors you see working who have Tisch on their resume went to the grad program. That's the real training program.

Again I don't know what the situation is for the film school. But investigate. The filmmakers I've worked with who have NYU on their resume have all been solid.

I've learned the most about making films by making films. And living a life is the best training for any artist. But for a career there is nothing like good connections and knowing the right people. And the big schools can do that for you, which might be worth the investment.

May 18, 2017 at 1:25AM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
900

"nothing like good connections and knowing the right people" yup

May 18, 2017 at 1:51AM

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Thanks Mike, good to know that NYU filmmakers are 'solid'....

May 19, 2017 at 7:24PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

I went through a similar situation after high school. I initially wanted to go to Colombia or NYU because they were good schools and in NYC. Eventually I found out about Brooklyn College. I went there for two and a half years for cheap and enjoyed the program a good amount. I never finished my degree because I was doing a lot of PAing and interning which led to a job. Those two things I found more valuable than school, but school did push me to work on my own stuff which I've been grateful for.

Here's the point I am trying to make.
School is good for social reasons especially if she has never been to the city. It's a good way to create or find a small filmmaking community.
Professionally speaking though, PAing and internships is where it's at and school sucks.

May 18, 2017 at 2:38PM

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The college dropout, PA says, "School sucks." Got it! I would suggest you think about finishing school at some point. The broad liberal arts background of those required courses may make you a better filmmaker. But you sound like a fool when you make a silly comment like this.

May 20, 2017 at 3:05PM

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Chriss Williams
Film Professor
57

Aye, It was a dumb joke. Like I said before it was a good program and I enjoyed the short time I was there. School doesn't suck, I just suck at it. It's not made for everyone. If I was still stuck doing PA work and such, yeah I would go back to school. That's not the case though. I have a great job at a great film company. Don't minimize my shit because you have a hard time leaving film school.

May 22, 2017 at 12:33PM, Edited May 22, 12:33PM

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Andrew, thanks. That is the feedback everyone is giving. School good but actual experience better. Of course, no one is saying how to get this magical experience without actually going to school.

May 18, 2017 at 7:19PM, Edited May 18, 7:19PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

You just go around and apply for internships and PA gigs. That's where you can get the experience. How I got my job now and how I use to get gigs when I freelanced was through filmandtvpro.com. There's also a lot of decent internships there too.

May 19, 2017 at 3:28PM

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Andrew, thanks, some very good information.

May 19, 2017 at 7:23PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

Hey, I currently go to Tisch right now as an undergraduate film student studying to be a DP and I just finished my first year so I can offer my take on the program and film school.

I love and hate this program as well. On the one hand, the networking here is great. You meet really great and fantastic people not just in your classes, but outside as well. Most of my on-set experiences have come from meeting people on the various forums NYU has on social media and personal connections I made in my classes. In fact, your first year, it is mandatory for one semester that you work 12 hours as a PA on an upperclassmen shoot and there are so many shoots going on all the time. Even right now in the summer, there are about 25-30 thesis films going on in the next few weeks and we finished classes two weeks ago so getting on set will not be an issue. You just have to be motivated enough to spend your free time working. In no time, you start moving up the ranks.

The classes are a mixed bag, especially first year. All first year students take the same film classes and half of them are fantastic and the other half are meh, in my opinion anyway. Another issue (in my view) is that because classes take up a huge chunk of your week, it'll conflict with shoots you may want to go on and you'll have to pass up great opportunities sometimes because you have class. A good thing about these classes is that it does make people figure out what they want to do. 85-90% of my class at the beginning of the year said they wanted to be directors and writers. By the end of the year, that changed. Some people really loved our Sound class and are trying to pursue sound design right now. Some like doing camera work and start to work as a DP. Some people love producing and they're producing upperclassmen films. Some people left. It changes a lot. Whatever your daughter wants to do not just in film but in life, going to film school, even if its just one year, she'll know 100% for sure.

The bad part? Well, 75 grand a year. I'm extrememly fortunate that I received a full scholarship and that I live in NYC but I still know that so many of my friends are struggling or will struggle. Some left for that reason and it sucks. Also, this progam does not gurantee success. From what I've heard from people in the industry, a lot of nyu kids are inexperienced and as a result, a lot of people do not go on to work in the industry or it takes a lot of struggling before any real success. The classes can only get you so far. Most classes are great for theory, but sometimes short on techincal and creative expertise. That's what you learn by making films.

In the end, should she go here? It depends on her. Who she is as a person, who she is as a filmmaker. How much is she willing to sacrifice and work for her art and craft? How far do you wanna go? People from lesser known colleges go on to make a name for themselves. One of our famous alumni, Martin Scorcese, didnt turn out the way he did because he went to NYU. He was a guy who was incredibly passionate and skillful at what he did and his motivation made him who he is today. He made our program famous, not the other way around. Hell, a lot of people in the industry never went here and made it. If she's willing to commit, things will go her way.

May 18, 2017 at 10:54PM, Edited May 18, 11:13PM

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Daniel Cho
DP, Gaffer, Grip
139

Daniel, thanks, of course everyone wants to be 'writer/director'. And, of course, movies are not just made with those guys. In her case, the writing 'force' is strong with her. Of course, she wants to be a director. Like you said, that will be something that she finds out about herself when she is in it. She has done quite a bit of directing at the high school level and in a few internships that she has attended but none of them are at a significant scale. Although she is going to NYU in NYC we do not live in the city so if she wants to do summer gigs in NYC she would have to make accommodations.

May 19, 2017 at 7:21PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

without a scholarship unless you have the money readily available for her education, its a horrible idea for school. i graduated in 2008 when the economy tanked with 100,000 in debt. i moved to hollywood and interned while i worked a side job to pay rent. I couldn't afford to pay the loans, car payment, and rent and it has indebted me ever since. Today i work a full time job and do video work to make ends meet, and now i wish i could just do video full time but the loans keep me from full time work and affording rent. She can not have the debt, go to a community college or work for people for little or no pay and have all the time to be focused on building her career. She will have all the time to network and meet new people. I would recommend that as a better option.

May 19, 2017 at 10:15AM, Edited May 19, 10:15AM

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Mark K.
153

Mark, thanks for the input. We are fortunate enough to be able to (barely) afford Tisch without loans. I am hoping that without the loan debt she will be more free to pursue film.

May 19, 2017 at 7:17PM, Edited May 19, 7:22PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

I have guest lectured at NYU in Film classes, the student are very smart and engaged but I think it really depends on what she wants to do- writer/director or make her own work from the ground up. Most of my friends who went to "name brand" film schools are not making films or working in the industry in any capacity. Look at Moonlight that film won the Oscar for best picture this year, (made for under 2 million) Berry Jenkins went to Florida State University for film, a good program and very inexpensive, but not a "USC". The problem with the industry schools it pumps out a generic feel and TV look - their copying the formula and its not inventing anything new or bringing a new voice to the narrative. I would say go to School of the Art Institute of Chicago or Cal Arts or Bard College. those film programs push you in directions that you will come out with far more original work and become a well rounded filmmaker both in production and theory. Try Temple University as well - they have a good film program. Good luck.

May 20, 2017 at 12:19AM, Edited May 20, 12:21AM

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bjones
Filmmaker and Photographer
107

Thanks b, her life goal of course is to make at least one feature film. She is being realistic though, she knows she has to work her way up through the ranks to get there. She is an imaginative storyteller and she is skilled at telling those stories, at least on paper (books/scripts). Hopefully Tisch will help her tell those stories on the screen.

May 20, 2017 at 7:17PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

If she wants to make films that she both writes and directs, she doesn't necessarily have to " work up through the ranks". She'd move up from being a PA, but she also wouldn't be a director. The only way to be an independent director is to direct films, which means at some point she'll have to go it alone and raise money for a film either through self-financing, crowdfunding, or investors. A person technically doesn't even have to be part of the film industry to make a film, all that's required is money to hire people to do things for you. The problem is that it takes a lot of money.

May 20, 2017 at 7:38PM, Edited May 20, 7:41PM

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Warren Bros.
Filmmaker | Cinephile
155

Warren, are you saying that directors are self-financing their films? Don't they get budgets from studios? What are studios for then?

May 22, 2017 at 6:54PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

Many directors have to self-finance their first films or get all their money from relatives and close friends. Obviously these aren't million dollar movies, usually they're only a few thousand or tens of thousands. Studios don't give money to independent filmmaker to make their films, studios make blockbusters. They only hire people who have already directed films. However, certain independent production companies and film institutions do help first time filmmakers finance their films.

May 22, 2017 at 7:24PM

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Warren Bros.
Filmmaker | Cinephile
155

Thank Warren, this actually goes back to my original question. Had my daughter gone to a much cheaper school there would have been significant funds left over to finance one or two indie style films. With her going to Tisch, there won't be such luxury. We struggled with this decision a lot.

May 22, 2017 at 7:27PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

There are no easy answers. If she's already set on going, (and since you live in Connecticut) you might consider letting her move back home after graduation so that she could save money for a feature. Any time she has a gig in NYC, she could take the train and crash at a friend's house.

May 22, 2017 at 10:07PM, Edited May 22, 10:08PM

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Warren Bros.
Filmmaker | Cinephile
155

Warren, I agree, she may have to do that

May 24, 2017 at 7:54PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

Take a year off and make films on her own. Documentaries, comedies, anything. Write, direct, edit, produce, cast, etc. Look at film as an art.
Find schools that are connected to internships and apprenticeships. Sure, you can go to NY or LA, just like every one else and compete for everything. Or go somewhere that's good with a more intimate scene. Philly? Chicago? Austin?
And cheaper. Have a serious discussion about how much debt your daughter will be in when she graduates. When I graduated film school, I spent 10 years paying off my debt. I would definitely reconsider where I went to school if that was an actual thought.

May 20, 2017 at 12:48AM

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Sathya Vijayendran
Writer/Director/Editor
319

I've taught film for 20 years. Went to a small NJ State College- studied business, but took all the film courses offered and hung out with all the art kids. I now teach at a small NJ State University where many of the kids are local, first generation college students. For them, we have created a strong filmmaking community, and many have gone on to study film at the most prestigious Grad Film programs- not bad for our little program. NYU or any other other big name schools will give you a fine education and a community, which on the UG level is about all you can ask for. Which is why I completely agree with bjones above. Unless you have the money, I would look to a college that has good equipment (not the BEST, NEWEST), but good equipment- but most of all, has a community of like-minded filmmakers who will work with your daughter and push her to excellence.

I would NOT forgo college and go make a film. No way. It takes a very special, disciplined person to just go do it alone. Rather, a reasonable priced school, with a strong community will afford your daughter a chance to learn from others, and have others listen and critique her work.

And IF she's lucky, she might find one Professor (regardless of their resume) who "gets" her and will support her.

The reason I am so against just "doing it" is because this negates the value of education in making a filmmaker more knowledgable, empathetic, and compassionate to the world he or she may create. A broad based, liberal arts education (and a college degree) is more than watching youtube tutorials (though some are VERY good) in that it forces rigorous thought outside of film.

Moreover, I would suggest she NOT major in film, but something else. Like English, a social science, business, etc. Most film programs offer about 4-8 classes that matter, for a typical 120 credit UG degree, a student will have more than enough credits to minor or double major in Film. I'm practical in this regard in thinking I would want a very broad based UG degree so I can potentially find employment anywhere. Good Luck!!

May 20, 2017 at 3:19PM, Edited May 20, 3:21PM

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Chriss Williams
Film Professor
57

Thx Chriss, Tisch program is a BFA, lots of credits in film but at least 44 credits in GenEd. That averages out to about 2 courses per semester in non-film related classes.

May 20, 2017 at 7:22PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

Here's a great interview with Francis Ford Coppola, in it he addresses this issue- but differently: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=140870590

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thank you so much for being here. You're such a big inspiration as well as your daughter. She's changed my life with her films. They're really amazing. And as a young person who is really passionate about film, I wonder what the best advice you can give me today would be? Like, in your opinion, what's the best advice to a young filmmaker?

COPPOLA: To young filmmakers. Well, if it's a guy, I say get married.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COPPOLA: Because, you know, if you get married - because young men today, they don't seem to think about getting married and having kids till they're in their late 40s, you know, and I was married, I was 22. I was desperate to have kids. I had so much fun with my kids. And, you know, the fact that I was married and I had this family of little kids, I was very responsible. I wanted to have a house that they could live in and so I worked very hard. I didn't go out and, you know, waste time as a young man are known to do, and I was diligent. I would be writing my script and what have you, and marriage had a very good effect on me. When I was married I was broke and, you know, eight weeks later I had a job as a screenwriter and I attribute a lot of it to the sense of, you know, togetherness with my family, the little team I wanted to provide for.

If you're a young woman I would say don't get married.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COPPOLA: Because then you have this guy who is trying to get you to do everything for his career and you're not going to have any time for your career. So...

May 20, 2017 at 3:24PM

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Chriss Williams
Film Professor
57

Haha, makes sense.

May 20, 2017 at 7:20PM

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c z
Parent of future director
79

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